An astute Pennsylvania coin auctioneer's belief that a consignor's
collection contained a rare large cent variety resulted in the coin
being submitted and professionally certified as a genuine 1794 Liberty
Cap, Starred Reverse cent.
The coin was excavated by its owner years ago while metal
detecting, but he was unaware that it was a rare variety. The coin is
one of between 50 and 60 examples known of the die variety, classified
as Sheldon 48 in Penny Whimsy by William H. Sheldon.
ANACS authenticated and encapsulated the coin as “Good 4 Details, Corroded.”
The variety is referred to as a Starred Reverse because of the
minute 94 five-pointed stars that encircle the coin between or
partially covered by the 83 dentils on the border. The purpose of the
stars is unknown.
The Starred Reverse cent is one of the classic rarities in the
early large cents. Knowledgeable collectors finding a 1794 Liberty Cap
cent and recognizing the Young Head portrait will quickly turn the
coin over to examine the reverse for evidence of the stars. The same
obverse was used for the S-47, S-49 and NC-9 (noncollectible)
varieties, but only the S-48 marriage features the Starred Reverse.
The obverse can be identified by two dentils that are conjoined below
and to the left of the numeral 1 in the date.
While the majority of U.S. coins depict stars, stars have been
used infrequently as a completely encircling border device. Stars were
first used as a border device on the 1792 quarter dollar patterns,
Judd 12 and Judd 13 (United States Pattern Coins, Experimental
& Trial Pieces by J. Hewitt Judd, edited by Q. David
Bowers). Those patterns (Judd 12 in copper; Judd 13 in white metal)
have 87 stars along the border on the reverse.
In addition, Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles, struck from
1907 to 1933, depict 46 or 48 stars along the rim, though a gap in the
border of stars appears from 5:00 to 6:30.
The number of 1794 Liberty Cap, Starred Reverse cents is unknown.
The reported mintage of 1794 cents is 918,521 representing all die varieties.
The auctioneer for the new discovery, Russell S. Wolfe Jr. from
Myerstown, said the coin was sold in his May 21 auction in Lebanon,
Pa., for $5,500, to a Pennsylvania dealer, Ray Copenhaver, from
Copenhaver Coin Exchange in Hummelstown.
Copenhaver, who said he enjoys collecting pieces with interesting
stories behind them, plans to hold on to the coin for the time being.
Wolfe, with 32 years of experience in numismatics, including
conducting auctions offering all types of items since 1989, said a
collector in his 70s had brought his collection to Wolfe for
consignment to his next available auction.
Wolfe said that at no time did the collector indicate that he
might have any rarities within the consignment. Wolfe said while
cataloging each of the coins in the consignment for the auction, he
stopped when he inspected the heavily corroded cent that he suspected
to be the S-48 1794 Liberty Cap, Starred Reverse cent.
Wolfe said he informed the collector of his suspicions. He said
the collector was not aware that the corroded coin was a rare variety.
The coin was sent to ANACS for authentication, and the results
confirmed Wolfe’s suspicions.
ANACS Senior Numismatist Michael Fahey said he was able to quickly
identify the obverse as being the correct portrait. He said despite
the corrosion and heavy wear, a sufficient number of stars are still
visible and positioned in the correct orientation to enable the coin
to be certified as a genuine S-48 variety.
The finest known 1794 Liberty Cap, Starred Reverse cent, graded
About Uncirculated 50 by Professional Coin Grading Service, was sold
by Heritage Numismatic Auctions on Feb. 14, 2008, for $632,500. ■