Small Cent collecting is enjoyed by perhaps more coin collectors than any other field of coins other than Morgan silver dollars. Most are easy to find and, with the exception of some key dates, values are generally modest. Small Cents begin with the Flying Eagle Cents of 1856 to 1858, a short but surprisingly challenging series.
Small Cents are a transition in several respects. Large Cents were still struck through 1857 and the metal composition of the Flying Eagle Cents is not the same as what was used on later issues. Even the thickness and weight of our smaller 1-Cent coin has changed since the first ones appeared. The Large Cent was increasingly unpopular by the 1840s and since the denomination was not legal tender (only silver and gold coins were legal tender in the United States), many merchants and banks refused to accept the coins. Others accepted the Large Cents at deep discounts. What was worse, by 1851, it was costing the Mint $1.06 to strike a Dollar's worth of 1-Cent coins. A negative seignorage was at hand (seignorage is the profit the Mint makes between the cost of manufacturing a coin and its face value)!