Tom Reynolds Large Cent Coin Collection

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #316

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds ……
 

For decades, vague rumors surrounding the personal collection of dealer Tom Reynolds have swirled. Even veteran collectors and leading dealers in large cents were unaware of the extent of his vast holding of rare varieties and exceptional coins. If Tom’s collection was every displayed, only small parts of it were shown. Secrets have been revealed now that Tom’s collection has been consigned to the Goldbergs, who will auction it in association with Ken Goldman. Bob Grellman catalogued the lots.

The first sale will be held on Sunday, January 31, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Los Angeles. The Goldbergs will auction an assortment of coins and other items from many consignors during a few days that follow. It is planned for the second part of the Tom Reynolds Collection to be auctioned in January 2017.

Tom Reynolds has been a collector since the 1950s and a dealer since 1980. He is not related to me, as far as I know.

“I knew that most of what Tom had was top-drawer,” states Denis Loring. “I was very surprised by the extent of the collection.”

In the mid-1970s, Tom became serious about die pairings of early large cents and assembled a set of varieties of 1798 cents. Although most of his large cents are not of the highest quality, in terms of numerical grades, Tom’s collection has a reputation for technical quality and originality. Many of the pieces are exceptionally appealing. Quite a few of his early date cents exhibit some original mint red color.

Cents of 1793

In 1793, three different design types of cents were produced, Chain, Wreath and Liberty Cap. Such large cents have a slightly wider diameter than current quarters. Chain cents are discussed in depth in my recent article on the Garrett-Pogue gem and my earlier discussion of the Cardinal S-2, PCGS graded MS-65 Chain cent. (Words in blue may be clicked to access pertinent references.)

1793 S-10 R4 Wreath Cent, Vine & Bars Edge. PCGS graded MS-64 Brown. CAC Approved

1793 S-10 R4 Wreath Cent, Vine & Bars Edge. PCGS graded MS-64 Brown. CAC Approved

Die pairings are cited in accordance with the Sheldon system, primarily to identify the coins. Most bidders in this upcoming auction are not collecting by die variety. A large number of coin buyers collect large cents ‘by date’ or pursue large cents for type sets. Chain cents and Wreath cents are each one-year design types.

Tom has the Mougey-Downing S-2 Chain cent, with ‘AMERICA’ spelled out. It is PCGS graded AU-53 and has a CAC sticker of approval. Though spectacular, the collection of Peter Mougey is not as well known as many of the other epic collections that were publicly sold between 1890 and 1921, an incredible era of coin auctions. This is partly because Mougey was not then the consignor, as he had sold his collection intact to William Woodin who captured some rarities for himself before consigning the Mougey collection. While most of the major collections of the era were auctioned by one or both Chapman brothers, the Mougey collection was handled by the firm of Thomas Elder.

1793 S-2 R4+ Chain AMERICA. PCGS graded AU-53. CAC Approved.Regarding the Mougey-Downing-Reynolds S-2, the current Goldberg catalogue notes that there are “2 finer at PCGS for the variety, 1 in MS62 and 1 in MS64,” statements which do not seem correct. The Cardinal S-2 has been PCGS graded MS-65 since before 2004, as I noted last week.

This sale contains seven Wreath cents, of various die pairings, all of which have been awarded high grades by PCGS. Six of the seven have been CAC approved. Collectors of type coins should discuss these with a grading expert before bidding.

The S-11B Wreath cent is one of Denis Loring’s favorites in this sale. “Among the finest known of the scarcer ‘lettered edge’ wreath, with wonderful incuse elements before the face” of Miss Liberty, Denis declares.

The ‘B’ means that this is an edge variety of the S-11 die pairing. In this case, the edge is lettered and ornamented. Two leaves follow the word ‘DOLLAR’ on the edge.

1793 S-11b R4 Wreath Cent, Lettered Edge. PCGS graded MS-62 Brown. CAC Approved.Tom’s S-11B has an impressive pedigree, Ellsworth-Brand-Sheldon-Naftzger-Mendelson. It is PCGS graded as MS-62 and is CAC approved.

Adam Mervis had a complete set of large cents in accordance with the Sheldon system, and his set was auctioned at the January 2014 FUN Convention. Mervis had two S-11B cents, the better of which was PCGS graded Fine-15.

Liberty Cap large cents were minted from 1793 to 1796. Some experts, including officials at PCGS, figure that 1793 Liberty Cap cents are of a design type that is distinct from those Liberty Cap cents dating form 1794 to 1796. Indeed, relevant type sets in the PCGS registry each require two Liberty Cap cents to be complete, a 1793 and a later date.

