149.7 grains. A simply stunning Confederation-era copper, a miracle of survival and the finest quality New Jersey copper in the Craige Collection. Acclaimed by Craige as "Red Unc! Finest Known," this piece still exhibits full cartwheel luster on its beautiful surfaces. The surfaces are frosty light brown with undertones of pale blue and violet, barely faded down from mint color. Abundant original red remains around all design elements, richer and brighter on obverse than reverse. The surface quality is superb, smooth as silk, with few post-striking flaws. A natural planchet flaw manifests as a depression at B of PLURIBUS, tiny mint clip over R of CAESAREA. Some microscopic wispy hairlines are noted here and there, some natural pre-striking marks visible under the horsehead, a few little marks under the plowhandles. PCGS has called this piece AU-58+ (though now offered raw), which may be accurate but misses the forest for the trees; what they must see as friction on the highest relief of the high-relief horsehead looks to us like flatness of strike. The frost, originality, and look of this remarkably preserved coin make anything less than MS-63 seem like a disservice. These surfaces have clearly seen no circulation. The dies show faint but clear clashmarks at the peripheries, against and within the denticles on both sides. An internal die crack slowly steps down, left to right, in the azure of the shield.
There are three UNCs listed in the SHI Condition Census, followed by several AUs. This piece is an echelon (or two, or three) above the listed finest of the AUs (namely the Ford coin). Among the Uncs, the first listed is the Taylor coin which, though beautiful, shows softness at central reverse and exhibits far less mint red. The Norweb coin is both sharper and boasts more red, quite similar in appearance to this piece (perhaps they share an ancient provenance?). The only other Unc known is the Parmelee-Garrett coin, which may be the flashiest of these but has some light obverse spots. As with most Condition Census listings, "finest known" comes down to taste or a coin flip. While it's not our place to make a pronouncement on which one is best, this coin is surely in the conversation. It stands as the most impressive high grade New Jersey of any variety sold since Ford; your cataloguer also catalogued the Mint State Maris 16-J in our November 2006 Norweb sale and vastly prefers the look and originality of this piece. For a type collector, it would be well-nigh impossible to find a more visually appealing New Jersey copper in the marketplace.
From the Ted L. Craige Collection. Paper envelope with attribution notes included.