By Mark Ferguson for CoinWeek – www.MFrarecoins.com
A new example of a very rare copper die trial of the Norse-American commemorative struck at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia has recently been discovered by a Midwest coin shop. It’s only the second Norse die trial known in copper. An unconfirmed piece with an unknown metal composition is rumored to have surfaced a few years ago in the eastern U.S. and a uniface example is known, also in an unverified metal composition.
Both of the confirmed Norse-American copper die trials have been graded by PCGS. The finer piece has been graded MS 64, after reportedly turning up about a decade ago, and the recently discovered Midwest example has been graded AU 55 by PCGS.
According to Brian Timmons of Harbor Coin in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, a local customer brought the Norse commemorative into the shop along with a few other coins he wanted to sell. “An employee of the shop told the man we weren’t interested, but passed the piece to me anyway. I was familiar with the Norse commemorative, but up to that point I had never seen one in copper. At first I was skeptical, but after examining the piece I decided to buy it.”
The Norse-American commemorative is a long-time favorite among collectors of early U.S. commemorative coins. Technically a medal, because it doesn’t have a denomination, the Norse-American commemorative was issued in 1925, right along with a bevy of similar silver commemorative half dollars. While other proposed commemorative issues were bogged down in Congress, the Norse commemorative was authorized for striking without a denomination so it could be available in time for the Norse-American Centennial celebration in St. Paul, Minnesota held June 6 to 9, 1925 at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds.
President Calvin Coolidge was present at the celebration in Minnesota which is in the region where a large population of Norse immigrants settled. Two U.S. postage stamps were also issued in commemoration of the Norse-American Centennial. A red two-cent stamp featured the Restauration, a sloop that brought 52 Norwegians to New York, arriving on October 9, 1825, after a three month voyage from Norway in what was considered to be the first organized emigration from that country to the United States. A blue five-cent stamp featured the Viking, which is the ship in which Leif Erikson led a group of Europeans who first set foot in North America in about 1000 A.D.
The Norse-American commemorative is best known for its octagonal shape, like that of the Panama-Pacific commemorative $50 gold coin. A maximum of 40,000 Norse commemoratives were authorized to be produced at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. One hundred were originally struck in gold as matte proofs, however 53 remained unsold and were melted, leaving only 47 pieces that were distributed. 33,750 silver pieces were struck with “thick” planchets and 6,000 were manufactured in silver with “thin” planchets. Additional silver examples were also struck in a larger format exceeding two and a half inches. Reportedly, 75 bronze pieces were authorized but only 60 were struck. An octagonal brass pattern is known, as is another that was struck on an oversize round planchet with the octagonal shape incorporated into its design.
The value of the newly discovered piece is hard to gauge, although there’s no question that it’s valuable.
Two brass patterns, both graded MS 64, have sold within the past five years for $19,550 (PCGS/CAC) and $25,850 (NGC). The higher-priced brass pattern was the example struck on a round planchet with the octagonal shape incorporated into its design. The other brass pattern was the octagonal piece that’s like the regular strikings of the silver Norse commemoratives.
This very rare, recently discovered Norse-American copper die trial may be available privately before it’s consigned to a major auction. Interested parties may contact Brian at Harbor Coin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-872-3560.