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    Description

    The Famous Lord Baltimore Pattern Denarium, MS62 Brown
    By Far the Finest Known, Hodder 1-A, Ex: Mickley, Ford
    America's First Copper Pattern

    (1659) Maryland Lord Baltimore Denarium (Penny), Hodder 1-A, W-1000, High R.7, MS62 Brown NGC. Ex: Mickley. 57.3 grains. This piece is by far the finest known example of the extremely rare Lord Baltimore copper pattern denarium/denarius or penny coinage.

    The Lord Baltimore coinage of Maryland occupies an important position in the very early coinage of America's Colonial era. The Sommer Islands or Bermuda Hogge money of 1616 was the first struck by an English colony in the New World, but the Massachusetts Bay Colony's New England and Pine Tree, Oak Tree, and Willow Tree coinages were the first Colonial issues struck in what would later become the United States. Although the later Tree issues are all dated 1652 (save for the Oak Tree twopence dated 1662), they were struck during the period 1653-1682 and are thus roughly contemporaneous with the Lord Baltimore coinage, made sometime from 1659 to 1661 (possibly including more than one striking period; details are sketchy).

    The Lord Baltimore coins were the first struck overseas for North America during the Colonial period, and they were also the first circulating portrait coinage in America.

    Historical Background
    The first Baron Baltimore, George Calvert (1579-1632), an English politician and colonizer, found political favor in the 1600s-1610s in various positions under King James I (also known as King James VI of Scotland). Calvert's political ambitions reached their zenith in 1619, when King James appointed him a Secretary of State. Although he purportedly espoused the faith and practices of the Church of England, George Calvert lost much political power and alienated many former allies in Commons by espousing in 1621 a "Spanish match" between the Prince of Wales (James I's son, the future King Charles I) and a Spanish Catholic bride -- part of a proposed alliance with the Hapsburgs. Calvert's wife died in 1622, leaving George with 10 children, the eldest of whom, Cecil, was 16 at the time. George Calvert resigned from the English secretariat in 1625 and immediately converted to Catholicism. In recognition of his loyalty, James I granted him the title of Baron Baltimore, in County Longford, Ireland, along with a 2,300-acre tract of land. King James I died in 1625, and King Charles I ascended the English throne.

    George Calvert had long had an interest in colonizing the New World, first establishing an English settlement named Avalon on the island of Newfoundland, and later seeking a royal charter to settle the province of Maryland (called in Latin Terra Maria, "Mary's land"). The royal charter was drafted by Charles I in 1632 for George Calvert, but after his death in that same year the charter fell to Cecil Calvert (1606-1675), the second Lord Baltimore. The charter for Maryland was long, containing 22 chapters, the foundational document that imbued Cecil Calvert with all his rights and privileges as Lord Baltimore. One chapter endowed Lord Baltimore "with all, and singular such, and as ample ... rights, jurisdictions, privileges, prerogatives, royalties, liberties, immunities, and royal rights, and temporal franchises whatsoever ... to be had, exercised, used, and enjoyed, as any bishop of Durham, within the bishopric or county palatine of Durham, in our kingdom of England, ever heretofore hath had, held, used, or enjoyed, or of right could, or ought to have, hold, use, or enjoy." It was within such broad, extraordinary powers that Lord Baltimore assumed the right to coin money, just as the Prince Bishops of Durham had done from around the 12th through the 16th centuries.

    The Lord Baltimore Coinage
    The Lord Baltimore coinage denominations included the denarius/denarium (penny) copper patterns, along with silver threepence, groats (fourpence), sixpence, and shillings (twelvepence), struck at London's Tower Mint (or by employees thereof at its facilities) at the behest of Lord Baltimore for shipment to and use in Maryland.

    Lord Baltimore, despite the plenipotentiary rights and powers conferred upon him by the royal charter, was neither specifically granted nor enjoined from the right to coin money, but in any case an action was taken against him by Richard Pight, Clerk of the Irons of the Tower Mint, and he was summoned to appear before the Privy Council. The objections were mainly of two kinds. First, the silver coinage was being exported from England during the interregnum of Oliver Cromwell (a period from 1649 to 1660 when there was no monarch and England was nearly insolvent). Second, the silver coinage failed to comply with the English standard, an impossibility which would have made the coins overweight in Maryland (where all commodities, save tobacco, were scarce) and subject to melting. No disciplinary action appears to have been taken by the Privy Council, however. Calvert overcame numerous objections both in England and in Maryland to his coinage, and by 1662 a mandatory exchange of tobacco for coinage finally propelled the silver Lord Baltimore pieces into circulation.

    The Lord Baltimore Denarium Patterns
    The denarium or penny coins struck in copper were strictly a pattern issue. A 1671 account of Maryland commerce mentions only "groats, sixpences, and shillings ... which his Lordship at his own expense caused to be coined" along with barter and English and other foreign coins as the principal means of exchange. The denarium patterns are also surpassingly rare in any grade; only six or seven examples survive today, two of those in museum collections.

