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George Washington's Role in the Production and Distribution of the 1792 Half Dismes?

BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

The recent publication of **1792: Birth of a Nation's Coinage ** by Pete Smith, Joel Orosz and Leonard Augsburger and a recent "Coin World" article by Mr. Orosz have shown that Thomas Jefferson was the central figure in the production and distribution of the first 1,500, 1792 half dismes. Jefferson deposited the $75, probably in the form of Spanish milled dollars, that provided the silver. He consigned that silver to John Harper for the coinage, took delivery of coins a couple of days later and distributed them during the summer of 1792. All of these facts are documented or supported by information that Jefferson recorded in his daily accounts of his financial and other activities. This recounting of the facts is now used to refute the story told by Adam Eckfeldt that George Washington supplied the silver and was involved in the distribution of the half dismes.

The **1792: Birth of a Nation's Coinage ** book also provides evidence that there was a second production run of 1792 half dismes, perhaps 200 to 300 pieces, at the first U.S. mint in October 1792. This is supported by die state evidence. The authors point out that die rust appears on pieces that are presumed to be part of this second run. Since the first 1,500 pieces were struck over a period of two days, there would not have been enough time for rust to have formed or the dies. Clearly there was gap in time when the 1792 half disme dies were left idle, allowed to rust and then used a second time.

This second production cycle for the 1792 half dimes poses and interesting question. Who provided the silver, which may have been $10 to $15 in Spanish Dollars, for this second group of 1792 half dimes? Who took delivery of the coins? Could it have been George Washington? The authors did not address this possibility. One interesting fact stated by the authors is that, "a disproportionately high number of second strikes survive in higher grades, suggesting that several were saved as souvenirs or for presentation ..." (p318) If Washington was involved with the distribution of this second group of coins, might that not suggest that the Eckfeldt story might be accurate in some respects?

I pose this question, not to confront the authors, but to suggest that there might be more information available about this second production of the 1792 half dismes.

Here are pictures of a 1792 half disme. This piece is listed on page 91 of the 2018 Red Book.


Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
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Comments

  • sparky64sparky64 Posts: 6,812 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ColonelJessup said:
    Bill's gonna run out of thread topics like this in, say, another 30 years. Most consistent poster of actual facts around here.

    Truer words were never spoken.......or typed.

    "If I say something in the woods and my wife isn't there to hear it.....am I still wrong?"

    My Washington Quarter Registry set...in progress

  • ashelandasheland Posts: 17,795 ✭✭✭✭✭

    That's a nice example and great write-up!

  • NysotoNysoto Posts: 3,353 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Who provided the silver, which may have been $10 to $15 in Spanish Dollars, for this second group of 1792 half dimes? Who took delivery of the coins? Could it have been George Washington? If Washington was involved with the distribution of this second group of coins, might that not suggest that the Eckfeldt story might be accurate in some respects?

    If there is no record of President Washington's involvement recorded in the Library of Congress George Washington Papers, including Letterbooks, Diaries, General Correspondence, Financial Papers, Military Papers, and Miscellaneous Papers, or National Archive Mint records, then Washington was not involved.

    Adam Eckfeldt was not directly employed by the US Mint in 1792, and he would not have accurate knowledge of the source and distribution of the second striking of 1792 half dismes.

    Robert Scot: Engraving Liberty - biography of US Mint's first chief engraver
  • Jackthecat1Jackthecat1 Posts: 1,122 ✭✭✭

    Fascinating food for thought.

    Member ANS, ANA, GSNA, TNC



    image
  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 29,105 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I must get their new book. Not having seen it yet, some questions on logistics:

    Was the Spanish American silver assayed and adjusted, or just melted and used as is? Since we were trying to imitate the Spanish American silver coinage with our bizarre 0.8924 fineness, simple melting may have sufficed.

    Assuming the melt was cast into long thin strips and either rolled or beaten down to the approximate thickness needed and then the blanks cut out, did they strike those blanks immediately in the interest of expediency, or did they wait until the punched out strips were re-melted and re-poured and re-rolled/beaten down and re-blanked, and then wait while the remains of the second generation strips were re-melted, re-poured, etc?

    If I were in charge of making the coins I would have given the boss man the first generation coins right away to show him how good I was, and then made a second batch after the leftover silver was re-processed into more blanks. I am not saying that this is how it WAS done, but merely offer it as a suggestion as to why there might have been two batches.

