US Large Cents

US Large Cents

The large cent was one of the first coins ever made by the U.S. Mint. The copper coin was made in a variety of designs from 1793 until 1857. Some designs have become relatively rare.

How big is the large cent?

The large cent coin is 1 1/8 inches in diameter or 28.57 millimeters, which makes it just a little bigger than the modern quarter.

Where were large cents minted?

The large cents were produced only in the Philadelphia Mint, which was the only mint in the country at the time. They do not have mint markings.

How many varieties of the coin were made?

Seven varieties were produced:

  • Flowing hair, chain reverse (1793) - The design of this coin, featuring a low relief of Liberty and a reverse chain, was widely criticized for appearing to represent slavery.
  • Flowing hair, wreath reverse (1793) - This coin replaces the reverse chain with a wreath and has stronger features than its predecessor.
  • Liberty cap (1793 - 1796) - This coin featured more detailed and subdued hair as well as a Phrygian cap.
  • Draped bust (1796 - 1807) - This redesign of the large cent had two distinct differences: it added a ribbon to Liberty's hair and draped fabric at her neckline.
  • Classic head (1808 - 1814) - The Classic Head large cent reversed the direction Liberty is facing. Stars were also added to the face of the coin.
  • Liberty head, also called Matron head - (1816 - 1839) - This iteration of the large cent coin gave Liberty a more mature look and an enlarged profile.
  • Braided hair (1839 - 1857) - This redesign was close to the original but gave Liberty a younger appearance and is the last iteration of the large cent coin before it was discontinued.

What does the back of the large cent look like?

The reverse of each variety but one features the words 'one cent' inside of a wreath with 'United States of America' written around the outside curve of the coin. The first coins made in 1793 had a circle of chain that was soon replaced by a wreath.

Why weren't any large cents produced in 1815?

The United States went to war with Great Britain in 1812, which also meant they couldn't import the copper planchets they used to make the coin. The war ended in 1815, and production of the coin resumed in 1816.

Why are all pennies made after 1857 so much smaller than the large cent?

The first coins were bulky and heavy to carry around in your pocket, but the main reason for making later coins smaller was because the value of the copper contained in each coin was worth more than face value of one cent.