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Coin Rarities and Related Topics: Cardinal Collection Results, Part 2: Draped Bust Large Cents

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #152 …..

On Thursday, Jan. 24, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned one of the all-time best collections of U.S. large cents. These are copper coins that were minted from 1793 to 1857, and are about the size of quarters. Yes, the same source, the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation, consigned the Carter 1794 silver dollar that realized a world record price of more than ten million dollars in the same auction session. This consignment also included an NGC graded MS-68 1792 half disme. The topic here is Draped Bust Cents in the Cardinal Collection, which were minted from 1796 to 1807 and are cherished by collectors.

While I am here discussing high quality, Draped Bust Cents, which cost substantial sums, most Draped Bust Cents do not cost a fortune. A 1798 cent in ‘Good-04’ grade could be found for less than $150 and an 1803 in the same grade may be purchased for less than $75. Many Draped Bust Cents that are not gradable could probably be obtained for less than $50 each.

While I plan to write in the future about relatively less expensive large cents, the coins in the Cardinal Collection tend to be of exceptional quality and realized newsworthy prices in this auction of Jan. 24th. In order to understand lesser grade coins, it helps to learn about relatively higher grade coins. It is beneficial for all coin buyers to learn about various aspects of the culture of coin collecting.

My article that was published on Friday covered other items from the Cardinal consignment, those which date from 1792 to 1794. (Clickable links are in blue.) Furthermore, last week, I compiled a list, with comments, of the top ten auction records for coins and patterns, of the world, including the U.S. The Carter-Cardinal 1794 dollar is number one on this list. Before the auction, I analyzed the rarity, importance and physical characteristics of the Carter 1794 silver dollar.

This record-setting silver dollar and the Knoxville-Cardinal 1792 half disme have overshadowed the tremendous Cardinal set of large cents. “The best collection of large cents that I have ever had the privilege of carefully examining,” asserts John Albanese. “Many of the pieces are the finest known of their varieties or dates overall,” adds John.

Similarly, Richard Burdick states that “Logies did a fabulous job, except for the certified MS-69 Wreath cent. He has a great eye for copper coins. It is the finest date run of large cents that I have ever seen at auction. I have been attending auctions of large cents since 1969,” Richard emphasizes.

Martin Logies is the director and curator of the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation. He selects the coins that this foundation collects.

Logies assembled a complete collection of large cents ‘by date,’ with several major varieties. It is not practical to discuss all of the Cardinal large cents here. I already covered those that date 1792 and 1794 in my last column. I narrow the current focus to Draped Bust Cents. The design of these is attractive. Further, these are more popular with collectors than Classic Head Cents. Plus, there is a special mystique about U.S. coins that date from the late 1790s and the very early 1800s.

I. 1796 Draped Bust Cent

The 1796 Draped Bust large cent in the Cardinal set has an illustrious pedigree. It was in the all-time greatest collection of large cents, that of Ted Naftzger. Most of Naftzger’s ‘Early Dates,’ those dating from 1793 to 1814, were purchased privately by Eric Streiner in 1992. Eric or an intermediary sold this specific coin to John Whitney, a specialist in U.S. coins of all denominations dated 1796. When Stack’s auctioned Whitney’s collection of 1796 dated coins in May 1999, this coin realized $36,800

This Naftzger-Whitney 1796 cent was later owned by Walter Husak. On Feb., 15, 2008, Heritage auctioned Husak’s set of ‘Early Dates’ and this coin went for $161,000. In Heritage’s sale of the “Joseph Thomas Collection” in April 2009, this exact same coin realized $115,000. On Jan. 24, 2013, it brought $152,750.

The grade of this coin, in my view, is in the middle to high end of the 65 range. Unsurprisingly, it has a a sticker of approval from the CAC. It is a great coin.

II. 1798 Draped Bust Cent

Like the 1797 in this sale, the Cardinal 1798 is PCGS certified “MS-65 Red & Brown.’ As with the 1797, I did not agree with the current certification. As I often do, I viewed the coins being offered before I read the respective auction catalog. This is one case where the early copper specialists are correct and the expert graders in the mainstream are wrong, in my view.

The experts probably did not spend much time examining this coin; they often each grade hundreds of coins in a single day. Also, some early copper specialists are familiar with the history of large cent collecting and are aware of how collectors in the past treated their coins. The metal on this coin became impaired and was treated in the past in a manner that I regard as harmful.