In 2008, I estimated that three hundred 1793 Liberty Cap cents survive, including those in any state of preservation. Most of the survivors are of the S-13 and S-14 die pairings. In this sale, there is a PCGS graded Good-06 1793 Liberty Cap of a rarer die pairing, which may be among the dozen finest of around twenty-five known of the S-12 die pairing.

There are a large number of die pairings of 1794 large cents. Tom Reynolds has around forty 1794 cents in this one auction.

The ‘Apple Cheek’ (S-24) 1794 caught my attention, as it is a famous and distinctive variety. In 2014, I devoted an article to the terrific Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek cent. Tom’s piece is PCGS graded MS-62 and CAC approved.

It is bothersome that the current Goldbergs catalogue says there is just “1 finer in MS63 at PCGS for the variety.” I have emphasized in the past that the Garrett 1794 Apple Cheek Cent is PCGS graded ‘MS-65’ and the Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek Cent is PCGS certified as ‘MS-67 Red & Brown.’ The printed labels (‘inserts’) inside the respective holders of the Garrett and Jackman-Jung coins did not mention a PCGS code number specifically for the Apple Cheek variety. Even so, the just mentioned Garrett and Jackman-Jung 1794 cents are clearly of the S-24 ‘Apple Cheek’ die pairing.

Tettenhorst-Missouri 1795 Cent

A 1795 cent was formerly in the collection of “R. Tettenhorst,” of Missouri Cabinet fame. He is the collector who formed the all-time greatest collection of half cents, which the Goldbergs auctioned in January 2014.

1795 S-75 R3 Lettered Edge. PCGS graded MS-65 Brown. CAC Approved.Several of the Tettenhorst-Missouri half cents were purchased by the Pogue Family and will be auctioned by Stack’s-Bowers this year, starting on Feb. 9th. This 1795 large cent may have been part of a type set that he sold to Jay Parrino during the 1990s.

The Tettenhorst-Reynolds 1795 cent, of the S-75 die pairing, is PCGS graded as MS-65 and CAC approved. This is a very desirable coin, which would be an excellent selection for a type set.

Though not rare, a 1796 Liberty Cap cent in Tom’s collection has a fabulous pedigree. It was formerly in the epic collections of Parmelee, Earle, Clarence Bement, Colonel Ellsworth, Henry Hines, Sheldon, and, of course, Ted Naftzger who built the all-time greatest collection of large cents. This 1796 Liberty Cap is PCGS certified as ‘MS-63-Brown’ and is CAC approved.

Draped Bust Cents

The inclusion of two heavily circulated, 1796 Draped bust cents of the S-99 variety in this sale is curious. Varieties are identified by Sheldon (‘S’) numbers.

To collect large cents, there is not a need to know the precise characteristics of the varieties. Those who are seeking to assemble sets with more than 200 varieties of early date large cents have probably already studied the catalogue for this sale. The main point of mentioning varieties here is to distinguish one coin of the same date from another and to point towards some major varieties that many collectors of large cent ‘by date’ demand, like the already mentioned ‘Apple Cheek’ 1794 cents.

By tradition, some major varieties have the status of distinct dates as collectors who are assembling sets ‘by date,’ not by die pairing, tend to seek them for inclusion in their respective sets. Many collectors consider 1796 ‘Reverse of 1794,’ 1796 ‘Reverse of 1795,’ and 1796 ‘Reverse of 1797’ cents to be three different ‘dates,’ even though all three are 1796 Draped Bust cents with consistent obverses. In another words, it would be typical for someone collecting large cents ‘by date’ (and not by die pairing) to figure that multiple 1796 Draped Bust cents, with different reverse characteristics, are each needed for a set.

1796 S-99 R5 Draped Bust, Reverse of 1795. PCGS graded Fine-12. CAC Approved.While the S-99 die pairing is a 1796 ‘Reverse of 1795,’ other die pairings are as well, including S-92, S-93, 1796NC-2, S-95, S-96, S-97, S-98, 1796NC4, and S-116. Of all die pairings of 1796 ‘Reverse of 1795’ Draped Bust cents, Denis Loring guesses that “1500 to 1750” survive. Why are two heavily circulated S-99 cents in this offering?

There are probably fifty known of the rather obscure S-99 die pairing, which is not particularly distinctive or interesting. The layout of four of the letters in ‘LIBERTY’ is slightly different than the layout is on some 1796 Draped Bust cents. The reverse can be identified by the locations of triplets of leaves grouped together and by slight differences in the locations of the berries on a couple of the leaves. A magnifying glass and a reference book would be required for most collectors to identify an S-99.

