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The Fabulous Eric Newman Collection, Part 12: Pre-1793 Patterns for U.S. coins

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #251


A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

The most exciting ‘news’ at the moment is the sale of pre-1793 patterns from the Eric Newman Collection. On Friday, Nov. 14, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Heritage auctioned a large assortment of Newman’s pre-1793 items, U.S. large cents, U.S. gold coins, and pioneer gold coins. Additionally, Newman’s original 1868 ‘experimental’ set of sixteen regular U.S. coin denominations struck in aluminum, brought nearly $140,000 in total, plus $4406.25 for the empty case. The auction total was around $10 million.

As many of the pre-1793 patterns in this event are extremely rare, fascinating, and very much historically important, these are the focus here. Items discussed are serious patterns that were considered as concepts for true coinage in the 1700s and/or are believed by buyers now to have then been patterns. Some patterns embody proposals for coinage that could plausibly have materialized. Others indicate experiments relating to coins that were later minted or could realistically have then been minted. It is also true that some coinlike items dated before 1793 are fantasies and/or restrikes that were made much later.

Indisputably, Eric Newman is best known as a specialist in pre-1793 U.S. and colonial items. A year ago, however, experts were astonished by the quality and depth of his U.S. silver coins dating from 1796 to the 1840s. His world gold coins were impressive, too, the best of which were auctioned in Jan. 2014. The emergence of Newman’s pioneer gold coins was not as surprising, though of interest as well. Some of these will be covered next week.

In terms of U.S. history in general and the history of coin collecting in particular, the two most important items sold, on Nov. 14, 2014, are the 1785 Inimica Tyrannis America /Confederatio Large Cent patterns, ‘America Fiercely Opposes Tyranny’! These are related to, though are much different from, the “Nova Constellatio” – New Constellation of States, Liberty & Justice Coppers that widely circulated from 1785 to 1788. There were prize Nova Constellatio Copper coins in this auction, too.

A literal translation of ‘Inimica Tyrannis America’ would not sound right in English. I honestly believe that my translation is very accurate, ‘America Fiercely Opposes Tyranny.’ The Latin word ‘Inimica’ relates to hostility, opposition and intimidation, yet these concepts have negative connotations in English. ‘Inimica’ in this context refers to a positive, proud, bold and determined opposition to tyranny, which is politically oppressive and/or unethically cruel use of power by a government.

There is historical documentation that the ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ obverse (design) was conceived and advocated by Thomas Jefferson, who was very much involved in political discussions relating to U.S. coinage. The officials of the first U.S. Mint reported directly to Jefferson even before U.S. coinage began in 1793. At first, the U.S. Mint was part of the State Department rather than the Treasury Department. Jefferson was the nation’s first Secretary of State and served at this post from March 22, 1790 to Dec. 31, 1793.

According to the U.S.Treasury Department site, Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, “wanted the Mint to be a structural part of the Treasury, he lost the battle to Jefferson and it was established in 1792 within the State Department.The Mint became an independent agency in 1797 and was eventually transferred to Treasury in 1873”!

Jefferson outlined the ‘Inimica Tyrannis‘ design in coinage proposals that he wrote on May 13, 1785. “An Indian, his right foot on a crown, a bow in his left-hand, in his right-hand thirteen arrows; and the inscription Manus Inimica Tyrannis.” Jefferson added a metaphorical aspect relating to the ‘hands’ of tyranny, which was unnecessary. Translations into English of this longer phrase would be especially awkward.

The ‘Confederatio’ reverse (back) design refers to the Articles of Confederation, the governing system of laws for the United States before the Constitution was adopted. Yet, such a word in Latin on patterns or coins of this era is not just a routine notation; it is more of an announcement or a declaration that the independent former colonies, the States, are now independent members of a federation.

Fierce Opposition to Tyranny!

