The 1792 silver center cent, one of the most famous of all pattern designs. This was apparently an attempt to make the one cent coin J4/P5
smaller by using a silver plug valued at 3/4 of a cent with the copper valued at 1/4 of a cent. The plug itself is conical in shape, and the planchets oriented, such that the wider side was used for the obverse. Judd describes these as having obliquely reeded edges but examples also have normal vertical reeding.
Over a dozen are known as listed below courtesy of Mark Borkhardt, Alan Weinberg & Saul Teichman from Heritage 4/2012 sale. The 5 finest are also illustrated.
1. Garrett Specimen. MS67 Brown PCGS. Peter Gschwend (Thomas L. Elder, 6/1908), lot 116, James W. Ellsworth (5/1923); John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2347; private collection, Simpson collection, illustrated below courtesy of PCGS.
2. Norweb Specimen. MS64 Brown PCGS. Jacob Morris; Robert C.W. Brock; University of Pennsylvania; Philip H. Ward; Charles Dochus; Harry Forman; New Netherlands (3/14/1958); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3392; Stack's (1/2002), lot 724; Ed Milas; Texas Collection, purchased for $2.5 million and subsequently resold in 2011 by Stu Levine, Anthony Terranova, and Joe O'Connor; private collection, Heritage 8/14, lot 5517 - illustrated below.
3. Newman Specimen. MS63+ Brown NGC. F.C.C. Boyd; Eric P. Newman, Heritage 5/2014, lot 30426 - this has obliquely reeded edge, illustrated below courtesy of Heritage.
4. Weinberg Specimen. AU58BN PCGS. Thomas Warner (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1884), lot 3215; Richard B. Winsor (S.H. & H. Chapman, 12/1895), lot 291; Loye Lauder (William Doyle Galleries, 12/1983), lot 233; Alan Weinberg, Heritage 1/2019 FUN. This has obliquely reeded edge, illustrated below courtesy of Alan Weinberg.
5. Morris Specimen. MS61 Brown PCGS. Charles Morris (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1905), lot 361; later, James O. Sloss; William Mitkoff and Numismatics, Ltd.; Great Eastern Numismatic Association Sale (Pine Tree, 9/1974), lot 1272a; William T. Anton; private collection; Liberty Collection, Heritage 4/2012, StacksBowers 11/17, illustrated below courtesy of Heritage. For more on this piece, click here.
Note: The Morris sale catalog states that the silver plug was added later with hand engraving done on both sides. Research by Len Augsburger, Joel Orosz, and Pete Smith and confirmed by Stu and Maureen Levine, Tony Lopez and Robert Rodriguez has determined that this is actually the case and that this was actually a J2/P2 that was altered years later.
6. Smithsonian Specimen. AU. Robert Coulton Davis (New York Coin & Stamp, 1/1890), lot 1008a; John Story Jenks (Henry Chapman, 12/1921), lot 5569; Newcomer, Lenox R. Lohr; Empire Coin (1961 FPL); River Oaks Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1976), lot 908; Robert Hughes; Private Collection; Smithsonian Institution. Judd plate coin for the ninth and 10th editions; current Guide Book plate coin.
7. Kendall Foundation. AU53BN PCGS. Stearns Specimen. C.H. Stearns Collection (Mayflower, 12/1966), lot 280; Kendall Foundation-Stacks Bowers 3/15.
8. Bushnell Specimen. MS61 Brown NGC. Cogan 4/1863, Charles Ira Bushnell (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1882), lot 1766; Lorin G. Parmelee (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 5; Harlan Page Smith (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1906), lot 1315; George H. Earle (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2179; Charles Wurtzbach; Virgil M. Brand (journal #92002:147); Belden Roach Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1944), lot 3111; Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 1794; Stacks 7/52, Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; Landau Sale (New Netherlands, 12/1958), lot 104; Corrado Romano Collection (Stack's, 6/1987), lot 143; Stack's (1/1999), lot 143; Stack's (10/2000), lot 56. Southern collection, Simpson collection, Heritage 4/13, Heritage 9/14 - click on thumbnail image at the top of this page to see an enlargement.
