1792 Copper Disme, AU55
1792 P10C Copper Disme, Judd-10, Pollock-11, High R.6, AU55
NGC. 57.6 grains. Reeded edge. The obverse peripheral legend
LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY encircles an attractive
central portrait of Liberty facing left, her locks flowing downward
and to the right behind her head. The date 1792 is below, the flag
of the 1 touching the lower bust truncation. On the reverse, a
rather ungainly fledgling eagle dominates the center, with UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA around and DISME below. The eagle's wingtips
touch the T in UNITED and the E in AMERICA. The Judd-10 was struck
in copper, with most examples showing normal vertical edge reeding.
The design was also struck in silver with reeded edge (Judd-9), of
which three pieces are known today, one of them a thick planchet
specimen with the date removed. Three survivors also are known of
the plain-edge copper version (Judd-11).
Reeded Edge, Judd-10
The dismes of 1792 (whether silver or copper) must not be confused with the 1792 silver half dismes (Judd-7) which, while eminently desirable and arguably the United States' first regular-issue circulating coins, are far more obtainable overall. Comparisons of the designs of the two denominations are fruitful, although far from conclusive. The precise identities of some of the early designers and engravers in Mint history are "shrouded in archival mist," as Joel Orosz and Leonard Augsburger write in The Secret History of the U.S. Mint. The reverses of both the 1792 half dismes and dismes bear similar, yet slightly different designs of a fledgling (at least, young; dare we say scrawny?) eagle with thin, pointed, outstretched wings, looking left on the half dismes and right on the dismes.
The obverses of the 1792 half dismes and dismes, however, are remarkably dissimilar. Stylistically, the obverse design of the 1792 half dismes resembles much more closely that of the so-called 1792 "Birch" cents, although the busts face in opposite directions. Note, in particular: the smoothly curving arc at the bottom of the bust truncation, which culminates in a rounded tip in high relief on both designs; the "extra" lock of hair at the front of the neck on each; the "apple cheek" appearance of Liberty; the smooth transition from cheek to jaw to neck; and the hair treatment itself, thick masses running backward and down, combined with ringlet curls in the lower hair.
The obverse design of the 1792 dismes, however, resembles much more the obverse of the 1793 half cents. On both designs, the jawline of Liberty is quite prominent, the underside of the bust is nearly a straight line, the forward truncation comes to a sharp point, and the hair is in thin waves with pointed ends.
Although inconclusive, considerable circumstantial evidence points to Adam Eckfeldt as the designer of the obverse of the 1792 dismes. President George Washington appointed David Rittenhouse to the post of Mint director on July 1, 1792, and the 1792 half dismes and dismes were struck only a few days later, in the Philadelphia cellar of sawmaker John Harper (the Mint was still under construction). Bruce Amspacher writes in an article on the PCGS website concerning the Colonel Ellsworth-John Work Garrett Judd-10 example, now in the Simpson Collection:
"Adam Eckfeldt often said that he designed the first United States coin struck. Many believe that he was referring to his 1793 half cent, but that is impossible. The first 1793 half cent was struck on July 20, 1793, more than four months after the first 1793 Chain cents designed by Henry Voigt were minted. The coin Eckfeldt was talking about was the 1792 disme. Eckfeldt should know. He was there at Harper's cellar, along with Washington, Jefferson, Rittenhouse, and Voigt on July 9-10, 1792."
Compiling an accurate roster of the Judd-10 coins is a virtual impossibility. There are literally dozens of auction appearances from the mid- to late 19th centuries, many of them low-grade and/or unplated coins. In our Baltimore ANA Signature (Heritage, 7/2008), lot 1406 was a Judd-10 example certified PR62 NGC, pedigreed to the Ed Price Collection. That coin realized $690,000, a record for the issue. As part of that lot, Price wrote:
"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."
The Eric Newman coin offered here, certified AU55 NGC, is among the small handful of survivors known today in grades approaching Mint State. A different example in the same grade, the AU55 PCGS ex: Norweb coin, brought $362,250 as lot 7401 in a November 2011 Stack's Bowers auction. The surfaces are a medium milk-chocolate color with traces of lighter tan in the protected device areas. Although light wear is perceptible on the high points, much luster persists on both sides. Likely due to a slight die misalignment, the obverse dentilation is stronger on the left side than on the right, while the right-side dentilation is stronger on the reverse. This 1792 copper disme is a treasure from the collection of Eric P. Newman.
Ex: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. (NGC ID# 294H, PCGS# 11026)
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