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1793 Wreath Cent : A Collector’s Guide

1793 Wreath Cent. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1793 Wreath Cent. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek …..
 

What Is the 1793 Wreath Cent and Why Is It So Rare?

The 1793 Wreath cent is the second of three one-cent coin designs issued by the United States Mint in 1793, the inaugural year of its newly purchased Philadelphia money factory.

The change in design to the Wreath cent came about after public complaints regarding the symbolism of the chain link reverse, which some equated to bondage. Mint Director David Rittenhouse responded to these criticisms by ordering the creation of a new design. Henry Voigt was charged with creating the dies and may have been the coin’s designer.

The obverse is adapted from that of the Chain cent, with subtle modifications. The new reverse design featured an ornamental wreath, which itself was adapted from the 1792 silver center cent patterns.

Wreath cent production commenced on April 4, 1793 and continued through April 19, when the Mint ran out of copper planchets. A similar situation presented itself earlier in the year when the Chain design was being used.

On June 27,  the U.S. Mint secured sufficient stock of copper to resume coinage and produced 20,000 Wreath cents through July 1. Another spurt of 176 coins was delivered on July 17.

The final cents with the Wreath reverse were struck on September 17, 1793, as mint workers struck coins with the last of the planchets they had on hand before shutting down the presses to evacuate the city, which was experiencing a yellow fever outbreak. Also factoring into the decision to close shop was the tragic loss of Chief Engraver Joseph Wright and his wife, both of whom had succumbed to the disease the week before.

Wright’s death likely forced the Mint to introduce its third cent design in late 1793.

Deliveries of 1793 Wreath Cents
April 9, 1793 12,000 delivered April 13, 1793 6,112 delivered
April 16, 1793 8,000 delivered April 17, 1793 7,000 delivered
April 18, 1793 6,000 delivered April 19, 1793 4,240 delivered
June 28, 1793 8,000 delivered July 6, 1793 11,825 delivered
July 17, 1793 176 delivered Total: 63,353 coins

 

How Many 1793 Wreath Cents Survive?

The 1793 Wreath Cent is scarce in all grades and typically sell in damaged or well-worn conditions. It is estimated that fewer than 5,000 coins of this design survive, with most high grade examples being stowed away as keepsakes by local citizens or British merchants and collectors, who were interested in the early coinage of the former British colony.

When the large cent was discontinued in 1857, interest in collecting America’s early copper coins exploded and it was at this time that many of the lower grade examples likely were pulled out of circulation and put into coin collections.

Many of the finest surviving examples trace their provenance back to important 19th century collections. This chain-of-custody, or pedigree, is significant as collectors use this information to identify and rank known examples.

A 1793 Wreath Cent Traveled to Outer Space

A 1793 Wreath Cent was tucked away in a medical kit on board the Gemini VII capsule. Image: NASA / CoinWeek
A 1793 Wreath Cent was tucked away in a medical kit on board the Gemini VII capsule. Image: NASA / CoinWeek

Trivia: Minnesota coin dealer William J. Ulrich, Sr. (who has a strange story of his own) and flight surgeon Howard A. Miners placed a 1793 Wreath cent in the in-flight medical kit on the Gemini VII spacecraft. This incredible story is discussed in this episode of the CoinWeek Podcast.

How Much Is the 1793 Wreath Cent Worth?

The Wreath Cent is considered scarce to rare in all conditions. Low end examples, which are mostly worn are worth a minimum of $2,000. In circulated grades, problem free examples typically trade at auction for prices ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on grade.

Uncirculated examples exist, but these are quite rare. The very finest examples would sell for a $1,000,000 or more if sold at auction.

CoinWeek advises readers to only purchase 1793 Wreath Cents after they have been professionally authenticated and graded by one of the following third-party grading services: CAC, NGC, and PCGS.

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A List of Some of the Most Important 1793 Wreath Cents and Their Price History

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-5

  • PCGS MS-64+BN #26401320: S.K. Hartzfeld, 1879; S.H. and H. Chapman; Ed. Frossard – $100; George M. Parsons; Ed. Frossard, October 1884, Lot 984 – $200; Richard B. Winsor; S.H. and H. Chapman, December 1895, Lot 825 – $160; S.H. and H. Chapman; George H. Earle, Jr.; Henry Chapman, June 1912, Lot 3357 – $220; Clarence S. Bement; Henry Chapman, May 1916, Lot 287 – $520; Henry Chapman; Col. James W. Ellsworth, March 1923; Wayte Raymond; William Cutler Atwater; B. Max Mehl, June 1946, Lot 11 – $1,050; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino; from here, unknown to us… Imaged on PCGS CoinFacts. The finest known of this variety.

