Northeast's Blog

Splish Splash New!

When it comes to Colonial coins, the 1670’s St. Patrick Coppers are by no means the rarest of the bunch. Sure, they are rare in their own right and some of the higher AU grades have brought 5 figures and up. What makes them so interesting to me is how they were minted with brass 'splashers'. 

We’ll take the St. Patrick’s Halfpenny for example.

The St. Patrick Halfpenny was a milled copper coin minted in the 17th century (exactly when is the subject of much debate) in Ireland, England and Wales. The reverse depicts King David jamming out on the harp, while the obverse is a standing St. Patrick in bishops regalia, driving serpents out of Ireland and into the sea (as the story goes). The majority of these St. Patrick halfpennies are copper coins with a splash of brass minted in two sizes, large and small.

The intention of the ‘splash’ was to cover King David’s crown, giving it the illusion of being gold and thereby adding aesthetic value, though nobody at the time would have expected it to be real gold. The method of transfer for the brass to copper is also unknown although some specimens are so sloppy it is speculated that Jackson Pollock himself may have been hired for that work. 

Englishman Mark Newby (aka Mark Newbie) is responsible for bringing the St. Patrick’s copper coinage to America. A devout Quaker, Newby sought to avoid religious persecution by emigrating to Ireland. Shortly after, he along with several other families of the same belief sailed to America. Newby landed in West New Jersey and established himself as a banker in Camden. What gives Mr. Newby this interesting footnote in American history is the fact that he brought with him from England enough St. Patrick coppers to facilitate their entry as legal coinage in New Jersey. Indeed there was a pressing need for coinage in the colonies.


What makes this particular ‘splasher’ so impressive is not only the sheer size of the brass splash on the obverse, but the fact that it continues all the way to the reverse. This was a farthing example we had back in December of 2020.

Pretty cool. 


Washington Urn Medal New!

The following was written by Brian.

George Washington, the 1st President of the United States died December 14th, 1799 and it was a profound tragedy for the nation. Washington’s memory would be honored via tributes and memorials throughout the United States. Boston, in particular, held three separate memorial processions early in 1800. As part of the processions, mourners would be adorned with newly struck ‘Washington Funeral’ medals.


The medals were engraved by Jacob Perkins of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Coincidentally, both Perkins and Washington were masons by trade. The obverse features simply a left facing bust of Washington. Indeed this man was most revered as the obverse legend reads: He is in Glory, The World in Tears. The reverse showcases a funeral urn with ‘GW’ in fancy cursive inscribed on it as well as important dates in Washington’s lifetime. By no means common, these are the most commonly seen Washington Funeral Medals and they were struck in silver, gold, copper and white metal. Though all are rare, the silver and white metal are most frequently encountered while the coppers are rare and the gold medals extremely rare.


As there were to be three different funeral processions in Boston, one medal would be made for each. The first is the aforementioned image above; again Washington bust left with urn on reverse. The second showcases rather jarring imagery (though not uncommon for the time) with skull and crossbones on the reverse. This ‘memento mori’, or mortality reminder is an ancient Masonic emblem. 


Thirdly, a slight variation of the first medal shown has the GW initials below the urn. Even when compared to the very rare first type, the GW below is a great rarity with only six pieces known.


Lastly there exists an oval, uniface medal which is exceedingly rare with likely no more than a dozen specimens struck. This type was not intended to be worn at the processions, per se, but rather to be placed in lockets or in other types of jewelry.  


Undoubtedly you’ve noted that all the Washington Funeral medals shown (with the exception of the jewelry piece) are holed. This is because they were all created this way. Now, normally a hole in a coin is a problem. However, not all holes are created equal; these medals were purposely hole-punched because it was required to suspend them. Other holes in coins are indeed considered problems and in most cases lower the value of the coin. This is not the case, however, with the Washington Funeral medal.  


Northeast Numismatics is lucky enough to have recently purchased one of these silver medals.





There Can Only Be One New!

The following was written by Brian.

The 1816 Coronet Head Large Cent is the answer to a pretty good numismatic trivia question: what single US coin has the distinction of being a complete mint set?

It’s true. Although the mintage was fairly high for the Large Cent that year (2,820,982), just one denomination was struck by the Philadelphia mint.

Other years during that era were almost equal in terms of minting stinginess. The year 1815 saw just three denominations; quarters, half dollars and $5 gold pieces.

1813 also saw just three different denominations struck; again, the $5 Gold piece but also the only silver coin produced during 1813 - the Capped Bust half dollar, with a mintage of 1,241,903 pieces. Lastly, the classic head cent was also minted that year with a modest mintage of 418,000.

Why were so very few denominations (and coins in general) struck during these years? Well, most agree that the War of 1812 is to blame. 1813 saw the success of Oliver Hazard Perry over the British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie. With this, the Philadelphia Mint had been operating under a cloud and the lack of cooper planchets (previously shipped from England but certainly not during the war) was not helpful. Now the mint needed to find its own copper source and also manufacture the copper planchets. 

While the 1813 and 1815 mint sets may be tougher to complete, the 1816 “set” of one coin should be obtainable for most. And while not a rarity in the lower circulated grades, the 1816 large cent becomes downright rare in MS64 and an extreme rarity in MS65. With a relatively healthy mintage of 2,820,982, you would think more gems would be saved, however this being the only coinage of the year, they would be pressed into service immediately.