Regarding 1785 ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ large cent patterns in copper, Newman had both “Large Circle” and “Small Circle” reverse types. According to the Heritage cataloguer, probably Mark Borckardt, there are seven known with the ‘Large Circle’ reverse (back) and eight or nine with the “Small Circle” reverse, although John Agre has counted just seven of the latter. Indisputably, a small number survive and the Newman ‘Large Circle’ piece seems to be the finest known ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ Copper. There may not be any others that have even a claim to a ‘mint state’ (MS) grade.

immunusThis ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ piece is extremely attractive. When I took it out of a box during a lot viewing session, I was stunned. When practical, I view lots to be auctioned before reading the respective catalogue and I put my hand over the labels (‘inserts’) on NGC or PCGS holders, so that I am not biased, even subconsciously, by the views of others regarding specific items. I could hardly believe the item I was examining. Most of the surviving ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ and related ‘Immune (or Immunis) Columbia’ pieces have marked problems or exhibit other irritants.

This Newman Inimica Tyrannis, ‘Large Circle’ pattern is NGC graded MS-63 and does not have a CAC sticker. I graded it as 62, two days in a row. My guess is that it would be CAC approved if it was downgraded to 62 and submitted to CAC. This pattern is especially attractive and has minimal imperfections. It is a wonderful piece.

Unfortunately, there is some noticeable friction on the highpoints. Of course, no one ever ‘spent’ this piece. It was moved around, probably while being stored by collectors over a period of more than two centuries.

Although Jefferson seemed to conceive of the Indian on such a coin as being a man, the figure on the pattern is clearly a female Indian. With one foot standing on a British Crown, she holding a bow and arrow. She seems to personify Liberty as well as ‘America’! The Confederatio reverse (back) design, with stars, is neat, organized and distinct to the United States, an ‘American style.’

Bidding started at a level above $185,000. A New York wholesaler in the back row soon joined the fray. A Heritage Live bidder bid $258,500 (including the “buyer’s fee”). This New York wholesaler declined to bid $282,000. A floor bidder, who I believe is the son of a prominent collector of pre-1793 items, pushed the level above $300,000. He fought with a ‘Heritage Live – Internet’ bidder until he won. The $352,500 realization was strong, though the buyer should be content.

It makes logical sense for this pattern to be worth this much. It is the probable finest known of an historically important pattern that stemmed from the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson. This piece engages the emotions of serious coin collectors.

Even so, few collectors have thought much about ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ pieces, if they have thought about them at all. They are not often ‘in the news.’ If such pieces became more famous, then market prices for these would rise markedly

The Newman Collection, NGC graded MS-63 Clinton Cent pattern brought more, $499,375, on May 15, 2014. A Clinton Cent is clearly a pattern for a New York State Copper and is a little less mysterious than the Confederatio pattern pieces. Yet, this ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ piece is more aesthetically appealing and of greater historical significance. It is also true that the total number of, “Large Circle” and “Small Circle,” Inimica pieces is greater than the total number of surviving Clinton Cent patterns.

The Newman Collection ‘Small Circle’ reverse Inimica Tyrannis large cent pattern is NGC graded VF-30. The difference in quality between these two pieces, however, is much greater than the difference between their respective, certified grades. The ‘Small Circle’ piece has much, very noticeable corrosion, which is not unusual for an 18th century copper coin. Nonetheless, such corrosion may be annoying.

The design elements are sharp and considerably intact. Further, this ‘Small Circle’ Inimica Tyrannis has naturally toned nice shades of brown. The reddish-brown and tan-brown hues are particularly appealing. Experts at NGC may possibly have figured that it has the details of an EF-40 grade coin and downgraded it to 30 because of corrosion. I find it too hard to assign a numerical grade to it, though it is especially attractive for a non-gradable coin. I understand how an expert could regard it as ‘borderline gradable,’ considering its rarity, natural toning, appealing design and historical importance.

Even so, the price realized of $44,062.50 suggests that it is non-gradable, as I just implied. If most relevant experts really graded it as VF-30, it would have realized at least $75,000 at this auction, maybe more than $100,000!

For a coin enthusiast who is unable or unwilling to pay more than $350,000 for the 62 grade Newman Collection, Inimica Tyrannis, ‘Large Circle’ pattern, this ‘Small Circle’ piece would be an exciting addition to a collection. The obverse (front) appears more appealing in actuality than it appears in the catalogue; the Indian figure is fairly clear. Inimica Tyrannis and other Confederatio patterns are intriguing.

