By Hubert Walker for Coinweek ….
Stack’s Bowers, the official auctioneer for the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, will hold its next Rarities Night Auction of U.S. Coins on November 3. The 196 lots up for offer consist of a variety of lustrous, rare and conditionally rare examples of almost every classic American coin ever produced – including (but not limited to) silver dollars, all denominations of gold and classic commemoratives. There are even a few mint errors, territorial gold coins and Confederate restrikes available.
But a spectacular set of four pattern coins really caught our eye…
Lot 2189: 1882 Pattern Liberty (“V”) Nickel
- Judd-1690, Pollock-1892. Rarity-5. Nickel. Plain Edge. Proof-66 (PCGS)
- NGC Census: 4 (none finer in this category)
You may not be able to buy a 1913 “V” nickel, but why not try for an 1882?
This pattern, struck a year before the first regular-issue Liberty nickel, features more or less the same design except for a subtle difference in the placement of the stars on the obverse. The reverse is the NO CENTS type of 1883 that some people famously tried to pass off as five dollar coins until the Mint added the word “CENTS” under the Roman numeral “V” about a quarter of the way through production.
Lot 2189’s best feature is its strike; both sides are sharp and strong. The strike creates a nice contrast between the motifs and the field, giving the sides an amount of reflectivity. Some silver and pink coloration on the coin adds to the appeal of this already-popular pattern.
Lot 2190: 1861 Pattern Half Dollar (“GOD OUR TRUST”)
- Judd-277, Pollock-326. Rarity-7-. Silver. Reeded Edge. Proof-65 Cameo (NGC)
- NGC Census: 2 (both Cameo)
- PCGS Population: 1 Proof-65 Cameo
One major difference distinguishes this 1861 Seated liberty pattern half dollar from the regular issue released that same year. 1861 saw the resumption of the Variety 1 No Motto half dollar last issued in 1853, though the weight was still decreased to 12.44 grams. The U.S. Mint produced this type until 1866, when the national motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” was added to the reverse.
However, as this specimen attests, the Mint considered putting a version of the motto on a coin three years prior to its official debut on the 1864 two-cent piece. In a scroll on the reverse, above the eagle’s head and below the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, is the motto “GOD OUR TRUST”. It was prepared in December of 1861 to see how best to incorporate the new motto on our nation’s coinage and represents its very first use on pattern half dollars (later patterns followed in 1862 and 1863).
Lot 2190 is also a representative of the Pollock-326 variety, which is one of two obverse dies used for this pattern. In Pollock-326, the point of Liberty’s shield falls slightly to the right of the “1” in 1861 on the obverse. The other die, Pollock-328, has the shield point falling on the left side of the “8”; copper varieties exist for both dies – Pollock-327 and 329, respectively.
Possibly fewer than 12 specimens of this particular pattern variety still exist.
This coin has a nice Cameo finish with dark fields and gentle amber toning on the motifs. The toning around the rim is especially rich. The strike on both sides is also excellent.
The Seated Liberty coinage of Mint Chief Engraver Christian Gobrecht has a devoted following, so this Gem quality Proof-65 pattern should find an appreciative home rather quickly.
Lot 2191: 1879 Pattern Morgan Half Dollar
- Judd-1601, Pollock-1796. Rarity-6+. Silver. Reeded Edge. Proof-66 Deep Cameo (PCGS). CAC
- PCGS Population: 2 (none finer in this category)
A Morgan half dollar – do we have to say anything else?
Lot 2191 is a pattern half dollar from 1879 using basically the same portrait of Liberty that George T. Morgan designed for the legendary Morgan silver dollar. Indeed, the obverse is practically the same.
There’s a dramatic difference on the reverse. Instead of the eagle with wings spread upward that we’re all familiar with, the half dollar pattern features an eagle with wings open but pointing down. It still grips three arrows in his right talon and a sprig of olive in its left. The eagle appears larger than the dollar eagle, leaving no room for a vegetal wreath. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST is broken up into three parts that wrap around the bottom and sides of the eagle.
And beyond the obvious appeal of the Morgan design, this particular specimen displays an incredible Deep Cameo. It’s a popular pattern, and this is a beautiful example.
Lot 2191: 1879 Pattern Morgan Dollar (Judd-1616 in Copper)
- Judd-1616, Pollock-1812. Rarity-7-. Copper. Reeded Edge. Proof-66 RB (PCGS)
- PCGS Population: 4 (none finer in this category)
Finally, the last United States pattern coin in Stack’s Bowers’ Rarities Night auction is lot 2192, an 1879 Morgan Dollar pattern in copper. Once more, we have an obverse that is the same as George Morgan’s dollar design and a reverse with a different version of the eagle. On the copper dollar, the eagle holds a more dynamic pose than on the half dollar pattern but its open wings still point down. Its body leans somewhat to the viewer’s right. Clutched in its… clutches… are the familiar three arrows and olive sprig, but they’re larger (each one spanning over half the coin’s surface) and obscured by the the wings.
Morgan created the alternative reverse design due to criticism of the regular issue eagle. Patterns in both copper and silver were produced so the Mint could better decide whether to change reverses or not. Clearly they didn’t, but thanks to the complainers we now have these interesting “What If?” coins, of which less than a dozen are known in each metal.
As for color, the coin isn’t so much coppery in appearance as it is a greenish gold. Smatterings of blue, orange and wine-colored violet can be found on the reverse, specifically on the eagle’s head, breast and left wing.
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The Stack’s Bowers Rarities Night Auction is Session Three of their seven-session Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo official auction, which runs from November 2nd through the 4th. Internet-only sessions follow on November 9th and 10th.