1792 Silver Center Cent, Judd-1, VF30
1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-1, Pollock-1, High R.6, VF30 NGC.
Design. Probably designed by Henry Voight. 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 that is 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. Medallic alignment.
The Mickley-Cohen-Dohrmann-Brand-Roper-Queller Specimen
Commentary. The patterns of 1792 are the rarest series of patterns ever struck and each is a classic of U.S. coinage in its own right. This exclusive series includes the silver center cent, Birch cent (two varieties), half disme, disme, and the Eagle on Globe quarter. Of these five issues, only the half disme and disme ever circulated. Of the other three pattern issues, the silver center cent was an experimental striking that was intended to create a coin with an intrinsic value of one cent on a smaller copper planchet by inserting a silver plug in the center. These pieces proved impractical to produce; in the end, no one seemed to care that they were struck on smaller planchets or had a silver center. The result, we know now, was the production of large cents from 1793 through 1857. It was not until the mid-1850s that the idea of a small-sized cent was again entertained as an alternative to the large coppers.
Along with the production of the silver center cents, another small cent was also struck with the same design, the so-called fusible alloy cent. These coins incorporated the same idea of mixing copper and silver, but these pieces (Judd-2) had the metals alloyed together. The problem with such coins is they were visually indistinguishable from a copper striking and could be easily counterfeited.
The first mention of the actual striking of cents appears in a letter from Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to President Washington, dated 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 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, & lastly he will make the real cent as ordered by Congress, 4 times as big. Specimens of these several ways of making the cent may now be delivered to the Committee of Congress now having the subject before them."
The Mint was ready for occupancy in September 1792. From the date of Jefferson's letter, we may infer that the first two experimental cents were struck in December 1792 (the third type mentioned was never coined). In 1907 Frank Stewart (a much later owner of the original Mint property in Philadelphia and an author of a history of the facility) discovered two planchets for the silver center cents as he was excavating the first Mint building. They were blanks with a hole in the center but lacking the silver plug. Stewart donated the planchets to the Congress Hall Collection in Philadelphia rather than sell them to J.C. Mitchelson. With Stewart's discovery of the planchets which "fell down from the overhead joists" it was finally established that the silver center cents were actually produced within the newly opened Mint and not outside its walls as previously believed.
The Mint Act of April 2, 1792 authorized cents that would weigh 264 grains and half cents of 132 grains. Such coins would have given a full cent's (or half cent's) worth of copper. The intention of such large small-denomination coinage was to drive out of circulation the wide variety of world coinage found in the states. Such coins would have undoubtedly achieved the desired result, but a smaller, lighter version was authorized in January 1793; Congress granted a further reduction in 1795. The result was to reduce the amount of copper in each coin by almost 36% from the original weight designated in 1792. Thus, the silver center cent and its companion fusible alloy cent were experiments aimed at convenience.
This piece is the first of the three types discussed in Jefferson's letter, and it is believed that today only 14 of these experimental coins survive. P. Scott Rubin conducted an exhaustive survey of auction records in 1984, conducting a line-by-line scan of 3,200 auction catalogs spanning the years 1855 to 1984. He logged each appearance of a silver center cent he found, resulting in only 38 listings over the 130 years surveyed. This particular coin has an especially distinguished pedigree. Its first appearance at public auction was in the Joseph Mickley Collection in 1867. The Mickley Collection was so extensive that it was sold over a period of six nights. The coin was described by W. Elliot Woodward as "Remarkably fine condition." One has to wonder today if this was a comment on the overall appearance of the piece or an early attempt at grading. The coin sold for $54 to Colonel Mendes I. Cohen.
Borrowing heavily from Rubin's 1984 list of known examples and his updated roster since that time, the following is a roster of known silver center cents:
3. Davis-Jenks-Lohr-River Oaks-Hughes-private collection- Smithsonian.
4. Morris-Eastern Collection-Mitkoff & Numismatic Ltd-1974 GENA-Anton-private collection.
5. Bushnell-Parmelee-Smith-Wurtzback-Brand-Roach-Neil-New Netherlands-Ramano-Stack's 65th Anniversary Sale.
7. 1907 Elder Sale-Judd-Leidman-Eastern Collection.
8. Mickley-Cohen-Dohrmann-Woodward-Brand-1964 Kreisberg & Schulman-Gibson-Roper. The present specimen.
9. 1933 Morgenthau's 311th Sale (the first sale of Brand coins)-1992 Floyd Starr Sale-American Numismatic Rarities (8/2006).
10. Eric Newman.
11. Norweb III.
12. 1892 Woodside Sale.
13. 1997 Glendining's Sale-Anthony Terranova.
14. Discovered by Anthony Terranova, 1993. The coin does not have a silver center and appears to have been a trial striking before making the silver center pieces.
Physical Description. The coin is close to XF overall, with the devices on each side well-centered on the flan. The upper right reverse shows evidence of corrosion, and there two distinguishing planchet voids in the obverse fields, one before Liberty's face and the other at the base of the second E in SCIENCE. On the obverse the silver plug touches Liberty's ear, runs along the jawline, and covers several of the strands of hair. On the reverse the plug covers the right half of the E and almost all of the N in CENT, as well as the lower half of the N in ONE. Even, darker brown color over both sides is interrupted by the brightness of the silver plug.
Provenance. Ex: Joseph J. Mickley Auction (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 2135; Colonel Mendes I. Cohen; Cohen Collection (Bangs, Merwin & Co., 10/1875), lot 380; bought by William Sumner Appleton for $45; bought back by Woodward on behalf of A. Dohrmann; A. Dohrmann Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1882), lot 437; Lady of Western New York Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1887), lot 816; Virgil Brand; Kreisberg-Schulman (3/1964), lot 1106; Roper Collection (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 425; Lemus Collection, Queller Family Collection Part Two (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 1500. (NGC ID# 2948, PCGS# 11001)
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