1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, MS61+ Brown NGC....
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Historic First Coinage on U.S. Mint Grounds
The Bushnell-Parmelee-Green-Norweb Piece
The Price of Copper and the Judd-1 Silver Center Cent
As with any coinage proposal, the Judd-1 silver center cent has a complex genesis. One of the less-known roots of the issue is the economic activity of an unexpected country: Sweden. The northern kingdom held a near-monopoly on copper production in Europe thanks to the Stora Kopparberg or Great Copper Mountain mine, and it pushed production to finance its military and political aims. The kingdom began making copper riksdalers alongside silver coins of the same denomination in 1624, during the reign of Gustavus Adolphus the Great, which led a couple of decades later to the famous "plate money" that was used in the Swedish banking system until 1776 and today is popularly photographed on kitchen scales. The large size of Sweden's plate money points to copper's place as a valuable, but not the most valuable, commodity on the continent; while a Swedish silver riksdaler of the period was a crown-sized coin not particularly different in size or weight from its peers in other kingdoms, a copper one-riksdaler plate had significant size and bulk.
In absolute terms, the weights assigned to the copper coins in the U.S. Mint Act of April 2, 1792 were not nearly so large as a piece of Swedish plate money. The cent was listed at 11 pennyweights (where a pennyweight refers to the weight of a British penny's worth of silver, 24 grains or 1/20th of a troy ounce) and the half cent at 5 ½ pennyweights, both on the determination of inaugural Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in his Report on the Subject of a Mint, the 1791 predecessor to the Mint Act. As with the gold and silver coinage listed in the Mint Act, Hamilton assigned the copper coins weights that represented full intrinsic value at the time, i.e. one cent's worth of copper in a one-cent coin. A bit of math reveals how Sweden's relentless production of copper had driven down the price of the commodity over a century and a half. An individual large cent at the Mint Act standard would weigh 264 grains, or more than half a troy ounce, on its own, and 100 such cent coins would have a collective weight of 1100 pennyweights, or 55 troy ounces! Even the one-riksdaler pieces of Swedish plate money were not so heavy.
Alexander Hamilton took notice of the weighty problem posed by an intrinsic-par copper cent in his Report and examined silver as a solution:
"With regard to the proposed size of the cent, it is to be confessed, that it is rather greater than might be wished, if it could with propriety and safety be made less: And should the value of copper continue to decline, as it has done for sometime past, it is very questionable, whether it will long remain alone a fit metal for money. This has led to a consideration of the expediency of uniting a small portion of silver with the copper in order to ... lessen the bulk of the inferior coins..."
Hamilton, however, stopped short of endorsing a billon coin in the manner of France, pointing out in his 1791 Report that the appearance of a small level of silver in a large amount of copper could be imitated cheaply by counterfeiters.
Despite the obvious differences in appearance between the cent patterns of 1792 -- the silver-centered and obviously bimetallic Judd-1, the "fusible alloy" Judd-2 at an identical size with the same obverse and reverse designs, and the Judd-3 through Judd-5 Birch cents in pure copper -- all illustrated either the problem posed by the Hamiltonian intrinsic-value cent standard or a solution thereto. The difference in size between the Birch cents and the silver-center and fusible alloy pieces is startling, as seen by the to-scale images in references such as the Guide Book and Judd's United States Pattern Coins.
While Alexander Hamilton cited the possibility of a "billon" cent, which has common cause with the Judd-2 pattern's fusible alloy, the immediate inspiration for the silver center on the Judd-1 patterns appears to have come from the U.S. Mint's Chief Coiner, Henry Voigt. A letter from then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to President George Washington regarding the pattern cent coinage includes the following paragraph, describing the activities of Voigt and Director of the Mint David Rittenhouse, which is much-reprinted in the literature on the 1792 cent patterns but always worth a reread when considering one of these rarities:
"Th. Jefferson has the honor to send the President two cents made on Voigt's plan by putting a silver plug worth 3/4 of a cent into a copper worth 1/4 cent. Mr. Rittenhouse is about to make a few by mixing the same plug by fusion with the same quantity of copper. He will then make of copper alone of the same size, and lastly he will make the real cent as ordered by Congress, four times as big."
