In the last several years, collectors have had to pay increasingly
stronger prices at auction for experimental 1942 pattern “cents” made
of plastic, glass and other unusual compositions. A large part of this
increased demand likely stems from the pieces reaching a larger
audience via inclusion in reference books.
The history of these interesting pieces was described by
researcher Roger W. Burdette in the Nov. 26 issue of Coin
World. The 1942 pieces were tests of experimental compositions
and were privately produced at the request of the United States Mint.
For a long time, these trial pieces were relatively affordable. A
decade ago, examples could be found at the $400 to $600 level.
Today, few examples are seen below $2,000. While a brown plastic
example graded Mint State 62 realized $1,840 in a Jan. 8, 2010,
Heritage auction, a sale more relevant to the current market is a
brown plastic example graded Uncirculated Details, Reverse Graffiti by
Numismatic Guaranty Corp. that sold for $3,450 in a March 9 Heritage auction.
At the market’s top, an example struck in brown plastic graded
Mint State 64 by NGC realized $16,450 at an Oct. 12 Heritage auction.
For comparison, in a Jan. 8, 2010, Heritage auction, a brown plastic
example graded Proof 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service realized $4,715.
These 1942 pattern cents weren’t always such hot commodities.
Originally the key text in the U.S. pattern coin series, J. Hewitt
Judd’s book United States Pattern Coins, noted the existence
of but did not fully describe or number the issues.
They were included and numbered in Andrew W. Pollock III’s 1994
book United States Patterns and Related Issues, but the
market really took off after the 2003 revision of Judd’s pattern book
by Whitman Publishing, where the 1942 patterns were assigned the
numbers Judd 2051 to Judd 2069.
Burdette points out that the same Judd number has been applied to
pieces that differ from one another, complicating matters further.
Perhaps Burdette’s forthcoming reference book on the patterns and
experimental pieces of World War II will continue the legitimation of
these patterns and further enhance the market for them by exposing
them to a wider audience. ■