US Large Cents 1843-1857, and Altered Large Cents

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1849 Large Cent Mature Head

More than 70 varieties of Large Cents are known. My other Large Cent coins that I found at various locations can be viewed in the Photogallery of US Copper Coins.

By 1857 the cost of making and distributing copper coins had risen. Mint director Snowden reported that they "barely paid expenses." Both cents and half cents had become unpopular and hardly circulated outside of the larger cities. The large cent was abandoned and a smaller cent was introduced in 1857.

The law of 1857 was beneficial to the citizens: by its terms, Spanish coins were redeemed and melted at the mint in exchange for new small cents. the decimal system became popular and official thereafter. The old method of reckoning in Reales, Medios, Shillings, etc. was gradually given up.


This one particular type of alteration of a large U.S. cent was common in the early 1800s in America. These tokens are sometimes found around old cellar holes and tavern sites in the north-east USA.

Large Cent Half-Way Made Into a Whore House Token

Brothel Token Large Cent

It was done with a "graver" - a tool used in carving designs in printing plates. The metal was moved around on the coin's surface by the tool to alter the "E" in "CENT" into a "U" - thus making a Large Cent into a so-called "Whore House Token."

Letter E Obliterated

Bordello Token Large Cent

"E" Altered Into "U" on a 1837 Large Cent

Whore House Brothel Token Large Cent

These large cents are often seen at the coin shows and are sold as a novelty.

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(Sources: Encyclopedia Of U.S. Coins by Mort Reed and The Official Red Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman.)