More Patterns with the Confederatio Reverse

The ‘Inimica Tyrannis’ obverse die was never used for coins or for other copper patterns, as far as I know. The Confederatio reverse design characterizes just a few patterns of the era. The more often seen ‘Immunis (or Immune) Columbia’ obverse concept was paired with a few different reverse designs.  There are just two or three surviving patterns, however, that mate the ‘Immunis Columbia’ obverse with the Confederatio reverse.

tyannissmstars‘Immunis  (or Immune) Columbia’ is a concept that suggests that the liberty and democracy that characterizes the U.S. immunizes ‘her’ (our nation) from oppressive, manipulative and de-stabilizing political institutions. An accompanying concept is that the political order that solidified after the Revolutionary War could (and still can) withstand poisonous, anti-democratic political movements that may occasionally arise within. The matching of an ‘Immunis Columbia’ obverse with a Confederatio reverse is quite a philosophical statement.

Newman’s Immunis Columbia/Confederatio pattern was in this auction. The obverse is dated 1786 and the reverse is dated 1785. While the conflicting dates may seem weird, collectors of patterns and related items are accustomed to concept pieces that pair two sides that would not belong together in regular coinage. If the designs embodied by such a pairing of dies had been judged desirable and was accepted for true coinage, at least one new die would have been prepared, with a modified design, and each resulting coin would have had just one date, year stated.

Although this piece is NGC graded MS-64, it has some apparent friction on many highpoints. Treated corrosion is a factor, too. Given the rarity, unusual nature and impressive pedigree of this item, the currently assigned numerical grade is of little consequence.

Jacob Giles Morris, Robert Brock and Philip Ward each owned this piece before Newman acquired it and they are all famous figures in the history of coin collecting in the U.S. The price realized of $152,500 for this extraordinarily rare and markedly unusual item seems fair enough. From a logical perspective, it is a much better value than any of the Continental Currency pieces in this auction, most of which realized substantially more.

The most peculiar of the Confederatio patterns is the 1785 large cent pattern that features a portrait of ‘Gen. Washington.’ Patterns featuring this same ‘Gen Washington’ obverse (front) die with a ‘New Jersey Shield’ reverse and also with a “New Jersey Eagle” obverse survive as well.

The facial features are a little inconsistent with the portraits of George Washington that historians tend to regard as being the most photo-realistic. Moreover, Washington did not regard himself as the ‘head of state’ in 1785, and he was always opposed to the idea of having his portrait on coins. Moreover, he had to be pushed to be a candidate for president of the United States. Besides, this is not the only unauthorized Washington pattern for coinage and there were many unauthorized medals.

This “1785” Washington/Confederatio pattern is NGC graded VF-30 and is CAC approved, despite very noticeable treatments of extensive corrosion about at least four letters. Moreover, this pattern seems to have been carelessly minted from poorly prepared dies on a planchet (blank) that lacked integrity. These Washington items could have been pieces that were casually made ‘for fun,’ perhaps to attract attention to the craftsmen and managers of the mint that made these pieces. It was then normal for businessmen and silversmiths to seek contracts for government authorized coinage.

A cataloguer, probably Borckardt, figures that this is the third finest of six or seven known. The three below it on the roster have noticeable problems, too. The $111,625 result is very strong. Other pre-1793 patterns in this sale are considered much more valuable than this Washington/Confederatio.

Washington Coppers of the 1790s

A Getz 1792 Washington large copper item in this sale is said to be a large cent pattern. It is one of a series of Washington pieces that is attributed to Peter Getz. Although Gets may have been seriously seeking a contract to produce coins for the United States, the Getz pieces are best thought of as medals or tokens aimed at attracting attention for Getz or whoever else was responsible for them. This really seems to be a medal commemorating Washington as the first president and the portrayal of him in military uniform reminds people that Washington was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

washingtonpatternThis Newman Collection, Getz copper piece is NGC graded “MS-64” and PCGS might very well assign a 64 grade to it as well, if it is submitted to PCGS in the near future. The price realized of $164,500 is hard to interpret. In my view, collectors of patterns should not pay large sums for “Getz” pieces. Collectors of Washington medals will tend to eagerly seek them.

The PCGS graded MS-64, Norweb Collection, Getz piece of this design was auctioned by Stack’s for $299,000 in 2006. Although I never saw that piece, my tentative impression is that it is regarded as being of significantly higher quality than the Newman piece, which I could not quite grade as MS-64. It is also true that markets for these were at higher levels in 2006. The NGC graded MS-62 Madison Collection piece, though, was auctioned by ANR for $103,500 in 2006 and then for $149,500 in Jan. 2008 when Heritage sold the Madison Collection. Those who regard this Getz piece as a true pattern, rather than a medal as I suggest, probably figured that the $164,500 result for this Newman piece is weak, a below-market outcome.

