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Classic Head Cents (1808-1814)

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and monographs were published over the years describing and classifying these varieties, though all have since been superseded by the references named below.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 Sheldon (S) numbers to all cents from 1808 through 1814. Some collectors still attribute early cents using Sheldon’s book, but it is far easier to use the more recent reference by William C. Noyes. This employs the Sheldon numbering system, but it offers superior photographs and attribution points. The posthumously published Walter Breen large cent encyclopedia (edited by Mark Borckardt and Del Bland) features good photos, too, as well as more up-to-date rarity ratings, condition census and pedigree listings. The Breen numbering system, though superior to Sheldon’s, is not likely to be adopted, due to widespread familiarity with the Sheldon numbers. Nevertheless, each Breen variety is clearly cross-referenced to Sheldon.



Denom.MS/PFDateFee*NGC LabelBreen
1CMS1808 $15S-277 B-1
1CMS1808 $15S-278 B-2
1CMS1808 $15S-279 B-3
1CMS1809 -S-280 B-1
1CMS1810/09 -S-281 B-1
1CMS1810 $15S-282 B-3
1CMS1810 $15S-283 B-4
1CMS1810 $15S-284 B-5
1CMS1810 $15S-285 B-2
1CMS1811 -S-287 B-1
1CMS1811/0 -S-286 B-2
1CMS1812 LARGE DATE$15S-288 B-3
1CMS1812 LARGE DATE$15S-289 B-4
1CMS1812 SMALL DATE$15S-290 B-2
1CMS1812 SMALL DATE$15S-291 B-1
1CMS1813 $15S-292 B-2
1CMS1813 $15S-293 B-1
1CMS1814 CROSSLET 4$15S-294 B-1
1CMS1814 PLAIN 4$15S-295 B-2


* In order to have the above varieties requiring the $15 fee designated by NGC, VarietyPlus service must be requested at time of grading. VarietyPlus service is also available for coins already encapsulated by NGC. For coins where the fee column is blank, no VarietyPlus charge is required to have your coin designated during grading. For coins marked $15, a $15 surcharge applies to the tier fee during grading, or a $15 fee applies to have the VarietyPlus designation added to any coin already graded and encapsulated by NGC.
References:
Breen, Walter & Mark R. Borckardt (editor). Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1814. Bowers & Merena Galleries, Wolfeboro, NH, 2000
Noyes, William C. United States Large Cents 1793-1814. Published by the author, 1991