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Second Finest 1793 S-13 Liberty Cap Cent1793 1C Liberty Cap. AU55 PCGS. S-13, B-20, Low R.4. Bland AU50; tied for CC-2. Noyes AU50; tied for CC-2. Photo #20425. Our EAC Grade AU50.
Equivalents. Crosby-Levick 10J; Frossard 11.1; Proskey 13; Doughty 14; Crosby 12-L; McGirk 3-B; EAC 20; Encyclopedia 1647; PCGS #1359.
Variety. L touches bead, two beads over I. Leaf triplet is positioned below OF. The obverse appears on S-12 and S-13. The reverse appears on S-13, S-14, S-16, and NC-6. Lettered Edge, one leaf.
Surfaces. Glossy dark brown surfaces are smooth and free of abrasions, except for a few tiny marks on the obverse. Considerable mint frost remains with exceptional field reflectivity, especially on the obverse. A small patch of darker steel toning surrounds the digit 1 in the date.
Die State II. An early State II example with extremely faint evidence of the reverse bulge at NT.
Appearances. The obverse is illustrated on the Crosby-Levick plate, in Early American Cents, and in Penny Whimsy. The obverse and reverse are illustrated in The United States Coinage of 1793 by S.S. Crosby and in Noyes (1991 and 2006).
Census. A single specimen from the Eliasberg Collection is the only Mint State 1793 Cap cent known. The Husak piece and one or two others are next in the Condition Census. Del Bland and Bill Noyes disagree about the early provenance of this specimen. In his Official Condition Census, Noyes begins the provenance of this piece with "H. Whiteley; B.H. Collins" and makes no mention of its earlier appearance on the Crosby-Levick plate. For this reason, we believe that Bland's provenance presented below is more accurate. The finest piece in the ANS grades just XF40.
Commentary. In Henry Voight and Others Involved in America's Early Coinage, Karl Moulton reproduced a portrait of Joseph and Sarah Wright with their three children. His belief that Sarah Wright was the model for the Libertas Americana Medal, the 1792 disme, the 1792 quarter, and the 1793 half cent is based on a comparison of the portrait with the profile on those pieces. Later in his reference, Moulton reproduced a sketch of Wright's mother, Patience. She is depicted holding a pole and cap, leading Moulton to believe this was the sole inspiration for the Liberty Cap design initially used on the Libertas Americana medal.
Although approximately 150 to 200 examples of this variety survive, most are in lower grades. Bill Noyes records just 18 pieces that he calls VF or better. The challenge of obtaining such pieces was known to Ed. Frossard when he compiled his 1879 Monograph: "The Liberty Cap cents are scarce even in worn or poor condition; good specimens are nevertheless obtainable, but the fastidious collector who wants only extremely fine specimens will find it difficult to match one of the Wreath type with a Liberty Cap cent of this date."
In 1949, Sheldon commented: "Of about the same rarity as the 1-A [Sheldon-1], and the same comment can be made concerning the frequent exaggeration of rarity and condition. In condition VF-20 or better I have seen perhaps twenty 12-L's and possibly a hundred of lower grade." Nearly 60 years later, the number of VF or better pieces is unchanged, but the number of collectors seeking such pieces has increased dramatically.
Joseph Wright, hired as the first actual engraver at the Mint, introduced hubbed dies during the summer of 1793. A hub was essentially a separate die, but finished in relief with a positive image that appeared exactly as the finished coin. Once prepared, the hub was placed in the upper or hammer position of a screw press, and a die blank was placed in the anvil or lower position of the press. A process of repeated blows and annealing would slowly impart the design of the hub into the die blank, until all of the detail was complete. Once finished, the die was completed by lapping to remove extraneous material. The earliest hubs contained just the central device. It was not until 1835 that complete hubs were used on a regular basis.
Provenance. Joseph Mickley; W. Elliot Woodward (10/1867), lot 1933, $55; L. Bayard Smith; Virgil M. Brand (2/1941); B.G. Johnson (St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.); Henry C. Hines; Carl Wurtzbach (1945); Dr. William H. Sheldon; Sheraton Coin Co.; Ernest Henderson (1958); Dorothy Paschal (1959); Dr. William H. Sheldon (4/1972); R.E. Naftzger, Jr. (2/1992); Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino; Superior (2/1998), lot 790, $90,750.
At the Superior sale, Walter Husak outbid Denis Loring for this coin. The two were sitting next to each other in the back of the room, hands in the air, exchanging comments as the bidding went higher and higher.
Personality. Joseph J. Mickley was born near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on February 24, 1799, and moved to Philadelphia in 1818 to learn the piano-making trade, a field that held his attention for the next 50 years. He was married twice and had six children. Mickley has been dubbed "the father of American numismatics" due to his search for a large cent from the year of his birth. He is also known for various coin collecting activities, and reportedly purchased leftover dies that the Mint sold as scrap metal. Among them was a pair of dies used for the 1823 "restrike" large cents. The restrike dies are still in existence today. W. Elliot Woodward sold much of his collection, including this coin, at auction in October 1867, following a robbery that greatly diminished his collecting enthusiasm. Mickley wrote a pamphlet titled Dates of United States Cents and Their Degree of Rarity. He was depicted on several contemporary medals, including one issued in 1867 when he was president of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. Before his death on February 15, 1878, Mickley developed an interest in archaeology and traveled extensively. (NGC ID# 223L, Variety PCGS# 35489, Base PCGS# 1359)
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