Near-Census 1793 S-4 Chain Cent, Periods Obverse1793 Chain 1C Periods AU50 PCGS. S-4, B-5, R.3. Bland XF40; tied for CC-7. Noyes VF35; tied for CC-8. Photo #31155. Our EAC Grade XF45.
Equivalents. Crosby-Levick 3B; Frossard 2; Proskey 4; Doughty 4; Crosby 4-C; McGirk 1-F; EAC 5; Encyclopedia 1636; PCGS #91341.
Variety. Periods follow the date and LIBERTY. Full legend, AMERICA. The obverse appears on S-4. The reverse appears on S-2, S-3, S-4, and NC-1.
Surfaces. The pleasing surfaces of this lovely piece display mottled dark brown and golden-olive color. The obverse has a nearly invisible hairline in the lower right field. Only faint evidence of porosity is noted on the reverse. It is sharply struck with excellent details on the portrait and the chain, standing boldly against the field. The date and all of the obverse and reverse lettering are complete and fully outlined with a raised border.
Die State III. This is a late die state piece with a small die chip where the two obverse cracks join at 7 o'clock. An earlier crack has already joined the bases of BERTY and extends faintly through the period into the right obverse field. Slight clash marks are visible from the nose down to the bust point.
The first reverse with abbreviated legend only lasted for about 6,000 coins before the die broke apart. The second reverse die was used to produce about 30,000 coins and appears to remain fully serviceable in the latest states of this variety at the time of the change to the Wreath design.
Appearances. The obverse and reverse are illustrated in Noyes (2006).
Census. The Mickley-Crosby coin and the Parmelee-Brand specimen are both Mint State. The Eliasberg example plated in Breen's Large Cent Encyclopedia is considered AU, and all other known examples grade no better than XF. Opportunities are limited when searching for a high-grade example of the S-4 die marriage.
Commentary. This is the last Chain cent coined, as the supply of blank planchets was exhausted during the second week of March 1793. Due to public criticism of the design, the new Wreath dies were prepared for further cent coinage.
An oft-quoted contemporary commentary was published Claypoole's Daily Advertiser on March 18, 1793, and reprinted in Breen's Large Cent Encyclopedia: "The American cents (says a letter from Newark) do not answer our expectations. The chain on the reverse is but a bad omen for liberty, and Liberty herself appears to be in a fright. May she not justly cry out in the words of the Apostle, 'Alexander the coppersmith hath done me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works!'"
The engraver of this obverse included periods after the date and LIBERTY. The engraving style is entirely different from the previous obverse dies, and is likely that the Periods obverse is from a different hand. Walter Breen believed that similarities between this piece and the 1792 pattern quarter, which also has periods as part of the design, point to Joseph Wright as the engraver.
Researcher R.W. Julian notes that Wright and Adam Eckfeldt have both been suggested, but that both must be discounted. In "Aspects of the Copper Coinage, 1793-1796" presented at the 1996 ANS Coinage of the Americas Conference, Julian rules out Wright on the basis that the engraving was below his skill as an artisan. Julian rules out Eckfeldt because he was not an official Mint employee until January 1, 1796. While Julian's comments were specifically in regard to the new Wreath design, they are equally appropriate for this final Chain cent variety.
Alexander Hamilton's 1791 report recommended that the copper coins be made of full value: "It may, perhaps, be thought expedient, according to general practice, to make the copper coinage an object of profit, but, where this is done to any considerable extent, it is hardly possible to have effectual security against counterfeits. This consideration, concurring with the soundness of the principle of preserving the intrinsic value of the money of a country, seems to outweigh the consideration of profit." Hamilton continued: "Taking the weight, as has been suggested, the size of the cent may be nearly that of the piece herewith transmitted, which weighs 10 dwt. 11 grs. 10 m. Two-thirds of the diameter of the cent will suffice for the diameter of the half cent."
It is regrettable that there is no specific record of "the piece herewith transmitted," although it was likely a European copper piece. The weight translates to just over 251 grains, or about 15 grams. We are unaware of any contemporary Colonial issues that meet this weight standard.
Provenance. Charles M. Williams (Numismatic Gallery, 11/1950), lot 5, $210; Harold Bareford (9/1985); Herman Halpern (Stack's, 3/1988), lot 4, $19,800; David Bloom; Dennis Irving Long (Bowers and Merena, 1/1990), lot 14, $34,100; Dr. Eugene Sherman (12/1996); John B. MacDonald; Denis W. Loring.
Personality. Dennis Irving Long, a fourth-generation Kentuckian, was educated at Yale and served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. In addition to operating the family horse farm and associated breeding business, Long was involved in various other business activities, including motion pictures, shopping malls, and real estate development. (NGC ID# 223F, Variety PCGS# 35444, Base PCGS# 91341)
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