AU-50 Howard R. Newcomb • J. C. Morgenthau & Co. #458, 2/1945: 12 $285 • A. Kosoff (Numismatic Gallery), privately • R. E. Naftzger, Jr. • Auction '81 (Stack's): 1507 $14,000 • Stanley Kesselman • R. E. Naftzger, Jr., 12/11/1986 • Herman Halpern • Stack's 3/1988: 12 $12,650 • Anthony Terranova • Bowers and Merena Galleries FPL #70, Autumn 1988 $21,000 • Bowers and Merena 1/1989: 86 $15,400. State II. Reverse illustrated in Early American Cents.
EF-45 With a long line-like planchet defect on the reverse. Oscar J. Pearl • Numismatic Gallery FPL, 1944: 11 $625 • unknown • Walla Walla Coin Co. • Robert Burggraff 6/1963: 558 • Jonah R. Shapiro • unknown • Lester Merkin 10/1966: 91 $3,200 • Herbert Mi Oechsner • Lelan G. Rogers • Jonathan K. Kern, 2/1994 • Dr. Thomas Turissini. State I. Obverse Illustrated in Early American Cents and in Penny Whimsy.
EF-45 Robert Coulton • New York Coin & Stamp Co. 1/1890: 2511 $26.50 • S. H. & H. Chapman, privately • unknown • Dr. William H. Sheldon. T. James Clarke, 10/1954 • R. E. Naftzger, Jr. • New Netherlands Coin Co. 11/1973: 334 $6,000 • R. E. Naftzger, Jr. • Michael Elliott • Bruce Stowe, 10/1995 • Thomas D. Reynolds, 2/1997 • Denis W. Loring. State I.
EF-45 With a planchet defect along the lower obverse rim. R. E. Naftzger, Jr. • A. Kosoff 4/1956: 12 $282.50 • Frank H. Masters, Jr. • Rare Coin Company of America 5/1971: 43 $1,900 • Milton Bentley • Superior Galleries 6/1977: 656 $3,800.
EF-45 With many pinpoint planchet defects on obverse. Richard B. Winsor. S. H. & H. Chapman 12/1895: 820 $41 • S. H. & H. Chapman, privately • unknown • Garry Fitzgerald • Auction '84 (Stack's): 1010 $14,300 • Herman Halpern • Stack's 3/1988: 13 $8,800. Anthony Terranova. State I.
EF-45 John Story Jenks • Henry Chapman 12/1921: 6103 $210 • Elmer S. Sears.
EF-45 With a short line-like planchet defect on obverse and two others on reverse. Bowers and Ruddy Galleries FPL #24, Autumn 1975 $5,500 • American Auction Association 12/1975: 270 $3,850 • Bowers and Ruddy Galleries FPL #26, Summer 1976 $3,900 • Andrew P. Lustig • Bowers and Merena 9/1985: 14 $7,700 • Andrew P. Lustig • Kagin's Numismatic Auctions #340, 1/1986: 4100 $2,860 • Andrew P. Lustig • a Midwest collector • Jay Woodside (The Scotsman) • Harold "Red" Seiler • Jay Woodside (The Scotsman), 9/30/1993 • Thomas D. Reynolds, 2/1997 • John B. MacDonald. State II.
EF-40 Willard C. Blaisdell • J. S. Gensheimer • Stack's 2/1951: 399 $105 • Willard C. Blaisdell. Del Bland • Jack H. Beymer • New England Rare Coin Auctions 31 1977: 589 $3,250 • Andrew M. Hain • Dennis E. Steinmetz (Steinmetz Coins & Currency) • 1980 ANA (Steve Ivy Numismatic Auctions): 934 $8,500 • Jack H. Beymer.
EF-40 John E. Burton • W. Elliot Woodward #42, 10/1881: 109 $19.50 • Colin E. King • S. H. & H. Chapman 4/1892: 1000 $61.00 • George H. Earle, Jr. • Henry Chapman 6/1912: 3366 $52 • "Henry" • S. H. Chapman 3/1917: 434 $47 • unknown • Dr. William H. Sheldon • ANS. State II.
EF-40 Paramount International Coin Corp., privately • John Rowe III (Southwest Numismatic Corp.) • George E. Ewing, Jr.
Liberty Cap Design
During Joseph Wright's first few weeks as Mint Engraver (which proved to be his last few weeks of life), his duties included the assignment to make a device punch for the cents. Without it, our first engraver of the Mint would have been only a name in the history of early American art, honored among specialists but little known even to the museum-going public. Coin collectors have given him a permanent place of honor for his cent design, partly because the 1793 Liberty Caps are the first of their kind and partly because his design is of a quality unequaled in any subsequent cent coinage. (Scot's and Gardner's cent heads of 1794-96 explicitly copy his; in no sense are they an improvement.) Much the same type of head, minus the cap, adorns our earliest dollars and half dollars. This became briefly as distinctively the American style of coin in international trade as the Dos Mundos design was the Mexican.
Wright derived the concept, at some distance, from Augustin Dupre's UBERTAS AMERICANA medal, though he made the head face right. (See Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of u.s. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1988, pp. 181-2.) His Liberty Cap device punch of 1793-94 is more delicate and subtle in detail than its successors, though the condition of survivors does not usually allow this to be noticed. The punch comprised only the head and cap, not the pole.
Because this head was in higher relief than its predecessors were, the reverse needed to be laid out in such a way as to minimize areas where obverse relief detail was directly opposite reverse relief detail. This doubtless explains Wright's reverse design: a simple wreath, its crossed branches drawn by hand with their bows and ribbons crossing stem ends, leaves created from a single punch, berries likewise, simplified compared to the previous type and less crowded.
Dimensions of the device punch required the circle of border beads to be broader than formerly; accordingly, planchets were cut to measure 18/16 inches. This must have coincided with the decision to widen the half cents from 14/16 to 15/16 inch, sometime before July 26. (Half Cent Encyclopedia, p. 67.) As the weight remained the same, the blanks had to be minutely thinner. This had the welcome side effect that the Liberty Cap cents ring better than their predecessors do. These planchets were made from part of the 2,434 pounds of scrap copper purchased on August 1 from Ferdinand Gourdon.
Between August and early September 1793, Wright and his assistants completed four obverses dated 1793 and two reverses. Meanwhile, on July 24, the sloop Amelia had reached Philadelphia, full of refugees from Santo Domingo, where yellow fever was epidemic. On August 7, the first major yellow fever outbreak of many began killing victims in Philadelphia; eventually over 4,000 died. Wright died of the disease on September 12 or 13, most likely not having seen even one of his cents struck. (For further details of the epidemic, see Warren A. Lapp, MO, "The Yellow Fever Epidemics in Philadelphia and Their Effect on the First U.S. Mint." Numismatist, April 1971, pp. 483-493. See also J. H. Powell, Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia, reprinted with a new introduction by Kenneth R Foster, Mary F. Jenkins, and Anna Coxe Toogood, Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993, for an overview of the epidemic and its effect on life in Philadelphia.)
On September 18, Voigt delivered 11,056 cents, the entire 1793 Liberty Cap mintage. Hours later, the Mint closed for the duration of the epidemic, not to reopen until November 12. The supposedly best available replacement for the Mint engravership was Robert Scot, more bureaucrat than artist, who may have received advice from Adam Eckfeldt. No more cents would be struck until January 10, 1794.