What is identified as being a unique 1792 George Washington gold $10
eagle pattern that the nation’s first president is said to have
carried around in his pants pocket will be displayed publicly before
crossing the auction block in August during the American Numismatic
Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.
The pattern was exhibited in its first public pre-auction showing
since 1890 beginning June 14 at the Long Beach Coin
and Collectibles Expo in Long Beach, California. The coin is
also to be exhibited in New York and Chicago before going to auction
The pattern is to be sold by Heritage Auctions, with the net proceeds to
benefit numismatic research and the philanthropic initiatives of the
Eric P. Newman
Numismatic Education Society. Numismatic Guaranty Corp. graded the pattern
Extremely Fine 45 Star, with the NGC Star Designation indicating
exceptional eye appeal.
Newman considered the piece his favorite numismatic item. He died in
2017 at the age of 106, having assembled the most extensive numismatic
collection during more than seven decades of collecting.
The August sale will be only the third time in the gold pattern’s
existence for it to be offered at public auction.
Inside Coin World: Mint’s heritage assets are
slowly coming to light Some of the U.S. Mint’s
greatest treasures, its “heritage assets,” are slowly coming out of
the vaults and into the open for collectors to marvel over.
According to Heritage catalogers, research strongly suggests the
1792 Washington President gold eagle was expressly struck for,
presented to, and carried by George Washington.
Further, according to Heritage, a 1792 letter to Washington, located
in 2010, provides compelling evidence that the pattern was struck for
Washington in Newburyport, Massachusetts, by polymath Jacob Perkins,
rather than in England as previously believed.
“The Washington President gold eagle is both unique and monumentally
important, being the earliest gold pattern submitted for consideration
as a United States coin,” said Jim Halperin, co-founder of Heritage
Auctions, which will auction the coin in August for the first time in
128 years. “Numismatic researchers widely agree that it is almost
certainly George Washington’s own pocket piece.”
In both 1875 and 1890, its only previous public auction appearances,
the gold coin was described as likely struck for Washington and
carried by him. When the New York Coin & Stamp Company handled the
Lorin G. Parmelee Collection in June 1890, the Washington gold piece
served as the cover art and appeared as lot 618. It realized $220.
In 1933, “Col.” E.H.R. Green, son of “Witch of Wall Street” Hetty
Green, purchased it privately for more than $2,500, a princely sum in
Newman acquired the coin in 1942 at an undisclosed price from the
Green estate, and the gold piece has not changed hands since.
“Since Washington, only eight other collectors have owned this
coin,” Halperin said. “One very fortunate individual is destined to be
the next guardian of this quintessential prize, George’s Coin.”
After Washington, provenance research by Heritage senior cataloger
Mark Borckardt traces ownership of the unique gold pattern to Virginia
antiquarian, lawyer and politician Gustavus Adolphus Myers, whose
family participated heavily in freemasonry in New York City, as did
Washington, and the pattern likely came into the Myers family’s
possession through those connections.
Myers’ 1855 letter to the scholarly British journal Notes and
Queries indicates that he was in possession of the unique 1792
gold pattern at that time, but he may have acquired it much earlier,
according to Borckardt’s research.
The gold piece eventually passed as a gift from Myers to Virginia
banker Col. Mendes I. Cohen, although the date of the gift is not
disclosed in the auction catalog description.
In October 1875, auctioneer Edward Cogan sold Cohen’s numismatic
collection, which included the gold pattern.
The gold pattern realized $500.
The next identified owner was Parmelee, a Vermont businessman and
advanced collector who likely acquired the gold pattern from
numismatist Ebenezer Locke Mason, who had offered the pattern for sale
for $500 in the June 1882 issue of Mason’s Coin Collectors’ Magazine.
In the magazine, the piece was advertised as a “1791 [sic]
Washington cent, struck in gold,” since the piece bears no designated denomination.
Dewitt Sheldon Smith, president of the Smith Paper Company, was the
next recorded owner of the gold pattern and held it until his death in
1908. Chicago beer baron Virgil M. Brand bought the pattern in 1908
from Smith’s estate along with the remainder of Smith’s extensive
Armin William Brand of Chicago, Virgil’s youngest brother, was
awarded the gold pattern as part of the share of his brother’s estate
after Virgil’s death in 1926.
Armin Brand sold the pattern for $2,500 on June 27, 1933, to New
York dealer Wayte Raymond, with the help of St. Louis, Missouri,
dealer Burdette G. Johnson. Raymond quickly resold the pattern to Col. Green.
Green held the coin for just three years until his passing in 1936.
Newman, in partnership with Johnson, purchased much of Green’s
numismatic holdings in 1942, including the gold pattern, after
initially negotiating the purchase in 1939 of some Missouri paper
money from Chase National Bank, which administered Green’s estate.
In a copyrighted, bylined article by Newman in the Jan. 29, 1975,
issue of Coin World, Newman detailed the results of his
research and impressions on the Washington gold piece.