As suggested in the Stack’s-Bowers catalog, leading early copper researchers tend to grade this coin from MS-60 to MS-62. In my view, its grade is closer to MS-60. As for whether it is the first or second finest known of its die variety, I do not know. I suggest that most prospective buyers are or would be evaluating it as just a 1798 large cent, for a date or type set, and not considering the details of the pair of dies that was used to strike it on a coining press.

The Cardinal 1798 sold for $52,875 a floor bidder. There were some good values for collectors in this sale, though this was not one of them. This result was a good deal for the consignor.

III. Key 1799

The 1799 cents with normal numerals are very scarce and 1799/8 overdate cents are rare. The Cardinal 1799 is PCGS graded VF-35 and has a CAC sticker.

There are only a few 1799 cents that grade higher than VF-35. The Eliasberg-Husak 1799 is PCGS graded EF-45 and sold for $161,000 in Heritage’s sale of Walter Husak’s Collection on Feb. 15, 2008.

Denis Loring points out that the Eliasberg-Husak 1799 is clearly “a better coin.” Even so, Denis says that the Cardinal 1799 is “lovely.” Loring grades the Eliasberg-Husak piece as “VF-25” and the Cardinal 1799 as “VF-20+,” in terms of ‘club’ grading criteria used by specialists in die varieties of early copper coins,

In my view, in accordance with grading criteria in the mainstream, the Eliasberg-Husak piece is more than one grade increment above the Cardinal 1799. Any Very Fine grade 1799, though, is an extreme condition rarity.

In March 2010, Heritage auctioned this exact same coin for $48,875. I thought that was a modest price. This time, the Cardinal 1799 realized $99,875, a very strong price!

IV. 1800 Draped Bust Cent

The Reale-Cardinal 1800 is PCGS certified ‘MS-65 Brown’ and is CAC approved. It was formerly owned by Gene Reale, a somewhat famous collector in the late 20th century. This specific coin was sold in the Sotheby’s auction of most of Reale’s copper coins in 1998.

Richard Burdick very much likes this 1800 cent. “It is an accurately graded, very original coin,” in Richard’s view. “An excellent coin and an excellent value for the money,” Burdick adds. It sold to a floor bidder in the back of the room for $70,500.

V. 1801 Draped Bust Cent

The 1801 in the Cardinal Collection is of the variety where the fraction 1/100 on the reverse (back) has been corrected. An error was made when three zeroes were placed in the denominator on a reverse die.

A numeral ‘1’ was punched over the first zero on this reverse die to correct the error. Both this ‘1’ and the underlying ‘0’ are visible on most (or all) the coins struck from this reverse die, including the piece in the Cardinal Collection. These ‘100 over 000′ coins are major varieties that are often collected ‘as if’ they are distinct dates.

In another words, people who collect large cents ‘by date’ often seek to obtain multiple 1801 cents, including an 1801 with this feature on the reverse. So, the fact that ‘1/100 over 1/000′ 1801 cents are condition rarities in mint state grades is important to tens of thousands of collectors, not just to specialists in the die varieties of early copper coins.

The Cardinal 1801 ‘1/100 over 1/000’ is one the finest known pieces of this variety and it is a very original coin. It was formerly in the Dan Holmes Collection. Earlier, it was part of the Naftzger collection.

In my view, original ‘Mint Red’ is exhibited on more than fifty percent of this coin’s surfaces. It is incredibly original. Fortunately, no one tried to remove or modify the carbon spots. While there are many carbon spots, these are natural and are consistent with a grade of MS-63. “I agree with the 63-Red-Brown grade,” Burdick says.

The cataloger for the Goldbergs, before this same 1801 was auctioned in 2009, refers to some “ very shallow verdigris,” which I perceive as well. All the imperfections, though, are in line with a MS-63 grade, and this coin seems stable. Plus, there is just as much ‘Mint Red’ now as there was in 2009.

This coin sold for $57,500 in Sept. 2009 and for just $41,125 on Jan. 24, 2013. In my view, this is one of the better values in the sale. Assuming that the verdigris does not become a problem, this will be one of the most desirable, if not the most desirable, representatives of the ‘100 over 000′ major variety, for ages. I especially like the fact that this coin scores so high in the category of originality.

