Unlike some of the other earliest coins struck at the United States Mint, we have a fairly good idea of the total mintage for the 1793 Chain Cent. A total of eight different deliveries were made, compromising five different varieties of the Chain Cent, with a total output of 36,103 coins. This might be a surprisingly high number for most people to understand, as the issue is usually considered to be a rarity. While the mintage is greater than some other early rarities, the demand is much higher than the supply at any given time. This is especially the case with choice specimens on problem-free planchets, which are extremely difficult to find.
There is one variety (Sheldon’s NC-1, Breen’s variety #5) that is virtually impossible to find in any condition. Only four are presently known to exist and offerings are a true “once in a lifetime” opportunity. This variety can be identified by the spacing of the word LIBERTY on the obverse, which is wider than on any of the other known varieties. Sheldon, in his work Penny-Whimsy published in the 1950’s (the major reference on early large cents) denoted it as non-collectible, which remains true to this day.
The four other varieties range from scarce to very scarce, but all are offered with some regularity. There are two entries in the Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins), one with the word AMERICA in full on the obverse while the other has it abbreviated to AMERI., which has been attributed by an engraving error when the first two words had been punched into the working die. That particular reverse die was only used on S-1, while all other die combinations used the other reverse die.