1793 Wreath Cent Sheldon-6, Vine and Bars Edge

Breen 7. Vine and Bars Edge. Rarity 3. Sprung die causes central part of hair detail to appear worn, even in Mint State.

  • Mint State: Clarence S. Bement; Henry Chapman, May 1915, Lot 288 – $360; Dr. George P. French, March 21, 1929. As a “Red and Olive Proof” B. Max Mehl, Fixed Price List, 1929 – $1,200; Henry A. Sternberg; J.C. Morgenthau & Co., April 1933, Lot 4 – $350; B. Max Mehl Collection, 1944; T. James Clarke, 1950; Dr. William H. Sheldon, April 19, 1972; R. E. Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino…
  • NGC MS-65: Seavey 1873; Lorin G. Parmelee, February 6, 1892; H. P. Smith; Dr. Thomas Hall; Virgil Brand, September 7, 1909; New Netherlands Coin Company; Harold Bareford July 1951; Herman Halpern, 1985; “The Herman Halpern Collection”, Stack’s, March 1988, Lot 6 – $46,750. Superior Galleries, August 1992, Lot 10 – Passed.
  • Mint State: Richard B. Winsor; S.H. and H. Chapman, December 1895, Lot 825 – $110; S.H. and H. Chapman; George H. Earle, Jr.; Henry Chapman, June 1912, Lot 3359 – $160; Henry Chapman; Col. James W. Ellsworth, March 1923; Wayte Raymond, April 1923; George H. Clapp; American Numismatic Society.

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-8

B-13, Rarity-3-. Curved sprig atop the date. Triangular “bow” of the ribbon on the reverse. Obverse die also used on Sheldon 9. Numismatist Walter Breen speculated that this die marriage produced 6,112 coins that were delivered on April 13, 1793. Diagonal die crack forms on reverse to the left of O through EN in cent down to the left leg of A to the rim.

  • PCGS AU-55 #10798714:  “The Leo Beranek Collection of Early Federal Coinage”, Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2008, Lot 2665 – $40,250.

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-9

Breen 12. Vine and Bars Edge. Curved sprig on the three leaf device between truncation and date. Large bow. Obverse also used on Sheldon 8. In Noyes Die State B, a die crack develops at the top of C in AMERICA and extending to final A. High relief dies. The most common wreath cent variety.

  • PCGS MS-69 #2368140: Virgil M. Brand; Burdette G. Johnson, 1941; Ernest Henderson, 1958; Dorothy Paschal, 1959; Dr. William H. Sheldon, April 19, 1972; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino; Superior, March 2000, Lot 67; Superior, March 2001, Lot 12; private collector; Steve Contursi; Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation; “The Cardinal Collection”, Stack’s Bowers, January 2013, Lot 13002 – $558,125; Stack’s Bowers, August 14, 2013, Lot 4019 – $481,750. Pedigree research assisted by Stack’s Bowers.
  • PCGS MS-66+BN CAC #25338683: Sylvester S. Crosby, Brand, February 7, 1941, B.G. Johnson; “The Oscar Pearl Collection”, Numismatic Gallery, 1944 Fixed Price List, Lot 7 – $1,150; “The Charles M. Williams Collection”, Numismatic Gallery, November 1950, Lot 10 – $1,175; “The R.E. ‘Ted’ Naftzger, Jr. Collection”, New Netherlands Coin Company, November 1973, Lot 330 – $14,000; Dr. Fred Yee; World Wide Coin Co., August 1975; Steve Ivy Rare Coin Co., August 1975; Bowers and Ruddy, August 1975; Dr. Herbert I Letterman; Auction ’82 – RARCOA, July 1982, Lot 510 – $38,000; Jimmy Hayes; RARCOA; Anthony Terranova; Alex Acevedo; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino; Heritage Auctions, August 1998, Lot 5852 – $138,000; “The Haig A. Koshkarian Collection”, American Numismatic Rarities, March 2004, Lot 8; “The Oliver Jung Collection”, Heritage Auctions, August 7, 2014, Lot 5520 – $528,750. Pedigree research assisted by Heritage Auctions.
  • PCGS MS-64+BN #25303657: Stack’s Bowers, January 2013, Lot 13109; Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2018, Lot 1017 – $99,000. Breen die state VII.
  • NGC XF-45BN #3909406-001: William Ulrich; while owned by Ulrich, the coin was flown 206 times around the earth aboard Gemini VII, William Fox Steinberg, privately, 1972 – $15,000; unknown intermediaries; privately to Thomas V. Tallarico, acting as purchasing agent for an anonymous collector, 1977; Tallarico Rare Coins to Paul Sims, Inc., February 17, 1987 – $20,000; unknown intermediaries. As NGC XF45 #3909406-001. Stack’s Bowers / Sotheby’s, May 20, 2015, Lot 42 – $82,250.

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-10

Rarity-4. Injured rim variety. Period after legend on reverse.

