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    Description

    1792 Fusible Alloy Cent, Judd-2, XF40
    Tied For Finest Available Example

    1792 P1C One Cent, Judd-2, Pollock-2 XF40 NGC. 63.2 grains. The December 18, 1792 correspondence from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington outlined a series of four experiments with the one-cent piece. Jefferson transmitted two Silver Center cents with the letter and detailed plans for the remaining three formats. The Mint would first fuse together copper and silver in a coin using the same amount of copper as the Silver Center cent, 66 grains by statute. Then, the Mint would prepare a coin of the exact same size, but using copper only with no silver. Finally, the Mint would prepare cents of the legislated weight (264 grains), "four times as big" as the others, according to Jefferson. The Judd-2 designation applies to the second and third experiments, small format cents without the silver plug.

    The Fusible Alloy (Judd-2) Cent
    While the Silver Center cents of 1792 bear a distinctive plug, the Fusible Alloy pieces are at first glance less remarkable. To the average American of the 18th century, they would have appeared as simply another type of American cent. As several major types appeared on the scene in 1793 (Chain, Wreath, and Liberty Cap), the design of the 1792 Fusible Alloy cent would not have seemed so out of place in a commerce just getting familiar with American coinage. Far more distinctive was the weight of the coin. If anything, a 1792 Fusible Alloy cent would have been disdained as a light copper, and someone who received it in change might be glad to be rid of it. The grades of the surviving pieces indicate that most escaped into circulation. The population profile contrasts strongly with that of the Silver Center cents. Nearly half of the Silver Center cents survive in uncirculated condition. Only one of the Fusible Alloy pieces has claims to Mint State, and that piece is in the Smithsonian, possibly plucked early on by Adam Eckfeldt for the Mint Cabinet. The December 18, 1792 letter from Jefferson to Washington places two of the Silver Center pieces in George Washington's hands, and it is likely these were preserved by Washington or some other dignitary. Similarly, many other Silver Center cents were almost certainly set aside as keepsakes at the time of issue.

    No similar documentation exists for the Fusible Alloy cents, and the remaining specimens suggest they were not initially distributed with the same fanfare as the Silver Center cents. Apart from the sole Mint state example in the National Numismatic Collection, all other Fusible Alloy cents range in grade from Good to Extremely Fine. Most of these circulated until being pulled from change as collectible examples. The present coin, at the XF40 level, is tied for highest graded among the available examples. It is noteworthy that the Partrick collection of 1792 patterns contains not only unique pieces, but also combines condition rarity, as exemplified by the present coin. Partrick's 1792 collection began with the acquisition of the Silver Center cent in 1968, and he spurned multiple opportunities to acquire a lower graded Fusible Alloy cent. The lofty grade of this specimen testifies to Partrick's commitment to the highest attainable quality.

    The Fusible Alloy cents are divided into two types - those made with an alloy of copper and silver, and those made from pure copper. For those containing silver, the proposed proportion was minimal. The Silver Center cent included a plug of silver worth three-fourths of a cent, or about 2.8 grains of silver, in addition to copper valued at one-fourth of a cent, or 66 grains. Given the small amount of silver, a fine test is required to detect its presence in a particular specimen. The composition of most examples is unknown. Testing status is known for four pieces:

    1. XF40 NGC. NGC measured this coin prior to encapsulation and reported a composition of 99% copper. The present coin.
    2. Fine 15 NGC. Lauder collection (William Doyle, 12/1983). The FUN Signature catalog (Heritage, 1/2012) reported the results of energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence testing. The testing indicated 1%-1.3% silver content. However, the margin of error with this test was 1.8%, and the results were thus inconclusive.
    3. Good. Harmer Rooke sale (11/1969). Per the Norweb III catalog (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), X-ray fluorescence determined this coin to be of the fusible alloy type. The precise silver content was not stated.
    4. Good. ANA Museum. The ANA tested this coin for Michael Hodder during the preparation of the Norweb III catalog and did not detect the presence of silver.


    Clearly, much testing remains to be done. Comprehensive testing of all pieces will reveal information about the early Mint's capability to refine and alloy copper and silver, and may shed light on how closely the Mint adhered to its stated plan to strike pieces in both fusible alloy and in copper. Regardless of the composition of any specific piece, the experimentation of December 1792 was short lived, for in January 1793, Congress lowered the weight of the cent from 264 to 208 grains. That standard existed until December 1795 when the weight was again reduced, to 168 grains. The Mint was concerned about rising copper prices, as reported in the May 1911 Numismatist:

    "When Congress established its first mint in 1792, the original Coinage Act provided that the copper cent should weigh 264 grains, but before any coins of this weight were struck [in 1793], Congress found it desirable, in January of the next year, 1793, to reduce the weight of the cent to 208 grains. According to tradition in mint circles, copper bullion became worth in the neighborhood of 35 cents per pound at this time, and as it only required 33.65 cent pieces to weigh a pound, the Treasury authorities were confronted with the fact that their new coins were worth more than their face value as bullion, and Congress was again required to reduce the weight of the cent to 168 grains each, which gave 41.66 pieces to the avoirdupois pound. The Act placed the face value of the coins below the bullion value for the time being, but subsequently the price of copper advanced, and people who wanted small amounts of copper for mechanical use found it more economical to melt up copper cents for the purpose than to purchase an equal weight of copper bullion. The records do show that for the first twenty-five years of the coinage of the coppers the cost of the metal to the Government averaged about 30 cents per pound."



