1793 Chain AMERI. Cent. S-1. Rarity-4. MS-61 BN (PCGS).

What better way to begin the series of articles leading up to our presentation of Part III of the D. Brent Pogue Collection than with this lovely Mint State example of the first American cent! Our Pogue Collection Part II sale at Sotheby’s on September 30th set records left and right and will echo forever in the halls of American numismatics. This event had a positive, indeed dynamic effect on the entire coin market. We appreciate all of the nice comments that have been coming our way.

On March 1, 1793, the inauguration of what would become the first year of the United States Mint in Philadelphia, the first copper coins were delivered from the coiner, Henry Voigt, to the Mint treasurer, a total of 11,178 pieces. This group certainly consisted of Chain AMERI. cents in the majority, perhaps totally.

Each had on the obverse Miss Liberty with Flowing Hair and LIBERTY above and the date below. At the center of the reverse was a chain of 15 links—one for each state in the Union, the most recent additions to the 13 colonies being Vermont (1791) and Kentucky (1792). This first issue bore the abbreviated inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERI. It seems that Voigt was fearful that the whole word would not fit. The rest of the 36,103 Chain cents were of the AMERICA type from dies with the legend spelled out in full.

A letter from Newark, New Jersey published in the Argus in Boston stated that Liberty appeared to be in a “fright” and that the chain was but “an ill omen for liberty.” Not long afterward, the cent was redesigned completely—with Miss Liberty in high relief and styled differently on the obverse and with a wreath motif on the reverse. Of course, today numismatists love these coins!

Ever since coin collecting became popular in America in the mid-19th century, a Chain AMERI. cent has been an object of desire. The Mint State-61 BN (PCGS) example to be offered in Part III of the D. Brent Pogue Collection on February 9, 2016, is a beautiful rich brown coin that combines rarity, high grade, history and an impressive provenance. It has been owned or auctioned by such numismatic personalities as Edward Cogan, Thomas Cleneay, the Chapman brothers, John G. Mills, George H. Earle, Virgil M. Brand, Burdette Johnson, Abe Kosoff, Dr. James O. Sloss, and quite a few others. It was front row center as lot 1 in October 1959 in Abe Kosoff’s sale of coins from the Sloss collection. Later, we had the honor of showcasing it in our auction of the Dr. Haig Koshkarian Collection. Going back years earlier the obverse and reverse were illustrated in the 1914 American Numismatic Society Exhibition Catalogue. We dare say that the fortunate next owner of this coin could fill an entire exhibit case with printed information relating to its history and past owners!


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