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Newly Found 1792 Washington Pattern Cent to be Offered for Sale

Throughout the 1860s and 1870s numismatics and coin collecting grew into a popular hobby for many people of means, and Washington pieces ascended to be one of the most popular areas in the American numismatic community. Tokens, medals, and other pieces bearing the portrait of Washington, some made in England and France and America, were avidly sought. A Description of the Medals of Washington, by James Ross Snowden, director of the mint, was published in 1861 and described the Mint Collection. In 1885 the monumental work, The Medallic Portraits of Washington, by W. S. Baker, was published in Philadelphia. In 1985, this volume was completely updated and revised by Russell Rulau and Dr. George Fuld.

From the mid-19th century to the present, Washington pieces have formed an important specialty in American Numismatics. Indeed, no major reference book is complete without mention of them, and no collection can be called comprehensive without containing examples of Washington coins and medals.

Thenicely detailed example shown here is going to be offered for sale by Heritage as par of their Long Beach Auction next month. It has smooth chestnut-brown surfaces that are free of porosity or corrosion. However, several scratches and scrapes occur on each side, including a number of rim imperfections. At the same time, it is more desirable than the Garrett-Roper coin that is well worn, or the Robison example that is holed and plugged. The finest known is the Norweb coin (Stack’s, 11/2006), that sold for $253,000.

The prior provenance is unknown, but it is from an old-time numismatic holding and has been off the market for decades, and is a new specimen to the current numismatic generation. Despite its obvious imperfections, the present specimen of the Hancock Washington pattern is extremely important and highly desirable.

The dies are attributed to John Gregory Hancock, a talented English engraver, and production is attributed to Obediah Westwood of Birmingham.

The WASHINGTON PRESIDENT obverse is combined with the reverse having 13 stars along the top border. The edge is lettered UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. This basic design exists with either a plain or a lettered edge. Both edge types are known in copper and silver, while the lettered edge pieces are also known in gold. A unique copper piece is also known from a second obverse die.

These 1792 pieces are related to other Washington pieces with a similar obverse die, including the Washington Born Virginia coins and the General of the American Armies pieces. They are thought to be patterns made in England in anticipation of a possible contract coinage for the United States. This variety, in copper with a lettered edge, is varyingly estimated to have between 4 and 8 specimens known.

There has been some disagreement regarding the number of pieces known today. The Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, by Q. David Bowers and published in 2009, provides rarity ratings using the Universal Rarity Scale that Bowers published in his Silver Dollar Encyclopedia a number of years ago. In 1988 Walter Breen provided estimates of rarity in his Complete Encyclopedia, and in 1999 George Fuld and Russell Rulau gave estimates in the second edition of Medallic Portraits of Washington. The six varieties are recorded here with the published survival estimates:

–W-10660 Plain edge, copper. Bowers (unique), Fuld (6-7 known), Breen (6-7 known)
–W-10665 Plain edge, silver. Bowers (3-8 known), Fuld (3-4 known), Breen (4-5 known)
–W-10670 Lettered edge, copper. Bowers (5-8 known), Fuld (5-6 known), Breen (4-6 known)
–W-10675 Lettered edge, silver. Bowers (3-4 known), Fuld (4-5 known), Breen (5-6 known)
–W-10680 Lettered edge, gold. Bowers (unique), Fuld (unique), Breen (unique)
–W-10685 Variant die, lettered edge, copper. Bowers (unique), Fuld (unique), Breen (unique?)

If the plain edge copper piece is truly unique as Bowers records, then the lettered edge copper pieces become the only collectible examples in that metal, with approximately six known.

We anticipate serious bidding competition when it crosses the auction block.

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