Die Variety: There are only three known die marriages of the 1799 Draped Bust cent, and Sheldon-189 is the only one with a "normal" date (as opposed to the 1799/8 overdate for S-188 and NC.1). Each of the three varieties of this issue employ different reverse dies, that used to strike S-189 with the crossbar of the letter F in OF heavy and recut. All examples of S-189 except for those struck from the earliest die state also display a prominent die chip in the field between the letter E in ONE and the letter T in CENT.
Die State: The Cardinal Collection specimen was struck from the penultimate state of the S-189 dies, with a short obverse die crack from the end of Liberty's bust to the adjacent border. The die chip in the reverse field between the words ONE and CENT from earlier die states is still present, as are narrow reverse rim breaks outside the space between the letters OF and AMERICA and outside the letters AM in AMERICA. All known examples of S-189 were struck from misaligned dies, although the later die states IV (late), V and VI exhibit a strong date but soft, weak LIBERTY. For earlier die state examples this situation is reversed with the LIBERTY strong and the date weaker.
Strike: With considerable boldness of detail remaining despite the presence of moderate, even wear, this coin was obviously the recipient of a solid strike in a 1799 S-189 cent. Much of the drapery and most of Liberty's hair curls on the obverse remain sharp, and the reverse is overall bold despite softness of strike to most of the individual leaves in the wreath. As discussed above regarding the die state of this coin, the obverse exhibits a sharp date yet softly defined LIBERTY due to having been struck from misaligned dies. The lower reverse border is also somewhat softly defined in correspondence with the upper obverse where the word LIBERTY is also soft.
Surfaces: This is a moderately, yet gently circulated coin with overall smooth-looking surfaces and warm, even, medium brown toning. Only a few minor, widely scattered marks are seen, the most significant of which are a pair of circular depressions on the reverse between the letters EN in CENT and an equally small abrasion at the lower reverse border at the digit 1 in the denominator 100. A thin, shallow reverse planchet flaw (as struck) in the field after the word OF is another useful pedigree marker.
Census Rankings: This coin was inexplicably overlooked in both the Noyes and Bland census listings, although we do note Mark Borckardt's grade of VF-25, which places it solidly in the fourth finest known position in the EAC Condition Census for the variety and, thus, for all "normal date" 1799 cents.
Pedigree: George F. Seavey, 1873; Lorin G. Parmelee; New York Stamp & Coin Co.'s sale of June 1890, lot 775; Harlan P. Smith; Dr. Henry W. Beckwith; S.H. Chapman's sale of April 1923, lot 19; S.H. Chapman; George W. Bowers; J. C. Morgenthau and Co.'s Sale #404, July 1939, lot 648; Judge Thomas L. Gaskill; New Netherlands Coin Co., November 1956; Dorothy I. Paschal; New Netherlands Coin Co.'s Sale #50, December 1957, lot 1123; F. Dabney Caldwell, Jr.; our (Stack's) sale of April 1988, lot 2016; Tony Terranova; Gilbert Steinberg Collection; Superior's sale of September 1996, lot 1567; Don Anderson Collection; Heritage's Forth Worth, TX ANA Sale, March 2010, lot 112; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: The obverse and reverse of this coin are illustrated in the 1879 Frossard monograph.
Commentary: The 1799 has long been regarded as the rare date of the entire 1793-1857 large cent series. This example in a mid grade is very choice within that category and will nicely satisfy the demand for this classic. It will also give Registry Set competitors a rest, but only a brief one, in this line up from the Cardinal Collection. While it is not a candidate for the finest known, within this level it certainly is very nice and its solid placement within the Condition Census will deservedly attract many bids.
PCGS Population (S-189 "normal" date variety only): just 1; with a mere three finer (EF-40, EF-45, MS-61 BN).
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.