1792 Silver Center Cent, Judd-1, MS63+ Brown
1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, MS63+ Brown
NGC. The 1792 Silver Center cent is one of the earliest United
States pattern issues and probably the most famous of all 1792
patterns. The initial mintage figure for the Silver Center cent is
unknown, but it was undoubtedly quite small. Just over a dozen
examples are known today, with a single coin included in the
National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Any
offering of a Silver Center cent is a numismatic milestone, and
Heritage is privileged to offer the third-finest example of this
historic issue in its first appearance at auction.
United States' First Bimetallic Coin
Ex: F.C.C. Boyd
Liberty faces right with hair flowing behind. The obverse periphery reads LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY, with 1792 just below the bust. The reverse has a wreath tied with a ribbon at the bottom; ONE CENT is within. Around the rim is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA with the fraction 1/100 below. Struck in copper with a silver plug in the center with a reeded edge. Medallic alignment. Diameter of this coin is approximately 23 mm, weight = 79.8 grains.
The 1792 Patterns
The 1792 patterns represent the founding fathers' first attempt to establish a national coinage that was efficient to use (unlike the earlier Nova Constellatio patterns). The Mint Act of April 2, 1792 authorized the establishment of a national mint to issue coinage for the fledgling United States and set down some specific guidelines for that coinage. Section 9 of the Mint Act stipulated that cents were to contain 11 pennyweights (264 grains) of pure copper. Unfortunately, a copper coin of that weight would be too large and unwieldy for practical purposes. The ingenious chief coiner, Henry Voigt, suggested including a plug of silver in a more appropriately sized copper planchet to create a coin with an equivalent intrinsic value and a more convenient size than the originally envisioned large copper piece. The silver plug was to be conical in shape and inserted into a tapered hole in the copper planchet with the wider top of the plug on the obverse of the coin. When the resulting bimetallic planchet was struck on the screw press, the protruding edges of the plug would be fused with the surrounding copper and actually receive part of the design. A note in Henry Voigt's journal indicates that the first Silver Center cents were struck on December 17, 1792 and Thomas Jefferson reported on the new patterns in a letter to President George Washington the following day:
"Th. Jefferson has the honor to send the President two cents made on Voigt's plan by putting a silver plug worth ¾ of a cent into a copper worth ¼ of a 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."
The first pattern cent referred to in Jefferson's letter was the Silver Center cent (Judd-1), while the second pattern that Rittenhouse reportedly was about to make was the Fusible Alloy cent (Judd-2). The third coin mentioned, with a pure copper composition and the same design and dimensions as the Fusible Alloy cent, is also included in the Judd-2 designation today. The fourth large copper piece was the Birch cent (Judd-3 through 5).
The Judd-1 and 2 coins were of a manageable size, but both had serious drawbacks. The Fusible Alloy cent was visually indistinguishable from the pure copper pieces, meaning the coins would be easy to counterfeit and would probably not be readily accepted at their stated value. Only a few examples of Judd-2 have undergone metallurgical testing in modern times, and of those that have, only one shows the mixed silver and copper composition of the Fusible Alloy cent. The Silver Center cents were visually distinctive and conveniently sized, but the difficulties in preparing and striking the composite planchets were formidable, and the design was not suitable for high-volume coinage. Fortunately, Congress authorized a smaller, lighter version of the cent in 1793, resulting in the familiar large cent copper pieces that would be a staple in the national economy for many years to come. The Silver Center cent was abandoned, and it was not until 1857 that the rising cost of copper forced the U.S. Mint to produce a small-planchet cent for circulation. The U.S. would not issue another bimetallic coin until the year 2000, when the 2000-W Library of Congress commemorative ten dollar piece was struck in platinum and gold.
