US Coins

1795 Jefferson Head cent: a coin with character

The various numismatic issues produced in early America often have “problems” that many collectors think adds to their charm.

Some issues, like adjustment marks that were present on a planchet before a coin was struck, are considered acceptable as part of the minting process. Post-production issues, like corrosion and environmental damage on copper coins and tokens, that emerge long after a coin was struck are considered problems.

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For problem coins, Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Service utilize Details grading where the sharpness is assessed and noted and the problem is identified.

Here is a coin whose special character comes from being slightly flawed.

The coin:

1795 Liberty Cap, Jefferson Head cent, Very Good Details, Excessive Corrosion

The price:


The story:

The enigmatic 1795 Liberty Cap, Jefferson Head cent is not considered to be a regular Philadelphia Mint issue, but instead was struck by John Harper as he pursued a private coining contract. It is nonetheless collected alongside regular issues and listed as Sheldon 80 in the series reference. Stack’s Bowers Galleries notes that although the exact source of the “Jefferson Head” name is unknown, it first appears in an 1864 auction catalog, where an example is found alongside copies and altered coins under the heading “Fabrications.” 

Most survivors are heavily worn, and among the three distinct “Jefferson Head” Sheldon varieties, none grades finer than Very Fine. This Plain Edge version is heavily corroded, but the distinct profile of Liberty is clear, as is the date. The reverse is less defined. The “cent,” graded Very Good Details, Excessive Corrosion by Professional Coin Grading Service, realized $14,400 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ recent Baltimore Expo auction.

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