US Coins

Market Analysis: Wacky 1839 cent nicknames — what’s a ‘Booby Head’ cent look like?

The “Booby Head” is among the more colorful nicknames for a U.S. coin and it now refers to some 1839 Coronet cents where Liberty’s shoulder is unusually large and exposed, extending behind the neck.

Initially the similar derisive terms “Silly Head” and “Booby Head” applied to Liberty's depictions on the cents of 1839 did not differentiate among the several varieties. The Silly Head is now considered a separate variety.

Nine “Booby Head” varieties were created from seven different obverse dies, described in United States Copper Cents, 1816–1857 by Howard Rounds Newcomb. 

The Westwood Collection’s Newcomb 14 example was once in a Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 63 brown holder but has since been removed and is graded simply Mint State 60 in the catalog, which notes, “The fields are satiny and the eye appeal of this cent is outstanding.” The cent, with a provenance that included stints in the Jules Reiver and Dan Holmes collections, sold for $3,480. 

The collector John Pijewski wrote in his introduction to the catalog why he was attracted to large cents in part, saying, “They came in many beautiful soothing shades of brown: russet, mahogany, walnut, caramel, chestnut, coffee, chocolate (to name only a few).” 

He added that he became a “certified copper addict,” and found fellowship in the Early American Coppers organization.

He wrote, “In my mind these large cents were clocks that had stopped to celebrate the year they were minted. These large cents embodied history and time. I imagined that if I owned a large cent, I owned the specific year.” 

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