Tom’s first 1796 ‘Reverse of 1795 ’S-99 is PCGS graded as Fine-12, and CAC approved. Three famous large cent specialists all grade it as “VG-10,” Noyes, Bland and Grellman. So, there is certainly a consensus that this coin grades in the VG-10 to Fine-12 range. (There is no VG-11 grade.) Grellman emphasizes that there is “no trace of corrosion or verdigris, only minor contact marks.” Most 18th century large cents have some noticeable corrosion. No one could fairly argue that this coin is way overgraded.

Tom’s second S-99 is PCGS graded as Good-06, and CAC approved. Grellman grades it as ‘Good-04+’! Is a ‘Good-04+’ grade coin much better than a Good-04 grade coin?

This S-99 1796 ‘Reverse of 1795’ cent is of a late die state as the obverse die had fractured and there is a raised area on the coin with a crooked dividing line. It is intriguing that large cent specialists will probably value this piece above $2000.

Adam Mervis’s S-99 was has been “burnished,” according to experts at NGC who refused to assign a numerical grade to it, “VF Details.” Someone at Heritage, perhaps Mark Borckardt, graded it as “VG-10” in accordance with grading criteria employed by early copper specialists. The Mervis S-99 realized $2820 on Jan. 10, 2014.

In contrast to the heavy wear on the just mentioned S-99 cents, the Stickney-Brand-Starr 1797 has no wear or friction. It has drawn more attention than most of the other coins in this auction.

1797 S-123 R4. PCGS graded MS-65 Red & Brown. CAC Approved.

1797 S-123 R4. PCGS graded MS-65 Red & Brown. CAC Approved.

The Stickney-Brand-Starr 1797 is PCGS certified as ‘MS-65 Red & Brown’ and is CAC approved. There seems to be a consensus that the considerable red color is original. This coin has a “special appeal” to Denis Loring “for the color!” Loring formerly owned the coin.

More than forty years ago, Denis Loring was the successful bidder for Naftzger-Reynolds 1801-NC1 at the Stack’s sale of the Essex Institute Collection in 1975. This is another coin in the Tom Reynolds collection that has “special appeal” to Denis. In my article on the Naftzger-Blay 1807/6 cent, I mention coins from the collection of the Essex Institute in the context of early large cents reported to exhibit much original red color.

Classic Head Cents with Some Red Color

“Just a beautiful example of the type,” Denis Loring says of an 1808 large cent that is PCGS certified as ‘MS-64RB’ and is CAC approved. I never saw any of the Classic Head large cents in this offering, except for a Jackman-Naftzger piece that I am not discussing here. Noyes and Bland each grade this (S-278) 1808 as MS-63, and Grellman grades it as MS-64. As early American copper club specialists do not employ ‘Red & Brown’ or ‘full red’(“RD”) designations, a MS-63 or higher grade from one of them usually indicates a finding that significant red color on the respective coin is original.

An 1813 is also PCGS certified as ‘MS-64RB’ and CAC approved. A remark in the catalogue description, presumably by Grellman, is particularly relevant to a point I made last week that early copper specialists weigh mint-caused imperfections too heavily: “This cent would be a flawless absolute gem if not for a mint-made planchet void at the rim outside star 8.” An imperfect planchet (prepared blank) should not preclude the assignment of a MS-65 grade. The fact that many copper specialists, though probably not Grellman, often add oil or other substances to large cents, sometimes via brushing, is more of an issue.

In any event, as I have never seen this particular 1813 cent. I am not now drawing a conclusion about its grade. I was just putting forth a broader point.

The images of this 1813 large cent in the catalogue are attractive. It might very well be a fabulous coin.

1814 S-294 R1 Crosslet 4. PCGS graded MS-65+ Red & Brown. CAC Approved.

1814 S-294 R1 Crosslet 4. PCGS graded MS-65+ Red & Brown. CAC Approved.

An 1814 is PCGS certified as ‘MS-65+ RB’ and CAC approved. Grellman raves about it. I wish I had seen all the ‘red & brown’ Classic Head large cents in this sale.

In any event, it is not practical to discuss a large number of coins in this auction in one preview. Certainly, there are many wonderful large cents in the first sale of the Tom Reynolds Collection. The fact that a substantial percentage of them have been ‘off the market’ for more than fifteen years adds to the allure of the upcoming event.

©2016 Greg Reynolds

insightful10@gmail.com
 

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