US Coins

Examining three coins in Newman IV

The fourth auction by Heritage of Eric P. Newman’s enviable holdings focused on Early American and Colonial coins. While the auction realized more than $11 million and was headlined by two rarities that each brought $1.41 million, many more affordable coins could be found within the nearly 700 lots. Here are three coins that sold at reasonable price levels that have great stories to tell. .

Undated George Washington, Double Head cent, Fine Details, Rim Damage, $117.50

Washington pieces are medals, tokens and proposals for circulating coins dated from 1783 to 1795. Many were of English origin and were produced later than the dates indicate. All depict George Washington. 

It’s a popular collecting area and more than a dozen distinct types are available in well-worn condition at around the $100 level.

Such is the case with this undated George Washington cent, popularly called the “Double Head” type since Washington’s profile portrait in military dress with a wreath crowning his head is depicted on both sides. The “Double Head” type has traditionally been grouped with several Washington token types that bear the date 1783 and this date is noted on Newman’s original brown paper envelope that housed the coin. However, it was potentially produced decades later. 

Heritage described the piece in the auction as “a plentiful and popular Washington piece.” This example, colored medium-to-dark brown with corrosion, rim bruises and a tinge of red patina, brought $117.50.

1787 Massachusetts half cent, Very Fine 20, $470

Where the aforementioned Washington piece had substantial surface problems — not uncommon to the pieces collected in the Early American copper series — many other coins in Newman’s holdings had gorgeous and smooth surfaces.

Such is the case with this 1787 Massachusetts half cent graded Very Fine 20 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. that sold for $470. Like the Washington piece, it is a popular and plentiful variety. 

Massachusetts struck coins, under the authorization of the Massachusetts General Court, dated 1787 and 1788 only, with only half cents and cents produced. The mint that struck the coins was abandoned in 1789.  

The coins all followed the design requirements set forth in the authorizing law: that the design incorporate the figure of an Indian with a bow and arrow and a star on one side, along with the word COMMONWEALTH. The reverses each show an eagle with the denomination of either CENT or HALF CENT on the eagle’s chest with the date below and the word MASSACHUSETTS above. 

1787 Connecticut ‘Muttonhead’ copper, Very Fine 25, $1,057.50

Among the factors that make Early American coins popular with collectors and researchers is that they were struck with dies often hand-engraved, often with charming results. 

This individuality can be seen on this 1787 Connecticut copper with a large head on the obverse, historically called the “Mutton Head” variety. 

The series has numerous odd designs that have been assigned distinctive names by numismatists and that have been accepted into the hobby over time, including the “African Head,” “Laughing Head” and “Horned Bust,” among other clever names. 

Heritage writes in its lot description: “The Muttonhead copper is one of the most famous and popular varieties in the Connecticut series, and it is also one of the most plentiful. The term Muttonhead expresses a low opinion of a person’s intelligence.”

The firm described the surfaces as “attractive with a combination of golden-tan, steel-brown, and mahogany patina,” adding, “A few ancient scratches and microscopic granularity do little to diminish the eye appeal.” 

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