NGC Certifies Extremely Rare "Strawberry Cent"

Posted on 9/1/2004

One of the legendary rarities of American numismatics, the finest known 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent, has resurfaced after being off the market for more than 60 years.

Parmelee Specimen Reappears After a 60-year Absence

One of the legendary rarities of American numismatics, the finest known 1793 Strawberry Leaf cent, has resurfaced after being off the market for more than 60 years. NGC has authenticated and graded this coin as F-12.

One of just four examples known, this cent is an example of the Flowing Hair Liberty with Wreath reverse. What sets it apart from nearly all other Wreath cents is the distinctive plant sprig that appears just above the date. While most Wreath cents have very plain leaves, the so-called "Strawberry Leaf" cents have distinctive trefoils, or three-lobed leaves. Over the years this variety has been known variously as "Cotton Leaf or "Clover Leaf," but it is the name "Strawberry Leaf" that seems to have stuck and become dear to the hearts of large cent specialists.

Few collectors have ever seen an example of this very rare variety, so seldom does one appear for sale. According to numismatic researcher John Kraljevich of American Numismatic Rarities in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, this specimen is one of just four known in all. One is permanently impounded in the collection of the American Numismatic Society in New York, while two others belong to advanced cent collector Dan Holmes. In Kraljevich's estimation, the cent which recently surfaced after being sequestered for more than 60 years is the finest of the four. It is notable also as the plate coin in the 2005 edition of R. S. Yeoman's A Guide Book of United States Coins.

American Numismatic Rarities of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire will sell the coin as part of their November 2004 auction in Baltimore, Maryland, marking the first time an auction has included a Strawberry Leaf cent since 1984 and the first time this specimen has been sold at auction since 1890.

The story of how this coin resurfaced after decades in hiding is quite intriguing. It began a few months ago when a lady entered the store of Republic Jewelry & Collectibles in Auburn, Maine. She stated to an employee that she had with her a very rare Strawberry Leaf cent dated 1793, so the employee called over owner Dan Cunliffe to view it. The lady told a story of how her father had purchased this coin around 1941 and had presented it to her mother as an anniversary gift. In August of 1943 the father was killed in action in the Pacific Theater, and his widow put the coin away as a cherished memento. It was later hidden from sight inside a bank vault and only rarely spoken of within the family until a few weeks ago. With the recent passing of the widow, this coin became the responsibility of her heirs, who determined that it should be returned to the numismatic market that would appreciate its great significance.

The cent was contained in a ragged envelope indicating that its purchase price in the 1940s had been just $2750. Reaching for a copy of Yeoman's Guide Book, it appeared to the dealer that this was indeed the very rare Strawberry Leaf cent. He agreed that the coin was extremely valuable and a museum caliber rarity.

The family wanted to place the coin in a public auction, believing this to be the safest and surest method of determining a fair market value, so John Pack of American Numismatic Rarities was contacted. From the description of the coin over the phone, Pack identified this specimen as the plate coin in Yeoman's Guide Book and thus the same specimen included in the famous 19th Century Collection of Lorin G. Parmelee. Given the great value and importance of this coin, Pack arranged to travel to Maine to provide for its insurance and secure shipment to NGC. It has now been encapsulated by NGC with the pedigree designation PARMELEE COLLECTION.

The newly-certified Strawberry Leaf cent has been attributed under NGC's VarietyPlus service as Sheldon variety NC-3. (Dr. William H. Sheldon's reference book on early cents designates varieties as "non-collectible" [NC] when too few examples are known for a collector to have a reasonable chance of owning one.)

"This is history in the making," said NGC Chairman and CEO Mark Salzberg. "It's just incredible that this extremely rare coin could have surfaced in such a casual manner after being unseen since the 1940s. I'm very pleased that John Pack and Dan Cunliffe placed their trust in NGC by allowing us to encapsulate this historic piece. This may be the only example that is ever certified, and it was a real thrill to examine it."

American Numismatic Rarities may be reached at 603-569-0823 or toll-free at 866-811-1804. Its website is www.anrcoins.com.