US Coins

Bob R. Simpson’s patterns included in September Heritage sale

Some incredible pattern coins will trade hands on Sept. 17 in Dallas as Heritage will offer selections from the collection of Texas energy executive Bob Simpson.

The auction, titled, “Important Selections from The Bob R. Simpson Collection, Part I,” is part of a selective editing process by the collector who explains, “Like all collectors, I’ve put together sets and collections and sold coins along the way to refocus my collecting efforts.”

United States pattern coins are a strength of the Simpson collection, especially when he reportedly spent $36 million acquiring the entirety of a significant pattern collection. “The pattern coins have always fascinated me,” Simpson says, adding, “I think the designs are even more beautiful than the regular-issue coins.” He also sees a value proposition in these, explaining, “because the mintages are so miniscule, they are so much rarer — and far more undervalued — than regular-issue coins.”

Patterns struck in 1916 for Adolph A. Weinman’s Winged Liberty Head dime and Walking Liberty half dollar are especially rare. The Simpson auction will offer one listed as Judd 1984 in the most recent edition of Dr. J. Hewitt Judd’s book United States Patterns Coins. This piece is unique. The overall design of the pattern dime is similar to that seen on the final design, but with some subtle differences. Heritage explains, “The bust truncation is flatter at the front and more curved toward the back. The letters in LIBERTY are arranged asymmetrically. The lowest horizontal bands on the fasces show two splits instead of one. The reverse legends and design elements are closer to the borders, and the branch and leaves are noticeably different than the regular issue. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.”

Researcher Roger Burdette believes that up to 2 million examples of this design were made between Aug. 30 and Sept. 6, 1916. Production stopped when AT&T reported that the new dimes were too thick, due to the rim, for use in pay phone boxes, and nearly all were melted.

Burdette summarized, “At least 50 specimens left the Mint for testing, and the Director’s office; 40 accounted for as returned; others not located.” Of these, the close similarities between the pattern and the regular issue suggest that many could have entered circulation and remain undetected. This one remains unique, is graded Proof 64 by Professional Coin Grading Service and has a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker.

A ‘Quintuple Stella’

Patterns could test new designs, but they also could represent new denominations as seen in this 1879 $20 Metric “Quintuple Stella” copper pattern, Judd-1644, graded Proof 64+ red and brown by PCGS with a green CAC sticker.

The obverse design is similar to contemporary Coronet double eagles, but the obverse is inscribed * 30 * G * 1.5 * S * 3.5 * C * 35 * G * R * A * M * S *, while the motto DEO EST GLORIA, Latin for “To God is the glory,” substitutes for IN GOD WE TRUST within the reverse stars. The pattern was part of an effort for an international trade coin to compete with European gold 20-franc coins, and is best-known for the $4 “Stella” patterns of 1879 and 1880.

Five examples of the metric $20 issues were struck in gold, and perhaps a dozen examples struck in copper or bronze are also known today. Some of those latter pieces have since been gilt, to resemble the coveted gold Quintuple Stellas.

The Heritage catalog observes on its offered piece “nearly full copper-orange color with slight mellowing to lighter brown,” adding, “A tiny stain is evident in the field at Liberty’s neck, and a small scrape in the left obverse field limits the grade, but otherwise the surfaces are exceptional.”

The metric double eagle, which would have been the equivalent of European 100-franc coins, was ultimately not adopted by Congress. The extreme rarity and price of the gold examples — Legend Numismatics is currently offering one graded PCGS Proof 64 Deep Cameo with a green CAC sticker for $2.2 million — means that even the bronze and copper examples can exceed six-figure price tags when offered at auction.

Fanciful creations

Also collected under the pattern umbrella is a broad range of die trials and other more esoteric issues, like an 1822 impression of a Capped Bust half dollar obverse die. The plain-edged Judd A1822-1 copper die trial is graded Mint State 64 brown by PCGS and carries a green CAC sticker. Researcher Andrew Pollock, who wrote the 1994 book United States Patterns and Related Issues, has stated that this obverse die, “does not appear to match any of the 1822 obverses listed in the Overton half dollar reference, and hence it is inferred that it was never used for regular coinage production.”

The prominent die crack that spans the obverse led Heritage’s catalogers to conclude, “It is likely that the Mint sold the broken die, and that these impressions in copper were privately produced. Dr. Montroville Dickeson, Joseph Mickley, Edward Cogan, and John W. Haseltine are associated with such restrikes, produced during the mid-19th century.”

A 1796 Capped Bust $2.50 quarter eagle struck in white metal, Judd 23a, represents another likely private restrike and is graded MS-63 by PCGS. It was struck from rusted dies and, like the 1822 Capped Bust half dollar die trial, was produced from dies sold as scrap by the Philadelphia Mint. No known 18th century patterns are dated 1796, and the white metal striking was likely the result of Mickley producing fanciful pieces for collectors rather than trying to strike deceptive counterfeits. “In his defense, the die rust on his various concoctions is so extensive that there is no comparable coin struck in the year of issue that it could be confused with,” Heritage points out, explaining, “this piece [was not] intended to deceive anyone. The illogical combination of extensive die rust on an off-metal strike, presumably made prior to regular coin production, simply does not make sense.”

The auctioneer suggests that its appeal could extend beyond pattern collectors, concluding, “It could certainly find a home in a pattern collection, or just as easily in a set of early quarter eagles or a set of 1796 coinage.”

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