    TD

    Winner of the ANA's 2020 Heath Literary Award, Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award. Winner NLG 2020 Best Numismatic Feature Article, U.S.
  • gripgrip Posts: 9,962 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great post Bill...as always.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Nysoto said:

    Who provided the silver, which may have been $10 to $15 in Spanish Dollars, for this second group of 1792 half dimes? Who took delivery of the coins? Could it have been George Washington? If Washington was involved with the distribution of this second group of coins, might that not suggest that the Eckfeldt story might be accurate in some respects?

    If there is no record of President Washington's involvement recorded in the Library of Congress George Washington Papers, including Letterbooks, Diaries, General Correspondence, Financial Papers, Military Papers, and Miscellaneous Papers, or National Archive Mint records, then Washington was not involved.

    Adam Eckfeldt was not directly employed by the US Mint in 1792, and he would not have accurate knowledge of the source and distribution of the second striking of 1792 half dismes.

    Okay, then how did the mint get the $10 to $15 worth of silver? How could the first mint personnel have produced these coins legally given the bonds that were to be posted for the treasurer, chief coin and assayer to handle gold and silver had not been deposited? I could see where the mint could handle the small amount of silver that was involved with the silver center cents and a couple of silver dismes. But how could they have handled enough silver for a mintage of 200 to 300 pieces?

    I am not saying that Washington was involved. Maybe it was some other high government official. But something unusual was going on here, if there really was an additional mintage of a few hundred half dismes in the fall of 1792.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @CaptHenway said:
    I must get their new book. Not having seen it yet, some questions on logistics:

    Was the Spanish American silver assayed and adjusted, or just melted and used as is? Since we were trying to imitate the Spanish American silver coinage with our bizarre 0.8924 fineness, simple melting may have sufficed.

    Assuming the melt was cast into long thin strips and either rolled or beaten down to the approximate thickness needed and then the blanks cut out, did they strike those blanks immediately in the interest of expediency, or did they wait until the punched out strips were re-melted and re-poured and re-rolled/beaten down and re-blanked, and then wait while the remains of the second generation strips were re-melted, re-poured, etc?

    If I were in charge of making the coins I would have given the boss man the first generation coins right away to show him how good I was, and then made a second batch after the leftover silver was re-processed into more blanks. I am not saying that this is how it WAS done, but merely offer it as a suggestion as to why there might have been two batches.

    TD

    According the authors of the book, the entire mintage of 1,500 half dismes, delivered to Jefferson in July, was minted in two days. The silver coins were melted, formed into ingots, rolled out, punched out as planchets, annealed and struck. It seems like that was a lot to get done in that space of time, but Harper had had experience making the New Jersey coppers so perhaps he was that good.

    The idea that Harper made the second group at his facility might be possible. Still that would have left a set of government dies in private hands for almost three months, which does not seem like a secure practice.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • gripgrip Posts: 9,962 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I heard house hold silver was used?

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @grip said:
    I heard house hold silver was used?

    The claim was that Martha Washington give up her set of silver flatware to produce these coins. Breen even claimed that the Washingtons only had silver plated flatware left after that contribution. This was another product of Breen's wild imagination.

    This is one part of the legend I don't believe along with the claim that Martha Washington was the model for Ms. Liberty. If you use your imagination you might see a resemblance, but the claim was not made until the 1850s.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • oih82w8oih82w8 Posts: 10,150 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I heard of the Martha's Silverware donation as well. :/

    oih82w8 = Oh I Hate To Wait _defectus patientia_

    aka...Dr. Defecto



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  • thebigengthebigeng Posts: 6,255 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 23, 2017 8:22AM

    Great post Bill! It is possible that the silver came from many a Tories tea set....?

    “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~ Dalai Lama
  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 20,676 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Ice cream cones and now Washington's silverware on the trash heap of numismatic history ...

    All glory is fleeting.
  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 29,105 ✭✭✭✭✭

    All I am saying is that it is darned hard to deliver fully 100% of the metal from one unique deposit as finished coins without having some metal left over. At the end you would have to be pouring individual planchets in round molds, an incredibly inefficient method.

    Another way that I might have done it if I were in charge and wanted to impress the boss would have been to quietly add 10 or 15 8 Reales to the original melt lot, process the silver enough times to be able to deliver finished coins equal to the weight of the original melt lot, and then quietly keep the leftover silver scrap which was of course my own silver weight less any wastage. I might have sold it to a jeweler, or maybe made a few coins for myself later. This is of course sheer speculation, based upon nothing but my fertile imagination.

