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Unique Coins – Jeremiah Snow III Regulated Gold Brazilian 1744 Rio Mint 6400 Reis ($8)

Significant Jeremiah Snow III Regulated gold 1744 6400 Reis Courtesy of the Stacks Bowers Rarities Night Catalog as Lot 1008

An incredibly significant offering in the field of United States regulated gold coinage representing the unique survivor of this distinct touchmark. The surfaces display rich yellow and honey-gold coloration, with traces of deep burgundy patina in the protected areas. Any notable abrasions have long worn into the patina, including thin marks near the center of each side and a trace of moved metal in the upper right reverse field.

The circumference has been uniformly clipped down to the denticles, trimmed from 32mm to 30mm, and the original edge device replaced by rudimentary reeding. A massive plug protrudes from the central obverse, conveying a heft and presence to this piece that is well perceived in-hand. The plug is less dramatic but still obvious at the central reverse, having been hammered level with the fields and showing somewhat ragged edges.

Each end of the central plug features the characters IS punched within a rectangular cartouche, with a bold period suspended above the lower serif of the S. The mark on the obverse is nicely centered and tilted upward relative to the portrait of King John V. Its prominent placement has caused most of the S to wear smooth, save for the lower serif.

The reverse mark is well positioned but inverted 180 degrees and doubled, having been punched first to the north then corrected to the south. Wear and distortion from their very application has left the punches slightly obscured, though their identification as the characters IS remains certain. We have not discovered a perfectly congruent match to the punch displayed on this piece, though current research leads us to Massachusetts goldsmith Jeremiah Snow III, whose I.SNOW touchmark transcends coincidence in similarity.

At a modern weight of 214.6 grains, or 8 dwt 23 grains, the present piece is masterfully aligned to the 216 grain, or 9 dwt, standard for a “half joe” that rose to prominence around the time of the American Revolution and would remain the standard, with a few exceptions, up through the establishment of the U.S. Mint in 1792. We first encounter this standard of 216 grains at a valuation of $8 proposed by the New York Chamber of Commerce in August 1770, representing a weight reduction from the established standard of 221 grains that had governed Colonial commerce.

Founded by a group of twenty influential New York City merchants in 1768, the Chamber of Commerce was soon granted a royal charter by King George III in 1770 and became a major force in the New England economy over the following decades. The first president of the New York Chamber of Commerce, Isaac Low, went on to serve in the First Continental Congress in 1774 and was perhaps influential in the decision of the Second Continental Congress to adopt the 216 grain standard in April 1776, institutionalizing it as the accepted value throughout the Colonies. Working most prolifically throughout this era, Jeremiah Snow III would have been acutely aware of these changes in valuation and this piece reflects his adherence to this new weight standard.

The significance of this particular specimen is exemplified by its inclusion in two of the most important collections of countermarked gold coinage ever assembled. It was first offered as part of the sale of the incredible John J. Ford, Jr. Collection of West Indian Cut and Countermarked Coins, presented by Glendining’s in October 1989. Though more widely known for his United Stated and related coins, tokens, and medals, Ford assembled a comprehensive collection of countermarked coinage over the middle portion of the 20th Century, acquiring some pieces directly from Europe in the 1940s and obtaining many others as part of the F.C.C. Boyd Estate in the 1950s. The present example was offered in lot 267 of the 1989 Glendining’s sale, placed under the heading of “Miscellaneous and North America” but denied a specific regulator. The cataloger references an IS punch associated with the island of St. Vincent in Ralph Gordon’s seminal 1987 reference, though admits there is no resemblance to the current mark. Called “very rare,” this piece earned a strong bid of £3,400 against a high estimate of £2,000.

It would be another two decades before this piece emerged onto the market once again, this time as part of the historic Edwards Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold. Featuring 73 examples of U.S. regulated gold coinage, it was an unprecedented display of metalworking from the American Colonies including six specimens from the famed New York regulator Ephraim Brasher. In cataloging this piece, researcher John Kraljevich suggests Boston silversmith Joseph Smith (died 1789) as the potential regulator, though admits that “the identity of the maker is far from certain.” He goes on to call it “an exciting piece, undoubtedly unique on this a regulator,” and nearly a decade later this distinction remains the same.

Our current attribution of Jeremiah Snow III as the present regulator builds upon nearly thirty years of examination and research into the fabric of this significant gilded relic. Up until recently, the oeuvre of silversmithing, goldsmithing, and swordsmithing featuring the I.SNOW touchmark had been assigned to a single personality with the name of Jeremiah Snow who was working in the mid-to-late 18th Century. However, we now know that this vast catalog of wares is attributable to at least three distinct individuals, all of the Jeremiah Snow namesake. Our regulator, Jeremiah Snow III (born 1735), falls in the middle of this dynasty, having inherited the trade of metalworking from this father, Jeremiah Snow, Jr. (born ca. 1705), who was working around Boston as a gold and silversmith as early as 1736. A number of tablespoons survive that are attributed to the elder Snow, produced circa 1760s and displaying several deviations of the I.SNOW mark, some substituting the I for a J, others using a colon instead of a period between the characters.

The present goldsmith, Snow III, is thought to have borrowed many of these same marks from his father, whom he apprenticed under circa 1749. He spent most of his career working in the western Massachusetts town of Springfield, where he was identified as a goldsmith as early as 1759. Springfield was settled at the intersection of four rivers and became a significant trade route between the cities of New York, Albany, Boston, and Montreal. It was the bustling commerce between these metropolises that would have brought this very piece to the shop of Jeremiah Snow III for the aforementioned adjustments. He went on to have a son, Jeremiah Snow IV (born 1764), that continued in the trade of metalworking through the early 19th Century, usually employing the J.SNOW mark on his wares.

Though Snow III is known by a number of tablespoons and teaspoons, his I.SNOW mark is most closely tied to the patriotic spirit of early America through the production of hundreds of swords both before and during the American Revolution. Utilizing Spanish blades imported via the West Indies, Snow III manufactured swords featuring a hilt of his own design, at times stamping the underside with the touchmark seemingly echoed on the present piece. It is during this Revolutionary era that this piece would have entered the Springfield, MA shop of Jeremiah Snow III for regulation, and it evidently went on to serve many years afterwards as an essential lubricant of commerce throughout the early United States.

The present specimen remains an important artifact of this foundational era; a unique and pedigreed representative of this IS mark whose brethren have been lost to history. For advanced collectors of U.S. Regulated Gold coinage, this offering is of monumental significance.

Provenance: Ex Glendining’s sale of the John J. Ford, Jr. Collection of West Indian Cut and Countermarked Coins, October 1989, lot 267; Heritage’s sale of the Edwards Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold, August 2010, lot 21328.

This is the only known coin to feature this IS countermark.

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