Famous 'Bisecting Crack' 1793 S-14 Cent

    1793 1C Liberty Cap. XF45 PCGS. S-14, B-17, Low R.5. Bland VF35; tied for CC-5. Noyes VF35; tied for CC-4. Photo #25008. Our EAC Grade VF35.

    Crosby-Levick 11J; Frossard 12; Proskey 15; Doughty 15; Crosby 13-L; McGirk 3-C; EAC 17; Encyclopedia 1647; PCGS #1359.

    The Bisecting Crack. Leaf triplet is positioned below OF. The obverse appears on S-14. The reverse appears on S-13, S-14, S-16, and NC-6. Lettered Edge, one leaf.

    A well struck example with smooth dark chocolate color and some lighter tan on both sides. Each side has a few minuscule surface marks that are consistent with the grade. Although imperfectly centered, the obverse and reverse have full and complete border beads. The obverse has a small rim bruise over Y, and the reverse has a few insignificant edge nicks.

    Die State III.
    sharp strike of this example particularly emphasizes the prominent obverse die crack. There is no evidence of the clash marks of Breen's State II, but there is evidence of the reverse die bulge of Breen's State III.

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

    Census. This example is well within the traditional Condition Census of the top six examples, ranking either fourth or fifth depending on which source is consulted. The finest known grades just XF45 and the ANS holds an XF40, making the present specimen even more desirable. Most known examples are in lower grades and easily identified, as the die crack is visible in nearly any grade.

    Commentary. With a surviving population of about 70 pieces, the Bisecting Crack is the second most common variety of the six 1793 Liberty Caps, although it is substantially rarer than Sheldon-13. The rarity of this variety has remained essentially unchanged since 1949, when Sheldon gave it an R.5 rating. Perhaps the stable rarity rating is due to the recognizable nature of the obverse.

    Dr. Charles E. McGirk compiled and published a study in 20 parts in The Numismatist from April 1913 to December 1914. At the time, other published references included Crosby on 1793s, Frossard and Hays on 1794s, Gilbert and Elder on 1796s, Frossard's Monograph, Proskey's study, and Doughty's study for all years. Breen commented in his Large Cent Encyclopedia that "McGirk numbers occasionally appeared on cents in auctions and old collections, but for various reasons (among others, numerous errors, lack of a meaningful sequence, listing die cracks as new varieties, and lack of usable illustrations) the system was forgotten. Later monographs ignored the McGirk numbers. McGirk's work, if better done, might have replaced the Doughty reference."

    A completed coinage die was not ready for use until it was hardened. The February 1826 issue of The Franklin Journal described the hardening process, quoted in Breen's Large Cent Encyclopedia: "The general method of hardening this metal is to heat it red hot, and then plunge it into cold water, and sometimes into mercury, in order to reduce its temperature as quickly as possible." Craig Sholley notes that the hardening process was the "moment of truth" once a die was engraved. Many dies cracked or shattered during the process. Others only hardened near the edges, and cracked or broke upon first use. It was the results of this procedure, according to Sholley, that have often been described as "poor die steel." There is little doubt that the hardening process resulted in the Bisecting Crack variety.

    Provenance. A.H. Baldwin & Sons, Ltd. (London, 5/1954); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 2697, $26,500; Anthony Terranova; Auction '89 (David Akers), lot 1004, $30,800; Samuel Spatzer (Esquire Coin Co.); Douglas F. Bird and Lou Rasera (Southland Coins and Currency); Daniel W. Holmes, Jr.

    Personality. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Daniel W. Holmes, Jr. is CEO of Morrison Products, Inc., manufacturers of electric fans. He began collecting in 1948, when he was 10 years old. He has been a member of EAC since 1973 and currently serves as the organization's president. Holmes has formed the most complete variety collection ever assembled, lacking just two pieces to complete his entire collection from 1793 to 1857 by die variety.

    Sheldon-15. Single bead dots the I; lowest curl is heavy. Single leaf is positioned below OF. The obverse appears on S-15 and S-16. The reverse appears on S-12 and S-15. Lettered Edge, one leaf.

    Sheldon-15 is one of just three Sheldon numbers missing from the Husak Collection. The others are the 1795 Reeded Edge (S-79), and the 1795 Jefferson Head (S-80). Sheldon-15 was produced by a combination of obverse and reverse dies used for other 1793 Liberty Cap cents. Current census details show exactly 12 examples of the S-15 known today, with the finest known piece in the ANS collection, grading Fine 12. (NGC ID# 223L, Variety PCGS# 35492, Base PCGS# 1359)

    Weight: 13.48 grams

    Metal: 100% Copper

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

    View all of [The Walter J. Husak Collection ]

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