US Coins

Market Analysis: MS-64 brown 1839 ‘Silly Head’ cent brings $3,000 in Pre-Long Beach auction

Collectors love the range of 1839 Coronet cents in large part because of the colorful nicknames, such as for the design variant called “Silly Head,” which can be easily identified by the addition of a lock of hair on the forehead. 

The nicknames “Silly Head” and “Booby Head” gained popularity in the 1850s. As Stack’s wrote in its offering of the Marvin Taichert collection in 2001, the terms recognized Liberty’s “rather goofy looking appearance” on several dies that struck 1839 Coronet cents. Stack’s added, “When first used they were not confined to a particular type, as they are today.”

A look at 19th century catalogs shows that the two terms were interchangeable and they were standardized in the mid-1860s by coin dealer E.L. Mason. The Stack’s cataloger concluded, “ ‘Silly’ and ‘Booby’ are really synonyms and so their appropriate application, while now mandatory, was originally arbitrary.” 

Collector John Pijewski’s example of the “Silly Head” Newcomb 9 cent, was graded Mint State 64+ brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and carried a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker. The Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers’ cataloger observed, “The only defect is a spot of fine carbon on the hair under the bun.” It was previously offered at Heritage’s Nov. 1, 2017, auction of the Eric P. Newman Collection where it brought $2,880.

In Long Beach, in the Westwood Collection, Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers sold it for $3,000. 

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