Rare Coin Auctions: Stack’s Bowers to Offer 1942 Experimental Cent at 2016 ANA World’s Fair of Money

By James McCartney, Numismatist & CatalogerStack’s Bowers …..

The years during and surrounding World War II were an era of inventiveness and ingenuity among manufacturers in the United States, the result of shortages that threatened the availability of previously abundant raw materials. The U.S. Mint was not spared from this rationing, and in 1942 it began a search for materials to substitute for copper in the Lincoln cent, as copper was among the most valuable metals to the wartime effort.

Independent manufacturers submitted samples of proposed substitutes, which included various metal alloys, plastics and even glass. Though the Mint ultimately decided to utilize zinc-coated steel for the 1943 cents, durability testing performed on plastic samples by the National Bureau of Standards (NSB) allowed insight as to how some of these materials might have performed if they had been chosen.

It is one of these plastic pieces, Judd-2062, Pollock-4045, that will be featured in our August 2016 Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Anaheim.

Called “reddish brown plastic” by Pollock, variegated cinnamon and deep mahogany hues paint each side of this experimental cent. Though the pulp filler delivers a lightly fibrous texture, the piece remains glossy overall. The previously severed halves have been neatly united, with just the faintest traces of glue residue visible under magnification. Calculated marks are spotted at 12, three, six and nine o’clock on the reverse–likely positioning marks from the NSB tests–and the characters E-1 are engraved in the upper field.

As quoted by Roger Burdette in United States Pattern & Experimental Pieces of WW-II (2012), the NSB report presented to the Bureau of the Mint on December 22, 1942 notes that specimens provided by Durez Plastics and Chemicals, Inc. were given the sample designation E, alluding to the provenance of the present example. The same report outlines an Impact Strength Test in Table 9 that evaluates a specimen “1” from sample E, employing an Izod-style test that strikes specimens until fracture. Without much imagination, it could be suggested that the present “E-1” example was severed in this U.S. Government-regulated evaluation.

Burdette also plates this piece on page 171 in the aforementioned work where he notes that 50 to 100 samples of the RB 42-57 type were sent to the Mint, and at least a dozen were provided to NBS for testing. This intriguing piece offers a narrative transcending that of some more conventionally significant coins. It will be desirable for both pattern and World War II enthusiasts!

This important experimental piece will be offered alongside other treasures in our August 2016 Anaheim ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction. To consign your rarities to this showcase event, please contact our offices today at 1-800-458-4646 to speak with a Consignment Director and see what Stack’s Bowers Galleries can do for you.

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