Die Variety: Sheldon-18 is one of the popular Double Chin varieties of the 1794 Head of 1793 Liberty Cap cent, so named because of pronounced doubling of a certain area of Miss Liberty's face. In this marriage (as opposed to S-19), the obverse is paired with a reverse on which both ribbon ends miss the knot and actually come together between the knot and the bow. S-18B is the Edge of 1794 variety with the point and stem of the leaf after the word DOLLAR on the edge pointing up.
Die State: Breen Die State III was struck after the dies clashed for a second time and were once again repolished. Much of the clashing has been effaced, and a few of the shallower design elements have also been weakened or obliterated, especially some of the leaves in the wreath and the right ribbon end on the reverse.
Strike: The strike is nicely executed with all major devices sharp and the denticles broad and crisp in most areas around the borders. The obverse impression is ever so slightly drawn toward the 12 o'clock position, thus explaining the scant denticulation in that area and the slight softness to the tops of the letters in the word LIBERTY.
Surfaces: This is a simply gorgeous example with an otherwise satiny texture that exhibits a modest, yet discernible semi-prooflike quality when the coin is held at direct angles to a good light source. The outward appearance is one of blended tan and orange-brown patina, although once again direct light angles reveal some variation in the form of pale rose and powder blue undertones in isolated areas. There is not so much as a single detracting abrasion or other blemish on either side, leaving it to a pair of small, faint swirls of variegated toning to serve as useful pedigree markers: one just inside the obverse border at 7 o'clock and the other on the reverse within the letter D in UNITED.
Census Rankings: The finest surviving example of Joseph Wright's Liberty Cap design, this important near-Gem carries an impressive pedigree that stretches all the way back to the 1860s. EAC grades include MS-63 Choice (Noyes), MS-61 (Del Bland) and MS-65 (John Adams). All three early copper experts rank this piece as finest known for the variety. By way of comparison, the Walter Husak specimen certified MS-63 BN by PCGS has an EAC grade of AU-55 (2008 prices realized: $253,000), and the Dan Holmes specimen also certified MS-63 BN by PCGS is impaired due to a notable reverse scratch (2009 prices realized: $155,250).
Pedigree: John F. McCoy; W. Elliot Woodward's sale of May 1864, lot 661; J. N. T. Levick; Edward Cogan's sale of May 1865, lot 1352; Abram S. Jenks; Edward Cogan's sale of April 1877, lot 701; George W. Merritt; Ed. Frossard's sale of January 1879, lot 95; Ed. Frossard; Lorin G. Parmelee; New York Coin & Stamp Co.'s sale of June 1890, lot 693; John G. Mills; S. H. & H. Chapman's sale of April 1904, lot 1236; S. H. & H. Chapman; Robert Garrett, 1919; John Work Garrett; The Johns Hopkins University, acquired privately, March 1973; John W. Adams; our (Bowers and Ruddy's) 1982 Fixed Price List, lot 5; our (Bowers and Ruddy's) Rare Coin Review #46, December 1982; our (Bowers and Merena's) Rare Coin Review #48, June-July 1983; John W. Adams, February 1984; R. E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr., February 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (The Mint), May 1996; W. M. "Jack" Wadlington; Chris Victor-McCawley, January 2009; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: The plate coin for the variety in the 1991 book United States Large Cents: 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes, and also plated in the 1879 Frossard monograph and aforementioned Chapman brothers sale of April 1904.
Commentary: The Cardinal Collection specimen offered here was John Adams' single favorite coin (we had the pleasure of showcasing and presenting the Adams Collection for sale in the early 1980s), which he obtained from Carl Carlson, then curator of the Garrett Collection at The John Hopkins University Collection, who was authorized to make trades and exchanges. To this day John remains a fine friend. His current specialty is medals relating to early American history. For the Medal Collectors of America he edits The MCA Advisory, which is certainly among today's more scholarly publications.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population (all die marriages of the Head of 1793 Guide Book variety): just 3; none are finer, and no examples have been certified with either RB or RD surfaces. All three of the MS-64 BNs listed by PCGS and NGC, in fact, represent three different grading events of the coin that we are offering in this lot, which fact confirms this piece as the single finest certified 1794 Head of 1793 Liberty Cap cent. We have seen NGC insert #506587-006 from an earlier submission for this coin and have confirmed that it has not been returned to NGC.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.