By Ron Guth …..
In 1795, an Englishman named William Strickland returned to his home following a sightseeing trip to America that began in 1794. On his voyage home, Strickland carried with him two 1794 Half Cents, a 1793 Chain Cent, two dozen 1794 Large Cents, three 1795 Half Dollars, two 1794 Silver Dollars, three 1795 Silver Dollars, and a mixed lot of Colonial coins. Most of the coins he acquired were in what we would call “Mint State” today and many represent the finest examples of their type known to exist. The total face value of his 35 coins was a mere $6.76, but today that small handful of coins is worth millions of dollars.
Strickland’s collection wound its way through gift and inheritance to Rowland Denys Guy Winn, Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C., whose title has stuck with the coins ever since. In 1964, the London auction house of Christie’s, Manson & Woods, Ltd. sold the majority of the Lord St. Oswald Federal coins. The remaining coins, including the Colonial coins, appeared in a Christie’s auction held in London in 1992.
In October 2015, I began writing what became an 11-part series of blog articles for PCGS under the title, “The Lord St. Oswald Coins – Where Are They Now?“. There, I attempted to trace the subsequent provenances of the Lord St. Oswald coins and show the “modern” grades and current location (where known) for each coin. Of Lord St. Oswald’s 35 Federal coins, I was able to trace 30. In 2016, the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) awarded the St. Oswald series their Best Blog award.
One of the “missing coins” that I could not locate was a 1794 Half Cent, described in the 1992 Christie’s sale as:
Lot 285 “U.S.A., Liberty Cap Half-cent, 1794, head of Liberty right, rev. value in wreath, small patch of verdigris on wreath on reverse, rubbed on the high points but uncirculated and with some original mint lustre, very rare thus.”
The final price realized was roughly $45,936, based on the conversion rate at the time.
Here is what I wrote about this coin in the PCGS blog:
“The present whereabouts of this coin is unknown. The coin is easily identified by the presence of a small localized area of darker color on the upper right reverse edge between the F of OF and the first A of AMERICA. It has not appeared in any major auction or collection since the 1992 sale.”
Since 2016, none of the untraced Lord St. Oswald coins have ever appeared on the market. Thus, it was a real surprise to see this 1794 Half Cent appear as Lot 3606 in the April 23, 2021 sale of the Donald G. Partrick Collection by Heritage Auctions, where it was offered as an NGC MS64RB.
Actually, it’s not surprising to find the coin in the Patrick Collection, where the terms “extremely rare”, “finest known”, and “Condition Census” are commonplace. However, I’ve always associated Mr. Partrick’s name with Colonial coins and I had no idea he was a half cent aficionado. It turns out he had a rather impressive half cent collection, including a complete date set, many extremely rare varieties, and numerous Proof examples.
As mentioned earlier, Lord St. Oswald had TWO 1794 Half Cents, both of which happened to be of the same die variety (Cohen 9, Rarity 2). For comparison purposes, the other Lord St. Oswald 1794 Half Cent appeared as Lot 3005 in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries sale of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, where it was graded PCGS MS66RB and sold for $258,500.
The fact that Lord St. Oswald had two Mint State Red-Brown 1794 Half Cents is extraordinary considering that only 10 Mint State Red-Brown Half Cents exist of all dates in the 1794-1797 Liberty Cap type.
Now that this 1794 Half Cent has been “found”, there are only four “missing” Lord St. Oswald coins missing. If you run across one of them, please let me know. However, I won’t be holding my breath!
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About Ron Guth
Ron Guth is the Chief Investigator at the Numismatic Detective Agency (www.numismaticdetectives.com). He has been active in numismatics for 55 years as a collector, researcher, auctioneer, and professional dealer. He is the author or co-author of several best-selling numismatic books, including Coin Collecting For Dummies, The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, and The Encyclopedia of United States Gold Coins. In 1999, he created CoinFacts (now PCGS CoinFacts). In 2014, he was named the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Numismatist of the Year.