There are a handful of Red Brown examples out there, but only 3 red specimens exist at PCGS (none at NGC). 

The 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter New!

The following was written by Brian.

1905 was the year that then-President Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an effort to ‘freshen up’ US coinage. Roosevelt believed the current designs on US coins were a bit stale and archaic and he sought to change this imagery across all US coins. 

It wasn’t until 1916 when Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s new quarter was designed and selected. At the time, this broke a law prohibiting design changes more than once every 25 years. The next time this law would be broken was in 1932 with the Washington Quarter. Indeed MacNeil’s quarter fell victim to its own special set of circumstances. 

Hermon MacNeil was born in Everett Massachusetts, just to the north of the bosom of Boston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Sculptor, designer, academician and apparent filthy pervert Hermon Atkins MacNeil

MacNeil is also famous for his carving “Justice, the Guardian of Liberty” on the east pediment of the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C.



The 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter

Unfortunately for MacNeil, his original new quarter design would, in part, turn out to be a bust. The new quarter, the first to include a partially nude Liberty on business strike coins, was met with some opposition. Perhaps it was a prudish outcry for a more ‘decent’ design. There is also the theory that perhaps adding mail to Liberty’s bust would create ‘ready for war’ imagery. There was certainly favor in this regard as WWI had been raging in Europe since 1914. Although this “uproar” ultimately led to a somewhat major change in the original design and the boobirds got their way, fortunately, the rest of the design was not rendered udderly useless. Changes to the Type 2 Standing Liberty Quarter would be made by none other than George T. Morgan, chief engraver.


Side by side closeup 1916 and 1917 Type 2 Standing Liberty Quarter

Lastly, something to stay abreast of with the SLQ’s, is the earlier dated examples, in particular 1916-1925. The date itself is one of the highest points on those years and as such, is subject to wear. It is not uncommon to see very worn or even ‘no dates’ on coins graded Good to even Very Good. This factor is acknowledged by third party grading companies when assigning grades and is something you should keep in mind when filling your treasure chest full of these beautiful US coins.      

A Most Famous Coin New!
There are 2 comments on this post.

The following was written by Brian.

The Austrian 1908 Gold 100 Corona – also known as the ‘Lady in the Clouds’. What a great coin. Just look at it in all its majesty.


Some might go so far as to call it Austria's 1907 Saint Gaudens High Relief. It features a not uncommon obverse of the bust of a nation’s leader paired with a most uncommon reverse that is loaded with imagery.

The obverse bust is that of Franz Joseph 1. The inscription around the obverse perimeter translates as “Franz Joseph by the grace of God, Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, Galicia, Illyria, etc. and elected king of Hungary”. There is also incuse lettering around the edge of the coin with the phrase “VIRIBVS VNITIS”. This would be Franz’s motto throughout his reign and it meant ‘with united forces’. Franz Joseph 1 became emperor of Austria in 1848 succeeding his uncle Ferdinand 1. He would rule Austria for almost 68 years until his death in 1916.

And now onto the glorious reverse. You’ll find the usual assortment of reverse features such as the denomination “100 Cor” which loosely translates as “100 Coronas”. Mmmmm…100 Coronas…. and the Latin phrase “DVODECIM LVSTRIS GLORIOSE PERACTIS” which I’ll assume you already know what that means. Ok, well, if you don’t, I will tell you that it translates as “60 years gloriously accomplished” but you really should brush up on your Latin.

Most importantly, on the reverse is the stunning Greek goddess Clymene (also spelled Klymene), seated or reclining on pillows of clouds. Clymene is seen resting on a shield that bears the Austrian coat of arms. In her outstretched hand is the laurel wreath which signifies fame (as well as achievement, prosperity and status). Clymene was the Titan goddess of fame and renown (and sometimes infamy). She was daughter to Okeanos and Tethys. Speaking of fame, as wife of Titan God Iapetus, Clymene was the mother of the very famous Greek god Atlas (she also bore Prometheus).

You’ll note that Clymene is in the seated position. Undoubtedly this is not the first time you have seen ‘seated’ imagery on a coin. The seated position is primarily a position of rest, but it also conveys ease, power, perhaps sitting and looking over a victorious campaign. The county seat, a seat in the senate or on a court bench – they all emphasize power, importance and fame - and that is what Clymene portrays in this beautiful design.

As a sidenote, the use of mythological imagery is not a new theme by any means. Mythological gods/goddesses as representative images appeared on coinage dating from near the beginning of the very first coins struck. One can find the Greek goddess Athena appearing on coins around the 5th Century BC.

Created by: davidrhorer on 03/21/2022

Interesting, Brian. Have you noticed that women who appear on coins this way, including the woman here, often appear to be rather big-boned, sturdy, strong, etc.? Some appear to have more masculine features. I'll bet this is done for a reason.

Created by: Pegasus on 04/02/2022

Quoting the last post:

"... including the woman here, often appear to be rather big-boned, sturdy, strong, etc."

Such is often the case with Northern European women, including as my lovely wife, who is from Germany. There might be some implication to the design, or just a reflection of ordinary reality.