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Throughout American history, there have been several different cents minted. These coins have a fascinating history and are highly collectible by coin fanatics and investors worldwide.
Large cents are highly sought after by collectors, and the first coins minted in 1793 are the most valuable. These coins were produced annually until 1857. In 1808, the large cent's design changed to a more classic look that was minted until 1857. However, there was no 1815 large cent as America declared war against the UK, affecting coin production.
Classic large cents feature the head of Liberty with a hairband and the word ‘Liberty.’ In earlier versions of the coin, she had flowing hair. On later coins, her hair is tied back, and fifty stars have been added around the coin's circumference to represent the states of America.
Large cents were produced in significant quantities by the Philadelphia mint using 100% copper. During the war, people began to hoard precious metals, and the price of copper rose steeply in the following years. By 1857 the price of copper was too high, and the coin was no longer minted. After the war, many people sold their large cents, and they were melted down to use for other industries. This has made the large cents a valuable collector coin due to its rarity.
The Flying Eagle Cent was the first of the small American cents. It was minted for just two years between 1956 and 1958, one of the shortest time frames in history for coin production. James B. Longacre designed this coin, and 40 million coins were minted, a relatively low number.
The coin features a flying eagle on one side, which was based on a drawing by Christian Gobrecht, an engraver who proceeded Longacre. The rear of the coin has a wreath of flowers with the words ‘one cent’ in the middle.
The flying eagle cent measures just 19 mm and weighs 4.67 grams. It was popular at the time due to it’s smaller size and continues to be collectible to this day.
The Indian Head Penny was designed by James Barton Longacre and minted by the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints. It was produced between 1859 and 1909 and became one of the most iconic coins in American history. The coin features an Indian head on one side and a wreath with ‘one cent’ in the middle on the other.
Between 1859 and 1864, the Indian Head cent was a copper-nickel coin. It measures 19mm and weighed 4.67 grams. During the Civil war, it was reclaimed as the metal was needed for the war effort. This has made the early version of the Indian Head Penny very rare as many disappeared from circulation. From 1865 until 1909, the coins were struck from copper and zinc. They measured 19mm and weighed slightly less than the original coins at 3.11 grams.
Another iconic coin, the Wheat Penny, also known as the Lincoln cent, was designed in 1909 by a New York sculpture named Victor David Brenner. Early wheat pennies were produced using a mixture of copper, tin, and zinc and included the designer’s initials, V.D.B.
In 1943 the coins were struck from 100% steel and plated with zinc as copper was needed for the war effort. In subsequent years the coins were again made from copper and zinc and measured 19mm in diameter. The coins weigh either 2.07 or 3.11 grams depending on the type of metal used in their production.
The wheat penny is America's longest-running coin series. These cents got their name due to the two stylized wheat stalks on the reverse. They were also given the name ‘wheaties.’ The obverse features the head of Lincoln.
Wheat pennies are highly collectible, with the earlier versions being worth the most. Coin collectors and dealers worldwide a willing to pay a high price for wheat pennies. An uncirculated 1909 VDB version of the coin was recently valued at $12,000.
The Lincoln cent is still in circulation today and has seen many changes since 1959 when the sheaves of wheat were removed from the reverse side. Between 1959 and 2008, the coin featured an image of the Lincoln memorial. Frank Gasparro designed this coin.
In 2009 a series of four coins were commissioned to mark Lincolns bicentennial. These depicted images from Lincoln's life and included his childhood log cabin, his formative years in Indiana, his professional life in Illinois, and his presidency in DC. In 2010 a new coin was designed with an image of a shield; this is still used today.