1799 Draped Bust Cent

The 1799 Draped Bust cent is one of the rarest of the United States large cents, an issue that was in production from 1793 to 1857.

The scarceness of this date can be traced to the difficulty in procuring die steel in 1799. Mint records report 904,585 large cents were struck in 1799, but researchers have concluded most of them were made from leftover 1798 dies. As was customary for the early U.S. Mint, usable dies remained in service beyond their year of fabrication. (1) (2)

There are three die varieties associated with the 1799 cent. Two of them, the NC-1 and S-188 varieties, are from modified 1798 dies, characterized by a 9 stamped over the 8, to produce the 1799 9/8 overdate cent. (3)

There is a 1799 normal date variety, the S-189, and evidence suggests these cents were probably struck in 1800. (4)

Both versions of the 1799 cent are highly desired by collectors, with records of value appreciation commensurate with their rarity and strong demand.

The 1799 Draped Bust cent was one of the first United States coins to earn fame. As a very young man, Joseph J. Mickley (1799-1878), acknowledged by many as the “Father of American Coin Collecting,” sought to acquire a cent from the year of his birth. His highly publicized search continued for many years, drawing attention to the elusiveness of the 1799 cent, while stimulating widespread interest in coin collecting as a hobby. (5)

Mickley’s lengthy quest finally ended in 1859, when he acquired this exact same specimen of the exceedingly rare 1799 cent.

Ever since Mickley’s time, numismatists have fiercely battled for this key date large cent, pushing prices higher and higher at an unusually faster pace.

Perhaps if Mickley had the internet at his fingertips as we do today, he would not have spent decades in pursuit of his birth-year cent!

Estimated survivors in all grades: 700
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 5.6
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1. Heritage Auctions.  1799/8 Draped Bust Cent, XF40.  Jan 2022 Auction.

2. Heritage Auctions.  1799 Draped Bust Cent, AU Details.  Nov 2014 Auction.

3. Heritage Auctions.  1799 Draped Bust Cent, AU Details.  Nov 2014 Auction.

4. Heritage Auctions.  1799/8 Draped Bust Cent, XF40.  Jan 2022 Auction.

5. Heritage Auctions. 1799 S-189 Cent, AU Details, Mickley's Own Example.  May 2015.

**Many very fine coin dealers sell on eBay. At any point in time, there may be over one million search results for United States coins. This includes quite a few of the recommendations on our Key Date Coin List.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a rare coin, eBay is certainly worth a look. For your convenience, the links from this site to eBay are coded to bring up only coins certified by PCGS and NGC.

As is always, always the case, never buy a valuable coin from a seller whose trustworthiness cannot be verified. Learn more about this at our chapter Best Places to Buy Coins, which also has a section on doing business on eBay.

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.