US Coins

Arizona Collection of U.S. Large Cents to be sold at FUN

The Arizona Collection of high-end U.S. large cents is one of the highlights of Heritage’s Jan. 6 to 10 Florida United Numismatists auctions in Orlando.

Last year’s FUN auctions realized $76 million, with six coins that passed the seven-figure mark, five of which topped $2 million each.

This year’s sale includes plenty of magnificent coins to supply an inventory-hungry market. 

A Sheldon 2 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent has the original surfaces and outstanding eye appeal that characterizes the Arizona Collection. Graded Mint State 64 brown by Professional Coin Grading Service, it is one of the finest-known of all Chain cents and has a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker reflecting its quality within the grade.

The Chain cents were the first of three types struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1793, followed by the Flowing Hair, Wreath and the Liberty Cap, Wreath cents. While Mint records are not complete, the Chain cents were probably struck in March 1793.

The cent in the auction has a diagnostic mark to help identify it: “A tiny planchet mark appears below the chin and microscopic planchet flakes under the chin, remaining from inadequate striking pressure.” It was last offered by Heritage in 2014 where it realized $396,562.50, and its detailed provenance goes back to the mid-20th century.

The Arizona Collection’s S-10 (as cataloged by Dr. William H. Sheldon’s book Penny Whimsy) 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath, Vine and Bars Edge cent is also graded MS-64 brown by PCGS and has a green CAC sticker. Interpretation of Mint records suggest that the variety may have been delivered April 13, 1793.

The offered example presents “fully lustrous chocolate-brown surfaces, with hints of faded mint red at the date and along the border dentils, especially on the obverse.” It has a provenance that goes back to the late 19th century and most recently sold at a 2016 Ira and Larry Goldberg sale for $108,688 where they called it “nearly flawless in every respect,” reporting, “The only defect is a tiny mint-made planchet flake on the cheek near the ear lobe.”

Starry, starry 1794 cent

Certainly one of the most exciting coins in the collection is the discovery coin that introduced the S-48 1794 Liberty Cap, Starred Reverse cent to numismatics. The reverse has 94 small stars intermixed with the border dentils, a detail unique to this variety.

Al Boka’s exhaustive website, 1794largecents.com, reports 72 examples of the variety, of which Heritage considers this the fifth finest.

Heritage shared, “According to numismatic lore, the Chapman Brothers were examining large cents in 1877 while Dr. Edward Maris observed. Henry stated: ‘Here is a die with minute stars around the reverse.’ Maris confirmed that the variety was previously unknown. The present example is the very same cent that Henry Chapman held in his hands when he discovered the variety.” The reasons why the stars were added remain debated in absence of Mint records, with some suggesting a commemorative purpose and others attributing it to a moment of whimsey at the Philadelphia Mint.

Heritage previously sold it in 2016 as part of the Jon Alan Boka Collection for $258,500, where that consignor shared, “I learned of the possible availability of this highly desirable Starred Reverse through the ‘rumor mill’ and made contact with the owner, Richard Pearl. He knew of me from my book Provenance Gallery of the Year 1794 United States Large Cents that was published in 2005. We discussed this coin several times over the phone. Richard was keenly aware of the dignity of this ‘trophy piece’ and sincerely cared about who its next owner would be. He felt that this coin should not be sold to ‘just anyone’ looking to make a buck but to someone who would truly cherish it for the ‘right reasons.’ After several phone conversations we agreed to meet, he traveling from Florida and I from Las Vegas, face to face at the upcoming Early American Coppers convention in Annapolis. There, he ‘wanted to get to know me’ in order to evaluate if I was worthy of owning this coin. We did meet and after an hour or so of ‘tête-à-tête’ we agreed to a deal.”

The offered cent benefits from a bold strike, with every individual star fully visible, with Heritage observing, “Lovely olive and chocolate-brown surfaces host a few scattered marks and faint hairlines that have no effect on this cent’s beauty or importance.”

A top 1797 cent

Another standout is the finest-known S-140 1797 Draped Bust, Reverse of 1797 cent graded PCGS MS-66 red and brown. Heritage writes, “This cent is stunning, and it is hard to imagine it should even exist,” suggesting, “most likely it was tucked away shortly after being struck, and then remained hidden from the numismatic world for well over a century.”

It was offered in Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ March 2017 auction of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part V, where that cataloger observed, “Profound cartwheel rolls over both obverse and reverse, enlivening mint red that dominates the obverse and the highlights of gold, blue, and faded mint color on the frosty medium brown and steel reverse,” and there it realized $82,250.

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