The Silver Center Cent in Numismatic Circles
The Silver Center cent has been a popular issue since the earliest days of the hobby. It was described in John H. Hickcox' An Historical Account of American Coinage in 1858 and in Montroville W. Dickeson's American Numismatical Manual the following year. It began appearing at auction at least as early as 1862 and has always commanded a high price because of its rarity and distinctive appearance. When B. Max Mehl sold a specimen in lot 1794 of the Will W. Neil Collection (6/1947), he noted:
"1792 Silver-Center Cent. Head of Liberty with flowing hair facing to right, date below. Inscription, LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE AND INDUST:(ry). Reverse, ONE CENT in olive wreath with fraction 1/100 below. Legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Milled edge. Copper with a small silver plug inserted in center, to bring up its value to the value of the metal. The silver center was placed in the planchet before striking. While this coin is listed as a pattern, it was undoubtedly struck for circulation, as it is found in various degrees of condition. Extremely fine, but I doubt if this coin has ever been in circulation, as it has considerable mint luster and only the highest portions show slight cabinet friction. Excessively rare. Only about eight specimens were minted. This particular specimen has an unusually interesting and valuable pedigree. It originally came from the great Earle Collection. At the Earle sale it was purchased by the eminent numismatist, Mr. Wurtzbach of Massachusetts, who in turn sold it to the great Chicago collector Virgil Brand. From the Brand Collection it went to the Belden Roach Collection of New York, and when I had the pleasure of selling the Roach Collection in 1944, Mr. Neil was the successful buyer. It brought $525.00. But it is certainly worth much more today, considering its rarity, beautiful condition, and outstanding pedigree, and last but not least, the tremendous increase in value of all these greater rarities."
Mehl was incorrect in his assumption that the Silver Center cent was a circulating issue. The coin he was describing grades MS61+ Brown PCGS today, and it recently sold for $822,500. There are no known auction appearances for the present coin and no similarly graded example has sold publicly for many years, but the MS61 Brown PCGS coin in lot 5403 of the Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2012) realized $1,150,000. Eric P. Newman acquired the present coin in a trade with legendary collector F.C.C. Boyd in 1951. Newman traded the 1787 Clinton cent he had purchased as lot 14 in the Theodore Grand Collection (Stack's, 12/1947) for this remarkable Silver Center cent.
The present coin is a high-end Select example, the third-finest known, with razor-sharp definition on all design elements. The hair detail and lower part of Liberty's ear are crisply defined on the silver plug, a problem area for some examples. The design elements are well-centered and dentilation is complete on both sides. The planchet is perfect, with no visible flaws or areas of corrosion. The warm medium brown surfaces show a few highlights of lilac, with glossy luster, and no trace of carbon. Only a few minor contact marks are evident and eye appeal is extraordinary. The Silver Center cent was a well-produced issue, and most of the known examples are and attractive well-preserved, but the Eric P. Newman coin really stands out. This remarkable Silver Center cent combines absolute rarity, outstanding eye appeal and tremendous historical importance with a high technical grade that some would consider conservative. To the best of our knowledge, this coin has never been publicly offered before; this lot represents an important opportunity that will not be repeated soon.
1792 Silver Center Cent Roster
The following roster was expanded from earlier work by Scott Rubin, Saul Teichman, and Mark Borckardt with the important assistance of Wayne Burt, Stuart Levine, Pete Smith and Joel Orosz.
1. MS67 Brown PCGS. Peter Gschwend Collection (Thomas L. Elder, 6/1908), lot 116; Henry Chapman; James W. Ellsworth; purchased by Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett via Knoedler Galleries in May of 1923; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part II (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 234; Joel Perlin; Robert Simpson Collection.
2. MS64 Brown. R.C.H. Brock Collection; University of Pennsylvania; Philip H. Ward; Charles Dochkus; Harry Forman; New Netherlands Coin Company; purchased by the Norwebs on 3/14/1958; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3392; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/2002), lot 724; Ed Milas; Texas Collection, purchased for $2.5 million and subsequently resold in 2011 by Stuart Levine, Joe O'Conner, and Anthony Terranova; Oliver Jung; private collection. Pollock plate coin.
