Furthermore, Birch’s autobiography makes no mention of any work for the Philadelphia Mint.
His known artist output also argues against his being the “Birch” who engraved the coin. Per Heritage, “But the more convincing case against Birch is found in his overall portfolio. Birch simply was not involved in the plastic arts. He painted, executed enamels, published collections of print engravings, and eventually settled into the occupation of landscape architect.”
Another candidate is Thomas Birch, son of William Birch. The son “was an accomplished marine painter, but placing him in Philadelphia, as a 13-year-old engraving the Birch cent dies, stretches the known facts beyond a credible level.”
R. W. Julian noted a “Bob Birch” in the expense records of the Mint’s chief coiner, Henry Voigt, for 1793, according to Heritage. However, this Birch seems to be have been a horse groom or stableman (horses powered some equipment at the first Philadelphia Mint).
Researchers have also identified a B. Birch, a Bob Birch, and a Robert “Bob” Birch as a possible candidate or candidates, but as with the other individuals, there is little to no credible contemporary evidence that someone of that name was employed by the Mint as an engraver.
No matter who engraved the dies, the designs are different from those on the Silver Center cent, though the concepts of Liberty and a wreath are found on both patterns.
On the obverse, the date 1792 rests below a bust of Liberty with flowing locks of hair, while around is the inscription LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY. The reverse shows a wreath encompassing ONE CENT with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the fraction 1/100 below the bottom of the wreath.
The example in the auction is cataloged as Judd 5 and Pollock 6, and is represented by just two examples, of which this piece is the finer.
“The present sale constitutes only the eighth opportunity in history to acquire an example of the variety at public auction and only the fifth chance to procure the present coin, which is considerably the finer of the two. This piece was long held by Donald G. Partrick, whose collection of 1792 patterns included an array of ultra-low population specimens. His collection will stand as one of unparalleled quality in the annals of American numismatics,” according to the lot description.
The coin in the auction is graded Mint State 61 brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. “Pleasing brown color highlights this well-detailed example of the Judd-5 Birch cent,” the catalog says, adding, “There is a touch of softness in Liberty’s curls and some strike weakness on the lettering to the right of Liberty. The protected areas of the obverse, among the letters and Liberty’s hair, contrast nicely with the lighter fields. The obverse right field exhibits what appears to be, at first glance, a patchwork of light scratches. However, upon further examination, much of this disturbance is likely the result of a defective planchet. The planchet is centered and reveals sharp dentilation. The edge lettering reads TO BE ESTEEMED BE USEFUL *, with the crucial single star distinguishing this from the more common Judd-4 Birch cent with the two star edge. Die alignment is 180 degrees (coin turn). The reverse is virtually perfect for the grade, with the slightly uneven engraving of ONE CENT adding to the charm of this exceptionally desirable specimen of the early Mint.”
The coin realized $517,000, a bit less than the $564,000 it realized in Heritage’s Donald Groves Partrick Collection auction at the January 2015 Florida United Numismatists convention.