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The First Production American Minted Coins: The Liberty Cap and The Large Cent

Updated on June 23, 2018

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An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of The United States

The Coinage act was passed by the Congress on April 2 of 1792. The act established the U.S dollar as the American standard unit if measurement for currency. Along with the establishment of a standard unit of currency, it also established The United States Mint.

The Mint was to be situated at the seat of the government, and the original act established five officers to maintain the newly developed wing of government. The officers were the Mint Director, the Assayer, the Chief Coiner, an Engraver, and a Treasurer. The director was also given the authority to hire and fire as many clerks as may be needed at any particular time.

1793 Large Cent

Being one of the first coins produced in the United States, it should be no surprise that the 1793 large cent is one of the most rarest U.S mint coin. The interesting thing regarding the 1793 large cent is, there were several types of the large cent.

The Large Cent Flowing Hair Chain was the first type of large cent coin struck after the U.S Mint Act of 1793. They weigh 13.11 grams, and were by all means, the first regular issued coins by the United States. Henry Voigt engraved the dies, he was actually the chief coiner, but the government was still looking for an engraver at the time.

The liberty head was used because there was a passage within the act itself that stated the device is to be emblematic of liberty. There were some complaints about this coin, which is probably why there are several types of the Large cent. The unbound liberty hair came across ad unkempt and made lady liberty look a little wild. There was also some complaints about the plain lipped edge of the coin. It caused a very thin edge that tended to wear down too quickly.

Director of the U.S mint, David Rittenhouse decided to change the large cent due to criticism of the original chain cent. The changes made significant improvements to the original chain coin. The chain was removed and replaced with a wreath of unknown plant type. Lady liberty also received a little refinement. And below lady liberty, but above the date, a sprig was added. The coin weighed 13.48 grams, and measured 1 1/16" in diamter. Stamping of the coin began on April 4th of 1793 and continued until mid July, when the die was exhausted. This coin is commonly known as the Large Cent Flowing Hair Wreath. Or Wreath cent.

The Liberty Cap Large cent was the final one cent coinage of the year. It had a redesigned Miss Liberty and the freedom cap was added, representing the freeing of the slaves. The face design was created by Robert Scot, and it continued for several years afterward. It was a much more refined coin, Lady liberty had more detail and the wreath was changed slightly. Robert Scot was chief engraver for the U.S. mint for many years to come and had several coin designs after the Large Cent. Including the half cent.

Large Cent Flowing Hair Chain

The first large cent design, was met with criticism, and was quickly replaced.
The first large cent design, was met with criticism, and was quickly replaced.

Large Cent Flowing Hair Wreath

The answer to the criticism received for the chain cent, the wreath cent was a definite improvement.
The answer to the criticism received for the chain cent, the wreath cent was a definite improvement.

Large Cent Liberty Cap Beaded Border

The Liberty cap was the final design for the year, and it remained in production for several years.
The Liberty cap was the final design for the year, and it remained in production for several years.

1793 Half Cent

The half cent may seem like a strange denomination to us using modern day economics, but when the when you only earned a dollar for ten hours of work, a half a cent was substantial.

The U.S mint intermittently struck the half cent between the years of 1793 and 1857 for a total of around 36000 total coins. During that time, there were 4 different die varieties. But for 1793, there was a single die. It was very similar to the large cent. The wreath was a different style, and lady liberty was facing left instead of right. The half cent also included the freedom cap.

The importance of small denomination coins

The significance of the small denomination coins, like the half cent and the one cent should not be minimized. It illustrates to the american people, how we have maintained a common unit of money for over two hundred years. And even though the half cent has become obsolete, and the one cent may become obsolete some time in the near future, it is a testament to our sucess and consistent growth that we have been able to continue and adapt our financials through several generations of Americans.

The coinage act of 1793 played a huge roll in the success of this country, and continues to affect us in positive ways. It was the beginning of this country and will remain one of the most important steps in our growth.

© 2018 Leonard L Sampson

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