Before the Philadelphia Mint was established in 1792, copper coins and tokens were already a staple of daily commerce. Many different pieces could be found in everyday circulation, including coins issued by foreign countries and the original thirteen colonies. These early copper coins were approximately the same size as the federally-issued Half Cent and Large Cent.

Once the U.S. Mint began striking coins for circulation, its top priority was making copper coins. The very first official releases were the copper Half Cent and Large Cent in 1793, followed by silver coinage in 1794 and gold coinage in 1795. It's no surprise that the Mint focused on smaller-denomination coins first; the public needed Half Cents and Large Cents more than the other units. Furthermore, the early U.S. Mint had a very limited supply of silver and gold bullion.

Both the Half Cent and Large Cent underwent a number of design changes over the years. To be exact, four major Half Cent motifs exist (Liberty Cap, Draped Bust, Classic Head and Braided Hair). The Large Cent saw even more variation over its lifespan; the denomination changed designs three times in 1793 alone. The very first iteration, the Chain Cent, is one of the most popular and iconic issues in all of American numismatics.

Early copper coins run the gamut in terms of rarity and price. Later issues from the 1840s and 1850s are quite affordable, even in Mint State condition. Nicely preserved coins can be found for a couple hundred dollars or less. The earlier dates tend to be much scarcer - especially in higher grades. The 1793 issues are among the very rarest and most valuable. A few Gem Uncirculated 1793 Chain cents have changed hands for $1 million or more.

GreatCollections has sold 8,715 Half Cents/Large Cents in the past 10 years, selling at prices from $7 to $171,563, in grades 1 to 67. Of these, 478 were approved by CAC.



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