1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, SP67 Brown...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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1792 Silver Center Cent, SP67 Brown
1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, SP67 Brown PCGS.
CAC. Ex: Garrett-Simpson. Few issues in the annals of American
coinage are as historically important as the 1792 patterns. Those
simple coins laid the foundation for everything that followed in
United States coinage and established an innovative, decimal-based
monetary system that became the most successful in the history of
the world. Excluding the 1792 half disme, which was actually a
circulation-strike issue, the Silver Center cent is perhaps the
most famous of those early patterns. Only 12 original examples are
known to numismatists today, and one of those coins is included in
the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
A sought-after collector favorite since the earliest days of the
hobby, any auction appearance of a 1792 Silver Center cent is a
landmark opportunity for advanced numismatists. Heritage Auctions
is pleased to present the finest-known example of this iconic
numismatic treasure in just its third public offering.
Historically Important Early Pattern
CAC Approved, Finest-Known Example
Judd-1, Ex: Garrett
Origin of the Silver Center Cent
The Mint Act of 1792 specified the value of the cent, a hundredth part of a dollar, as equivalent to 264 grains of pure copper. Unfortunately, a copper coin of that size would have been too large and unwieldy for practical use in everyday exchanges. The Silver Center cent was an ingenious attempt to produce a coin with the intrinsic value of one cent in a smaller, more convenient size. The nation's first bimetallic coin, the concept of the Silver Center cent was long attributed to Chief Coiner Henry Voigt, but recent research by Pete Smith, Joel Orosz, and Len Augsburger suggests the idea originated with celebrated patriot Thomas Paine. Discussing possible coinage alternatives in a September 28, 1790-dated letter to then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Paine noted:
"The metal convenient for a coin under the silver coin, should not differ more in its value from silver than silver does from gold-and if it differed still less it would be better; but as the relative values now stand, the difference increases where convenience requires it should decrease. But as no such a metal, which convenience requires, exists naturally, the question is whether it will answer to produce it by composition.
"Of compositions, three methods present themselves-1st. Mixing silver and copper in fusion-2d. Plating the copper with silver-3d. Plugging the copper with silver. But against all these there are very capital objections. Wherever there is a want of satisfaction there must necessarily be a want of confidence; and this must always take place in all compounded metals. There is also a decrease in the intrinsic value of metals when compounded; one shilling worth of silver compounded with one shilling worth of copper, the composition is not worth two shillings, or what the metals were worth before they were compounded, because they must again be separated to acquire their utmost value, and this only can be done at a refiner's [sic]. It is not what the coin cost to make, but what the coin is intrinsically worth when made; that only can give it currency in all cases. Plugging copper with silver is the least detrimental to the intrinsic value of the metals, because they are the easiest separated; but in all these cases the value of the silver put into the composition will be so predominant to the value of the copper, that it will be rather a base silver coin than a copper coin."
Paine could find no practical solution to the problems involved with bimetallic coinage and concluded it would be better to strike a fiat copper coinage, with only token intrinsic value, but backed by government guarantee, for the subsidiary coinage.
Despite the obvious difficulties, Paine's concept of a bimetallic coinage stayed with Thomas Jefferson over the intervening year and a half before the passage of the Mint Act. He apparently discarded the idea of plating the cent with silver, but he suggested the other options to Chief Coiner Henry Voigt before coinage operations got underway in 1792. Although the 1792 half dismes were struck earlier, in John Harper's sawmill, before the Mint building was ready for operations, the Silver Center cent is the first documented coinage struck inside the confines of the First Philadelphia Mint. Voigt and Mint Director David Rittenhouse produced a number of patterns based on Paine's ideas, including the plugged Silver Center cent (Judd-1), the mixed Fusible Alloy cent (Judd-2), and the small size copper fiat coinage (not listed in Judd). We believe another Judd number should be assigned for the small copper cent patterns, as survivors of the copper fiat coinage have been mistakenly cataloged as Judd-2 Fusible Alloy cents over the years. The physical appearance of the coins is identical, but only one "Judd-2" specimen that has been tested shows the partial silver composition expected of the Fusible Alloy issue. Other examples tested have been of pure copper content. A note in Voigt's journal reports the Silver Center cents were first struck on December 17, 1792. The next day, Jefferson sent the following message to President George Washington:
"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 Congressionally mandated large pattern cent Jefferson referred to is known as the Birch cent (Judd-3 through 5) to present-day collectors. The three small pattern cents mentioned in this missive were the options suggested by Thomas Paine.
