US Coins

Large cents from 1879 collection highlights auction

Just like collectors today, in the 19th century collectors putting together sets got stuck when filling in the key dates. A set that illustrates a coin collector’s challenge, from more than a century before slabs changed the way we collect, will be offered in a Nov. 28 auction by Numismatic Auctions LLC in Okemos, Mich. 

Among the lots in the varied 1,148-lot auction is a large cent collection in old Wayte Raymond boards that was purchased by Herman M. Atwood from Philadelphia dealer W.J. Peiper in 1879. 

The Early Date cents (1793 to 1814) have been removed from this set to be listed as either single or multiple coin lots in the auction, including a 1793 Flowing Hair cent graded by auctioneer Steve Davis as Very Good by wear, with medium brown patina over finely granular surfaces with tiny pits and several rim bumps. The still-pleasing type coin originally cost Atwood $3 in 1879. 

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The remaining 42 large cents dated between 1816 and 1857 will be offered as a single lot, accompanied by a four-page letter from Peiper to Atwood dated March 19, 1879. 

The letter reads: “... Dear Sir, Your order has been filled. Allow me to add a few remarks. The 1793 Chain Ameri (not present) was very hard to obtain. I only could get one. I’ll send you another in the course of a week — Also the 1804 — I sent one — its cheapness owing to its condition — to get you a fine one would cost $10 to $20 and this will answer for the present. I’ll send another with the 1793 next week. I could not get a Common 1799 — The best cost $25 — am sorry I could not get you one ... I could send you better coins for higher prices ... The following is a list of the rarest coins — others are rare, but these are the very rarest ... I have a beautiful Proof set of coins (1868) I’ll sell for $6.00 ... W.J. Peiper.” The set includes a list of the Early Date large cents and their costs in 1879.

Numismatists today know that the 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent and the 1804 Draped Bust cents are keys to the early large cent series. But surprisingly, the 1799 Draped Bust cent was not mentioned in the letter. 

While the set contained a large cent carrying this date, the example is probably a 1798 Draped Bust cent with the second “8” engraved into a “9” in a crude fashion that indicates that it was likely a space filler for the 19th century collector. Collectors today can relate to the desire to fill an empty hole in an album, even if the coin isn’t quite consistent with the other coins in a given set. 

The “1799” cent — offered as a single lot in Davis’s auction — is referenced in the Peiper letter, “I could not get a Common 1799 — The best cost $25 …” Today, a filler heavily circulated 1799 Draped Bust cent with a problem might cost $2,000. 

The earlier Coronet cents (1816 to 1839) in the lot are graded by the auctioneer at an average grade of Very Good to Fine, with some showing evidence of an old cleaning or typical problems like light corrosion. The Late Date Coronet cents from 1840 to 1857 are finer, with an average grade of nearly Very Fine. Davis says that the lot provides a nice opportunity for a collector to own a collection assembled more than a century ago. 

Engraved 1795 silver dollar

Another fascinating lot is a 1795 Flowing Hair dollar with an extensively engraved obverse that reads, “L.M. Dumon, Vevay, Ind., Switzerland Co.,” in cursive with scribed texture in the obverse fields. 

Vevay is the county seat of Switzerland County in Indiana and its population was 1,683 at the 2010 census. The dollar comes from the Myron Xenos – Money Tree Collection and has Very Fine details. A hole is noted under the 7 in the date relative to the obverse. 

The “Love token,” which seems to serve a more functional or commemorative versus a romantic purpose, provides an opportunity for a budget-minded collector to add this challenging type coin to his or her collection. 

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