Very Cool Electro - Great Seal of the Confederate States
This is an electrotype of the Great Seal of the Confederate States made circa 1872 by the noted electrotyper Samuel H. Black and the work is absolutely superb.
A pair of sterling silver seals were engraved in London by Joseph Wyon and they reached Richmond shortly before the war ended. During the fall of Richmond, the seals were smuggled out by Mrs. William J. Bromwell, the wife of an official of the Confederate State Department, and they came into the possession of COL. John T. Pickett, of Washington, D.C. , who had 400 copper, 350 silver-plated, and 250 gold gilt finish electrotypes made, reportedly to help support the widows and orphans of Confederate vets. They originally came in a velvet-lined, leather-covered cardboard presentation case with the electro mounted in a brass ring with a protective glass bezel.
As the story goes, they weren't too popular and Pickett gave a number away to family and friends. He then gave the seals to Colonel William E. Earle, of Washington, D.C., who presented them to the State of South Carolina on December 27th, 1888. They now reside in the Museum of the Confederacy.
The Pickett electrotypes turn up periodically on various auction sites, including eBay (where I got the present piece), Heritage, and StacksBowers. Copper pieces with the original case, or a replacement period gutta percha case, sell in the range of 1150 to 1500, silver pieces bring 2000 to 2500, and gold gilt bring about 4500 to 5K. Now, that's provided the electro isn't banged up, the case isn't too bad, and the brass and glass bezel is still intact.
Yes, one did sell for 32900 in a June 2016 HA sale. I have no real idea why other than most of these sell in military or historical sales, while the June 2016 was a coin auction. Maybe a few coin collectors failed to do research and went wild.
If you like electro's and can find a nice piece, buy it. They're a great piece of history, extremely well-made, and by one of the most prominent electotypers of the period, S.H. Black. What's not too like? I was fortunate to snag this piece for 613.75, including shipping!!!!, and while the box is a bit ratty, the electro and bezel are superb. I'll either have the box restored, or more likely just get a "gutty" and fit it in. I've seen several like that over the years.
Be aware that there are a number of sub-standard polished and tarnished pieces missing the case and bezel, often with the back filled with lead or plaster. These are worth nowhere near the price of well maintained pieces, maybe a 100 or so, at best. There are also pieces still with the bezel and box with the electro corroded, polished, or just butt-ugly. Stay away.
One is coming up in a Heritage sale, no photo yet, but if it a nice piece and you like electro's, it's worth a shot.