Coronet Head Cent

After no large cents were made in 1815, production resumed in 1816 with a new design, which would last in somewhat modified form until the end of the 1839. This series is known by various names including the Coronet Head Cent, Matron Head Cent, or more broadly as Liberty Head Large Cents. The new design was never considered to be a true improvement over the previous designs which had been seen on this denomination, yet it would be the first design for the cent which would last longer than a decade.

The War of 1812 with Britain had resulted in a suspension in production for the one cent denomination at the United States Mint. As had been the case since the 1790’s, the planchet supply came from the British firm of Boulton & Watt, located in Birmingham. Due to a trading embargo imposed after the start of the war, no new planchets could be shipped and the Mint’s supply on hand was eventually exhausted. When planchets could once again be obtained, production of the denomination resumed with a new design by Robert Scot.

The obverse featured the head of Liberty, facing left. Her appearance is more mature, at least in her 40’s or 50’s, and the head has been the basis of much criticism. Breen called it “a spectacularly ugly head of Ms. Liberty”, while others have commented similarly with different words. Liberty wears a headband, inscribed with the word LIBERTY, and thirteen stars appear surrounding. The date, very lightly curved, is below. This design would last until 1836, when Christian Gobrecht, best known for his work on the Liberty Seated silver and Liberty Head gold coins, would make some modifications. The overall design was the same, but Liberty now had a slightly younger appearance, and the overall execution was better.

From 1816 until the end of the series in 1839 the same reverse design was used, which basically was identical to the earlier cents designed by John Reich. A wreath of olive leaves was featured, referred to as a “Christmas Wreath” by Breen, with ONE CENT in the center. A horizontal line appears beneath the letters EN in CENT. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, evenly spaced, is seen around, close to the rim. On the modified design executed by Gobrecht, the wreath is slightly lower, but the difference is minimal and goes largely unnoticed.

This type was also the first cent which saw a somewhat regular proof coin production for collectors. Simply said, all Large Cent proofs are rare, and those of the Coronet Head design each saw less than a dozen to fifteen pieces produced at most. Combined with the fact that the status of some so-called proofs remains disputed, any offering of a true proof Coronet Head Cent is a rare and important occurrence. Some were perhaps struck as presentation pieces, while others might have been requested by the very limited number of coin collectors in the United States at the time, a hobby which did not become widely popular until the 1850’s.