Due to a number of engraving and other as-struck features, S-29 is one of the most distinct and easiest to attribute die marriages of the 1794 Large Cent. This is just as well for this issue is a particularly fertile one for varieties, the Mint’s achievement of a very large (by 18th century standards) yearly delivery of 918,521 Cents coupled with a shortage of high-quality steel explaining why so many dies were used for this issue. The present example, as a late die state, reveals the greatest number of obverse cracks (as struck) known to exist for the S-29 marriage. The most prominent of these are join the lower-left corner of the liberty cap to the lowermost curl, extend from the border just before 9 o’clock to the aforementioned crack, join the top of the liberty cap to the bases of the letters LI in LIBERTY and extend into the right field from the fifth denticle above the end of the liberty pole. Closer inspection also reveals other faint die cracks in the right-obverse field, one of which joins Liberty’s nose to the border, as well as a very faint crack from the lower border through the left side of the digit 4 in the date.
The reverse die of the S-29 marriage exhibits long tails to the right (facing) ribbon end and the letter R in AMERICA. The border is heavy with coarse denticles that extend far into the field toward the legend. For the present example, a loupe reveals a faint crack from the border through the same letter R. Finally, and further confirming the late state of the dies, we see faint clashmarks (also as made) in the obverse field at the junction of the liberty cap with the top of Liberty’s head and in the reverse field between the wreath and the letters O and C in the denomination ONE CENT.
S-29 enjoys an above-average rate of survival among 1794 Liberty Cap Cent die varieties, and a number of high-quality examples are known in AU and Mint State grades. Even so, few of those coins can match the present Gem in terms of either technical quality or eye appeal. This piece is essentially full in strike, minor lack of detail to the upper-left reverse wreath and the highest elements of the obverse portrait almost certainly attributable to the late die state (the upper-left portion of the wreath, in particular, seems to be incompletely defined due to the die clashing that also imparted the adjacent clashmarks). Both sides are evenly patinated in sandy-brown patina and, despite the validity of the BN color designation from NGC, we do see faint remnants of faded-orange luster here and there in the fields as the surfaces rotate under a light. There are few blemishes of any kind, and the only worthwhile pedigree markers are a pair of tiny disturbances to the reverse border, one just before 12 o’clock and the other at 6 o’clock. High in the Condition Census for the die pair, and also among the finest-known survivors of the 1794 Liberty Cap Cent.
NGC Census (all die marriages of the issue): just 3; and none are finer with a BN color designation. The corresponding PCGS population for the Head of 1794 Guide Book variety is just 5/2 (MS-66 finest with a BN color designation).
From the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF). Earlier from Heritage's sale of the Joshua and Ally Walsh Collection of United States Cents, January 2006, lot 3021.