The cent had been the most anticipated federal coin. It is delayed by the large diameter of the prototypes that may disconcert users, and also by a risk of copper shortage. In December the trials of the Silver Center cent and of the Fusible Alloy cent do not lead to any realistic solution. More pragmatically the weight of the cent is devalued from 264 to 208 grains by the Congress Act of January 14, 1793.
The prototypes preparing the cent bear the engraver's mark of Birch who has not been formally identified and no longer appears after that phase. Four variants are identified. Their drawing is very similar to those of the half disme and of the December bimetallic tests.
An example in white metal survives. Not compliant with the requirements of April 1792 because it bears the initials of the President, it certainly predates the Mint Act. It alone constitutes the first variant of the Birch cent and is the earliest prototype of the federal cent.
The first variant in copper is based on the 264-grain standard. Three units are known. One of them graded MS 61 by NGC was sold twice by Heritage, for $ 560K including premium in January 2015 and for $ 520K including premium in August 2016. The second piece was lightened by its wear. The third coin has been filed to erase its inscription on the edge.
Only one Birch cent is known with an original plain edge. Weighing 226 grains, this specimen is probably a preparatory unit for the next phase. Graded AU 58 by PCGS, this coin will be sold on October 26 by Stack's Bowers in Baltimore, lot 7151.
Seven Birch cents meet the 1793 weight standard. They differ from previous variants by an extra star on the edge but retain the facial date of 1792. The best, graded MS 65 by NGC, was sold for $ 2.6M including premium by Heritage on January 8, 2015. The second best, graded AU 58 by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.18M including premium by Stack's Bowers on March 26, 2015. Their terminus ante quem is the release of the chain cent in March 1793.
SOLD for $ 660K including premium