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-11A

Rarity-4+. Vine and Bars Edge.

  • PCGS AU-53+ #13666792: Tom Reynolds, December 2002; Walter J. Husak. “The Walter Husak J. Collection”, Heritage Auctions, February 2008, Lot 2010; “The Daniel W. Holmes Collection, Part I”, Goldberg Auctioneers, September 2009, Lot 18, Stack’s Bowers, August 14, 2013, Lot 4021 – $25,000 Reserve Not Met. Planchet flaw at ribbon.

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-11B

Rarity-4. Lettered Edge.

  • PCGS EF-45: Federal Coin Exchange, October 1953; Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; “The Norweb Collection, Part III”, Bowers and Merena, November 1988, Lot 2694 – $5,060; Stack’s Bowers, August 7, 2012, Lot 11182 – $30,550.

1793: Sheldon-11C

Rarity-3-. Lettered edge. Copper of inferior quality for this variety, supplied to the Mint by Greenleaf & Watson.Many have laminated planchets.

  • PCGS MS-64BN #10739381: Dr. Charles Clay; “The Dr. Charles Clay Collection”, W.H. Strobridge, December 1871, Lot 701 – $67.50; purchased by James E. Root; “The James E. Root Collection”,  Edward Cogan, December 1878, Lot 231 – $42; purchased by Lorin G. Parmelee; “The Lorin G. Parmelee Collection”, New York Coin and Stamp Company, June 1890, Lot 673 – $80; purchased by S.H. and H. Chapman, possibly for John G. Mills; “The John G. Mills Collection”, S.H. and H. Chapman, April 1904, Lot 1232 – $130; purchased by Carl Wurtzbach; Wurtzbach to Virgil Brand, privately; Brand estate; New Netherlands Coin Company to Harold Bareford; “The Bareford Collection”, Stack’s, September 1978, Lot 502 – $16,000; purchased by W.M. “Jack” Stone; Stone to Leo Baranek through Joseph Landry; “The Leo Beranek Collection of Early Federal Coinage”, Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2008, Lot 2666 – $276,000. Pedigree research assisted by Heritage Auctions.
  • PCGS AU-53 CAC #20120286: Bowers and Ruddy’s Rare Coin Review #24, Autumn 1975 – $5,500; Bowers and Ruddy, December 1975, Lot 270 – $3,850; Bowers and Ruddy’s Rare Coin Review #26, Summer 1976 – $3900; Andrew P. Lustig; Bowers and Merena, September 1985, Lot 14 – $7,700; Kagin’s, January 1986, Lot 4100 – $2,860; Andrew P. Lustig; Midwest collector; Jay Woodside; Harold “Red” Seiler; Jay Woodside, September 1993; Thomas D. Reynolds, February 1997; John B. MacDonald; Denis W. Loring; “The Denis W. Loring Collection of 1793 Large Cents”, Heritage Auctions, January 2012, Lot 3030; “The Collection of Thaddeus A. Tatum III”, Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2018, Lot 1019 – $36,000
  • “AU-55”: Robert Coulson; New York Coin & Stamp Co., January 1890, Lot 2511 – $26.50; S.H. & H. Chapman, privately; unknown intermediaries; Dr. William H. Sheldon; T. James Clarke, October 1954; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger; New Netherlands Coin Company, November 1973, Lot 334 – $6,000; Jack Beymer offered for $7,600 in his March 1978 ad in The Numismatist; Michael Elliot; Bruce Stowe, October 1995; Thomas D. Reynolds, February 1997; Denis W. Loring…

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-13

Breen 20. Re-engraved hair.

  • PCGS F-12: offered by Stack’s Bowers, 8/7/2012, #11183, $30,550.

1793 Wreath Cent, Sheldon-14

Rarity-5. Develops long die rack from Rim above E through portrait to the right of 3 to the rim.

  • PCGS AU-53 CAC #25673204: “The Henry C. Miller Collection”, Thomas L. Elder, April 1917, Lot 644 – $102.50; Henry C. Hines; Dr. William H. Sheldon; Sheraton Coin Co.; Dr. William H. Sheldon, April 1972; “R.E. ‘Ted’ Naftzger, Jr. Collection”, New Netherlands Coin Company, November 1973, Lot 336 – $3,250; First Coinvestors; Pine Tree Auctions, February 1975, Lot 599 – $3,500; William R.T. Smith; Jack H. Beymer; Albert Ault; Alfred K. Nippert, Jr.; Heritage Auctions, September 2015, Lot 3688; “The Collection of Thaddeus A. Tatum III”, Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2018, Lot 1020 – $57,600. CC#8. Pedigree research assisted by Stack’s Bowers.