    TD

    Winner of the ANA's 2020 Heath Literary Award, Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award. Winner NLG 2020 Best Numismatic Feature Article, U.S.
  • goldengolden Posts: 7,027 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I believe that Washington's diary from the period in question is missing.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Unfortunately the photos in the book are not large enough to really see details like die rust. I think that I see die rust on both sides of this piece. The photos are from the "Coin Facts" site. There are other high grade pieces there that show a similar pattern around the "PAR" on the obverse and upper left on the reverse.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • yosclimberyosclimber Posts: 3,444 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 23, 2017 12:55PM

    @CaptHenway said:
    I must get their new book. Not having seen it yet, some questions on logistics:

    Was the Spanish American silver assayed and adjusted, or just melted and used as is? Since we were trying to imitate the Spanish American silver coinage with our bizarre 0.8924 fineness, simple melting may have sufficed.

    Assuming the melt was cast into long thin strips and either rolled or beaten down to the approximate thickness needed and then the blanks cut out, did they strike those blanks immediately in the interest of expediency, or did they wait until the punched out strips were re-melted and re-poured and re-rolled/beaten down and re-blanked, and then wait while the remains of the second generation strips were re-melted, re-poured, etc?

    If I were in charge of making the coins I would have given the boss man the first generation coins right away to show him how good I was, and then made a second batch after the leftover silver was re-processed into more blanks. I am not saying that this is how it WAS done, but merely offer it as a suggestion as to why there might have been two batches.

    This would not yield the die rust in the second batch, though.
    It seems practical to make all the planchets at one time (with the iterative remelting of the punched out strips), then strike all 1500.

    https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/978144/a-long-awaited-book-announcement-1792-pattern-coinage

    https://coins.ha.com/itm/books/1792-birth-of-a-nation-s-coinage-softcover-/i/960011813.s

    pcgscoinfacts.com/Hierarchy.aspx?c=683&title=Bust%20Half%20Dime

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,881 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Harper's minting equipment was taken to the Mint in Aug 1797.
    I have not read all of the book yet -- only pieces.

    1,500 half dimes is only $75 or about the same number of Spanish dollars. A very small commercial amount. These could have been easily melted and cast into small ingots. Harper had rolling, cutting and other minting equipment in his shop.

    They could have been assayed, or possibly selected from circulation by date of known assay. The amount of work was much greater than any practical return, but the coins were important as a political statement for the new Country and the new Federal Constitution, which had accomplished something the Confederation had not: providing national coins for commerce.

  • dengadenga Posts: 900 ✭✭✭

    Some points that might be worth considering in this discussion:

    1) It is a near certainty that Jefferson brought 75 Spanish milled dollars
    to the Mint, which was temporarily housed at 6th and Cherry Streets.

    2) The temporary quarters were provided by John Harper and were on
    the first floor, not basement as commonly thought. The word “cellar”
    in 1792 meant either basement or first floor and it would have been
    pointless to take machinery to a lower level.

    3) While the official fineness of Spanish silver in 1792 was .903, in real
    terms the fineness was .896, not all that far from the .8924+ mandated
    by the 1792 law. A little copper added to the mixture would have provided
    the correct fineness for U.S. coinage.

    4) It was not possible to have struck 1,500 half dismes from the $75
    deposited by Jefferson. At some point in preparing planchets there is a
    certain amount left over, too small to process. This means that additional
    dollars had been supplied in advance, probably by Mint Director David
    Rittenhouse, a man of substantial means. This in turn means that additional
    coins were struck for David Rittenhouse – and perhaps others. The true
    mintage in July 1792 was therefore possibly as high as 1,600 or 1,700 pieces.

    5) Chief Coiner Henry Voight was in charge of the operations at the Harper
    building. He had worked in a small German mint during the 1760s and early
    1770s and well understood the different operations necessary to produce
    finished coins. Harper’s equipment was used but Voight almost certainly
    oversaw the preparation of the planchets and the actual coining of the half
    dismes.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,881 ✭✭✭✭✭

    RE: "...selected from circulation by date of known assay."
    This should be explained a little.

