The 1797 Gripped Edge Large Cents bear what Walter Breen described as "Irregulary spaced incuse notches and raised pellets on edge." The purpose of this edge device is unknown. Certainly, it did not serve the same purpose as the edge lettering, ornamentation, and reeding that appears on silver and gold coins (which was placed there to discourage the removal of metal by clipping or shaving). Breen suggested that it may have been a means of marking a particular batch of planchets or that the marks were on the planchets that arrived from outside sources.
Gripped edges appear only on two varieties: Sheldon 120b and 121b, which are common and semi-scarce, respectively. Mint State examples are very rare, with only two or three examples known of the two varieties combined.