Gem Brown 1795 Lettered Edge Cent, S-75
    Among the Finest Known
    Provenance More Than a Century Long

    1795 1C Lettered Edge MS65 Brown PCGS. CAC. S-75, B-3, R.3. Breen Die State V. Struck from dies engraved by John Smith Gardner, at least in part, during his short-lived tenure at the fledgling first Mint. Three obverse dies and three reverse dies were employed to strike 37,000 Lettered Edge large cents dated 1795, with a resulting four die marriages. Another 501,500 cents would later be struck, but at a lighter weight and with a plain edge. Since, according to Breen, it cost the government $1.22 to produce 100 one cent pieces in 1795, President Washington verbally authorized Mint Director Elias Boudinot to reduce the weight of each planchet from 208 grains to 168 grains. As a result, collectors today have two types of cents to collect for the year 1795: Lettered Edge cents struck on thick planchets and Plain Edge cents produced on thin copper stock.

    Breen's research of documents in the National Archives led to the following conclusions in his Complete Encyclopedia:

    "Because of the need for numerous dies for dollars and half dollars early in 1795, cent coinage was interrupted until the following October. The next cent delivery was 37,000 lettered edge 1795's, December 1, from three pairs of dies, their obverses from Gardner's device punch." He explains of the 1795 Plain Edge cents: "Between December 28 and 31, 1795, the third pair of dies (Sheldon 76) went back to press, producing 45,000 cents at the new weight, delivered Jan. 1, 1796. From then through March 12 there were 456,500 more, making 501,500 in all."

    According to Breen's figures, that would put the ratio of 1795 Plain Edge cents to Lettered Edge cents at over 13:1. However, a survey of current population and other data paints a drastically different picture, suggesting a ratio closer to 4:1. Students of early American coinage know that recorded mintage figures are not indicative of what actually happened for a variety of reasons and do not necessarily correlate to current survival rates. Many factors come into play, including meltings and coins struck with dies dated from a different year. And the population data of third party certification companies have their own flaws. However, if Breen's interpretation of mintage and delivery numbers are correct, we have yet another numismatic mystery on our hands.

    Regardless of how many Lettered Edge pieces were actually struck, numismatists today understand that Lettered Edge 1795 cents are noticeably more difficult to locate than their Plain Edge transitional counterparts. But when dealing with a coin such as this piece, conditional rarity and aesthetic qualities rise above all statistics and one becomes mesmerized by the state of preservation of a coin from such a historic period of our infant country. This early copper is literally of the highest quality obtainable. PCGS has certified an amazingly low total of seven pieces in MS65 Brown designation and three MS65 Red and Brown level with none finer (2/13) Those totals are likely skewed by resubmissions, but to what extent is unknown. For early copper aficionados, the Noyes Condition Census places this piece as tied for the fourth finest known, along with the Smithsonian and the Parmelee specimens.

    Vibrant, velvety mint luster dances upon surfaces that are relatively free of abrasions or distractions. An indistinct strike-through error, perhaps lint, below the E in STATES is not to be confused with postmint damage. Rather, it is an artifact of the minting process and does not impact the grade, yet it does serve as a pedigree marker. Despite the PCGS Brown designation, tinges of mint red can be observed within the protected areas, testimony that this particular coin was carefully handled and stored from the time it was struck. A review of its impressive provenance is clear proof that this example was in the safe hands of knowledgeable numismatists during the past century-plus. Our EAC grade MS62.
    Ex: Benjamin H. Collins; Dr. Thomas Hall (7/1897); Virgil Brand (9/1909); Charles R. Mathewson to Copley Coin Company; later, Dorothy Paschal (1955); Charles E. Harrison; Haig Koshkarian; Jay Parrino (1992); Superior Galleries (7/1993), lot 12; Allan Kollar, Superior Galleries (5/2005), lot 1014; American Numismatic Rarities (1/2006), lot 22; Madison Collection / FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 2669.
    From The Jim O'Neal Collection.(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 223S, PCGS# 1377)

    Weight: 10.89 grams

    Metal: 100% Copper

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

    View all of [Selections From The Jim O'Neal Collection ]

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