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Gem 1793 Chain Cent to Headline Cardinal Collection Offering in January 2013 Americana

By John Salyer, Cataloger & Numismatist, U.S. Coins

Author: John Salyer / Wednesday, November 14, 2012 / Categories: United States Coin of the Week
Stack's Bowers Galleries will be offering the fabulous Cardinal Collection as a highlight of our upcoming January 2013 New York Americana Sale. The core of the Cardinal Collection comprises two of the most famous silver coin rarities from the earliest years of the United States Mint, as well as a phenomenal collection of large cents that holds No. 1 rankings in multiple categories on both the PCGS and NGC Set Registry listings. Leading the way among the Cardinal Collection large cents is an exceptional 1793 Chain cent of the S-2 die marriage, certified MS-65 BN by PCGS and verified by CAC. The coin is one of only four Gem Mint State Chain cents certified by PCGS, and is high in the Condition Census for both the issue in its entirety and the individual die variety.

An easily identifiable die marriage of the 1793 Chain cent, Sheldon-2 combines the wide date obverse with the AMERICA reverse of the issue. Indeed, the digits in the date are markedly wider on this obverse than on any other used to strike Chain cents, with the most space between the digits 7 and 9. This obverse was also used to strike examples of the S-1 variety, although in that marriage it is paired with the distinct AMERI. reverse. On the present coin the digit 3 in the date is clearly recut at the bottom of the lower curve. This feature is not described for either the S-1 or S-2 die marriages in any large cent reference with which we are aware (including United States Large Cents: 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes, 1991, and Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents: 1793-1814, 2000). We have also never seen recutting on the digit 3 on any other S-1 or S-2 Chain cent; the presence of this recutting suggests that the obverse die may have been lightly retouched before this coin was struck, or else it confirms the exceptionally sharp strike that characterizes this piece.

The reverse die of the S-2 variety was also used to strike Chain cents of the S-3, S-4 and NC.1 varieties (i.e., all other die varieties of the issue except the aforementioned S-1 AMERI. variety). The presentation of the word AMERICA in full is the most readily identifiable diagnostic of this reverse die.

High in the Condition Census for both the issue and the die marriage, this coin is easily among the finest Chain cents of all die varieties known to exist. Opinions on the Condition Census ranking of this coin relative to other examples of the S-2 variety vary among large cent specialists, with some calling it tied for Condition Census #1 and others calling it tied for Condition Census #2. It was previously part of several noteworthy collections, including the personal collections of B. Max Mehl and Dr. William Sheldon, and the fine Herman Halpern Collection.

This is a truly remarkable coin and the level of preservation is incredible for an early U.S. Mint copper. Evenly toned, steely brown surfaces exhibit a uniform satin to softly frosted texture that provides faint cartwheel visual effects as the coin rotates under a light. More direct angles also call forth faded golden mint luster throughout, as well as lighter pinkish rose highlights within the tresses of Liberty's hair.

Both sides of this coin are exceptionally sharply struck by the standards of both the early United States Mint and the Chain cent type. 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, including Liberty's ear and the adjacent hair curls. We stress, however, that even in the center of the obverse there is plenty of definition, certainly more than usually seen on 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: 1793-1814 (ex: Boyd-Romano-Husak, and tied for Condition Census #1 for the variety with the present example in the opinion of some early copper specialists).

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, shallow abrasions discernible in the left obverse and reverse fields appear to have been 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.

Gem Mint State 1793 Chain cents are legendary coins. Serious collectors and dealers in early American coinage, and especially those who specialize in early large cents, will eagerly anticipate this spectacular offering in our upcoming January Americana Sale.