Die Variety: The obverse die of the Sheldon-9 variety is identifiable by having a horizontal stem to the sprig device in the field between the base of Liberty's portrait and the date. This die was also used to strike Wreath cents of the S-8 and NC.4 varieties. The reverse of this variety is known only in the S-9 pairing, and it is attributable by having a large, round bow to the ribbon at the base of the wreath.
Die State: The present example is an intermediate die state between Noyes A and B with only a single, faint crack present on the reverse bisecting the top of the letter C in AMERICA. The crack extends through the final letter A in AMERICA and the stem to the right ribbon end, and it also extends (albeit more faintly) to the border above the extreme right edge of the letter I in AMERICA. Additional die cracks on the reverse to fully define Noyes Die State B had not yet formed when this coin was struck.
Strike: Both sides are as fully struck as one could realistically expect in a Wreath cent with intricate, razor sharp definition to both Liberty's hair tresses on the obverse and the leaves, sprigs and trefoils in the reverse wreath.
Surfaces: The level of surface preservation for this coin is just as impressive as the striking quality. Indeed, to study the study the surfaces is to study a portrait of numismatic perfection in a product of the early United States Mint. A glossy satin to semi-reflective texture mingles with dominant light sandy brown patina, although we also note remnants of original, faded orange red color in the protected areas around some of the devices, especially on the reverse along the upper left wreath. The aforementioned semi-reflective qualities are best observed when the coin is held at direct angles to a good light source. As one would expect at the MS-69 grade level (not that there are any other coins with which to compare this), both sides are virtually perfect with hardly even a trivial abrasion in evidence, and certainly no detracting carbon or other spotting. The surfaces are overall smooth, in fact, and only after close, careful scrutiny can we mention, almost in passing, a short mark at the border outside the letter D in UNITED as a pedigree marker. A peerless large cent, and a monumental example of the one-year Wreath type.
Census Rankings: Here again the EAC experts demonstrate their predilection for examples displaying mint red color in preference to those with outstanding mark-free surface preservation. Bill Noyes assigns this coin an EAC grade of MS-63+ with rankings of third finest known overall and the single finest BN Wreath cent. Del Bland grades the coin MS-60 by EAC standards and places it in the census as tied for third finest behind examples that retain some of the original Mint red luster.
In terms of the PCGS-assigned grade, this stunning 1793 Sheldon-9 is the first and currently also the only large cent to have received the coveted MS-69 grade from the major certification services, and also the only 18th century United States coin certified as MS-69.
Pedigree: Virgil M. Brand-Burdette G. Johnson (St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.), 1941; Ernest Henderson, 1958; Dorothy Paschal, 1959; Dr. William H. Sheldon, April 19, 1972; R. E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (The Mint); Superior's ANA National Money Show Auction of March 2000, lot 67; Superior's ANA National Money Show Auction of March, 2001, lot 12; private collector; Steve Contursi; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: This piece is the plate coin for the S-9 variety in the 1991 book United States Large Cents: 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes.
Commentary: This is another world-class, world-famous Gem from the Cardinal Collection. In terms of market emphasis it stands alone as noted above -- no other large copper cent of any date or variety from 1793 to 1857 has earned such a high grade level from a leading recognized certification service! And, to make matters even better, it is in an "old green holder," suggesting for any other coin that perhaps if reholdered a higher grade could be obtained. Wait a minute! Perhaps it would be applicable to this coin also -- absolute perfection. Who knows? We do know, however, that here is a coin for the ages, the sale of which will forever echo in the halls of numismatics. Both obverse and reverse are from dies in high relief, as are other Wreath cents, dramatically different from any major type in the series before or after. Curiously, relatively little attention has been paid to this fact in the past.
We have always loved 1793 cents of the four major types -- Chain AMERI., Chain AMERICA, Wreath (as here), and Liberty Cap. Of the four, indeed unique within the entire large copper cent series, the 1793 Wreath is in wonderfully dramatic high relief, as previously stated, the portrait of Miss Liberty being almost sculptured in its appearance. Although no documentation survives, likely it required special attention and effort to strike these up properly on a hand press. We can imagine a high rejection rate. The obvious solution was to lower the relief of the designs, which indeed was done when the Liberty Cap variety was introduced later in the year.
In any numismatic season a 1793 Wreath cent is an object of desire. Even if worn nearly smooth, such a coin commands interest and attention. When numismatics became a very popular hobby in 1857 and 1858, following the passing of the large copper cent and the introduction of the small Flying Eagle cent, there was a nationwide passion to collect the pieces of an earlier era -- the large copper cents generating fond memories of childhood. Dr. Montroville W. Dickeson in the first large-format American book on the hobby The American Numismatical Manual, 1859, mentioned that well worn 1793 cents could still be found in circulation! This did not last for long, and almost as quick as a wink, all disappeared. There were no magazines on American numismatics, so public interest and questions were addressed by features in magazines and newspapers of general interest, including Historical Magazine, launched in 1857, and in newspaper submissions in New York City by Augustus B. Sage and in Boston by Jeremiah Colburn. Along the way some nicknames for cents that endured such as “Booby Head” and “Silly Head” for varieties of 1839 were attached.
In 1858 George Cogan, an English immigrant who conducted an art shop in Philadelphia, had a mail bid sale of large copper cents. The leaflet was distributed to those interested, bids came pouring in, and Cogan was startled at the enthusiastic response as well as the prices generated. This prompted him to thinking. Within a couple of years Cogan left the business of prints, painting frames, and the like behind and went into numismatics primarily. Later, he moved to New York City, the center of attention in the marketplace.
As years went on, large copper cents continued to be the focus of interest for many collectors and, as noted in the comments under the preceding lot, the first photographic plate to appear in The American Journal of Numismatics (launched in 1856), was published in 1869 and featured cents of the 1793 date. As the years went on, these pieces continued to be the focus of specialists whose names are remembered today. Into the 20th century the momentum continued. Most numismatists collected 1793 cents by the types listed in A Guide Book of United States Coins, one each of the four designs. A notable exception was Dr. Charles Ruby, a university professor in Southern California, who felt that if four 1793 cents were desirable, 10 were better yet, and dozens even more desirable!
The coin market evolves, and today with certification led by PCGS and NGC, high-grade coins have become a greater focus of attention than ever before. While opinion can still differ, the PCGS and NGC certifications have been widely accepted and linked into various market commentaries. David Hall, one of the greatest innovators in our hobby, came up with the idea of the Registry Set a generation ago, adding impetus to the marketplace. Today there is a great deal of excitement among those desiring to complete a Registry Set in a given specialty. This coin will give "bragging" rights and recognition to a Registry Set owner that has few equivalents in the history of that dynamic program. Once this crosses the auction block it will forever echo in the halls of numismatics. If you are the successful bidder you will be memorialized for years to come.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population: just 1; 0 finer. Indeed, this coin is the only large cent ever to have received a Mint State-69 grade from the major certification services.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.