See also : Coin Gold coins Development of USA
Chronology : 1780-1789 1792
The $ 1 bill is an immediate failure, probably because it would require to print huge quantities to meet the need. Metal coins are minted in pewter, brass and silver.
These $ 1 Continental Currency coins are extremely rare and were not documented in their time. Some dies are signed. For such a small amount of money, it cannot be a private mint but indeed the pattern experiments to develop the coinage of the future independent state.
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.
Note on the reverse the circular chain of the thirteen colonies. Each one is identified in a ring. In 1793, when this symbol was reused without naming the states, the chain cent will be booed by the patriots as a symbol of slavery and almost immediately withdrawn.
The sale by Heritage on January 7 and 8, 2015 included 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 dollar is graded MS63 by NGC. It was sold for $ 376K, lot 5834. It is the best from three 1-A known in that alloy. 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. It was sold for $ 118K, lot 4004.
The two silver coins were sold for $ 1.53M each on January 8. The Newman 1-C, graded XF40 by NGC, is the best from two known silver 1-C, lot 5838. The Newman 3-D is graded MS63 by NGC, lot 5842.
The only other known silver 3-D, graded MS 63 by NGC. was sold for $ 1.4M by Heritage on May 16, 2014, lot 30423. This coin had been owned since 1956 by Eric P. Newman.
It is the most correct variant, after and before misspellings in the word 'currency' and signed by the engraver (EG).
1786 Lima Type Brasher Doubloon
2021 SOLD for $ 2.1M by Heritage
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 close copy 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, was sold for $ 2.1M by Heritage on January 21, 2021, lot 3935. The other coin, graded XF40 by NGC, was sold for $ 690K by Heritage on January 12, 2005.
1787 New York Type Brasher Doubloon
2021 SOLD for $ 9.4M by Heritage
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.
The independence of the United States had created the need for a national emblem which will be affixed from an official seal. The project was accepted by Congress after six years, in 1782. It was double-sided, so that it could be printed at the end of a ribbon, but in practice only the face with the heraldic eagle would be used. 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 also appeared in 1787 on the reverse side of the Cent and Half Cent from Massachusetts.
Brasher was a metallurgist and definitely not an artist, which had been 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 national emblems. 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).
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 rather awkward, they are beautiful coins whose design is sharp enough to discourage counterfeiting.
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.
The finest of the seven known examples, graded MS65 by NGC, was sold for $ 9.4M by Heritage on January 21, 2021, lot 3934.
The only known Brasher doubloon with the mark on the breast was sold for $ 7.395M in a private sale in December 2011, although its condition is only graded AU50 by PCGS.
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
2014 SOLD for $ 4.6M by Heritage
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.
It was sold privately in 2018 for a reported $ 5M.
2005 SOLD for $ 3M by Heritage
It is the only New York type Brasher doubloon with the EB punch mark on the eagle's breast. A private sale at $ 7.395M was reported in December 2011.
The six other surviving units have the punch on the wing.
2005 SOLD for $ 2.4M by Heritage
1792 Washington Gold Pattern
2018 SOLD for $ 1.74M by Heritage
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 was sold for $ 1.74M by Heritage on August 16, 2018, lot 5010, for the benefit of institutions designated by the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1792 Birch Cent
2015 SOLD for $ 2.6M by Heritage
Much effort was then applied to the cent, worth 1/100 of a dollar, authorized in copper by the Coinage Act. US people were impatient of possible delays in the currency promised by their Congress but on the other side the unexpected rise in copper prices could turn to political disaster
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 so-called Birch cent.
The sudden increase in the price of copper terminated this first federal cent before the production phase. Bimetallic copper-silver trials of 1792, which could not be industrially viable, were probably made in December.
The solution will be political. On January 14, 1793, the Congress is devaluing from 264 to 209 grains the weight of a copper cent. 264 grains correspond to 17.1 grams. The enigmatic Mr Birch disappears from the history of coinage, possibly in the 1793 yellow fever pandemic. The first 1 cent released for circulation will be the chain cent, in March 1793.
Nine units of the Birch copper cent are known. On January 8, 2015, Heritage listed the two finest specimens. The piece in Judd-4 variant, graded MS65 by NGC, weighs 220 grains. It was sold for $ 2.6M, lot 5504.
The coin in Judd-5 variant is the next lot, 5505. It was sold for $ 560K. It weighs 262 grains and is graded MS61 by NGC.
1792 The Copper Eagle of Joseph Wright
2015 SOLD for $ 2.23M by Heritage
The archives of the Mint are very incomplete for that first year. We will probably never know what the purpose of this test had been : to qualify a designer or to prepare a new model in copper or silver, which would have been a one cent or a quarter dollar. There was no follow-up.
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 usual versions of that time with floating hair. The eagle on the globe had been since 1778 the interpretation chosen by the State of New York for the symbol of the USA.
The work is attributed to Joseph Wright, considered at that time to be one of the best portrait painters and whose mother was a wax modeler. He made tests for the Mint, as evidenced by the list of unpaid bills he established on his deathbed in September 1793. It is supposed that Washington and Jefferson, desiring a pretty artistic coinage, had pushed the candidacy of the young Wright, aged 36.
According to the Coinage Act, the quarter dollar is a silver coin. The two surviving copper specimens of the eagle on half 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 copper coins could be the product of a satisfactory test in copper before a failed trial in silver of which no evidence is available.
The finest copper coin, graded MS63 Brown by NGC, was sold for $ 2.23M by Heritage on January 8, 2015, lot 5511. The other piece, graded AU50, is preserved at the Smithsonian.
Prior to 2003, two pieces in white metal of the Eagle on half globe pattern coin were known, with weights of 345 and 242 grains, respectively. The composition of one of them was analyzed by NGC : 50% lead and 48% tin.
In 2003 an inventory at the New York Historical Society revealed two other previously unknown specimens in white metal, weighing 247 and 216 grains, respectively. They were both graded AU58 by NGC. No archive concerning them has been found. The lightest has been de-accessionned. It was sold for $ 1.26M by Heritage on April 24, 2021, lot 4960.
There are also two single-sided tests in white metal. The obverse, weighing 480 grains, is graded AU53 by PCGS. The reverse, weighing 433 grains, is graded XF45 by NGC. This pair will be sold later by Heritage.
1792 Silver Center Cent
2021 SOLD for $ 2.5M by Heritage
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.
Bimetallic tests are performed by the Chief Coiner Henry Voigt. Two processes are tried. The silver coating is not tested and the alloy is forgeable.
The Fusible Alloy cent goes straight to failure. The silver is in a too low proportion to alter the color of the copper and the coin would be very easy to counterfeit. It is one of the scarcest US pattern coins.
The Silver Center cent do not have this inconvenience. Slightly conical silver plugs are prepared in a thickness of 1.2 mm and an average diameter of 4.26 mm, providing the required proportion for a metal value of one hundredth of a dollar in a 23 mm copper piece. Inserted in the center of the piece of copper, the silver is quite visible, at least in a brand new coin. It is not acceptable because the production, which includes a melting after the insertion, induces an excessive cost of production.
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, was sold for $ 2.5M by Heritage on January 20, 2021, 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
2014 SOLD for $ 2M by Heritage
The finest unit from this unusual and prestigious variety, is graded MS67 by PCGS.
The second finest is graded MS64 by PCGS with a nice sheen on both sides. It was sold for $ 2M by Heritage on August 7, 2014, lot 5517.