1875 "Sailor Head" Ten Dollar Gold Pattern, Judd-1443, Ex: Woodin, Boyd, Judd, Wilkison, Trompeter1875 $10 Sailor Head Ten Dollar, Judd-1443, Pollock-1587, R.8, PR64 NGC. Ex: Trompeter. The January 1883 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics, contains the often-quoted article "The Pattern Piece," in which Patterson DuBois calls patterns "things that are not appropriate, not convenient, not artistic, in short, that are not wanted." All of these reasons were legitimate for the rejection of 19th and 20th century pattern pieces, but not all of these reasons apply to all patterns. In the case of William Barber's "Sailor Head" design for the five and ten dollar gold piece, the design appears to have been rejected on technical grounds rather than the appropriateness, convenience, artistic merit, or desirability of his design. Indeed, Mint personnel thought enough of Barber's design to strike both the five and ten dollar coins in gold, rather than the bronze alloy usually seen on high denomination patterns. But it was the striking of these coins in gold that revealed the fatal flaw in William Barber's design: the central obverse and reverse designs were each in too bold relief for both motifs to fully strike up. We see it on this coin over the ear of Liberty on the obverse and on the eagle's right (facing) leg on the reverse. This softness is even more pronounced on the half eagle. Since gold is the softest metal used in the Mint for striking coinage, if two blows from the dies could not fully bring up the design elements, then there was a serious problem with die opposition with this design. It is curious to note that William Barber's son, Charles, who succeeded him at Chief Engraver had an awareness that bordered on a phobia about shallowness of design. Charles' much-publicized antipathy toward outside engravers, such as Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was not based solely on artistic jealousy. Charles Barber understood the concept of die opposition and he was keenly aware of its importance in singly striking a coin for commercial usage with a steam press. One has to wonder how much of this awareness he learned from his father, William, and his unsuccessful pattern coinage from the 1870s.
When Dr. John Wilkison was asked if he considered his collection of gold patterns as an investment also, he answered: "It was both, although my primary motive was to collect something that no one else had." It took Dr. Wilkison thirty years to assemble such a collection, but when it was time to sell he had a collection of 47 United States gold patterns, 35 of them different. As anyone who has been involved in U.S. coins for any length of time knows, it is not a simple matter to "collect something that no one else has." Sets of regular Federal coinage all have key issues that are expensive, but with diligence these coins can be located and the set completed. For a real challenge one needs to veer off the beaten path. Some collectors turn to Civil War tokens, others to obsolete paper money. Dr. Wilkison found his challenge in a decades-long pursuit of gold patterns.
There are two examples, and only two examples, known of Judd-1443. This particular coin was owned by the beer magnate, Virgil Brand, and then it sold out of Brand's estate to William Woodin. Since Waldo Newcomer was Woodin's best customer, it is likely he bought the piece when Woodin's holdings were dispersed. It then passed to Fred Boyd, and Dr. Judd purchased this specimen when Boyd's pattern holdings were sold in the early 1940s. Dr. Wilkison obtained the coin in 1962 along with 20 other gold patterns in exchange for a nearly complete run of gold proof sets from 1858 through 1899, lacking only the 1858 eagle, all the 1875 gold coins, and the 1883 and 1884 double eagles. Apparently, the two Sailor Head patterns were broken up as a set sometime after Paramount bought all of Dr. Wilkison's gold patterns, and they were not reunited again for 11 years until both appeared in Paramount's session of Auction '84. Curiously, the second example of the Judd-1443 has not been seen since the Farouk Sale of 1954. After 51 years, one has to wonder if that coin still exists. It represents a great amount of value to continue to stay off the market. Or could it be in a dusty closet like the Walton 1913 Liberty nickel, unrecognized and unappreciated for its numismatic importance?
Like the half eagle in the previous lot, William Barber's Sailor Head design faces left, surrounded by 13 stars, the date below. The reverse features the same eagle as seen on the twenty cent piece and Trade dollar, a scroll below with IN GOD WE TRUST in raised letters, E PLURIBUS UNUM above, and surrounded at top and bottom by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TEN DOLLARS. Struck in gold with a reeded edge. The fields are deeply reflective with the same light frost on the devices that is seen on the half eagle. A few light hairlines are seen in the fields when closely examined, but there are no mentionable surface defects. Identifiable as the Wilkison piece by several shiny spots on the denticles on the lower reverse, and a light streak of golden-brown patina above the eagle's head. There are also two tiny lint marks, one on each side of the hair ribbon closest to Liberty's head. A magnificent gold pattern, and a singular opportunity to acquire this important piece of 19th century gold.
Ex: William Woodin; F.C.C. Boyd; Dr. J.H. Judd; Abe Kosoff, 1962, Illustrated History, lot 480; Dr. Wilkison, 1973; Paramount, 1976; A-Mark, 1978; Paramount, 1979; Akers' plate coin; Auction '84 (Paramount's session, 7/84), lot 536, in set with $5 Judd-1438, where the pair realized $83,600; Ed Trompeter.
The sale of this pattern is contingent upon the sale of the Judd-1438. The two pieces must realize in excess of $600,000 for the pair; otherwise, both pieces will be returned to the consignor. (NGC ID# 2AC7, PCGS# 61751)
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