Stack’s Bowers Galleries to Auction Gem 1793 Chain America Cent

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / November 5, 2012



IRVINE, Calif. (November 9, 2012) — Scheduled to cross the auction block in our New York Americana Sale, January 22-25 2013, is one of only four Gem Mint State 1793 Chain cents certified by PCGS. Graded MS-BN by PCGS, this is either the finest or tied for finest of the Sheldon-2 variety. 

“As one of the finest in existence of this famous ‘type’ coin, this gem may well set a record price,” said Chris Napolitano, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “The coin is part of The Cardinal Collection, formed over a period of years by Martin Logies, who aspired to acquire the rarest of the rare. With this coin he scored admirably. We are deeply honored to be able to offer this coin as part of our annual Americana Sale. With many other landmark coins consigned, this will be one of the most spectacular sales of all time.”


Authorized by the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, the Philadelphia Mint went into operation that autumn when pattern coins were struck under the supervision of Dr. David Rittenhouse. On March 1, 1793, the first coins for general circulation were delivered by the coiner, Henry Voigt — copper cents of the S-1 variety with the name of our country abbreviated as AMERI. as the engraver could not arrange the words with consistent spacing — a group totaling 11,178 pieces. The spelling was soon revised, creating the S-2, as here, using the same obverse die in combination with a new reverse with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in full.


Frank H. Stewart, in History of the First United States Mint, Its People and Its Operations, suggested that the 110,512 cents struck during calendar year 1793 included 36,103 of the Chain type, made from March 1–12. The specific mintage of S-2 is not known, but Q. David Bowers has estimated the number as about 6,500, of which perhaps 120 to 160 survive today, in all grades from well-worn upward.


It was not until that summer that half cents were made, followed by the first silver coinage in 1794 and the first gold in 1795. There was little numismatic interest in America at the time, and these early coins slipped into circulation unnoticed. It was not until the 1850s that there was widespread interest in collecting early coppers, by which time any 1793 cents remaining in circulation were worn down to nearly smooth. The survival of a Mint State coin represents incredible good fortune — perhaps saved as a memento at the time of issue.


“Both sides of this coin are exceptionally sharp in strike by the standards of both the early United States Mint and the Chain cent type,” said Jeff Ambio, senior numismatist and chief cataloger for Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “The reverse is bold throughout, the ends of Liberty’s hair tresses are intricately defined and crisply delineated, and we note only the slightest softness of detail at the central obverse high points, to include Liberty’s ear and the adjacent hair curls. We stress, however, that even in the center of the obverse there is plenty of emerging to bold definition, and certainly more so than that seen in most extant Chain cents, including the less well-defined plate coin for the S-2 variety on page 39 of Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents. The level of surface preservation is just as impressive as the striking quality, with both sides virtually free of post-production contact marks. Most of the few, small, shallowabrasions discernible in the left obverse and reverse fields were present on the blank planchet and failed to strike out during the coining process. Indeed such is the extraordinary preservation of the surfaces that John Albanese described this coin as MS-66 when he examined it in 2005. For pedigree purposes alone, we mention two faint marks on the obverse at the ends of Liberty’s middle hair strands.

The pedigree of the gem 1793 S-2 cent is traced back to August 1891 when, according to an early account, American numismatist Benjamin H. Collins, purchased it in the shop of W.S. Lincoln & Son in London, while on a trip to Europe. Collins sold it to Henry W. Beckwith on January 30, 1919. In S.H. Chapman’s sale of the Beckwith Collection in April 1923 it was purchased by Dr. George P. French, one of the leading copper specialists of the era. While the forthcoming auction catalog will list intermediate owners, it is significant to mention that one of them was Dr. William H. Sheldon, who acquired it in 1953. The consignor today is the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation.

History will be made when this coin comes up for sale as part of our Americana Auction. The buyer will have one of America’s finest and best-known numismatic landmark coins,” said Ambio.  

In addition to the Cardinal Collection, the sale will feature other United States coins of all denominations, from copper half cents to gold $20 double eagles, including many rarities and finest known examples. American tokens, medals, and paper money will be important as well. The auction will be spread over three days and include several thousand lots. Printed catalogs are available upon request by calling 800.458.4646.  Online bidding and pre-auction bids will begin in December on, by email at [email protected] and by phone at 800.458.4646.


About Stack’s Bowers Galleries

Stack’s Bowers Galleries, a division of Fortune 500 Company Spectrum Group International Inc., was launched in January 2011, combining the extraordinary histories of Stack’s, the oldest rare coin auction and retail company in America, with Bowers and Merena Auctions, one of the world’s preeminent auctioneers of rare coins and paper money. The two companies unite to share a combined legacy that spans more than 100 years, and includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable collections to ever cross an auction block — The John J. Ford, Jr. and Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. collections, The Harry W. Bass Jr., Collection, and The Norweb Collection — to name just a few. Topping off this amazing numismatic history is the inclusion of the world record for the highest price ever realized at auction for a rare coins: The legendary 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle that realized an astounding $7.59 million (sold in partnership with Sotheby’s). The company is headquartered in Irvine, California, with offices in New York, New Hampshire and Hong Kong. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is the Official Auctioneer for several important numismatic conventions, including the 2013 ANA World’s Fair of Money and the ANA/PNG Pre-Show, the 2013 ANA National Money Show, and the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo, three times yearly.


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