Recently, the finest known example of the very rare 1796 Sheldon-96 variety was discovered in England. The discovery was made by Thomas Paul of American Heritage Minting (AHM), Jenkintown, PA. This is not the first significant discovery made by AHM, but it is the first major discovery by Thomas. Thomas’ father, William P. Paul, traveled extensively in Europe over many years looking for coins, and he was able to repatriate numerous significant US rarities, especially in the area of Early American Coppers. But after William passed a couple years ago, his wife and son (Thomas) took over the business and the hunt. This cent testifies to their continued success.
The S-96 is the rarest of the numbered varieties of 1796 with about 2 dozen examples known. And most of those are in very low grade. Until this discovery the two finest known pieces were no better than net F12 with significant defects. Even the finest collections had to “settle” for a substandard coin. Not anymore. This new discovery is graded by NGC as MS63BN. It’s the finest known of this rare variety by over fifty points.
How the coin came to be brought to England and secreted in an obscure collection for over 200 years will likely remain a mystery. Now, 200 years later, it has passed into the hands of a young man whose father made a career of finding such hidden gems. Some people will call that a coincidence. Or maybe not.
This new 1796 S-96 will be sold in the upcoming May 31st Pre-Long Beach Sale held by McCawley & Grellman and the Goldbergs. It is estimated at $200,000, but that’s just a guess. Nothing comparable is known to exist.