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HomeUS CoinsHidden or Sleeping Rarities, Part 1: Copper Coins

Hidden or Sleeping Rarities, Part 1: Copper Coins

Hidden Rarities - Copper Coins

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and coin collecting #382

An Ongoing Column by Greg Reynolds …..
The rarities that appear in major auctions or are shown at major coin conventions with press releases and fanfare receive a great deal of attention. This new series is about the rarities that have not been publicly offered in more than 15 years and have been seen by just a few interested people (if anyone) over the past several years.

Topics are hidden or sleeping classic U.S. coins and famous U.S. patterns. Obscure patterns and the rarities of the world are vastly different subjects. Also, I am not referring to extremely rare die pairings, which tend to be of interest to very dedicated specialists and are not really appreciated by most coin enthusiasts.

My research into hidden rarities is ongoing and will never end. So, this series cannot be exhaustive. There are many more copper rarities that have not been publicly offered during the past 15 years. The coins mentioned here, however, are extraordinarily important.

McGuigan 1796 ‘No Pole’ Half Cent

In total, fewer than 175 1796 half cents survive. In an article from 2013, the meaning of the ‘pole’ is explained. Jim McGuigan continues to estimate that “around 125 ‘With Pole’ half cents” and fewer than 30 1796 ‘No Pole’ half cents survive.” McGuigan is a leading specialist in half cents.

During the early 1980s, Jim purchased his 1796 ‘No Pole’ from the collector who formed the Missouri-Tettenhorst Collection, the all-time greatest set of half cents. The McGuigan coin is now PCGS-graded as “MS-63”. I have never closely examined it.

It is likely that the McGuigan 1796 ‘No Pole’ is one of the four finest known 1796 ‘No Pole’ half cents and is worth a substantial amount. In September 2008, an uncertified 1796 ‘No Pole’ half cent was auctioned by the Goldbergs in Los Angeles. That 1796 ‘No Pole’ half cent, which was consigned by Ray Rouse, probably merits a grade in the Fine-12 to VF-25 range, depending upon adjustments for imperfections. That coin realized $345,000 USD in an event I covered.

McGuigan’s 1796 ‘No Pole’ half cent has not been in an auction in many decades, perhaps not since the mid-1950s. At Jim’s bourse table, much of McGuigan’s set was on display at the ANA Convention in Pittsburgh in 2004. Some rarities, including this 1796 ‘No Pole,’ in the set were also available for viewing at his table at the ANA Fall Convention in Pittsburgh in October 2011.

“There was not a formal display in 2011,” Jim recollects. “Some half cent rarities from my collection were just in a case along with coins I had for sale.”

Jim’s set generally remains unseen. “It sits in safe-deposit box,” McGuigan says. Proofs and representatives of die varieties are sometimes upgraded, Jim reveals. Half cent errors are occasionally added to the collection.

McGuigan acquired many of his rare half cents before 2000. His PCGS-graded MS-66 1793 half cent was acquired in a trade “with Jules Reiver in 1984.” It was PCGS-graded as MS-65 for a long time. Jim does remember exactly when this 1793 upgraded, “maybe at the pre-show before the 2004 ANA Convention started.” It is certainly among the best 1793 half cents.

Blay 1796 ‘With Pole’ Half Cent

There is a PCGS-certified “MS-66+ RB” 1796 ‘With Pole’ half cent that is or was owned by Stewart Blay. It is probably the same coin that Christie’s/Spink auctioned in New York during June 1997 for $176,000, Sale #8686, lot #390.

“This is a Superb Gem coin, with copious amounts of original mint red. It should be the second-most valuable 1796, after the Eliasberg 1796 ‘No Pole’ half cent,” Jim McGuigan declares.

Blay 1796 Half CentStewart’s coins were on exhibit at the Summer 2008 ANA Convention in Baltimore. Most of the coins on display, however, were Lincoln cents, which were the focus of the exhibit. Blay is best known as a collector of Indian and Lincoln cents. This half cent did not receive all that much attention in 2008.

