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    Unique Lord Baltimore Small Bust Groat, Hodder 2-B, AU53
    Plate Coin in Sylvester Crosby's 1875 Colonial Reference

    (1659) 4PENCE Maryland Lord Baltimore Groat (Fourpence), Small Bust, Hodder 2-B, W-1020, Unique, AU53 NGC. CAC. Ex: Crosby Plate. 19.7 grains. This is the sole known example of the Hodder 2-B Small Bust groat or fourpence of Lord Baltimore, the plate coin in the 1875 Sylvester Crosby work, The Early Coins of America -- a coin of immense importance and prestige.

    The Lord Baltimore silver coinage, issued in denominations of fourpence (groat), sixpence (half shilling), and one shilling (one-twentieth of a pound sterling), was struck apparently before October 1659 at London's Tower Mint and exported to the province of Maryland (Terra Mariae or Mary's Land) under the auspices of Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. The coins occupy an important and peculiar position in American and British coinage history. Coming a few years after the 1652 Massachusetts Bay Colony's NE shillings and sixpence and the Pine Tree, Oak Tree, and Willow Tree coinage that followed, the Maryland coins were the first struck abroad for an American colony. They were also struck during the interregnum when there was no British monarch or head of state, Oliver Cromwell having died in September 1658.

    Finally, the Lord Baltimore coinage was struck in the period of English minting technology just before the widespread introduction of milled (or machine-struck) coinage into English commerce. The Lord Baltimore pieces thus are among the last species of hammered silver coinage to emanate from the Tower Mint (or one of its moneyers; the exact source is unclear). The technology of manually hammering a coin blank between two dies had remained essentially unchanged since the time of ancient Greece. The French adopted the milled coinage technology under King Henri II in the 1550s, but traditional moneyers fought the technique, fearing the loss of employment, and France abandoned it by 1562.

    Around 1560 the milling technology was demonstrated to the Tower Mint coiners by Eloye Mestrelle, formerly employed at the Paris Mint. Although his coins were superior, traditional moneyers again opposed the new technology. Mestrelle was dismissed in 1572, fell into wanton ways, and was hanged for counterfeiting in 1578.

    Nicholas Briot, another Frenchman formerly employed in Paris, struck both gold and silver English coins in 1631-32 and 1638-39, both of superior quality and perfectly round -- a chief improvement over hammered coinage, one that went far towards eliminating the practice of "clipping" or shaving off slivers of precious metal from the edge, which hammered coins were prone to. The technology was slow to be adopted, however, not only because of opposition from old-guard moneyers and because it was slower than traditional coin-hammering methods, but also due to the looming Civil War in England that broke out in 1642. King Charles I fled to Oxford, where the famous Oxford crown was struck in 1644 by Thomas Rawlins, thought to have been a pupil of Briot.

    The beheading of King Charles I in 1649 ushered in the Commonwealth period; in 1653 Oliver Cromwell was named Lord Protector of England. Cromwell, however, died in 1658, and the Commonwealth collapsed by 1660, leading to the Restoration under Charles II. Meanwhile, another Frenchman, Pierre Blondeau, had demonstrated that he could not only produce superior-quality milled coinage but also make lettered edges on them, finally a death knell for the practice of clipping. It was in the reign of Charles II that the Roettiers brothers were brought from the Netherlands along with their improved screw press. This, combined with horse-powered rolling mills to produce blanks or planchets of uniform thickness, ushered in the era of milled coinage in England. The first milled English coins were silver crowns struck in 1662 bearing the Latin edge inscription DECUS ET TUTAMEN, "an ornament and a safeguard." Milled coinage and the old hammered coinage circulated side-by-side until the Great Recoinage of 1696.

