US Coins – 1792 Disme in Silver Finest of Three Known sells at CSNS for almost $1 Million

disme_rev
1792 P10C Disme, Judd-9, Pollock-10, R.8, AU50 PCGS Secure

From the Heritage Catalog Description ........

Heritage's Platinum Night event took place on April 28 at CSNS in Chicago. This coin, Lot# 4571 realized $998,750. (All prices include Buyer's Premium)

In contrast to the 1792 half disme, there is little in the historical record that directly addresses the disme of the same year. Only three examples are known to collectors today, with two specimens struck on a normal flan and another on a thick planchet, with the date effaced. The present coin is by far the finest-known example, having graced the fabulous collections of Dr. J. Hewitt Judd and Donald G. Partrick. Heritage Auctions is privileged to offer this classic pattern rarity in just its second auction appearance.

On July 9, 1792, Mint Director David Rittenhouse requested permission from George Washington to coin half cents, cents, half dismes, and dismes. Washington approved the same day. In between, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Washington and suggested that the President ought not to feel obligated to manage what he apparently considered routine details of the Mint operation. Jefferson's recommendation, while well-intended, probably had the unfortunate side effect of reducing the depth of the historical record. As a result, the otherwise little-discussed disme has inherited some of the mythology associated with the half disme.

disme_obvAuthors have grouped the two together since at least 1864. Edward Cogan's January 1, 1864 announcement letter (for the Neff sale), in describing a silver disme, referred to "the acknowledged fact that it was made from silver sent to the mint by George Washington ..." Ebenezer Mason, the Philadelphia coin dealer, wrote in the February 1885 issue of his house organ Mason's Coin Collectors' Magazine "It is recorded that Washington resorted to this mint for the private coinage of the 1792 silver dimes and half dimes, which were coined from a portion of his old silver plate, and presented by him to friends of the family." Mason sadly failed to indicate exactly where "it is recorded," and the thread continued. In 1914, the American Numismatic Society Exhibition Catalogue again lumped the two coins together and stated "The silver used in the above two pieces was furnished by Washington."

The Washington association was a potent force during the expansion of American coin collecting in the 1840s and 1850s. Connecting a coin to Washington was commercially a good thing to do, and the Mint itself got in the act with the publication of A Description of the Medals of Washington (1861). Jacob R. Eckfeldt and William E. DuBois took note of the interest in Washington material in A Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations (1842):

"The Mint was not fully in operation until 1795. Before that time it was rather engaged in experimenting; hence the variety of specimens, in silver and copper, anterior to that date, which are now so much in request among the virtuosi. The most noted of these is the Washington Cent ... . The 'Washington Cent,' of which a few specimens escaped the Mint, is now one of the greatest numismatic curiosities, and is eagerly sought after, by collectors. [Which Philadelphia Mint Washington piece the authors are referring to is unclear. This could possibly be a reference to the 1792 coppers struck by Getz or the 1792 Washington President, 13 Star Above Eagle coppers.]"

An 1851 newspaper account of the Dr. Lewis Roper sale, the first major rare coin auction in America, naturally began its coverage with the Washington pieces. A 1792 Getz half dollar crossed the block at $18, an extraordinary sum at the time. The veneration of the first President created a temptation to stretch the truth, and the "fact" that Washington had deposited silver for the 1792 half dismes evolved into a connection with the silver disme as well. In actuality, Washington's supposed silver deposit for the half disme was only first recorded in 1844 by the Philadelphia antiquarian John McAllister, who was relating the history as told to him by the retired Chief Coiner, Adam Eckfeldt. The story was oft-repeated and resonated strongly with 19th century collectors. Today, it falls into the category of "unsolved mystery," provocative but proven to no one's satisfaction.

The present coin has the most mysterious provenance of all the 1792 silver dismes, as its history has only been traced with certainty back to 1946. It is likely the specimen that first surfaced in the collection of Massachusetts numismatist DeWitt Smith in the 19th century, although some descriptions of that piece do not exactly match this example. Smith's collection was purchased intact by super-collector Virgil Brand in 1908, for the staggering price of $62,619.98. When the Brand Collection was dispersed, beginning in the 1930s, this piece was held by several dealer intermediaries before passing to pattern specialist Dr. J. Hewitt Judd in 1946. More recently, this coin was a highlight of the magnificent Donald G. Partrick Collection, a mark of high distinction for any coin. When it was offered by Heritage Auctions in lot 5507 of the Partrick Collection in January 2015, it realized a record price of $998,750. Although it was once offered in an Abe Kosoff fixed price list in the early 1960s, the 2015 Partrick sale was the first time this specimen had been offered at auction.