1793 Wreath Cent, Strawberry Leaf Cent

1793 Wreath Cent graded G-04 by PCGS. Image: Heritage Auctions.
1793 Wreath Cent graded G-04 by PCGS. Image: Heritage Auctions.

This variety features a trefoil leaf, which does not in any way resemble a strawberry plant, on the obverse above the date. Four examples known. Carry vine and bars edge device. PCGS VG-10 is the finest. This coin was formerly graded F-12 by NGC, and was represented as such in its 2004 and 2009 auction appearances.

  • PCGS VG-10 #12952855: David Proskey; Scott & Co., October 1877, Lot 201 – $77.50; purchased by H.G. Sampson acting on behalf of Lorin G. Parmelee; “The Lorin G. Parmelee Collection”, New York Stamp and Coin Co., June 1890; Lot 671 – $79; purchased by Charles Steigerwalt, Charles Steigerwalt to Dr. Thomas Hall, privately, October 1890 – $90; The Dr. Thomas Hall Collection, en bloc, to Virgil Brand, September 7, 1909; Brand estate; consigned by Armin Brand to B.G. Johnson on February 7, 1941; purchased by James Kelly, May 1941 – $2,500; Purchased by Roscoe E. Staples – $2,750; Staples estate; “The Frog Run Farm Collection”. As NGC F12, #1827897-001. American Numismatic Rarities , November 30, 2004, Lot 130 – $414,000; Stack’s Bowers, August 5, 2009, Lot 51 – $862,500. As PCGS VG10. Stack’s Bowers, August 6, 2020; Lot 1006 – $660,000. Pedigree research assisted by Stack’s Bowers.
  • PCGS G-04: Discovered in Philadelphia by William Rabin, Rabin marketed the coin in the  September 1941 issue of The Numismatist, page 736 – $2,500; James Kelly, May 1949, Lot 1044 – $1,250; Floyd Tallmadge Starr; “The Floyd T. Starr Collection of United States Large Cents and Half Cents”, Stack’s, June 1984, Lot 7 – $51,700; Isaac Tatnall Starr, June 12, 1989; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino, October 7, 1995; Anthony Terranova, October 16, 1994; Daniel W. Holmes; “The Daniel W. Holmes Collection, Part I”, Goldberg Auctioneers, September 2009, Lot 8; Adam Mervis; “The Adam Mervis Large Cent Collection”, Heritage Auctions, January 2014, Lot 2420 – $381.875.
  • About Good: George W. Merritt; Ed Frossard, January 1879, Lot 90 – $45.50; Ferguson Haines; W. Elliott Woodward, October 1880, Lot 189 – $60; H.G. Sampson; Ferguson Haines; S.H. and H. Chapman’s sale of October 1888, Lot 846, withdrawn; Ferguson Haines; Ed Frossard, December 1894, Lot 700 – $120; J. Sanford Saltus, May 16, 1906; American Numismatic Society Collection.
  • PCGS F-02: Purportedly discovered in circulation in 1845; John Meader, December 1868; Richard B. Winsor; “The Richard B. Winsor Collection”, S.H. & H. Chapman, December 1895, Lot 823; Sylvester S. Crosby, April 1896; Dr. Thomas Hall, September 7, 1909; Virgil Brand; Brand estate, February 7, 1941; Burdette G. Johnson, September 12, 1941; James Kelly, 1941; “The Charles M. Williams Collection”, Numismatic Gallery, November 1950, Lot 6; Floyd Tallmadge Starr; “Floyd T. Starr Collection of United States Large Cents and Half Cents”, Stack’s, June 1984, Lot 6; R.E. “Ted” Naftzger, Jr., February 23, 1992; Eric Streiner; Jay Parrino, October 7, 1995; Anthony Terranova, October 16, 1995; Daniel W. Holmes; “The Daniel W. Holmes Collection, Part I”, Goldberg Auctioneers, October 2009, Lot 7; Adam Mervis; “The Adam Mervis Large Cent Collection”, Heritage Auctions; January 2014, Lot 2419 – $352,500.

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Coin Specifications

Country:  United States of America
Year Of Issue:  1793
Denomination:  One Cent (USD)
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage:  63,353
Alloy:  Copper
Weight:  13.48 g
Diameter:  26.00 to 28.00 mm
Edge:  Lettered: ONE HUNDRED FOR A DOLLAR + leaf (or two leaves)
OBV Designer  Henry Voigt
REV Designer  Henry Voigt
Quality:  Business Strike

 

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Additional Resouces

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

-. Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1814. Bowers and Merena Galleries.

Early American Coppers: www.eacs.org

Guth, Ron and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Noyes, William C. United States Large Cents 1793-1814. William C. Noyes.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

 

© Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker. Published by CoinWeek under license.

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Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker have been contributing authors on CoinWeek since 2012. They also wrote the monthly "Market Whimsy" column and various feature articles for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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