The copper cents of 1793-1857 were the first United States coins to attract the attention of collectors in this country. Hobbyists both casual and serious were assembling date sets by the mid-19th Century, and this activity grew exponentially after the series’ demise in 1857. By that time numismatists had become aware of the many varieties that resulted from the use of hand tools in completing each die, and large cents were also the first United States coins to be sought extensively by varieties. A number of books and monographs were published over the years describing and classifying these varieties, though all have since been superseded by the references named below.
While the number of persons collecting large cents by date has likely declined in favor of type collecting, the intensity and competition among variety specialists has grown steadily. The traditional favorites remain the early cents of 1793-1814, but the middle dates of 1816-39 now command much greater attention than in previous generations. Due to greater standardization in the die sinking process after 1839, the late dates through 1857 are far more difficult to attribute by varieties, and this has limited their popularity to the most dedicated and patient of collectors. Still, the rare varieties are prized, particularly in the higher grades.
NGC will assign Newcomb (N) numbers to all cents from 1839 through 1857. Howard Newcomb’s numbers begin anew with each date. In other words, the first variety for each date is N-1, followed by N-2, N-3, etc. While Newcomb’s numbering system is still employed, the standard attribution guide for this series is the book by John R. Grellman, Jr.
NOTE: Because the distinguishing points of the dies used to make these coins are extremely subtle, it is very difficult to attribute examples grading less than VF-20. Submitters are asked to keep this in mind when selecting coins for variety attribution.