1942 Experimental Glass Cent, PR64
1942 1C Experimental Glass Cent, Judd-2069, RB 42-70, R.8, PR64
PCGS. Like most wartime experimental alloy cents, the obverse
was modeled after the Columbian two centavos, and the reverse
adopted a simple James Longacre wreath surrounding UNITED STATES
MINT in the center of that side. Struck in glass with a plain edge.
Manufactured by the Blue Ridge Glass Company of Kingsport,
Tennessee, from tempered, yellow-amber transparent glass. Only one
other piece is known, but it is broken in half.
Judd-2069, RB 42-70
Sole Unbroken Piece Known
During 1942 the U.S. Mint was searching for a substitute for copper used in the common cent. Copper was a critical war material and the War Production Board refused to allocate enough to the Mint to make cents for the next year. The Mint Bureau began internal experiments that eventually led to adoption of zinc coated steel for the 1943 coins. But the Mint also invited private companies to test various types of plastic in the event metals were not available.
The experiments were publicized in trade magazines, and officials at the Blue Ridge Glass Company asked to participate. The Mint had a pair of used dies sent from Colt Manufacturing Co., one of the plastics experimenters, and Blue Ridge obtained tempered glass "blanks" (or "preforms") from Corning Glass Co.
Blue Ridge had considerable difficulty making glass 1942 sample coins. For impressing a design into glass, both glass and the dies had to be very hot -- just below glass melting temperature -- then the glass had to cool quickly to preserve design detail. But Blue Ridge was not able to heat the die, and the resulting experimental cents were softly detailed and had many minute surface imperfections. Blue Ridge described their process and results in a six-page report, which has been preserved among U.S. Mint documents in the National Archives.
The present 1942 glass experimental piece is the only intact example discovered in nearly 75 years since the experiments. Although glass was never used for emergency U.S. coinage, this piece represents a unique artifact of the ingenuity and determination of Mint officials and private industry.
The yellow-amber tempered glass disc was made using compression molding, using hot glass with cold steel dies. Blanks, or "preforms," used were slightly larger and thicker than normal one cent pieces. All pieces were manually smoothed on the edge. Thus, weight and dimensions will vary slightly from one specimen to another. The designs are noticeably softer than those seen on plastic or metal examples. The surfaces have irregular glass flow patterns as well as micro cracks and crazing of the surfaces, as described by the Blue Ridge report of December 8, 1942. (PCGS# 12255)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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