Rare Money Blog

Incredible Near Gem 1796 Cent Featured in our Spring 2019 Baltimore Auction

By James McCartney, Senior Numismatist

Author: James McCartney / Thursday, February 07, 2019 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week

The early copper coinage struck by the United States Mint proved vital to the fledging economy of our nation and saw significant use in commerce. Half cents and large cents were the medium of exchange in most small transactions and often suffered heavy wear and attrition. Most specimens from the 18th century are in low grades with poor surface quality. Thankfully, a hoard of pristine Draped Bust cents called the Nichols Find was discovered in the mid-19th century and has provided collectors with a few Mint State examples to represent these early years.

The Nichols Find contained approximately 1,000 large cents purchased by Senator Benjamin Goodhue and given to his daughters in 1797 or 1798, preserving them in the Salem, Massachusetts area. Mostly dated 1796 and 1797, these coins came to light in 1863 when David Nichols began selling the hoard to coin dealers. A few 1798 cents were sprinkled in, but not many. Many were struck on inferior planchets but enough nice coins survive from this group to allow collectors to purchase a Mint State coin from this early period.

We are delighted to offer one of the more exceptional pieces from this find in our Spring 2019 Baltimore sale: a near-Gem 1796 Draped Bust cent of the Sheldon-119, Reverse of 1797 variety. It has been certified MS-64 BN by PCGS and approved by CAC.

Significant mahogany luster blankets the fields and protected areas, complementing the overall chocolate brown color. The surfaces are smooth and free from notable abrasions, leaving just an area of dark patina under Liberty's chin to serve as a pedigree marker. It is well struck for the variety and displays light peripheral cracks equivalent to Noyes Die State B and Breen Die State III. The crack below the 6 of the date is still in its infancy, as is the break in the denticles above AT of STATES. Among the finest known for both the variety and type, there is just a single coin graded finer by PCGS in this category.

This magnificent near-Gem will be featured in lot 1016 of the Rarities Night session of the Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo. The sale is now available for viewing and bidding on our website www.StacksBowers.com, or you may contact our offices to secure a printed catalog. To speak with a numismatic representative, please call 800-458-4646 or email Info@StacksBowers.com. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.