The Braided Hair Cent (Buy on eBay) was issued from 1839 to 1857 and represented the final series of large cents. By this time, the production and distribution of the bulky copper coins had become unprofitable for the United States Mint and increasingly unpopular with the public. Under the Coinage Act of 1857, half cents and large cents were discontinued and replaced with small-sized cents with a different composition. These changes spurred increased interest in coin collecting with many attempting to assemble complete collections of large cents dating back to their inception.
The large cent had been authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792, and was first struck in two different types in 1793. This was followed by two additional design changes during the first decade of issuance and two final types with longer durations. Across all types, the coins featured a portrait of Liberty on the obverse and a typically a wreath on the reverse. The appearance of Liberty varied over the years, ranging from youthful to more mature and dour. The denomination had circulated heavily within the early United States as an important medium of exchange within everyday commerce.
The final type for the large cent was designed by Christian Gobrecht. He had been born in Pennsylvania in 1785, as the son of a German immigrant man and an American-born woman. Gobrecht was appointed as an engraver at the Mint in 1835 and became chief engraver in 1840, a position which he retained until his death in 1844. He was responsible for many famous coin designs, including the Liberty Seated design used on the majority of silver coins until the final decade of the 19th century.
The obverse of the Braided Hair Large Cent features Liberty, facing left, with the word LIBERTY on her headband. Thirteen stars appear around with the date below. For the initial years of the series, the head appears smaller and tilted forward. The head was enlarged and straightened in 1843 and continued with this appearance until the end of the series. Gobrecht is said to have been inspired by Benjamin West’s painting Omnia Vincit Amor depicting Venus, which was exhibited in Philadelphia during 1839. Similar to the previous type, the reverse features a wreath, with ONE CENT within and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around.