1795 Reeded Edge Cent

The reported private sale of this 1943-D copper for “$1.7 million” notwithstanding, the auction record for a copper coin or copper pattern remains $1,265,000. It was set in Sept. 2009 when the Goldbergs auctioned the Dan Holmes collection of early date large cents, 1793 to 1814. Holmes’ 1795 Reeded Edge cent, a variety that is known as Sheldon-79, realized this amount.

In Sept. 2009, Greg Hannigan was the successful bidder for the Holmes 1795 Reeded Edge cent. Hannigan was acting on behalf of a collector who recently, during the summer of 2010, completed his set of all 295 Sheldon die varieties of “collectible” early large cents. There is some discussion of Sheldon varieties in my 2008 overview of Walter Husak’s collection of early large cents.

Hannigan was the consignor of another 1795 Reeded Edge cent to the Goldbergs’ Sept. 2010 auction. It is a new discovery. I have never seen it. My impression is that it grades Poor-01 at best by widely accepted standards. In accordance with the criteria employed by specialists in early U.S. copper coins, however, its net grade is “Good-04,” I am told by more than one source.

In early 2009, there were, in my view, 5½ known 1795 Reeded Edge cents. Now, it seems that there are 7½! The ½ is a brockage. Please see my column of Sept. 15for a definition of a brockage and my column of June 23rd for a discussion of the importance of 1795 Reeded Edge cents. (As always, clickable links are in blue.) Please click to find a discussion of Dan Holmes collection of early date large cents. This newly discovered 1795 Reeded Edge cent was first reported, anywhere, in my column of Aug. 11.

Personally, I find it curious that, since the announcement of the sale of Holmes’ early dates circa Jan. 2009 along with the speculation that then started regarding the value of Holmes’ 195 Reeded Edge cent, two ‘new’ 1795 Reeded Edge cents have been discovered and another emerged that had not been publicly seen, as far as I know, since it was offered at auction in 1977. Again, please see my column of June 23rd.

Both the recent discoveries and the one that recently re-emerged probably would be considered ungradable by the PCGS and the NGC. In another words, if all three were submitted to both the PCGS and the NGC, experts at these services would, I guess, find that all three have problems that are so serious that these coins do not merit numerical grades. Specialists in the die varieties of early copper coins employ grading criteria that is different from the respective criteria used by the PCGS and the NGC.

Specialists in die varieties seem to rank the known 1795 Reeded Edge Cents as follows: (1) Holmes – VG-08 {PCGS VG-10};(2) ANS VG-07; (3) Robinson–Kuntz-Frankenfield-Brown — Good-06; (4) coin auctioned by B&M in Nov. 2008 – Good-05 {PCGS Good-04}; (5) Coin that NGC encapsulated without a grade in the Spring – Good-05; (6) Newly discovered Hannigan coin that was just auctioned in Sept. 2010 – Good-04 {PCGS Genuine Holder – No Grade!}; (7) Coin that was newly discovered during the Spring or Summer of 2009 – Poor-01; (½) Brockage that has not been seen in decades. Additionally, Chris McCawley has doubts as to whether the 1795 Reeded Edge cent in the ANS museum, (#2 above) would receive a numerical grade if (hypothetically) it were to be submitted to the PCGS. So, only two of the seven have received numerical grades from the PCGS and the Robinson-Brown coin might if it were submitted.

As for the one that was discovered in 2010, a relatively young man received an assortment of coins from his father, who was not a wealthy collector. His father, however, seemed to know that his 1795 cent was very special and emphasized to his son that it might be worth ‘a lot of money.’ The son, John B., attended a coin show in Baltimore in June 2010. Greg Hannigan bought this coin from him and Hannigan consigned it to the Sept. 2010 Goldbergs auction. During the summer, it was authenticated and encapsulated, though it failed to be graded, by the PCGS. It was in a PCGS genuine holder when it was auctioned. It realized $322,000, a healthy price. The 1795 Reeded Edge issue is now not as rare as it was two years ago. Though none were seen for many years, four have been around in 2009 or 2010.

As I explained in my column of June 23rd, I maintain that 1795 Reeded Edge cents are experimental pieces rather than coins. The fact, however, that this issue is a recognized die variety that is strongly demanded by those who wish to assemble sets of the 295 recognized, “collectible” Sheldon die varieties indicates that it is of tremendous importance to large cent collectors. Oddly, many standard price guides list this issue as if it were a separate, distinct date that is needed for a regular set of large cents. Such listings, in standard price guides, may have contributed to the current values of 1795 Reeded Edge cents. While I can understand the reasons why die variety collectors are eager to buy 1795 Reeded Edge cents, it makes no sense for standard price guides to list them along with the major varieties that have the status of distinct dates.

These should not be demanded by collectors who are assembling regular sets of large cents. It is logical for variety specialists and ‘pattern’ collectors to seek 1795 Reeded Edge cents. Patterns, narrowly defined, are embodiments of proposals for new designs or for other changes in coinage. The category of patterns, broadly defined, is comprised of a wide range of items, including most all experimental pieces.