Historic 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent Could Bring Over Half-Million Dollars at Auction
By Stack's Bowers -
By James McCartney – Senior Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers
Stack’s Bowers Galleries is thrilled to offer the finest known example of the 1793 Strawberry Leaf Cent in their August 2020 Las Vegas Auction, presented as part of the ESM Collection of United States Large Cents.
First purchased for $77.50 in 1877, this early cent could bring more than $500,000 in the Rarities Night Session, to be held on the evening of August 6.
Among the 348 die varieties of early U.S. large cents numbered by specialist Dr. William Sheldon, no variety captures the imagination of specialists so much as the 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent. Only four specimens are known, all of which are well worn, a fact that contributes to the mystery and desirability that surrounds them.
In the August sale, Stack’s Bowers Galleries is offering the finest known of these four, which has been graded Very Good-10 by PCGS. Researcher Walter Breen noted in a 1959 article that this specimen is “the only strawberry leaf coin with all four numerals of the date legible,” allowing for the easiest comparison of the very strong similarity between these digits and the punches used on other 1793 Wreath cent varieties. Both sides of this coin are finely and evenly granular, the devices and peripheries a medium shade of brown that contrasts with the deeper dark brown toning present in the fields.
In addition to ranking as the finest known, it is also the most historic survivor of this variety.
It was purchased at auction by famous Boston bean-baker Lorin G. Parmelee in October 1877 for $77.50 and was sold alongside his entire collection at auction in 1890, where it realized $79. It went on to be owned by several significant collectors throughout the late-19th and early-20th centuries including Bostonian Dr. Thomas Hall and Virgil Brand of Chicago.
In May 1941 it quietly sold to a nearly unknown collector from Maine, Roscoe E. Staples, for $2,750. Roscoe Staples, a successful businessman, joined the Maine National Guard in 1934 and embarked for the Pacific theater in fall 1942. While his troops were actively engaged in taking the Munda airfield from the remaining Japanese forces in 1943, then-Major Staples was shot and killed by a Japanese sniper. Staples was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for bravery, and he was noted for being “a brilliant officer who had the respect of his men and his superiors.” After Staples’ death, the coin remained with his family until sold in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries 2004 Frog Run Farm Collection sale.