Die Variety: The Style II Hair Guide Book variety for the Draped Bust cent is characterized by an extra curl in Liberty's lower hair immediately behind the shoulder. 1798 is the earliest date for the type on which this variety appears, and it remains in use through the end of the Draped Bust series in 1807. The Sheldon-181 die variety was struck from an obverse that was previously used in the S-180 marriage. It is most readily identifiable by a prominent die crack in the left obverse field that originates just before 9 o'clock on the border and advances in progressive die states to the round curl in Liberty's hair just below the ribbon ends. The reverse of S-181 is distinguished by having six berries on the left (facing) wreath branch, as opposed to only five berries for the reverse of S-180.
Die State: The present example is in an advanced, although not terminal die state for the S-181 die variety. The prominent obverse die break in the left field inherited from the S-180 variety now extends to the round curl below the ribbon ends, and a second die break from the lower right border to the end of the bust also inherited from S-180 now extends clear across the bust, the lowermost hair curls, and to the border at 7 o'clock. Additional cracks have also now appeared: from the border to the upper and lower ribbon ends, from the base of the letter T in LIBERTY to the highest wave of hair, from the base of the Y to the forelock, and from the border to Liberty's nose. The peripheral crack above the letters LIBE in LIBERTY that appeared in Breen Die State I is still evident here, albeit more pronounced above the L.
Strike: We note a generally bold strike for the type with the sharpest definition evident on the obverse throughout Liberty's portrait and at the denticles around the reverse border.
Surfaces: This is a particularly choice example of the type, date and variety with overall tan brown surfaces and considerable areas of faded golden-red luster evident on both the obverse and the reverse. As there are no grade-limiting or otherwise outwardly distracting abrasions, we leave it to a series of small, faint toning spots near the reverse border from 4 to 9 o'clock to trace the coin's pedigree in subsequent market appearances. The most prominent of these are located between the letters IC in AMERICA, CA in the same word, and before the denominator 100 in the fraction. A pleasing satin finish is noted for the obverse, while the equally desirable reverse has more of a frosty texture.
Census Rankings: Noyes EAC grade of MS-60+ with full cartwheel luster, while Del Bland and Bob Grellman both grade this coin MS-62. Bland's ranking is CC#2 for the variety; however his pick as CC#1 is a coin displaying friction over Liberty's face -- one which Noyes considers MS-60 and tied with the present coin at CC#2. While Noyes' ranking has this coin tied for CC#2, we also note that the Noyes CC#1 coin is described as having deep brown, coated surfaces with large areas of dark corrosion. We suspect that a side-by-side comparison of these top three specimens would find the present coin to be no less than tied for finest known for the variety.
Pedigree: M. A. Brown; S. H. & H. Chapman's sale of April 1897, lot 779; George H. Earle, Jr.; Henry Chapman's sale of June 1912, lot 3409; S. H. Chapman; Allison W. Jackman; Henry Chapman's sale of June 1918, lot 711; Dr. Henry W. Beckwith; S. H. Chapman's sale of April 1923, lot 16; Elmer S. Sears; Howard R. Newcomb; J. C. Morgenthau & Co.'s Sale #458, February 1945, lot 256; T. James Clarke, December 1954; R. E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr., February 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (The Mint), April 1996; Jack Wadlington (via Bob Grellman and Chris McCawley), November 2005; Ira & Larry Goldberg's sale of the Dan Holmes Collection, Part I, September 2009, lot 147; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: The reverse of this coin is plated in the Clapp book, and the obverse is plated in William H. Sheldon's Penny Whimsy (Plate No. 31). This piece is also the plate coin for the S-181 variety in the 1991 book United States Large Cents: 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes.
Commentary: Here we go again -- a memorable cent from the Cardinal Collection. We expect bids to come in from all directions as this crosses the auction block. If you are the successful bidder you will long cherish memories of the appearance of this coin and also of your participation in the Cardinal Collection sale.
Combined PCGS and NGC Population (all varieties of the issue): just 4 in all grades with a RB color designation, the three finest of which are all graded MS-65 (two at PCGS, one at NGC). There are no full Red examples certified for the issue, and no BN examples graded higher than MS-65.
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.