US Coins

1792 Judd 2 pattern cent not fusible alloy

Metallurgical testing conducted by Professional Coin Grading Service on two 1792 cent patterns has determined both to be composed of virtually pure copper and not a fusible alloy of copper and silver.

Currently, no purported 1792 Fusible Alloy cent patterns have been metallurgically confirmed to contain silver, although U.S. Mint records cite its use in their manufacture.

The analysis of the two pattern cent coins currently in the hands of separate collectors brings the total number of examples of the Judd 2 pattern cent in virtually pure copper to three.

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The only previously confirmed example in virtually pure copper is in Good condition and housed in the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum at the American Numismatic Association headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Judd 2 pattern was executed by U.S. Mint engraver Henry Voight, who is also credited with creating the 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent and 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent.

The same dies used to strike the Judd 2 variety also struck the Judd 1 Silver Center cent patterns.

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The Silver Center cent patterns were struck on copper planchets with silver plugs inserted into holes pierced into the center. 

The Fusible Alloy cent’s composition was supposed to have been comprised of a small amount of silver added to the copper in a homogeneous (that is, fusible) alloy, from which planchets were then fabricated. 

Both experiments were to bring the intrinsic value of the piece to the stated face value of one cent. 

Ron Guth, president of PCGS Coin Facts, says the results of the recent non-destructive metallurgical testing of the two Judd 2 cent patterns provides deep insights into the development of coin production in the year the U.S. Mint was authorized.

The experimentation in 1792 was in contemplation of full-scale cent production in 1793.

“1792 saw a flurry of activity aimed at establishing a mint in the United States,” Guth said. “Congress passed a Mint act, a director was chosen, a parcel of land was purchased, a building was erected in Philadelphia and employees were hired.

“Several one-cent denomination coins were tested that year: a large copper piece known today as the Birch Cent (Judd-4); a smaller copper piece with a silver center (Judd-1); a piece of similar size in pure copper (Judd-2); and a piece of similar size with the copper and the Silver Center cent melted together (Judd did not create a separate listing for such a coin).

“Mint records point to their experiment with fusible alloy cents, but none have been confirmed to date.

“One example tested years ago showed a small fraction of silver, but the margin of error of the test precluded a positive determination.”

Pattern cent pedigrees

Guth said that, with the recent metallurgical analysis, at least three examples of the nine known 1792 cent patterns originally designated as the Judd 2 variety are now confirmed to be composed of virtually pure copper.

“This represents a major step forward in our understanding of early American numismatics, plus it was the first time these two rarities have been together in 224 years,” Guth said. “Working with the owners of the two 1792 cents, PCGS arranged for an in-house, non-invasive metallurgical analysis of their coins.” 

One of the two recently tested coins, graded PCGS Secure Very Fine 35 and stickered by Certified Acceptance Corp., was unknown until 2004 when the Wolcott family from southwestern New York State brought their inherited coin to the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Pittsburgh.

The Wolcotts were reported to be descendants of Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Oliver Wolcott Jr., comptroller of the U.S. Treasury from 1791 to 1795 and secondary Treasury secretary from 1795 to 1800.

Owners of the Wolcott piece since 2004 have included copper specialists Anthony Terranova and Denis Loring, Legend Numismatics and Bob R. Simpson.

Collector Robert Rodriguez was the successful bidder for the Wolcott coin, which realized $352,500 including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee, from Heritage Auctions’ Jan. 6, 2016, sale.

Rodriguez said the specific results of PCGS’s metallurgical analysis won’t be disclosed until researchers Joel Orosz, Pete Smith and Len Augsburger disclose the information through an extensive article or in their upcoming book on 1792 patterns due to release this year.

Soon after acquiring the Judd 2 pattern cent from the Heritage sale in January, Rodriguez said he approached Orosz and Smith about having the piece metallurgically tested, and subsequently arranged the analysis through PCGS as part of the ongoing research into U.S. patterns.

“1792 pattern coins are both marvelous and mysterious since they reflect our emerging country’s efforts to establish its first federal coinage,” Rodriguez said. “To think of the importance that was ascribed to them by Washington and Jefferson gives me chills every time I get a chance to see or hold one. I know I am very much looking forward to reading about any new insights or discoveries that Joel, Pete and Len have discovered.”

After learning of the impending testing, collector Alan Weinberg arranged to have his Judd 2 pattern cent included in PCGS’s testing. Weinberg said his pattern tested at 99.49 percent copper with trace elements making up the balance of the composition.

Weinberg has owned his example since 1988 when he purchased it at Auctions by Bowers and Merena Inc.’s Nov. 14 and 15 Part III sale of The Norweb Collection.

With the then 10 percent buyer’s fee, the pattern realized $35,200. 

Previous to the Norweb Collection, the pattern was owned separately by prominent numismatists Lorin G. Parmelee and Virgil Brand.

Although Weinberg’s cent is uncertified, PCGS estimates its grade as Extremely Fine 45, making it the second finest of the nine known Judd 2 pattern cents.

The finest known example of 1792 Judd 2 is Mint State and in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Weinberg said that efforts are being made to metallurgically analyze other Judd 2 examples, including the one at the Smithsonian.

The test findings will likely contribute to the Judd pattern book, as well as A Guide Book of United States Coins, commonly called the “Red Book,” and other pattern references to be revised, Weinberg said.

The search for a real Fusible Alloy cent continues.

“Hopefully,” Guth concluded, “testing of the remaining 1792 cents will reveal the true nature of these remarkable coins.” 

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