Large CentsUnited States coinage got off to an auspicious start in 1793 with the minting of the large cent and its little sister, the half cent. With an original mass of 13.48 grams, the original large cent weighed in at over five times the mass of today's Lincoln cent -- easily enough to wear out pants pockets. It had the buying power of today's quarter.
The 1793 Liberty Chain Cent
All large cents had obverse designs featuring a woman's head depicting liberty. Early objections to the portrait caused four different designs to be issued in the first five years. The Liberty Chain Cent debuted in 1793. Read a detailed discussion on the chain cent page.
The Liberty Wreath Cent
Later in 1793, Liberty's hair was brushed slightly in a futile attempt to make her more attractive. The chain was replaced by a wreath. The citizens were still dissatisfied.
The Liberty Cap Cent
Still in 1793,during the first year of mintage, a cap and a pole were added creating the liberty cap cent. It is unclear whether the pole is behind Miss Liberty or is skewering her neck. The design was popular enough to last until 1796.
More large cents -- more hairstylesLiberty got a new hairstyle for the Draped Bust series (1796 to 1807). She gained some weight for the Classic Head series (1808 to 1814). She aged for the coronet or matron head series (1816 to 1839) and then rediscovered her youth for the braided hair series (1839 to 1857). Finally, in 1857 the large cent series came to an end. The mass of the coin was greatly reduced with the introduction of the small cent -- the same sized coin that is currently in use.
Collecting Large Cents
Large cents are frequently collected by type -- there are seven different types. They can also be collected by date. The early large cents (the chain, wreath and cap) are scarce. The coins become more common after the late 1700 's. The classic head cents were less durable than the other coins and are scarce in extremely fine or better condition while common in lower grades.