1776 Silver, Brass and Pewter
2015 SOLD for $ 1.53M including premium
This early US metal coinage remained confidential and was limited to the year 1776, but a significant quantity has been achieved, probably to test the capability of mass production. Heritage estimate that about 1,000 of them survive.
Some variations exist, because the dies were made by craft and wore out quickly, but also because a few engravers were involved. The operators also had to correct misspellings. Three metals were used: silver, brass and pewter. The majority of them are in pewter, abundant in North America at that time. This surprising diversity is certainly due to the still experimental nature of the project.
The earliest variant, described under code 1-A by Newman, was soon abandoned because its dotted rings were too difficult to perform repeatedly.
The sale by Heritage in Orlando on January 7 and 8 includes no less than fifteen of these Continental Dollars. Two are in silver, three in brass and the other ten in pewter.
The Newman 1-A brass coin is graded MS63 by NGC (lot 5834, January 8). It is the best from three 1-A known in brass. The Newman 1-A in pewter is the only known specimen of the original sub-variant in this material, identified by Heritage during the preparation of the auction (lot 4004, January 7).
The two silver coins are a Newman 1-C graded XF40 by NGC, the best from two known silver 1-C (lot 5838, January 8) and a Newman 3-D graded MS62 by NGC (lot 5842, January 8). Only one other silver 3-D is known. Graded MS63 by NGC, it was sold for $ 1.4 million including premium by Heritage on May 16, 2014.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Both silver dollars : $ 1.53M each
Brass dollar : $ 376K
Pewter dollar : $ 118K
1776 Silver Continental Dollar
2015 SOLD for $ 1.53M including premium by Heritage
1786 The Know How of Ephraim Brasher
2021 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
Larger foreign gold coins tempt counterfeiters. Based in New York, Ephraim Brasher is an assayer, who marks with his EB punch the coins for which he guarantees the conformity. He will try to develop the production of US coins.
The standard of gold currency is the Spanish 8 escudo coin, also named a doubloon, made in Lima. Two varieties of Brasher doubloons are known, the Lima type and the New York type. Tiny wear from the EB punch on the New York type ensures that the best Lima type unit was anterior.
The Lima type was not designed to circulate. It is a counterfeit of the 8 escudos of 1742, with the same inscriptions. Brasher added his full name. On the reverse the heraldic figures, hand engraved, are rough.
Two units of the Lima type have survived. Both were clipped, probably by the assayer himself to adjust the weight to the 408 grain value specified in 1786 by the Bank of New York for the 8 escudo coin. On the better of the two coins, this date was deciphered in 1991 in the cropped edge. On both coins, the EB mark is on the reverse, in the center of the Jerusalem cross.
All these blunders indicate that Brasher's goal was to promote his expertise in the strike of metals. His Lima type doubloon is the very first gold coin minted in the United States with locally created dies and a gold alloy whose composition is different from that used in Lima.
The better of the two coins, graded MS61 by NGC, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 21, lot 3935. The other coin, graded XF40 by NGC, was sold for $ 690K including premium by Heritage on January 12, 2005.
1787 First Flights of the Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 9.4M including premium
The popular iconography seized on this patriotic symbol in 1786, with the engravings prepared by James Trenchard for the first two issues of Columbian Magazine. The eagle with its outstretched wings, the thirteen stripes on the breast shield, the olive branch and the arrows appeared in 1787 on the reverse side of the Cent and Half Cent from Massachusetts.
The first gold coin illustrated with these symbols is the New York-style Brasher doubloon, also in 1787. The finest of the seven known examples, graded MS65 by NGC, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 21, lot 3934.
Brasher was a metallurgist and definitely not an artist, which is amply demonstrated by his Lima-style doubloon prepared in 1786. In the meantime he partnered with the designer John Bailey. His new doubloon is superbly engraved on both sides. The centering is very good, with full readability all around.
Both sides are inspired by the national emblem. The eagle has all of its attributes, including the constellation of thirteen stars around its head. On the other side, the Eye of Providence shines its radiant light from above a pyramidal mountain. The inscription conforms to the federal motto E Pluribus Unum but the production is located in Nova Eboraca (New York).
Brasher's Lima-type and New York-type doubloons were not documented in period, which confirms how limited their use was. The gold alloy had undoubtedly been recovered by the melting of some jewelry. Brasher assayer's punch EB gave these coins an authorization for circulation and they are considered regular by numismatists.
