Ephraim Brasher's EB Counterstamped 1754-B Brazil 6400 ReisBrazil 6400 Reis [4 Escudos]. 1754-B. AU. Lots 30011 through 30017 represent what is almost certainly the ultimate collection of coins related to Ephraim Brasher, the New York city gold and silversmith. Included are two colonial copper coins produced by John Bailey and punchlinked to the Brasher Doubloons, two gold coins from Brazil that each have an EB counterstamp, the important 1742-dated Lima Style Brasher Doubloon, the famous 1787 New York Style Brasher Doubloon with EB punched on the eagle's wing, and the unique 1787 New York Style Brasher Doubloon with EB punched on the eagle's breast.
Joseph I faces to the right, with this piece plugged and counterstamped by Ephraim Brasher, with EB in an oval over the ear of Joseph. Struck at the Bahia Mint. Light cleaned with minor abrasions. The surfaces have rich greenish-yellow color with splendid peripheral lilac and iridescent toning. Standard for this issue was 14.3234 grams of .917 fine gold. With the plug, this example weighs 11.73 grams, somewhat underweight. The edge shows full reeding, suggesting that this has not been clipped. Is it possibly a circulating counterfeit?
Need for Assay
This circulation of gold coinage eventually brought about a need to check the actual value of gold or silver contained in the various coins. As different coinages had differing standards, it was difficult to regulate the actual exchange of these coinages, for other money or for goods, unless it was known exactly what each represented. To further confuse matters, the various colonies all had their own comparative value of various circulating money and local currencies. Tables were published that provided the relative value in pence of the various coinages in each of the colonies. In Monies of the American Colonies and Confederation, Philip Mossman (p. 257), reproduced a table that originally appeared in The Connecticut Journal for July 22, 1789, showing the relative rates of foreign coins that were established by the Act of July 31, 1789.
In 1789, the Bank of North America advertised the values of various foreign gold, also noting: "Payments made at the bank must be examined at the time, as no deficiencies suggested afterward will be admitted." In other words, a bank customer receiving gold coins must make sure that they receive the proper value, as they would not be permitted to return to the bank at a later date claiming the coins received were below value. Just as today, when we receive cash from a bank, most of us tend to count the cash at the teller's window to make certain we received the right amount.
Once the Mint was established in Philadelphia, the various assays were authorized by the Federal government and conducted by the Mint itself. Prior to that time, private individuals, such as Ephraim Brasher, handled the assay of gold and silver coins. In earlier times, assays were made at the Tower Mint in London, under the guidance of such people as Sir Isaac Newton.
In September 1981, James C. Risk suggested that gold coinage was actually quite limited in its circulation (Colonial Newsletter, p. 754): "Because of its high value the use of gold was almost entirely confined to the major cities on the east coast from Portland, Maine to Charleston, South Carolina. Modern comment, with a certain lack of originality, tends to lament the wide variety of denominations, designs and countries of origin of the gold coinage during the 18th century. The result, it is claimed, was a vast confusion in the public mind. In fact, gold was familiar only to a limited group of prosperous merchants, ship owners, and bankers. These shrewd businessmen were the least likely individuals to be confused by different issues of gold coins."
Today, we take as fact the principle that Brasher was a respected assayer and that his punch or counterstamp on a gold coin was an indication that it was genuine and of proper fineness. A number of gold coins survive today with the EB mark, including two that are offered in the present sale. But did Brasher mark these coins as an indication of acceptance? One of the coins offered here is substantially light in weight, yet has a fully reeded edge that would preclude later clipping of metal. It is believed that plugs of gold, inserted into the coin before they were counterstamped, were intended to bring the coins up to the proper weight. As gold coins of this era were generally not marked with a denomination, did the weight of the coins really matter? Perhaps the plugs inserted by Brasher were actually intended to ensure the proper fineness of gold (usually 22K or 917 fine), with the weight being secondary. Earlier authors have suggested that his work involved assessing the purity and not the weight. This certainly seems logical, for most merchants would be capable of determining the weight more easily than purity. (NGC ID# 2AYX, PCGS# 801)
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