3. MS63+ Brown NGC. F.C.C. Boyd; Eric P. Newman (traded the Clinton cent from the Theodore Grand collection for this piece in 1951); the present coin.
4. MS61+ Brown NGC. Possibly Edward Cogan Collection (Edward Cogan, 4/1863), lot 1075, per New Netherlands catalog of 12/1958; 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; Carl 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; Stockmayer Collection (Stack's, 7/1952), lot 174; Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; Landau Sale (New Netherlands, 12/1958), lot 104; Corrado Romano Collection (Stack's, 6/1987), lot 143; Jay Parrino FPL; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1999), lot 143; 66th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 56; Southern Collection; Simpson Collection; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2013), lot 4113. 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," but there was no such sale. Scott Rubin suggests this might be a misprint for the Stack's 7/1952 sale listed in the pedigree above.
5. 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, 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.
6. 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.
7. AU. Robert Coulton Davis (New York Coin & Stamp, 1/1890), lot 1008a; John Story Jenks (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5569; Waldo Newcomer; F.C.C. Boyd; Lenox R. Lohr; Empire Coin (1961 FPL); River Oaks Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 908; New England Rare Coin Gallery; private sale; Robert Hughes; private collection; Smithsonian Institution. Judd plate coin for the ninth and 10th editions; current Guide Book plate coin.
8. XF. C.H. Stearns Collection (Mayflower, 12/1966), lot 280; Lester Merkin; Donald Groves Partrick; private Eastern collection.
9. XF. Hersch, Levick, Farrell Collections (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.
10. 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; Brand-Lichtenfels Collections (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; Stuart Levine and Anthony Terranova; Bertram Cohen; San Diego Show (Dana Linnet, 10/1988), lot 9; Denis Loring; Stack's, privately; David Queller (Lemus Collection); Queller Family Collection (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 1500; offered at fixed prices by Heritage in 2010 and 2011; Philadelphia Signature (Heritage, 8/2012), lot 5015.
11. VF. Nigel Willmott; Glendining's Sale (1997); Anthony Terranova and Stuart Levine; Larry Stack; Martin Ohgigian; Ohgigian Estate.
12. Fine 15 PCGS. George Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 842; Lorin G. Parmelee; Virgil M. Brand (Brand Journal number 20765); Armin Brand, per his notebook; 311th Sale (J.C. Morgenthau, 10/1933), lot 78; Floyd Starr; Starr Collection (Stack's, 10/1992), lot 3; Jay Parrino, offered in several fixed price lists in the mid-1990s; unknown dealer intermediaries; Stuart Levine in 2004; purchased by Ed Price on 5/14/2004; Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 13.
13. 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. SP63 PCGS. Silvano DiGenova and Stuart Levine; Anthony Terranova, 1993; Stack's (3/1995), lot 1400; Donald Groves Partrick Collection. 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.
John K. Wiggin Collection (Edward Cogan, 3/1862), lot 747.
Finotti Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 11/1862), lot 1528.
Benjamin Haines Collection (Bangs, Merwin & Co., 1/1863), lot 780.
Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 444.
Matthews Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 12/1885), lot 2120.
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.G. Brown Collection (Lyman H. Low, 10/1904), lot 209.
Poillon, Lee, and Ralston Collections (Thomas L. Elder, 10/1926), lot 1436.
Lenz, Sloane, and Chapman Collections (Thomas Elder, 1/1936), lot 2968.
1941 ANA Sale (Ira Reed, 8/1941), lot 77.
12th Sale (Celina Coin Co., 2/1945), lot 2022.
Ohio State Numismatic Society Convention Sale (Celina Coin Co., 10/1949), lot 591.
Other Reported Appearances
A specimen in the collection of DeWitt Smith, sold to Virgil Brand in 1908 (Brand Journal number 46507).
Judson Brenner exhibited a Silver Center cent at the 1916 ANA Convention.
B. Max Mehl advertised an example as part of the Fred Joy Collection (which he had just acquired) on page 599 of the November 1925 issue of The Numismatist. (NGC ID# 2948, PCGS# 11001)
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