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    Description

    1787 New York Excelsior Copper, MS65 Brown
    W-5800, Indian and Eagle
    The Finest Known

    1787 COPPER New York Excelsior Copper, Indian and Eagle, Breen-991, W-5800, Low R.7, MS65 Brown NGC. An Indian facing slightly to the right (the observer's left), holds a tomahawk in the right hand and a bow in the left. The obverse bears the inscription LIBER NATUS LIBERTATEM DEFENDO (Born Free, I Defend Freedom). An eagle stands on a globe with fully displayed wings, its head turned to the left. The 1787-dated reverse is inscribed NEO-EBORACUS EXCELSIOR (New York, Ever Upward).

    Little is known of the series of copper coins known as the Excelsior coppers, each bearing the word EXCELSIOR as part of the legend, suggesting that they originated in New York. They are sometimes attributed to Ephraim Brasher and John Bailey who reportedly petitioned the state of New York for a coinage contract, but there is no documentary proof that an appeal was made to the State Assembly. The only evidence is the letters used for certain dies, particularly the Nova Eborac coppers, are identical to the letters found on the Brasher doubloons. That connection suggests that Brasher minted coins in New York City, possibly including this and other Excelsior coppers.

    This extraordinary Gem, perhaps incredibly, retains traces of original mint red on its glossy and lustrous olive-brown surfaces with delicate light blue overtones. Thinning of the planchet is observed at the lower right obverse and upper right reverse slightly affecting the tops of a few letters on each side. The balance of the design shows slight weakness at the centers, but is otherwise well defined. Microscopic die lines are visible with magnification, showing the appearance of the actual dies when these coins were struck. There is no question that this lovely example is the finest of the small number of surviving specimens.

    The cataloger for New York Coin and Stamp Company wrote in the 1890 Parmelee catalog: "Uncirculated, with traces of red; planchet hammered too thin on right lower edge, which prevented the tops of END from being sharply struck." When B. Max Mehl offered this example in 1922, he borrowed from the Parmelee text: "Planchet hammered a trifle too thin on right lower edge, preventing the tops of END from being as sharply struck as the balance of the legend. Uncirculated, with traces of red."

    When this piece was offered as part of the Virgil Brand estate in 1984, the Bowers and Merena cataloger suggested that fewer than 20 examples were known. Today, our census suggests that 10 pieces are known, and surprisingly, four of those are considered Mint State, including a duplicate in the Donald G. Partrick Collection. The Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins rates this variety as URS-5, suggesting a population in the range of nine to 16 pieces. This is just the second example of the New York Indian and Eagle copper that we have handled, and the other example that we offered in January 2004 was a burnished VF piece that Donald G. Partrick may also have owned at one time.

    Census of New York Indian/Eagle Coppers
    1. MS65 Brown NGC. Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin and Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 458; James Ten Eyck Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1922), lot 185; Carl Wurtzbach; Virgil M. Brand (journal #126696); Virgil Brand Estate (Bowers and Merena, 6/1984), lot 958; Donald G. Partrick. The present example.
    2. MS64 Brown PCGS. Illustrated at the PCGS Coin Facts website and different from any of the following. No provenance is known.
    3. AU58 PCGS Col. James Ellsworth; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 602; Steinberg Collection, lot 105. This coin is plated at PCGS Coin Facts.
    4. MS62 Brown NGC. The duplicate Donald G. Partrick coin - ex Mills, Jackman, Brand journal #87305.
    5. AU55 PCGS. F.C.C. Boyd Estate; John J. Ford (Stack's, 5/2004), lot 313.
    6. XF. Richard Picker; John L. Roper, 2nd (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 276.
    7. VF-XF. Matthew Stickney (Chapman Brothers, 6/1907), lot 239; DeWitt Smith Collection (12/31/1908); Virgil M. Brand Journal #46440; Virgil Brand Estate (Bowers and Merena, 6/1984), lot 959.
    8. VF, Burnished. Donald G. Partrick (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 337. The example that we sold in January 2004 (lot 2001) appears to be this coin.
    9. VF. Discovered in England; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/2002), lot 234.
    10. Uncertain Grade. Appleton Collection; Massachusetts Historical Society.


    This Gem quality survivor from the second rarest variety of the New York Excelsior series, the finest known of the design combination, appears here for only the fourth time since 1890. Held in the Donald G. Partrick Collection for nearly four decades, and off the market for nearly 60 years before that, this piece may not appear again for a long time.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# B8DW, PCGS# 439)


    View all of [The Donald G. Partrick Collection ]

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2021
    20th-24th Wednesday-Sunday
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