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The Dr. Judd-Ed Price 1792 Disme in
1792 P10C Disme, Judd-10, Pollock-11, High R.6, PR62 Brown
NGC. Copper, reeded edge. Ex: Ed Price.
Copper, Reeded Edge, Judd-10, PR62 Brown
One of the First Historic U.S. Mint Issues
High in the Condition Census
The half dismes of 1792 (Judd-7), despite their pattern designation, were definitely produced and intended for the needs of commerce, as President Washington's famous comment about "the want of small coins in circulation" points up. The 1792 dismes, however, are far rarer and appear to have been strictly patterns. Examples were struck in silver with reeded edge (Judd-9, R.8) and copper, with plain (Judd-11, R.8) or reeded edges (Judd-10, High R.6). The finest known Judd-10 (now the plate coin in the Judd 10th edition) is in the Smithsonian Institution, a blazing, glossy, fully struck copper specimen of remarkably high quality. The Garrett Collection coin (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2352, was conservatively graded AU and today is possibly one of the two PR65 pieces at NGC. www.USPatterns.com estimates that about 15 examples survive, including pieces impounded in the Smithsonian, Durham Western Heritage, Eric Newman and Independence Hall collections, while Ed Price below provides a slightly larger estimate of 20-25 coins including mostly middle- to lower-grade pieces.
Despite the superficial similarity in their adopted names among numismatists -- 1792 half disme and 1792 disme -- and a basic vocabulary shared between the two issues -- the encircling legends, a bust of Liberty facing left, eagle on the reverse and denomination below -- that is about as far as any true resemblance goes. The half disme and disme designs seem clearly to have been executed by different hands, the obverse bust of Liberty in a finer style on the dismes and the reverse eagle oriented differently. The lettering positions and font styles also point to two (or more) different designers, with the 1792 dismes again showing a more finished and professional hand.
The obverse design has variously been ascribed to both Henry Voigt (as in the current 10th edition of Judd) and to Adam Eckfeldt; Joel Orosz and Leonard Augsburger, in their fascinating The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint, aptly describe the 1792 issues overall as "shrouded in archival mist." Other numismatists have nominated engraver Robert Birch of the eponymous pattern cents (Judd-3 to Judd-6), or Peter Getz.
An article "United States Pattern Coinage of 1792" on www.USPatterns.com, by Michael Berkman and updated in 2003 by Saul Teichman, has an interesting take on the 1792 disme designer:
"The lettering [on the 1792 disme] provides many fascinating clues. On the disme, the obverse and reverse dies share a common typeface, denoting that both were produced at the same location. The engraver of the obverse is most certainly Adam Eckfeldt, as supported by two pieces of evidence. First, the 1793 half cent and the 1792 disme have very similar obverses. Based on the description of an Uncirculated half cent in an October 1863 W.E. Woodward auction catalogue, it can be reasonably deduced that Eckfeldt engraved the 1793 half cent. The description reads, in part:
'A particular interest attaches to this coin. Nearly sixty years since it was presented to a gentleman, by Mr. Adam Eckfeldt, as a specimen of his work, and has remained in the possession of the person referred to within a few days.'
"The second piece of evidence is a quote from B.L.C. Wailes, who visited the Philadelphia Mint in 1829 and met Adam Eckfeldt. Wailes recorded in his journal that Eckfeldt 'is an artist and has been In the Mint since its first establishment... he made the first dye [sic] used in it.' This excerpt is of paramount importance, as Wailes identifies Eckfeldt as having engraved the first coin struck at the Philadelphia Mint, which was the disme. Interestingly, he is mentioned as having made only one die and not a pair thereof. Thus, it appears that another person should be credited with the disme reverse. The variable is who the unknown craftsman is, and no evidence exists to determine this."
Obverse. Liberty faces left with her hair in nine flowing locks. Her features are in bold and rounded relief. The date is below the bust with the serif of the 1 joined to the bottom bust line, and the remaining digits spaced progressively more distant. Starting below the 1, the legend reads clockwise LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE AND INDUS. with the final S below the 2. A tiny center dot on the back of the head is positioned a short distance below the ear. On this piece a short die line connects the bust tip to the left serif of the R in LIBERTY, possibly a tiny die crack but more likely a faint engraving scratch.
Reverse. An eagle with wings spread floats in the field, looking over the right (facing) wing. Below is the denomination DISME and around is the statutory legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The eagle's right wing tip joins the left serif of T in UNITED and the left wing tip just touches the base of the E in AMERICA, below the upright.
The Present Example
The smooth fields on this piece, certified PR62 Brown by NGC, exhibit slight reflectivity and few abrasions. A few tiny marks are evident only on Liberty's cheek, hardly visible without magnification. A small patch of old corrosion is visible in the lower hair curls, over to the lower right border, and another dull reddish patch can be seen inside the border at about 10 o'clock. The reverse is similarly smooth with only a few tiny abrasions, even more minor than those on the obverse. Both sides have splendid olive-brown color, the obverse with lighter tan that is faded from the original mint color, the reverse with delightful lilac, also faded from original mint red. The strike is bold with virtually full details on each side. Both sides have full borders, the obverse slightly wider at the left. There is no visible die deterioration on either side of this piece. As a trial piece with an extremely limited production, different die states would be unexpected.
This coin is certified as a proof, primarily based on strike and surface quality. Unlike modern proof coins, the fields are satiny rather than highly mirrored. The reflective, satiny surfaces are entirely unlike those of surviving high-grade 1792 half dismes, the latter typically showing full mint frost. Walter Breen points out that this piece has many of the similar proof earmarks found on the Mint Cabinet piece, now in the Smithsonian Institution, implying that these two pieces are the only ones that should be called proofs.
At this historic coin's last appearance with us, the consignor, Ed Price, wrote concerning it:
"For a while I was interested in understanding how many of these existed. I reviewed many catalogs and looked at all that were available-buying several. There was a point where I owned six reeded edge copper dismes, ranging in grade from AG3 to this one. Stu [Stuart Levine] suggested I was trying to assemble a grading set. He was involved in the purchase or sale (often both) of all six pieces. I believe there are 20 to 25 extant, mostly in middle grades, some very low grade. Almost all saw some circulation. I believe there are about six in choice AU or better condition."
This example is probably the second or third finest known behind the Smithsonian and Garrett examples, certainly among of the finest available in the market today. NGC has certified three grading events as a proof or presentation piece: the present piece in PR62 Brown, and two in PR65 Brown (possibly a duplication).
This piece is plated in Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1989. It appears to be the same piece illustrated in the second through seventh editions of Judd's pattern book. It is probably the piece that appeared in Abe Kosoff's 1962 Illustrated History price list and is similar to lot 391 in the June 1909 Jewett Collection catalog.
Ex: Dr. J. Hewitt Judd Collection; Illustrated History of United States Coins FPL (Abe Kosoff, 1962), lot 14; later, Stuart Levine (3/26/2001); Ed Price Collection / Baltimore ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/2009), lot 1406, which realized $690,000.
From The Greensboro Collection, Part I.
View all of [The Greensboro Collection, Part I ]
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