US Coins

1848 large cents highlight Ellsworth offering in Ira & Larry Goldberg sale

A collection of large cents from former American Numismatic Association president Col. Steven Ellsworth will be offered at Ira & Larry Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach Auction on Sept. 26.

Three 1848 Braided Hair cents show the rich collecting opportunities present in late-date large cents of the 1840 to 1857 era. Additional auction sessions on Sept. 27, 28 and 29 focus on U.S. coins and currency, along with ancient and world numismatics.

1848 is typically a common date among large cents, but the date has some rare varieties to tempt specialists, like the Newcomb 46 die marriage. It was only discovered in 1991 by Tom Wagemaker, who retains the discovery coin, which grades about Fine, and only five other examples have been uncovered since.

The Ellsworth example of the variety is graded Fine Details, Damage, by Professional Coin Grading Service, and the Goldbergs grade it Fine 12 Sharpness. The cataloger observes, “There is a rather deep dig at the right side of star 6, the rim over star 7 was slightly flattened, and there is a small splash of silvery solder or plating at the dentils under star 12. ... A decent example of one of the three rarest business strike varieties in the 1840–1857 series (the other two varieties are unique).”

It has spent time in both the Dan Holmes and the R. S. Brown Jr. collections, and the envelopes and lot tickets for these two prominent collections accompany the lot, which has an estimated value of $7,000 and up.

Among the prettiest of the Ellsworth coins is an N-44 1848 Braided Hair cent graded Mint State 65 brown by PCGS, with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, that has a high estimate of $5,500. It is a scarce variety in the series and is considered as one of the finest-known examples, if not the finest-known, in the major condition censuses for the variety. The cataloger praises its smooth, matte surfaces, observing “lustrous olive and bluish steel brown with faded mint red covering at least 10% of both sides.” Identifying characteristics to help future owners identify this example include “a subtle splash of slightly darker toning on the neck just left of the middle curl and a speck of planchet slag in the field near the dentils under the wreath (as struck).”

A privately struck 1848-dated “Small Date Fantasy Cent” is one of just 11 examples known, and it has long been collected alongside regular issue examples. PCGS graded the Ellsworth example Very Fine 20, and the Goldbergs describe its smooth, glossy surfaces “void of any trace of corrosion or roughness.” The dies are slightly misaligned, resulting in the obverse and reverse both being a bit off-center, and it has an extensive provenance that traces back to the mid-19th century, as J.N.T. Levick owned one in 1865, with some suggesting that it was a circa 1850 production intended as a contemporary counterfeit to pass in circulation. Indeed, the cataloger writes, “This is the discovery piece for the ‘variety’ and it comes with one of the most distinguished provenances for any large cent,” along with an estimate of $7,000 and up.

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