US Coins

Dana Bickford’s $10 pattern coins in Heritage sale

Heritage will continue its offerings from the collection of Texas businessman Bob Simpson during a Jan. 6 Platinum Night session of its Florida United Numismatists auctions in Orlando.

Consistent with the prior sales, Part 7 of the Simpson trove offers some magnificent pattern coins, including one of just two known Judd 1373 1874 Bickford gold $10 eagle pattern coins, this one graded Proof 65+ Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service. Heritage calls them “among the rarest, most valuable, and most mysterious issues in all of U.S. numismatics.”

They became widely known after their 1913 publication in the book United States Pattern, Trial, and Experimental Pieces by Edgar Adams and William Woodin, which was the standard reference on the pattern series until Dr. Hewitt Judd’s book in the mid-20th century.

Heritage explained, “Neither of the coins were offered publicly until 1979, so the issue remained out-of-sight, out-of-mind for even the most dedicated pattern collectors until recent times.”

These were part of a proposal by Dana Bickford, owner of the Bickford Knitting Machine Manufacturing Co. of Brattleboro, Vermont, for an international coinage that could circulate in the United States and Europe, as explained by an article published in the Jan. 1, 1874, issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer. It stated, “Mr. Bickford, while traveling in Europe, experienced the difficulties and inconveniences that European travelers are subjected to, of having to provide money current in each country he visited, and at times ignorant of its value in our money. Having upon one occasion been particularly annoyed, he determined, if possible, to overcome the difficulty, and being a man of great inventive capacity, was not long in arriving at his present plan, and designed a coin that shows on its face its value in our money and that of the principal commercial nations of the world.”

Bickford consulted with Mint Director Henry R. Linderman. The cited article added, “After carefully examining it the director was so impressed with its importance, and the great saving the adoption of such a coin would be to our government, that with his usual foresight and penetration he at once ordered sample coins struck off at the Philadelphia Mint, which proved entirely satisfactory and practical.”

Bickford’s proposal was ultimately unsuccessful.

The reverse of the pattern speaks to its ambition by including the exchange values in various international currencies: DOLLARS 10; STERLING 2.1.1; MARKEN 41.99; KRONEN 37.31; GULDEN 20.73; FRANCS 51.81.

The diameter is the same as a contemporary gold $20 double eagle, but the planchet is thinner, which Heritage suggests is possibly to prevent counterfeiting that could have occurred by hollowing out the coin and replacing the missing gold with then-cheaper platinum.

The auctioneer writes, “This lot represents an important opportunity for the advanced collector to obtain one of the rarest issues in the U.S. pattern series. No example of Judd-1373 has been publicly offered in more than a decade, and this spectacular specimen has been off the market for 21 years.” It last sold for $276,000 at Stack’s 65th Anniversary Sale and is the current plate coin for the Judd book and Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.

The other gold example is graded Proof 65 Deep Cameo by PCGS and realized $1,265,000 when offered at Heritage’s January 2010 FUN auction.

Going beyond the gold

Beyond the two known gold examples, the Bickford design was struck in copper, aluminum and nickel compositions, with both plain and reeded edges.

For those collectors without seemingly unlimited funds, the auction also offers a Judd 1374 Bickford $10 pattern in gilt copper, graded Proof 62 by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker, and a Judd 1376 example struck in aluminum and graded Proof 65 Cameo by PCGS, also with a CAC sticker. On the latter Heritage writes, “The surfaces of this Gem Cameo proof exhibit pronounced black-and-white contrast, with deeply reflective fields and thickly frosted devices typical of an aluminum pattern. Delicate streaks of thin golden patina appear over each side without minimizing the overwhelming brilliance,” and it is one of just two struck in aluminum known.

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