The present coin is a pleasing AU specimen, the finest known example of this classic rarity by a wide margin. The design features Liberty facing left with flowing hair extended to the right. The motto LIBERTY PARENT OF SCIENCE & INDUST[RY]. begins below and to the right of the truncation point and extends around the periphery, while the date is placed in the field below the portrait and above the motto. The obverse exhibits coin-gray toning with scattered areas of more intense color outlining the devices. There is a hidden mark within the hair, to the left of the second E in SCIENCE, just above the outstretched strand. The die orientation is 330 degrees (near medal alignment). The reverse shows evidence of multiple strikes, with doubling seen in STATES and in the dentilation to the top and right. The surfaces are problem-free and the overall presentation is most attractive. For the early pattern specialist, there is no adequate substitute for the coin offered here. Population: 1 in 50, 0 finer (2/16).

Roster of the 1792 Silver Dismes (Judd-9)
1. AU50 NGC. 41.5 grains. Possibly DeWitt Smith; Virgil Brand (1908); Brand purchased Smith's collection, including this coin, in 1908 (Brand ledger entry #46511); the coin was appraised by Burdette G. Johnson for $125 and sold at the same price to Wayte Raymond on October 20, 1935; possibly the coin offered to James Kelly by B.G. Johnson on November 5, 1941 for $800; Dr. J. Hewitt Judd (acquired in 1946 or before), An Illustrated History of United States Coins (Abe Kosoff, 1962), lot 13; Kosoff reported this coin sold to an anonymous collector in the January 24, 1973 edition of Coin World; The Donald Groves Partrick Collection (Heritage, 1/2015), lot 5507; realized $998,750. The present coin.

2. XF Details NGC. 66.1 grains (thick flan). Joseph J. Mickley Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1867), lot 2131, realized $39 to Mendes I. Cohen; Colonel M.I. Cohen (Edward Cogan, 10/1875), lot 379, realized $20 to Jules Fonrobert, bidding as "Roberts"; Die Jules Fonrobert Sammlung (Adolph Weyl, 2/1878), lot 366; George Ulex Collection (Lyman Low, 7/1902), lot 431, realized $33.50; Henry Jewett Collection (S.H. Chapman, 6/1909), lot 1605, realized $280 to Thomas Elder; Colonel E. H. R. Green; Eric P. Newman and Burdette G. Johnson; Celina Coin Company, offered on page 1327 of the November 1946 edition of The Numismatist for $750; J. P. Morgan et al. (Hans M. F. Schulman, 4/1952), lot 855M, realized $300; Wayte Raymond; New Netherlands Coin Company, purchased by the Norwebs on January 31, 1958; Norweb Collection Part III (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3390, realized $28,600; Donald Groves Partrick; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016), lot 5508, realized $458,250.
Note: It seems likely that S.H. Chapman was the buyer at the Ulex sale and placed the coin in the Jewett auction for his own account. Henry Jewett died in 1897, so he could not have purchased the coin from the Ulex sale in 1902.

3. Fine 15 NGC. 39.5 grains. This coin was presented by Edward Cogan in the introductory letter to the J.P.W. Neff Collection (Cogan, 1/1864), but not listed in the catalog, sold to George Seavey for $205; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William H. Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 839, not sold as Lorin G. Parmelee bought the collection intact before the sale took place; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 1, realized $61 to Charles Steigerwalt; offered in Steigerwalt's FPL numbers 22-25 at $125; H.O. Granberg, displayed at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; Waldo Newcomer; "Col." E.H.R. Green; Eric P. Newman and Burdette G. Johnson; offered on page 946 of the August 1946 edition of The Numismatist by the Celina Coin Company, price on request; purchased by Floyd T. Starr in late 1946 for $750; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 478; Rick Sear; southern collection; Bob Simpson; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2016), lot 5304, realized $329,000. (NGC ID# 294G, PCGS# 11025)

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