In 1869 when one dealer called the copper cents dated 1816 to 1820
from the so-called Randall Hoard modern restrikes, another dealer,
Edward D. Cogan, revealed the truth when he countered by printing a
letter from a Norwich, N.Y., storekeeper who had recently owned them:
“Edward Cogan, Esq.
“I should not sell coin that I knew or believed to be re-strikes
without letting it be known. The bright, Uncirculated cents I have
sold of 1817, 1818, 1819, 1820, and 1825, I am very sure are not
re-strikes. I bought them of Wm. H. Chapman & Co., dry goods
merchants of this village, and the head of the firm, W.H.C., informed
me that he got them of a wholesale merchant in New York, who informed
him that he got them from a merchant in Georgia; that he took them as
a payment on a debt, and that the Georgia merchant wrote him that they
were found since the war in Georgia buried in the earth.
“Mr. Chapman said to me that he was in New York about the time the
cents were received there, and that the merchant who had them thought
they were too large to use, and did not know what to do with them; and
that he (Chapman) thinking that his customers here would be pleased
with bright cents, offered ninety cents a hundred for them, which was
“Chapman & Co. commenced paying them out here, and their
bright appearance and old dates made many think they were
counterfeits, and they were called ‘Chapman’s counterfeits,’ and the
firm stopped paying them out.
“I then went to the store and asked W.H. Chapman if he had
disposed of many of his bright cents. He replied, ‘No. I made a bad
bargain,’ and laughed about their being regarded as his counterfeits.
“I then offered to take them at the price he paid — ninety cents a
hundred — and he was very willing to let me have them. They were loose
together in a small keg, and the great mass of them were of 1818; and
a great many, though apparently Uncirculated, were more or less
corroded or discolored. I enclose herewith one of the 1817 and 1818,
discolored on one side and bright on the other. ...
“John Swan Randall”
The story gained twists in later numismatic accounts.
In the second half of the 20th century, Walter Breen and others
expanded the scenario: More than one keg may have been found. The
coins were found beneath a railroad platform (not buried), and so on.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.