    It was during this interesting, brief, crucial window of change in mint technology, in 1658 or 1659 most likely, that the Lord Baltimore hammered coinage was produced. Although there was neither a king nor head of British government at the time these pieces were apparently struck, the presence of a regal-looking portrait of Lord Baltimore on their obverse, the Latin legend DOMINUS TERRAE MARIAE, "Lord of Mary's land" (this at a time when the circulating Commonwealth coinage was in English, as the Latin was considered to smack of Catholicism), and symbols of full sovereignty on the reverse -- two arcs above a coronet in the shape of that of a European count palatine, surmounted by an orb crucifer -- pushed the envelope in several directions at once.

    In July 2002 a silver cylinder with 19 Lord Baltimore sixpence was discovered in Lincolnshire, England, at the ancestral seat of the Fane family, part of the estate of Mary Fane Fry. The remarkable hoard of coins was offered by Morton and Eden in November 2002, where the catalogers wrote in part:

    "The Tower Mint, with its satellite workshops and competing factions of traditional moneyers and machine-coiners, was in a bitterly divided, parlous, unhappy state by 1658, and a commission such as Calvert's would surely have been welcomed by any part of it."

    Lord Baltimore was called to account in October 1659 by Tower Mint authorities not only for striking underweight (by British standards) silver, but for exporting silver coin out of the realm at a time when the nation was nearly bankrupt. It helped that there was no reigning sovereign, and both he and his coins survived the challenge and kept their heads. There is no record of disciplinary or other action that followed, and the coins clearly circulated from the early 1660s through at least 1671.

    Variety of This Unique Example
    The Lord Baltimore Small Bust groat or fourpence is unique. The present coin has been the subject of close numismatic examination, and in fact this single coin was known as far back as 1875, when Sylvester S. Crosby published his seminal work on The Early Coins of America and plated the piece as number 4 on Plate 3. The obverse shows the bust of Lord Baltimore considerably smaller than on the Large Head variety, and with noticeably more space between the bust truncation and the peripheral legend at 6 o'clock. The Small Bust groat lacks a hyphen in TERRAE MARIAE where the Large Bust has the hyphenated TERRAE-MARIAE. The reverse also shows a smaller shield, but there are better pickup points: On the Small Bust, the top-left and top-right points of the crown are centered beneath I(NI) in MULTIPLICAMINI and R of CRESCITE; on the Large Bust, those points are between IN(I) and (C)RE.

    A crack runs through the obverse planchet from the rim at the M(ARIAE) to the field before the mouth; this same crack is visible in the 1875 Crosby plate. On the reverse, the crack runs diagonally downward from the A in MULTIPLICAMINI to the I left of the shield.

    The Massachusetts Historical Society at one time listed a Small Head groat among its collections, but there was no record of deaccession of the item. In the Norweb Collection the present example was pedigreed to the deceased dealer Richard Picker, one of America's foremost Colonial coin dealers and a man of impeccable reputation. Nonetheless, it was clearly possible (although certainty could not be established) that the coin had formerly been in the MHS collection and removed by an unknown person or persons. This coin was sold with a clear title in the Bowers and Merena Norweb auction and the proceeds given to the Massachusetts Historical Society, which waived any claim it might have previously had on the piece. Apparently both Mrs. Norweb and Picker made efforts to ascertain the origins of the coin. The lack of any earlier provenance in the 1875 Crosby edition (unusual for that reference) also proved a dead end. Given the continuous scrutiny that this coin has had for the past 140 years, it is safe to conclude that it is unique. The crack partially through the planchet may have been responsible for the survival of this extraordinary and well-preserved coin, showing beautiful golden patina on dove-gray surfaces with little obvious wear. The peripheral strike on the legends is boldest on the left sides of each face in the area of the crack and softer on the right sides, namely CAECILIUS on the obverse and CITE ET on the reverse.
    The Crosby Plate Coin (Plate 3, no. 4). Ex: Massachusetts Historical Society; unknown intermediaries; Richard Picker (1956); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3399; Donald Groves Partrick. (NGC ID# 2U3J, PCGS# 32)

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Partrick Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    7th-12th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 18
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