By James McCartneyNumismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
 

MS-64 (PCGS) CAC 1797 Draped Bust cent Sheldon-135

With over $24.6 million in U.S. coins and paper money sold in our March 2018 Baltimore Auction, we are now looking ahead to our June Baltimore auction in anticipation of another successful event.

The list of rarities to be offered continues to grow as the April 24 consignment deadline approaches. Among these rarities is an exceptional MS-64 (PCGS) CAC 1797 Draped Bust cent struck from the Sheldon-135 die pair. The surfaces are satiny and lustrous, complemented by vibrant shades of crimson and golden-tan that blanket each side. Liberty’s portrait is intricately defined, encircled by sharply pronounced denticles. A deeper area of patina is noted to the left of the date and will help trace this wonderful piece through future cabinets.

This incredible example is likely from the Nichols Find that emerged on the numismatic market circa 1863 in Salem, Massachusetts. This group of large cents included both 1796 and 1797-dated examples, virtually all of which were in astounding Mint State preservation. David Nichols lived near Gallows Hill, infamous as the site of the hangings following the Salem Witch Trials of the early 1690s. The cents had passed down to Nichols through several generations and were originally owned by his wife’s great uncle, Benjamin Goodhue. Goodhue was a successful merchant and politician throughout the Revolutionary War era, participating in the early state Constitutional Conventions and eventually serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate. He was later elected to the United States Congress (1789-1796) and the United States Senate (1796-1800), supporting a strong central government as a member of the Federalist Party.

Walter Breen speculated in his Encyclopedia of United States Large Cents (2000) that Goodhue might have acquired the cents directly from the U.S. Mint in 1797, though John Kraljevich, in cataloging our sale of the Pogue Collection, suggests a more realistic scenario of ordering them from a Boston bank. Goodhue was among the wealthiest merchants in the Salem area and ordering cents for commercial use would not have been unusual. Boston area coin dealer W. Elliot Woodward appears to have acquired what remained of the group shortly before Nichol’s death in 1882, with examples appearing in Woodward’s auctions as early as 1879.

Though the Nichols Find has long been distributed, coins from the group are readily identifiable. Besides their exquisite Mint State preservation, most pieces show a rich russet or golden-brown patina with occasional spots and superior striking characteristics.

This MS-64 (PCGS) CAC 1797 cent will be among the featured highlights of our Official Auction of the June 2018 Whitman Coins & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore. To consign your collection alongside this and many other exciting rarities, contact a numismatic representative today at 800-458-4646 or email info@stacksbowers.com. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our exciting auctions via your Android or Apple device.
 

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