This half cent was not in the limelight in 1997 either. The Christie’s/“Spink America” sale of June 1997 was minor. Two of the most important auctions of the 20th century occurred in 1997: the Eliasberg ’97 event in April and the Pittman I sale in October.

Furthermore, the auctions relating to the Summer 1997 ANA Convention in New York received more attention than the Christie’s/“Spink America” sale in June. This coin has not become very famous, though it could possibly be the second-most valuable of all U.S. half cents.

I thank Stewart Blay for granting permission so that I was able to carefully examine this coin in 2008. I tilted it at angles and used a magnifying glass. This 1796 ‘With Pole’ half cent is very original, has excellent color, and is characterized by very few imperfections.

Really an exceptionally impressive coin.

Mickley-Crosby-Naftzger-Streiner-Parrino-Stellar Chain Cent

The Mickley-Crosby Chain cent, of the S-4 variety ‘With Periods,’ is one of the most coveted of all large cents and of all U.S. type coins. I feel fortunate to have seen it twice, courtesy of Jay Parrino, during the early 1990s. It has been PCGS-certified as ‘Specimen-67’ since 1992.

During early 1997, it was sold by Jay Parrino to the owner of the “Stellar Collection” (he prefers that his name not be mentioned). Within the last few years, this Chain cent received a sticker of approval from CAC.

This same “Stellar” collector recently sold the Garrett S-13 Liberty Cap cent, which was PCGS-graded as MS-62 a very long time ago, probably in 1992. Recently, it was upgraded by PCGS to “MS-62+”. So called ‘plus grades’ were not assigned by PCGS until March 2010.

“The Garrett S-13 definitely has some original mint red,” McGuigan notes.

Like the just mentioned PCGS-certified “SP-67” Chain Cent and the PCGS-certified “SP-68 RD” Wreath Cent, the Garrett S-13 Liberty Cap was part of the famous Naftzger-Streiner-Parrino deal in 1992. Through Stack’s, Eric Streiner purchased the vast majority of Ted Naftzger’s early large cents and Proof large cents. Most of the early gems were sold to Jay Parrino, soon after Streiner acquired them. Someone else purchased the Proofs.

1793 Garrett-Stellar CentThe buyer in 2017 of the Garrett-Stellar 1793 Liberty Cap cent now has the #1 type set in the PCGS Set Registry, for classic U.S. coins. The Garrett-Stellar 1793 Liberty Cap cent has not been auctioned since the Garrett I sale by Bowers & Ruddy during November 1979.

Though rarer, 1793 Liberty Cap cents are not nearly as important overall as Chain cents. The Mickley-Crosby-Stellar 1793 S-4 Chain cent is one of the most amazing of all early coppers. The detail and texture are incredible, as is the planchet.

As far as I know, this Chain cent has not been offered since 1997, nor has it been part of a well publicized exhibit. It has not been auctioned in generations.

Researchers have established that this Chain cent was included in the Woodward auction of most of the Mickley Collection in 1867. This coin may have been auctioned again in 1875. Among large cent enthusiasts, the Mickley-Crosby ‘With Periods’ Chain cent is termed “The Coin”. When Ted Naftzger acquired William Sheldon’s collection in 1972, this Chain cent was the star.

Earle-Atwater-Naftzger-Parrino 1793 Wreath Cent

The Earle-Atwater S-5 Wreath Cent was par of the same Naftzger-Streiner-Parrino deal in 1992 and also was sold several years later. It was PCGS-certified “SP68RD” in 1992 and CAC-approved in recent times. While the just mentioned Chain cent is certainly not a business strike, the reasons for the Specimen designation for this coin are not as clear, though I would need to analyze it under proper lighting to form an opinion.

I was a little distracted when I saw this coin in 1992 and did not examine it to the extent that I would have liked. This “SP68RD” Wreath cent is not nearly as exciting as the just mentioned Chain cent.

Notably, this PCGS-certified “SP 68 RD” Wreath cent was in the George Earle Collection, which the firm of Henry Chapman auctioned in 1912, and in the William Cutler Atwater Collection, which was handled by B. Max Mehl in 1946. Almost all of the most famous early large cents were owned by Ted Naftzger at one time or another. The Earle, Atwater and Naftzger Collections are all of tremendous importance.

