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    1792 Silver Center Cent, Judd-1, SP35
    First Coin Struck Inside the U.S. Mint
    Classic American Rarity

    1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, SP35 PCGS. CAC. The Silver Center cent is one of the most famous and iconic issues of American coinage. Most numismatists believe it was the first coin actually produced inside the walls of the first U.S. Mint, although a few other patterns were struck earlier, before the Mint was actually ready for coinage operations. Its historic importance can scarcely be overstated and examples have been prized by collectors since the earliest days of the hobby.

    Liberty faces right with hair flowing behind. The obverse periphery reads LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY, with 1792 just below the bust. The reverse has a wreath tied with a ribbon at the bottom; ONE CENT is within. Around the rim is UNITED STATES OF AMERICA with the fraction 1/100 below. Struck in copper with a silver plug in the center, with a reeded edge. Medallic alignment. Average diameter is about 22.9 mm.

    Origin of the Silver Center Cent
    The Silver Center cent was long thought to be the brainchild of Chief Coiner Henry Voigt, based on Thomas Jefferson's famous message to President George Washington on December 18, 1792:

    "Th. Jefferson has the honor to send the President two cents made on Voigt's plan by putting a silver plug worth ¾ of a cent into a copper worth ¼ of a cent. Mr. Rittenhouse is about to make a few by mixing the same plug by fusion with the same quantity of copper. He will then make of copper alone of the same size, and lastly he will make the real cent as ordered by Congress, four times as big."

    The small-size copper cent Jefferson mentioned (copper alone of the same size) may have been intended to model a fiat copper coinage as an alternative to the bimetallic coinage, while the proposed large copper pieces became known as the famous Birch cents (Judd-3 through 5). Research by Len Augsburger, Joel Orosz, and Pete Smith in their book, 1792 Birth of a Nation's Coinage, indicates the concept for the unique dual metallic composition of the Silver Center cent may have originated with famous patriot and essayist Thomas Paine. Paine was living in London when he sent Jefferson a September 28, 1790-dated letter outlining his ideas for a national mint and coinage. Despite the obvious advantages of copper as a metal for coinage (inexpensive and easy to work with), Paine believed that "to give the cents the intrinsic value they ought to have by weight, they will be too heavy and bulky for the use they are intended for." He suggested three possible solutions to this problem:

    "1st. Making silver and copper in fusion; 2d. Plating the copper with silver; 3d. Plugging the copper with silver. But against all of these, there are very capital objections."

    Paine believed the bimetallic coinage was impractical and suggested issuing a fiat copper coinage of convenient size instead. The Mint would actually try most of Paine's suggestions in 1792, in the form of the Silver Center cent (Judd-1) and the Fusible Alloy cent (Judd-2), as well as a small-size fiat copper piece. As Paine predicted, all of these solutions proved impractical for actual coinage. The fiat copper pieces would not have been acceptable to the public, since they were underweight and of low intrinsic value. The Fusible Alloy cents were indistinguishable from pure copper cents and thus highly vulnerable to counterfeiting, and the mechanical problems encountered when preparing and striking the copper cents with a silver plug were too great to overcome in high-volume coinage operations.

    The Mint recognized these difficulties almost immediately. It seems the few specimens actually struck were primarily intended as essay pieces, to demonstrate the design to President Washington and members of Congress. Modern testing reveals that most (if not all) of the Fusible Alloy cents were actually struck in pure copper and measurements of the silver plug on the Silver Center cent indicate it was too small to contain ¾ cent worth of silver. No Silver Center cents were ever produced for circulation and no official mintage figures have ever surfaced. Today, we know of 12 surviving examples, most of them in relatively high grade, and a single copper setup piece struck without the silver plug.

    In the end, none of the proposed cent patterns was deemed suitable for regular coinage, but the value of copper was reevaluated in 1793, and Congress lowered the specifications for the cent to 208 grains of pure copper. This made it possible to produce a copper cent with full intrinsic value that was not too large for practical purposes. The resulting "large" cents were produced the following year and served the U.S. economy admirably until 1857.

    The Present Coin
    The coin offered here is a fairly recent discovery, found in a pub in the 1960s. The first owner of record was named Nigel Willmott and it has a previous auction appearance in a Glendining's sale in 1997, where it brought 28,750 British pounds. It passed through a number of well-known American numismatists and coin dealers, including Kenneth Goldman, Stuart Levine, and Anthony Terranova, before finding a home with prominent collector Martin Oghigian. The piece had been in Oghigian's estate since his death in 1998, until offered in Heritage's 2016 ANA Signature auction as Platinum Night lot 3951, which realized $352,500.

    The coin is well-centered on the reverse and slightly off-center to the south on the obverse, with only the top third of the dentils showing on the obverse. Actual wear is relatively light, and the pleasing olive-brown surfaces show only scattered, minor abrasions -- the worst being a small dig above the forehead in the obverse field. The design elements were strongly impressed on the obverse, while the reverse is sharp on the peripheries and soft in the center. The silver plug is bright and stands out in dramatic contrast to the copper planchet. Altogether, a most attractive specimen of this classic American rarity.
    Ex: Nigel Willmott; Glendining's Sale (1997); Kenneth Goldman, Stuart Levine, and Anthony Terranova; Larry Stack; Martin Oghigian; Oghigian Estate; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2016), lot 3951, which brought $352,500.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2948, PCGS# 11001)

    View Certification Details from PCGS

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2019
    25th-28th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 28
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 10,227

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Rasmussen Special Edition Catalog
    This hard bound volume contains the magnificent Wes Rasmussen Large Cent Collection, formed by a former President of the Early American Coppers society which was auctioned at the 2005 Florida United Numismatic Auction. Reserve your copy of this remarkable volume for just $75 today.
    Rasmussen Signed Limited Edition Catalog
    A hard bound limited library edition of the Wes Rasmussen Collection Catalog, signed by Wes Rasmussen, Mark Borckardt, Greg Rohan, and Denis Loring, is available while supplies last. Only 100 produced. Reserve your copy of this remarkable limited edition signed volume for just $150 today.
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