The mintage for the Silver Center cent was not recorded, but it was undoubtedly small. The largest estimate we have seen is 50 pieces, of which 12 originals can be traced today. None of the 1792 cent patterns were adopted for circulation because the value of copper dropped considerably by 1793, making it possible to produce a pure copper cent of full intrinsic value with a weight of 208 grains and a more convenient size.
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 conical silver plug in the center, with a reeded edge. Medallic alignment. Weight of this specimen is 70.5 grains. Average diameter is about 22.9 mm.
Early Mentions and Appearances
In an entry in his private diary in 1852, pioneer collector Joseph Mickley mentioned a Silver Center cent in the collection of early numismatist Jacob Giles Morris. Morris was lost at sea in 1854 and his coin later passed to R.C.H. Brock, who donated it to the University of Pennsylvania in 1898. The coin was available for study there for many years before being deaccessioned in the 1950s. It eventually became a highlight of the famous Norweb Collection. This discovery specimen is the second-finest known example today, with a PCGS grade of SP65 Brown.
Mickley acquired an example of the Silver Center cent himself sometime before 1858 and described it, along with four other 1792 patterns, in his pamphlet Dates of American Coins and Their Degrees of Rarity. Contemporary numismatist John H. Hickox described the Silver Center cent in his book An Historical Account of American Coinage, also published in 1858. The issue was widely studied by numismatic authors throughout the 19th century, in works by Montroville W. Dickeson (1859), James Ross Snowden (1860), Sylvester Sage Crosby (1874), and Robert Coulton Davis (1885). In their catalog of the Thomas Warner Collection (6/1884), the Chapman brothers reported five examples were known to them (probably the Bushnell, Weinberg, Smithsonian, Queller, and Starr specimens in the roster below). The present coin, along with the Norweb and Stearns specimens, was also known to numismatists in the 19th century. Of the 12 known survivors, only the Newman, Partrick, Judd, and Terranova specimens were discovered in the 20th century.
In a 2006 police auction in California, another purported example was discovered, but that coin later proved to be a worn, but genuine, copper planchet for a Silver Center cent that had a ferrous alloy plug inserted at a later date. Similarly, the Charles Morris specimen, which was known to the numismatic community for more than 100 years, was recently determined to be an example of the Judd-2 pattern, with the hole drilled and plug inserted to simulate a Silver Center cent sometime in the 19th century. One genuine copper planchet, with the hole drilled, but no silver plug inserted, is also known.
The Silver Center cent began appearing at auction as early as lot 747 of the John K. Wiggin Collection (Edward Cogan, 3/1862):
"1792 Cent, silver, centre "Liberty, Parent of Science and Industry," rev. U. S of America, One Cent 1/100 very fine, remarkably rare."
The lot realized an extremely strong price of $52 to prominent collector John F. McCoy. Auction appearances were few and far between in the early days, but the authors of 1792 Birth of a Nation's Coinage note market velocity for this issue has increased dramatically in recent years. The record price realized for this issue is $1,997,500, brought by the second-finest Norweb coin, which graded MS64 Brown PCGS at the time, in lot 5517 of the Chicago Signature (Heritage, 8/2014). This finer SP67 Brown example should bring considerably more.
The Present Coin
The first owner of record for the coin offered here was Pennsylvania collector Peter Gschwend. In his catalog of the Gschwend Collection (6/1908), prominent coin dealer Thomas Elder reveals that Gschwend was a contemporary of early collectors like Joseph Mickley and Charles Ira Bushnell and notes that he stopped collecting in 1871. Accordingly, Gschwend must have acquired his Silver Center cent at an early date, when public offerings were rare occurrences. Only five pre-1871 auction appearances have been traced for the 1792 Silver Center cent, and two of those appearances are accounted for in well-established pedigrees for the Bushnell and Queller examples in the roster below. It is possible that this coin was the first specimen offered at auction in the 1862 sale of the John K. Wiggin Collection, mentioned above, but it is more likely that Gschwend purchased it privately. Gschwend retained this coin for decades, until he sold his remarkable collection intact to William Woodin, sometime before 1908.
