US Coins

Market Analysis: ‘Ugly Head’ or ‘Washington the Great’

The origins of this 1784-dated token depicting George Washington are unknown, but it is largely considered to be a satirical medal of American origin, and Partrick’s silvered white metal example graded VF-25 sold for $72,000.

All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

One of the most enigmatic early American coin issues listed in A Guide Book of United States Coins, placed among the early U.S. issues, is the 1784-dated Washington “Ugly Head” token. It’s also known as the “Washington the Great” token

It is listed among medals, tokens and coinage proposals dated from 1783 to 1795 called broadly “Washington Pieces” in the “Red Book,” many of which were struck in England later than their dates indicate. On Page 82 of the 2021 edition, it is listed in both copper and pewter, called a “Satirical medal presumably of American origin,” and Heritage adds, “the origin of these enigmatic pieces remains unknown.”

The reverse displays the 13 joined rings as found on the Fugio coppers and dollar-sized coins attributed to the Continental Congress, and some have attributed it to an American origin rather than an English one because of the crude die work and its use of distinctly American symbols. Further, several examples are known to have been in America before the Civil War, and before the flood of later English examples produced for the American market. Struck in a silvered white metal and graded Very Fine 25 by NGC, the example from the Donald G. Partrick Collection sold for $72,000 in Heritage's March 17 and 18 auction.

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