There are other 1792 Washington Coppers in this auction that are sometimes thought to be patterns. In my view, the Washington tribute pieces that are inscribed, “General of the American Armies” on the reverse, are medals. A Newman Collection, ‘Washington President 1792’ medal, with a plain edge, is NGC graded EF-45 and is CAC approved, which is unsurprising, as its surface quality is impressive. It is unlikely that any relevant expert would regard this medal as being overgraded. It brought $55,812.50.

The next lot, another Washington Copper has the same reverse design and also has an obverse portrait that depicts Washington in military uniform. The letters on the obverse of this one are different, ‘Born Virginia, Feb. 11, 1732.’ As this seems to be clearly a medal, it seems logical to conclude that the very similar, just mentioned ‘Washington President 1792′ piece is a medal, too.

This “Born Virginia’ medal is NGC graded MS-65 and CAC approved. If it was really minted in 1792, it is amazingly well preserved. Other than having been subjected to light brushings, it is very much original and there are minimal abrasions, certainly a gem quality medal. The $82,250 price realized should be analyzed by specialists in Washington medals and tokens.

So called “Roman Head Cents” relate to George Washington as well. The purpose and meaning of the 1792 “Roman Head” pieces are unknown and these should not be accepted as patterns. They are medals or tokens, which were probably amusing in the 1790s. Washington detested the Roman Emperors of ancient times and probably did not appreciate this piece. Did he know about it?

Yes, a “CENT” denomination, an American style Eagle and Washington’s name all appear on each “Roman Head” Copper. Even so, these are unlike any other pattern of the time period and they are attributed to a designer-engraver in England who had already produced more typical Washington pieces, with portraits that actually resembled George Washington.

In any case, Newman’s “Roman Head” piece has a very noteworthy pedigree: Bushnell, Parmelee and Col. Green. It is NGC certified as ‘Proof-65-Red & Brown,’ though I am convinced that it is not a Proof and it is best described as ‘Brown,’ rather than as ‘Red & Brown.’

The obverse fields are mildly reflective at best. The dentils ‘flow’ as they tend to do on a business strike, rather than seeming to ‘rest on’ the fields as dentils tend to appear on Proofs. This piece was struck just once and the outer design elements are in very low relief. The borders were very poorly executed. Incorrectly, all of these Roman Head Coppers seem to be regarded at PCGS as Proofs.

As for the $102,812.50 result, this seems to be a market price for a 64 grade Roman Head. One likely possibility is that relevant bidders graded this piece as 64, as I did, rather than as 65.

In Aug. 2011, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS certified ‘65-Brown’ Roman Head for $161,000. In 2010 and 2011, Stack’s and Heritage, respectively, auctioned PCGS certified ‘64-Brown’ Roman Head pieces for around $100,000 each.

Immune Columbia Patterns

Newman had an NGC graded EF-45, and CAC approved, “1785” Immune Columbia obverse, Nova Constellatio reverse, ‘pattern’ copper. I am not commenting upon its grade. Although the cataloguer implies that there could be as many as twenty known, I am aware of only a few, some of which are awful. Also, this piece did or should have commanded a premium due to its awe-striking pedigree. Charles Bushnell, Thomas Warner, John Mills and Waldo Newcomer all formed very famous collections. The $49,937.50 result seems sensible and logical.

immuniscolumbia2The 1786 Immunis Columbia obverse, “New Jersey Shield” reverse issue is sometimes collected as a regular issue, New Jersey Copper. In my view, these fall into the category of patterns, broadly defined, which includes experiments and fantasy pieces, among other items. In any event, the Newman piece is NGC graded MS-62 and grades AU-58, in my view, maybe. Though it has the details of an AU-55 grade coin, it has an exceptional overall appearance, almost as soothing as a MS-64 grade piece of this type would be, if one exists. This Immunis/Shield pattern is more than attractive. It brought $141,000, a strong price.

