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    Description

    1792 Disme, Judd-10, Pollock-11, R.6, Specimen 65 Brown PCGS. Copper. Ex: Garrett. On July 9-10, 1792, John Harper's humble abode in Philadelphia played host to a group of distinguished Americans that included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Mint Director David Rittenhouse, and Adam Eckfeldt. Squeezed into the basement in the summer heat, the men focused their attention on Harper's screw press. After years of anticipation, the United States' first coins emerged from this makeshift Mint. Undoubtedly passed around the room for all to appreciate, these important pieces may very well have passed through the hands of Washington and Jefferson themselves. One of these coins was then set aside and carefully preserved by numerous collectors over the course of the next two centuries. Today, we are proud to highlight this historically significant specimen as it prepares to grace yet another dignified collection with its presence.
    Novice numismatists would certainly assert that the above paragraph refers to the first 1,500 half dismes that the Mint produced with bullion that came, in part, from George Washington's silverware. Indeed, numerous sources, such as the current edition of the Guide Book, seem to uphold the validity of this assumption. The thorough historian, however, would be wise to look at Adam Eckfeldt's personal recollections from those days in Harper's cellar. A man whose association with the early Philadelphia Mint speaks volumes for his credentials, Eckfeldt always asserted that he designed the United States' first coin. As William Russell Birch designed and engraved the half disme on his own, Eckfeldt's assertion can only refer to the 1792 pattern disme.
    Sometime in March, 1792, Birch executed a reverse design for the disme that depicted a fledgling eagle surrounded by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and DISME. The obverse, however, was the work of Eckfeldt. For his central design, the Mint employee selected a rendition of Liberty that also appeared on his 1793 half cent. The date appeared below the bust and the legend LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUS. abutted the denticles. The dies that Eckfeldt engraved from these designs remained idle until President George Washington appointed David Rittenhouse as Mint Director on July 1 and gave him permission to begin production of cents, half dismes, and dismes a few days later. As the government's screw press had not yet arrived from London and the new Mint building was not yet complete, this executive order led to the gathering in Harper's cellar described above. It would stand to reason that before he began business strike coinage, Rittenhouse executed a limited number of presentation strikings both to test Harper's equipment and as a favor to the assembled dignitaries. While the surviving half dismes display impressions that support their status as business strikes, the present disme exhibits razor sharp delineation that could only be the result of careful manufacture. In addition to powerful impressions, Breen asserts that the presentation dismes received carefully prepared planchets. With modestly reflective fields, this piece easily fulfills this criteria as well. Finally, whereas most surviving examples of this variety display diagonal edge reeding, this piece exhibits perfect vertical reeds. The answer for this is simple: as a presentation piece, Rittenhouse demanded that every aspect of this coin, including its edge, be perfect. Its method of manufacture, taken in conjunction with Eckfeldt's testimony, provides ample evidence to assure us that this particular example was one of, if not the, first coin struck by the United States Mint.
    While we do not know exactly how many of these patterns were struck, there are no more than a handful of both copper and silver representations extant today. Of the reeded edge copper pieces, the present specimen is by far the finest known. Both sides of this coin display even chocolate-brown patination, although the reverse carries scattered spots of crimson coloration that include a sizeable one in the field just below the eagle. At select angles of observation, one can see pleasing undertones of blue, pink, and gold that serve only to enhance this coin's already memorable eye appeal. While the smooth surfaces are indicative of the assigned grade, we call attention to an abrasion below Liberty's eye and a small planchet flaw in the reverse field above the eagle's right (facing) wing that are important for pedigree purposes. Its undeniable rarity, unsurpassable historical significance, and close association with such founding fathers as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should be enough to ensure that only the strongest bid will secure this numismatic treasure for the finest collection.
    Ex: James Ellsworth Collection (Wayte Raymond, 1923); Garrett IV (Bowers & Ruddy, 3/81), lot 2352, where it realized $54,000.

    Coin Index Numbers: (PCGS# 11026)


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 1999
    8th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 207
    Sold on Oct 13, 1999 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
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