Rhode Island Ship Medals by Variety | Colonial Coins by Type 
Previous Coin on the "Cool Coins" Tour | Next Coin on the "Cool Coins" Tour

1779 RHODE ISLAND SHIP MEDAL IN PEWTER - 
Wreath Below Ship on Obverse

Obverse of Rhode Island Ship Medal in Pewter - Wreath Below Ship on Obverse     Reverse of Rhode Island Ship Medal in Pewter - Wreath Below Ship on Obverse

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.

PCGS MS-64 (illustrated above).  Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "The Benson Collection - Part I", February 16, 18-20, 2001, Lot 34, where it was described as follows: "(c. 1779) Rhode Island Ship Medal, with wreath, pewter. PCGS graded MS-63. Breen states that about six are known of this variety struck in pewter. Most of those are in circulated grades, including the EF Garrett coin (Bowers & Ruddy Galleries, 10/80:1328). To find a choice mint state example that has been off the market for 55 years is something of a miracle. The surfaces are free of disturbing handling marks or other problems, and the coin has an even gray patina over lustrous fields. It is boldly struck and of utmost importance to the colonial specialist and one of the most desirable colonial coins in this extensive collection.  The PCGS Population Report notes only 4 examples of this have been graded, one is slightly better at MS-64, next is this coin, and below that are two other circulated pieces. The Guide Book states that "those struck in pewter are all rare and valued higher", but gives no estimate of market value. In Scott's Encyclopedia (1971) it states that only 2 are known. Breen enumerates 5 pieces, but notes that some duplication may be included in that list. The extensive Roper Collection (Stack's 1984) had a pewter example, but it was not the wreath below ship variety. These have been included in the American colonial issues for over a century, and are highly prized by specialists.  Free of tin pesting which so often mars pewter coins of this era, and graced by luster in the fields, and deeply struck devices. The only striking weakness is on the extreme high points of the ship port holes at the center of the vessel. One of the most important rarities in this colonial section, and worthy of a record price for the issue. So far as we know, no other pewter examples have been offered since the Roper coin in 1983, which as noted was a different variety.  No pedigree information included, but most likely purchased in the mid 1940s privately." - Paul Arthur Norris - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "Pre-Long Beach Sale", September 23 & 24, 2002, Lot 38, illustrated, where it was described as follows: "Breen-1142. Betts-563. PCGS graded MS-64. One of the very finest known specimens of this rare issue, with two seen this high at PCGS, and none higher out of a total of 7 graded by that service. The surfaces are simply amazing for this issue, often these are found with corrosion (see below), not so here, the surfaces are mint fresh and well preserved. As to the strike, we note full details on even the tiny flags atop the ships masts, and just trace weakness on the central ship portholes perhaps caused by die failure as this is a late obverse die state. The reverse is boldly struck, and the color is a steel lustrous gray throughout. We do note a minor die crack through the upper right above the ship, and a die lump on the rigging of the foremast. Much better than the specimen offered in Roper, Robison, Garrett, Norweb and others, and long known to be represented by just a few known struck in pewter. Of those listed in the census below, most seem to be of this die pairing.
One side of the token depicts Conanicut Island, with rows of American and French soldiers marching with weapons towards small boats offshore to the right, while Howe's 3 menacing triple masted ships lie just offshore, with the legend loosely translated "Americans fleeing Rhode Island August 1778" while the obverse (ship side) shows a proud 3 masted ship (Howe's) with its sails furled but flags flying proudly and the legend surrounding something like "Admiral Howe's flagship, 1779, " but importantly the word "vlugtende" (fleeing) has been removed below the ship on the die (the die was reannealed and a wreath was placed below the ship). Breen does not note if these coins have been punch matched to any other known coiners, and the engraver, mint and designer remain to be discovered.