Woodin selected a few specimens that he needed for his own collection and offered the remaining coins through Elder's auction in June of 1908. Elder cataloged the collection under Gschwend's name, even though it was owned by Woodin at the time of the sale. The Silver Center cent was featured in lot 116:
"1792. The 'Silver-Center' Cent. Obv. An Indian head r. LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUST: Below the bust, 1792. Rev. value within a wreath, around the bust, 1792 (sic). Rev. value within a wreath, around which UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Below wreath 1/100. Edge milled. A silver plug has been inserted through the center of the coin, (which is of the size of the old half-cent) to give it an intrinsic value of one cent. Uncirculated, with faint traces of original red around the obverse letters. A magnificent piece, the finest known specimen. One, very good, in my sale of October, 1907, sold to a prominent dealer for $212.50. The value of this may be reckoned accordingly. Crosby Pl. X. 22. Plate."
Despite some misprinting, Elder's description was unusually eloquent and quite lengthy for the time. Elder's hopes for the coin were fully realized, as the lot sold for a remarkable $402.50, to Ohio collector James W. Ellsworth.
Ellsworth was born in Hudson, Ohio and maintained his family estate there, but he made his fortune selling coal to the railroads and serving as president of the Union National Bank in Chicago. Ellsworth assembled world class collections of coins, books, rugs, and works of art over the years, and acted as one of the primary directors of the World Columbian Exposition in 1893. He lived much of his later life in Italy, where he purchased the Villa Palmieri, the site where Boccaccio wrote his classic Decameron. His coin collection included two 1804 dollars, the finest-known 1787 Brasher doubloon (which is offered in the catalog of Donald Partrick's Collection, elsewhere in this sale), the unique set of 1783 Nova Constellation patterns, and other rarities too numerous to mention. He sold his fabulous numismatic holdings in 1923, to a partnership of Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett, for a then-record price of $100,000.
Baltimore collector John Work Garrett was the oldest son of T. Harrison Garrett, who founded the Garrett family coin collection when he was attending college in the 1860s. The Garrett's were major stockholders in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which was immortalized as the B & O Railroad in the popular Monopoly board game. T. Harrison Garrett formed possibly the finest coin collection of the 19th century before his death in a boating accident in 1888. His sons inherited the collection after his death. John Work Garrett was in the diplomatic service and was frequently stationed abroad, so his younger brother, Robert, initially acted as administrator for the collection. In 1919, John Work Garrett agreed to buy his brother's share of the collection and took over as administrator. He then preserved and expanded the collection until his death in 1942. His most important numismatic transaction was the purchase of the Ellsworth Collection in 1923, in partnership with Wayte Raymond. Raymond acquired most of Ellsworth's federal coins, while Garrett retained most of the colonial and territorial issues, and the 1792 patterns. Garrett bequeathed the collection, including this finest-known Silver Center cent, to Johns Hopkins University after his death.
Johns Hopkins retained the collection for many years and the coins were studied by many numismatic luminaries who visited the university, including Walter Breen. Numismatists Carl Carlson and Susan Tripp acted as curators for the collection in the 1970s. Eventually, security concerns caused the university to deaccession the collection and the coins were sold in a series of notable auctions through Stack's and Bowers and Ruddy Galleries from 1976 through 1981. The Silver Center cent was sold in lot 2347 of the Garrett Collection, Part IV, the final sale of the series, where it realized a strong price of $95,000. It has not been publicly offered since. Bob Simpson acquired this coin in a private transaction in 2012.
The present coin is a magnificent Superb Gem, with sharply detailed design elements throughout. Even the lettering and hair strands on the plug are sharply rendered. The coin is well-centered on a problem-free planchet. The silver plug is positioned just below Liberty's ear on the obverse and covers about two thirds of her jawline and intersects the first five strands of hair. The plug is centered below N in ONE on the reverse and covers most of EN in CENT. The light reddish-brown surfaces are enhanced by highlights of electric-blue, lilac, and rose patina, with a few traces of original red in sheltered areas. Only insignificant signs of contact are evident. The exceptional quality and eye appeal are attested by the CAC sticker. This coin has been a highlight of the Simpson Collection, which includes possibly the finest collection of U.S. patterns ever assembled, for the past eight years. It is the finest-known example of this famous rarity, with an illustrious pedigree back to the early days of the hobby. Pattern specialists and Registry Set enthusiasts will find no suitable substitute for this spectacular Superb Gem and it may be decades before it becomes available again. The Silver Center cent is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. This coin is pictured on PCGS CoinFacts. Population: 1 in 67 Brown, 0 finer. CAC: 1 in 67, 0 finer (5/20).
