From the Blog

Can You Dig it – US Large Cents


One of the first coins stuck at the US Mint was the Large Cent. The large, somewhat clunky coin was minted from 1793 to 1857 with the exception of 1815, when the mint was razed by fire and forced to shut down. As a metal detector hobbyist the chances of finding these is best in New England. As a southern states treasure finder who has found every denomination of US coins except for the 20 cent piece, I have only found a useful (11) Large Cents while finding over 151,000 coins. This is a fascinating coin type and has a strong following among coal collectors in the US.

There were three design types in1793, each an attempt to improve on the quality of the coin. All three types are highlyought by collectors today but in 1793 the Chain and Wreath designs met with a lot of opposition. The Liberty Cap design fared better and was stuck for the next three years.

In 1796, the Draped Bust design was introduced and lasted until 1807. The elusive 1799 and the very popular 1804 are the rare coins of this series. I have an 1800 and an 1803 that came out of the ground in poor shape, but they are still treasures to me.

The Classic Head Cent ran from 1808-1814. My oldest dated metal detector Large Cent find is of this variety, an 1812. While none of this series dates are rare, they are hard to find in nice condition. My 1812 was found at a wagon train watering-hole in what is now Palm Harbor, FL and could probably tell some great stories of travelers, soldiers and Seminoles stopping there from the 1840 to 1880 era.

The Matron Head design appeared in 1816 and was minted through 1839. There are many interesting varieties in this series and 1821 and 1823 are rare dates. I have found both a 1823 and 1824 metal detecting in central Florida. Some of the varieties of the Matron Head are rare enough to command several hundred thousand dollars in the marketplace.

The final design type for the Large Cents is the Braided Hair version that was taken from 1840 -1857. Six of my eleven finds are of this type and everyone came out of the ground looking very nice. The 1857 is both scarce as a date and popular as the last year of the conviction.

Source by Larry E. Smith