Census Level 1793 S-12 Liberty Cap Cent

    1793 1C Liberty Cap. VF35 PCGS. S-12, B-21, Low R.6. Bland VF20; tied for CC-2. Noyes VF25; tied for CC-2. Photo #20424. Our EAC Grade VF20.

    Frossard 11.2; Proskey 14; Doughty 13; Crosby 12-K; McGirk 3-A; EAC 21; Encyclopedia 1647; PCGS #1359.

    L touches bead, two beads over I. Single leaf is positioned below OF. The obverse appears on S-12 and S-13. The reverse appears on S-12 and S-15. Lettered Edge, one leaf.

    An impressive example considered the second finest known, despite a few minor edge nicks, more noticeable on the reverse. Pleasing medium olive surfaces are intermingled with light gold color. The obverse surface is a tad glossy. The strike is excellent and well centered, with full beaded borders on each side.

    Die State II.
    An early state with ONE CENT prominent. There is only faint evidence of the central reverse bulge that obliterates ONE CENT in late die states.

    The obverse and reverse are illustrated in Noyes (2006).

    Once in the cabinet of Virgil Brand, this example is tied for the second finest known survivor of the S-12 dies. The only finer piece is graded VF35 by Bland and XF40 by Noyes, and resides permanently in the ANS. The piece offered is the best available to collectors. In 1949 Sheldon estimated about 20 known examples. Today the population is estimated at 25 to 30 coins.

    Although the mintage of 1793 Liberty Cap cents was just 11,056 coins, there are six different die marriages known, none common. The obverse design is the well-known Liberty Head with pole and cap, prepared by Joseph Wright after the Libertas Americana medal. The reverse design is a wreath composed of two branches tied at the bottom by a ribbon with a double bow.

    Production of the six die varieties of 1793 Liberty Cap cents used four obverse dies and two reverse dies. The entire production of Wright's design was delivered on September 18, 1793, less than a week after its designer succumbed to the first yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia. Warren A. Lapp, M.D., one of the cofounders of Early American Coppers, wrote about yellow fever in the April 1971 issue of The Numismatist. "No portents of any impending catastrophe had been noted prior to the sudden appearance of the disease. The outbreak was unexpected and devastating, and the disease spread rampantly. Later, it would be recalled that the fruit crop had been unusually poor that summer and that over-ripe melons and peaches, sold in open stalls along Market Street, had attracted swarms of insects which contributed to the 'noxious effluvia of the atmosphere.'"

    Little was known of the disease in the 1790s. Dr. Benjamin Rush, later employed by the Mint, replied to an inquiry: "A malignant fever has lately appeared in our city originating, I believe, from some damaged coffee, which putrefied on a wharf near Arch Street. The disease puts on all the immediate forms of a mild remittent fever and a typhus gravior. I have not seen a fever of such malignity, so general, since the year 1762."

    Provenance. Virgil M. Brand; B.G. Johnson (St. Louis Stamp and Coin Co., 8/1945), $170; James Kelly; Hollinbeck-Kagin Coin Co.; 1961 ANA (James Kelly), lot 1407, $2,400; Federal Brand (10/1961), lot 1480; Hollinbeck-Kagin (6/1963), lot 344; Stack's (5/1979), lot 45, $11,500; R.E. Naftzger, Jr. (2/1992); Eric Streiner; Chris Victor-McCawley; Dr. Robert J. Shalowitz; Chris Victor-McCawley (9/1994); Chris Kromer; Superior (2/2001), lot 2115, $69,000.

    Personality. Joseph Wright was an artist who studied under John Trumbull. He was born in New Jersey in 1756 and traveled to London in 1772, living there until his return to America a decade later. He was commissioned to do a painting of George and Martha Washington in 1783, and it is possibly through this association that Washington appointed him as the first draftsman and die-sinker for the new Mint. More information can be found in "Joseph Wright, First Draughtsman and Die-Sinker to the United States Mint," by Georgia S. Chamberlain, in the December 1954 The Numismatist. (Variety PCGS# 35486, Base PCGS# 1359)

    Weight: 13.48 grams

    Metal: 100% Copper

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    14th-16th Thursday-Saturday
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