9. Judd Specimen. XF45 PCGS. Thomas Elder (10/1907), lot 1732; H. Chapman, Brand (journal #48137) ?, Elder 1/36 lot 2968 ?, Dr. J. Hewitt Judd; Illustrated History (A. Kosoff, 1962), lot 19; Julian Leidman; Archangel collection, StacksBowers 10/18. The original Judd plate coin.
10. Partrick Specimen. XF45+ NGC. Bernard Gimelson (5/15/1968); Partrick-Heritage 1/15 FUN
11. Mickley Specimen. VF30 NGC. Joseph J. Mickley (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 2135; Colonel Mendes I. Cohen (E. Cogan, 10/1875), lot 380 where the corroded reverse is noted; William Sumner Appleton; Dohrmann-Woodward 3/1882 lot 437; Dohrmann-Woodward 2/1887 lot 816 - see note below; Dewitt Smith?, Brand (journal id #46507)?; Abner Kreisberg and Hans M.F. Schulman (3/1964), lot 1106; Gibson Collection (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 14; John L. Roper (Stack's, 12/1983), lot 425; Bert Cohen, David Queller (Lemus Collection); Queller Family Collection (Heritage, 1/2009), lot 1500, Heritage 8/2012 lot 5015; StacksBowers 8/16 ANA, lot 3010, Heritage 1/17 FUN.
Note: According to the Woodward 2/1887 sale, "The silver plug in the centre, by careful examination, showed a slight projection above the surface of the piece. It was intrusted to Mr. A.C. Gies of Pittsburgh, Pa., who tightened the plug, and, with consummate skill, retouched the engraving of the legend on the silver".
12. Terranova Specimen. VF35 PCGS. Glendining's Sale (1997); Anthony Terranova and Stu Levine; Oghigian estate; Heritage 8/16 ANA.
13. Starr Specimen. Fine 15 PCGS. Seavey collection (1873 Descriptive Catalog #842), Parmelee, Virgil M. Brand in Sept 1899 (journal id #20765), Armin Brand per his notebooks, J.C. Morgenthau (311th Sale, 10/1933), lot 78; Floyd Starr (Stack's, 10/1992), lot 3; later, American Numismatic Rarities (8/2006), lot 13.
14. California Specimen. NGC VG details plug replaced, repaired, scratched. A Northern California collector purchased this piece for $400 in 2006. The coin was offered at a police department auction of unclaimed property. Reported in Coin World, January 5, 2009, later offered in Heritage 11/17 lot 16608.
Note: The plug is magnetic, ie not silver, but the host coin is genuine.
15. Unplugged Specimen. NGC62RB. Discovered by Anthony Terranova, 1993; Stack's (3/1995), lot 1400, Partrick-Heritage 1/15 FUN, illustrated below courtesy of Heritage.
The coin does not have a silver insert. It is unclear whether or not it had one that was removed or if this is simply a J2/P2 that someone tried to drill like the Morris coin above. Others believe this may have been a trial striking before making the Silver Center cents. In his 1984 provenance study, Scott Rubin mentions Thomas Elder's sale of October 1926, lot 1436, where a piece was described as: "1792. Pattern for Silver Centre Cent (freak)." That listing might represent an early appearance of this piece.
We have not assigned it a separate Judd or Pollock number since we cannot determine if this was deliberate, ie a test to see how easy it would be to pop out the silver and thus debase the coin, or some kind of mint error in the production of these. The Morris example, see #5 above, does not appears to be a second example. It seems to be an example of J2/P2 that was later drilled and had the plug added as the hole is not centered.
These were also struck in copper and/or billon J2/P2 with just over a half dozen known with the Smithsonian example, the plate coin in Judd and Pollock being the finest known. The former Seavey (1873 Descriptive Catalog #841), Parmelee, Brand, Norweb coin is the finest collectible example.
There are also 2 blank planchets without the silver plug in the Independence Hall collection.
For additional historical information on 1792 coinage, click here.
Both photos courtesy of Stacks.