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Do you know what a large cent is?
Many people don’t.
When some find out what a large cent is, they are likely to do a double-take, as they can’t imagine having to carry too many of these coins around in their pocket!
Here’s everything you want to know about U.S. large cents — and why they are so sought after by collectors…
What Are Large Cents?
In 1793, among the very first coins the United States Mint ever struck was a one-cent coin.
But the pennies of yesterday were not like the pennies of today.
These early pennies were nearly the size of today’s half dollar! Large cents range in size from 27-29 millimeters.
Until 1857, the U.S. Mint produced these large-size pennies — referred to in the coin collecting world as “large cents.”
U.S. Large Cent Designs
Large cents have been struck bearing several different designs. There were a number of intentional design changes to large cents over the years.
One of the main factors that contributes to the numerous minor varieties among the oldest of U.S. coins is the hand-involvement that was responsible for many aspects of coin production.
In all, there are dozens of design and variety combinations among the large cents.
Coin collectors have been enthusiastically collecting large cents since the 19th century — and large cents have continued to maintain a strong popularity among numismatists to this day.
Large Cent Values
Following are the U.S. large cent designs and their current values — by type:
- 1793 Chain Large Cent – $4,750 to $450,000
- 1793 Wreath Large Cent – $1,350 to $275,000
- 1793 Liberty Cap Large Cent – $3,700 to $785,000
- 1794-1796 Liberty Cap with Denticled Border Large Cent – $200 to $110,000
- 1796-1807 Draped Bust Large Cent – $68 to $35,000
- 1808-1814 Classic Head Large Cent – $58 to $30,000
- 1816-1839 Coronet Head Large Cent – $26 to $1,500
- 1839-1857 Braided Hair Large Cent – $24 to $875
*Low-end prices are for About-Good-3 coins. High end prices are for Mint-State-65 for all 1793 and 1794-1796 cents. For Draped Bust large cents and after, prices range from the low end of Good-4 to Mint-State-65.
These are retail prices for the lowest-priced, most common dates for each design.
Coins of particularly nice quality will be worth more, and damaged coins will be worth less. Scarcer coins will be worth more.
When Were U.S. Large Cents Replaced?
As the value of the U.S. cent decreased, so did the public’s tolerance for carrying around pockets and purses full of these large, heavy coins.
In 1856, the U.S. Mint struck the first pennies of the current 19-millimeter size.
By 1857, the large cent was phased out and eventually faded away from circulation.
More About U.S. Large Cents
Here are a few great resources if you’d like to read more about large cents:
- The Early American Coppers club offers links, information, and other resources for large cent collectors.
- The American Numismatic Association (ANA) is one of the oldest and most widely known coin organizations that cater to collectors of all kinds of coins, including large cents.
- LargeCents.net has many articles, clubs, and books about U.S. large cents.
- PCGS has certified the world’s most valuable large cent.
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!