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Important 1793 S-11b Lettered Edge Cent

1793 1C Wreath, Lettered Edge. VF30 PCGS. S-11b, B-16b, R.4. Bland VF20; tied for CC-15. Noyes Fine 12; tied for CC-17. Photo #28134. Our EAC Grade Fine 15.

Crosby-Levick 9H; Crosby 11-J; McGirk 2-K2; EAC 16b; Encyclopedia 1645; PCGS #1350.

Left leaf is vertical, others lean right. Fraction is right of center below the bow. The obverse appears on S-11a, S-11b, and S-11c. The reverse appears on S-11a, S-11b, and S-11c. From the same dies as S-11a, but with the edge lettered ONE HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR, followed by two leaves.

A thin planchet defect on the obverse extends from the neck into the lower right obverse field toward the border at 5 o'clock. Otherwise, both sides have smooth medium brown surfaces with a small red spot near the final A. The only other provenance markers are a dull scratch through Liberty's nose and a small surface disturbance at the end of the left ribbon. Both sides also have a few tiny edge bruises, but only that at 6:30 on the reverse is worth mentioning.

Die State II. Light clash marks are primarily visible at Liberty's neck.

Census. The finest known example of this subvariety grades AU50, with the top dozen examples including coins that grade VF20.

Commentary. Sheldon-11b is the only opportunity to acquire the two-leaf edge device, as Sheldon discusses in Early American Cents: "In all probability the double leaf coins were struck before the single leaf coins (subvariety 11c), since the double leaf does not appear again on the big cents, and it is reasonable to suppose that it was abandoned in favor of the single leaf."

In the late 1920s, an exchange of correspondence appeared in The Numismatist. Baldwin, Kansas, collector Will W. Neil reported his discovery of a "new variety of the 1793 Wreath cent." In the March 1928 issue was this commentary: "The new variety, however, is on the edge and consists of two leaves instead of one after the lettering." According to the report, Neil had sent the coin to Howard Newcomb, who claimed that it was the first example he had seen with two leaves after DOLLAR.

In the April issue, Carl Wurtzbach, of Lee, Massachusetts, stated that this was not a new discovery: "I long ago noted the edge he speaks of. ... I have both one and two leaves, being quite uncirculated." Apparently, Wurtzbach was claiming the discovery of this edge variant as his own.

Neither collector acknowledged that the three different edge variations for this die combination were known many years before, as they were all described in the American Journal of Numismatics article that accompanied the Crosby-Levick plate in 1869.

Die-making during the first days of the Mint was a difficult process. There were no hubs in use until the Liberty Cap design. All details, including the head of Liberty and the wreath, had to be individually engraved, with letters and numerals punched one at a time. Before this could be done, a piece of steel had to be prepared, as Craig Sholley describes: "The first step in creating a die by either means was to make a sound die body. To do this, the die forger had to select a suitable mass of steel, heat it to 'red heat' and, while hot, forge it into the proper size and shape, taking care that the forging contained no laps or seams. Once forged, the die was annealed and thoroughly cleaned."

Provenance. Stack's (10/1966), lot 43, $510; later, New England Rare Coin Auctions (10/1981), lot 44, $1,760; Adrian Ross; Stack's (6/1990), lot 1180, $4,620; Robinson S. Brown, Jr. (Superior, 1/1996), lot 14, $3,080; Chris Victor-McCawley.

Personality. Stack's is a New York City auction company that has been in continuous operation since 1934, beginning under the direction of Joseph and Morton Stack. Prior to the business change into numismatic auctions, the Stack's family reportedly operated a foreign exchange house since 1858. They have handled many important large cent collections, beginning with coins from Dr. Sheldon in 1938. About the earlier history of the firm, John Adams writes: "Having been in the jewelry and antique business, brothers Morton and Joseph Stack decided to specialize in coins in 1934. The earlier roots of the business are unclear. A current rendition of history [Coin World, November 6, 1985] traces the Stack's lineage back to 1858 and a venture in foreign exchange launched in the Wall Street area. In contrast, some old timers in the business recall that the Stacks emigrated from the less illustrious locus of Wheeling, West Virginia." According to Adams, Stack's declined an interview at the time he was preparing his book. In addition to the long series of auctions that continues today, Stack's published Numismatic Review for a short period 60 years ago. This was an exceptional publication that regrettably did not continue for many more issues. In late 2006 the firm merged with American Numismatic Rarities of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. The new venture, Stack's Rarities, is operated by Larry Stack and Christine Karstedt. (Variety PCGS# 35474, Base PCGS# 1350)

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February, 2008
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