1792 Silver Center Cent, Judd-1 Roster
The following roster was expanded from earlier work by Scott Rubin, Saul Teichman, and Mark Borckardt with the important assistance of Wayne Burt, Stuart Levine, Pete Smith and Joel Orosz. Grades are per the last auction appearance, unless a more recent citation is known. The Garrett, Weinberg, and Queller examples are all pictured on the PCGS CoinFacts website. The Newman specimen is pictured on NGC Coin Explorer. The former Charles Morris and California specimens have been delisted, since recent research indicates their silver plugs are not original. The Morris example (which still appears in the PCGS Population Report) is actually a Judd-2, with the hole drilled and plug inserted later. The California specimen combines a genuine Judd-1 copper planchet with a ferrous alloy plug that was inserted at a later date. A single specimen (Judd-1a) is also known without the silver plug.
1. Garrett Specimen, SP67 Brown PCGS. Peter Gschwend, before 1871; Gschwend Collection (Thomas L. Elder, 6/1908), lot 116; Henry Chapman; James W. Ellsworth; purchased by Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett via Knoedler Galleries in May of 1923; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2347; Joel Perlin; Kevin Lipton; John Albanese; Laura Sperber; reportedly purchased by Bob Simpson in 2012 for $5 million; Simpson Collection. The present coin.
2. Norweb Specimen, SP65 Brown PCGS. Jacob Giles Morris, per Joseph Mickley; R.C.H. Brock Collection; University of Pennsylvania; Philip H. Ward; Charles Dochus; Harry Forman; New Netherlands Coin Company; purchased by the Norwebs on 3/14/1958; Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3392; Andrew and John Hain; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/2002), lot 724; Ed Milas; Marvin Browder; purchased for $2.5 million and subsequently resold in 2011 by Stuart Levine, Joe O'Conner, and Anthony Terranova; Oliver Jung; ANA Signature (Heritage, 8/2014), lot 5517; realized $1,997,500; offered on eBay November 2014 for $2.45 million; offered by Kevin Lipton at $2.7 million; Dell Loy Hansen Collection. Pollock plate coin.
3. Newman Specimen, MS63+ Brown NGC. F.C.C. Boyd; Eric P. Newman; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society; Selections From the Eric P. Newman Collection, Part IV (Heritage, 5/2014), lot 30426; realized $1,410,000.
4. Bushnell Specimen, MS61+ Brown NGC. Possibly Edward Cogan Collection (Edward Cogan, 4/1863), lot 1075, per New Netherlands catalog of 12/1958, sold for $85 to "Williams"; Charles Ira Bushnell (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1882), lot 1766; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 5; Harlan Page Smith (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1315; George H. Earle (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2179; Carl Wurtzbach; Virgil M. Brand; B.G. Johnson; Col. E.H.R. Green; Belden Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), lot 3111; Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 1794; F. Eubanks; Stockmayer Collection (Stack's, 7/1952), lot 174; Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; traded to John Ford for #2 above; Elliot Landau; Landau Sale (New Netherlands, 12/1958), lot 104; Corrado Romano Collection (Stack's, 6/1987), lot 143; Jay Parrino FPL; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1999), lot 143; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 56; Charles Anderson; Simpson Collection (2007-2011); John Albanese and Kevin Lipton; private collection; Todd Griffiths; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2013), lot 4113; unknown intermediary; Kevin Lipton; Long Beach Signature (Heritage, 9/2014), lot 3007. The 1914 ANS Exhibition plate coin; Standard Catalog plate coin; former Guide Book plate coin. The October 2000 Stack's catalog cites an appearance in "Stack's sale of January 3, 1952," but there was no such sale. Scott Rubin suggests this might be a misprint for the Stack's 7/1952 sale listed in the pedigree above.
5. Weinberg Specimen, SP58+ Brown PCGS. Thomas Warner Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1884), lot 3215; George Cogan; Richard B. Winsor Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1895), lot 291; Edouard Frossard; unknown intermediaries; Loye Lauder Collection (William Doyle Galleries, 12/1983), lot 233; Alan Weinberg; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2019), lot 4308.
6. Smithsonian Specimen, AU. Robert Coulton Davis Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 1/1890), lot 1008a; John Story Jenks (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5569; Waldo Newcomer; F.C.C. Boyd; Lenox R. Lohr; Empire Coin (1961 FPL); River Oaks Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 908; New England Rare Coin Gallery; private sale; Robert Hughes; private collection; Smithsonian Institution. Judd plate coin for the ninth and 10th editions; current Guide Book plate coin.
