Rare Gem 1881 Hawaii Five Kenata
1881 5C Hawaii Five Cents MS65 PCGS. Medcalf 2CN-1. KM-2. In
1881, King Kalakaua of Hawaii became the first king to travel
around the world. Among other nations, he visited the United
States, Japan, China, India, Egypt, Italy, Belgium, Germany,
Austria, France, Spain, and Great Britain. He had several reasons
for his tour. He encouraged immigration to Hawaii, which needed
workers for its sugar cane industry. He sought furnishings for his
lavish royal palace. He was also interested in awarding a coinage
contract, since no coins had been struck for Hawaii since 1847.
Among the Finest Certified
As a result of the king's visit to Paris, German-silver five kenata patterns were struck by the owner of a New Caledonia nickel mine. These were shipped to the king for his approval, but he rejected them and instead contracted the United States to provide 1883 silver coins. Perhaps the reason for the rejection was a misspelling of the first word in the Hawaiian royal motto, UA MAU KE EA O KA AINA I KA PONO (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness). This motto stretched across the garter on the reverse of the pattern, which was surmounted by a crown topped by a cross. (The rarity of the 1881 patterns encouraged a circa-1900 Canadian copy, identified by a small ball atop the crown instead of a cross).
The obverse of the pattern features a bust left of King Kalakaua, rather similar to the bust right seen on the more-familiar 1883 coinage. The obverse legend contains a second blunder, referring to Kalakaua as the KING OF SANDWICH ISLANDS instead of Hawaii. The Sandwich Islands was the European name for Hawaii. HAWAII appeared on the 1847 cent and on the 1883 coins.
Although 200 1881 patterns were struck, few made it into numismatic holdings. According to Medcalf, "many of the coins became pocket pieces or were fashioned into jewelry." Lot 1159 in our 2007 FUN Signature was a group of canceled 1881 pattern fragments. PCGS and NGC combined have certified a total of 21 pieces, one per year of the services' existence, although this number is possibly inflated by resubmissions.
Heritage auction archives locate only a few prior offerings. The present Gem provides a major opportunity for the Hawaiian specialist. It is intricately struck and exhibits medium golden-gray toning. The surfaces are flawless aside from a mint-made lintmark at 5:30 on the reverse. Certified in a green label holder. Listed on page 380 of the 2008 Guide Book. Population: 3 in 65, 1 finer (11/07). (NGC ID# 2C53, PCGS# 10975)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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