US Coins

Stacks Bowers ready for Whitman Baltimore sale

Stack’s Bowers Galleries is set to offer The Twin Leaf Collection of Connecticut and Massachusetts coppers on March 1 as part of the official auction of the Whitman Baltimore Coin and Collectibles Expo

The anonymous collector started his collection with modest ambitions, seeking examples for a type set of issues from Colonial America. Prior to the first production of U.S. coins at the Philadelphia Mint in 1792, individual colonies and states and private coiners took it upon themselves to produce primarily copper issues for local use. 

hobo nickels folk artInside Coin World: Hobo nickels endure as a form of folk art: Hobo nickels, leper colonies tokens and a religious objection to Continental Currency are among the subjects of features exclusive to the March issue.

The catalog explains the collector’s ambitions, writing, “primed for a challenging collecting pursuit by years of assembling one of the greatest collections of large cents by die variety and die state, he zeroed in on the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont coppers.” While he sold the Vermont issues some time ago, the present offering of Massachusetts copper issues includes 10 of the 11 known Massachusetts half cent varieties and 35 of the 40 known die combinations of Massachusetts cents. 

Among Connecticut coppers, the collector loved the challenge of the vast series with over 300 different varieties. The cataloger observed, “While the charming intricacies of the various dies might at first seem overwhelming, as our collector has mentioned on several occasions, most Connecticuts can be attributed without magnification if the coins are nice enough.” 

Its first auction appearance for a century

Appearing for the first time at auction in more than a century is a rare 1787 Massachusetts cent graded Extremely Fine 45 by Professional Coin Grading Service with deep, glossy dark olive brown surfaces. Cataloged as Ryder 2a-F in Hillyer Ryder’s 1920 work cataloging the copper coins of Massachusetts, it is known as the Transposed Arrows cent and is considered one of the rarities of the entire state coinage series. The eagle’s olive branches and arrows are switched on this reverse die, which may represent the first reverse die used in the Massachusetts cent series. 

It has been long known as a rarity in the series, with Sylvester S. Crosby writing in his 1875 book The Early Coins of America that the unique arrows and branch arrangement on the reverse “deserves particular notice” and that he knew of just four examples. Crosby used the same coin to be offered in Baltimore as his illustration of the variety, identified by two short portions of the reverse planchet flaw that are visible on the plate, one at the upper right portion of the shield, the other just above the U of MASSACHUSETTS. 

Its last trip to the auction block was in Henry Chapman’s June 1918 sale of the Allison W. Jackman Collection, where Chapman described it as “Fine. Dark brown color. Excessively rare, only four known.” It sold for $71 and the successful bidder was Hillyer Ryder, who illustrated it in his 1920 work. 

Stack’s Bowers writes, “This specimen of the famous Transposed Arrows cent is undeniably the highlight of the Twin Leaf Collection, a coin that has been very much enjoyed by the collector for more than 15 years,” calling it “an early American prize that will be a centerpiece of any collection it enters.”

A recent discovery

Occasional discoveries continue to be made even in collecting areas as well-studied as the Connecticut coppers. In 2002 a new die pairing of a 1786 Connecticut copper was discovered. It was the first new 1786 Connecticut copper die marriage to be discovered since the publication of Henry Miller’s State Coinage of Connecticut in 1920. 

The offered example of the variety — today cataloged as Miller 5.7-G — was discovered shortly before being offered at Stack’s Jan. 27, 2011, New York Americana Auction where it was graded Fine 15 by the auctioneer and sold for $40,250 in the first public offering of the variety. At the time it was the second of just two known; since that offering a third has been reported. 

Despite substantial wear, “Pleasing deep tan on the higher points of the motifs contrasts nicely with the deep steel brown of the recesses. Light granularity is noted across both sides but it does not affect the overall eye appeal. One tiny nick left of the portrait and another at the rim beneath the truncation are the only notable marks, and these barely warrant mention.” 

Striking irregularities are often seen on these hand-struck coins and this one had a misaligned obverse die which resulted in a weak strike opposite the date, with the digits appearing ghostly. 

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