1792 SILVER-CENTER CENT
Judd 1, Pollock 1, Breen 1369, Rubin 5
Rarity: approximately 12
attributed to Henry Voigt
Diameter: ±23 mm
Metal Content: Pure Copper
with a Silver plug
Weight range: 69.9-72.8 grains
Edge: Vertical reeding
Images courtesy of Stack's
1792 saw a flurry of activity
aimed at establishing a Mint in America. Congress passed a Mint Act,
chose a Director, purchased a plot of land, erected a building, and hired employees.
Four prototypes of the One Cent
piece were tested: a large copper piece (the "Birch" Cent), a smaller
copper piece with a silver center (the Silver-Center Cent"), another of the same size (the Fusion Alloy Cent, in which the silver
and copper were melted together), and another of the same size in pure
copper. The Silver-Center Cent answered the concerns of then
Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, who felt that a billon coin could
be too easily counterfeited. However, the technical difficulties in
producing quantities of the Silver-Center Cent remained. Although no written evidence
remains to record the testing, clearly the large, pure copper piece was
favored, as this was the chosen format when production of Large Cents
began in 1793.
When Frank Stewart
demolished the original Mint building circa 1924, he discovered some blank
planchets for the Silver-Center Cents (missing the silver center).
In 1994, Anthony Terranova discovered a struck Silver-Center Cent missing
the silver center. The several experts who examined this piece
believe that the silver center was never included and that the coin may
have been a test piece to show the size of the new coin. The weight of this discovery piece was 72.6 grains. The planchet diameter measured 29.3 millimeters on the vertical axis and 29.2 millimeters along the horizontal axis. Planchet thickness varied from 1.3 to 1.4 mm.
Judd considered all the
plain edge pieces to be counterfeits.
Credit for the design and
engraving of the Silver-Center Cent normally goes to Henry Voigt, the
first Chief Coiner of the U.S. Mint, however this assignment is subject to
interpretation and is probably incorrect. The engraving skills shown
on the Silver-Center Cent exceed those possessed by someone with no
previous engraving experience.
Known examples (11-12
Finest known. Ex - Garrett
Uncirculated" (illustrated above). Ex - Norweb - Stack's
"Americana / Hain Family Part II" Sale, January 15-17, 2002, Lot
724, illustrated, sold for $414,000.00
Collection at the Smithsonian Institution
"Choice Extremely Fine,
nearly About Uncirculated." Ex - Cogan's sale of April 1863 -
Charles Ira Bushnell, Lorin G. Parmelee, H.P. Smith - George H. Earle -
Carl Wurtzbach - Virgil M. Brand - Belden Roach - Will W. Neil - F.
Eubanks - Stack's sale of January 3, 1952 - Mrs. R. Henry Norweb - New
Netherlands sale of December 13, 1958, Lot 104 - Stack's "Corrado
Romano" Sale, June 16, 1987, Lot 143 - Stack's "Americana
II" Sale, January 12, 1999, Lot 143 - Stack's 65th Anniversary Sale,
October 17-19, 2000, Lot 56, illustrated, sold for $178,250.00. This
was the 1914 American Numismatic Society Exhibition Coin, and was once the
coin used to illustrate the variety in both the Standard Catalogue
and the Guidebook of United States Coins.
Nigel Willimott - Glendening's 1997
Sources and/or recommended reading:
"United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces" by J.
Hewitt Judd, M.D.
Complete Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins" by Walter
"United States Patterns
And Related Issues" by Andrew W. Pollock III
"Silver Center Cents - Patterns Lay Claim To First Struck At Mint" by Paul Gilkes, COIN WORLD, February 21, 2000, pp. 78-79