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HomeUS CoinsMatron Head Cent, 1816-1835 | CoinWeek

Matron Head Cent, 1816-1835 | CoinWeek

1816 Matron Head Cent. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1816 Matron Head Cent. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The Classic Head Cent was coined from 1808 to 1814 and concluded a period of Large Cent production referred to by collectors as the “early dates”. No cents were produced in 1815, the only year in United States history when the denomination was not produced.

In December 1816, cent production resumed with a new obverse design executed by United States Mint Chief Engraver Robert Scot. Dubbed the Matron Head Cent by members of Early American Coppers (EAC) in the early 1970s, the name was popularized by its appellation in R.S. Yeoman’s Guide Book of United States Coins (currently edited by coin dealer Jeff Garrett). Alternate names for the design are Coronet Head or Fillet Head (a fillet was a headband worn by athletes and royalty).

Produced 1816-35 and gradually modified from 1836 to ’39, the Matron Head Cent is referred to by specialists as the Large Cent “middle dates”. While lacking the rarity and complexity of the early date issues, middle dates put forth a panoply of collecting challenges – from a selection of interesting Red Book varieties to rare Proof issues, hoard coins, errors, examples struck with smashed dies, and issues with “mystery” mintages. The key date is the 1823 issue, but the 1821 and certain popular varieties are also scarce-to-rare in Mint State. Some 1817 pieces have 15 stars rather than 13, and various issues were struck with varied date styles.

Many surviving 1816-20 cents are from a famous hoard purchased from a Georgia merchant and then sold by John Swan Randall of Norwich, New York.

How Much Are Matron Head Cents Worth?

Thousands of business strike Matron Head Cents have been certified, but fewer than 200 coins in census/population reports represent many dates and varieties. Coins are also classified by surface color, most as BN (Brown) or RB (Red-Brown), with very few designated RD (Red). Prices are moderate for many dates/varieties to near-Gem, expensive to very expensive finer.

Red-Brown examples are often more expensive than Brown coins, and Red coins are more expensive than Red-Brown pieces, very expensive and finer than MS60. Other more expensive issues are 1817 15 Stars; 1821; 1823; 1823 3 Over 2; 1824 4 Over 2; 1826 6 Over 5; and 1829 Medium Letters.

Proof Matron Head Cents are quite rare and disputed by some for dates earlier than 1828, though listed in census/population reports. Coins for some dates are reported with a Proof obverse and normal reverse, but these, too, are questioned by some experts. Fewer than 10 examples have been certified for most dates; Proofs, like business strikes, are also classified by color designation. Gem or better grades for these cents are seldom encountered, and prices for the better-known coins, while expensive, are undervalued by our estimation.

The 1821, 1822, and 1823 “3 Over 2” Matron Head Cent Proofs are approximately twice as valuable as Proofs from 1824 forward.

Design

Obverse:

A left-facing, somewhat stern-looking Liberty is in the center. Curled and flowing hair is swept back to a bun tied by plain cords, with locks draped in front of the ear and down the back of the neck. A coronet worn above the ear and forehead displays the word LIBERTY. Thirteen six-pointed stars and the date at the bottom form a circle inside the denticulated rim; some 1817 pieces have 15 stars and the date.

Reverse:

The reverse displays the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA as a nearly complete circle concentric with the denticulated rim (beaded on some 1834 cents). Inside is another circle formed by a laurel branch with berries, ends tied by a ribbon. The wreath is sometimes called a “Christmas wreath”. In the center is the denomination ONE CENT, each word on a separate line, with a short horizontal line beneath. All Matron Head cents were minted at Philadelphia and display no mintmark.

Edge:

The edge of the Matron Head Cent is plain or smooth, without reeding or edge lettering.

Varieties

Many listed in the Guide Book, including 1817 “13 Stars” and “15 Stars”; 1819 “9 Over 8”, “Large Date” and “Small Date”; 1820 “20 Over 19”, “Large Date” and “Small Date”; 1823 “3 Over 2”; 1824 “4 Over 2”; 1826 “6 Over 5”; 1828 “Large Narrow Date” and “Small Wide Date”; 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832 “Large Letters” and “Medium Letters”; 1834 “Large 8”, “Stars”, and “Reverse Letters”; 1834 “Large 8 and Stars” and “Medium Letters”; 1834 “Large 8”, “Small Stars”, and “Medium Letters”; 1834 “Small 8”, “Large Stars”, and “Medium Letters”; 1835 “Large 8 and Stars” and “Small 8 and Stars”; and 1835 “Head of 1836”.

Other, more minor die varieties are enumerated in specialist literature.

Coin Specifications

Matron Head Cents
Years of Issue: 1816-35
Mintage (Circulation): High: 4,407,550 (1820); Low: 389,000 (1821)
Mintage (Proof): 10-20 pieces per year except for 1816, 1818, and 1826 (estimated)
Alloy: 100% copper
Weight: 10.89 g
Diameter: 28-29 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: Robert Scot, after John Reich; modifications by William Kneass
REV Designer: Robert Scot, after John Reich; modifications by William Kneass

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Noyes, William C. United States Large Cents, 1816-1839. W.C. Noyes.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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