THE CELEBRATED ASSEMBLAGE CONTAINS SOME OF THE FINEST EARLY COPPER COINS TO HIT THE MARKET IN MORE THAN A DECADE
By Steve Lansdale
Walter J. Husak’s coin-collecting journey began simply enough. As a teenager in the 1950s, he sought out Indian cents, Lincoln cents and Buffalo nickels. But in 1980, the California businessman’s passion for U.S. coins, especially those of the copper variety, reached a new level when he purchased an 1804 large cent for $600. Large cents, which are roughly the same size as half dollars currently in circulation, drew significant pursuit from numismatic collectors in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. The cents grew in popularity in part because of William Sheldon’s 1949 book Early American Cents, a survey of large cent varieties from 1793 through 1814 and the resource that introduced the world to the Sheldon Coin Grading Scale.
By 2008, Husak – founder of the Liberty Cap Foundation for American coin history research and education – had assembled one of the most important collections of Sheldon variety large cents in existence. That year, Heritage Auctions sold Husak’s extraordinary assemblage for more than $10 million.
Like most collectors, however, Husak wasn’t done with collecting. When he died in December 2022, he was well on his way to completing a second Sheldon-numbered collection. His plan, he told friends, was to focus largely on attractive middle-grade coins, but that wouldn’t be the case. Instead, Husak ended up with another assemblage of exceptional, high-grade early cents.
On January 4, Husak’s second collection – including more than 200 Sheldon variety large cents, many of which are the finest known examples – will cross the block at Heritage Auctions as part of the FUN Convention in Orlando, Florida.
“Walter Husak was a connoisseur who sought out the best available coins for his collection,” says Mark Borckardt, Senior Cataloger of Numismatics at Heritage. “He was also a friend to everyone he met through numismatics, and his personality is reflected in many of these coins that carry historic provenances from his friends and from collectors of previous generations.”
Among the top lots in the auction is a 1793 S-1 Cent, AU58, which is graded finer by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) than all but three other examples. It once was part of the Daniel W. Holmes Jr. large cent collection. A 1794 S-18B Cent, MS64 Brown, an elite coin that comes with an unbroken provenance of more than 150 years, is a remarkable example of the 1794 Head of 1793 cent, the finest known of the type. The auction also includes a pair of 1794 Head of 1794 cents, both graded MS65 Red and Brown by PCGS. One is the finest Sheldon-49 and the plate coin for the variety in the 1991 Noyes reference; its obverse is plated in the 1979 Morley grading guide for 1794 cents. The other is the finest S-57 cent and the Noyes plate coin for the variety in his 1991 reference.
Other highlights include a 1796 Liberty Cap Cent, MS63 Brown accompanied by more than 100 years of unbroken provenance; a 1796 S-93 Draped Bust Cent, MS65 Red and Brown, the finest known example; the finest known 1800/79 S-193 Overdate, MS63 Brown; the finest Sheldon-203 1800 Normal Date Cent, MS63 Red and Brown (the only Mint State example available to collectors); and an 1807/6 S-272 R4+ Overdate Small 7 over 6 AU55 PCGS that has been recognized as the undisputed finest known example of the variety for a century.
Go here for the full list of lots in Heritage’s Collection of Walter J. Husak and The Liberty Cap Foundation U.S. Coins Signature® Auction.
STEVE LANSDALE is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.