This letter, of course, is of paramount importance in fixing the sequence of late-1792 pattern one cent coinage at the U.S. Mint and securing the Judd-1 silver center cent's place in history.
While the Judd-1 silver center cent became the first in a long line of unadopted prototype coins produced on U.S. Mint grounds, this is not to say that the idea was ill-considered. The work Voigt and Rittenhouse put into the 1792 pattern cent coinage was instrumental in convincing Congress to amend the Mint Act in January 1793, which reduced the statutory weight of the copper large cent from 264 grains to 208 grains. The resulting Chain cents, while still much thicker and heavier than the Judd-1 and Judd-2 patterns, were of a more reasonable diameter (26 to 27 millimeters) than the Judd-3 to Judd-5 Birch cents.
The Bushnell-Parmelee Specimen
In its most recent prior auction appearance (Stack's, 10/2000), the cataloger graded the piece as "Choice Extremely Fine, nearly About Uncirculated." This most likely was due to the striking flatness on Liberty's cheek, yet the seemingly "worn" plane of that facial feature remains lustrous with only slight contact on the cheekbone. When one "grades by surface," NGC's designation of MS61+ Brown is truer to the mark than the Stack's assessment. The copper bulk of the piece is rich brown with just a hint of reddish-violet color, while the small silver plug, larger and rounder in appearance on the obverse as always, is medium-gray with a hint of steel. Under magnification a number of small faults appear, including a shallow pinscratch that falls away from the tip of Liberty's nose, but the plain line on Liberty's neck southeast of the silver plug appears to be a planchet flaw rather than a post-striking defect. A small dot of deep toning on the rim near the Y in LIBERTY on the obverse may serve as a future pedigree marker.
Historically important and genuinely rare, the Judd-1 silver center cents have a remarkable story and distinctive eye appeal. This example has been appreciated by many famous owners, including Charles Ira Bushnell, Lorin G. Parmelee, Virgil Brand, Colonel E.H.R. Green, and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb. The next owner of this remarkable and high-end piece will join their esteemed collecting company.
Roster of Judd-1 1792 Silver Center Cents
A year ago, Heritage published its roster of Judd-1 1792 silver center cents when it offered the Morris specimen as part of The Liberty Collection. At the time, the Bushnell specimen was ranked seventh in our list of Judd-1 examples, but the coin's certification as Mint State gives it a higher place in this updated version.
1. Garrett Specimen. MS67 Brown PCGS. James W. Ellsworth (5/1923); John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2347; private collection. Either this or the next is from Peter Gschwend (Thomas L. Elder, 6/1908), lot 116.
2. Norweb Specimen. MS64 PCGS. Robert C.W. Brock Collection; University of Pennsylvania; Philip H. Ward; Charles Dochus; Harry Forman; New Netherlands (3/14/1958); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3392; Stack's (1/2002), lot 724; Ed Milas; Texas Collection; purchased by Stu Levine, Anthony Terranova, and Joe O'Connor in 2011 for $2.5 million and subsequently resold in August 2011 by O'Connor Numismatics for $2.8 million; private collection. Pollock plate coin.
3. Bushnell Specimen. MS61+ Brown NGC. The present coin. Charles Ira Bushnell (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1882), lot 1766; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 5; Harlan Page Smith (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1315; George H. Earle (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2179; Charles Wurtzbach; Virgil M. Brand; Col. E.H.R. Green; Belden Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), lot 3111; Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 1794; Stack's (7/1952), lot 174; [before or after preceding] Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; Landau Sale (New Netherlands, 12/1958), lot 104; Corrado Romano Collection (Stack's, 6/1987), lot 143; Stack's (1/1999), lot 143; Stack's (10/2000), lot 56. The 1914 ANS Exhibition plate coin; Standard Catalog plate coin; former Guide Book plate coin. The October 2000 Stack's catalog cites an appearance in "Stack's sale of January 3, 1952;" surely the July [23,] 1952 auction in the pedigree above is meant, per P. Scott Rubin.