“This coin is unique in that it was owned by George Washington,”
Newman writes. “It is unique as the earliest gold pattern prepared for
the United States coinage; and it is unique because only one example
of the coin was made. What other American coin can command historical
and numismatic respect of that magnitude?”
Newman’s research that culminated in the 1975 Coin World
article suggested that the gold pattern was struck in Birmingham,
England, as an eventual presentation piece, and not as an example of
actual circulation production.
However, in 2010, research by numismatist John J. Kraljevich Jr.,
who writes the monthly Coin World column “Colonial America,” provided
different evidence toward a different conclusion.
In the August 2010 issue of the ANA journal, The Numismatist,
Kraljevich discusses a letter dated Feb. 18, 1792, from Nicholas Pike
to President Washington, reading in part: “I have the honor to request
your Acceptance of a Medal struck in my presence by an ingenious &
reputable Gentleman, who also made the Die, which branch he can
execute with great facility & dispatch, & which he will
warrant to stand until defaced by usage.”
Kraljevich opines that the medal referenced in the Pike’s letter was
the 1792 George Washington gold eagle pattern, and that the “ingenious
& reputable gentleman” was Jacob Perkins of Newburyport,
Massachusetts. Pike also resided in Newburyport.
“It would have been logical for Pike to be the intermediary in
presenting the coin as he and Washington had previously corresponded:
In 1788, upon receipt of Pike’s newly published System of Arithmetic,
Washington responded with high praise, stressing his appreciation of
it as an American product,” according to the Heritage auction narrative.
“Further supporting his argument is the existence of the obverse die
for the Washington Born Virginia coin that was in the possession of
descendants of Perkins. The uniformed bust of Washington is identical
to the 1792 Washington President coins; the Hancock bust of Washington
shows considerable differences,” the Heritage cataloger concluded.
Myers’ 1855 letter to Notes and Queries, reads in part: “I have a
gold coin in my possession, a rough sketch of which I inclose [sic];
and which, although much worn, is still of the full value of the
American eagle, namely, ten dollars. ... A very intelligent officer of
the institution [the Philadelphia Mint] informed me, that he
conjectured it was stamped in Birmingham. ... The coin in my
possession was evidently intended for circulation.”
The published reply in part reads: “This American piece was struck
at Birmingham by Hancock, an engraver of dies of considerable talent.
[Several pieces are described]. These are all of copper, and were said
to have been patterns for an intended coinage, but not approved.”
According to Heritage, “This reply, based on a ‘rough sketch,’ led
to the belief that the coin was produced in England by Hancock, a
misconception that has persisted until recently.”
A March 10, 1793, letter that Thomas Digges, an American-born
freight operator living in England, penned to Thomas Jefferson refined
the improper attribution and stated that Jonathan Gregory Hancock was
the die sinker and that Obadiah Westwood’s mint was the manufacturer.
“However,” according to Heritage, “the Digges letter discussed the
1791 Small Eagle and Large Eagle coppers rather than the 1792
Washington President pieces.
“In the past, numismatic scholars compared the uniformed busts of
Washington on the aforementioned 1791- and 1792-dated coins, and
concluded they were identical and therefore produced by the same firm.
“However, close and careful observation of the busts reveals a great
number of dissimilarities; thus a different producer was responsible
for the 1792 George Washington President coins.”
The unique gold 1792 Washington President pattern differs decidedly
in appearance also from the 1792 Washington President pattern designed
by Peter Getz and struck in Philadelphia.
The Getz pattern depicts a portrait left of Washington in military
garb with epaulets, with G. WASHINGTON PRESIDENT.I. inscribed around
on the obverse, with date below. The reverse depicts a heraldic eagle,
with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around and 13 five-pointed stars
scattered in the field above the eagle’s head.
On the unique 1792 Washington President pattern, the obverse
features a portrait left of Washington in formal attire, WASHINGTON
PRESIDENT inscribed around, without the G.
On the reverse, the eagle appears with wings unfurled pointed down,
with an arc of 12 six-pointed stars along the top border and a single
star directly above the eagle’s head. The eagle grasps a ribbon in its
beak, with the ribbon inscribed incuse UNUM E. PLURIBUS.
The unique gold pattern bears the incuse edge inscription UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA.
Eric Newman noted in his 1975 Coin World article that the
unique 13-stars gold pattern was not in full conformity with the
legislation submitted to the U.S. Senate on Dec. 21, 1791, and
approved by that body Jan. 12, 1792.
According to Newman, “the bill provided for ‘an impression or
representation of the head of the President of the United States for
the time being, ***his initial*** his surname at length, the
succession of the presidency numerically and the year of the coinage.’
” The Getz pattern, in contrast, fulfilled all of the proposed
legislation’s design requirements.
By April 2, 1792, the act establishing the United States Mint was
fully enacted and all design elements relating to the president had
Newman’s son, Andy, summed up his father’s connection to the gold
pattern this way.
“To my father, George Washington and Ben Franklin were personal
heroes,” Andy Newman said. “He considered Washington’s refusal that
our country’s first coinage depict his own image on it to be an
emblematic example of Washington’s profound humility and willingness
to put country before self.”
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