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Certified Mint State 1794 S-18b Cent

1794 1C Head of '93. MS63 Brown PCGS. S-18b, B-2b, R.4. Bland AU55; tied for CC-4. Noyes AU55; CC-4. Photo #20098. Our EAC Grade AU55.

Maris 52; Frossard 2.2; Doughty 20, 65; Hays 3; McGirk 7-A; Ross 2-B; Chapman 3; EAC 2b; Encyclopedia 1651; PCGS #1362.

Head of '93; the chin is doubled. Blundered N in CENT, first cut inverted. The obverse appears on S-18a, S-18b, S-19a, and S-19b. The reverse appears on S-17a, S-18a, S-18b, and NC-4. Lettered Edge, leaf points up.

Splendid steel-brown surfaces have considerable gloss, faded red luster, sharp details, and a nicely centered impression. This piece ranks among the most desirable Head of '93 cents surviving today. In the 1989 EAC Sale catalog, Bill Noyes graded it MS60 and commented: "choice light brown with much underlying mellow faded red - few brick red spots at ribbons/stems - superb glossy surfaces." He revised the grade downward to AU55 in his 2006 reference, deducting five points from the MS60 sharpness grade, perhaps for the minor reverse spots. Walter Breen explains that prooflike surfaces are sometimes encountered: "Surfaces of high grade survivors are occasionally prooflike, primarily because they were made on the new Taylor and Bailey blanks."

Die State III. The reverse has light clash marks in the leaves near O in ONE. There are faint traces of a die bulge beneath the liberty cap as described for State IV.

Appearances. The obverse and reverse are illustrated Breen's Complete Encyclopedia and in Noyes (2006).

Census. The fourth finest known example of the die variety, and the fourth finest Head of '93 cent. All three Mint State Head of '93 cents, and four of the six known AU coins, are examples of S-18b. This die combination is clearly the most common Head of '93, although all varieties of this type are scarce. Sheldon mentioned this piece in Penny Whimsy: "Oddly, there are at least a half dozen examples of this beautiful cent in near-MS condition, although no one of them stands out for top honors and none of them can be graded quite MS-60. Probably all of these best ones have been sold at one time or another as finest known-and in this instance almost with justice. Some of the famous ones are the French-Clarke, the Cleneay-ANS, the Beckwith-Wurtzbach, the Hall-Brand, and the Hays Phelps coins." At least 10 examples of this variety grade XF or finer.

Commentary. Throughout this catalog, we provide equivalent attribution numbers for each variety, including both popular and obscure references. For the 1794 cents, Maris and Hays numbers were the most widely used references before Sheldon wrote Early American Cents. Even Sheldon had "a certain affection for the Hays numbers."

Sheldon continued: "[S.H.] Chapman renumbered the 1794 cents, and there are a few collectors who have learned and prefer the Chapman numbers. These will also be included here for completeness, but it is my belief that Hays, rather than Chapman, is the man to be remembered for the 1794's. Chapman was not either a particular fancier or a great master of the 1794 cents. He never knew or especially loved the thick lettered edge cents of this date as Hays did, and never made a collection of them. To Hays they were magic talismans to the nostalgic past and to a wistful future. By owning one you established a fraternal bond with both past and future owners. To Chapman they were merchandise and profit."

Taylor and Bailey of London provided plate copper to the Mint, with the first shipment arriving late in 1793 after all the Liberty Cap cents of that year were completed. Apparently all of the S-17 coins and the first of the S-18 coins, with the 1793 edge device, were produced on planchets made from earlier copper, perhaps having the edge device applied in 1793 and saved for the early 1794 coinage. The Taylor and Bailey copper was clearly finer in quality, and produced a number of exceptional Head of '93 large cents, probably including this piece.

Kent's Directory for the Year 1794 ( ) records Taylor & Bailey, Ironmongers, at 2 Little Tower Street in London. Individually, William Bailey is listed as a brazier and ironmonger at 272 High Holborn and Thomas Tayler [sic] is listed as an ironmonger at 30 King Street, Cheapside. It appears that Taylor & Bailey also supplied certain domestic products to colonial America. Elizabeth A. Fleming ( ) studied the importation of household furnishings into Charleston, South Carolina, during the 1780s. She notes that Taylor & Bailey offered fireplace accoutrements including "firedogs, shovels, and tongs."

Provenance. Dr. George P. French (B. Max Mehl, 1929 FPL), lot 21, $200; T. James Clarke (10/1954); R.E. Naftzger, Jr. (Early American Coppers, 4/1989), lot 20, $36,000; Dr. Allen Bennett.

Personality. Dr. George P. French, born in Rochester, New York, in 1865, was an obstetrician and gynecologist. He graduated from Columbia Medical College in 1888. French is described as a sociable man who often entertained with his poetry. Sheldon gave him the nickname "The Jolly Abortionist." French amassed an extensive collection of large cents, and exhibited pieces from his collection at several ANA conventions. He also participated in the 1914 ANS coinage exhibition. In addition to coins, French collected stamps, clocks, firearms, and other antiques. B. Max Mehl offered most of his large cent collection in a 1929 fixed price list, although United States Coin Company sold part of his collection in 1917 and Henry Chapman sold another part in 1927. Barney Bluestone offered an additional selection of large cents from the French Collection in 1933. Dr. French died at his Rochester home on November 25, 1932. (NGC ID# 223N, Variety PCGS# 35513, Base PCGS# 1362)

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February, 2008
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