The Immune Columbia obverse, Nova Constellatio reverse pieces in silver are neat, somewhat like large cents made of silver! Newman’s piece is NGC graded AU-53. Although this piece has some substantial problems, it is superior to the Earle-Craige pattern that Stack’s-Bowers auctioned in March 2013, which was very much non-gradable. The Earle-Craige piece brought $64,625.

The Newman piece went for $135,125 on Nov. 14, 2014, a strong price. I was expecting a result of around $100,000, if that much. Market prices for such items were a little higher in March 2013 and this is a somewhat obscure item.

New York State Patterns

Patterns for New York State coinage are popular. A 1786 “Non Vi Virtute Vici” piece that is said to depict George Washington is rare and significant. Could it be George Clinton who is pictured? Clinton was a brigadier general during the Revolutionary War and then became Governor of New York.

newyorkpatternIn any event, the point of the obverse inscription seems to be that the United States was founded on sound philosophical principles not by power-seeking, particularly violent rebels. The words on the reverse tie this piece to New York State. This pattern is NGC graded VF-25 and CAC approved. The $38,187.50 result is strong, as even $33,500 would be a retail price.

A “transposed arrows” 1787 New York Excelsior Copper is of an extremely rare variety that is only subtly different from less rare varieties. Though graded AU-50, this piece exhibits an abundance of mint-caused imperfections; it almost seems as though it was struck on a diseased planchet (blank). Further, there is some corrosion and undesirable green matter. Even so, it said to be the finest known of this famous, “transposed arrows” variety and the cataloguer lists just six of these! The $67,562.50 paid could have been better spent on other items in this sale.

Many collectors like the New York Copper patterns with the standing Indian on the obverse and an artistic rendition of the New York State Coat of Arms on the reverse. Just fourteen are known and this is the second finest, privately owned representative, the cataloguer suggests. This piece is NGC graded AU-50 and CAC approved. Most relevant experts are probably satisfied with the assigned 50 grade, which could not be controversial. The $88,125 result was unsurprising, though perhaps a little weak.

This was a good value for the buyer, in my view. Of the same variety, the Eliasberg piece would probably be valued above $400,000 in 2014, maybe even much more! The non-gradable Ted Craige piece brought more than $55,000 in March 2013.

The next lot is a pattern with the same standing Indian obverse and an eagle on a globe on the reverse. Though this piece is NGC graded EF-40, it really should not have been numerically graded; there has been too much done in the fields. It is even rarer, though, than the just mentioned, standing Indian, New York Copper coin pattern. It made more sense, though, to pay $88,125 for that one than $49,937.50 for this one.

Continental Currency Pieces

The substantial sums paid for Continental Currency pieces in this sale have already been reported. Evidently, there are at least two people who are seriously collecting these by alloy and die variety. It is difficult to analyze the prices realized for the extremely rare varieties. The ‘mint state’ pewter pieces seemed to bring moderate to slightly strong prices.

Price levels for Continental Currency pieces reached on Nov. 14, 2014, seem only slightly higher, if higher, than the price levels attained when related Continental Currency pieces were auctioned over the past six years. Similar price levels were attained on July 31, 2009, when rare coin markets in general had then risen just slightly after bottoming out in April 2009. It is noteworthy, however, as collector Alan Weinberg publicly emphasizes, that market prices for Continental Currency pieces have increased dramatically over the past twenty years.

Importantly, there is not significant historical evidence that Continental Currency pieces are patterns or coins, and no evidence that they were really made in 1776. Many of the other Newman Collection pre-1793 items from the May 15, 2014 and Nov. 14, 2014 auctions are more interesting and probably have greater historical significance.

John Kraljevich declares that Benjamin Franklin “penned the first political [drawing] to appear on Continental money, the ‘We Are One’ linked chain on the February 1776 issue of fractional Continental Currency” (ANA, The Numismatist, April 2008, p. 73). The primary imagery that appears on the so called Continental Currency dollars or patterns can be found on these same Continental Currency paper money notes. Kraljevich also states that hundreds of thousands of these Continental Currency paper notes, with such symbols, were distributed in 1776.

According to Newman himself, “Since the Continental Currency [metal piece] designs are copied from the fractional paper money, it is possible that the cuts for the paper money were made by the same person who cut the dies for the” Continental Currency pewter pieces (Newman, 1959, p. 917, reprinted in the May 2014 auction catalogue). Of course, it is possible, yet this is a shallow argument. Any talented engraver could have copied the designs from such paper money and engraved dies for fantasy pieces that masquerade as coins.

In 1952, Newman said, in an academic paper, that “Elbridge Gerry” might be the engraver and, in 1959, Newman said that Elisha Gallaudet probably engraved the dies. The initials “E.G.,” however, could be for a code name, be a mis-representation, or refer to any of thousands of other people with the same initials. It did not take that much talent to copy someone else’s work and engrave dies, during eras when there were a large number of silversmiths and many screw presses around for medals, tokens, ‘storecards,’ and other purposes. Before 1850, many more people were qualified to engrave metal, with their hands and basic tools, than would be qualified to so now. Besides, if a maker and seller of medals is seeking to mislead people into thinking that the medals being offered are of great historical significance, he might place the initials of a relevant engraver in the past on one of the dies.

Newman admits that there is no historical documentation of these Continental Currency pieces. I point out that an abundance of letters and documents survive relating to the activities of the founding fathers in the mid 1770s, including tens of thousands of pages relating to the activities of the Continental Congress.

In March 2013, in an article on the Garrett-Perschke Quint, I pointed out that, “ On Sept. 2, 1776, a committee on gold and silver coinage provided its report to the Continental Congress. It seems that Thomas Jefferson was the leader of this committee, or the most influential member. He wrote the report, literally, in his own handwriting, and compiled a chart that was featured in the report. … A version of this report was entered into the Journal of the Continental Congress.” I read the original text, including scans of documents written by ‘Jefferson’s hand.’

Private and public letters written by the founding fathers about coinage and paper money survive. Moreover, there was much discussion, detailed in surviving documents, relating to suggestions and proposals in the Continental Congress concerning coinage and paper money. If one dollar coins, or even being pennies, were being considered by the Congress then, or if patterns for official Continental Currency coinage had been minted in 1776 or later, such topics would have been mentioned in multiple documents. During the 1770s, there were no official patterns for U.S. coins and there is not evidence of unofficial patterns either.

It is clear that a professor in England saw one pewter “Continental Currency” piece before 1786, probably before 1785. So, someone somewhere engraved dies to make at least one piece before 1785; it is a stretch to assume that the more than 500 Continental Currency pieces that survive now were all minted before 1785 or that the piece that this professor saw was struck from the same pair of dies as those that people collect now.

Richard Watson was a very famous professor and his books were widely read. A reader could have been inspired to have dies engraved and make some “Continental Currency” pieces at a later time.

The symbols on the currently known, Continental Currency “patterns” were probably copied from Continental paper money at times much later than 1776. Also, dies that were made before 1786 could have been used at later times by unknown individuals for their own reasons, which might have been legitimate, like, possibly, producing souvenirs in 1801 on the 25th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, or in 1826 on the 50th anniversary.

Ending Thoughts

A few concluding thoughts come to mind. The Immunis Tyrannis and Immunis (and Immune) Columbia patterns are fascinating. New York State patterns for copper coins are unusually interesting. Not so wealthy collectors may acquire many different New Jersey and Connecticut Coppers. Indeed, well circulated representatives of some New Jersey and Connecticut design types are very inexpensive. Truly gradable, circulated Nova Constellatio Coppers are often overlooked by colonial enthusiasts, are historically significant, and are excellent values in the current market environment for collectors who seek pre-1793 coins.

©2014 Greg Reynolds

Addendum (on Dec. 14, 2014): Response to Alan Weinberg’s assertion that “Getz Patterns” are accepted!

While I appreciate his comments and I am often impressed by Alan’s great enthusiasm for coins, history and the coin collecting community, I cannot now devote an article to Getz or to pre-1800 Washington items. Here are some basic points, which I hope to demonstrate in the future:

1). There is no evidence that Peter Getz engraved any dies, and it is unlikely that he would have copied someone else’s designs, as has been supposed.

2). As far as I know, there is no surviving evidence that Robert Morris and Peter Getz ever communicated about coinage or that Morris ever hired him.

3). Much of the information connecting Getz to Washington “patterns” stems from hearsay and speculation. (See Dickeson 1859-60 and Crosby 1875.) The stories and rumors can be explained by an analysis of the perspectives and values of people of the time period. For decades after the Revolutionary War, a large percentage of U.S. citizens in major cities claimed that a member of their respective families had some connection to George Washington. Few such stories were true, even though the people telling such stories about their relatives often honestly believed in the Washington connections.

4). There is evidence that Getz, a talented silversmith and inventor, sought to supply items to the Philadelphia Mint for his own business purposes or just for self-promotion. (See Barton 1813.) It is unlikely that Getz developed any patterns and it is unlikely that he desired a full-time job at the Philadelphia Mint. Getz was a versatile silversmith and there are logical reasons to believe that he then had ambitious plans for his private business activities.

5) In 1791 and 1792, the U.S. was flooded with Washington copper pieces, most of which had a very similar portrait of Washington, in military uniform, on the obverse. Although it is not clear what these were, some did circulate as money, partly because there was a shortage of small change. There are reasons to conclude that these were not patterns. Even if mints in England were seeking contracts for coinage, mint officials in England would have assumed that the U.S. government would send them designs or ideas for designs. In any event, it is rather far-fetched that the U.S. would ask British Mints to produce U.S. coins, given the hostility between the two nations. The “War of 1812“ was to occur around twenty years later, during which the British burned the White House and much of Washington, DC.

©2014 Greg Reynolds





Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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  1. I disagree with a few of the opinions expressed above. The 1792 Peter Getz-designed Washington cent in MS-64 has always been regarded as a pattern, as is its silver counterpart. It was overgraded due to obv left field lengthy pin scratches and a really prominent ugly large arcing planchet cutter mark on the obv, almost touching the `1792 date. As such, the price realized was certainly not weak.

    As to the ” Non Vi Virtute Vici” Washington piece selling at a “strong” retail price of $38.1K and the ex. rare Transposed Arrows piece at $67.5K “better spent on other items elsewhere in the sale”, these two pieces sold to the most savvy colonial dealer/collector in the hobby, a NYC resident who much prefers not to act as an auction agent- he was bidding for resale. So he can hardly be thought to have paid too much or made a judgement mistake on where to place his money.

    • 1) I respond to the point about supposed “Getz Patterns” in an addendum to the article above.

      2). I indicate in the main body of the article above that I personally found the “Getz” piece in question to be overgraded. Nonetheless, as I said, it is likely that experts at PCGS would grade it as MS-64, as experts at NGC did. It is unfair for Alan to suggest that I did not accurately interpret this piece.

      3). The dealer indirectly cited by Alan Weinberg was using three or four bidder numbers at the sale, thus suggesting that he was bidding for others, not just for himself, as Weinberg implies. Furthermore, even with just one bidder number, a dealer may bid for multiple people. Moreover, as is explained in my article on ‘What are Auction Prices,’ a dealer may have a customer in mind for a coin offered at auction and calculate the likelihood of that customer buying the coin for a given price. Besides, Alan is missing the point that there are collectors, and sometimes dealers as well, who, for various reasons, are willing and able to knowingly pay strong prices for specific items at auctions. A wealthy collector who strongly desires a coin is often willing pay an above-market price for it.

      4). I spent considerable time analyzing prices realized for New York “VIRTUTE VICI” coins and the overall prices for pre-1793 items in this particular auction. In my estimation, $27,500 would have been a moderate price for the Newman “Small Head” and I stand by my remarks above regarding the result on Nov. 14, 2014.

      5). While the strength of that price is a fact, I indicated that my remark about the value of the 1787 “Transposed Arrows” NY Excelsior Copper is an opinion. I did NOT assert that the $67,562.50 result was strong. I believe that Alan knows that this is a problem-ridden item and the same amount could have been used to buy multiple, pleasing pre-1793 items in this same sale. Also, at this point, I am far from convinced that this Newman piece is of higher overall quality than the Stickney, Jenks, Garrett and Norweb pieces of the same variety, as the catalogue editor claims.

      In any event, Alan Weinberg is one of the most dedicated, accomplished and enthusiastic collectors of pre-1793 numismatic items. I appreciate his interest in my articles and opinions. I am sorry that I did not promptly reply.

      ©2014 Greg Reynolds


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PCGS Set Registry

L and C COIN Specials

Blanchard and Company Gold and Precious Metals