By James McCartney – Senior Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
The large cents struck by the United States Mint in the 18th century were crucial to the fledging economy of young America. They were extensively used in everyday transactions and many were damaged, lost, or worn smooth as a result. Few collectors will ever own a Mint State example from this era, let alone anything approaching Gem condition. We are thrilled to be offering a near-Gem coin in our March 2020 Baltimore Auction, where an exceptional 1797 Reverse of 97 Draped Bust cent will be sold; it is certified MS-64 BN (PCGS) in an Old Green Holder.
The coin is glossy and intensely lustrous with a blend of dark chocolate surfaces and lighter peach shades in the fields. An area of darker patina besides the final S in STATES will help trace this piece through future cabinets. Liberty exhibits exceptional hair detail and the denticles are uniformly crisp at the border. Traces of natural planchet texture remain near the centers but do not detract from the overall superior eye appeal.
This piece is from the Sheldon-123 die pair, readily identifiable by a small cut on the cheek under Liberty’s eye and the positioning of the double-leaf under D of UNITED. It is among the most popular varieties of the Draped Bust type due to the surviving Mint State population.
The majority of these Mint State pieces, likely including the present example, can be traced back to the Nichols Find of the mid-1800s. The Nichols Find was a group of 1,000 mostly 1796 and 1797 large cents purchased by Senator Benjamin Goodhue. He gave these to his daughters in 1797 or 1798, and they preserved them in the Salem, Massachusetts area. A few 1798 cents were also sprinkled in, but not many.
These coins became numismatically significant in 1863 when David Nichols began selling the hoard to coin dealers. Many were struck on inferior planchets, but enough nice coins survive from this group to allow a few collectors to purchase a Mint State coin from this early period. Even so, near-Gem examples remain scarce, making the piece that will be presented in our March 2020 auction a find for an advanced type collector of early American copper specialist.
We last handled a Mint State example from these dies in August 2015, when we sold an MS-63 BN (PCGS) CAC example for $9,400 USD. The present specimen, certified MS-64 BN (PCGS), will surely draw even more interest from bidders and Registry Set participants. It will be featured in Rarities Night of our March 2020 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo in Baltimore. To include your collection in this exciting sale, speak with a numismatic representative today at 800-566-2580 or email consign@Stacksbowers.com. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.