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(1759) MARTHA WASHINGTON "CENT" TRIAL STRIKE

Reference numbers: No equivalents

Obverse:
Head of Martha Washington

Reverse:
Blank

Rarity: Two known

Designer: Obverse by Edward R. Grove

Diameter: 19 millimeters

Metal content:
Pure Copper plating over:
Zinc - 99.2%
Copper - 0.8%

Weight: 39 grains (2.5 grams)

Edge: Plain
    

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

Notes:
This unusual piece features an obverse die identical to that on a 1759 dated trial piece called a Martha Washington "Dime", reportedly from a group of experimental pieces struck in 1965 to test a variety of metal alloys.  Mint officials claim that all of the 1965 experimental pieces were either destroyed or otherwise accounted for, so the appearance in private hands of the Martha Washington Dime was stunning news to the hobby.

Shortly after the appearance of the Martha Washington "Dime", a Martha Washington "Cent" was found in a bag of 1999 Lincoln Cents by a Brinks employee and was offered beginning July 24, 2000 by Byers Numismatic Corp. for $39,500.00 on their website at www.byersnc.com.  The coin was offered simultaneously on eBay for ten days beginning on July 24, 2000 with an opening bid of $39,500.00.  The coin failed to sell there and re-appeared as Lot 1972 in Ira & Larry Goldberg's Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "The California Sale", October 2-3, 2000, where it failed again to meet the seller's reserve.

The planchet alloy is the same as that used on Lincoln Cents beginning in 1982, when the metal composition was changed from pure copper to copper-plated zinc.  According to Paul Gilkes, author of an April 10, 2000 Coin World article (reporting the discovery of the "Dime), "The Martha Washington/Mount Vernon dies were most recently used during metallurgical die trial testing for the Sacagawea dollar."  This would explain how dies that were used initially in 1965 came to be used on post-1981 Cent planchets.

The obverse of this piece was struck approximately 10% off-center and the impression is quite weak, showing only the details on the top portion of the die.  The reverse is blank.

Sources and/or recommended reading:
Coin World, April 10, 2000

The Byers Numismatic Corp. website at www.byersnc.com