Liberty Cap Cent Highlights and Rarities

1793 Liberty Cap Large Cent

  • The 1793 Liberty Cap Large Cent is the first year of issue for this denomination, and the first year of issue for the third type struck during this year. The total mintage is just 11,056 pieces from a single delivery made in September 1793, less than a week after the coin’s designer Joseph Wright had died from yellow fever. This low mintage makes it the rarest of the three different 1793 designs for the cent, although demand is not as high since later dates of the series fulfill the need from type set collectors.
  • Nonetheless, this issue remains very popular and examples can be difficult to find in all grades. It also represents a different subtype compared to later issues due to the raised beaded borders only found on this issue compared to dentils used on all later issues. This fact, however, goes largely unnoticed except by specialists of the series.
  • Virtually all surviving examples of the 1793 Liberty Cap Cent are circulated, with uncirculated specimens being of the greatest rarity.

1794 Liberty Cap Large Cent, Starred Reverse

  • Mystery surrounds the 1794 “Starred Reverse” Liberty Cap Cent, which is perhaps the most famous of all the large cent varieties. Along with 83 dentils around the circumference of the reverse of the coin, there are also 94 tiny, five-pointed stars. In some cases the stars are covered by the dentils, suggesting that the stars were engraved first. The variety was not discovered until 1877, by which time presumably all examples had long been in circulation.
  • Many theories have been proposed to explain the existence of this variety. These have included the possibility of a leftover die from 1792, leftover planchets from the same year, or the use of the stars as an anti-counterfeiting measure. The true story will perhaps never be known, which only serves to add to the popularity of the issue.
  • While approximately 50 examples of the Starred Reverse Cent are known, virtually all are well circulated. The single finest example is graded PCGS AU50 and sold for $632,500 at an auction held in February 2008. The second finest example is only a VF, with all other survivors in lower grades. 

1795 Liberty Cap Large Cent, Reeded Edge

  • Most of the 1795 Liberty Cap Large Cents produced at the Mint were struck on planchets with a reeded edge, and a smaller number had a lettered edge. A tiny fraction of the production was struck on planchets with a reeded edge.
  • While the official purpose of the reeded edge remains unknown, most have suggested that the coins were created as an experiment to prevent counterfeiting or clipping. Clipping occurred when someone either filed or clipped the edges of a coin to remove a portion of the metal. This was primarily a problem with silver or gold coins, rather than copper which has a much lower value. Whatever the precise reason, the experiment was quickly abandoned as unnecessary or not cost effective.
  • Only seven examples of the 1795 Reeded Edge Large Cent are known to exist. All pieces are struck from the same die pair. No examples of this die pair exist with any other edge type, although the reverse die was used for other 1796 cents.
  • An example graded VG-10 sold for $1,265,000 at an auction held in September 2009. More recently, an example with fine details and corrosion sold for $431,250 in January 2011. That piece had been called the discovery coin and originally considered graded Net G-5.

1795 Jefferson Head Large Cent

  • Even though the 1795 Jefferson Head Liberty Cap Large Cent is listed in the Red Book, it is not an official Mint product. These enigmatic pieces were made by John Harper, who had hoped to win a coinage contract from the federal government, which he did not succeed in accomplishing.
  • The variety had been known for many years, but was not readily identified until 1952, when Walter Breen concluded what the mysterious pieces in fact were. Found with both a plain edge as well as a reeded edge, the former being the rarer of the two, they are all scarce and often included in a specialized collection of large cents. From the circulated pieces which have survived, it appears that after striking the coins were placed in circulation, where they remained, unnoticed until withdrawn with all other early coppers.
  • A few corroded examples have sold in the past decade for prices ranging from $15,000 to $20,000. The Garrett Specimen graded NGC VF25 was sold for $184,000 in March 2012.

taken from: