A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds
News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #158 …..
One of the most famous and interesting of all collections of American coins, and related items, was formed by Eric P. Newman. A small part of this collection will be auctioned Heritage at the CSNS Convention in April. The present discussion concerns pattern, experimental and trial pieces from the Newman Collection that will then be auctioned. For information about other items from this collection that will also be auctioned in April and about Newman himself, please read part 1. (Clickable links are in blue.)
Generally, pieces “from Mr. Newman’s collection have exceptional, original surfaces. They have all been really well cared for,” Scott Schecter emphasizes, “for a long time.” Scott is probably hinting at the fact that the vast majority of Newman’s items have been in his collection for more than forty years and many of Newman’s rarities were in other famous “well cared for” collections in earlier times. Schecter is the vice president of the NGC, a coin collector, and a former coin dealer.
Of the one hundred and sixty or so items in this consignment from Newman’s foundation, the EPPNES, there are one hundred and thirty eight pattern, experimental, fantasy, or trial pieces, which are all termed ‘patterns,’ broadly defined. ‘Patterns’ relate to coins without actually being coins.
I. Designs that were Never Adopted
Among Newman’s patterns, there are many pieces that feature proposed designs that were never adopted for regular U.S. coinage. These tend to be attractive, interesting or otherwise entertaining. Before putting forth my definition of patterns and discussing the meaning and certification of individual pieces, I mention a few of these alternate concepts to provide an impression of one major reason as to why many collectors find that U.S. patterns constitute an exciting realm apart from the domain of regular issue U.S. coins.
In this auction consignment, there is a copper 1863 Two Cent piece and 1866 five cent nickels that feature portraits of George Washington. Furthermore, Newman has an 1870 Three Cent Silver pattern featuring William Barber’s Liberty Seated design, which is much different from the adopted ‘regular’ Three Cent Silver designs and considerably different from the Liberty Seated design on regular issue half dimes and dimes of 1870. This consignment also contains patterns dated 1870 of other denominations, including dimes and a half dollar, which feature this same elegant, Liberty Seated design of William Barber. Newman also has an 1879 Washlady Dime pattern, which exhibits one of the most famous of all proposed designs for U.S. coins.
Many collectors will be attracted to Newman’s 1877 quarter and 1876 silver dollar patterns that each feature the renowned ‘Sailor’s Head’ obverse (front) design. Both of these ‘Sailor’s Head’ patterns were in struck in copper, as was a Sailor’s Head Twenty Cent piece pattern in this same consignment.
An historically important and not so rare pattern is the 1836 One Dollar Gold piece. Newman has one that was actually struck in gold and this issue is the least rare of all gold denomination patterns that were actually struck in gold. Most patterns of gold denominations were struck in copper mostly because copper was (and still is) much less costly than gold. Patterns were not meant to be spent. U.S. Patterns were often distributed to ‘insiders’ in Washington to draw attention to proposals for new coin types.
These 1836 One Dollar Gold denomination patterns were minted thirteen years before the Philadelphia Mint produced regular issue, One Dollar Gold coins. The One Dollar Gold denomination patterns of 1836 have always been very popular, especially since they feature a neat and culturally significant Liberty Cap design.
II. What are Patterns?
Patterns, broadly defined, are coinlike objects stemming from: ideas for new coinage designs, ideas for new denominations, proposals to revive past designs or denominations, testings of dies, experiments in different shapes or alloys, alternate concepts for coins, and/or ideas for modifying the designs of or alloys of then current coin types. Coinlike pieces that were made by an official mint for unknown reasons are often classified as patterns as well.
The Newman Collection contains patterns that fall into most of the just mentioned categories of patterns. I have not yet seen any of Newman’s patterns. All the patterns in this consignment have been certified and encapsulated by the NGC, one of the two leading grading services. All numerical grades and designations mentioned herein are those assigned by experts at the NGC. After these patterns were NGC graded, most (or all?) were submitted to the CAC.
Many of the NGC assigned grades for Newman’s patterns met the criteria employed by CAC experts for each respective, already assigned grade. CAC stickers were thus placed on the respective NGC holders containing the patterns that were approved by experts at the CAC.
III. Strikings with Regular Dies
An 1870 Three Dollar Gold denomination Proof in copper appeals to collectors of patterns, collectors of Three Dollar Gold pieces, and collectors of 19th century Proof coins. Like all the other items in this consignment from Newman’s foundation, this 1870 copper “Three Dollar Gold” denomination pattern is designated as a Proof that grades 65 and has some original mint red color.
As I said in part 1, the “RB” designation indicates that experts at the NGC determined that a piece exhibits a substantial amount of original mint red color. I use the term ‘copper’ to refer to all items that are at least 90% copper.
This Newman group also contains an 1866 Three Dollar Gold denomination piece that was struck in nickel. It is certified as ‘Proof-65’ and is CAC approved. This is not a die trial, as nickel is the hardest of all the metals that were used for U.S. coinage and even a 20% nickel alloy would not have been used to test regular dies for gold coins. While this piece could have been made for collectors, it is not logical to assume, without specific evidence, that it was made for collectors.
Five cent nickels were introduced in 1866 and a variety of alternate designs were seriously considered. The point of this piece may have been to provide an idea as to how a design like that of the Three Dollar Gold piece would look in nickel. Someone viewing this pattern could easily imagine the denomination reading “5 CENTS” rather than “3 DOLLARS” on the reverse (back).
The design of the ‘regular’ Three Dollar Gold piece would have needed to be only slightly changed to become a design for a five cent nickel. Then and over the years since then, there have been coin enthusiasts who honestly felt that design of the Three Dollar Gold piece is more appealing than that of the Shield Nickel, which was adopted for regular coinage in 1866.
Joseph Wharton, the nickel baron of the era, aggressively informed politically influential individuals that Wharton wanted the U.S. Mint to use large quantities of nickel in coinage. Flying Eagle Cents, which date from 1856 to 1858, and Indian Cents struck from 1859 to some point in 1864 are 12% nickel in composition. In the U.S., a coin (not a pattern) is termed a ‘nickel’ if it struck from an alloy of 25% nickel, 75% copper. A coin or pattern that is 12% nickel is traditionally referred to as a “copper-nickel.” A pattern of any alloy that is 20% to 100% nickel would probably be referred to as being of “nickel” by most experts.
During the 1860s, the notion of a one cent nickel was entertained. Indeed, there are several one cent nickel patterns. Newman has an 1865 Indian Cent that was struck in “nickel.” Such a piece is cool and enjoyable to view. The NGC holder indicates that it is “23%” nickel, and thus its nickel content is close to the traditional defining point of “25%.” This nickel 1865 Indian Cent is certified as ‘PF-65’ and is CAC approved.
Newman’s Proof 1869 Indian Cent in aluminum is perhaps even cooler. Not only did experts at the NGC grade it as “68,” they awarded it the coveted ‘Ultra Cameo’ (“UC”) designation regarding the contrast between frosted design elements and relatively darker, mirrored fields. Also, it is CAC approved.
Another high grade aluminum pattern in the Newman Collection was struck with the regular dies for an 1869 Three Cent Nickel. Yes, in terms of regular U.S. coinage, there were Three Cent Nickels before there were five cent nickels. Three Cent Nickels were minted from 1865 to 1889. This 1869 pattern in aluminum is certified ‘PF-67* Ultra Cameo.’ It was awarded a ‘star’ for eye appeal by NGC graders. Though it is CAC approved, experts at the CAC ignore star designations awarded by the NGC and ignore the plus aspects of plus grades sometimes assigned by the NGC or the PCGS.
Newman’s 1869 Shield Nickel in aluminum is highly certified as well, with a CAC sticker, ‘Proof-67 Ultra Cameo.’ Generally, there are a large number of patterns dated 1869 in this consignment. People who collect regular issue U.S. coins from this time period may wish to complement their respective holdings with some unusual additions.
Newman also has a Three Dollar Gold denomination piece that was struck in aluminum, with dies that were or could have been used to strike typical Proof 1869 Three Dollar Gold pieces, in gold of course. This aluminum piece is dated 1869 and is certified as ‘PF-65+ Cameo,’ with a CAC sticker.
In the early 1850s, aluminum was worth more than gold. Due to advances in refining technology, market prices of aluminum fell tremendously from the 1850s to the 1890s. Even so, it was still a relatively expensive metal in 1969 and could then have been logically classified as ‘precious.’
In 1869, it was sensible for U.S. Mint officials to distribute pattern struck in aluminum to influential people in Washington so that they could see how various designs appeared in aluminum and to encourage them to support the idea of an aluminum denomination in U.S. coinage. If any aluminum denomination had become a reality around 1869, it would not have had a face value of three dollars.
If aluminum had been used for regular issue U.S. coinage in the late 1860s or 1870s, it probably would have been used for ten cent, twenty-five cent, and/or half dollar coins. Later in the 19th century, the costs of mining and refining aluminum dropped even more and aluminum was no longer worth enough to be considered for denominations above five cents. For denominations of five cents or below, (25%) “nickel” or (90+%) copper alloys were much more practical than aluminum alloys, for technological, metallurgical and commercial reasons.
An extremely high percentage of all U.S. coins and patterns contain some copper. The four copper One Dollar Gold denomination pieces in the Newman Collection could have been true die trials or may have been made for other reasons: 1865 (Proof-66 RB Cameo), 1870 (PF-65 RB), 1871 (PF-65 RB), and 1876 (PF-65 RB). An 1865 Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold denomination) struck in copper is also included in this consignment. It, too, has a ‘Red & Brown’ designation, “PF-64 RB.”
Newman’s 1878 Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold denomination) pattern in this auction represents an idea for a new design, one that was never adopted. This design is attributed to George Morgan, who designed the Morgan Silver Dollar that was introduced as a regular issue in this same year, 1878. Morgan also designed or co-designed a few U.S. commemorative coins and some U.S. Mint medals.
As an aside, I note that Karen Lee, an associate at the Smithsonian Institution, recently put together a book featuring sketches by George Morgan, including various concepts Morgan had for coin designs. Those who find Morgan’s designs to be very appealing may be thrilled to see the contents of this book.
IV. Morgans that are Not Dollars
Many pattern enthusiasts contend that some of George Morgan’s designs that appear on patterns are much more attractive than the design of the regular issue, Morgan Silver Dollar. This consignment of Eric Newman’s patterns includes several that were designed by George Morgan.
Morgan Dime patterns are curious. There were two subtypes of Morgan Dimes produced in 1879, each has the same obverse design, and the two reverses are mildly different. In each case, pieces were struck in both silver and copper. Rather than being die trials, the copper pieces were probably additional pieces, produced with minimal expense, to advertise such a design as a proposal for regular issue coinage. Copper, then and now, is much less expensive than silver.
The ‘head’ on these dime patterns is similar to the head on regular issue Morgan Silver Dollars, millions of which were produced in 1878 and were widely known by the time that these dime patterns were made in 1879. It was apparent to any ‘insider’ who saw such a silver or copper piece that a Morgan Dime was being suggested.
Newman’s Morgan Dime pattern was struck in copper, is graded 66 and has a ‘RD’ designation, which means that experts at the NGC concluded that it exhibits full or nearly full original mint red color. Evidently, experts at the CAC agree with this ‘RD’ designation.
Of all Morgan patterns that bear resemblance to regular issue Morgan Silver Dollars, the most popular are Morgan Half Dollars. Though Morgan did have additional ideas for half dollar coinage, I am now referring to those pattern halves that feature a head of Miss Liberty that is similar to the Liberty Head on the regular Morgan Silver Dollar. The differences among the varieties of Morgan Half Dollars are hard to explain with just words. To note the differences, it is best to view pictures of these.
Perhaps the most significant of the four such Morgan Half Dollars in this Newman consignment is an 1877 piece that has an obverse (design) that is nearly identical to that of the Morgan Silver Dollar along with an intriguing reverse (back) design that features an eagle and the motto on a shield. While there are other Morgan Half patterns that have similar reverse designs, the overall artistic concept for these is exceptionally distinctive and unlike the reverse designs found on any regular coinage. This particular piece was struck in silver and is certified as ‘PF-67.’ It has a CAC sticker.
Another silver Morgan Half Dollar in this Newman consignment has a reverse design that is appealing, though not nearly as distinctive and elaborate as the reverse design that I just mentioned. This second Morgan Half Dollar pattern, though, is certified as ‘PF-67+.’ Each of these varieties is extremely rare and the total known of all such varieties is not large; Morgan Half patterns are rare as a category, though less rare than many other patterns. It is not too difficult to find one. Would most collectors of Morgan Silver Dollars or ‘regular’ issue Liberty Seated Halves enjoy acquiring a Morgan Half Dollar?
The Morgan Half Dollar patterns of 1879 are not quite as interesting as those of 1877. The eagle on the reverse of these was intended to be simple, perched in a standard position with no shield or ornamentation, and appears uninspired. Of 1879 Morgan Halves, Newman has one of the first such design type in silver (PF-65) and one of the second design type in copper (PF-64 Brown).
Morgan’s proposed Young Liberty Head with hair in a bun design for a “Metric Dollar” is much different from his other designs. The “Metric Dollar” concept never became a reality.
Essentially, the proposal advertised by this particular 1879 pattern called for a “Goloid” dollar that would have been 89.58% silver, 10% copper and 0.42% gold, thus really mostly silver. Patterns of this design were struck in various metals, including aluminum, despite the fact that the silver/gold/copper ratio was stated in the reverse design. Newman’s 1879 piece of this sort was struck in copper and is certified ‘PF-65 RB’ and is CAC approved.
Another Morgan design for a Goloid Metric Dollar features a head of Miss Liberty with Coiled Hair. The “Goloid Metric Dollar” proposal embodied by this pattern called for a much higher percentage of gold, more than ten times as high, 5.43% and for a lower silver percentage, 84.57%.
This Liberty Head motif is very much like the head found on the famous Coiled Hair Four Dollar gold patterns of 1879 and 1880, which are sometimes included in gold type sets of regular issues. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this Miss Liberty with Coiled Hair appears on “Goloid Metric Dollar” patterns in 1879 and 1880. This Newman consignment contains three varieties of these, two in copper and one aluminum, all highly graded. Although I have not seen the Newman pieces, I have seen many Coiled Hair Metric Dollar patterns, over the years, and these are often very pleasing with sharp details, dynamic surfaces, and natural blue toning.
George Morgan’s name is not often mentioned in conjunction with his most famous pattern design. Until I saw the list of items in this consignment, I had forgotten that he was associated with this design concept. Indeed, when the Shield Earring design is mentioned, the name of an artist is not usually stated. Shield Earring quarters, halves and dollars are among the most famous of all U.S. patterns.
Connoisseurs of U.S. coinage and patterns tend to believe that the Shield Earring design has tremendous merit in terms of artistry. In my view, the design is best conveyed on quarters, though many others prefer Shield Earring Half Dollar patterns. All Shield Earring pieces are dated 1882. Newman has a Shield Earring Quarter that was struck in copper. It is certified as ‘PF-66+ Brown’ and has a CAC sticker.
VI. Amazonian Double Eagle
Regarding gold denominations, the most famous U.S. patterns are the Amazonian series. These were minted in 1872. Only one set in gold is known to exist. This Amazonian Gold set was purchased by Ed Trompeter during a Goldbergs-Superior auction in the early 1990s, was later in a noteworthy collection in the South, and entered the Simpson Collection in 2007.
Amazonian patterns of gold denominations were struck in copper and in aluminum as well. This Newman consignment contains an Amazonian Double Eagle ($20 gold denomination) pattern in copper. It is certified ‘PF-65 RB.’
There are many other interesting, rare, popular and/or attractive patterns in the Newman Collection. It is not practical to discuss or even list all of them here. When acquiring patterns, it is not sensible to focus heavily on grades and rarity ratings. It is important to consider the popularity, attractiveness, category, relationship to similar pieces, cultural significance and/or historical meaning of each individual pattern that is being considered.
©2013 Greg Reynolds
Editor’s Note: Because high quality images of most of Newman’s patterns were not ready on March 13, some of the pictures above are of actual items that will be auctioned in April and others are of similar patterns.