CoinWeek Staff Reports…..
The United States Mint produced Martha Washington die to strike experimental patterns.
In the Spring 2018 issue of Mint Error News Magazine, coin dealer Mike Byers confirms the existence of a non-canceled Martha Washington die in private hands. The die is the second reported example of a privately-held die of the design, which is sometimes used by the United States Mint to strike experimental patterns. Byers has listed the die for sale on eBay for $50,000.
The first known non-canceled Martha Washington die was discovered by dealer Fred Weinberg, who first displayed the piece at the 2017 American Numismatic Association World Fair of Money in Denver, Colorado. Weinberg’s specimen is a reverse die in the size of a United States cent. It is listed in standard references as Judd #2180.
Martha Washington Test Pieces struck using dies of this design are known in sizes corresponding to that of the 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar coin.
The Byers die was used to strike half-dollar-sized trial pieces and depicts the former first lady along with the inscriptions: VIRGINIA, MARTHA WASHINGTON, and 1759.
At present, it is the only known Martha Washington obverse die, cancelled or uncancelled, in private hands.
The design is the work of engraver Edward Ryneal Grove, who worked under Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts, after taking a position at the Mint in 1962. Grove left the Mint’s employ in 1965 and continued his career as a professional medallic artist.
Beyond the Martha Washington experimental pattern obverse design, Grove’s U.S. Mint design credits include the Bob Hope Congressional Medal, the West Virginia Centennial Medallion, and the reverse of the 1964 Annual Assay Commission Medal.
The Mint Looks Outside
According to Byers, the Martha Washington obverse die came into his possession after it was sold as scrap by a U.S. mint vendor. It has been widely reported that the United States Mint sometimes farms out contract work to outside firms, especially in situations where issues concerning planchet composition are concerned.
A high profile example of this occurred in 1999, as the United States Mint prepared for the release of the Sacagawea dollar. In order to insure that the new “golden dollar” planchets were perfectly interchangeable with the existing Susan B. Anthony dollar, the Mint and its vendors had to create a new alloy that shared the SBA dollar’s electromagnetic fingerprint.
In situations like this, it has been reported that the Mint shipped out dies created specifically for tests. Although these dies are struck by the United States Mint in the shape of circulating coins, pieces struck with these dies do not bear any representation that they are legal tender coins.
If you would like to inquire about the piece, please contact Mike Byers at Mike Byers, Inc. using the information listed below.