The first Large Cent, Flowing Hair, Wreath Reverse, was minted by the Philadelphia Mint in 1793. It was the first Large Cent minted by the US Mint and was the first mass produced coinage by the newly independent States of America. Proceeded only by the Flowing Hair Half Disme, but the 1793 Chain Cent was the first coinage struck at the newly constructed Philadelphia Mint, that was produced in Patterns but also intended as coinage according to George Washington (The 1793 Cent was also proceeded by the 1792 Proposed Coinage Issues but none were used as coinage and are very rare).
The idea of the connected chains, as the first reverse, was to represent the unity of the newly founded United States Of America. However, the Chain design was short-lived and was replaced later in the year by the 1793 "Wreath" Cent. The Chain reverse is the most rare, only 18,000 minted, but the wreath reverse is also rare, and both are extremely rare in high grade. Furthermore, there are other minor design types referred to as varieties and these are even more rare than the regular issue mintages. The Strawberry Leaf variety being the most rare.
On January 28, 1791 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton submitted an extensive report that examined the issues relative to the establishment of a Mint: "A plan for an establishment of this nature, involves a great variety of considerations-intricate, nice, and important. The general state of debtor and creditor; all the relations and consequences of price; the essential interests of trade and industry; the value of all property; the whole income, both of the State and of individuals, are liable to be sensibly influenced, beneficially or otherwise, by the judicious or injudicious regulation of this interesting object."
Hamilton examined all aspects of such an establishment in an extremely detailed report, which was the basis for the Mint Act of April 2, 1792. In his report, Hamilton considered numerous particulars:
"1st. What ought to be the nature of the money unit of the United States?
"2nd. What the proportion between gold and silver, if coins of both metals are to be established?
"3rd. What the proportion and composition of alloy in each kind?
"4th. Whether the expense of coinage shall be defrayed by the Government, or out of the material itself?
"5th. What shall be the number, denominations, sizes, and devices of the coins?
"6th. Whether foreign coins shall be permitted to be current or not; if the former, at what rate, and for what period?"
Strawberry Leaves (Rare Variety)____________
Images courtesy of Heritage Numismatic Auctions
Chain Reverse: First U.S. Coin minted at the Philadelphia Mint for circulation.