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    Brasher and F&G Marked Half Joe Plated in Gordon

    Brazil. Jose I 6400 Reis 1758-R. Rio mint. F&G mark in oval for Lewis Fueter and G, EB mark in oval for Ephraim Brasher. KM172.2. XF. F&G mark in deeply basined oval in its usual position at center, marked on obverse with raised plug visible on reverse. Brasher's EB in oval cartouche low on neck of obverse portrait, marked but not plugged. Five, short, straight clips from 6:00 to 9:00. Present weight just under a half grain below 9 dwt (215.6 grains), the same weight as the F&G and EB-marked 1745-B Half Joe in the Eliasberg collection. This standard is associated with the Bahamas (1744 and 1788), New York (1770 and 1784), Maryland (1781), Boston (1785), among other locales from Quebec to the Leeward Islands.

    The EB mark used on this coin is the same as that used on the famed Brasher doubloons, in addition to most known Brasher regulated pieces, seen here in a relatively early state. The F&G mark is one of the most commonly encountered of all regulations. It is often found in combination with American marks, most often the New Yorkers Ephraim Brasher and John Burger. Long attributed as the mark of Fletcher and Gardiner, a Boston partnership that flourished in the 1820s after forming ca. 1815, F&G must instead be placed in an earlier era, earlier even than the end of the American Revolution. The discovery of two F&G marked coins on the "Coconut Wreck" eliminates Fletcher and Gardiner from consideration, as the wreck sank no later than 1810, before their partnership was formed.

    The weights of F&G pieces also prove that the partnership cannot date from the Federal era. The standards of British North America tend to be a bit higher than those of Confederation-era America. We see 9dwt 3 grains in Canada in 1764 and in British-occupied New York during the Revolution, 9 dwt 5 grains in Rhode Island in 1763 and Boston in the late 1750s. Most post-1783 standards are 9 dwt or less. The fact that F&G plugged this piece, it received wear, and then Brasher marked it without bringing the weight up - and perhaps even the clips were his work - implies that F&G was earlier than Brasher. Though not proveable, there does appear to be more wear on the F&G than the EB. Further, F&G marks almost always occur on early dated Half Joes; the latest dated coin we have seen bearing that mark is the 1774-dated piece plated in Gordon.

    The shape and texture of the mark, with its unusually round cartouche and deep basining, is too similar to the DCF mark of Daniel Christian Fueter to be written off as coincidence. Fueter, a Swiss-born New Yorker, is best known numismatically as the producer of the 1764 Happy While United Indian Peace medals. He is also recognized as the father of the Tory regulator Lewis Fueter and one of the leading producers of Indian Trade silver for the British military apparatus in North America before 1770.

    The Fueter attribution remains problematical, however. Who could his partner have been? He was in business with his son, Lewis, who resumed the business solo after 1770, with no known associations with others. What does this mean?
    Nearly all the F&G marked coins that have no other marks and were not severely clipped later tend to weigh a half grain to a grain over the 9 dwt 3 grain standard of British occupied New York. This is strong evidence that the F of F&G was Lewis Feuter, not the father: the Lewis Feuter regulated Half Joe from the Eliasberg sale weight 219.75 grains, three-quarters of a grain heavy for the 9 dwt 3 grain standard, and the Fueter-marked Half Joe herein weighs 219.6 grains. It seems Fueter the younger simply aimed a bit high, and thus the weights of intact F&G marked pieces are entirely consistent with those known to have been produced by Lewis Fueter alone. Their metrological footprints are nearly identical. Further, F&G always marked at absolute center, often with a big lumpy plug. Lewis Fueter marks are likewise always at center. We see notable consistency among regulators: Burger aimed for the eye, Brasher usually below the midpoint and low on the bust.

    The Fueter marked piece herein confuses that neat summary, however: LF is at center over a huge lumpy plug, while F&G is below center on a smaller plug. That coin shows another plug before the LF marked plug too. Was LF a personal mark while F&G served the British establishment in New York on an official basis? The LF-regulated coin in this collection proves that it comes before F&G; perhaps LF was used before the Revolution (ca. 1770-75) and F&G was used during the occupation (1776-83). After 1783, the 9 dwt 3 grain standard was no longer used in New York, thus that date serves as a terminus ante quem. The latest known host for an F&G regulation is dated 1774, but is still more interesting: it is a crude cast counterfeit, albeit a full weight (9 dwt, 3.2 grains) one. It is plated in Pridmore and appeared in the Byrne and Gordon sales.

    So who was the Mysterious G? William Gilbert seems like a likely candidate, as he was one of New York's leading silversmiths, but he was also a Patriot. Our best guess is that G was a little known smith named James Gough. Gough left behind an almost invisible historic and material footprint. Ensko simply states he "F. 1769," indicating that he was declared a freeman, or citizen, that year. He does not appear in the 1786 New York directory, which lists Gilbert, Burger, Brasher, and others. Though not foolproof, this is evidence that he was a Tory who got out of town when the city went back to Patriot control. Gough is noted as being on Beaver Street in 1769 in one edition of Ensko; Fueter's shop on Queen Street would have been a block away. Gough is listed but was not included in the 1906 BMFA exhibition of American Silver. The 1911 BMFA catalogue of early church silver likewise includes him as a simple line item with the year 1769. The era is right, the initial is right (among very few G silversmiths in New York in the era), the disappearance from the historical record is right. Perhaps original source work in some of New York's repositories could find a connection between Fueter and Gough that would be more useful or even definitive.

    This specimen shows some ruddy encrustation near the forehead and P of PORT that is reminiscent of that found on salvage pieces; some granularity at central obverse and the apparent removal of some black encrustation within the two marks also hints at such a provenance. The gold is sedate and lackluster, with pleasing wear and no major marks. The original edge device appears everywhere but where the five straight clips are noted.

    This piece bears a fascinating juxtaposition of marks: one famous and fully documented, the other enigmatic and under current exploration. It summarizes the story of regulated gold in a single coin, going up in value with a plug, then down with clips, finally ending up at the most common North American standard of nine pennyweights. With its pleasing look, gentle wear, and status as a plate coin in the standard text, it would make a superb coin to represent the entire genre of regulated gold coins in an advanced collection.

    Provenance: From Superior's sale of June 11, 1973, Lot 1462. Plated in Gordon's West Indies Countermarked Gold Coins, p. 92, to illustrate the EB mark of Ephraim Brasher.
    From the Edward Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold.

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    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    12th-16th Thursday-Monday
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