In 1986, I wrote American Coin Treasures and Hoards and, ever
since, have been keeping a “Treasure Book II” file.
One of my favorite treasure troves is the Randall Hoard, as it is called.
Many facts about it are known, but these date only to 1870.
The hoard contained thousands of Uncirculated large cents, mostly
dated 1818 and 1820, but others dated 1816, 1817 and 1819. An early
account suggests the hoard contained cents of 1825 as well. The coins
came to the notice of numismatists when, in 1869, Philadelphia dealer
Ebenezer Locke Mason Jr., published this in his periodical — Mason’s
Monthly Coin and Stamp Collectors’ Magazine — apparently an answer to
a query, or perhaps Mason simply made the letter from “L.M. Troy” up:
“L.M. Troy. Beware of bright pennies of old dates. Buy them as
restrikes, but not as originals. We can send 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819
(large and small dates) and 1820 U.S. cents for 25 cents each, or fair
ones for 2 cents each.”
This came to the attention of another Philadelphia dealer, Edward
D. Cogan, who on Jan. 11, 1870, submitted this letter for publication
in the American Journal of Numismatics:
“My Dear Sir:—
“When I presented to our Society, through my friend Mr. Betts, at
the last meeting, the cents of 1817, ’18, ’19, and ’20, I did so upon
the full conviction that they were from the issues of the U.S. Mint,
struck in the years of which they bear the date. Judge, then, of my
surprise to find in Mason & Co.’s Magazine, of this month, a
caution against buying these pieces as being re-strikes.
“I believe all these pieces were purchased of Mr. J. Swan Randall,
of Norwich, in the state of New York, and I immediately wrote to this
gentleman, asking him whether he had any idea of their having been
re-struck from the original die, and herewith I send his reply, which
exculpates him from having reason to believe that he was offering
anything but original pieces; and from his statement I must say I
believe them — as I have from the time I purchased them — to have been
struck at the Mint in the years of their respective dates.
If you are a numismatic bibliophile (not a designation for a
dinosaur, but a lover of coin books) you will know that Cogan and
Mason were know-it-alls who on occasion made up “facts.”
Next week: more on the Randall Hoard and the entry of Walter
Breen, who was also quite inventive, into the scenario!
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, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.