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Classic Head large cents, which were struck from 1808 through 1814, are rare pennies that are worth much more than face value.
In fact, Classic Head large cents are generally worth hundreds of dollars, if not thousands!
In this article, we are going to delve into the history of these coins and reveal how much Classic Head large cents are worth today.
History Of Classic Head Large Cents
When the first Classic Head large cents rolled in during 1808, the United States Mint had already been in existence for more than 15 years — building a nice resume of coins in that time.
As for one-cent coins (pennies, as most would say), the U.S. Mint had produced the Flowing Hair, Liberty Cap, and Draped Bust pennies — all of which were still circulating in 1808.
During the early 19th century, there were very few people in the United States who would’ve considered themselves coin collectors in the formal sense. Perhaps there were many folks who were saving or hoarding coins, but they weren’t necessarily doing this to preserve examples of each coin the U.S. Mint was producing.
However, it’s because there were people who had saved these early coins in one form or fashion or another that we have examples for coin collectors and historians to enjoy today!
And in 1808, there were still many of the old pennies in circulation. The large cent family grew larger by one with the release of the Classic Head, designed by John Reich.
The Classic Head large cents were struck every year through 1814, and all of them are pretty scarce today — even in worn condition.
What happened in 1815?
Many will point to a fire at the Philadelphia Mint — but that incident didn’t occur until January 1816. The outbreak of the War of 1812 led to a huge shortage of copper planchets (coin blanks), which were manufactured in and shipped from Great Britain. The shortage continued into 1815 — though by the end of that year, production of large cents had begun again.
The question that has plagued numismatic scholars for years is determining if the large cents made in the final months of 1815 were Classic Head large cents dated 1814 (because the U.S. Mint frequently used old dies back during its early days) or Coronet Head large cents dated 1816.
We may never know… But all we know for sure is that there are no large cents or pennies dated 1815.
Classic Head Large Cent Values
The Classic Head large cents are a fairly straightforward series to collect — with only 7 dates inclusive (1808, 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814).
However, things get trickier when adding in the varieties, and there are several for this run of valuable old pennies!
Varieties are minor variations of the design that are both distinct and collectible. And large cents from the 1793 through 1814 period are rife with lots of rare, valuable, and collectible varieties!
Here are the current Classic Head large cent values (including those for the major varieties):
- 1808 — $150+
- 1809 — $300+
- 1810 — $150+
- 1810/09 — $140+
- 1811 — $250+
- 1811/0 — $375+
- 1812 Small Date — $125+
- 1812 Large Date — $115+
- 1813 — $125+
- 1814 Plain 4 — $130+
- 1814 Crosslet 4 — $150+
*These are typical retail values for Classic Head large cents graded Good-4 or better with no damage, including no cleanings, no holes, no major scratches, and no significant nicks, dings, or other imperfections. You might be offered lower prices if you were to sell these same coins to a coin dealer, who would usually purchase coins at prices around wholesale levels.
What Are The Most Valuable Classic Head Large Cents?
While the values of Classic Head large cents listed above are typical prices for the more well-worn specimens in Good or better circulated grades, values for these old pennies are worth much more in uncirculated condition.
In fact, most uncirculated Classic Head large cents have a value of around $8,000 to $10,000 apiece — at a minimum. But that’s nothing compared to what some of the most valuable large cents in this series are worth.
Consider, for example, the 1811 Classic Head large cent. An example graded Mint State-65 Red by Professional Coin Grading Service sold for an astounding $493,500 in a 2017 auction. That’s nearly a half million dollars — for an 1811 penny!
Some of the other valuable Classic Head pennies include:
- 1808 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-66 Brown by Professional Coin Grading Service, taking $76,375 in 2017.
- 1809 Large 9 Over Small 9 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-64 Brown by Professional Coin Grading Service, which sold for $129,250.
- 1810 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-65 by Professional Coin Grading Service, fetching $149,500 in a 2009 sale.
- 1811/0 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-63 Brown by Numismatic Guaranty Company, garnering $102,000 in 2018.
- 1812 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-66 Brown by Professional Coin Grading Service, hammering for $105,750 in 2017.
- 1813 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-65 Brown by Professional Coin Grading Service, notching $211,500 in 2013.
- 1814 Plain 4 Classic Head large cent — graded Mint State-67 Brown by Professional Coin Grading Service, going for $158,625 in 2015.
Bear in mind, these prices are from public auction records. There may have been other valuable Classic Head large cents that have traded for much more than these figures in private transactions. But this is a good sampling of what these rare pennies are worth.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!