Heritage will offer by far the finest known example of the extremely rare Lord Baltimore copper pattern denarium/denarius or penny coinage in the upcoming January 7 – 12 FUN US Coins Signature Auction in Orlando.

The Lord Baltimore coinage of Maryland occupies an important position in the very early coinage of America’s Colonial era. They were the first struck overseas for North America during the Colonial period, and they were also the first circulating portrait coinage in America. The Sommer Islands or Bermuda Hogge money of 1616 was the first struck by an English colony in the New World, but the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s New England and Pine Tree, Oak Tree, and Willow Tree coinages were the first Colonial issues struck in what would later become the United States, roughly contemporaneous with the Lord Baltimore coinage, made sometime from 1659 to 1661.

Lord BaltimoreLord Baltimore coinage denominations included the denarius/denarium (penny) copper patterns, along with silver threepence, groats (fourpence), sixpence, and shillings (twelvepence), struck at London’s Tower Mint (or by employees thereof at its facilities) at the behest of Lord Baltimore for shipment to and use in Maryland.

The denarium or penny coins struck in copper were strictly a pattern issue. A 1671 account of Maryland commerce mentions only “groats, sixpences, and shillings … which his Lordship at his own expense caused to be coined” along with barter and English and other foreign coins as the principal means of exchange. The denarium patterns are also surpassingly rare in any grade; only six or seven examples survive today, two of those in museum collections.

(more) The obverse features a bust of Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, facing left with long, well-groomed hair, the Latin legend CAECILIVS DNS TERRAE MARIAE &C around, meaning “Cecil Lord of Mary’s Land.” The legend reinforces that the coinage was a proclamation of Lord Baltimore’s sovereignty as well as an apparent commercial necessity. The reverse is substantially different from the Maryland silver coins. A ducal coronet appears in the center with two pennons flying, the legend DENARIVM TERRAE-MARIAE (“denarius of Mary’s land”) encircling the periphery.

The presence of Latin legends, as opposed to English, on the Lord Baltimore coins is itself interesting; the Lord Baltimore coins were struck at the tail end of the interregnum or Commonwealth period (1649-1660) when there was no British monarch, a period during which British coinage bore English legends.

This coin is by far the finest known survivor and boasts a continuous pedigree chain nearly two centuries long. Its surface preservation is nothing short of extraordinary, an amazingly well-kept specimen for the whole of its 355-year lifespan. We can trace its pedigree back nearly 200 years, and it was clearly handled with loving care even in the early bloom of its existence. The surfaces on this MS62 Brown NGC-certified coin convey an overall pleasing golden-brown appearance, save for an area at the upper obverse which is more darkly toned and shows small areas of verdigris.

The bold strike raises sharp detail on all of Lord Calvert’s hair, the drapery, and inner areas of the coronet. The obverse is slightly porous but not distractingly so, while the reverse is especially nice and problem-free, showing medium copper-gold tones throughout. Several letters in the legends front and back show double-punching and/or underlying characters. Dentilation is present around portions of each side, although varying in strength and double-struck at parts of the reverse rim.

This pattern copper penny, the first such struck for America, is a numismatic treasure of paramount importance. Another example in the Donald Groves Partrick Collection, graded XF Details NGC, ex: Roper is slated to appear in a future Partrick sale.

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