Die Variety: The only known die marriage of the 1804 Draped Bust cent has a blunt 1 in the date and exhibits triple punching at the crosslet of the 4. On the reverse, the fraction 1/100 is large, the bar is long and slender, the denominator is skewed left, and there is a long spine (read: die line) from the end of the leaf before the letter C in CENT that points toward the letter O in ONE.
Die State: Struck from the terminal state of the dies, the Cardinal Collection specimen exhibits prominent cud die breaks at the obverse border outside the letters RTY in LIBERTY and at the reverse border outside the letters MERIC in AMERICA. There are also faint, hardly discernible reverse clash marks in the field around the letter S in STATES and the word OF, as well as below the letter M in AMERICA.
Strike: This coin readily reveals an above average quality of strike in an 1804 cent despite the presence of minor high point rub. The obverse is sharply struck throughout, while the reverse is only a bit less so with minor softness of detail confined to the left (facing) wreath branch and the first few letters in the word STATES.
Surfaces: It is seldom that we encounter an example of the key date 1804 cent with as little evidence of circulation as seen in this remarkable condition rarity from the Cardinal Collection. Not only are the surfaces minimally circulated with just a trace of light rub to isolated high points, in fact, but they are also gently circulated with none but a few tiny, well scattered abrasions present on the obverse. The reverse is overall smooth, and both sides present as such when the coin is examined under normal viewing conditions. Warm medium brown toning blankets both sides, the protected areas around the devices even retaining traces of faded light orange color. Closer examination also reveals a blush of charming powder blue iridescence lining the lower left reverse border outside the letter D in UNITED. A few faint, well blended obverse toning spots are noted for accuracy, one in the field below the letter L in LIBERTY being particularly useful for pedigree purposes.
Census Rankings: Noyes grades this piece VF-35 and ranks it as 10th finest for the issue/variety, while Del Bland's EAC grade of VF-35 yields a ranking of fourth finest in his census. Mark Borckardt's grade is EF-40, with the PCGS-assigned grade placing the coin as tied with two other AU-55s as second finest certified for the issue. Dealer and early copper specialist Doug Bird much prefers this coin to the Dan Holmes specimen (also Noyes Die State C) certified MS-63 BN by PCGS and sold as lot 531 in the Goldbergs' September 2009 sale of the Holmes Collection. The Holmes specimen, in fact, was formerly certified MS-62 BN by PCGS and exhibits scattered verdigris or encrustation around the reverse periphery.
Pedigree: S.H. & H. Chapman's sale of the Major William Boerum Wetmore Collection, June 1906, lot 578; Dr. Lewis H. Adler, March 1917; B. Max Mehl; B. Max Mehl's 1929 Fixed Price List of the Dr. George P. French Collection, lot 338; H.A. Stoddard, 1934; B. Max Mehl; T. James Clarke, 1954; R.E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr., February 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (The Mint); Gene Sherman; Superior's September 7, 8, 9, 1997 U.S. Coin and Currency Auction, lot 68; Superior's Pre-Long Beach Sale of May-June 1999, lot 1484; Heritage's FUN U.S. Coin Auction of January 2010, lot 2413; Cardinal Collection.
Commentary: Tracking down a high grade 1804 cent has always been a challenge. Among coppers of the 19th century this is the rarest individual date, which status has made it one of the most desired of all Guide Book varieties. In the marketplace the typical example is apt to show extensive wear. A nice EF coin would be a prize to take home, and the present AU is even more notable. With its CAC gold label, it stands as the single finest 1804 cent recognized by that venerable group -- a true prize for the successful bidder!
PCGS Population: just 3; with only one coin finer, the Dan Holmes specimen now certified MS-63 BN (but also still showing in the PCGS Population Report as having previously been certified MS-62 BN).
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.