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Coin of the Issue: Historic 1794 Large Cents

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - December 21, 2021

There’s something especially alluring about United States large cents, struck by the United States Mint from 1793 through 1857. These large, heavy copper coins, approximately the size of a modern-day U.S. half dollar, were among the very first coins ever struck by the U.S. Mint for mass circulation, predating the silver and gold coinage that came along in the mid-1790s. Large cents have long been collected by American numismatists and were already widely pursued by the small fraternity of coin collectors active in the United States during the 1840s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.

A century later, the large cent’s popularity was further enlivened by Dr. William Herbert Sheldon. His authoritative 1949 book eventually titled Penny Whimsy is a pivotal survey of the myriad large cent varieties created from 1793 through 1814. This colorful period during the large cent’s formative years is the purview of Walter J. Husak, a high-flying philanthropist and aerospace industrialist whose top-flight collection of more than 300 large cents sold for some $10.7 million in 2008. More than a decade later, Husak – who began collecting large cents in 1980 and appeared on the History Channel series Pawn Stars – is rebuilding the multimillion-dollar collection. His Liberty Cap Foundation ( serves as a veritable museum of early American coins.

Husak has discovered this second collecting journey into the complex world of early American coppers is different from his first adventure with large cents that began four decades ago. “It’s harder the second time around,” remarks Husak. “More people know about these varieties now and how rare so many of them are.” But that hasn’t stopped him from acquiring some of the rarest and most beautiful large cents known, including a quintet of five 1794 Liberty Cap Large Cents encompassing five of the most important varieties catalogued by Sheldon in his seminal catalog.

Among the most significant of these rarities from the prestigious Lord St. Oswald Collection is a gorgeous 1794 S-57 Head of 1794. Hammering for a princely sum of $164,500 at a Stack’s Bowers sale in 2017, this resplendent example – the single-finest of its variety – is teeming with warm hues and gorgeous surfaces.

This 1794 Liberty Cap S-57 Head of 1794 Large Cent once belonged in the Lord St. Oswald and D. Brent Pogue Collections
and was repurchased by Walter Husak in 2017. It sold for $164,500. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.
Click image to enlarge.

Other outstanding specimens in this select group of rare 1794 Liberty Cap Large Cents are the single-finest S-46 Head of 1794 graded PCGS MS64+RB, S-49 Head of 1794 grading PCGS MS65RB, a stellar S-59 Head of 1794 at PCGS MS66RB, and an extremely rare S-64 No Fraction Bar boasting a grade of PCGS MS65BN. Says Husak of his No Fraction Bar specimen, “It has prooflike surfaces and is just a perfect coin.”

These five specimens, displayed at the September 2021 Long Beach Expo with 82 other remarkable coins as part of the Walter J. Husak Collection of Large Cents, represent the finest of their varieties and hearken to a period when the United States Mint handcrafted each of its working dies, a painstaking feat for even the most advanced of engravers. Working dies by hand was a laborious endeavor that inevitably led to numerous minor and major varieties that are now the coveted objects of desire for Husak and so many other dedicated large cent specialists. Collectors vying for these prizes today must reach deep into their pockets when raising their bidding paddles high, for large cent connoisseurs like Husak know all too well that the opportunities to purchase any single such rarity are, like these coppers themselves, precious and few.

These four elusive large cent varieties include the S-46 Head of 1794, S-49 Head of 1794, S-59 Head of 1794, and S-64 No Fraction Bar. These specimens are the single-finest examples of their kind with none graded higher, ensuring
Walter J. Husak’s incredible collection of large cents, on track to be the most complete of its kind, will rank as
the best of the best. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.
Click images to enlarge.

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