Half-Cents and Cents : Flowing Hair Large Cent

Obverse of 1794 Large Cent Obverse of 1794 Large Cent

Ron Guth: The Flowing Hair large cent type includes several interesting and completely different subtypes.  First among them is the Chain cent, issued in 1793, and one of the first coins ever struck at the U.S. mint.  This type features a head of Liberty with unkempt hair and an almost frightened look.  The reverse displays a chain or fifteen links, apparently symbolizing the unity of the States, but confused by some as a reference to bondage and slavery.  The Chain cent was issued only in 1793 and the mintage is low, resulting in high demand and high prices.

The second design of 1793 is the Wreath cent, a more sophisticated and refined design.  This sub-type was replaced late in the year by the Liberty Cap design, which matched more closely the design on the half cent.  One of the Wreath cent varieties is the extremely rare "Strawberry Leaf" version, with a cluster of leaves beneath liberty's bust that is completely unlike the sprig that appears on all other Wreath Cents.  Although the "Strawberry Leaf" name has stuck, some experts argue that they are cotton leaves or some other, unknown plant.

The Liberty Cap design fared a little better than the Chain and Wreath cents, lasting from 1793 to 1796.  The 1794 Starred Reverse is a unique variety that features tiny star interspersed among the denticles on the reverse.  The "Jefferson Head" varieties of 1795 were made outside of the U.S. Mint, presumably in a bid for a private coining contract.  In 1795, the weight of the planchets for half cents and large cents was reduced, and edge lettering was no longer applied to either denomination.  As a result, 1795 large cents are know with both lettered and plain edges, as well as an unusual reeded edge (extremely rare).

In 1796, the Draped Bust type replaced the Liberty Cap design, albeit after some of the latter had been struck.