Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.
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A PENNY STORY COLLECTION: The cent so good they made it twice
This 1804 cent, graded AU-55 by PCGS sold for $80,500 at the Heritage Auctions January 2010 Florida United Numismatists show sale. In 2013, the coin, which had acquired a gold CAC sticker, sold for $223,250 at a Stack’s Bowers sale.
In the early days of the U.S. Mint, the date on a coin didn’t necessarily mean the year the coin was struck. It meant the year the die was created. Dies were used until they wore out, regardless of the date on them. Until around 1800 to 1802, it didn’t matter much, because most dies didn’t last that long. But, when the Mint switched to better steel, die life improved dramatically.
While some 756,838 cents were produced in 1804, all but a comparative handful were dated 1803 or before. Only one cent die was produced in 1804. That die failed in service, after striking an estimated perhaps 60,000 coins.
Today the 1804 cent is scarce, all but unknown in uncirculated condition. A coin graded About Uncirculated 55 by Professional Coin Grading Service sold for $223,250 in 2012.
Grading of early coppers can be a contentious issue, with one person’s Fine being another’s Extra Fine.
Early collectors found the coin so difficult to obtain that, some time about 1860, unknown collectors, perhaps Joseph Mickley and Edward Cogan, produced their own from worn-out dies the Mint had sold as scrap years before.
The recoiners altered an 1803 obverse die to 1804 and married it to a reverse of 1820 to produce what collectors call the 1804 “restrike.”
The coin, which is usually found in high grade, is a beloved novelty with a prominent obverse die crack and widespread rust. It sells for about $1,100 in Mint State 60.
It’s the coin so good they made it twice.