Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #232
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds....
In early August, Heritage will auction a group of type coins consigned by Oliver Jung, including the finest known 1794 Apple Cheek Large Cent. Among coin collectors, Jung is best known for a comprehensive type set that ANR auctioned in New York on July 23, 2004, one of the best of all time.
Jung’s current group will be part of the Heritage Platinum Night event to be conducted at the ANA Convention near Chicago. Assuming that the Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek 1794 really sold at auction in 2004, Oliver Jung owned this same coin during two different time periods. The Allison Jackman Collection, including many famous large cents, was auctioned in 1918.
One of the other four finest will be offered as well, in this same auction. The Garrett 1794 Apple Cheek Cent is PCGS certified ‘MS-65-Brown.’ The Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek Cent is PCGS certified ‘MS-67 Red & Brown.’ (‘Mint State’ grades range from 60 to 70.) This Jackman-Jung is not just the finest known of the endearing Apple Cheek variety, it is the most highly certified of all 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ large cents.
I. What are 1794 Large Cents?
Before focusing upon the Apple Cheek variety, it makes sense to discuss 1794 large cents in general. U.S. large cents were minted from 1793 to 1857, though none are dated 1815. Large cents were the first coins of the U.S. Mint. According to researcher R. W. Julian, production of Chain Cents began in Feb. 1793. There were three design types in 1793: Chain Cents, Wreath Cents and Liberty Cap Cents. Large cents with variations of the Liberty Cap design were produced in 1793, 1794, 1795 and 1796.
The Liberty Cap Cents of 1793 have borders that are different from the Liberty Cap Cents of 1794 to 1796, beads rather than dentils. Experts are divided as to whether 1793 Liberty Cap Cents constitute a separate design type, a topic that I discussed in 2008 when I focused upon the auction result for Walt Husak’s famous 1793 Liberty Cap Cent.
By tradition, many collectors of large cents ‘by date’ regard a few, very readily noticeable, major varieties as having the status of distinct dates. In another words, more than one issue of the same year may be regarded as a distinct date, even if of the same general design type.
There are three often-collected major varieties of 1794 large cents: ‘Head of 1793,’ ‘Head of 1794’ and ‘Head of 1795.’ The 1794 ‘Head of 1793’ cents feature a head of Miss Liberty that is like the head of Miss Liberty on 1793 Liberty Cap Cents. The ‘Head of 1794’ is a head of Miss Liberty that is artistically different from the ‘Head of 1793.’ The ‘Head of 1795’ is likewise different from the first two head designs found on 1794 cents.
All 1794 large cents are Liberty Cap Cents; the artistic designs of the head of Miss Liberty differ, though other features tend to be the same or extremely similar. The ‘Head of 1795’ refers to a design of Miss Liberty’s head and cap that appears on 1795 and 1796 Liberty Cap cents in addition to some 1794 Liberty Cap Cents.
In all grades, in total, 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ large cents are not rare. There are maybe five thousand of them in existence, many of which are non-gradable because of serious problems. Gem quality 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ large cents, which are those that grade MS-65 or higher, are intensely demanded condition rarities.
Among 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ large cents, the ‘Apple Cheek’ variety is particularly famous and is often sought after by collectors.
“The Apple Cheek is readily apparent; you do not need a magnifying glass,” Richard Burdick asserts. “It almost looks like she has a wad of chewing tobacco in her mouth. Collectors like these and these are more popular than other ‘Head of ’94’ varieties.”
Burdick has studied early large cents since the 1960s. Many of the gem Proof large cents that were in Ted Naftzger’s collection were earlier owned by Richard, as Naftzger bought Burdick’s entire set of Proof Large cents, decades ago.
Even collectors who do not usually seek die varieties tend to be drawn to Apple Cheek cents. The cheek is attractive. As the bulging cheek tends to wear down fast, relatively high grade Apple Cheek cents tend to be worth a tremendous premium over those that grade below AU-50. The Apple Cheek feature came about, possibly unintentionally, when an obverse die was prepared in a distinctive manner.
Indeed, the Apple Cheek feature stems from an obverse die. Generally, for a piece of metal to become a coin, it must be struck with a pair of dies, one for the obverse (front) and one for the reverse (back or tail). Each die is a rod of very hard metal, usually steel. The design elements and other devices of one side of a coin were engraved, punched and/or etched into a previously flat circular area at one end of each die.
A prepared blank piece of metal (planchet) is fed into a coining press and the application of force causes the dies to press design detail into the planchet to form a coin. Even in the 18th century, it was not unusual for one die to be used to make thousands of coins. The pairing of a specific obverse die and a specific reverse die brings about coins of a specific die variety. The Apple Cheek obverse die was paired with just one reverse die, and the only Apple Cheek variety was struck from the pair of dies that is now referenced as Sheldon-24.
While making or enhancing this one particular 1794 obverse cent die, an engraver scooped a little deeper than usual in the metal in the area that corresponds to the cheek of Miss Liberty.
On coins struck from that die, the cheek of Miss Liberty is fuller and rounder. Her cheek seems to bulge, though in a normal human way. It almost appears as though she has an apple in her mouth or just a lot of food.
