A 1792 half disme once owned by David Rittenhouse and the document appointing him as the first director of the United States Mint will be displayed publicly for the first time during the American Numismatic Association’s World Fair of Money Aug. 13 to 17.
The half disme and the April 14, 1792, letter signed by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson will be part of the ANA Museum Showcase exhibit during the ANA convention held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill.
The owner of the two numismatic items wishes to remain anonymous. After their display at the ANA convention, the collector will take the Rittenhouse 1792 half disme and presidential appointment document to Virginia in preparation for a planned exhibit in 2014 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
The collector also plans to include a silver candlestick formerly owned by first lady Martha Washington in the ANA exhibit.
“It’s a piece of George and Martha’s silverware that didn’t get melted to produce the half dismes,” joked the collector, in a reference to the theories that the Washingtons personally provided silverware as the metal for the July 1792 striking of the first coins Washington authorized.
The Rittenhouse half disme, certified Mint State 68 by Professional Coin Grading Service, is considered the finest known example of the first coins struck pursuant to the establishment of the Mint under the Mint Act of April 2, 1792.
The Rittenhouse half disme’s owner is also loaning one of the two known Roman Finish Proof 1921 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles to the ANA Museum Showcase exhibit.
The Roman Finish Proof 1921 double eagle is certified Proof 64+ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp.
Rittenhouse 1792 half disme
The 1792 half disme and Rittenhouse’s presidential appointment letter are important items in American numismatics.
“This 1792 half disme is important not only because it represents the first coinage of the United States and was directly authorized by George Washington himself, perhaps even being made from Martha’s silverware, but also due to the fact that it actually belonged to David Rittenhouse, the first Director of the United States Mint,” said Doug Mudd, curator of the ANA’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum. “That means that this particular coin was held by Thomas Jefferson, David Rittenhouse and perhaps even George Washington — what an amazing provenance!”
The 1792 half disme, LM-1 (Federal Half Dimes 1792-1837 by Russell Logan and John McCloskey) was certified NGC MS-68 when it was sold Jan. 24, 2013, by Stack’s Bowers Galleries as part of The Cardinal Collection for $1,145,625. The coin has since been crossed over to PCGS encapsulation and graded MS-68.
The Cardinal Collection auction lot description included the following pedigree:
“David Rittenhouse, first director of the United States Mint; Rittenhouse family, kept within the family by Rittenhouse’s descendants from July 1792 until sold in the following sale; Henry Chapman’s October 1919 ANA Convention Auction, lot 249, where it realized $56; George L. Tilden; Thomas Lindsay Elder’s sale of the George L. Tilden Collection, June 1921, lot 2029, where it realized $62; private collector, who apparently stored the coin in a Wayte Raymond album; unnamed museum in New England, sold in the following sale; our (Stack’s) sale of October 1988, lot 536, where it realized $68,750; unknown intermediaries; dealer Jay Parrino, early 1990s, as agent for the following; the anonymous “Knoxville Collection,” early 1990s to 2003; private collector, 2003 to January 2007; dealer Steve Contursi; January-July 2007; Cardinal Collection, acquired for $1,500,000.”
Rittenhouse’s original appointment letter as the nation’s first Mint director is handwritten, dated April 14, 1792, and signed by Washington as president and Jefferson as secretary of state.
The letter reads:
“George Washington, President of the United States of America
“To all who shall see these Presents – Greeting
“Know Ye, That reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Integrity and Abilities of David Rittenhouse of Pennsylvania, I have nominated and by and with Advice and Consent of the Senate do appoint him Director of the Mint of the said United States, and do authorize and empower him to execute and fulfill the duties of that Office according to law, and to have and to hold the said Office with all the Powers, Privileges, and emoluments to the same of right appertaining during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being.
“In Testimony whereof I have caused these letters to be made Patent, and the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed. Given under my Hand, at the City of Philadelphia, the fourteenth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the Sixteenth.
“By the President
Roman Finish Proof
The World’s Fair of Money represents a rare public appearance of a Roman Finish Proof 1921 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle.
Roman Finish represents an experimental Mint finish from the early 20th century that is a hybrid between a brilliant Proof finish and a duller, more granular matte finish.
The existence of any 1921-dated double eagle in Proof was unknown to collectors until 2000 when a coin formerly belonging to U.S. Mint Director Raymond T. Baker was authenticated. Baker was Mint director from March 1917 to March 1922.
A second Proof example, in better condition, was discovered in 2006 and was displayed that year at the Boston ANA World’s Fair of Money. This second example will be exhibited at the ANA convention in Rosemont, Ill.
“I knew instantly it was a Proof the first time I saw it,” said John Albanese, CAC founder, who said he offered more than a million dollars for it the first time he saw it before it was certified by NGC.
“Since 1978, I’ve viewed several hundred thousand Mint State Saints and perhaps a hundred Proofs,” Albanese said. “This one doesn’t look like any of the Mint State coins, but does have the look, ‘texture and fabric’ just like the Proofs I’ve seen. This was a no brainer,” he explained.
NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg said the Proof 1921 double eagle “ranks highly among the truly important recent numismatic discoveries.”