1792 Silver Center Cent, Judd-1, MS64 Brown
1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, MS64 Brown PCGS
Secure. CAC The Silver Center cent is one of the most
significant and historically important coins ever struck at the
Philadelphia Mint. It was the first coin actually produced inside
the walls of the First United States Mint, as earlier patterns,
like the 1792 half dismes, were actually struck in makeshift
facilities before the Mint buildings were ready for operations.
Walter Breen, a numismatist who was not given to understatement,
once remarked that the Silver Center cent was "deserving of more
superlatives than we can bring ourselves to lavish on it." Just
over a dozen specimens have survived, including one example in the
National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Heritage Auctions is privileged to present the second-finest known
example of this classic American rarity in this landmark
Innovative and Historic Early Pattern
Second-Finest Known, Ex: Norweb
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 22.9 mm, weight = 69.9 grains.
The 1792 Patterns
The founding fathers apparently learned a great deal about establishing a monetary system from the earlier attempt by Robert Morris to set up a decimal coinage system with his program of Nova Constellatio patterns in 1783. Both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson clearly saw the practical advantages of the decimal system, but wanted to avoid the complications arising from making the basic unit too small and unwieldy for use in everyday calculations. Based on the work of these two men, the Mint Act of April 2, 1792 authorized the establishment of a national mint and set down specific guidelines for a national coinage. A remarkable series of patterns was produced in an effort to find the most practical way of implementing this coinage. Although the coins we use today bear little physical resemblance to the simple, and somewhat primitive, patterns of 1792, they are lineal descendants of the Silver Center cent, Fusible Alloy cent, Birch cent, half disme, disme, and Eagle on Globe quarter.
Section 9 of the Mint Act specified that the cent should contain 11 pennyweights (264 grains) of pure copper. The planchet would be somewhat larger than the present-day half dollar, clearly too big for convenient use in everyday purchases (imagine carrying five half dollar-sized coins in your pocket to make a five-cent transaction). Henry Voigt, the ingenious chief coiner, suggested an innovative bimetallic solution to the problem. Voigt calculated that a coin with a tapered plug containing ¾ of a cent worth of silver inserted into a copper planchet worth ¼ of a cent would have both the proper intrinsic value and a convenient size. 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."
Jefferson referred to the Silver Center cent (Judd-1) in the first part of his letter. He then reported that Mint Director David Rittenhouse was about to test another possible solution, the Fusible Alloy cent, and he would also produce a pure copper pattern of the same size for comparison. The Fusible Alloy cent and the pure copper piece are both included in the Judd-2 designation today. Most surviving examples are of the pure copper variety, but modern testing has established that at least one example has the specified silver content of the Fusible Alloy variant. Some researchers believe the Birch cent (Judd-3 through 5) represents the full-sized copper piece Jefferson referred to at the end of the letter, but others theorize that the Birch cents were actually produced in the period before the Mint was ready for operations, and the large copper pattern in Jefferson's letter was never actually struck.
The Silver Center and Fusible Alloy cents were conveniently sized, but they both presented problems as a circulating medium of exchange. The Fusible Alloy cents were visually indistinguishable from the pure copper specimens, making them easy to counterfeit, and making it unlikely that a wary public would accept them at face value. The Silver Center cents were visually distinctive, and almost impossible to counterfeit, but they were also difficult to produce. The limited technology of the time made producing and striking the composite planchets too time consuming for large scale coining operations. Fortunately, Congress revised their specifications, and a smaller, lighter version of the cent was authorized in 1793. The resulting large cent copper pieces would be a familiar staple in the national monetary system until 1857, when the rising cost of copper finally forced the Mint to produce a circulating cent on with a small-size planchet. The idea of a bimetallic coinage was abandoned by the United States Mint, not to be revived until the year 2000, when the 2000-W Library of Congress commemorative ten dollar coin was struck in platinum and gold.
