US Coins

Husak’s large cents approach $7 million in Jan. 4 Orlando FUN auction

Heritage and Early Cents Auctions’ Jan. 4 offering of large cents from the collection of Walter J. Husak and the Liberty Cap Foundation realized $6,845,461 at the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando.

Leading bidding at $432,000 was a 1794 Liberty Cap cent, Head of 1793, Edge of 1794 cent listed as Sheldon-18b in Penny Whimsy and graded Mint State 64 brown by Professional Coin Grading Service with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. The price might be perceived as a disappointment, considering it had sold for $540,500 at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ and Sotheby’s March 31, 2017, auction of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part V, and before that realized $881,250 at Stack’s Bowers’ Cardinal Collection offering in January 2013. The 2013 offering marked its first presentation at auction in a century, and its illustrious pedigree goes back to the mid-19th century.

The variety is known by Liberty’s double chin, “so named because of pronounced doubling of a certain area of Miss Liberty’s face,” as described in the 2013 offering. The Pogue cataloger noted, “large cent aficionados have long focused uncharitably on the double chin that gives this variety its moniker,” before calling it “one of the most magnificent 1794 cents of any variety extant...its distinctive surfaces offer a glimpse of what the first 1794 cents looked like when they left the Mint.” In the most recent offering it carried an Early American Coppers grade of MS-63 under the distinct standards of that organization, and the cataloger praised the essentially flawless planchet and remarkable eye appeal.

Chameleon 1793 Chain cent

The runner-up in the sale was a handsome 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent graded About Uncirculated 58 by PCGS, with a green CAC sticker, that sold for $348,000. Listed as Sheldon-1 with the AMERI. reverse, it is the first large cent issued for circulation by the Philadelphia Mint and always popular as a one-year type.

Heritage noted “very attractive glossy chocolate brown with frosty bluish steel overtones in the fields,” adding, “Peeps of faded mint red show in protected areas on both sides.” Some contact marks include a thin diagonal nick on the final digit of the date and two smaller nicks above it, along with a pair of faint parallel diagonal hairline scratches on the forehead.

The cataloger also observed that it was removed from a Numismatic Guaranty Co. MS-62 brown slab before being provided an EAC grade of AU-55. Its provenance begins in New York City when it was brought to Sotheby Parke Bernet by a lady, in a group of otherwise undistinguished coins and tokens. Heritage presented two photos of it online, showing its distinctly changeable appearance under differing lighting conditions.

Affordable and interesting

At the other end of the price spectrum were three coins that sold for under $1,000 each, including two that each realized $960. A 1796 Draped Bust, Reverse of 1795 cent of the S-92 variety graded PCGS, Fine Details, Damaged, carried an EAC grade of Very Good 10 and the reasonably smooth surfaces showed a few contact marks.

An 1800 Draped Bust cent of the NC-3 Sheldon variety graded PCGS Good Details, Cleaned, featured somewhat smooth chocolate and steel brown surfaces with a few contact marks, and some microscopic roughness in the fields.

The NC is used in Dr. William Herbert Sheldon’s book to denote coins that were non-collectible, and it also includes those discovered after the 1976 edition of the book. Unlike with Sheldon numbers that begin at S-1 with the 1793 cents and end at S-295 with the 1814 Classic Head, Plain 4 cent, the NC numbers start each year anew with NC-1.

Husak began collecting coins as a teenager in the 1950s and purchased his first large cent in 1980. Heritage sold an earlier collection of Sheldon varieties assembled by Husak in 2008 for more than $10 million, and in the 15 years since the first collection sold, the collector reacquired 35 of the cents from the original collection. Early Cents Auctions president Chris McCawley said the most recent offering included “possibly the finest set of 1794 Liberty Cap cents ever assembled,” while Heritage Senior Numismatist Mark Borckardt praised the more than 200 Sheldon varieties represented and eight coins with a continuous provenance to the 1790s. 

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