Herman Halpern's "INCREDIBLE GEM" S.31
Sheldon 31 : ‘Marred Field’, Long Fraction Bar.
This exceptional example of Sheldon-31 traces its ownership history through the collection of Herman Halpern, whose collection was described by Stack’s in 1988 as “the finest collection of U.S. Large Cents ever to appear at public auction”. This cent was next included in the collection of R. E. Naftzger, a name nearly synonymous with the greatest U.S. Large Cents.
Substantial original mint red remains in the protected areas near the lettering and devices, blending well toward medium brown overall, with luster that is even and satiny in texture. There are a few thin abrasions in the left obverse field, a spot left of 7, and some small flan voids lower right obverse, none of which are distracting.
Condition rosters for early copper are arguably the most well developed in all of American Numismatics. However, these rosters, even when in general agreement, can be subject to revision. Competing coins are often not viewed together, memories can be faulty, and viewers will have their biases.
While catalogued in 1988 as “Possibly Finest Known”, and included in Del Bland’s 2000 Census as tied for finest known with the ex England – Smith – Naftzger – Carroll coin, Halpern’s best S.31 was later re-ranked as Condition Census #3 (CC#3) in the Noyes – Bland – Demeo “Official Condition Census” published in 2005 with Walter Husak’s S.31 now tied for top honors. However, I found Husak:2033 to be unnaturally glossy, and PCGS seems to agree, assigning a grade of MS64BN. A more recent revision erases the tie, pushing Husak’s S.31 into a tie with Halpern’s, and places the Sears – Clapp coin returned to the ANS in 2013 as the new second place. Given the alledged stability of ‘EAC’ grading, and the officialness of the various condition censusus, this is all a bit confusing.
What we can determine, with some certainty, is that the ex England – Smith – Naftzger – Carroll coin certified by PCGS as MS67BN #2368157 should stand alone as CC#1. Next may be the Sears – Clapp coin returned to the ANS in 2013 as the lone CC#2. This, Halpern’s S.31 should stand alone as CC#3 as it retains the most original mint red color of any of the top ranked examples. Then, we should place the Husak – Holmes – Mervis PCGS MS64BN #13457256 somewhere below.
Lester Merkin June 1971, lot 546 @ $1,800; Dr. James E. Dice; Stack’s March 1986, lot 836 @ $10,450; Herman Halpern; Stack’s ‘Herman Halpern Collection of United States Large Cents’, March 1988, lot 43 @ $19,800; Anthony Terranova; R.E. ‘Ted’ Naftzger, Jr.; Eric Streiner; Denis W. Loring; Anthony Terranova; Martin Logies; Stack’s-Bowers March 2014, lot 4008 @ $129,250 as PCGS MS66BN.