Gold patterns are always fascinating, and Heritage's 2012 August 2-5 US Coins Signature Auction in Philadelphia contains an intriguing exampleof one such experimental piece. Struck on a ten dollar planchet, this Judd-271 pattern nonetheless bears a face value of five dollars, and this is entirely intentional.
This pattern was struck as an experimental anti-counterfeiting measure in order to solve the problem of sawing apart genuine gold coins and substituting the core with the (then) lesser-valued platinum, a metal of similar weight. David Akers, in his 1975 United States Gold Patterns, relates extensive background for these pieces and the subsequent 1878 thin planchet gold coins:
"Dr. J.T. Barclay, who had been at the Mint in 1856-7, had recommended that coins be made thinner and more concave to prevent such counterfeiting, but at the time of his recommendations, a committee of two, appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury to investigate Dr. Barclay's process, reported that to 'make a single such piece, blending that perfection of artistic design and mechanical execution which would commend it for acceptance with the protective features which Dr. Barclay desires to incorporate, would require the construction of machinery on a scale and at a cost inadequate for regular minting business.' "
The suggestions of Dr. Barclay were finally followed in 1860 with the striking of this pattern. The experiment ceased when the Civil War started, but was resumed again in 1878.
For years it was believed three examples were known of the Judd-271; allegedly Mint Director Henry Linderman owned three. However, one of the pieces, which was held in the Byron Reed Collection in Omaha, turned out to be a copper gilt Judd-272. The first auction appearance of the Judd-271 was in the Haseltine Addenda to his Sixty-Fifth Sale, where it was glowingly described as "This piece is conceded to be the most beautiful and chaste specimen in design and execution ever struck in the United States Mint."
The obverse of this pattern is attributed to James Longacre and features a finely executed head of Liberty, facing right. The date is below with 13 stars surrounding most of the obverse rim. The reverse has a spread-wing eagle with E PLURIBUS UNUM on a wreath above, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and FIVE DOLLARS around the margin. The eagle and lettering on the reverse are suggestive of work done by Anthony Paquet, and Tom DeLorey has asserted as much.
Only two pieces are known in gold, but there are more than a dozen copper examples known, several of which have been gilt, according to USPatterns.com. One interesting aspect mentioned by almost everyone who has cataloged this pattern is the use of an upside-down A for a V in FIVE on the reverse.
Graded Proof 62 Cameo by PCGS, each side is nicely reflective with moderate mint frost over the devices, the combination of which gives the coin a cameo appearance. Moderate hairlining can be seen, but each side of this orange-gold pattern is surprisingly free from contact marks. This is very likely to remain the only gold striking of this pattern available for the foreseeable future as there is not a whisper of the core Bob Simpson collection of patterns ever coming back on the market.
Lot 5480 in the 2012 August 2-5 US Coins Heritage Signature Auction- Philadelphia #1173