People who collect early large cents, which date from 1793 to 1814, by die variety sometimes try to maximize the number of different die varieties that they can acquire. In the Sheldon system, coins of 295 different die pairings are itemized. Also, there are eight widely recognized edge varieties.
Adam Mervis’ collection was auctioned in Jan. 10, 2014. Mervis had all 303 Sheldon die and edge varieties, which he acquired with the assistance of Greg Hannigan.
Additionally, there are some extremely rare die pairings that are determined to be non-collectible (NC) and thus not included in the main Sheldon numbering system. They are listed as a separate category.
Amazingly, Dan Holmes had representatives of all the Sheldon varieties and almost all of the “NC” varieties. His early large cents were auctioned by the Goldbergs in Sept. 2009.
Of the tens of thousands of people who seek large cents for their respective coin collections, only a few hundred seek a large number of the 295 “collectible” die pairings in the Sheldon system. Even so, there are thousands of people who seek a S-24 large cent, as this is the Apple Cheek variety, which is famous and charming.
I learned about the Apple Cheek 1794 when I was nine or ten years old and I then wondered about seeing one in actuality. I did not then even dream that I would be able to spend time examining the finest known Apple Cheek cent, many years later, in 2004.
II. Quality ‘Head of 1794’ Large Cents
The leading grading services distinguish between copper coins that are ‘brown’ (BN), have a significant amount of original mint red color (‘red and brown’ = RB), or have a very large percentage of the surfaces covered by original mint red color, so called ‘full red’ coins (“RD”). It is so unusual for an early copper coin to qualify for a ‘full red’ designation that there is no point in discussing such coins here as zero 1794 large cents truly qualify. Moreover, red color tends to fade to brown over time. PCGS does not guarantee the ‘RD’ or ‘RB’ designations. A coin that was certified as ‘RB’ in the past may have turned almost entirely brown by the present.
Two of the Oswald-Naftzger-Husak 1794 ‘Head of 1795’ coins have considerable original mint red color. Both of them, though, have less vibrant red color now than they did in the near past. Coins tend to noticeably tone over time. Copper is a much more ‘active’ metal than silver. U.S. gold coins, which are usually 10% copper, tend to be much more stable.
With or without a ‘red and brown’ designation (“RB”), the Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek is the only 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ large cent of any die pairing that is PCGS graded MS-67. There are four that are PCGS certified ‘MS-66-RB.’ Further, PCGS lists seven that are PCGS certified ‘MS-65-RB.’ These twelve gems, however, probably amount to fewer than eight different coins. Some have been re-submitted. Also, coin doctors frequently add fake red color to a brown coin for the purpose of attempting to deceive graders into thinking that such a coin is naturally ‘red and brown.’
It is not unusual for collectors of large cents removed their coins from their PCGS or NGC holders and never return the printed labels (‘inserts’).
“Many sophisticated collectors of large cents do not keep their coins in PCGS or NGC holders,” Richard Burdick observes. “They like to study all the details, including the edges.”
Richard recommends, though, that most collectors purchase coins that are PCGS or NGC graded and keep them in sealed holders. Burdick notes the reality that “many early copper specialists tend to like raw [not encapsulated] coins” and the reality that raw coins, “especially copper,” tend to be permanently harmed when handled by people, even experienced collectors.
After copper collectors or others remove large cents from PCGS or NGC holders, the same coins are often re-submitted at later times. Though the concept of encapsulation has become much more accepted among large cent collectors over the past eight years, a majority of die variety specialists are not completely comfortable with PCGS or NGC holders.
An immediate point here is that population data for large cents is less reliable as a measure of the number of coins extant in particular grade ranges than population data is for early gold coins. In all cases, however, collectors should not rely heavily on such population data as many individual coins have been submitted on multiple occasions by people who did not promptly return the labels inside the former holders (“inserts”).
Of all varieties of 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ Cents, four are PCGS certified ‘MS-66-Brown’ and three are certified ‘MS-66+ Brown,’ though it is unlikely that these constitute seven different coins. In March 2014, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded ‘MS-66-Brown’ coin that was not great, which sold for $129,250. The Jackman-Jung coin is vastly superior.
The Eliasberg-Earle-Madison 1794 is rivals the Jackman-Jung coin. That (S-26) Eliasberg piece was PCGS certified ‘MS-66-RB’ in the 1990s, perhaps shortly after it was auctioned in May 1996. It is the only 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ cent that is PCGS certified ‘MS-66-RB.’ Two are PCGS certified as ‘MS-65-RB.’ All the U.S. coins in the Eliasberg Collection were not certified when they were auctioned in 1982, 1996 or 1997.
The Jackman-Jung (S-24 = Apple Check) coin has more eye appeal overall, though the Eliasberg (S-26) piece has more ‘mint red color.’ Importantly, this Eliasberg 1794 is not of the Apple Cheek variety; it is of a less noticeable and less famous variety (S-26).
Denis Loring lists the Eliasberg Apple Cheek (S-24) as the second finest Apple Cheek cent. Eliasberg had many gem quality large cents.