7. Stearns Specimen, SP55 Red and Brown PCGS. C.H. Stearns Collection (Mayflower, 12/1966), lot 280; Lester Merkin; Henry P. Kendall Foundation; Kendall Collection (Stack's Bowers, 3/2015), lot 2576.
8. Partrick Specimen, SP45+ PCGS. Found in the wall of a renovated building in Doylestown, PA in 1965; Bernard Gimelson; Donald Groves Partrick; Partrick Collection (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 5501.
9. Judd Specimen, SP45 PCGS. Hersch, Levick, Farrell Collections (Thomas Elder, 10/1907), lot 1732; later, Dr. J. Hewitt Judd; Illustrated History (A. Kosoff, 1962), lot 19; Julian Leidman; Archangle Collection in November 1976; Baltimore Auction (Stack's Bowers, 10/2018), lot 7152. The original Judd plate coin.
10. Terranova Specimen, SP35 PCGS Secure, CAC. 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; Central States Signature (Heritage, 4/2019), lot 3667.
11. Queller Specimen, VF30 NGC. Joseph J. Mickley (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 2135; Colonel Mendes I. Cohen (Bangs, Merwin & Co. for Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 380; William Sumner Appleton; possibly William J. Jenks Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 9/1880), lot 1383; A. Dohrmann Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1882), lot 437; possibly Heman Ely Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 1/1884), lot 444; Lady of Western New York Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1887), lot 816; Virgil Brand; Sol Kaplan; Philip E. Benedetti; Brand-Lichtenfels Collections (Abner Kreisberg and Hans M.F. Schulman, 3/1964), lot 1106; Henry Gibson; Gibson Collection (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 14; John L. Roper (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 425; Stuart Levine and Anthony Terranova; Bertram Cohen; San Diego Show (Dana Linett, 10/1988), lot 9; Denis Loring; Stack's, privately; David Queller (Lemus Collection); Queller Family Collection (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 1500; offered at fixed prices by Heritage in 2010 and 2011; Philadelphia Signature (Heritage, 8/2012), lot 5015; Rarities Night (Stack's Bowers, 8/2016), lot 3010; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2017), lot 5519.
12. Starr Specimen, SP15 PCGS. George Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 842; Lorin G. Parmelee; Virgil M. Brand (Brand Journal number 20765); Armin Brand, per his notebook; 311th Sale (J.C. Morgenthau, 10/1933), lot 78; Floyd Starr; Starr Collection (Stack's, 10/1992), lot 3; Jay Parrino, offered in several fixed price lists in the mid-1990s; unknown dealer intermediaries; Stuart Levine in 2004; purchased by Ed Price on 5/14/2004; Stuart Levine again in 2006; Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 13; Don Willis, Premium Numismatics.
Additional Auction Appearances
With a single exception, none of the following were plated, and no further information in the catalog descriptions provided help determining provenance.
John K. Wiggin Collection (Edward Cogan, 3/1862), lot 747, sold for $52 to John F. McCoy.
Finotti Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 11/1862), lot 1528, sold for $52.50 to Bacon.
Benjamin Haines Collection (Bangs, Merwin & Co., 1/1863), lot 780, sold for $33 to Putnam.
Matthews Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 12/1885), lot 2120.
Woodside Collection (New York Coin and Stamp Co., 4/1892), lot 1. The Silver Center cent is plated (obverse only) and its appearance is bizarre, unlike anything else that we have seen. It is almost certainly a false piece.
H.G. Brown Collection (Lyman H. Low, 10/1904), lot 209.
Poillon, Lee, and Ralston Collections (Thomas L. Elder, 10/1926), lot 1436.
Lenz, Sloane, and Chapman Collections (Thomas Elder, 1/1936), lot 2968.
1941 ANA Sale (Ira Reed, 8/1941), lot 77.
12th Sale (Celina Coin Co., 2/1945), lot 2022.
Ohio State Numismatic Society Convention Sale (Celina Coin Co., 10/1949), lot 591.
Other Reported Appearances
Judson Brenner exhibited a Silver Center cent at the 1916 ANA Convention.
B. Max Mehl advertised an example as part of the Fred Joy Collection (which he had just acquired) on page 599 of the November 1925 issue of The Numismatist.
Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2948, PCGS# 11001)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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