Die Variety: The Philadelphia Mint employed only two obverse and two reverse dies in three marriages to strike 1805-dated Draped Bust cents. Sheldon-269 represents the only use of this particular obverse, which is readily distinguishable from its counterpart by having a pointed (as opposed to a blunt) 1 in the date. The two reverse dies of this issue are also easy to differentiate, that used to strike S-269 having the highest leaf in the wreath under the extreme right edge of the final letter S in STATES. This reverse was earlier used to strike the 1805 S-268 variety, and later all known 1806 Draped Bust cents. (The reverse of 1805 S-267 has the highest leaf in the wreath under the left edge of the final S in STATES.)
Die State: The Cardinal Collection specimen represents a middle to late die state of the S-269 variety with at least three sets of clash marks in the obverse field both below the ribbon and before Liberty's face and throat from the reverse wreath. The obverse also exhibits light die rust within the drapery, a bulge in the die at the border outside the lowermost curl, and a light die crack through the bases of the digits 180 in the date. These features identify Breen Die State IV. A short, sharp cut or break in the die above the uppermost curl at the back of Liberty's head is present on all known 1805 S-269 cents regardless of die state.
Strike: An impressive piece from the standpoint of striking quality, both sides exhibit uncommonly sharp detail throughout the design in a Draped Bust cent. Not only is the obverse equally crisp in detail from the top of Liberty's portrait to the bottom, but the reverse wreath (which is often softly impressed in examples of this type) is sharp to full over all of the leaf clusters. Indeed, even the thin veins in all of the individual leaves are readily evident, if not razor sharp. The strike is well centered on the planchet even though the denticulation is a bit faint on the obverse from 9 to 1 o'clock. The only areas in which the denticulation is truly incomplete, however, are on the obverse below the digit 0 in the date and in the opposing area on the reverse between the words STATES and OF -- the result of a very shallow, as struck planchet clip that is so minor as to be indistinguishable to all but the most highly trained numismatic eye.
Surfaces: The level of surface preservation for this coin is just as impressive as the strike. Both sides exhibit a satin to softly frosted texture that mingles nicely with glossy steel brown toning. More direct light angles also call forth intermingled pale blue and faded golden iridescence in isolated areas, the reverse even revealing the barest trace of original luster in the protected areas around the upper left wreath and the letters in the word ONE. Distracting or otherwise grade-limiting abrasions are not seen, and the only worthwhile pedigree markers are a few tiny, widely scattered toning spots in the obverse field above the ribbon ends and between the tops of the digits 18 in the date.
Census Rankings: Per EAC grading standards, this important coin is the only Mint State example of the S-269 die marriage, as well as the finest known 1805 Draped Bust cent of any variety. Noyes, Bland and Grellman are unanimous in ranking this coin CC#1 for both the issue and the variety, although EAC grades differ somewhat between these experts. Noyes describes this coin as MS-65 Gem, Bland assigns an EAC grade of MS-61, and Grellman's grade is MS-65.
Pedigree: Carl Wurtzbach; Barney Bluestone, 1948; Dr. William H. Sheldon, April 19, 1972; R. E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (The Mint), April 16, 1996; Jack Wadlington (via Bob Grellman & Chris McCawley), November 7, 2005; Ira & Larry Goldbergs' sale of the Dan Holmes Collection, Part I, September 2009, lot 536; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: This is the plate coin for the S-269 dies in both Penny Whimsy by William H. Sheldon (Plate No. 47) and the 1991 book United States Large Cents: 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes.
Commentary: Ted Naftzger's envelope for the coin quotes Dr. William Sheldon as saying that it was, "Just possibly the best cent in the collection. Carl Wurtzbach said he used to put himself to sleep with it." Indeed, for this Cardinal Collection coin a wonderful pedigree joins incredible condition to yield a "must have" example. Watch this one go!
Combined PCGS and NGC Population (all die varieties of the issue): just 1; none are graded higher than MS-66 in any category, and the only RB examples are a pair of PCGS-certified coins grading lower in MS-62 and MS-65. There are no full Red 1805 cents listed at either PCGS or NGC.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.