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Unusual Items: 1906 Indian Cent. Struck in Gold

One of the more unusual and rare items in US numismatics will be auctioned by Stack’s in their Philadelphia Americana Sale September 23-26 in Philadelphia,  is Lot 4299, an Indian Head Cent struck in gold.  From the Stacks Catalog description ……..

stacks_gold_indian_cent_092309“This off-metal error is 18.3 mm (horizontal) X 18.1 mm (vertical). 1.1 mm to 1.2 mm thick. Plain Edge. with Lovely olive gold fields join yellow gold lustre and coppery highlights in the protected areas. This specimen weighs 64.4 grains and was probably struck on a quarter eagle planchet, which should weigh 64.5 grains. The physical size of the planchet is also very similar to that of a quarter eagle (17.78 mm), the slightly larger diameter of this specimen accounted for by the spread during striking of the soft gold to fill the larger diameter collar (19.05 mm) of an Indian cent.

Only a handful of Indian Head cents in gold of various dates are known. The most frequently encountered Indian cent in gold is the 1900, which is estimated at two to four specimens, according to various sources. We have traced two specimens:

1) John A. Beck (A. Kreisberg, January 1975, Lot 609), later sold as Auction ’89:856, again as part of the 1991 ANA Sale (B&M, August 1991, Lot 4103) and now owned by error collector Mike Byers;

2) 1993 ANA Sale (Heritage, July 1993, Lot 8000). Although the uspatterns.com web site reports that “With regard to the 1900, 3 or 4 are believed to exist including the circulated 1993 ANA example and the PCGS65 Col Green, Beck, Byers coin,” this estimate might be on the high side. A 1900 in gold is pictured as coin 6 in figure 131 of Don Taxay’s Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and Unofficial U.S. Coins, but it is hard to determine whether or not this is one of the above two listed specimens.

The 1900 is listed as Pollock 1990, referencing the 1991 ANA Sale specimen, and it is also listed in Judd’s Appendix B. A 1900 specimen in the Dewitt Smith collection was purchased by Virgil Brand in 1908 and is listed in his ledgers as #46973, but it is not clear whether this is one of the pieces cited above. Also known is a silver 1900 specimen struck from the same, rusted dies used to produce the gold specimens. The 1907 is referenced in several places, including Judd’s Appendix B, but has not been seen at auction recently. It is not inconceivable that other dates exist, as well as additional specimens of known dates.

The origins of these gold Indian Cents are today unknown, but they are clearly made from Federal U.S. dies and struck on what are probably quarter eagle planchets. These breathtaking off-metal coins are in all probability pieces de caprice made specially for collectors at the beginning of the 20th century. The cataloguer of the 1991 ANA Sale specimen surmised that mint engraver George T. Morgan was responsible for their manufacture, as many other pieces de caprice are attributable to him. The Beck specimen traces its pedigree to St. Louis coin dealer B.G. Johnson and Col. E.H.R. Green, the latter of whom clearly had connections at the mint, since he was at one time in possession of all five known 1913 Liberty nickels. Whatever the origin of this 1906 Indian cent in gold, it is clearly extremely rare if not unique; as such, it would be the showpiece of any carefully assembled collection of Indian Head cents or off-metal strikings.

This exact specimen is plated in the “Significant U.S. Mint Errors” section of the current Red Book and was also the cover coin for the June 2004 issue of Longacre’s Ledger.

From Stack’s/ANR’s sale of the Medio and Henry Da Cost Gomez Collections, June 2004, lot 4097. Thanks to Nancy Green, Michael Hodder, Rick Snow, Saul Teichman, David Tripp and the uspatterns.com site for research assistance then and now.”

About the Author

Stack's, a team of rare coin professionals, highly skilled in the presentation of numismatic auction sales. Since 1935, Stack's has held first position in the American numismatic auction scene in terms of longevity, number of sales conducted, lots sold and great rarities handled. www.stacks.com

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