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What Are Sheldon Varieties?

By Jay Turner - May 5, 2022

The 1793 Chain AMERI Flowing Hair Cent, listed as Sheldon variety S-1. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Recently PCGS was asked the question, "What are Sheldon Varieties?".

Dr. William Herbert Sheldon was a pioneer in numismatics with his work studying and writing about large cents. His books Penny Whimsy and Early American Cents 1793-1814 were published to catalog all known die and die combinations of United States large cents from 1793 through 1814.

In total, 295 large cents were published by variety giving the reference of an “S” or Sheldon number. The catalog started with the 1793 Chain Cent with abbreviated “America” as “AMERI” as S-1 and the 1814 with the plain 4 variety as S-295. Since publication, several additional varieties were discovered and cataloged with an “NC” number to note “non-collectible” since these are often extremely rare coins with often only a handful known.

Since the publication of Early American Cents, additional books have been published studying and cataloging the varieties of United States coinage continuing on with the effort to catalog the many different varieties of coins out there. For large cents dated 1816 through 1856, Howard Newcomb published references that catalog these cents by “N” or Newcomb numbers.

Newer editions and titles for large cents have been published by several other numismatists who have stepped up to continue adding new varieties, die states, information, census data, and better photographs for collectors and other numismatists to enjoy this popular series. PCGS experts and researchers also contribute to the body of numismatic knowledge and publish their findings for each respective coin cataloged on PCGS CoinFacts.

Article provided by PCGS at
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