A Numismatic Favorite
Numismatists have prized the Silver Center cent from the earliest days of the hobby because of its rarity and distinctive appearance. Surprisingly, a number of specimens have been well-preserved over the years, and only a few grade lower than XF. It is possible that most examples were held as mementos and family heirlooms until the 1850s, and traded to collectors when coin collecting became popular in this country during that decade. This would explain how so many examples escaped relatively unscathed during the first 60 years, or so, after their striking. Curiously, Adam Eckfeldt did not save an example for the Mint Cabinet, and the specimen in the Smithsonian was acquired in relatively recent times.
The issue was described in John H. Hickcox' An Historical Account of American Coinage in 1858 and in Montroville W. Dickeson's American Numismatical Manual the year after. The first auction appearance of a Silver Center cent was in lot 747 of the John K. Wiggin Collection (Edward Cogan, 3/1862) and offerings have been the subject of intense interest and competition ever since. When Thomas Elder offered an example in his sale of the Peter Gschwend Collection in 1908, he noted:
"1792. The "Silver Center" cent. Obv. An Indian head r. LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE AND INDUST: Below the bust, 1792. Rev. value within a wreath, around which UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below wreath 1-100. Edge milled. A silver plug has been inserted through the center of the coin (which is of the size of an old half cent) to give it an intrinsic value of one cent. Uncirculated, with faint traces of original red around obverse letters. A magnificent piece, the finest known specimen. One, very good, in my sale of October, 1907, sold to a prominent dealer for $212.50. The value of this may be reckoned accordingly. Crosby Pl. X. 22. Plate"
Interestingly, Elder believed the bust of Liberty represented an Indian head, possibly associating the coin with the contemporary Indian cents of 1857-1909. The lot realized $402.50, an exceptional price at the time. The auction record for a Silver Center cent was recently set by the MS63+ specimen in lot 30426 of the Eric P. Newman Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 5/2014), which realized $1,410,000.
The Present Coin
The present coin has an illustrious pedigree, tracing its history back to 19th century collector Robert C.H. Brock, who left this coin and a significant portion of his collection to the University of Pennsylvania. Financier J.P. Morgan acquired other parts of Brock's collection and later donated those coins to the American Numismatic Society, where they can still be seen today. The University of Pennsylvania deaccessioned its numismatic holdings circa 1952, with many coins going to dealer Philip H. Ward. After several intermediaries, this piece was a highlight of the famous Norweb Collection, one of the most important and valuable collections of all time. Several distinguished collectors have held the coin since then, including our present consignor, Oliver Jung.
The coin offered here is a spectacular Choice specimen, the second-finest known. The design elements are sharply detailed on both sides and the coin is well-centered on a smooth planchet. The silver plug is perfectly centered as well, covering the lower portion of Liberty's ear, about half of her jawline, and the first four strands of hair on the obverse. On the reverse, the plug covers the lower part of the N in ONE and most of EN in CENT. The pleasing grayish-brown surfaces show iridescent highlights of blue and rose toning in a delightful play of colors. Only a few minor contact marks are evident, including a hairline scratch above NE in ONE. A small mint-made rim deformation is noted at 11 o'clock on the obverse. This is not a rim bruise, as the Norweb catalog indicates the reeding is also incomplete in this area. This lot represents an extremely important opportunity for the advanced collector, with a combination of unmatched historic interest, outstanding eye appeal, high technical grade, and well-established value. A comparable specimen may not become available for decades.
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. Garrett Specimen, 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. Norweb Specimen, MS64 Brown PCGS. R.C.H. Brock Collection; University of Pennsylvania; Philip H. Ward; Charles Dochus; 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; Marvin Browder; purchased for $2.5 million and subsequently resold in 2011 by Stuart Levine, Joe O'Conner, and Anthony Terranova; Oliver Jung. Pollock plate coin. The present coin.
3. Newman Specimen, MS63+ Brown NGC. F.C.C. Boyd; Eric P. Newman; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society; Selections From the Eric P. Newman Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 5/2014), lot 30426; realized $1,410,000.
4. Bushnell Specimen, 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. 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, realized $1,150,000; Kevin Lipton and Anthony Terranova; Cardinal Foundation. 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. 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.
