US Coins

Michigan collector to sell his prized patterns

Nearly 250 pattern coins from Michigan collector Bill Rau showcase the diversity of this specialized collecting area and will be offered at Heritage’s April 25 to 29 auctions held in conjunction with the Central States Numismatic Society 79th Annual Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.

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Rau is a lifetime resident of Michigan’s Bavarian capital, Frankenmuth, and is well-known to tourists and locals alike as the founder of Rau’s Country Store. He recalls the collecting bug entering his life early when, after his confirmation at a local church, his godfather took him to Detroit where he was allowed to pick $10 in coins from various boxes.

His collecting interests eventually gravitated to U.S. pattern issues — because of both their rarity and their interesting designs. Rau studied books on patterns including J. Hewitt Judd’s United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces and Andrew W. Pollock’s United States Patterns and Related Issues and learned all he could, forming a collection that represents the amazing diversity that this collecting area offers. He combed through auction catalogs to track prices realized to figure out what to bid for coins, because the series doesn’t have a traditional price guide, since many issues trade infrequently and are represented by only a few examples.

While his collecting interests would expand to other areas, patterns remained his love and primary numismatic focus.

Among the 31 patterns from the Rau Collection offered at Heritage’s April 26 Platinum Night session is an unusual 1859 $20 double eagle pattern cataloged as Judd 257 with designs by Anthony Paquet. The obverse depicts a seated figure of Liberty facing left, supporting a fasces with her right hand, her fingers on her left hand gripping a shield. An expressive eagle stands behind the shield, looking up at the stoic Liberty. The reverse states the denomination, the date (which is usually presented on a coin’s obverse), and the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, all within a sturdy oak and laurel wreath.

This example was struck in copper, subsequently gilt to appear gold (as expected for a double eagle), and is graded Proof 63 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and identified on the slab label as gilt.

Paquet’s lettering is distinctive, characterized by an elegant elongation with thick vertical and thin horizontal elements. He is best-known to collectors for his distinctive 1861 and 1861-S Coronet double eagles featuring the Paquet Reverse.

As the assistant engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, the ambitious Paquet created a new reverse to replace chief engraver James Longacre’s reverse that had been in use on circulating double eagles since 1850. Paquet’s design did not wear well and was used only in the start of 1861, quickly replaced by Longacre’s original reverse design.

Paquet’s pattern double eagle is not without its charms. Cornelius Vermeule writing in Numismatic Art in America calls his Liberty “a kind of Athena goddess of rectitude: Liberty seated stiffly,” explaining, “His goddess is plump, strained, and rather earthy, a contrast to the brittle carefulness of the details, especially around the base of the group and the intelligent spacing of the small stars.”

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On the pattern’s reverse, Vermeule notices the similarities of Paquet’s distinctive font with that seen in contemporary newspapers, further observing Paquet’s debt to ancient Roman coin design on both sides.

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