VI. 1802 Draped Bust Cent

The Halpern-Cardinal 1802 is PCGS graded MS-64 and sold for $16,450. Spectrum-B&M auctioned this exact same coin for $13,800 in Aug. 2006.

I was not impressed by it. Denis Loring remarks that it is “nothing extraordinary.”

VII. 1803 Draped Bust Cent

Large cents from the early 1800s that are PCGS certified ‘MS-66 Red & Brown’ are bound to attract much attention. Not only from large cent collectors, many people form type sets of early 19th century coins. Such type sets are sometimes limited to copper, though usually include silver and/or gold coins as well.

A ‘RB’ designation indicates that experts at the PCGS determined that a copper coin has a significant amount of original ‘Mint Red’ color. Indeed, the reverse (back) of this 1803, if it could stand by itself, would certainly merit a ‘MS-66 Red & Brown’ certification. Indeed, the reverse is bright and neat, with much original ‘Mint Red’! I am not sure about the quality of the obverse. I noted to myself that I wished to see this coin again and I forgot to do so when I returned on another day.

I have misplaced my copy of the catalog of the Goldbergs Sept. 2008 sale. I was in attendance and I probably took notes about this coin.

“The Cardinal 1803 is a real gem, but another 1803 is of the same or higher quality,” Loring states. “Neither of these 1803s comes close to being the finest Draped Bust Cent,” according to Denis. In my communications with him, Loring cites three superior Draped Bust Cents, though none of these are dated 1803 and none of these three were in the Cardinal set. The current topic is Draped Bust Cents in this auction.

The fact that Bob Grellman grades the ‘Naftzger Estate’-Cardinal 1803 as “MS-65” is a notable point in this coin’s favor. When Grellman grades an early copper coin as “MS-65,” it is not unusual for it to fairly qualify for at least a ‘MS-66RB’ certification from the PCGS. Nonetheless, I maintain that this coin would not, if submitted in its current holder, receive a sticker of approval from the CAC.

This 1803 sold for $241,500 in Sept. 2008 and for $199,750 in Jan. 2013. Seriously, I regard the 2008 price as extremely strong and the 2013 price as very strong.

VIII. 1804 Draped Bust Cent

One of the key and most famous dates in the whole series of large cents is the 1804. Though not nearly as rare as a 1799/8, it is very scarce. The Holmes 1804, which is PCGS graded MS-63, sold for $661,250 in Sept. 2009. While the Cardinal 1804 is impressive, it is not nearly as nice as the Holmes 1804.

Before the auction, the 1804 was one the most ‘talked about’ large cents in the Cardinal Collection. It was graded “AU-55” by the PCGS in the 1990s and, in its PCGS holder, there is an old PCGS green label (printed paper insert). Coins of the same date, type and certified grade with PCGS green labels are, on average, worth more than coins in holders with PCGS blue labels. Moreover, this coin has a gold sticker from the CAC, which means that its true grade, in the views of experts at the CAC, is at least in the middle of the range that corresponds to the next higher grade, above its current certified grade, thus at least AU-58 in this case.

I realize that all 1804 cents were struck with significant missing detail and that this piece may have been more weakly struck than others, perhaps much more weakly struck than the Holmes 1804, which is PCGS graded MS-63 and is strictly uncirculated. Even so, I contend that the Cardinal 1804 has more than a little significant wear.

During the week of this auction, among mainstream graders, not early copper ‘club’ specialists, were Richard Burdick and I in the minority in that we do not grade the Cardinal 1804 as AU-58 or higher? Stewart Blay asserts that this coin is “Mint State,” thus meriting a grade of MS-60 or higher.

Personally, I grade it as AU-55 or maybe 55+, and I could understand an AU-58 grade for this coin, though I would not be comfortable with it. The color and texture of this coin are terrific. If it was uncirculated, then it would certainly merit a grade above MS-61. It scores highly in the category of eye appeal and very highly in the category of originality.

Denis Loring, a distinguished veteran of the ‘club’ of early copper specialists (EAC), declares that it is ‘obviously not mint state, 45 sharpness, less ten points for defects, particularly the scratch on the face.” Richard assigns a higher grade to it than does Loring, though Burdick’s grade is well below 55.

