By Chris Bulfinch – Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
Mint State 1797 Sheldon-135 large cents are relatively abundant owing to the Nichols Hoard, a group of 1796 and 1797 cents owned by David Nichols. A resident of Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts, Nichols in the late 19th century distributed a number of his accumulated cents to local young numismatists. The coins are thought to have originated with Benjamin Goodhue, kin to Nichols’ wife, who served in the House of Representatives and Senate in the 1790s. Numismatic historians have not been able to confirm all the details surrounding the Nichols Hoard, but it is likely that this coin was part of it as S-135 is among the varieties identified in the hoard. Dozens of Mint State examples of S-135 are thought to survive.
The S-135 large cent included in the Stack’s Bowers Spring 2023 Rarities Night session was struck with dies in a state of wear cataloged as Breen-III.
William Noyes describes the obverse die, which was also used for marriage NC.6, in his United States Large Cents – 1795-1797:
“Upper serif of B missing. The right corner of the 7 touches the drapery. The stand of the R almost touches the highest wave. PC under the right side of the upright B; HWH under the left foot of the upright R; JHF under the center of the upright T.” And for the reverse die, unique to the S-135 marriage: “Wide fraction. Right stem points to the center of the right stand of A, and the left to the left side of the bottom of U. PLLR between C and A; PSL beneath the inner curve of D. A slight crack or defect is always seen connecting the top of C in AMERICA to the rim; some specimens show a faint crack connecting the adjacent I to the nearest leaf.”
The example we’re offering received an MS-65 BN grade from PCGS and CAC approval as strong for the grade, placing it in the upper tier of PCGS’ census of all 1797 Rev. of 1797, Stems varieties. The coin’s attractiveness clearly impressed our cataloger, who described it as:
“Handsome olive-brown patina gives way to faded autumn-orange mint color toward the borders. The surfaces are hard and satiny with an impressively smooth appearance. A faint carbon spot at 9 o’clock on the obverse serves as a useful identifier for provenance purposes, as does a thin, noncontiguous planchet flaw (as made) that arcs down from the border before the letter L in LIBERTY into the top of the portrait. Sharply struck from a well-centered impression, this is a lovely Gem in all regards.”
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The Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo is scheduled for March 21-24, 2023 in our Costa Mesa, California headquarters. Expo lot viewing will take place March 14-17 at the Baltimore Convention Center.