    With the legislated weight reduced, there was no further need to continue the experiments with silver-alloyed cents. Today, the remaining Silver Center and Fusible Alloy pieces document the struggle of the early Mint to deliver a practical coin that at the same time provided full value in terms of bullion content. The struggle to balance bullion values with the needs of commerce continues to the present era, as the intrinsic values of the nickel and cent represent a substantial portion of their face value, and, in the case of pre-1983 Lincoln cents, exceeds the face value by a factor of two. The Silver Center and Fusible Alloy cents demonstrate the early Mint's best efforts to address a timeless problem.

    1792 Fusible Alloy Cent (Judd-2) Roster
    1. MS63 Uncertified. A specimen in the National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution, inventory number 1985.0441.1898, formerly in the Mint Cabinet. Pictured on page 19 of The History of the National Numismatic Collections by Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli. Probably the finest known. The Adams-Woodin plate coin and the plate coin for Judd's United States Pattern Coins 1st through 7th editions.
    2. XF40 Uncertified. Lorin G. Parmelee, purchased for $110 prior to 1886; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin and Stamp, 6/1890), lot 6, realized $37 to Charles Steigerwalt; Vigil Brand; purchased by the Norwebs on January 11, 1937 via B. Max Mehl; Norweb Collection, Part III (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3393, realized $35,200.
    3. XF40 NGC. George Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 841, not sold, as Lorin G. Parmelee purchased the collection intact; Lorin G. Parmelee; sold to Dr. Maris sometime before 1886, as related in correspondence between H.P. Newlin and T. Harrison Garrett dated June 30, 1886; Dr. Edward Maris Collection (Harlan Page Smith, 6/1886), lot 146, realized $67.50; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2348; Donald Groves Partrick; the present coin.
    4. VF30 PCGS. Wolcott Family, possibly preserved by the family since 1792, surfaced at the 2004 ANA Convention; Pre-Long Beach Auction (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2005), lot 806, realized $437,000; Donna Levin and Denis Loring; Madison Collection (Heritage, 1/2008), lot 3462, realized $603,750, Legend Numismatics, Bob Simpson Collection.
    5. VF Uncertified. Fewsmith Cabinet (Ebenezer Locke Mason, 10/1870), lot 1140, realized $41 to William Sumner Appleton, Massachusetts Historical Society via Appleton's bequest in 1905, cataloged in that collection in the 1920s but not traced since. The Crosby plate coin, Plate X, no. 22.
    6. Fine 15 NGC. Loye Lauder Collection (William Doyle Galleries, 12/1983), lot 234; Dana Linett, sold for $15,000 in 1983; David Henderson; Rare Coin Review number 53, October 1984, listed for $24,750; Benson Collection Part I (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2001), lot 151, realized $57,500; Old West and Franklinton Collection (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 14, realized $218,500; Southern Collection; Simpson Collection; Laura Sperber; John Albanese; Al Pinkall / Gold Rarities; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2012), lot 3401, realized $299,000.
    7. Good-VG Uncertified. Century Sale (Paramount, 4/1965), lot 50, realized $1,050; Rare Coin Review numbers 18, 19, and 20, offered at $14,950; later offered by Douglas Robbins, Inc. at $37,500, Coin World ad on December 4, 1974; Washington, D.C. Sale (Pine Tree Auctions, 2/1975), lot 59; American Numismatic Association.
    8. Good-VG Porous, Uncertified. Harmer-Rooke in November 1969; Anton collection.
    9. Net Good, Genuine PCGS. Major Lenox Lohr Collection; offered in the Empire Coin Company's fixed price list in 1961 at $3,750; River Oaks and Krugjohann Collections (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 909; Public Auction Sale (Stack's, 1/1987), lot 476; Rarities Night Auction (Stack's Bowers, 8/2013), lot 4017, realized $70,500; also possibly the coin in the Belknap / Martin Collection (Thomas Elder, 10/1908), lot 617, per Stack's.

    Other coins:
    ANS: Saul Teichman, Alan Weinberg, and John Dannreuther examined the ANS coin (ANS accession number 1956.163.25) that was included in the roster presented in our January 2012 (FUN Signature) catalog. This example exhibits a cracked obverse die and a plain edge, whereas other Judd-2s were struck with reeded edges. The ANS coin appears to be struck or cast from copy dies, using the Norweb coin as a host.

    Physical Appearance
    This coin exhibits pleasing medium brown color with lighter highlights in the protected areas of the lettering. Some strike weakness is evident, particularly in the lower portion of Liberty's hair and within the reverse wreath. There is an arcing line, possibly a planchet cutter mark, which originates in the obverse right field, exits the rim at P of PARENT, and continues on the reverse through NIT of UNITED. The overall eye appeal is good with hints of original color around Liberty's hairline, nose, and lips.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 2949, PCGS# 11004)


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

    View all of [The Partrick Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2015
    7th-12th Wednesday-Monday
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