A half doubloon is kept at the Smithsonian. It was made with the same dies and a thinner planchet. Unlike the doubloons of the same year but in accordance with the two known Lima style doubloons, some trimming was required to adjust the weight. This half doubloon was perhaps an intermediate version for testing the dies.
Heritage Auctions will offer the Donald G. Partrick Collection in a series of auctions over the next year, making available one of the most historic collections of American colonial coins ever assembled.https://t.co/lZtpZzLOKC#Coins #DonaldPartrick pic.twitter.com/0a798TEqkh— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) August 11, 2020
Join us tomorrow for a little F-U-N!— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 20, 2021
It is a coin any collector would love to own, but only one will be able to possess. We could only be talking about the 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon!
Jan. 20-24 FUN US Coins Auction #HeritageAuctions #coins https://t.co/Jq3TVG58jP pic.twitter.com/wysPjhL8uk
1787 Doblons for New York
2014 SOLD 4.6 M$ including premium
Meanwhile, business transactions use large foreign gold coins, dominated by those from the Spanish colonies in South America. Banks and grand merchants are the only users of such coins. To deal against counterfeiting, they have their gold checked by specialists, the assayers, who put their own punch on the controlled pieces.
Ephraim Brasher is a goldsmith operating in New York City where he is a neighbor and supplier of George Washington, the President, known as a great lover of silverware. Brasher appreciates that he can play a role in the fight against the monetary anarchy, but his offer in early 1787 to carry out a copper coinage for the state of New York is rejected.
Brasher is an assayer. He knows well the doblon of Lima, a large gold coin worth 8 escudos and weighing 26 grams, whose name is anglicized to doubloon. Circa 1786, he produces in his workshop some Lima-type doubloons which are not fakes because their gold content is correct.
Brasher changes his theme in 1787 for producing doubloons and half doubloons to the use of New York identified under the Latin name Nova Eboraca. The pieces are stamped with his initials, EB, with two possible positions on the wing and on the breast of the eagle. Although their centering and cutting are awkward, they are beautiful coins whose design is sharp enough to discourage counterfeiting.
The only known Brasher doubloon with the mark on the breast was sold for $ 7.395 million in a private sale in December 2011, although its condition is only graded AU50 by PCGS.
On January 9 in Orlando, Heritage sells one from only two units in mint condition from an overall surviving total of six wing marked doubloons. The coin for sale is graded MS63 by PCGS. Here is the link to the catalog.
The coin for sale had been the first Brasher doubloon that was described in the nineteenth century. It was at that time in the estate of an important dealer importer named Gilmor also known as an early collector of coins.
This mercantile provenance strengthens the argument that the Brasher doubloon, earliest gold coin made for circulation in the United States, was designed to supersede the foreign currencies in large commercial operations. Other assumptions are however not rejected such as a promotional operation or a demonstration of know how.
POST SALE COMMENT
This great coin was sold for $ 4.6M including premium.
PRIVATE SALE IN 2018 :
1787 Brasher Doubloon
2005 SOLD for $ 3M including premium by Heritage
1787 Brasher Doubloon
2005 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium by Heritage
1792 Early Development of Federal Copper Coins
2015 SOLD for $ 2.6M including premium
Much effort was then applied to the cent, worth 1/100 of a dollar, authorized in copper by the Coinage Act. The unexpected rise in copper prices could turn to political disaster, just as US people were impatient of possible delays in the currency promised by their Congress.
This panic of copper is the cause of experiments of bimetallic copper-silver pattern cents : the silver-center cent and the fusible alloy cent. These unusual designs were both unsuitable for mass production.
Projects for full copper coin patterns are not abandoned. The Birch cent is certainly tested at the Philadelphia Mint at the end of 1792, of which it is bearing the date. Two copper variants are described by Judd and Pollock.
Similarities in the design enable to consider that this cent was prepared by the same engraver who also made the half disme. The Birch name is engraved down the neck of Liberty in the Birch cent. It was long attributed to an Englishman, but this hypothesis is not consistent with the autobiography of this miniaturist who moreover was not a medalist.
The solution will be political. On January 14, 1793, the Congress is devaluing from 264 to 209 grains the weight of a copper cent. The enigmatic Mr Birch disappears from the history of coinage. 264 grains correspond to 17.1 grams.
Nine units of the Birch copper cent are known. On January 8 in Orlando, Heritage sells without reserve the best two specimens. The piece in Judd-4 variant, graded MS65 by NGC, weighs 220 grains. Its bidding is reaching $ 1M before fees more than one week before the auction, lot 5504. The coin in Judd-5 variant is the next lot, 5505, currently at $ 180K before fees. It weighs 262 grains and is graded MS61 by NGC.
