HomeUS CoinsCopper CoinsIncredible Gem 1793 Chain AMERICA Cent - A Numismatic Landmark

Incredible Gem 1793 Chain AMERICA Cent – A Numismatic Landmark

By Q. David BowersStack’s Bowers….

Finest Ever Certified!

There is something incredible, something special, about any 1793 Chain cent.

pogue_s3_obvFirst delivered by the coiner at the Mint on March 1, 1793, these were released into circulation without fanfare. There is no known record of anyone having a numismatic interest in them at the time. The result was that the several varieties of the 1793 Chain cent passed into circulation without notice. Most became worn, some extremely so. In 1859 in his American Numismatical Manual, Montroville W. Dickeson commented that such pieces could still be found in circulation.

In any grade from Fair upward, a 1793 Chain cent has been an object of desire. The writer (QDB) recalls being the overnight guest of Dr. Charles Ruby in California in 1958, when Ruby showed the dozens of 1793 cents he had acquired, most well-worn.

The D. Brent Pogue Collection Part III coin, Sheldon-3, with a period after LIBERTY, has been certified as Mint State-65, a gem, by PCGS–the very finest thus certified. Moreover, it is the only coin that has some original mint red color.

pogue_s3_revThis beautiful coin was a highlight of our Garrett Collection sale in November 1979, the first of four sales extending into 1981 that, despite a very uncertain market, set new records and today are remembered as great highlights of American numismatics. Many of the coins, including this one, had been off the market since the 1870s and ’80s! In today’s era of market uncertainty, it may be important to recognize that 1979 going into 1980 was the time of the precipitous crash in the prices of silver and gold bullion. In spite of this, our Garrett Collection broke records left and right–so many that Abe Kosoff, a leading dealer and market observer at the time–stated that the Garrett prices were unrealistic and should be ignored!

Today in 2016 we would dearly love to buy coins at those record prices. Now, most if not all are bargains!

Garrett and Other Reminiscences

In our Garrett catalog we described this coin as a choice specimen with reddish-brown color on the obverse and reverse. Some mint red is evident in protected areas of the obverse as well as many areas of the reverse. A minute rim nick above the left side of T (LIBERTY) serves to identify this coin. The strike is superb. The hair detail is excellent, even on the highest portions. The reverse is likewise sharp with exquisite detail in all areas. In other words, this coin has everything!

This specimen was unknown to William H. Sheldon when he compiled Early American Cents in 1949. The only Mint State piece of which he was aware was the Cleneay-Jackman-Ryder coin. The Garrett Collection at the time was in a vault room in Evergreen House on North Charles Street in Baltimore, and its contents had not been made available to numismatists. That changed in later times when a succession of numismatically-aware curators–Sarah Elizabeth Freeman, Carl W.A. Carlson, and Susan Tripp–worked with scholars and researchers who were seeking information and photographs.

We published The History of United States Coins as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection in 1979 in an edition of 4,000 copies, which quickly sold out. This was followed by other printings totaling well over 10,000 copies. Today the book remains a favorite source and contains a lot of information not available elsewhere. Copies are available from dealers in antiquarian books. T. Harrison Garrett bought this coin from Ed. Frossard’s sale of Selections from the Cabinet of Richard H. Lawrence, October 23-24, 1884, lot 983.

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