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    Description

    1792 Silver Disme, Judd-9, Fine 15
    One of Two Known on Thin Planchets
    The Parmelee/Starr/Simpson Example

    1792 P10C Disme, Judd-9, Pollock-10, R.8, Fine 15 NGC. The Mint Act of 1792 provided for establishment of a federal Mint in Philadelphia and for the appointment of Mint officers, a chief coiner, and an engraver. It also specified the precious metal content of different denominations and set out certain guidelines for the motifs on American coinage:

    "Upon one side ... shall be an impression emblematic of liberty with an inscription of the word Liberty, and the year of the coinage: and upon the reverse of each of the gold and silver coins there shall be the figure or representation of an eagle, with this inscription, 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'..."


    George Washington, in particular, was anxious to issue official coinage as a symbol of unity and viability of the governing body. Even before the ground was broken for the new Mint, a trial mintage of half dismes dated 1792 was struck, with 1,500 pieces delivered to Thomas Jefferson on July 13, 1792. Many of the half dismes were quickly placed into circulation. Struck on a screw press in the basement of John Harper's premises on Sixth and Cherry Streets in Philadelphia, the half dime "pattern" was in fact the nation's first circulating coinage.

    Of the early patterns, the half dismes and dismes are sometimes lumped together in numismatic thinking. While somewhat alike in design, they are totally dissimilar in their fate. The rushed mintage of of half dismes contrasts with the inconspicuously struck copper and silver disme patterns, of which comparatively little is known. No doubt, it was George Washington's decision to produce half dismes instead of the dismes. The half disme mintage was inconsequential in terms of providing hard money for the states, but samples of official federal coinage were of great importance in establishing credibility. Twice as many half dismes could be produced from the limited silver bullion on hand, providing the most bang for Washington's buck.

    Meanwhile, the pattern dismes were set aside and faded from the Mint's agenda. Today, just three pattern dimes struck in silver are known -- two on thin planchets, and a third on a thick planchet. The first documented appearance a pattern disme was the present coin, where it was a late addition to the J.P.W. Neff Collection auction by Edward Cogan on January 1, 1864. Not listed in the catalog itself, an inserted letter from Cogan announced:

    "I beg to inform you that I intend offering, on the second evening of the sale, already fixed to take place at the Auction Store of Messrs. Bangs, Merwin & Co. ... a Disme of 1792, in Silver.
    "This is, without doubt, the most interesting as well as the rarest Coin, that has yet been offered for sale at public auction, from the acknowledged fact that it was made from some silver sent to the Mint by George Washington, for the purpose of having a pattern struck for a Disme (or Dime), and which, it is said, was submitted to Congress, but not approved of."


    In his own handwriting, a note from Cogan states that the disme was bought by Mr. Seavey of Massachusetts at $205 -- a stunning sum in those days.

    The pedigree of the thin planchet 1792 silver pattern dismes includes the many of the notable names of American numismatics.

    Roster of the 1792 Silver Dismes (Judd-9, thin planchet)
    AU50 NGC. 41.5 grains. DeWitt Smith; Virgil Brand (1908); Brand purchased Smith's collection, including this coin, in 1908 (Brand ledger entry #46511); the coin was appraised by Burdette G. Johnson for $125.00 and sold at the same price to Wayte Raymond on October 20, 1935; possibly the coin offered to James Kelly by B.G. Johnson on November 5, 1941 for $800.00; Dr. J. Hewitt Judd (acquired in 1946 or before), An Illustrated History of United States Coins (Abe Kosoff, 1962), lot 13; Kosoff reported this coin sold to an anonymous collector in the January 24, 1973 edition of Coin World; The Donald Groves Partrick Collection (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 5507.
    Fine 15 NGC. 39.5 grains. This coin was presented by Edward Cogan in the introductory letter to the J.P.W. Neff Collection (Cogan, 1/1864), but not listed in the catalog, sold to George Seavey for $205; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William H. Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 839, not sold as Lorin G. Parmelee bought the collection intact before the sale took place; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1, realized $61 to Charles Steigerwalt; offered in Steigerwalt's FPL numbers 22-25 at $125; H.O. Granberg, displayed at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; Waldo Newcomer; "Col." E.H.R. Green; Eric P. Newman and Burdette G. Johnson; offered for $850 to Abe Kosoff in March, 1945 per B. G. Johnson invoice; advertised on page 946 of the August 1946 edition of The Numismatist by the Celina Coin Company, price on request; purchased by Floyd T. Starr in late 1946 for $750; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 478; Rick Sear; southern collection; Bob Simpson. The present coin.

    Physical Description
    The present coin shows evidence of smoothing and polishing, as well as remnants of some old inscriptions that are mentioned in Cogan's letter in 1864:

    "It is but right to state, that when I purchased it there were several scratches upon it, which have been very carefully removed, and the Coin is now in very excellent condition."



    Whether Cogan himself was involved with the burnishing is unclear, yet the physical anomalies of this pattern disme have been part of its character for all of its documented numismatic life.

    Visually, the coin is glossy and attractive, with shades of cerulean-blue and ruby-red highlighting the deep-seated, golden-bronze toning. Sharply struck at the centers, Liberty's flowing hair strands retain strong definition. The obverse legend, LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUS., is complete and sharp, as is the 1792 date nestled near the point of the neck. The widely spaced edge reeding remains bold. On the reverse, the legend and denomination DISME are equally sharp. The eagle flies on the level, peering over its left wing, with nice feather definition visible except on the rounded breast. Glimpses old graffiti remain within the raised elements on both sides, adding to the charm of this historic pattern disme.

    Two of the three silver disme patterns were sold in our January, 2015 sale of the Donald G. Partrick Collection. This current example becomes the third (and final-known) silver disme to change hands in the past 12 months. In many ways, the 1792 disme patterns embody not only the early history of the Mint, but also the ideals and credibility of a new nation. They are arguably the most historic, rare, and interesting examples of U.S. coinage available to collectors.
    Selections from The Bob R. Simpson Collection. (NGC ID# 294G, PCGS# 11025)


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [Selections from the Bob R. Simpson Collection ]

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