US Coins

1831 Matron Head cent has a uniface strike

The fact that a unique coin does not necessarily have to be an expensive coin was born out in Heritage’s recent auctions at the Denver American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money when a uniface error realized well under $1,000.

The coin is an 1831 Matron Head, Medium Letters cent with a normal obverse and a blank reverse — a form of error coin called a uniface piece. The error resulted when two planchets were fed into the coining press at the same time. Two uniface errors would have been created, each unique, with one bearing a blank obverse face and normal reverse face, and the subject coin with the mirror opposite configuration.

The reverse face of this piece, while lacking design elements, does feature incused regions opposite the raised areas on the obverse, including a central depression opposite the portrait of Liberty.

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As with all striking errors, uniface errors are generally unique in that they are not die varieties but instead are the product of an entirely random event occurring at the moment of striking.

The coin bears the obverse used for the Newcomb 2 and Newcomb 3 die marriages as cataloged by Howard Newcomb in United States Copper Cents, 1816–1857.  According to the cataloger in the Heritage auction, “The obverse is the die that was used to create N-2 and N-3, both Medium Letters varieties despite the Large Letters designation that PCGS has assigned.” The exact variety cannot be determined because of the lack of the reverse design, which would identify the specific reverse die and thus the die marriage.

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Professional Coin Grading Service assigned a grade of Very Fine 35 to the coin, a strong indication that the lack of a reverse design did not deter the coin’s use in circulation. The coins has an Early American Coppers grade of Very Fine 20. Members of EAC, a club for collectors of pre-U.S. Mint copper coins and of half cents and large cents struck by the Philadelphia Mint, use somewhat different criteria for grading large cents than the major grading services do.

The catalog description notes “Light corrosion appears on the dappled brown and steel surfaces of this error large cent.”

The coin realized $646.20 in the auction, showing that an error with a spectacular appearance can sell for a price that is within the affordability range for many collectors.

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