Precious Metals

The Joys of Collecting: Recalling large cent stockpile

Many new dealers who know only certified coins and are light on overall knowledge might not be able to tell much about the person or subject mentioned in the column with a connection to this Mint State cent.

Images courtesy of Q. David Bowers.

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.

“Yours faithfully,

“Edward Cogan.”

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,, or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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