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    Description

    1792 Washington Getz Half Dollar, MS63
    Ornamented Edge, Silver, Musante GW-22 (D)
    The Finest Silver Getz Pattern

    1792 50C Washington Getz Pattern Half Dollar, Small Eagle, Silver, MS63 NGC. Baker-24, Breen-1350, W-10790, Musante GW-22 (D), High R.7. Ornamented edge, Wide flan, 35 mm., 214.5 grains. This is coin number one in George Fuld's Condition Census of the silver Getz half dollars. This late die state silver example has extensive die rust throughout the stars above and around the eagle's head, with patches evident at the three stars to the upper left, the four top stars, and the three stars above and right of the eagle's head. Additional die rust is evident through ATE of STATES. Examples of the Getz patterns with substantial die rust may have been struck as late as 1795. In fact one piece is known with a 1794 undertype. Because of the uncertain future of the less-than-profitable early U.S. Mint, Getz would have continued making samples in the hope of obtaining a coinage contract. We believe all these pieces to have been made contemporaneously.

    Among the 23 silver Getz Washington patterns known to the cataloger only two fully merit the Mint State designation: the present coin and the example in the collection of the Museum of Connecticut History, previously part of the Mitchelson bequest. The Partrick piece, the finest available to collectors, features delicate blue toning and hints of peripheral gold. It is sharply struck and shows traces of undertype from an unidentified host. Both sides have complete border details and strong design motifs. Full field reflectivity is evident. Just five of the 23 silver examples have the ornamented edge device, also known as the Circles and Squares or Circles and Rectangles edge. Two of those are in museums, and the second best in private hands grades just VF25.

    In The Washington Pattern Coinage of Peter Getz, George Fuld relates information that he gleaned from the earlier work of Don Taxay in The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Those sources suggest that a 23-year-old, self-taught gold- and silversmith from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, traveled to Philadelphia for the purpose of preparing these coins. His name was Peter Getz and he aspired to gain the position as the Mint engraver. While in Philadelphia, Getz worked under the supervision of Robert Birch who prepared the 21 punches necessary for the date and lettering.

    Information concerning Peter Getz, provided by a grandson, was related in C.H. Martin's "Notes on Money Other Than United States Issues Used in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania" that was published in The Numismatist for January 1927:

    "Lancaster holds particular interest in the series of Washington cents or coins, several varieties of which were struck in 1792. Three dies from which these pieces were struck were made by Peter Getz, of our city, a skillful mechanic and engraver. The following information concerning him was given by a grandson. Peter Getz was born near Lancaster about 1768. He is said to have constructed the first fire engine ever made in the United States. He belonged to the Masonic Order and made jewels for the lodge in Lancaster, which up to some years ago were preserved by the lodge. It is also related by him that upon one occasion an English engineer visited Lancaster to survey some lands and had the misfortune to break one of his most valuable instruments, which at that time it was impossible to replace in this country. While lamenting that he would be obliged to lay idle for many months until he could replace it from England, he was told that Getz could repair the damage. The Englishman laughed incredulously, but concluded to let the Dutchman try his hand at the job. It was done to the perfect satisfaction and agreeable surprise of the engineer, who, as the account relates, rewarded Getz's skill by pouring his hands full of gold.

    "Getz's skill was widely known and with the establishment of the Philadelphia mint he was an applicant for the directorship. David Rittenhouse, the great mathematician and scientist, who resided in Lancaster from September 26, 1777 to June 18, 1778, the period of Howe's occupancy of Philadelphia, being State Treasurer then, having come to Lancaster for safety, was appointed. His memoirs contain the following tribute to his opponent for the position: 'Peter Getz was lately a self-taught mechanic of singular ingenuity in the borough of Lancaster, where he many years exercised the trade of silversmith and jeweler, and was remarkable for the extraordinary accuracy and elegance of the workmanship he executed. This person was a candidate for the place of chief coiner or engraver in the mint, and on that occasion he offered to present Dr. Rittenhouse in the summer of 1792 a small pair of scales, commonly called gold scales, of exquisite workmanship as well as great exactness, as a specimen of his skill as an artist. Mr. Rittenhouse, not wishing to accept the scales as a present, paid Mr. Getz $20 for the scales.'

    "The series of Washington cents highly prized by numismatists, for which Mr. Getz made the dies, attests his skill as an engraver. Mr. Getz died from the results of an accident at the early age of 36 years. The Noah L. Getz family, on the Harrisburg road, are distant relatives."



    Much of the C.H. Martin article was taken from Sylvester S. Crosby's Early Coins in America, published half a century earlier. Noah L. Getz (1852-1928) resided in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, all his life. He was the father of Harry Rohrer Getz who filed an application for Sons of the American Revolution. That document states that Noah was the great grandson of Jacob Getz (1758-1824) who was likely a brother of Peter Getz. The Getz family history is a worthy subject for research.
    Ex: Robert Coulton Davis (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 1/1890), lot 2459; later, "Col." E.H.R. Green; B.G. Johnson; F.C.C. Boyd; John J. Ford, Jr. (Stack's, 5/2004), lot 29; Jon Hanson; Donald G. Partrick.

    Coin Index Numbers: (PCGS# 926)


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