U.S. Large Cents (Early 1793-1807)
The first coin of record authorized by the United States Government was the Large Cent, with mintage beginning in 1793. Slightly larger and much thicker than a modern quarter, the Large Cent was struck only at the Philadelphia Mint. I have just recently completed a date set of Large Cents. Some Large Cent specialists spend a lifetime trying to collect these coins by variety. What that means is that they collect die varieties for each year. When a die used to make a coin wears out or is broken, a replacement is used to continue coining that year's production. Each die was hand engraved, so the minute variations are used to identify the different dies. For example, I have one 1794 Large Cent in my collection. A variety collector would need 56 different 1794 Large Cents to complete just that year!
Check out this batch of early Large Cents: the 1793 and 1794 examples are actually quite a bit thicker than later Large Cents, and have edge lettering ("One Hundred For A Dollar"). The 1793 was the final coin I needed to complete my date set, a work in progress for several decades! Many thanks to Tom Deck for supplying me with this beauty of a coin! The 1795 is in very nice shape for its age. The 1798 is very green, as you can see from the pics. The story is it had been living in an old well along with a cache of other coins for the past couple of hundred years, and was recently discovered. Lots of hair detail, yet porous. Still, a neat story! Makes me wonder how long it was in there. The rarest coin this group is easily the 1799, with an estimate of under 1,000 coins surviving today. This coin was an ebay find, and has nice smooth surfaces but is pretty low grade, maybe an AG3 obverse and a Poor1 reverse. I had been looking for just the right one for several years with no success. I'm pleased with the example I found, but I wish I could have afforded it in a slightly higher grade. Oh well! Check out the amazing detail on the 1802 and 1803-they are nice, high grade coins rarely found in this series. I actually sent the 1802 in for grading by PCGS and it came back in a "genuine" holder for "environmental damage." I was a bit disappointed, but not terribly surprised. And the 1803 is a really neat error coin, too: Two errors appear on the reverse: The second "S" in "STATES" has a very clear piece of an "S" below it; the other error is a second fraction bar in 1/100. This example would be an S-243, if you collected by variety.
The 1804 is one of those super rare coins I was lucky enough to acquire in an ebay auction. Only 96,000 were minted over 200 years ago (and how many of those survived?), and this coin is a very nice example. I actually sent it in to PCGS and it received a G-6 grade, which is beyond excellent for such a tough date! Most 1804's I've seen are so worn that the date is not visible, and they usually have a lot of corrosion or damage and cleaning. I'm lucky to have found such a sharply defined example with no corrosion or damage. This coin is what's called a "late die state," because it has two diagnostic die breaks that resulted in "cuds" on the obverse above "RTY" and on the reverse above "MERIC." This is easily my favorite Large Cent and probably the most valuable, too!
The other coin of note in this set is the 1800 with the ugly green corrosion on the neck. The coin was harshly cleaned (like with a wire brush!), yet it has a ton of hair detail, plus a very noticeable mint error: See the two "ears" at the top of the "8," plus the extra loop in the first zero? This is an overdate, officially called an 1800 80/79. Pretty cool error, especially since it's visible to the unaided eye! Click on an image below to enlarge!
8/5/12-I sent out the 1795 Large Cent to PCGS thinking it would be gradable based on the smooth surfaces. It came back as VG details (cleaned). I did not think it was cleaned, and expected a fine grade as well. Oh well!
U.S. Large Cents (Classic Head 1808-1814)
This series is one of the toughest to collect. It had a very short run, replaced by the Matron Head Large Cent in 1816 (there was no 1815 Large Cent). The copper in these coins has a high purity, resulting in a softer, quicker wearing coin. Also, the copper blanks were often used as ballast in ship's holds on their trip here from Europe, and as a result, many of the planchets were heavily corroded from exposure to seawater. Which is why a high percentage of Classic Head coins look severely corroded. Even when they saw the planchets were damaged by the saltwater, the mint chose to use them anyway. The 1809 (Year of Abe Lincoln's birth!) is considered the key to this series. The 1808 pictured has been cleaned, hence it's lighter color. The 1811/0 is a recent addition that replaced an AG coin.
U.S. Large Cents (Matron Head 1816-1838)
The Matron Head design represented a significant change in the appearance and composition of the coin. By lowering the copper content slightly, the coin's durability was greatly enhanced. And the design change resulted in a whole new Liberty on the obverse . Of interest in this group is the 1827, which has a slight "clip" out of it, which happens when a coining die strikes the edge after the coin has already been struck. By striking the edge, a concave "clip" is cut out of the coin by the die. Also, check out the 1838. I sent it out to PCGS and it received a grade of MS63-my first truly uncirculated Large Cent!
The other neat coin (one of my favorites!) in this group is the 1834. It has a strongly doubled profile easily visible along Liberty's face. I've looked into how such an error could happen, but have not really been able to get a good answer yet. The 1816 you see here was a recent addition-it replaced a corroded example I've had. This coin looks to be a nice Extra Fine grade to me. Not bad for almost 200 years old!
U.S. Large Cents (Braided Hair 1839-1857)
The final evolution of the Large Cent is the Braided Hair type. A new obverse and reverse design made for a cleaner-looking coin. Many of the coins pictured in this series are high grade, although a couple of the high grade examples have greenish corrosion on the reverse, which decreases their value. I just purchased my first uncirculated large cent-the 1853 pictured in this gallery! When I started collecting these, I never dreamed I'd find a way to own an uncirculated example! Some of these I've had graded by PCGS: The 1852 came back as AU58BN, the 1855 "Knob On Ear" variety was graded AU55BN, and the 1857 has a planchet flaw (the flat area on the rim, but is a great example of this hard to find date. This coin is the small date version, and received a grade of XF details noting the flaw from PCGS.