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    1796 C-1, B-1 Half Cent, MS63+ Brown
    The Third Finest Known

    1796 No Pole, C-1, B-1, R.6, MS63+ Brown NGC. CAC. Our EAC grade MS62. 83.4 grains. Breen Die State II. Manley Die State 1.0. The bisecting obverse die crack is continuous, and as always, is heavier in the right field than in the left field. A small field mark below the E in LIBERTY will identify this piece. Full cartwheel luster is evident on both sides of this creamy chocolate-brown example that features delicate blue overtones and splashes of original mint red on its Prooflike surfaces.

    Differences of opinion seem to be a common thread when discussing the 1796 half cents, as verifiable evidence regarding the emission sequence and designer's identity has yet to be discovered.

    Emission Sequence

    Although Ebenezer Gilbert's variety reference listed the 1796 With Pole first, his variety order does not follow any emission sequence known today. Roger Cohen and Walter Breen each listed the No pole first. William Eckberg records the With Pole variety first and suggests that the earlier coinage deliveries, totaling 5,090 coins, were the With Pole pieces, and the later October delivery of 1,390 coins were the No Pole variety.

    The Design

    The half cents of 1796 follow the same design that appeared on the 1795-dated half cents, featuring a small Liberty Head with a cap behind the head. This design originated with the 1793 Liberty Cap cents and the 1794 half cents, but the head was modified for the 1795 through 1797 half cents, in a style similar to the 1794 "Head of 1795" large cents. There is a question about who prepared the designs that are typically attributed to assistant engraver John Smith Gardner. Roger S. Cohen, Jr. wrote in 1971:

    "This design has been attributed to John Smith Gardner, Assistant Engraver to Robert Scot. This is the same general design as the preceding year but the bust of Liberty is much smaller. This design was used on 1795, 1796, and 1797 dated coins. Gardner held the position of Assistant Engraver from November 1794 to April 1796."

    Walter Breen recorded similar information in his Half Cent Encyclopedia writing that John Smith Gardner made device punches for both denominations. Unfortunately, neither author provided a source for their information and that information has long been accepted as a verified fact.

    However, Frank Stewart, in his History of the First U.S. Mint, reported on page 93:

    "On August 11, 1795, he [Gardner] wrote to Director DeSaussure, asking for an increase of pay of seventy-five cents a day to his salary of two dollars and twenty-five cents. He had the making of all the punches together with the types necessary for the dies, also all the hubs from the original dies and the striking of all the hubs and dies. He also engraved all the reverses of each kind of die such as the dollar, half dollar, etc., and put the border and legend on all the head dies, assisted in hardening each and partly glossing them."

    There is little in that report to suggest that Gardner did any design work, aside from the comment that he made all the punches, and we have not determined who was first to suggest that Gardner did prepare the designs. A Coin Collector's Journal article in May 1954 identifies the 1794 Head of '95 cents as the work of Gardner. Alternatively, Frank Stewart's list of Mint expenditures reports that Gardner was paid for "engraving dies." In 1968, Charles Davis wrote in Penny-Wise: "Without direct proof, the designer responsible for each variety can only be a subject for conjecture."

    Condition Census

    Saul Teichman's recent research provides updated provenance details for the four known Mint State 1796 No Pole half cents:
    1. MS67 Red and Brown PCGS. John Gormley Murdoch Collection (Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge, London, 7/1903), lot 963, which realized 15 pounds, 5 shillings ($74.21); S.H. and H. Chapman; George H. Earle, Jr. Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 3609, which realized $400; Colonel James W. Ellsworth; Knoedler Galleries (privately in 1923); Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett (sold privately); William C. Atwater (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 129, which realized $1,125; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Merena, 5/1996), lot 407, which realized $506,000; Spectrum Numismatics (privately in 2002); D. Brent Pogue Collection (Stack's Bowers, 2/2016), lot 3008, which realized $763,750, Oliver Jung, FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2021), lot 3978, which realized $780,000.

    2. MS65 Brown PCGS. Richard B. Winsor Collection (S.H. and H Chapman, 12/1895), lot 1012, which realized $300; Virgil M. Brand Collection (journal #15328); Horace Brand; C. David Pierce; Philip M. Showers Collection (Stack's, sold privately in 1969); Willis Harrington duPont Collection; Fred S. Werner (sold privately in 1976); Superior (sold privately in 1976); Joe Flynn and Sons Rare Coins, Inc. (sold privately on April 28, 1982); R. Tettenhorst Collection; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society; Missouri Cabinet (Goldberg Auctions, 1/2014), lot 36, which realized $891,250; High Desert Collection

    3. MS63+ Brown NGC. The present example. An old English Collection; Stack's (sold privately in 1992); John Whitney Walter Collection (Stack's, 5/1999), lot 1705, which realized $287,500; Jon Hanson; Donald G. Partrick.
    4. MS63 Brown PCGS. Dewitt Smith; Virgil M. Brand Collection (journal #46558 not 9); Armin Brand (consigned to Burdette G. Johnson); James Kelly (sold privately 2/13/1941); Anderson Dupont Sale (Stack's, 11/1954), lot 1054, which realized $3,000; Dorothy Nelson (Stack's, 3/1975), lot 823, which realized $34,000; R. Tettenhorst Collection (sold privately in 1982); Jim McGuigan--this has weak/missing denticles on the obverse and reverse.

    The present example is the third finest 1796 No Pole half cent and one of just four Mint State pieces known today. The other three are tightly held. The finest known example (which we sold in January) resided in just two collections during the 70 years from 1946 to 2016. The second finest known has changed hands only twice since 1976. The present piece has been part of the Donald G. Partrick Collection since 1999. The fourth Mint State piece has been unavailable since 1982. The appearance of two Mint State pieces in three months is highly unusual and should not be considered at all typical. We fully expect that this prize from the Donald G. Partrick Collection will find be ensconced in a new home for a long time, with no occasion to acquire a Mint State example for years or even decades to come. This is a rare opportunity for one lucky collector.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2226, Variety PCGS# 35095, Base PCGS# 1030)

    Weight: 6.74 grams

    Metal: 100% Copper

    View all of [The Donald G. Partrick Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2021
    22nd-25th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 28
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,478

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    We also followed the bidding online yesterday here in Salt Lake for the other 3 coins - great fun. Prices realized met or exceeded our expectations.
    Thomas M.,
    Salt Lake City, UT
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