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Landmark Mint State S-266c 1804 Cent, Finest Seen by PCGS

By Q. David Bowers, Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Wednesday, March 01, 2017 / Categories: Highlights from the D. Brent Pogue Collection

Ex Hines, Sheldon, Holmes

Sheldon Plate Coin

When you contemplate that this 1804 cent, the rarest (by far) date among 19th century copper cents, is Choice Mint State and is the finest seen by PCGS, you know that a special event will be taking place!

And, indeed it will be—as part of our D. Brent Pogue Collection Part V Sale to be held on Friday evening, March 31, at the historic Evergreen Museum & Library in Baltimore. The ancestral mansion of the Garrett family, made available to us by the Johns Hopkins University, will see many rarities and other treasures cross the block. Plan to be there in person. Alternative, on the Internet you can also “be there” and take part of an even that will forever echo in the halls of numismatics.

The possession of an 1804 cent in any high grade is an accomplishment. To obtain an Extremely Fine or, better yet, About Uncirculated coin may take a long time. The Choice Mint State coin in the D. Brent Pogue Collection is beyond incredible.

The 1804 cent has a rich tradition. Ever since numismatics became a popular pursuit in the 1850s, the 1804 has been recognized as the most famous cent rarity of the 19th century. An estimated 1,200 or so exist, hardly enough to supply the thousands of collectors desiring to own one. Most are in lower grades such as Good, Very Good, and Fine. Indeed, a Fine-12 1804 or a VF-20 is a desirable prize on its own.

The published mintage of 756,838 is not relevant as most struck in this calendar year were from earlier-dated dies. The original mintage of 1804-dated cents can only be approximated, but possibly 50,000 to 60,000 would be in the ballpark in view of the estimated 1,200-coin population, about a 2% survival rate.

In 1859 in his American Numismatical Manual, Dr. Montroville W. Dickeson noted that in circulation one 1804 could be found for every 30 of 1805. He had been acquainted with cents for quite some time and also wrote of finding 1793 cents for face value! This particular book is the first “grand format” volume published on the coins of our country. It came out in two later editions in 1860 and 1865, slightly retitled as the American Numismatic Manual. Copies are readily available from sellers of antiquarian books and make a great addition to a numismatic library.

As is the rule, not the exception, with coins in the D. Brent Pogue Collection, this 1804 has a marvelous provenance:

Its first public appearance that has been traced was in Thomas L. Elder’s sale of the William T.R. Jester Collection, December 1914, lot 13. It could have appeared earlier, but historic catalogs rarely had pictures, and grading varied widely. By 1914 Elder, who had been in New York City for a decade, was the leading dealer in that metropolis.

From Elder it went to Henry C. Hines, one of the best-known names in large cent lore—a collector par excellence. The next owner was Dr. William H. Sheldon, a man of very complex personality, remembered numismatically for his market-grading system published in 1949 in Early American Cents. Today Sheldon grading numbers from 1 to 70 (originally intended for cents from 1793 to 1814) are used for just about all coin series.

Later in the list of owners and transactions are these names:  Numismatic Gallery’s (Abe Kosoff and Abner Kreisberg) ANA Sale, August 1947, lot 882; Harold E. Whiteneck; Copley Coin Company; Edmund A. Rice; Robert McAusland; Willard C. Blaisdell; R.E. Naftzger, Jr.; W.M. ‘Jack’ Wadlington; Ira and Larry Goldberg’s sale of the Dan Holmes Collection, September 2009, lot 531.

In Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents, 1793-1814 this coin is No. 1 in his Condition Census list. Ditto for William C. Noyes United States Large Cents, 1793-1814 where it is also found as No. 1.