Art historians and numismatists believe that Gobrecht's inspiration for the new 1839 design was the classic figure of Love in Benjamin West's painting, Omnia Vincit Amor (Love Conquers All), created early in the 19th century.
Issues of 1839 through early 1843, now generally called the Petite Head, show Liberty leaning forward and feature a younger-looking version than Gobrecht's later rendition, on which the head is upright and poised more gracefully in the field. Liberty is surrounded by the obligatory thirteen stars, with the date below. The reverse continued to use a closed-circle laurel wreath, made up of a single stem with leaves in groups of four, interspersed with large round berries.
The wreath encircled ONE CENT (without the raised line below that appeared on earlier designs) and in turn was surrounded by the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Gobrecht's 1843 revision featured bold serif-style letters substantially larger than on earlier reverses.
Braided Hair coins achieved greater uniformity than any of the earlier large cents. Introduction of steam power, advances in hubbing the design into the dies and the use of logotypes or single, four-digit punches to impress dates eliminated the many varieties so beloved by copper collectors. Minor varieties do exist, however, and these were first listed by Frank C. Andrews in 1883.
Naked-eye or "Red Book" varieties of general interest include large and small dates of 1840 and 1842, and multiple obverse/reverse combinations for 1843. Others are 1844 and 1851 coins showing an 18 punched upside down where the last two digits of the date were supposed to go, creating the 1844/81 and 1851/81 varieties. Large cents of 1846 appear with small, medium and large dates, while 1847 coins include the bold Large over Small 7 variety. The 1855 issues show slanting (italic) or upright 5s. These two types of 5s also occur on cents of 1856. Chief Engraver James B. Longacre favored the slanting 5, while the upright 5 is attributed to an unknown assistant. The bold 1855 "Knob on Ear" variety resulted from a large die chip that gradually expanded to cover part of Liberty's head.
The remarkable increase in production with the arrival of steam power in 1836 is well illustrated by mintages of this design. Except for 1857, between 1.5 and 9 million pieces were made each year, all at the Philadelphia Mint. Proofs are known of all dates except 1839, 1851 and 1853, and all are rare to extremely rare.
Although initially welcomed by a public in need of small change for commerce, the cumbersome coins soon were widely disliked, even before the Braided Hair design debuted. They were heavy, often found badly worn or corroded and didn't have legal-tender status. Merchants could and did refuse to accept them, often preferring their own store tokens or the "Hard Times" tokens commonly used in trade.
Grading of this design is fairly straightforward, with measurable wear first appearing on the hair above the ear and on the bow on the wreath. As always, mint-red coins enjoy consistent demand, particularly from type collectors. Most of the dates in the 50s, except for 1854 and 1857, are occasionally available in mint red: Hoards of each were uncovered over the years-many in bank vaults during 1933's Bank Holiday.
A decade after its demise, the Braided Hair large cent made one last shadowy reappearance. Mint Director Henry Linderman ordered "fantasy pieces" made-dated 1868-using the old dies in storage. Struck both in copper and nickel, fewer than a dozen pieces are known today. Between collectors and the creativity of the Philadelphia Mint, the large cent was more popular after its death than during its many years of circulation.
Coin Information Provided Courtesy NGC.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht
Diameter: 27.5 millimeters
Copper - 100%
Weight: 10.89 grams
Mint mark: None for Philadelphia Mint or called 'Plain' mint mark.