Restrikes are the oddities of rare coins. They are not originals and
yet many restrikes are as avidly collected as the real thing. In some
cases, “restrikes” exist of coins for which no “originals” exist.
The upcoming sales Heritage Auctions has scheduled in conjunction
with the Florida United Numismatists convention in Fort Lauderdale, in
early January, features a number of restrikes, each with its own
Technically, a “restrike” is a coin (or medal or token) struck from
original dies but at a later date. As Richard G. Doty writes in his
1982 The Macmillan Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatics,
government mints create restrikes for a range of reasons: to dispose
of excess bullion, such as Mexican gold 50-peso coins; for sale to
collectors, as with various U.S. patterns; or unofficially, to
supplement the income of a mint employee using government resources.
And then there are private restrikes, struck by nongovernment entities
to fill collector demand.
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Here are four pieces from Heritage’s January FUN auction that
illustrate several of these categories of restrikes.
The first circulating coin issued by the United States government
was the 1787 Fugio copper or cent, authorized under the authority of
the Articles of Confederation, before the establishment of the
Constitution and the federal Mint.
The name “Fugio cent” is derived from the Latin inscription on the
coin, translating to “I fly,” which, when used as part of the sundial
design device on the obverse of the coin, is considered a reference to
the passage of time (time flies). The reverse shows 13 interlocking
rings representing the original colonies and states. The designs are
similar to those on the 1776 Continental dollar, which are attributed
to Benjamin Franklin.
Since Congress authorized the federal copper cents (under the
Articles of Confederation, the individual states also had authority to
strike coins) but lacked a federal mint, the task of striking the
Fugio cents was contracted out to businessman James Jarvis, who was
already striking copper cents for Connecticut. However, Jarvis had
trouble meeting the requirements of the contract; the pieces did not
meet the federal standards for weight; and when quantities were
finally released into circulation, the timing was such that they
circulated alongside severely underweight counterfeit British coins
and other fakes, and thus were rejected like these other copper pieces.
Today, 1787 Fugio cents are highly prized for their status as the
first official U.S. coin, and they are available in sizeable numbers
with many in high condition since large numbers never circulated.
The popularity of the Fugio cents, even with the first collectors of
U.S. coins, helped lead to what are called New Haven restrikes of the issue.
As the Heritage cataloger writes, “Thin rings identify the so-called
New Haven Restrike, which wasn’t made in New Haven and isn’t a
restrike, since a strict numismatic interpretation of ‘restrike’
requires the original dies. Nonetheless, the variety has been
collected consistently since the 1860s.”
The so-called New Haven restrikes are attributed to Horatio N. Rust,
who in 1859 used re-creation dies to strike pieces in gold (two
known), silver and copper or brass. The designs, while faithful in
concept to the originals, clearly differ in the details. Rust
attempted to sell these as being restruck from the original dies,
claiming that teenager C. Wyllys Betts (future author of a major work
on early American medals) was on the site in New Haven, Conn., where
the original Fugios were struck. The origin story, of course, was a lie.
Despite these being unofficial copies rather than restrikes from the
original dies, the New Haven restrikes are popular with collectors
today. The example in the Heritage auction is one of the copper
pieces, graded Mint State 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service.
Heritage describes it as “a meticulously struck and gorgeously
preserved Gem of this popular 19th century copy. Chocolate-brown
overall with glimpses of mint red in protected areas,” with 11 more in
PCGS MS-65 and three in finer condition. The coin in the auction sold
for $2,530 in a January 2009 Heritage auction.
A restrike, no originals
Some patterns are true experimental pieces, struck to test new
designs and compositions, and for some of these, both original pieces
and later restrikes exist, the latter issued for the collector market.
However, the entire pattern series is full of pieces that were likely
struck only for collector sales as opposed to being struck to test new
potential coin designs.
This next piece might fall into that collector sales purpose
category. While it is an official issue of the United States Mint and
is generally considered a pattern restrike, numismatists have never
been able to conclusively identify an original strike (a piece from
the year it is dated) of the design, according to Heritage.
The piece is an 1838 Liberty Head half dollar pattern
in silver, cataloged as Judd 73 and Pollock 77 in the standard
references on patterns by J. Hewitt Judd and Andrew Pollock.
Heritage describes it: “On the obverse, Liberty faces left and wears
a diadem and a ribbon inscribed LIBERTY. 13 stars and the date fill
the periphery. On the reverse, an eagle flies level in a plain field
with the statutory legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around, and the
denomination HALF DOLLAR below.”
The piece is shrouded in mystery. Both William Kneass and Christian
Gobrecht are cited as the potential designers, with the reverse being
a version of Gobrecht’s Flying Eagle design found on the silver dollar
circulation and pattern strikes of 1836 to 1839.
An even deeper mystery exists, as Heritage writes: “The Judd-73
patterns surely are among the most confusing issues in the entire
pattern series. It appears that all are restrikes. The only question
is when a particular coin was produced. Occasional mention has been
made of original strikes, but such a piece does not appear to exist;
to date, every coin examined shows die cracks on the reverse. The Mint
Cabinet (Smithsonian) does not have an example of this pattern in any
state. The earliest state known is the same as seen on this piece: a
die break from AM in AMERICA to the eagle, a second from AR in DOLLAR
to the eagle, and a partial crack from the eagle toward the A in HALF.
