1794 Liberty Cap Cent, S-31, Head of 1794. PCGS MS67 BN Brown with CAC endorsement. This is an utterly amazing near-perfect 223 year old Large Cent-! The present 1794 Marred Field specimen is the finest graded by PCGS. According to Noyes, it is tied with the Walter Husak PCGS MS64 specimen for Number 1 in his Condition Census. We think the PCGS grade assessment speaks for itself as to Condition Census. Last seen in a 1999 Rarities Sale, this coin was described as:
“Superb gem quality with glossy dark brown obverse and lighter golden olive reverse. A few tiny planchet imperfections are present, no doubt as struck. Known as the “Marred Field” variety due to heavy die chips in the left obverse field, behind the hair curls. This is one of the very finest 1794 large cents in existence and is certain to satisfy one’s desire for the very finest available quality. The finding of even a single 1794 cent in low Mint State grade such as MS-60 would be a numismatic occasion. The present piece, a beautiful gem, called MS-67 by PCGS, is thus of especially commanding importance. Once it is sold, where could you possibly find another? PCGS population: 1, none finer. Acquired by the present consignor from R.E. Naftzger, Jr., 2/23/1992; earlier from A. Kosoff, 8/14/1957, C. Douglas Smith, and Stack’s 8/1957, from England.”
Collecting 1794 cents has always been a major collecting passion of numismatists since shortly after the Civil War. Their charm is seductive and their endless variations on color, strike and quality entice collectors from all walks of life and every imaginable budget to assemble collections of this famous year. While other issues are tougher, shorter, longer, more or less complex, it is a simple fact of life that one of the most popular collections of all times is a group of 1794 cents. Their eye appeal, obvious variations, and broad range of quality entices even the novice collector to take note when presented with one or more of these prized cents. This example, one of the finer pieces seen of any die pairing–would inspire even the most advanced specialist with its incredible quality and visual appeal.
This is the Heritage auction catalog description for the Walter Husak PCGS MS64 sold in February of 2008 tied for #1 in the Noyes Condition Census:
1794 1C Head of ’94. MS64 Brown PCGS. S-31, B-13, R.1. Bland MS60; tied for CC-4. Noyes MS65; tied for CC-1. Photo #22632. Our EAC Grade MS60.
Equivalents. Maris 29 (Marred Field); Frossard 18.1; Doughty 49; Hays 38, 39; McGirk 3-H; Ross 24-Z; Chapman 23; EAC 16; Encyclopedia 1668; PCGS #901374.
Variety. The Marred Field. Fraction bar long, extending past 100 to the left and right. The obverse appears on S-30 and S-31. The reverse appears on S-31. Lettered Edge, leaf points up. Sheldon identified three different obverse dies with chips in the field. He assigned obverse 11 to S-30, obverse 12 to S-31, and obverse 17 to S-38, S-39, S-40, and NC-2. Bill Noyes considered S-30 and S-31 to be from the same obverse die and the remaining varieties from a second die. Walter Breen felt that all six die varieties are from a single obverse. There are many similarities to the obverses of all six, such as the border dentilation, with exactly 85 dentils on each variety. There are also several differences that suggest Sheldon’s assessment was correct.
In Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy, Sheldon wrote: “This obverse shows nearly the same little breaks in the field, or chips out of the die, as the preceding one, but now they are larger or more developed. The peculiar similarity of these injuries remains a source of numismatic mystery. Maris, Frossard, Hays, and Chapman thought that the two obverses came from totally different dies, but others have considered that obverse 12 is from the same hub die as obverse 11, although the many minor differences indicate that there must have been a great amount of retouching and retooling before obverse 12 was considered ready for use. I am inclined to this latter view. Possibly the engraver was disturbed over the manner in which obverse 11 seemed to blur out its reverse mate, and he may have approached the task of ‘dressing down’ this obverse with considerable energy.”
Surfaces. Full borders, sharp details, and excellent centering indicate the quality of the strike; the obverse appears sharper than the reverse. A highly appealing Mint State example with gorgeous steel-brown color and hints of pale blue toning. Both sides have uniform mint frost. A faint diagonal mark below CENT will help trace the provenance of this piece.
Die State II. The dies are lapped to remove clash marks, with prominent field chips. There are no other die defects on either side of this specimen.
Appearances. The obverse and reverse are illustrated in Noyes (2006).
Census. Del Bland grades three examples MS61 and six others MS60, including this piece. Bill Noyes grades just five pieces Mint State, including this coin and one other MS65 piece, considered tied for finest known. At least four Mint State examples were known at the time of Sheldon’s publication of Penny Whimsy, and seven were recorded in the “Early Cent Revision” that appeared in the May 1973 issue of Penny-Wise. The “Early Cent Revision” was the initial attempt at updating Penny Whimsy, with much of that research incorporated in Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Large Cents. The revision was published through several editions of Penny-Wise in 1973 and 1974, and concentrated on updated Condition Census, rarity, and basal values, with that term revised to “basic value.” The revision was a committee project undertaken by Dr. Sheldon, Denis Loring, Dorothy Paschal, Willard Blaisdell, Dane Nielsen, and John Wright.
Commentary. Sheldon-31 ranks among the most plentiful of all 1794 die marriages, and quite a few high-quality pieces are known. At least 20 examples of this variety exist in XF or better grades, many with above-average or choice surfaces. It is an excellent choice for collectors seeking an example to illustrate the type, or others who seek an example of each individual date.
This is the auction catalog description for the Noyes #3 in the Condition Census:
This fully struck, satin-textured Gem possesses exceptional technical quality and eye appeal in a Liberty Cap cent irrespective of date or individual die marriage. The impression is nicely centered on both sides, and the detail to Liberty’s hair is particularly sharp. Otherwise evenly toned in glossy steel-brown, glints of original faded rose luster are still readily evident in the protected areas around most of the devices. Remarkably smooth and free of detracting abrasions, a few tiny planchet voids (as made) in the lower right obverse field and a tiny fleck of verdigris within the digit 7 in the date helped us establish the pedigree of this important Condition Census piece. This is the variety known as the Marred Field, Long Fraction Bar combination, the marred field of course for the die lumps behind Liberty’s lower curls and below her cap. The reverse fraction bar is quite long and placed low between the ribbon tails. Listed in the William Noyes Condition Census as tied for third finest of this variety and certainly one of the finest of this major type of the Head of 1794 as well. Few early Large cents survive in grades even approaching this majestic jewel that have earned even the Gem level of preservation. Here is an astounding MS-66 coin that offers incredible surface quality and stunning visual appeal. Simply stated, this is a coin that would be a major addition and centerpiece to any advanced collection — regardless of precisely what was being collected. It simply stands tall within any group of condition rarities.