Die Variety: The only known obverse die of the 1806 Draped Bust cent exhibits a pointed 1 and knobbed 6 in the date, the digits similar in style to those that the Mint used in production of 1805 and 1806 Capped Bust Right half eagles. The tiny point to the curl at the top of Liberty's head is between the letters BE in LIBERTY. The unique reverse die of this issue is the same that the Mint used to strike 1805 S-268 and S-269 cents, with the highest leaf in the wreath positioned under the extreme right edge of the final letter S in STATES.
Die State: The latest die state of the issue/variety, Breen Die State IV displays multiple clash marks on the obverse both in front of and behind Liberty's portrait, as well as on the reverse within the wreath and around the word OF. Wispy die cracks are present on the obverse within the lowermost hair curl and from the border at 4 o'clock, and the same side also reveals delicate die bulges at the border behind the lowermost curl and at the digits 06 in the date.
Strike: The advanced state of the dies and the consequent bulges that have developed on the obverse undoubtedly explain the softness of detail in most peripheral areas around both sides. Die erosion has affected the entire reverse periphery with no denticulation evident on that side. The upper obverse is also soft with the tops of the letters in the word LIBERTY merging with the border, although most other areas on that side display at least light denticulation (even at the bottom where the two aforementioned die bulges are located). Central definition is considerably sharper, especially on the obverse throughout much of Liberty's portrait, but also on the reverse where most of the leaves in the wreath are boldly to sharply defined. The overall and outward appearance of this coin is actually suitably bold in a Draped Bust cent, especially a late die state example.
Surfaces: Frosty in texture and highly appealing, both sides are bathed in dominant medium brown patina with a few swirls of olive-brown toning intermingled in isolated areas. An area of somewhat darker toning on the obverse behind the lowermost hair curls is noted, but the only significant blemish is a thin, faint, disjointed scratch on the same side that originates over Liberty's bust above the digit 0 in the date and continues into the field before the throat. So faint is this scratch that it is only evident at certain angles, and even then only after deliberate searching.
Census Rankings: Noyes' EAC grade for this coin is MS-60 net AU-55, and he ranks it as sixth finest in his census. Del Bland grades the coin MS-61 and calls it second finest known for the issue/variety, while Bob Grellman assigns a grade of MS-60 in his cataloging for Part I of the Dan Holmes Collection.
Pedigree: Dr. Henry W. Beckwith; S. H. Chapman's sale of April 1923, lot 36; William Festus Morgan; J. C. Morgenthau & Co.'s Sale #287, June 1932, lot 80; T. James Clarke, October 1954; R. E. "Ted" Naftzger, Jr.; Abe Kosoff's sale of April 1956, lot 111; Harold Bareford, September 13, 1985; our (Stack's) sale of the Herman Halpern Collection, March 1988, lot 256; John B. MacDonald, February 20, 1997; Jack Wadlington (via Chris McCawley & Bob Grellman), November 7, 2005; Ira & Larry Goldberg's sale of the Dan Holmes Collection, Part I, September 2009, lot 537; Cardinal Collection.
Notable Appearances: This is the plate coin for the issue/variety in the 2000 book Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents: 1793-1814.
Commentary: This coin is, in effect, a complete "collection" of sets of this date, as there is only one variety -- incredible in the early large cent series. Additionally, the 1806 has always been a semi-key date among Draped Bust cents. There are many nice examples in the marketplace in grades of EF and the occasional AU. This Choice Mint State is certainly outstanding and memorable.
PCGS Population: just 2; with a mere three finer in all categories (MS-66 RB finest). The corresponding NGC Census is 2/1 (MS-64 BN finest, with no RB examples listed at that service).
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.