This last crack is only partially present and key to dating this half
dollar to the early 1840s.”
Since individual dies used for patterns (originals and restrikes
alike) were often used with multiple other dies to create different
varieties, numismatists can use die state evidence in an effort to
determine when a particular die marriage was struck. Die cracks are
among the evidence used, since the lack of a die crack or its
increasing severity can be charted to show how a die changed over time.
The example in the auction is graded Proof 66 by PCGS and it bears a
green sticker from Certified Acceptance Corp. “This is one of the
finest examples known of this early-striking period half dollar,”
Heritage writes. “Only one other piece has been so graded by PCGS and
one is finer, an NGC-certified coin (11/16). The fields are deeply
mirrored and flash strongly through the cobalt-blue and deep rose
toning seen on each side. No obvious flaws or contact marks are apparent.”
Half cent second restrike
This next piece, an 1844 Coronet half cent, is not
only a restrike, but is considered a “second restrike.”
By the mid-1830s, the Philadelphia Mint’s vaults were filled with
1834 and 1835 half cents (totaling more than a half million pieces)
that were little needed in circulation. The Mint stopped striking the
denomination for circulation, a hiatus that would last from 1836 to
1849. Nonetheless, a new Coronet Head portrait was created in 1839 to
replace the existing Classic Head portrait. Starting in 1840, when the
Mint began selling Proof sets, the Mint struck Proof Coronet half
cents every year starting in 1840. While a new obverse die was made
every year, the same reverse die was used every year from 1840 until
the late 1840s, with new dies used later. These pieces with the first
reverse die, since they were struck in the years they were dated,
would be considered originals.
Beginning circa 1858 and 1859, the interest in coin collecting
exploded, and Mint officials began expanding sales of Proof coins and
sets, and also began restriking early issues. The restrikes of half
cents were generally struck from each year’s original obverse die and
one or two additional reverse dies. The combination of obverse die and
reverse die determines whether a piece is considered an original, a
first restrike or a second restrike.
For the 1844 Coronet half cents, the original would have been struck
in 1844, with a first restrike produced circa 1856 to 1857 (from a
second reverse die). A second restrike (from a third reverse die) was
struck sometime later.
The 1844 half cent in the auction, struck in 1858 or later, is
graded Proof 64 brown PCGS Secure, with a grade of Proof 63 under the
standards used by the club Early American Coppers (EAC uses different
standards than the market grading standards used by most third-party
grading services). As described by Heritage, “This desirable proof is
sharply detailed with olive and pale orange surfaces. The fields are
The final piece is another private issue, but of a coin struck by a
rebellious government in an occupied federal Mint — the Scott restrike of the 1861 Confederate half dollar.
When the Southern states seceded following the election of Abraham
Lincoln as president in 1860, three Branch Mints fell under state
control and then under Confederate control — Dahlonega, Ga.;
Charlotte, N.C.; and New Orleans, La. The Confederate government’s
economy did not support sustaining minting operations at the three
facilities, and each was closed in 1861, though not before small
quantities of coins were struck after they left federal control.
The Confederate government had ambitions, however, to issue a
national coinage, and to that effect, four experimental half dollars
were struck at the New Orleans Mint in 1861. The obverse of each bears
a distinct Confederate design while the reverse is actually an 1861
Seated Liberty half dollar obverse (for the purposes of this coin, the
Seated Liberty side is generally considered the reverse).
The existence of the 1861 Confederate half dollar was not known to
the collector community until 1879, when the first published reports
surfaced, attributed to Benjamin F. Taylor, the New Orleans Mint chief
coiner. Taylor had, not only one of the four Confederate half dollars,
but also the Confederate die, both of which he sold to dealer Ebenezer
Locke Mason. In turn, coin and stamp dealer John Walter Scott
purchased Taylor’s coin and the die from Mason.
Scott knew the benefits of good publicity and recognized the strong
collector appetite for unusual coins. He decided to restrike the
Confederate half dollar, using the original die and 500 genuine 1861
Seated Liberty half dollars. Scott had the reverses of the half
dollars planed away and used the Confederate die to produce the 500
private restrikes. He also used the Confederate die to make store
cards, matching it with a new die outlining the history of the
original coin and also promoting his firm.
The Heritage auction offers several Scott restrikes of the 1861
Confederate half dollar, including one PCGS graded About Uncirculated 53.
As Heritage write, the action of planing away the reverse of the
host 1861 half dollar for the restrike “somewhat flattened the dated
side, as seen on the present restrike,” adding about the offered
example, “The Confederate side is toned golden-brown and shows light
wear. The dated side has rich aquamarine patina and a few thin marks
made by a curious finder.”
While the Scott restrikes typically sell for thousands of dollars,
they are more affordable than the originals. Of the four original
Confederate half dollars, today two are in institutional collections
and two are in private collections, both of which made their first
auction appearances only in the 21st century, each registering
The Confederate die, incidentally, disappeared from public view in
the 1920s and its current whereabouts are unknown.
Additional restrikes of various other coins appear in the FUN
auction. Go here for