This is the only large cent dating from 1793 to 1796 to currently have a full red designation from PCGS or NGC. I really wish that one day I will have a chance to examine it under proper lighting. Even among Draped Bust large cents, 1796 to 1807, PCGS has designated just three and NGC just two as ‘full red’ (RD)!

The Naftzger-Blay 1807/6 was covered in depth in 2015. It merits its full red designation. The Naftzger-Blay 1807/6 cent is now part of the same PCGS registry type sets that include the already mentioned Garrett 1793 Liberty Cap cent.

Eliasberg-“High Desert” 1793 Liberty Cap Cent

1793 Eliasberg CentThe only 1793 Liberty Cap cent that is usually rated higher than the Garrett-Stellar coin is the Eliasberg coin. The copper coins, including those in bronze, in the Eliasberg Collection were auctioned by Bowers & Merena in New York in May 1996. The Eliasberg 1793 Liberty Cap (S-13) cent commanded a great deal of attention.

Less than 325 Liberty Cap cents, of all varieties, survive. As this Eliasberg coin was dipped during the 20th century, I understand why some collectors may prefer the relatively more original Garrett coin, even though the Garrett coin has more noticeable contact marks than the Eliasberg coin. Richard Burdick saw the Eliasberg S-13 Liberty Cap cent “in 1996 and again in 2011 or 2012,” and he reports that it “continues to recover nicely from the dipping.”

In accordance with PCGS standards, this Eliasberg coin is clearly the finest-known 1793 Liberty Cap cent. It was PCGS-graded as MS-64 in the 1990s and was later regraded as “MS-64+.”

In May 1996, the sale of this coin for $319,000 set an auction record for a large cent that stood for more than eight years. In July 2004, ANR sold a 1793 Wreath Cent for $391,000. Market levels were higher in July 2004 than they were in May 1996.

The Eliasberg S-13 1793 Liberty Cap cent has been in the “High Desert” Collection for many years, and was acquired quietly. The current value of this coin is unclear.

The PCGS-graded “AU-58” Husak-Pogue S-13 1793 Liberty Cap cent brought $940,000 in the Pogue V sale in March, an extremely strong price. Indeed, Richard Burdick “was stunned by the price.”

Norweb-Loring Proof 1833 Large Cent

It is generally believed that just one Proof 1833 large cent exists, of any variety. It was struck from the die pairing known as Newcomb-4. References in the past have referred to this coin as an 1833 rather than as an 1833/2. Although it is an 1833/2 overdate, the overdate aspect is subtle and is not readily apparent. So, I refer to it as an 1833.

1833 Proof Cent

This is very likely to be the Proof 1833 cent that was in the epic collection of John McCoy, which W. W. Woodward purchased outright and then auctioned in May 1864. It was the greatest collection of U.S. coins to be auctioned before the United States Civil War. The McCoy sale is still regarded as a landmark event. Extraordinary pre-1793 items were featured as well.

The Mickley and McCoy collections of U.S. coins were the greatest to be auctioned before 1870. Many of the coins in those two collection later found their ways into the great collections of the 20th century, including the Eliasberg and Norweb Collections.

The Norweb Family coin collection was auctioned in three sales by Bowers & Merena, the third of which was in New York during November 1988. For this 1833 (or 1833/2) Denis Loring was then the successful bidder for $29,700, a realization that is a fraction of its present value.

Currently, this 1833 cent is in a PCGS holder with a ‘Proof-64+ Red’ certification. It is in at least one PCGS registry set under the “ESM” name. The combination of it being the only 1833 cent that is certified as a Proof and the full red designation certainly suggest that this coin would command a great deal of attention if offered at auction in the near future. There are forgotten rarities that will excite collectors when they re-emerge.

© 2017 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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  1. Thank you for the article on coins that will never be in ordinary hands. I have dealt with Mr. McGuiggen, an honorable man who sells good coins. Very interesting to learn where the rarieties are. I have a 1796 with pole
    (environemental damage) but still one of my favorite coins. Half cent collecting will never go out of style.
    Once again, thank you fora great article


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