The Eliasberg Apple Cheek (S-24) is PCGS certified “MS-66+ BN.” The Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek and the already mentioned Eliasberg-Earle-Madison (S-26) are of higher quality, in my view, though, admittedly, I have not seen the Eliasberg Apple Cheek in a very long time.
It is worth noting that this Eliasberg-Earle-Madison 1794 has been auctioned four times over the last ten years. In Sept. 2005, Stack’s (New York) auctioned it for $120,750. In Jan. 2008, Heritage auctioned it, as part of the incomparable Madison Type Set, for $195,500, while markets in rare coins were booming. In April 2009, when demand for rare coins was bottoming out, it sold, as part of the “Joseph Thomas Collection,” for $126,500. In April 2013, Heritage sold it again, that time for $205,625.
The Eliasberg-Earle-Madison (S-26) 1794 has a CAC sticker of approval, and the Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek (S-24) does not, though experts at CAC will not reveal whether a non-stickered coin has ever been submitted to CAC. I theorize, and this is just an undocumented theory, that the Jackman-Jung 1794 would not be CAC approved while in a holder with a ‘MS-67-RB’ certification.
I examined this coin in July 2004, more than three years before the founding of CAC. It was a thrilling coin in the altogether incredible Oliver Jung type set.
Denis Loring has seen it as well. “It is certainly one of the top few 1794 Head of 1794’s of any variety, and simply a gorgeous coin,” Loring declares.
Charlie Browne likewise exclaims, “just superb, amazing large cent”! Browne served four stints as a grader for PCGS, and has been paid to grade coins for leading dealers in classic U.S. coins, over the course of his multi-decade career as “a coin professional.”
The Jackman-Jung 1794 Apple Cheek was well struck on an especially select planchet and it has almost zero noticeable contact marks. In 2004, not all experts were convinced that it has enough ‘mint red color’ to qualify at the ‘67RB’ level. Also, as I already said, mint red color tends to fade over time.
At first, I figured it as ‘MS-66-RB.’ When I viewed it again, it seemed just too close to being flawless for a 66 grade, and then ‘67-Brown’ seemed to be the right grade. It scores higher in the category of originality, though, than some large cents (of other dates) that have been PCGS or NGC certified as ‘MS-67-BN.’
I predict that, if it was certified as ‘MS-67-BN’ rather than as ‘MS-67-RB,’ then it would receive a CAC sticker, if submitted to the CAC. It does, nonetheless, have apparent original mint red color and is an exceptionally pleasing coin. Loring has seen all the other very high grade, Apple Cheek 1794 cents, “but none recently.” Loring tentatively suggests that none of the others “have as much red color as the Jung coin.”
Surely, the Jackman-Jung coin is one of the best struck and most technically sound early large cents that survive. If an Apple Cheek Cent of superior quality exists, I would be very surprised.
Denis Loring notes that the already mentioned, PCGS certified ‘MS-65-BN,’ Garrett Collection Apple Cheek is inferior to the Jackman-Jung and Eliasberg Apple Cheek cents. Loring also mentions a high grade Apple Check Cent that was in the official auction at the summer 1987 ANA Convention, which is said by him to be of approximately the same quality as the Garrett piece. Denis does “not know if it has been PCGS or NGC graded.”
On Jan. 8, 2014, Heritage auctioned an Apple Cheek that is PCGS certified ‘MS-61-BN,’ from an unnamed consignor. Although the price realized of $16,450 seems very weak, I wonder if this coin is really uncirculated.
Though I never saw it, images and comments by others suggest that it is maybe an AU-55 grade coin, by mainstream standards. Loring “did see it, graded it a lovely 45 by EAC standards, and was the underbidder, obvious flatness on the hair,” Denis notes.
The NGC assigned grade of “AU-55” to the recently auctioned, Adam Mervis Apple Cheek is controversial. It has issues.
Dan Holmes’ Apple Cheek Cent was not certified when it was auctioned in Sept. 2009. Some experts believe that it is non-gradable because of a deep scratch on the cap. It does, though, have the details of an EF to AU grade coin.
Although Walter Husak had many high quality large cents in his almost complete set of Sheldon varieties, he did not have an uncirculated Apple Cheek (S-24). His is PCGS graded AU-50. It sold for $12,650 on Feb. 15, 2008.
The Jackman-Jung, 67 grade Apple Cheek realized $126,500 on July 23, 2004. It will probably sell for more than $300,000 next month.
Much of the value of this particular coin stems from the fact that it is one of the highest quality Liberty Cap Large Cents in existence, of any year or variety. The Naftzger-Husak-Holmes 1794 (S-59) that is PCGS certified ‘MS-66-RB’ is more colorful, though the Jackman-Jung coin is a higher quality coin. Indeed, in terms of overall quality, this Jackman-Jung Apple Cheek Cent is one of the top three 1794 ‘Head of 1794’ cents of any die variety!
©2014 Greg Reynolds
The Garrett Apple Head Cent was featured in David Lisot's Cool Coins video from Long Beach.