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Description

1793 NC-2, B-14 Cent, Fair 2
The Unique NC-2 Strawberry Leaf Cent
Likely Wreath Cent Pattern Issue

1793 1C Strawberry Leaf Fair 2 PCGS. NC-2, B-14, High R.8. Also, Pollock-16. Our EAC Grade Fair 2. Ex: Dan Holmes Collection. Although the date is absent (the digits 17 are faintly visible), LIBERTY is complete, and the head and all-important strawberry leaves are outlined. Both sides exhibit slight roughness, faint hairlines, and a small rim bruise, all acquired during its 50 years in circulation, this remarkable cent must be called Above Average or Choice, based on current early copper grading guidelines.

Breen Die State I. It is believed that both dies are perfect, although the grade of this piece makes that determination impossible. As the unique survivor from the die pair, the issue of die state is meaningless.

Commentary. Only 10 collectors have owned this coin since it was saved from circulation 168 years ago. A few dealer intermediaries also bought and sold this coin during those years. This important cent had its reverse plated in Sylvester S. Crosby's work on 1793 cents, and in Sheldon's Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy. The obverse and reverse are plated in the Noyes reference. The illustration in Breen's Large Cent Encyclopedia is from an electrotype copy of this cent. This cent has been plated in other references as well.

Over their long and storied history, the Strawberry Leaf cents have been called many things. Dr. J. Hewitt Judd omitted them from his pattern reference, but Andrew W. Pollock, III, included these coins in his book on pattern issues. Dr. Sheldon called them patterns. Earlier, Dr. Thomas Hall also called them patterns. Crosby regarded these pieces as true cents. John Kleeberg called them contemporary counterfeits. Walter Breen wrote: "Whatever they may be, they are not counterfeits."

None of the dies show any evidence of deterioration, so why was the production limited? No records exist to tell us how many were struck, but the number must have been small as only four are known today. All four surviving examples are in low grade and the finest known piece carries an EAC grade of just VG7.

Market Notes. The present offering is only the fifth auction appearance in the entire history of this extraordinarily important 1793 cent. The first appearance of any 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent was the NC-3 that appeared in the 1879 Ed Frossard sale of the Merritt Collection. Since then, there have only been 14 auction appearances of any example that we know of. Those auction appearances were in 1879, 1880, 1887, 1888, 1890, 1894, 1895, 1950, 1959, 1984 (2), 2004, and 2009 (2).

Botany: Exactly what the leaves over the date are intended to represent is uncertain. Today, these coins are called the Strawberry Leaf cents, and that term has been used for more than a century. In 1895, the Chapman Brothers described this cent as the "Clover Leaf" variety. Sylvester S. Crosby, in 1897, wrote:

"The term 'Clover leaf' was applied to it when it was, I think, first brought into general notice in the American Journal of Numismatics, in April, 1869; I cannot now say by whom this name originated, and it has since been called the 'Strawberry leaf,' and more recently the 'Laurel-blossom' Cent. ... I have endeavored to ascertain the real design of the artist in placing upon this die a sprig so different from that on any other of these coins, and I am now convinced that he intended to represent a sprig of three leaves and a boll of cotton."


A side-by-side comparison of the actual plants shows that none of the choices are a close match, and the cataloger is certainly not suggesting a change to the traditional name of Strawberry Leaf, but the cotton leaves and boll seem to be the besst choice.

Provenance. John Meader, who pulled this coin from circulation in 1845, according to Del Bland in his census published in Walter Breen's Large Cent Encyclopedia (12/1868); Richard B. Winsor (S.H.& H. Chapman, 12/1895), lot 823; Sylvester S. Crosby (4/1896); Dr. Thomas Hall (9/7/1909); Virgil M. Brand; Brand Estate (2/7/1941); B.G. Johnson (St. Louis Stamp and Coin Co., 9/12/1941); James Kelly (1941); Charles M. Williams (Numismatic Gallery, 11/1950), lot 6; Floyd Tallmadge Starr (Stack's, 6/1984), lot 6; R.E. Naftzger, Jr. (2/23/1992); Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino (10/7/1995); Anthony Terranova (10/16/1995); Dan Holmes (Goldberg Coins, 9/2009), lot 7.
From The Adam Mervis Large Cent Collection. (Variety PCGS# 35480, Base PCGS# 1353)

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Auction Info

Auction Dates
January, 2014
10th
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 17
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Page Views: 3,126

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Rasmussen Special Edition Catalog
This hard bound volume contains the magnificent Wes Rasmussen Large Cent Collection, formed by a former President of the Early American Coppers society which was auctioned at the 2005 Florida United Numismatic Auction. Reserve your copy of this remarkable volume for just $75 today.
Rasmussen Signed Limited Edition Catalog
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