By Paul Gilkes | 09-30-13
Article first published in September-2013, U.S. Collectibles section of Coin World
Only the third known example of the NC-11 variety of the 1794 Liberty Cap, Head of 1794 cent was cherrypicked from a dealer’s inventory Sept. 19 during the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Philadelphia Expo.
In a strange quirk, all three NC-11 cents were discovered by large cent specialists with the last name of Young, although the finders are three different individuals.
Two of the men are brothers; two are named James.
The latest find was made 18 years after the first example of the variety was discovered and 16 years after the confirmation of the second example.
The NC designation in the catalog number refers to “noncollectible,” an attribution superlative that William H. Sheldon first used in his 1949 reference, Early American Cents, and again in the 1958 and 1976 editions of the same book, retitled Penny Whimsy. The NC designation was assigned to large cent varieties for which three or fewer examples were known.
The NC-11 variety of 1794 Liberty Cap cent is not listed in any of Sheldon’s references, since the first example wasn’t discovered until 1995. Sheldon died in 1977.
The NC-11 variety is a marriage of two known dies; the variety’s distinctiveness is a result of the die pairing. The NC-11 die marriage was struck with the Sheldon 25 obverse and the Sheldon 32 (“Broken Leaves”) reverse, according to the 2000 edition of Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1814, edited by Mark Borckardt.
Waverly, N.Y., dealer Christopher Young said he identified the now third confirmed example of the NC-11 variety of 1794 cent while combing through large cents at the bourse table of a dealer whose identity he declined to disclose.
Young said he carefully examined the fine details of the cent he plucked from the dealer’s inventory to ascertain whether it was, in fact, another NC-11 example.
Young said he obtained the attention of his older brother, James F. Young Jr., who was looking through coins at a nearby bourse table, to confirm his suspicions about the variety identification.
James F. Young confirmed his brother’s hunch that another NC-11 cent had been found in Philadelphia, bringing the total number publicly known to three.
The Young brothers have both been professional numismatists for more than three decades.
Large cent specialist Greg Hannigan from Hannigan’s Rare Coins / U.S. Currency LLC in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., carried Chris Young’s NC-11 cent from the Whitman Expo to the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Sports Collectible Expo held Sept. 26 to 28 in Long Beach, Calif., to have the coin certified and encapsulated by Professional Coin Grading Service.
The coin was graded PCGS Genuine, Rim Damage, Good Details.
James F. Young had a previous encounter with an NC-11 1794 cent, locating the second example known on Nov. 30, 1997, after purchasing the coin unattributed.
The Breen reference identifies the condition of the example that James F. Young Jr. obtained in 1997 as About Good 3, having the sharpness of Good 5, but with a punch mark on the obverse and reverse and some small edge dents.
The first example of the NC-11 variety, which is attributed as the discovery piece, was identified March 30, 1995, by New Hampshire collector James H. Young, who is no relation to the other two Youngs.
Collector Harry Leifer had acquired the 1794 cent circa 1950 from an unknown individual at Leifer’s grocery store in Ossining, N.Y., in payment of goods.
Upon Leifer’s death in 1991, the coin passed on to his son, Bret Leifer, who waited four years before seeking the coin’s attribution by James H. Young, who identified it a a previously unknown die marriage.
Bret Leifer sold the discovery coin for an undisclosed sum to renowned large cent collector Robinson S. Brown Jr.
The former Leifer coin is identified in the Breen reference as grading Very Good 8, with the “Sharpness of Very Fine 20 but porous with scratches and edge dents.”
Superior Stamp & Coin Co. sold the discovery NC-11 coin at auction Jan. 27, 1996, for $23,100 as part of the Brown Collection. The coin went into the large cent collection of Daniel W. Holmes Jr.
The coin brought $26,450 when it was sold Sept. 6, 2009, in Part 1 of the sale of Holmes Collection by Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers in conjunction with McCawley and Grellman, The Copper Specialists.
Hannigan has previously owned the first two examples of the NC-11 1794 Liberty Cap cent discovered. He was responsible for placing the Holmes piece into the large cent collection of Adam Mervis.
The Mervis Collection, including the former Holmes NC-11 cent, will cross the auction block in January when Heritage Auctions offers the collection in its sale held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention in Orlando.