By James McCartney, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers …..
The Draped Bust cents of 1798 represent one of the most dynamic issues of early American copper coinage, with significant modifications to both the obverse and reverse design types throughout the year. With 46 distinct die pairings, the challenge this issue presents to collectors is on par with some of the pre-Federal copper issues from Connecticut and New Jersey.
The addition of an extra curl to Liberty’s hair partway through the production year defined the Style II Hair design type, establishing two pronounced classifications of 1798 cents. In addition to both the Style I and Style II Hair obverse types, two known overdates exist, and four different reverse types were used. An example of the Style II Hair, Reverse of 1799 type, the Sheldon 166 variety is perhaps the most common die pairing for the year, readily available in all grades up through Very Fine. However, examples become scarce in Extremely Fine, and the Condition Census begins at the Choice AU level.
The 1991 reference by William Noyes lists two examples graded “60+” tied for first place: the Sheldon-Naftzger coin now certified MS-64BN (PCGS), and the untraced Newcomb-Morgenthau 2/45:230 example. Bland places the Newcomb coin distinctly in first at “MS-61” with the Naftzger piece in third, calling it “AU-55.” Though both the Noyes and Bland censuses largely account for the same handful of coins presented in a trivially rearranged sequence, the present example has curiously evaded both of these rosters. Having been recently discovered in an old English cabinet, this lovely MS-62 (PCGS) specimen represents a seemingly previously unknown example that is among the finest survivors of the S-166 die pairing.
The obverse of this lovely Mint State piece displays subtle marbling of cocoa and tobacco hues, with a rich caramel dominating the reverse. Delicate pearlescent luster glistens across smooth surfaces, with pinkish areas visible on the reverse. Overall bold, though exhibiting peripheral softness that is characteristic to this die pairing. The arcing crack in the lower left reverse has advanced to nearly devouring the E of UNITED, alluding to the late die state. This is an attractive and desirable representative of both the Sheldon 166 variety and the 1798 issue.
This Condition Census jewel will be offered in the Rarities Night session of our November 2016 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo. To consign your rarities to this showcase event, please contact our offices today at 1-800-458-4646 to speak with a Consignment Director and see what Stack’s Bowers Galleries can do for you.