    Design
    The obverse features a bust of Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, facing left with long, well-groomed hair, the Latin legend CAECILIUS DNS TERRAE MARIAE &C around, meaning "Cecil Lord of Mary's Land." The legend reinforces that the coinage was a proclamation of Lord Baltimore's sovereignty as well as an apparent commercial necessity. The reverse is substantially different from the Maryland silver coins. A ducal coronet appears in the center with two pennons flying, the legend DENARIUM TERRAE-MARIAE ("denarius of Mary's land") encircling the periphery. (Note that throughout these descriptions, we use the modern letter U rather than the archaic V that appears in its place on these coins. DENARIVM = DENARIUM, CAECILIVS = CAECILIUS, MVLTIPLICAMINI = MULTIPLICAMINI. And the AE in CAECILIUS, MARIAE, and TERRAE is uniformly engraved on the coins in its ligature form, A and E connected.)

    The presence of Latin legends, as opposed to English, on the Lord Baltimore coins is itself interesting; the Lord Baltimore coins were struck at the tail end of the interregnum or Commonwealth period (1649-1660) when there was no British monarch, a period during which British coinage bore English legends. The Spink standard reference notes that "the coins struck during the Commonwealth have inscriptions in English instead of Latin which was considered to savour too much of popery."

    The present piece, as mentioned, is by far the finest known survivor and boasts a continuous pedigree chain nearly two centuries long. Its absolute and conditional rarity is attested to multiple times over by the sums at which it has changed hands, each an extraordinary amount for its time: more than £12 in 1819; £75 in 1859; $370 at the Mickley sale in 1867; and $241,500 in the 2004 Ford Collection sale, where the present piece was graded About Uncirculated (uncertified) and "the finest of six known." The Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, published in 2009, mentions seven examples known and notes that "finest is the Ford coin."

    The Present Example
    The surface preservation on this Lord Baltimore copper pattern denarium is nothing short of extraordinary, an amazingly well-kept specimen for the whole of its 355-year lifespan. As documented below, we can trace its pedigree back nearly 200 years, and it was clearly handled with loving care even in the early bloom of its existence. The surfaces on this MS62 Brown NGC-certified coin convey an overall pleasing golden-brown appearance, save for an area at the upper obverse which is more darkly toned and shows small areas of verdigris. The bold strike raises sharp detail on all of Lord Calvert's hair, the drapery, and inner areas of the coronet. The obverse is slightly porous but not distractingly so, while the reverse is especially nice and problem-free, showing medium copper-gold tones throughout. Several letters in the legends front and back show double-punching and/or underlying characters. Dentilation is present around portions of each side, although varying in strength and double-struck at parts of the reverse rim.

    This pattern copper penny, the first such struck for America, is a numismatic treasure of paramount importance. The early pedigree appeared in the American Journal of Numismatics, 1868, and was expanded, corrected, and clarified by Walter Breen in 1952. Another example in the Donald Groves Partrick Collection, graded XF Details NGC, ex: Roper is slated to appear in a future Partrick sale.
    Ex: unknown intermediaries; a "Mr. Hodsol" (before 1819), of whom nothing else is known; James Bindley; Bindley Collection, sold to Richard Miles, coin dealer and agent for William Dimsdale, for £12.1s. (1819); Dimsdale Collection; sold to Matthew Young, coin dealer and agent for the Rev. Joseph Martin of Keston, Kent, England, for £9.9s (1824); Martin Collection, sold to William Webster of London for £75 (an enormous sum at the time) (1859); sold privately to Frederick Lincoln of London "at an advanced [unspecified] price" for the collection of Joseph J. Mickley of Philadelphia (1859); Mickley Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, summer 1867), brought $370 to Mr. Stevens, "said to be an agent of the British Museum" but "Stevens" later turned out to be an agent for Charles Ira Bushnell, as the Mickley coins purchased by Stevens turned up in the Bushnell Collection 15 years later; Bushnell Estate; Lorin G. Parmelee; Bushnell Estate sale (S.H. and H. Chapman, 6/1882), lot 184; Lorin G. Parmelee (bought in); Parmelee Collection (David Proskey and Harlan P. Smith, 1890), lot 296, $350; to "Clay" (H.P. Smith) for Robert C.W. Brock; Brock Estate; University of Pennsylvania; P.H. Ward; C.J. Dochkus; Harry Forman; New Netherlands Coin Co.; F.C.C. Boyd; John J. Ford; Ford Collection, Part II (Stack's, 5/2004), lot 274, where it was conservatively graded AU, "finest of six known," brought $241,500; Donald Groves Partrick. (NGC ID# 2U3H, PCGS# 29)


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

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