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    Extremely Rare Richard Humphreys Regulated Half Joe A Philadelphia Quaker Goldsmith

    Brazil. Jose I 6400 Reis 1756-R. Rio mint. Marked RH for Richard Humphreys. KM172.2. Choice VF. Clipped and partially re-edged. Plugged and marked RH in conforming punch for Richard Humphreys, Philadelphia. Weight correct for the usual post-Revolutionary 9 dwt standard (216.1 grains), here likely following the standard set by the 1777 Philadelphia merchant petition for 60 shilling Half Joes. Carefully plugged in low relief at center, mark at precise center of reverse oriented upside down. Only lightly clipped, denticles short in areas but never clipped entirely away, re-edged on left periphery. Nicely worn, medium yellow gold with no significant flaws, a handsome and well-balanced piece.

    Humphries regulations are extremely rare, indeed, this collection contains the only two that seem to have surfaced. It is a pity these are not more common, in some respects, as Humphreys' story is one rich with history.
    Humphreys was born on Tortola, an island with a tradition of plugging and cutting its coins, in 1749/50. A Quaker, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware at a young age and was apprenticed in the arts of gold and silver smithing. He apparently spent a year of his late adolescence back on Tortola, and he may have witnessed regulation of Half Joes while there. In 1772, he succeeded his mentor, the famous Phillip Syng, after Syng's retirement from the business of silversmithing. Syng, most noted for producing the inkstand into which the signers of the Declaration of Independence dipped their world-changing quills, was also a regulator of both gold and silver coins. By 1774, Humphreys was recognized enough for his talents that he was hired by the Continental Congress to produce a monumental (21" tall) hot water urn to present to fellow Quaker Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Congress, in recognition of his service. Thomson's urn is today in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1780, General George Washington ordered a set of silver from Humphreys from camp in Morristown. In 1781, he moved his workshop and home to Front Street on Philadelphia's waterfront, where his next-door neighbor was Robert Morris, the financier of the American Revolution.

    Humphreys worked with engraver James Smither on some works before the Revolution; Smither has been (incorrectly, in all likelihood) attributed as the engraver of the 1766 Pitt tokens. He was certainly responsible for the border cuts on some issues of Pennsylvania currency before becoming a Tory and abandoning Philadelphia.

    Humphreys was a Patriot and was actually kicked out of his Quaker meeting for joining the militia. He later was received back into the sect's good graces and used his wealth to support Quaker causes. Upon his death, he funded a school for "instructing the descendants of the African Race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanical arts and trades and in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers in such of those branches of useful business as in the Judgment of the said society they may appear best qualified for." Decades later, the result of his bequest evolved into the school that became Cheyney University in suburban Philadelphia.

    Just as John Burger and Ephraim Brasher are deemed the official arbiters of the 1784 Bank of New York standard, so may Richard Humphreys have been the regulator of choice for the 1777 Philadelphia standard (which, at 9 dwt, was the same as the 1784 NY standard, the 1781 Maryland standard, and several others). The 1777 Philadelphia merchants petition was signed by dozens of influential Quakers, including some of Humphrey's closest associates.

    As a man who advertised as a goldsmith (not just a silversmith), Humphreys undoubtedly saw a lot of Half Joes, which would have been the raw material for many of his works. Further, as one of Philadelphia's leading producers of fancy, expensive silverware, he would have received plenty of them in pay for his works from the Philadelphia merchant elite. It is a wonder that Humphreys marks are not more common today; perhaps his colleague and fellow Quaker Joseph Richardson consigned a lot to the melting pot at the Philadelphia Mint and turned them into early U.S. gold coins. This piece appears to have been first collected in the Philadelphia area. It was sold into the Benson Collection by noted Philadelphia dealer Ira Reed in 1946 for the astounding sum of $115. By way of comparison, in 1944 Wayte Raymond placed the retail value of a 1794 dollar in Fine at $12.50.

    Provenance: From Ira and Larry Goldberg's sale of June 2000, Lot 4288. Earlier, acquired from Ira Reed in March 1946 for $115.
    From the Edward Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    12th-16th Thursday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,094

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    We also followed the bidding online yesterday here in Salt Lake for the other 3 coins - great fun. Prices realized met or exceeded our expectations.
    Thomas M.,
    Salt Lake City, UT
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