4. Morris Specimen. MS61 Brown PCGS. Charles Morris (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1905), lot 361; James O. Sloss; William Mitkoff; Great Eastern Numismatic Association Sale (Pine Tree, 9/1974), lot 1272a; William T. Anton; Private Collection; Liberty Collection (Heritage, 4/2012), lot 5403, which realized $1,150,000. Breen Encyclopedia plate coin; former Guide Book plate coin. We believe this specimen is earlier from William J. Jenks Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 9/1880), lot 1383; A. Dohrmann Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1882), lot 437; Lady of Western New York Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1887), lot 816.
5. Weinberg Specimen. Mint State. Thomas Warner (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1884), lot 3215; Richard B. Winsor (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1895), lot 291; Loye Lauder (William Doyle Galleries, 12/1983), lot 233; Alan Weinberg.
6. Smithsonian Specimen. AU. Robert Coulton Davis (New York Coin & Stamp, 1/1890), lot 1008a; John Story Jenks (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5569; Lenox R. Lohr; Empire Coin (1961 FPL); River Oaks Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 908; Robert Hughes; private collection; Smithsonian Institution. Judd plate coin for the ninth and 10th editions; current Guide Book plate coin.
7. Stearns Specimen. XF. C.H. Stearns Collection (Mayflower, 12/1966), lot 280; Groves Collection; private Eastern collection.
8. Judd Specimen. XF. Thomas Elder (10/1907), lot 1732; later, Dr. J. Hewitt Judd; Illustrated History (A. Kosoff, 1962), lot 19; Julian Leidman; Eastern collector. The original Judd plate coin.
9. Newman Specimen. XF. F.C.C. Boyd; Eric P. Newman.
10. Queller Specimen. VF30 NGC. Joseph J. Mickley (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 2135; Colonel Mendes I. Cohen (Bangs, Merwin & Co. for Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 380; William Sumner Appleton; later, Virgil Brand; Abner Kreisberg and Hans M.F. Schulman (3/1964), lot 1106; Gibson Collection (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 14; John L. Roper (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 425; David Queller (Lemus Collection); Queller Family Collection (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 1500; Philadelphia Signature (Heritage, 8/2012), lot 5015.
11. Terranova Specimen. VF. Glendining's Sale (1997); Anthony Terranova; TeleTrade; Larry Stack; Martin Oghigian; Oghigian Estate.
12. Starr Specimen. Fine 15 PCGS. Virgil M. Brand; J.C. Morgenthau (311th Sale, 10/1933), lot 78; Floyd Starr (Stack's, 10/1992), lot 3; later, American Numismatic Rarities (8/2006), lot 13.
13. California Specimen. VG10 Details, Scratched ANACS. A Northern California collector purchased this piece for $400 in 2006. The coin was offered at a police department auction of unclaimed property. Reported in Coin World, January 5, 2009.
14. Unplugged Specimen. SP63 PCGS. Discovered by Anthony Terranova, 1993; Stack's (3/1995), lot 1400. Former Guide Book plate coin. The coin does not have a silver insert and may have been a trial striking before making the silver center pieces. In his 1984 provenance study, Scott Rubin mentions Thomas Elder's sale of October 1926, lot 1436, where a piece was described as: "1792. Pattern for Silver Centre Cent (freak)." That listing might represent an early appearance of this piece.
Additional Auction Appearances
With a single exception, none of the following were plated, and no further information in the catalog descriptions provided help determining provenance.
A. Finotti Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 11/1862), lot 1528.
B. Benjamin Haines Collection (Bangs, Merwin & Co., 1/1863), lot 780.
C. Edward Cogan (4/1863), lot 1075. The December 1958 New Netherlands catalog assigns this appearance to the Bushnell Specimen -- the present coin -- in our list.
D. George Seavey Collection (1873 FPL).
E. Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 444.
F. Matthews Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 12/1885), lot 2120.
G. Woodside Collection (New York Coin and Stamp Co., 4/1892), lot 1. The silver center cent is plated (obverse only) and its appearance is bizarre, unlike anything else that we have seen. It is almost certainly a false piece.
H. H.G. Brown Collection (Lyman H. Low, 10/1904), lot 209.
I. Thomas L. Elder (1/1936), lot 2968.
J. 1941 ANA Sale (Ira Reed, 8/1941), lot 77.
K. Celina Coin Co. (12th Sale, 2/1945), lot 2022.
L. Celina Coin Co. (10/1949), lot 591. (PCGS# 11001)
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