1796 LARGE CENT -
Breen 46 (Dies 26-BB)
Old Sheldon NC-6
Rarity: 3 known
This variety was listed originally in Sheldon's Early American Cents in 1949, as NC-6, but was delisted in his Penny Whimsy in 1958 (see below for the reasons). When this variety was "re-discovered" in 1994, NC-6 had already been taken by another 1796 variety discovered by Denis Loring in 1970, thus the original NC-6 became the new NC-7.
The following is reprinted with permission from Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1814, by Walter Breen, edited by Mark R. Borckardt. Recent editing for readability was performed by Ron Guth.
Discovered by John P. Kennedy, 1928. The second example was discovered in October 1994 by Mark Borckardt. This specimen was struck 65% off-center, then cut down and struck with dies for a 1797 half cent, Breen-3a, including a lettered edge.
The discovery example has had its obverse so drastically retooled as to result in Sheldon condemning it as an alleged alteration from 1797 Sheldon 143. In Penny Whimsy, Sheldon said he had listed this poece "as a gesture of deference to Mr. Clapp, who had included it in his own excellent monograph."
However, there was reason to reopen the question of the coin's genuineness. When Walter Breen was studying the ANS collection during preparation of the present section in his Early United States Cents 1793-1814, he found -- to his surprise -- that there was no way in which any such alteration could have been made from 1797 Sheldon NC-8 or Sheldon 143: the spacing of LIBERTY, and the positons of the date and BERT with respect to the device, differ greatly from their 1797 counterparts; and Sheldon's conclusion that an entirely new bust, LIBERTY, and date were imparted does not sustain critical examination: letters and numerals are of correct form. The piece is certainly die-struck, not made by cementing the obverse of one variety to the reverse of another. The layout of this obverse is nearest to Breen's obverses 17 and 25, less like 15, 22, and 24, though not identical to any. Even if the "die break" were a creation of whoever tooled the corrosion away, the combination is still a new variety.
In November 1994, Mark Borckardt met Denis Loring and Dr. John Kleeburg at the ANS with the second example, for side-by-side comparison. During this examination Denis noted that the date area of the discovery specimen was not tooled and its surface texture was an exact match to the reverse. This feature provided proof that the obverse was not ground down and re-engraved, per Sheldon's theory. The sub-standard weight is easily explained by the obverse tooling.
The second example initially generated considerable controversy over the sequence between the large cent and half cent strikes. Mark Borckardt incorrectly argued that the half cent was struck first. However, Chris Pilliod, a metallurgist by trade, offered a definitive explanation of why the large cent strike had to have come first. See Penny-Wise, no. 168, 5/15/1995, pp. 151-155. In early 1999, the Gallery Mint Museum made reproductions of this overstrike, clearly defining the original circumstances surrounding this emission.
1. Fine-15. Sharpness of VF-30 but porous. Struck 65% off-center, cut down, and overstruck by dies for a 1797 Lettered Edge half cent, Breen 3a. Discovered by Mark Borckardt when consigned unattributed to Bowers anjd Merena, 10/17/1994 - Bowers and Merena 3/1995, Lot 2307, $30,800 - John Whitney - Stack's 5/1999, Lot 1758
2. Good-6. Sharpness of VF-30 but rough surfaces and the obverse heavily tooled including a curved die crack from K3 to K9. Discovered in March 1928 by George H. Clapp in the collection of John P. Kennedy (described by Clapp in The Numismatist, Vol XLI, p. 351, 1928) - B. Max Mehl, privately - Col. E.H.R. Green - B.G. Johnson (St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.), 4/17/1946 - George H. Clapp - American Numismatic Society. Obverse illustrated in Clapp-Newcomb and in Early American Cents. This coin was believed by Sheldon, and others, to be a "fraudulent" coin, however, the existence of part of another specimen proves otherwiise.
3. About Good-3. Purchased unattributed by Rod Burress early in 1999 and sold later the same year to Daniel W. Holmes, Jr.
"Penny Whimsy" by Dr. William H. Sheldon
Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen
"Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1914" by Walter Breen
Early American Coppers Club