By James McCartney – Senior Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
The Sheldon-48 Starred Reverse 1794 Liberty Cap cent is one of the most popular, eagerly sought, and also enigmatic varieties in the early large cent series. The reason for including 94 stars on the reverse of this variety has been lost to history although, as with so many other aspects of U.S. numismatics, theories abound. Two of the more interesting are attributed to Dr. Edward Maris and R. Coulton Davis, both of which are related in Walter Breen’s large cent encyclopedia:
“Dr. Maris had conjectured that the number of stars was meant to allude to the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Robert Coulton Davis connected it with the Mint Cabinet’s 1792 experimental copper coin today called Joseph Wright’s pattern quarter dollar (Judd 12, Pollock 14, Encyclopedia 1365), which has 87 stars in the reverse border.”
Regardless of the intent of the stars and when and by whom the variety was discovered, the appeal of Sheldon-48 has remained strong throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries. Its scarcity has also stood the test of time, for today only 60 or so examples are believed extant, the actual total perhaps as low as 50 to 55 coins.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries is thrilled to feature a superior example from these dies in our March 2021 Las Vegas Auction. It is faintly glossy and overall pleasing, despite varying levels of porosity. Most importantly, each of the eponymous stars remains distinct at the reverse denticles, a quality that is only shared by a small handful from these dies. Well struck and bold, the obverse is well centered while the reverse is slightly drawn towards 2 o’clock. Among the finest known, it is tied at CC#9 with the Norweb specimen on the 2006 Noyes census.
This is a historic example with provenance stretching back more than a century to Geoffrey Charlton Adams’ sale of the Temple Collection in April 1905. Even then, it was recognized as a magnificent rarity and was cataloged as “the finest specimen ever offered at auction. Only one better known.” In the following decades, it passed through the hands of several famed numismatists including Henry C. Miller, George French, T. James Clarke, R.E. Naftzger, John W. Adams, and many others. We last had the pleasure of offering this piece in our February 1982 sale of the Robison Collection, where we called it a “splendid Condition Census example.” Nearly 40 years later, it remains one of the most desirable survivors from these dies and we are thrilled to present it to a new generation of collectors.
This 1794 Starred Reverse cent will be featured in our March 2021 Las Vegas Auction, along with many important collections including selections from the D. Brent Pogue Collection, the Collection of Silas Stanley Roberts, the Washington Rainbows Collection, the Iron Eagle Collection, and many others. The sale will be available for viewing and bidding on our website www.StacksBowers.com and printed catalogs will also be available for purchase.
If you would like to consign to an upcoming sale or have questions about the consignment process, please contact us today at Consign@StacksBowers.com or 800-566-2580.