Collectors of pattern coins love the stories behind them as much as
This 1875 pattern for a 20-cent coin features what J. Hewitt Judd
called an “illogical steamship” in his book United States Pattern
Coins, Experimental & Trial Pieces.
The ship is illogical because it’s in movement on water, and its
auxiliary sails are billowing forward, while smoke from its stack
drifts to the rear. In defying the laws of physics, the design is an
The design is one of several distinct obverse designs on 20-cent
piece patterns dated 1875. Another featured a Seated Liberty similar
in appearance to the regular die and a third type featured William
Barber’s left-facing bust of Liberty, sometimes nicknamed the “Sailor Head.”
The “illogical steamship” was also used on other denominations of
pattern coins dated 1875, including silver dollars.
The discussed example, graded Proof 66 red by Professional Coin
Grading Service, brought $19,975 when offered at Heritage Auctions'
April 25, 2014, sale held in conjunction with the Central States
The piece was previously offered at Heritage’s January 2013 Florida
United Numismatists auction where it sold for $25,850. It is the only
example of the variety (Judd 1400) certified by a major grading
service as having full red color.