US Coins

EAC convention highlight: visit to Clapp Collection of large cent duplicates

One of the highlights for attendees at the Early American Coppers 2020 convention April 30 to May 3 will be a visit to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and the George H. Clapp Collection of U.S. large cent duplicates.

Clapp was an 1877 engineering graduate of Western University of Pennsylvania, now known as the University of Pittsburgh. He is recognized as one of the pioneers of the processes for manufacturing aluminum.

Copper attraction

Clapp also developed an affinity circa 1923 for copper in the form of U.S. copper cents , primarily 1793 to 1814. Clapp had become involved in numismatics at an early age and was a founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society.

Clapp’s brother, Charles, a stockbroker, had an extensive collection of large cents, the foundation of which was the James W. Ellsworth Collection. (Ellsworth was a member of the board of governors of the World’s Columbia Exposition 1892 to 1893.)

When Charles fell on financial hard times, he sold his cent collection to his brother, who extensively added to the collection.

George Clapp’s pursuits included numismatic scholarship in the form of research on early U.S. large cent varieties, resulting in, among other publications, his 1931 monograph, The United States Cents of the Years 1798–1799.

According to American Numismatic Society Collections Manager Dr. Elena Stolyarik, “In 1937, George Clapp signed a deed of gift, donating 1,350 large cents (1793-1857) to the ANS but retaining possession of the collection until he finished the book he was working on. As reported in our database, [when] the collection was delivered to the ANS in 1946, it had increased to 1,523  large cents.”

Circa 1946 to 1947, Clapp also donated some 500 duplicates to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Dr. William H. Sheldon used Clapp’s research and his coins donated to the ANS as the foundation of his 1949 reference with Dorothy Paschal, Early American Cents, re-titled Penny Whimsy in later editions.

A number of the coins Clapp had donated to the ANS wound up, oddly, decades later, in private collector hands, having been stolen by Sheldon, who swapped out inferior coins of his own for the Clapp coins.

The ANS ultimately filed a civil suit seeking the return of the stolen coins from those collectors with whom the stolen Clapp coins resided. Many of the stolen Clapp coins were eventually repatriated to the ANS holdings.

Carnegie connection

Among the duplicate large cents donated to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, according to Early American Coppers President William Eckberg, is the 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain, AMERI. cent, Sheldon 1.

Additional pieces include a 1794 Liberty Cap, Apple Cheek cent, S-24; 1795 Liberty Cap, Jefferson Head cent, S-80, considered by researchers to be a privately struck piece but still collected as part of the early cent series; 1802 Draped Bust cent, S-232; 1810 Classic Head cent, S-282; and 1819 Coronet cent, Newcomb 11, as attributed by Howard Newcomb in United States Copper Cents 1816–1857.

Eckberg says some of the Clapp duplicate large cents show evidence of neglect, and lack of conservation.

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