Why these satirical coins were struck remains a mystery, Breen deciphered the legends in the historical context to refer to Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay west of Newport. Loosely translated, the legends state "The American's had to run away in 1778, now there goes Adm. Howe the same way in 1779". Admiral Richard Howe and Henry Clinton of Great Britain were in Colonial America to stop the rebelling American's, and these two leaders nearly had it out with Colonial and French troops off Conanicut Island. However, a storm came up as the two navy's jockeyed for position, and both sides retreated, leaving the battle for later. Howe retook Conanicut Island in August of 1778. Fifteen months later, the battles had turned, and Howe retreated from Conanicut island in a hurry leaving it for the American and French forces. On a few examples the word "vlugtende" is below the ship, which means "fleeing" (referring to Howe), and apparently the coiners feared reprisals for memorializing his retreat in such an insulting manner, so the dies were changed to remove the offending word, and a politically acceptable wreath was put in its place.
Estimated Value $7,000-10,000.
Here is a census of those we could reasonably locate: 1). The specimen offered here from the Paul Arthur Norris Collection PCGS graded MS-64, previously from our Benson Collection Sale, 2/2001:34. Apparently tied for the Finest Known (Norris upgraded to this coin from specimen #3 below) 2). Another, not seen PCGS MS-64. 3). The Paul Arthur Norris specimen, PCGS MS-62 (plate) our Benson sale 2/2001:35. Rim clip at 4:00 o'clock on the obverse. 4). Another, not seen, PCGS graded MS-60. (probably one of those listed below). 5). Kagin's 332 sale, 2/83:1006 (plate)," AU-Uncirculated, small spot in upper right obverse field". 6). Kagin's 313 GENA Sale, 9/78:1770 (plate) "About Uncirculated-55". 7). The Parsons/Ellsworth/Garrett specimen, Bowers & Ruddy 10/80:1328 (plate) "EF or better" at $5,000. Identifiable by a small scratch above stern flag. 8). Paramount's Burnheimer Sale, 5/76:502 (plate) "AU-50 Several areas of roughness near the rims as is usually encountered on pewter pieces" at $2,050. 9). The Norweb specimen, Bowers and Merena Galleries, 10/87:1262 (plate) "EF-40, spots of corrosion" at $1,000. 10). NERCG's Commonwealth Sale, 7/77:34 (plate), "VF-35 choice surfaces and color" at $1,000. 11). The Roper specimen, Stack's 12/83:174 (plate), "VF, 3 or 4 spots of tin pest obverse". 12). New Netherlands 48th sale, 11/56:792 (no plate) "VF somewhat defective mainly about the periphery, recently obtained abroad" and almost certainly the same specimen as New Nethlands 51st sale, 6/58:183 (no plate) "VF slightly imperfect as always; edge scaly and irregular, obtained in England". 13). Robison specimen, Stack's 2/82:71 (plate). "VF holed".

Obverse of Rhode Island Ship Medal in Pewter - Wreath Below Ship on Obverse     Reverse of Rhode Island Ship Medal in Pewter - Wreath Below Ship on Obverse

Images courtesy of Superior Galleries

PCGS MS-62 (illustrated above).  Ex - Superior Galleries' "Pre-Long Beach Sale", October 1-3, 2000, Lot 1010, where it was described as follows: "Breen-1142 Pewter Trial Piece with Ornament Under Ship PCGS Mint State-62. Frosty light steel and silvery gray. Free of marks or spots. The only defect is a curved clip out of the edge touching the tops of 779 and opposing legend at DE-IL. The PCGS label mentions the clipped planchet. It is difficult to be sure the clip was mint-made without removing the piece from the slab, and I suspect the clip may have occurred after minting. Regardless, this piece is extremely rare. Breen mentions the possibility of 6 examples in his encyclopedia, and some of those may have been duplicate listings." - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "The Benson Collection" Sale - Part 1, February 18-20, 2001

EF.  Bowers & Ruddy Galleries sale of the Garrett collection, October 1980, Lot 1328)