US Coins

Heritage ANA show auction includes early error coins

An unusual 1792 pattern half disme will be offered at Heritage’s March 3 to 6 American Numismatic Association National Money Show auction in Dallas. 

The issue was the first struck under the Mint Act of 1792 under the approval of President George Washington. Washington mentioned the production of the coins in his Nov. 6, 1792, State of the Union Address and while the mintage was intended to be a circulating issue, 1792 half dismes are often considered patterns. 

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Notes the Heritage catalog: “The coins were actually struck in the cellar facility of Philadelphia sawmaker John Harper because the First United States Mint was not ready for operations in its own building at that time. On the 13th, Jefferson recorded the following statement in his personal account book, ‘Recd. from the mint 1,500 half dismes of the new coinage.’ “

Heritage’s auction catalog cites researcher Pete Smith (who, along with Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz, is working on a book on the coins of 1792) as identifying the coin in the ANA sale as decades earlier being sold as lot 300 of the Commodore Eaton Collection. When the collection was sold by Henry Chapman in May 1929, this 1792 half disme was described as follows: “Good but obverse has three blisters, one before head, one on cheek and behind it. Otherwise good.” The distinctive description and the coin’s unique look allowed Smith to match the 1929 catalog entry to this specific coin. 

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Today these “blisters” are referred to as laminations, a planchet error that it the result of an improperly prepared planchet. 

It is graded Very Fine 25 by Professional Coin Grading Service, which records on the holder that it is a “Laminated Planchet Obv. Mint Error.” 

As Heritage notes, “This coin possesses unparalleled historic interest and an overall attractive presentation, despite the noted surface flaws.” Heritage records the coin’s last sale as the Steve Ivy Numismatic Auctions 1982 Summer ANA convention, where it realized $1,900. 

A crazy Connecticut copper

The auction includes another impressive error on an 18th century coin, a 1788 Connecticut copper with the Draped Bust Left design, graded Mint State 62 brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Heritage noted that the cataloger’s first response upon seeing this coin was to shake his head in amazement, since the obverse shows two complete profiles, side-by-side, and the reverse features a partial strike to the left and an indented area to the right with incuse letters indicating a brockage strike (struck through a previously struck piece). 

It is also the finest known example from this particular set of dies, but the dramatic nature of the error makes comparisons with its more normally struck peers challenging. 

Eric P. Newman explained the error as follows: “Two blanks were in the coining press. The top one received the obverse and had a blank reverse. The bottom one conversely had a blank obverse and a struck reverse. The operator tried to remove both coins but got the lower one out and the upper one partly out from the die area. When the dies came together the top coin was partly restruck and the impression of the blank top of the lower coin was pressed into the upper coin.” 

While NGC calls the surfaces brown, considerable original orange mint color is seen on both sides. It was last offered at Heritage’s May 2014 sale of the Newman Collection where it realized $25,850. Newman had purchased it from the E.H.R. Green Estate for $7.50 in the mid-20th century.  

Beyond its obvious visual appeal as a dramatic oddity, it may have further value to researchers, as Heritage notes: “The two V-shaped areas on each side remain untouched by the dies, and clearly show the original planchet marks, illustrative of the planchet appearance before the Connecticut coppers were struck. Careful study of those areas will help the student to understand the difference between original planchet marks and later, or post-production imperfections.”

The American Numismatic Association National Money Show is set for March 3 to 5 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Heritage’s auction is scheduled for three floor sessions — one on March 3 and two on March 4, with an Internet-only session scheduled on March 6.


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