US Coins

Padula large cents collection to cross auction block

Heritage Auctions is set to present an impressive collection of large cents from the first years of the Philadelphia Mint as it offers The Padula Family Foundation Collection at its upcoming Long Beach auctions in conjunction with the Sept. 7 to 9 Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp and Sports Collectible Show in California. 

The offering represents one of the few complete Sheldon-numbered variety sets ever formed.

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A star of the collection is a 1795 Flowing Hair, Reeded Edge cent graded Genuine, Environmental Damage, by Professional Coin Grading Service. Using the grading system employed by Early American Coppers, Heritage grades it Very Good 7 sharpness, Net Good 4, commenting, “The surfaces are lightly corroded, accounting for the net grade of this piece that exhibits intermingled steel, olive, and tan on each side. The major obverse and reverse design elements are clearly visible, and the date and lettering are intact.” 

Though most examples of this variety (cataloged as Sheldon 79 in Early American Cents, later retitled Penny Whimsy, by William H. Sheldon are known with lettered edges, around 10 are known with reeded edges and examples of this rare variant continue to be discovered. The subject coin was identified just seven years ago, and Heritage writes that four of the 10 known examples emerged in the last two decades. 

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At the end of 1795 the Philadelphia Mint began striking cents at a lower weight, and production of the reeded edge variety probably started on Dec. 27, 1795, and continued through the next year, as the smaller planchets were too thin for legible edge lettering (the earlier, thicker cents had an edge inscription of the denomination). The reeded edge was abandoned the next year in favor of a plain edge. The obverse die used to strike this coin was used exclusively for the S-79 cent, but the reverse die was later utilized to strike at least six different die marriages, providing evidence that the 1795 Flowing Hair, Reeded Edge cent is a genuine product of the Philadelphia Mint and not a contemporary counterfeit. 

This coin emerged from a group of unattributed coins given to Jim Baker by his father, and later went through the hands of copper expert Greg Hannigan before selling as lot 796 in Ira and Larry Goldberg’s September 2010 Pre-Long Beach auction for $336,000 on an estimate of $200,000 and up. That catalog entry stated, “The Sheldon-79 Reeded Edge die variety has long been considered the most famous variety in the entire series of early US Large Cents, and it is the undisputed ‘key’ to completing a collection of the numbered Sheldon die varieties of 1793-1814 cents.” It is listed as a distinct variety in A Guide Book of United States Coins, better known as the “Red Book.” 

Worn, but still recognizable

Another popular variety among early large cents is the 1794 Liberty Cap, Starred Reverse cent, S-48, which was discovered in 1878 and is distinguished by 94 tiny stars punched in the dentils on the reverse. PCGS has graded the Padula example Genuine, Environmental Damage, with Heritage providing an EAC grade of Good 4 sharpness, Net Fair 2. 

The Starred Reverse variety is distinct and can be identified by the reverse alone, so the absence of a sharp date does not preclude attribution. It too sold at the aforementioned Goldberg auction, as lot 775, where it brought $7,140 on an estimate of $6,000 and up. There the catalogers observed, “Very fine porosity covers portions of the obverse, and this roughness nearly obliterates the date. LIBERTY is weak but remains readable.” A third of the tiny stars remain visible, most prominently seen in the lower left portion. 

Another large cent that can be identified by its reverse alone is the 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent. The Padula Family Collection offers buyers multiple opportunities to add an example of this one-year type coin at various price points, including an affordable Sheldon 2 cent graded PCGS Genuine, Environmental Damage, with Heritage providing an EAC grade of About Good 3 Sharpness with a Fair 2 Net grade. Only the 9 in the date is visible, but the chain remains strong, making it instantly recognizable. 

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