I agree that wear from circulation is apparent, though I otherwise disagree with Denis and Richard regarding the Cardinal 1804. The sharpness is at least that of an AU-53, perhaps AU-55. Much of the missing detail was never there when it was minted. Moreover, the color and texture of this coin are so pleasing that this coin should not be penalized for mild scratches and a few contact marks. The impact of the scratch on the face is well offset by the other positive characteristics, particularly eye appeal and originality. Indeed, this scratch is not particularly bothersome to me.

There are many copper coins that have been chemically altered that have received copper ‘club’ (EAC) grades of 50 or much higher. Copper specialists should be much more concerned about identifying doctored aspects of coins and about people tampering with coins than about small, mild scratches.

The positive characteristics of the Cardinal 1804 deserve emphasis. Mainstream graders probably give this coin bonus points for all its wonderful attributes. I can imagine why experts at the CAC figured 58 or even 61 as the right grade, though my grade stays at 55, maybe 55+.

The Cardinal 1804 is from the very famous Naftzger-Streiner-Parrino group. Furthermore, it was auctioned by Heritage in Jan. 2010 for $80,500. When it came ‘on the block’ during the night of Jan. 24, 2013, feelings of excitement brewed in the room.

It seems that the PCGS has graded only one 1804 cent, the Holmes piece, higher than AU-55. The Stack’s-Bowers cataloger said that the Holmes 1804 had been PCGS graded MS-62 before it was PCGS graded MS-63, and suggested that the listing in the PCGS population report for a MS-62 grade 1804 is really a duplicate counting of the Holmes 1804.

Bidding started at over $60,000 and the level rose fast. Within seconds, a collector from California had bid more than $100,000. A New York area wholesaler was later to bid more than $185,000! Bidder #570 captured the Cardinal 1804 for $223,250. This result is very strong, though very understandable.

IX. 1805 Draped Bust Cent

The Naftzger-Holmes-Cardinal 1805 is one of the three finest known 1805 cents, of any variety. Is it the first finest?

It is PCGS certified ‘MS-66 Brown’ and it has a sticker of approval from the CAC. In my view, its grade just makes it into the middle of the 66 range. “Original gem coin, awesome, one of the nicest coins in the collection,” Burdick declares.

In Sept. 2009, it realized $184,000. This time, it sold for $152,750.

This coin is more than very attractive. I will not believe a higher quality 1805 cent exists unless I see one.

The Halpern-Holmes-Cardinal 1806 is PCGS certified ‘MS-63 Brown’ and is CAC approved.In 2009, it sold for $32,200 and, this time, Greg Hannigan captured it for $30,550.

X. Closing Remarks

Where is the Cardinal 1807/6 Draped Bust Cent? It was not in this sale. My understanding is that this foundation has (or had?) the Naftzger-Streiner-Parrino-Juan-Blay 1807/6, one of the greatest of all U.S. type coins. It was owned by Stewart Blay for years and displayed by Stewart at the Summer 2008 ANA Convention. It is PCGS certified ‘MS-66 [full] Red’!

At some point, I will write about the Cardinal Classic Head Cents, as some of these are important condition rarities. Additionally, Logies managed to obtain many of the Naftzger ‘Middle Dates’ and ‘Late Dates’ that the Goldbergs auctioned in 2009. Most of these and other Cardinal Collection gem cents are spectacular.

While there are a few people who collect gem quality Middle Dates (1817-39) and/or Late Dates (1839-57) by year, these are generally acquired by collectors of type coins, rather than people seeking to assemble sets of large cents ‘by date’ or ‘by variety.’ I will discuss Cardinal Middle Dates and Late Dates in future works on type coins and in other contexts.

The Cardinal Collection 1823 should be mentioned here. It is not a type coin. It is an especially high quality representative of a key date. The 1823 with ‘normal numerals’ is probably the scarcest of all large cents of the Matron Head (1816-35) type. Back in 2009, in my multi-part analysis of Naftzger’s Middle Dates, I concluded that the “1823 is slightly rarer than her non-identical twin, the 1823/2 overdate.” Further, “there are likely to be fewer than 500 currently in existence, in all grades.” Chris McCawley then found my estimate of a maximum of 500 to be sound and he added that “less than ten percent of the 1823s survive in Fine-12 or better” grades.

The Cardinal 1823 is PCGS graded AU-58 and is CAC approved. In my view, it really is an excellent coin. It would be tough for a collector to find a more aesthetically pleasing and technically superior 1823 cent. It sold for $38,188 to bidder #570, I believe.

©2013 Greg Reynolds

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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