7. Smithsonian Specimen, 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. Stearns Specimen, XF. C.H. Stearns Collection (Mayflower, 12/1966), lot 280; Lester Merkin; Donald Groves Partrick; private Eastern collection.
9. Judd Specimen, 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. 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; 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 Linett, 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. Terranova Specimen, VF. Nigel Willmott; Glendining's Sale (1997); Anthony Terranova; TeleTrade; Larry Stack; Martin Ohgigian; Ohgigian Estate.
12. Starr Specimen, 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; Stuart Levine again in 2006; Old West and Franklinton Collections (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. 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
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.
Chronological Auction Records (61 appearances)
John K. Wiggin Collection (Edward Cogan, 3/1862), lot 747.
Finotti Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 11/1862), lot 1528.
Benjamin Haines Sale (Bangs, Merwin & Co., 1/1863), lot 780.
Edward Cogan Collection (Cogan, 4/1863), lot 1075
Joseph J. Mickley Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 2135
George Seavey Collection (1873 FPL)
Col. Mendes I. Cohen (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 380
William J. Jenks Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 9/1880), lot 1383
A. Dohrmann Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1882), lot 437
Charles I. Bushnell Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1882), lot 1766
Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 444
Thomas Warner Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1884), lot 3215
Matthews Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 12/1885), lot 2120
Lady of Western New York (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1887), lot 816
Robert Coulton Davis (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 1/1890), lot 1008a
Lorin G. Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 5
Woodside Collection (New York Coin and Stamp Co., 4/1892), lot 1
Richard B. Winsor Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1895), lot 291
H.G. Brown Collection (Lyman H. Low, 10/1904), lot 209
Charles Morris Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1905), lot 361
Harlan P. Smith Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1315
Hersch, Levick, and Farrell Collections (Thomas Elder, 10/1907), lot 1732
Peter Gschwend Collection (Thomas L. Elder, 6/1908), lot 116
George H. Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2179
John Story Jenks Collection (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5569
Poillon, Lee, and Ralston Collections (Thomas L. Elder, 10/1926), lot 1436
J.C. Morgenthau & Co. (311th Sale, 10/1933), lot 78
Lenz, Sloane, and Chapman Collections (Thomas Elder, 1/1936), lot 2968
1941 ANA Sale (Ira Reed, 8/1941), lot 77
Belden E. Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), lot 3111
12th Sale (Celina Coin Co., 2/1945), lot 2022
Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 1794
Ohio State Numismatic Society Convention Sale (Celina Coin Co., 10/1949), lot 591
Stockmayer Collection (Stack's, 7/1952), lot 174
Elliot Landau Collection (New Netherlands, 12/1958), lot 104
Empire Coin (1961 Lohr FPL)
Illustrated History (A. Kosoff, 1962 FPL), lot 19
Brand-Lichtenfels (Kreisberg and Schulman, 3/1964), lot 1106
C.H. Stearns Collection (Mayflower, 12/1966), lot 280
GENA Convention Sale (Pine Tree, 9/1974), lot 1272a
Gibson Collection (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 14
River Oaks Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 908
Garrett Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2347
Loye Lauder Collection (William Doyle Galleries, 12/1983), lot 233
John L. Roper, 2nd Collection (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 425
Corrado Romano Estate (Stack's, 6/1987), lot 143
San Diego Show (Dana Linett, 10/1988), lot 9
Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3392
Floyd Starr Collection (Stack's, 10/1992), lot 3
James A. Stack, Sr. Collection (Stack's, 3/1995), lot 1400
The Mint (Jay Parrino) FPL's 1995 and 1996
Glendining's Sale 1997
Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1999), lot 143
65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 56
Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/2002), lot 724
Old West and Franklinton Collection (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 13
Queller Collection (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 1500
Liberty Collection (Heritage, 4/2012), lot 5403
Philadelphia Signature (Heritage, 8/2012), lot 5015
Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2013), lot 4113
Eric P. Newman Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 5/2014), lot 30426
From The Collection of Oliver Jung.
Extended Terms, interest-free, are available on this lot. Please inquire to Credit@HA.com. (NGC ID# 2948, PCGS# 11001)
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