The simple comparison of the weights of these two coins, which both come from the Partrick collection, are the best evidence of the fundamental role played by the Birch cent in the development of the US cent.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Graded MS65 : $ 2.6M
Graded MS61 : $ 560K
POST SALE TWEET BY HERITAGE AUCTIONS :
1792 Copper and Silver
2021 SOLD for $ 2.5M including premium
In 1789 George Washington becomes the first president. It is high time to define the federal currency. In the same year, the Fugio cent, directly impacted by the collapse in the price of copper, is terminated.
The feasibility of using copper for small change is questioned. In the entourage of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, a bimetallic system is suggested, with a proportion of 3 to 1 in value between silver and copper. Technologically, three solutions are possible : the alloy, the silver coating and the plug.
The Philadelphia Mint is established in 1792. The first efforts focus on defining the cent. The first prototype, the Birch cent, is made of pure copper. To preserve the future, Chief Coiner Henry Voigt also performs bimetallic tests.
The only usable variety is the one with the plug. The silver coating is not tested and the alloy is forgeable. On December 18, 1792, Jefferson reports to the President. He joins a prototype with a plug and a prototype made by fusion. His conclusion is clear : the cent defined by Congress will be made of copper alone. The risk linked to the instability of the copper price is thus accepted de facto. This statement is ratified by Congress in January 1793 with a decrease in the weight of the cent from 264 to 209 grains.
Twelve specimens of the Silver Center Cent have survived. The finest, graded SP67 Brown by PCGS, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 20, lot 3004.
#HeritageLive: We kick off several days of FUN with some Important Selections from the Bob R. Simpson Collection, including this 1792 Silver Center Cent, SP67 Brown. Bidding opened at $1,875,000. It just sold for $2,520,000.https://t.co/SY2aqMz8e1#HACoins #numismatics pic.twitter.com/EQ9hEn3d6p— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 20, 2021
1792 The Eagle Copper of Joseph Wright
2015 SOLD for $ 2.23M including premium
The direction of the Philadelphia Mint was entrusted to two engineers : David Rittenhouse was the first Director while Henry Voigt was Superintendent and Chief Coiner.
Washington and Jefferson, wanting a pretty artistic coinage, pushed the involvement of the young Wright, aged 36, who was appointed to the less formal position of First Draughtsman and Diesinker. The position of Engraver also defined under the Coinage Act was vacant but certainly already reserved for Wright.
The eagle on globe is a pattern coin with a limited text and no face value. The debate to classify it as a cent or as a quarter dollar is still open. It is undoubtedly an artist's piece, with on one side a dynamic and domineering eagle and on the other side a Liberty with bun more pleasant than the official versions of that time with floating hair.
William Dunlap, who was one of the first commentators of the US crafts, had certainly met Wright since both artists had been portraitists of General Washington in the early 1780s. His testimony on a sketch dated 1792 by Wright for the coin project of an eagle on globe seems indisputable. The description, however, differs slightly from the surviving variant.
Wright died on September 13, 1793 in the yellow fever epidemic after demanding his account on some projects including two trials of a quarter dollar made on order for Rittenhouse. The clerk who received his request observed that the pieces were broken.
According to the Coinage Act, the quarter dollar is a silver coin. The copper specimens of the eagle on globe weigh between 175 and 180 grains and are thus much lighter than a cent even after the copper devaluation of 1793. The diameter, 29 mm, is almost consistent with the future quarters.
It was not uncommon to test the dies with various materials. The two surviving coins could be the product of a satisfactory test in copper before a failed trial in silver of which no evidence is available.
The best of the two coins, graded MS63 by NGC, is for sale with no reserve price by Heritage in Orlando on January 8, lot 5511. Its bidding is at $ 1.5M before fees one week before the sale. The second specimen, graded AU50, is preserved at the Smithsonian.
1792 First Tests in the Philadelphia Mint
2014 SOLD 2 M$ including premium
The first emission under the Coinage Act is the half disme produced in temporary facilities. The actual plant is operational from the installation of its first furnace on September 7, 1792.
The urgency of the moment is the 1 cent for which they had to find a compromise between silver and copper in an acceptable size. The silver center cent is a bimetallic response with a plug of silver inserted into the copper. This project is not economically viable but patterns from this model are considered to be the earliest coins minted in the new plant.
Twelve units of the silver center cent survived, to which we may add another one announced by the press in 2009 and a specimen without the plug.
