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    Description

    1836 First Steam Coinage Medal
    Julian-MT-21, The Very First, MS65 Brown
    Presented to Mint Director Patterson

    1836 First Steam Coinage, Mar. 23, Original MS65 Brown NGC. Julian-MT-21. The centuries old hammer method of coinage was modernized in the middle 16th century with the first working screw press employed in Augsburg, Germany. An advance on the screw press was the lever press, also known as a knuckle-joint press, invented in 1812, and perfected by a Paris machinist named M. Thonnelier two decades later in 1833. Rather than build these presses himself, he sold his drawings and plans to various mints. One of the buyers was U.S. chief coiner Franklin Peale, who was on a two-year tour of Europe, visiting various mints on that continent. The first knuckle-joint coining press in America was built by Merrick, Agnew, and Tyler. A detailed article about the first steam-powered coin press, "Steam Power: A Pressing Issue," by Cathy L. Clark appeared in the March 2000 issue of The Numismatist.

    Unlike the original mint building, the second facility at the corner of Chestnut and Juniper Streets in Philadelphia was designed to utilize steam power. The first steam-powered coining press was expected to debut on February 22, 1836, but a mechanical problem delayed the initial operation until March 23. Sample dies were prepared with the February date, with a few impressions struck on screw presses in anticipation of the event. However, the delayed initial operation meant that those dies were overdated, with MAR 23 engraved over FEB 22. Once all was set, the First Steam Coinage medals were struck on large cent planchets.

    This example is engraved "The Very First" on the edge at 12 o'clock and it was presented to Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson who oversaw the steam coinage developments. He wrote that day to Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury: "I also send, by this mail, some copper pieces struck at the mint today on our new press by steam. They are the first ever struck by this power in America. We must consider this day, therefore, as marking an epoch in our coinage."

    It is fitting that this impressive Gem is offered at the auction of the ANA Convention, since the very same press is displayed today at the museum of the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Brown, violet, and blue appear on both sides of this reflective piece, with bold design motifs. The fields are prooflike. It is our hope that a charitably-minded purchaser will donate or loan this piece to the American Numismatic Association so they can display it alongside the first U.S. steam-powered press.


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

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2014
    5th-9th Tuesday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 29
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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