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    Description

    1790 With D Albany Church Penny, XF45+
    Possibly the Finest Known Breen-1170

    (1790) PENNY Albany Church Penny, D Above CHURCH XF45+ PCGS Secure. Breen-1170, High R.7. Breen-1170. The PCGS CoinFacts plate piece. Little is actually known about the two varieties of Church penny issued at Albany, New York, one variety having a D over the inscription, the other without that letter. The meaning of the D on this variety is unknown, although most numismatists will tell you that it is an abbreviation for penny. Walter Breen suggested in his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins that the D might be the initial of the church pastor at the time they were issued.
    Surviving examples are invariably in low grades, and most known specimens show an undertype from the use of worn coppers. In the Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, Dave Bowers estimates that between five and eight examples of each variety survive .
    Although known to collectors prior to the 1875 publication of Sylvester Crosby's Early Coins of America, they were unlisted in that reference. The earliest auction appearance known was in April 1863, when W.E. Woodward offered two varieties in his Second Semi-Annual Sale, the two pieces realizing $18 and $25, respectively:

    "2079 Church Penny; on the 4th of Jan., 1790, the Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of Albany, 'Resolved, That one thousand coppers be stamped Church Penny, and placed with the treasurer to exchange with members of the congregation, at the rate of twelve for one shilling, in order to add respect to the weekly collections.' This piece is in fine condition, and of great rarity.
    "2080 Another, of a subsequent emission, stamped D Church Penny, as fine and rare as the preceding."


    The Albany Church pennies are sometimes called "communion tokens" after the English and Scottish tradition of such tokens dating back to the 1600s. However, the original resolution of the church elders at Albany suggests that they were used on a weekly basis, so "Church token" is a better name than "Communion token."
    The First Presbyterian Church of Albany was established in 1763 and reorganized late in 1786 or early 1787, and the first communion after that reorganization was held on April 15, 1787, when 116 members were admitted. From that date until the sixth semiannual communion held on September 8, 1789, an additional 122 members were admitted to the church, giving a total enrollment of 238 members at the time of the January 1790 resolution. The 1,000 coppers were sufficient to provide four coppers for each member.
    This specimen is clearly finer than the Ford piece that was later graded VF35 PCGS and offered in our 2007 FUN sale. It is also finer than any other specimen that we know of. We are unaware of any census describing known specimens, although such a record should pose little difficulty to the numismatic researcher. In the Ford Catalog (Stack's, 5/2004), Michael Hodder wrote: "The cataloguer knows of only five examples, including a fully struck piece in a Long Island collection that may qualify as the finest, one in a Providence, Rhode Island collection overstruck on a counterfeit George III halfpenny like this, Robison: 211 to Roper: 341, and Picker: 275."
    The surfaces of this XF45+ specimen are remarkable, with a lovely blend of olive and steel-brown. A few faint scratches on the blank reverse of this uniface piece are so nicely blended with the surrounding surface that they are nearly invisible. Evidence of undertype is visible; this piece may be struck over a counterfeit George III halfpenny. Listed on page 71 of the 2012 Guide Book.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2B5R, PCGS# 610)


    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    4th-8th Wednesday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 35
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 5,460

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