Die Variety: This is a readily identifiable obverse die for the 1796 Draped Bust cent due to the presence of a hyphen-like break between the digits 7 and 9 in the date and an area of roughness in the die in the field below the ribbon ends. A workhorse die, this obverse was also used to strike examples of the Sheldon-94, S-95, S-96, NC.2 and NC.3 varieties. In the S-93 marriage, this obverse is paired with a reverse the wreath on which terminates in single leaves that appear to form a closed circle. The division of leaves in the wreath is 20-5 left and 18-4 right. This reverse only appears in the S-93 marriage. S-93 is one of the Reverse of 1797 Guide Book varieties of the 1796 Draped Bust cent, which variety is referred to as "Reverse of 1796" on the PCGS insert.
Die State: The Cardinal Collection specimen offered here illustrates the terminal state of the S-93 variety. The obverse exhibits a faint crack from the digit 7 in the date, through the digit 1, and to the right edge of the lowermost curl. Clash marks in the field areas below the ribbon ends, before Liberty's mouth and below the chin from an earlier die state are still present, but have faded and are no longer as pronounced as when they first formed.
The reverse is far more dramatic regarding the advanced die state with the lower right peripheral area extensively cracked from the letter E in AMERICA to the left (facing) ribbon end. The most prominent crack joins the tops of the letters RICA, and there is a retained cud at the border outside the letters ER. Although partially obscured by the cracks, clash marks from the letters RT in LIBERTY on the obverse are discernible between the letter A in AMERICA and the right (facing) ribbon end. The significant break up of this reverse die almost certainly explains why it is was not used to strike any other variety of 1796 Liberty Cap cent.
Strike: Despite the advanced state of the dies, this is an overall boldly struck coin with many features sharply defined, including much of Liberty's hair, the drapery folds and most of the leaves in the reverse wreath. The impression is also nicely centered on the planchet, although we note scant denticulation on the obverse, with more readily evident denticles in most areas around the reverse border.
Surfaces: Satin-to-softly frosted in texture with dominant light brown patina, both sides also retain considerable light rose luster that readily upholds the validity of the RB color designation assigned by PCGS. The remaining luster is largely confined to the protected areas around the devices, and it is most vivid when observed with the aid of a direct light source. There are no post-production abrasions of consequence, just the usual pre-striking planchet "chatter" that is most readily evident on Liberty's cheek and around the obverse border. Pedigree markers include a thin, faint toning line in the right obverse field before Liberty's chin and nose, and a tiny toning swirl at the junction of Liberty's throat and bust.
Census Rankings: Noyes EAC grade of MS-65 Choice, Del Bland's grade is MS-65. Both experts rank this coin as finest known for the S-93 variety, with Bland also calling it finest known for the 1796 Draped Bust issue. Noyes has this coin tied for CC#1 for the issue with two other pieces. Mark Borckardt's grade is MS-63. Most specialists acknowledge this coin as the finest known 1796 Draped Bust cent.
Pedigree: Francis H. Lee, circa 1913; our (Stack's) sale of the Numismatic Properties of the Essex Institute, Salem Massachusetts, February 1975, lot 137; R.E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr., February 1992; Eric Streiner, May 1992; our (Stack's) sale of the John Whitney Walter Collection of the Coins of 1796, May 1999, lot 1725; Tony Terranova; Heritage's sale of the Walter Husak Collection, February 2008, lot 2094; Heritage's sale of the Joseph C. Thomas Collection, April 2009, lot 2037; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: The plate coin for the S-93 variety in the 1991 book United States Large Cents: 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes.
Commentary: From the Cardinal Collection comes this remarkable coin, among the finest of its type and one of the highest certified Draped Bust cents from the beginning of the design in 1796 (as here) to the end in 1807. At the same time, it is the single finest of its die variety, S-93. This was one of Walter Husak's most favorite coins, one that he would take with him on his many travels, its beauty so completely captivating. If you are building a type set, if you are competing in the Registry Set program, or if you simply want a coin that is a world class "trophy," this may well be for you!
Having the opportunity to work with Martin Logies and the Cardinal Collection will always be a fond memory for us at Stack's Bowers. Beyond that, the coins themselves will long be remembered, including this simply spectacular 1796 Draped Bust cent.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population (all die and reverse varieties of the issue): just 3, all at PCGS; with no other RB examples graded finer with the exception of a Sheldon-92 coin certified MS-66 RB by NGC.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.