By Q. David Bowers, Founder
Among American coin specialties that attract many enthusiasts who enjoy the field for years, large copper cents are in the front rank. Early American Coppers, Inc., abbreviated EAC, is the meeting place. Founded in the 1960s, the organization is like a private club—with gatherings and other events—except that anyone can join. Most of the leading members today are people I knew 10 or 20 years ago. The quarterly Penny-Wise journal alone is worth the yearly dues. Edited by Dr. Harry Salyards (a polymath if there ever was one), it is filled with interesting news and information. The Internet has more information.
Front row center in this week’s column is the beautiful 1794 cent, Sheldon 18b, certified as MS-64 BN by PCGS and with a CAC sticker. This was once owned by our fine friend John W. Adams and was sold by us years ago. This Pogue Collection cent is believed to be far and away the finest known.
Not only is this piece the finest known of its variety and one of the most remarkable early cents ever to come on the market, but it also has the noteworthy distinction of being the finest known of the Joseph Wright-inspired design (which includes all of the 1793 Liberty Caps and the 1794 Head of 1793 cents).
The design by famous artist and sculptor Wright was first used on the Liberty Cap cents of 1793. He died of yellow fever in September of that year. Otherwise he would have held the position of engraver at the Mint for many years. Robert Scot took his place in late 1793 and was in the post until his passing in 1823.
Our 1984 catalog of John Adams’ collection called this coin Choice Uncirculated, MS-65, noting that the second finest was MS-60, followed by three AU-55 coins. The population of the variety is estimated to be 120 to 160 pieces.
John Adams, a consummate scholar, studied this coin carefully and wrote in Penny-Wise in 1974 that in terms of emission sequence, the S-18 was the very first 1794 cent to be minted.
In our presentation of this cent we noted that it has the oldest continuous provenance of any early copper cent in a private collection. Indeed a book could be written about this coin and its previous owners (see listing below).
Provenance: John F. McCoy; W. Elliot Woodward’s sale of May 1864, lot 661; J.N.T. Levick; Edward Cogan’s sale of May 1865, lot 1352; Abram S. Jenks; Edward Cogan’s sale of April 1877, lot 701; George W. Merritt; Édouard Frossard’s sale of January 1879, lot 95; Édouard Frossard; Lorin G. Parmelee; New York Coin & Stamp Co.’s sale of June 1890, lot 693; John G. Mills; S.H. & H. Chapman’s sale of April 1904, lot 1236; S.H. & H. Chapman; Robert Garrett, 1919; John Work Garrett; The Johns Hopkins University, acquired privately from curator Carl W.A. Carlson, March 1973, with the permission of University officials; John W. Adams, our February 1984 catalog of his collection; R.E. Naftzger, Jr., February 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (The Mint), May 1996; W. M. “Jack” Wadlington; our sale of the Cardinal Collection, January 2013, lot 13004. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents, 1793-1814. No. 1 in condition.