Designed by Robert Scot, the first chief engraver of the United States Mint, the Head Right variant of the Liberty Cap Half Cent made its debut in 1794. That year represents only the second in which the fledgling United States Mint struck coins of this denomination, and federal records provide for a delivery of 81,600 pieces during the calendar year. Most of those coins were probably dated 1794, and there is little dispute in numismatic circles with using this total as a fairly accurate mintage figure for the 1794 Half Cent issue.
Mint employees required nine different die marriages to produced 1794-dated Half Cents, and a number of subvarieties are also known that are differentiated by the size of the edge lettering. C-9, which is known only with Small Edge Lettering, is one of the more plentiful in numismatic circles, and a number of impressive Mint State survivors are also known to exist. The coin we offer here, a lovely Gem that is certainly high in the Condition Census for both the issue and the die pair, traces its pedigree back to the historic collections of George H. Earle, Jr. sold in 1912 and Richard B. Winsor sold in 1895. In addition, this piece is the plate coin for the die marriage on page 118 of the 1983 book Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents: 1793-1857. Key identifiers that helped establish this fact, and that will be of obvious importance for future pedigree study, include: a short, dull nick on Liberty’s cheek; a faint toning spot on the obverse near the end of the liberty pole above the end of Liberty’s bust; and a shallow planchet flaw (as struck) that slants down to the border from the field area immediately below the right edge of the digit 2 in the denomination 1/200.
Both sides of this coin are attractively and originally toned, the obverse with even glossy-copper color. For the reverse we note slightly bolder medium-brown patina with a few intermingled blushes of crimson-red and sandy-brown colors that are not readily evident at all angles. Striking quality is extremely impressive for a product of the early United States Mint, both sides nicely centered within sharply-to-fully denticulated borders. The obverse is particularly sharp in detail, largely due to the high relief execution of Liberty’s portrait in the die. There are essentially no outwardly distracting blemishes, and the overall appearance is expectably smooth for the grade and remarkably so for both the issue and the type. An important offering from the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation that belongs in another world-renowned cabinet.
The earliest state of the dies for the 1794 C-9 Half Cent, Manley Die State 1.0 exhibits clashmarks (as struck) in the obverse field around Liberty’s portrait but no die crack from the border at 9 o’clock through the liberty cap. The reverse die is perfect.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population (all die marriages of the issue): just 5; and none are finer with a BN color designation.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF). Earlier from Heritage's sale of the Joseph C. Thomas Collection, April-May 2009, lot 2018. This piece is also the plate coin for the 1794 C-9 die marriage on page 118 of Walter Breen's Half Cent Encyclopedia (1983).