St. James's Auctions
Auction 78  27 Sep 2023
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Lot 1355

Estimate: 50 000 GBP
Price realized: 50 000 GBP
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USA, Liberty cap cent, 1793, Liberty head right, cap on pole behind, rev. value within wreath, surrounded by the name of the fledgling country, plain edge (Sheldon.13, Noyes.S13, R4-), certified and graded by NGC as extremely fine 40 BN (brown), old reddish toning (not lustre), reverse particularly so toned, evenly struck, no damage; in all a really fine example of this type and very rare die variety, clearly within the census of the top dozen known of its variety
An extraordinary recent discovery! The coin came to our auction firm in an old token collection, its rarity completely unknown to the owner for many years. Here is the original message from the consignor: 'Just briefly, a little background (for purposes of provenance or otherwise!). I inherited the collection from my father quite some years ago now, and, because I don't personally have a great interest in the subject, they have just sat in a cupboard in a box for some 25 years! My father obviously enjoyed the process of collecting, but never organised or mounted any of them, except for a small random selection which he put in plastic envelopes. I can remember as a child the collection being mentioned, and it was said that his coins were not particularly interesting, but there was probably some value in the industrial tokens. So far as I know, the collection goes back certainly to the 1960s, but because amongst them there are quite a number of Edinburgh tokens, and my ancestors have a close link to Edinburgh, going back to the mid-18th century, I have good reason to think that the collection was largely passed on to him by his father.'
The Liberty Cap large cent series was issued from 1793 to 1796 at the first United States Mint, located on 7th Street in old Philadelphia. Mint Director David Rittenhouse had planned for copper cents to be struck in 1792, the opening year of the facility, but it was not possible. By June 1792 he had permission to proceed with the striking of silver and copper coins, but the mint was to face some serious setbacks regarding the supply and rising costs of copper. Rittenhouse was able to get sheet copper imported from Britain, but by that time he realised that the coin would be issued at a loss, resulting from the high cost of the material. In response to this, Congress agreed to lower the weight of the cent from 264 to 208 grains, which alleviated some of the pressure on the mint. Another roadblock existed, however: no engraver had yet been appointed. Henry Voigt was the chief coiner at the early mint and Rittenhouse had persuaded him (it is thought) to cut dies for the 1792-dated silver-centre trial cents in December of 1792, but engraving was not his expertise. It was Voigt who would execute the Chain cent dies of 1793, although they proved to be unpopular with the public-who perceived echoes of past colonial rule in the chain imagery. Most likely, Voigt returned to the workshop to engrave the new Wreath cent (reverse) with berries.
In August 1793, the artist Joseph Wright joined the mint as an engraver, designing and possibly creating the 1793 Liberty Cap cent (obverse). His role is not definitive as he was probably working alongside Henry Voigt. The Phrygian Cap of freedom seen on the coin was symbolic after the victory of the revolution. Wright used Voigt's wreath design but simplified it by removing the berries and smaller branches. It is thought that Liberty's head was modelled on the Libertas Americana medal which was struck at the Paris Mint on order of Benjamin Franklin to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary War. By 1797, as the situation in France was worsening, the cents were minted without the cap behind Liberty's head. The graceful Draped Bust cent replaced it.
In autumn 1793, the Yellow Fever disease swept through Philadelphia and environs, causing the mint to shut its doors. The coins already minted were distributed among the public, but the disease had claimed the life of the engraver. He was replaced by Robert Scot, who continued to mint the coins designed by his predecessor. All 1793 Liberty Cap cents are scarce today (only 11,056 were minted) but this discovery coin is a variety of considerable rarity. Many cents of late 1793 were made from scraps of metal of many kinds, resulting in odd colours in the alloy, as seen on this example.

Estimate: 50000 - 60000 GBP
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