Though other memorable large cent collections have perhaps featured a greater number of outstanding condition rarities among the more available varieties, the Mervis Collection is especially noteworthy for its inclusiveness within the very rarest die marriages. It is rich in R-7 (4-12 known), R-8 (2-3 known) and even Unique varieties. In the latter category it is obvious that Mr. Mervis alone possesses such rarities until bidders have a chance to secure them in Heritage Auctions’ sale of this magnificent cent collection.
Presented below is just a small selection of some of the most important pieces within this immense collection. They include the rarest Sheldon-numbered varieties, as well as a particularly extensive run of the NC (non-collectable) die marriages that are the real test of a cent collector’s determination. There are important pieces, too, within the later Newcomb-numbered issues of 1816-57.
1793 WREATH S-7
NGC F 15 BN
The rarest of the Sheldon-numbered Wreath Cents, S-7 is rated R-6 and features an obverse die unique to this marriage. Its reverse die was more durable and was ultimately paired with four different obverses. The Mervis specimen is in a desirable collector grade and falls within the condition census for this rare variety. Its surfaces are just faintly granular and unusually clean for such a rare, early cent.
1793 LIBERTY CAP S-15
NGC VG 10 BN
All 1793 Liberty Cap Cents are scarce to rare, and S-15 is among the tougher ones to locate. Rated low R-7, all known examples are quite worn. The Adam Mervis coin is a pleasing specimen that is evenly worn on its obverse and a bit weak at the center of its reverse from sinking of the die in that area. Another important condition census rarity, it is a real highlight of this great collection.
1794 HEAD OF 94 S-33
NGC VG 8 BN
An R-6 die marriage, S-33 is not only quite rare but immensely popular. Its reverse die deteriorated dramatically, suffering a series of deep die cracks in a wheel spoke pattern that has long fascinated collectors. The Mervis specimen is from the latest state of this die in which a total of six spokes are visible. This is an extremely attractive example, too, with very smooth, natural surfaces that have a few old digs which blend in nicely and do not detract from the coin's overall appeal.
1794 HEAD OF 94 S-34
NGC VF 30 BN
Rarity and high grade are combined in this extremely desirable cent. A condition census specimen, the Mervis S-34 is rated high R-5 overall but is much more rare in this high, condition census, grade. It is in an intermediate die state, with the cud at 11 o'clock obverse just beginning to form (a much larger break would later take out the top of Liberty's cap). Even wear and smooth surfaces make this a coin over which bidders will fight vigorously.
1794 HEAD OF 94 S-37
NGC VF 20 BN
Here is yet another high R-6 entry from that falls within the upper end of the condition census. S-37 features an obverse die unique to this marriage that was paired with a durable reverse used also for S-36 and S-38. The Mervis example is an absolutely beautiful coin displaying the "circulated cameo" look that any collector would be pleased to have in his or her type set. Instead, this important coin will certainly go to an early cent specialist who is willing to really reach for the finest rarity and quality.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-1
NGC G 4 BN
Rated high R-7, this is one of the great rarities within the popular cents of 1794. Both dies were used in other marriages, yet their time together evidently produced a very small number of cents, as fewer than half a dozen survive. The Mervis specimen is evenly worn and reveals some light porosity fairly consistent with the grade. For such a great rarity it is a very attractive and desirable specimen that will attract strong bidder attention.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-2
NGC F 12 BN
With just two examples known, one of which is impounded with the collection of the American Numismatic Society, this specimen is the sole coin available to collectors. Plated in the book United States Large Cents 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes, the Mervis coin is actually more attractive than the black & white Noyes photo suggests. It displays rich detail and light roughness in the fields but it quite appealing overall. Unless another example surfaces, only one individual will ever be able to own a 1794 NC-2.
1794 HEAD OF 95 NC-3
NGC VF 30 BN
The reverse die of S-72 was paired to an obverse die unknown for any other marriage to create Sheldon's NC-3. Yet another Noyes plate coin, the Mervis specimen is the finer by far of just two known. Despite a couple of shallow marks around Liberty's ear, this is a very attractive cent with just moderate wear and smooth surfaces. Noyes pedigrees it to a Mayflower Auctions sale of December 1966, this company having flourished for just a few years before becoming almost entirely forgotten now. More recently it was part of the famed Dan Holmes Collection sold in 2009.
1794 HEAD OF 93 S-17b/NC-4
NGC G 4 BN
One might ask why a coin that is one of just two known was assigned a Sheldon number when the good doctor typically applied only an NC (non-collectable) designation to such pieces. The answer lies in the fact that this same die marriage is indeed collectable as S-17a, which features the Edge of 93 having a single, downward turned leaf. S-17b/NC-4, in contrast, has the Edge of 94 on which the leaf is pointed upward, and therein rests its great rarity. Pedigreed to Dr. William Sheldon himself, this coin is almost certain to set a record price when auctioned by Heritage.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-5
NGC VG DETAILS
The drama never stops with the amazing Mervis Collection. Yet another super rarity is this 1794 cent, the finer of just two pieces known and the Noyes plate coin. Both dies had successfully produced other Sheldon varieties previously, but they were failing when this coin was produced. This accounts in part for its unusual appearance, though the coin suffered some minor damage in circulation, too. The Adam Mervis Collection will long be remembered as one of the greatest opportunities to secure the ultra rarities within the early cent series, and this specimen is one of its highlights.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-6
NGC VF 30 BN
This extremely rare cent is the discovery specimen for NC-6, with just two others known. The Mervis coin is slightly less worn than its brothers, and cent specialists will be paying great attention when this rarity comes up for sale. While this coin's obverse die was used also to produce varieties S-64 (scarce) and S-65 (very common), its reverse is unique to this marriage.
1794 HEAD OF 93 S-20a/NC-7
NGC VG DETAILS
Can you say "unique?" You'll have to do so if you want to own this amazing coin. As with S-17b/NC-4, this is another instance in which a die marriage that is only moderately scarce (S-20b) is rendered a great rarity by its edge device. S-20a had its edge lettering applied twice, first with the Edge of 93 having a single leaf pointing down, and this was followed by another run through the Castaing machine to apply the Edge of 94, with its leaf pointing upward! Being unique, this is of course the Noyes plate coin, and it is likely to set off a "penny war" at bidding time.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-8
NGC VF 30 BN
Three examples alone have been found for this very rare die marriage in which an obverse used for collectable varieties S-25 and S-26 was paired with a reverse die not seen for any other issues. The Adam Mervis example is just moderately worn and problem-free. Indeed, it is visually superior to the Noyes plate coin.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-10
NGC VF 30 BN
Pedigreed to the fabulous Dan Holmes Collection prior to its inclusion in the memorable Adam Mervis Collection, this coin is absolutely unique. Its obverse die was used also for varieties S-43, S-44 and NC-5, but its reverse was entirely unknown before 1994. The bust of Liberty has a splendid "circulated cameo" appearance, and the wear is mostly quite even, with a bit more detail loss on the reverse at right.
1794 HEAD OF 94 NC-11
NGC F 12 BN
This die marriage was unknown when the Noyes book was published in 1991, and just four are known at the present time. The present specimen is one of the two finest, though specialists disagree as to which one takes the prize. As is so often true of early cents, the surfaces of the Mervis Specimen are a bit granular, but the coin is richly detailed overall. It is an extremely desirable example of this, the most recently discovered 1794 cent variety.