Die Variety: This obverse die, in its first of two marriages for the 1802 Draped Bust cent, is most readily identifiable by a series of clashed denticles along the lower obverse border to the right of the date. (These clash marks are present on all but a few extremely rare early die state examples.) The date is sharply curved with the digit 1 solidly joined to Liberty's hair before the lowermost curl, and the letters RT in LIBERTY are uncommonly widely spaced. The reverse die of Sheldon-225 is unknown in any other marriage, and it is easiest to identify by the presence of a long die scratch extending nearly to the ribbon from the left end of the fraction bar in the denomination 1/100. All of the letter Ns in the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and denomination ONE CENT are repunched along the lower side of the diagonal.
Die State: This is an early to middle die state example of the S-225 variety with prominent clashed denticles to the right of the date both above and below the end of Liberty's bust. Additional, fainter clash marks are also evident on the obverse below Liberty's chin and the ribbon at the back of the head. On the reverse, light clash marks are present around the letters ES in STATES and the word OF, there is a die crack from the base of the final S in STATES through OF, and a second die crack joins the tops of the letters UN in UNITED.
Strike: Expertly centered within fully and boldly denticulated borders that frame both sides, this piece boasts impressively sharp definition throughout most of the obverse portrait (where we note medallic-like detail imparted by the die). The wreath on the reverse is not as sharp with bluntness to many of the leaf clusters, although we stress that this feature is common to many dates and die varieties in the Draped Bust cent series. Peripheral detail on both sides is bold to sharp.
Surfaces: This is a challenging die variety to locate with smooth, well preserved surfaces. Indeed, most examples were struck on rough planchets that may have been affected by seawater while being shipped from England to the United States. (Planchets for this issue were acquired from the British firm of Boulton & Watt in Birmingham.) A noteworthy departure from the norm for the S-225 variety, both sides of this piece exhibit a hard, satin-to-semi-prooflike texture with neither pitting nor distracting post-production abrasions. Toned in a rich glossy brown, more direct angles call forth faint powder blue and faded rose undertones from the fields on both sides. A few trivial toning spots are evident in the reverse field, but it is a pair of tiny abrasion on Liberty's chin that is the more suitable pedigree marker.
Census Rankings: Noyes grades this piece AU-55 and places it seventh in his census of known S-225 cents. Del Bland's EAC grade is MS-61 with a ranking of tied for second finest. The obverse strike and semi-prooflike finish resulted in this piece being considered a presentation striking at one time.
Pedigree: Henry C. Hines; Homer K. Downing; New Netherlands Coin Co.'s sale of the Homer K. Downing Collection, August 1952, lot 1894; C. Douglas Smith, April 1958; Lester Merkin's sale of the Louis Helfenstein Collection, August 1964, lot 24; C. Douglas Smith; Garry Fitzgerald; C. Douglas Smith; Jerry A. Bobbe; C. Douglas Smith, March 1986; our (Stack's) sale of the Herman Halpern Collection, March 1988, lot 200; our (Stack's) sale of the Hain Family Collection, Part II, January 2002, lot 746; our (Bowers and Merena's) Denver ANA Auction, August 2006, lot 125; Cardinal Collection.
Commentary: By any consideration the Cardinal Collection S-225 is among the finest of its kind. The word opportunity is very important here. Once this and other Cardinal Collection highlights cross the block the chance to acquire equivalent examples may not exist at all for some varieties and, in any event, will be a challenge.
The pedigrees of this and other coins from this collection add a great deal of interest. A review of the names brings to mind many notables. Comments concerning Henry C. Hines can be found in Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy. Homer K. Downing died in the early 1950s. John J. Ford, Jr. remembered him as a consummate numismatist -- a gentleman who discovered large copper cents, delved into studying them intensely, and then meticulously set about forming a wonderful collection. These were auctioned as part of his estate by New Netherlands Coin Company in the ANA summer sale of 1952 -- a catalog which set the tempo for memorable New Netherlands presentations that would continue for a decade or more afterward, making them classics today.
PCGS Population (all die varieties of the issue): just 8; with a mere three finer in the BN category (both MS-65).
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.