Two coins have already been discussed in this column. One of them graded MS61 by PCGS was sold for $ 1.15 million including premium by Heritage on 19 April 2012. The other one graded MS63+ by NGC was sold for $ 1.4 million including premium by Heritage on 16 May 2014.
The finest unit from this unusual and prestigious variety, graded MS67 by PCGS, has not been commercially available since 1981.
The second finest is graded MS64 by PCGS with a nice sheen on both sides. It was sold for $ 2.8 million in August 2011 in a private transaction (this price was listed in April 2012 in the catalog of the sale of the MS61 coin).
This coin is for sale by Heritage in Chicago on August 7, lot 5517. It is offered with no reserve and already reaches online $ 1.76 million including premium one week before the floor session.
POST SALE COMMENT
This coin in very good condition from an early experimental strike was sold for $ 2M including premium. Auction prices are always a much better indicator of the value of objects than the private transactions.
1792 President Washington before the Coin Act
2018 SOLD for $ 1.74M including premium
Several craftsmen offer their know-how by producing test pieces in copper for the 1 cent. The similarity of pieces of various origins adorned with the effigy of the President suggests that a guideline was provided. The most active is not American but English : the Westwood workshop in Birmingham for which Hancock is the engraver.
Trials in multiple denomination appear to be a common practice. Pieces are made from the same dies with various metals without worrying about the circulation value. This observation makes incomprehensible the expected use of the 1776 Continental Dollar.
On January 12, 1792 the Senate approves more detailed requirements for the design, triggering a new debate on a possible monarchical interpretation of the portrait of the president. Washington's position on this point is unclear but he does not seem upset when the Mint Act of 2 April 1792 removes his effigy and replaces it with Liberty.
A unique gold coin dated 1792 bearing the portrait of Washington is known. It was struck with dies that were also used with silver and copper. Described for the first time in 1855, this piece has long been attributed to Hancock. It is now re-attributed to the American inventor Jacob Perkins working in Newburyport MA, author of a medal where the drawing of the portrait is unquestionably identical.
This gold coin is close to the Eagle as defined in the Coin Act. It does not meet all the prescriptions of January 1792 and may have been engraved earlier and post-dated. It is graded XF-45 by NGC. Its traces of wear are typical of a transport in a purse that the imagination of numismatists identifies as the President's pocket.
It was for 75 years the favorite piece of Eric P. Newman's collection for its connection to the first President in the most valuable metal during the preparation phase of the US currency. It will be sold without reserve price as lot 5010 by Heritage in Philadelphia on August 16 for the benefit of institutions designated by the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1792 The First Release under the Coinage Act
2013 SOLD 1.4 M$ including premium
2014 SOLD 1.3 M$ including premium
A very important piece from the early history of the US federal coinage comes back at auction. Here is my previous article, modified for including its 2013 result and the information on the next sale.
An independent state must control its currency. In the early years of the United States, the confusion is total: the majority of circulating coins are British colonial or Spanish issues. An independent goldsmith named Brasher even started to strike his own currency in 1787.
Progress is slow at the beginning. They had to wait until July 6, 1785 for a congressional resolution to promote the dollar in place of the pound, and the Mint Act (or Coinage Act) of April 2, 1792 to decide the operation of a federal plant.
President Washington personally engaged in the first production. The first Federal issue was the half disme, worth half a tenth of a dollar. The urgency was to demonstrate that the State department knew to replace the most common and most useful currency, the shilling worth one twentieth of a pound.
The biggest break with the past and with foreign powers was the adoption of a decimal currency. Disme is a contraction of the French word dixième.
On July 9, 1792, Washington authorizes the first series of half dismes, for which he himself deposits the silver bullion for a total value of approximately $ 100. The Philadelphia plant is not yet equipped, and the production is carried out in the workshop of a blacksmith.
These early coins were used as a presentation currency for demonstrating the American sovereignty, but most of them started circulating along with the first half dimes (the useless central 's' having disappeared) two years later.
Only one of these half dismes has a special feature. Selected from the origin for the success of its centering, it has been improved by polishing. Remaining in mint condition, this unit is graded SP (specimen) 67 by PCGS.
This piece has been sold twice by Heritage. $ 1.32 million including premium in April 2006 and $ 1.4 million including premium on January 10, 2013. It is now for sale for sale, again by Heritage, on August 7 in Chicago, lot 5545.
POST 2014 SALE COMMENT
The price, $ 1.3 million including premium, remains in line with the two previous results on the same coin.
In 2013, its image was shared by the auction house on Ow.ly: