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    Description

    1776 Massachusetts Copper, VF35
    The Famous 'Janus' Copper
    The Unique Garrett Piece

    "1776" H1C Massachusetts Janus Copper, Crosby Plate VII, 8, Breen-703, Whitman-8385, Unique, VF35 NGC. CAC. 81.2 grains. Known to the numismatic world since at least 1859 when it was recorded in Montroville W. Dickeson's American Numismatical Manual, this famous and unique copper has had just four owners of record since that time: Matthew Adams Stickney, Col. James W. Ellsworth, John Work Garrett, and Donald Groves Partrick, for an average of 39 years each. The implication is that this piece will not appear for sale again until the year 2054.

    The Design

    The obverse has three conjoined heads, facing left, front, and right. The divided legend has STATE OF to the left, and MASSA: to the right, with the denomination, 1/2 D, below.

    The reverse has a seated representation of Liberty, holding a pole in the right hand and an object in the left hand that has been described as either a Liberty cap, or Justice scales. A globe appears in the left field. The legend, GODDESS LIBERTY, follows the border, with the pole nearly reaching the border between the SS. A small animal appears right of Liberty's leg, and the date, 1776, is in exergue.

    The small animal on the reverse of this halfpenny has traditionally been described as a dog, but it does not look like a dog. Crosby wrote: "at her feet sits a dog." In his Complete Encyclopedia, Walter Breen wrote: "at her feet sits a watchdog." In Will Nipper's In Yankee Doodle's Pocket, the author writes: "a dog sits at her feet, ears peaked."

    To this cataloger, the small animal looks more like a cat than a dog. In Liberty and Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2005), David Hackett Fischer provides commentary that supports the appearance of a cat:

    "Popular as Uncle Sam and Yankee Doodle may have been, the most appealing images of liberty and freedom have always been female. It is interesting to observe how these feminine figures have changed through time. They descended from the ancient goddess of liberty, a timeless figure who represented an idea that derived its authority from an aura of eternal truth. In the early American republic, they became something very different - a symbol of modernity, endlessly redefined by the whirl of contemporary fashion - and they gained new meaning from their relevance to the present.

    "Let us begin with the goddess of liberty. Even before the American republic was born, she was more than two thousand years old. A Roman temple had been raised to her on the Aventine Hill as early as the third century before Christ. The Graachi renewed the Temple of Liberty in 13 B.C. Often she appeared on the coins of the Roman Republic, and later on those of the Roman Empire as well. Surviving images show her as a woman of maturity with the stylized features of Greco-Roman temple sculpture and an abundance of ancient gravitas. She was instantly recognizable as a figure of liberty by the symbols around her. At her feet were the broken chains of bondage, or a smashed pitcher that symbolized the end of servitude. Sometimes she was accompanied by a cat, the animal that acknowledged no master."


    Janus Misnomer

    In his seminal 1859 work, Dickeson labeled this design the Janus copper. That misnomer has been attached to this unique copper since that time, or perhaps even earlier. Janus, the mythological god of beginnings and transitions, is historically represented with two heads facing in opposite directions. Dickeson wrote:

    "Janus, the son of Apollo, went to Italy, where he planted a colony and founded a town, which he named Janiculum. He is represented, as is well known, with two faces, because, by the ancients, he was believed to be capable of relating all things of the past, and revealing everything in regard to the future. Hence, with the endowment of supernatural power, he was accepted by the Romans for a god, worshipped as such, and had a temple erected in his name, which was never closed except in a time of universal peace. History informs us, that it was closed but three times in a period of upwards of seven hundred years, during which time the Romans were engaged almost incessantly in war."



    It was not long after that others, including Sylvester S. Crosby, suggested the impropriety of that name. Crosby stated:

    This piece which has been known as the "Janus Copper," we think may more properly be called the Massachusetts Halfpenny. It has three heads combined, instead of two as in a Janus head. This device resembles the Brahma of Hindoo [sic] mythology, which represents the past, the present, and the future.



    According to Dickeson, the owner at that time, Matthew A. Stickney, considered the opposing faces to represent the prevalent political factions in 1776, the Whigs and Tories. Breen suggested that the three faces suggested watchfulness in every direction, probably looking for British soldiers.

    Discovery and Provenance

    According to the Dickeson and Crosby texts, Matthew Adams Stickney was the first owner of record, and likely the person who discovered this unique copper. Crosby explained:

    "The only specimen known of this curious pattern is in the collection of Matthew A. Stickney, Esq., and was found with an engraved piece (see plate VII, No. 9,) and some proof impressions from plates for continental paper money engraved by Paul Revere; from this circumstance Mr. Stickney is inclined to the opinion that they were the work of that engraver. However, this may be, the Pine tree cent, and this Halfpenny sufficiently resemble each other in their workmanship, to be considered the work of the same artist. They were probably private enterprises, as no mention of them is found upon any records."



    A dealer in goods from West India, Salem, Massachusetts collector Matthew Adams Stickney was born in 1805 and died in 1894. He began collecting in his later teenage years, about 1823. Henry Chapman sold the Stickney Collection in 1907 for a total price of nearly $38,000.

    Col. James W. Ellsworth purchased the Janus Head copper at the Stickney sale for $1,050, the fourth highest price in the sale behind a Brasher doubloon ($6,200), an 1804 dollar ($3,600), and an 1815 half eagle ($2,000). At the Stickney sale, Ellsworth was known by the code name Hercules. He was a multi-millionaire coal mine operator who had other extensive business interests. Born in Ohio on October 13, 1849, Ellsworth died in Palmieri, Italy on June 2, 1925. His collection was sold to Wayte Raymond for $100,000 in 1923. John Work Garrett put up half the money, and had first choice of the coins.

    Garrett was the son of T. Harrison Garrett, and the brother of Robert Garrett. He was born in Baltimore on May 19, 1872, and died on June 26, 1942. His father was president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. His brother earned two gold and two silver medals in the 1896 Olympics in Athens. John Work Garrett served in the diplomatic service. He donated his collection to Johns Hopkins University, and the University deaccessioned the collection in a series of sales, starting with Stack's in 1976 and then with Bowers and Ruddy in four sales from 1979 to 1981. Donald Groves Partrick purchased the Janus copper and many other numismatic delicacies from the Garrett sales.

    Origin
    Some numismatic students consider the work to be that of the 18th century, contemporary with the date of the coin. The inscription, STATE OF MASSA, suggests that this piece was produced after July 4, 1776. In the Stickney catalog, Henry Chapman wrote:

    "1776 Half penny, probably by Paul Revere ... Unique. Fine, though the front face is much worn and the coin appears to have been in circulation ... Mr. Crosby gives full credit to this being the only specimen known."


    Others consider this copper to be a 19th century fantasy, observing that the denomination, 1/2 D, is wrong, that the abbreviation for Massachusetts, MASSA, was not used in the 1770s, and nothing about the design suggests that it was the work of Revere. Some suggest that it is the work of C.W. Betts; however, since this piece was known prior to 1860, this is an unlikely scenario. Betts himself stated: "It was in 1860 that I made my first attempt at die-cutting." (Numisma, March 1878.)


    The "1776 Massachusetts Three Head Halfpenny"

    Aside from a grade of "Fine" in the Stickney catalog, and "Fine-12" in the Garrett catalog, no physical description of this piece has ever been written. Although showing signs of wear, the surfaces are pleasing with smooth high points and no imperfections aside from trivial handling marks. The surfaces range from tan to light brown. A tiny reverse rim nick at 12 o'clock serves as a pedigree marker. The label "choice" is truly appropriate for this beautiful and unique copper.
    Ex: Matthew A. Stickney Collection; Stickney Estate (Henry Chapman, 6/1907), lot 113, $1,050; Col. James W. Ellsworth; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 574, $40,000; Donald Groves Partrick.

    Coin Index Numbers: (PCGS# 661000)


    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: 19
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