When Joseph Wright cut the first dies for the Liberty Cap Large Cent early in 1793, coinage was still a novelty. The nation was less than six years old and most Americans had never seen any of the new Federal coins that were coming into being. The public had rejected the Chain cent and Wreath cent which were predecessors to Wright’s newly designed cents, so it was particularly important that they would accept this new coin.
Wright used the Libertas Americana Medal for inspiration, turned Liberty to face the right and placed a cap on her that newly freed slaves wore in ancient times to show they were liberated. On the reverse he presented individual stems of a laurel wreath bearing single berries. The classic early American copper coins were minted from 1793 to 1796 at the Philadelphia Mint.
Sadly, Joseph Wright died during the yellow fever outbreak of 1793 before any of the coins he designed were actually struck. His Liberty Cap Cents designs continued to early 1794, outliving their creator.
Over 1.5 million pieces were produced by the Philadelphia Mint for this series. Most of these coins in existence today are rated from Good to Very Fine. The rarest are those from 1793 and the most readily accessible are dated 1795 and 1796 and are mainly in high grade.
The first design points to show wear are Liberty’s hair above the ear and over her forehead. The original red luster when minted is seldom seen, but the beautiful patina that copper shows over the years is also prized by collectors.