    At various times the US Mint conducted assays of Spanish dollars after separating them into date and mint groups. Results showed differences between the Spanish colonial mints both in silver content and quality of alloy. Assay tables made it possible for primary suppliers of silver and gold to the Mint to separate deposits, and for the Mint to more easily handle metals. Some documents suggest Bank of the United States used these tables to buy silver coins from brokers and others at depressed value, then resell to the Mint at market.

  • yosclimberyosclimber Posts: 3,444 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 23, 2017 3:19PM

    @afford said:
    Interesting that is also the die marriage with the die crack on the rev too.

    My understanding is that there is a single die marriage, with 4 die states identified by the authors.

    https://coins.ha.com/itm/early-half-dimes/half-dimes/1792-h10c-half-disme-judd-7-pollock-7-r4-ms66-pcgs-secure/a/1251-5563.s

    Several auction descriptions describe die cracks (primarily a long line from M in AMERICA to E in DISME),
    but as this line is so straight, it may be more accurate to call these
    die scratches or die lines. There is a second parallel shorter die line to the left.
    The lines do appear to be raised on the surface of the tail and wing, though, so they might well be cracks.

  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 29,105 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @yosclimber said:

    @CaptHenway said:
    I must get their new book. Not having seen it yet, some questions on logistics:

    Was the Spanish American silver assayed and adjusted, or just melted and used as is? Since we were trying to imitate the Spanish American silver coinage with our bizarre 0.8924 fineness, simple melting may have sufficed.

    Assuming the melt was cast into long thin strips and either rolled or beaten down to the approximate thickness needed and then the blanks cut out, did they strike those blanks immediately in the interest of expediency, or did they wait until the punched out strips were re-melted and re-poured and re-rolled/beaten down and re-blanked, and then wait while the remains of the second generation strips were re-melted, re-poured, etc?

    If I were in charge of making the coins I would have given the boss man the first generation coins right away to show him how good I was, and then made a second batch after the leftover silver was re-processed into more blanks. I am not saying that this is how it WAS done, but merely offer it as a suggestion as to why there might have been two batches.

    This would not yield the die rust in the second batch, though.
    It seems practical to make all the planchets at one time (with the iterative remelting of the punched out strips), then strike all 1500.

    https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/978144/a-long-awaited-book-announcement-1792-pattern-coinage

    https://coins.ha.com/itm/books/1792-birth-of-a-nation-s-coinage-softcover-/i/960011813.s

    pcgscoinfacts.com/Hierarchy.aspx?c=683&title=Bust%20Half%20Dime

    How long does it take die steel to rust? I can leave a garden rake out overnight and have rust in the morning.

    The Mint being brand new, they may not yet have established procedures for greasing up a used die to preserve it for later use.

    Winner of the ANA's 2020 Heath Literary Award, Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award. Winner NLG 2020 Best Numismatic Feature Article, U.S.
  • TopographicOceansTopographicOceans Posts: 6,545 ✭✭✭✭

    Interesting read. Thanks

  • CoinosaurusCoinosaurus Posts: 9,413 ✭✭✭✭✭

    To answer the OP's question, it is a reasonable speculation that Washington was the source of the silver for the second striking. I should stress that the only evidence for this is oral history which does not appear in writing until 1844 (the McAllister memorandum) and even then is based on testimony of Adam Eckfeldt, whose role (if any) in the 1792 half disme production is speculative.

    There is also the coins themselves - why are the second strike coins in uncirculated condition more common? If they were indeed presentation pieces from Washington, that might account for a higher survival rate.

    While the Washington theory fits some of the facts, there is not a shred of contemporary (1792) evidence. The authors read through all the Philadelphia newspapers covering the period July-December 1792, and there was not a single mention of half dismes outside of the presidential address in November. Henry Voigt's account book (extant for sure in 1860, possibly in 1888, and not located as of 1924) would have recorded the second striking.

    As Roger pointed out yesterday, our disadvantage as historians is we don't know what documents have been destroyed. If Washington deposited silver, he probably would have gotten a receipt, but if so, that document hasn't survived. If Washington gave the coins as presentation pieces, letters of transmittal and acknowledgement might have existed. None are known today.

    I won't be surprised to see this eventually solved one way or the other - the amount of archival information online is always increasing, and there is a lot more coming. This book made substantial use of Founders Online (founders.archives.gov) which has only recently been made available.

  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 29,105 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The comment on letters of transmittal is interesting. In the mid-19th century Washingtonia was wildly popular. A letter with a coin might have sold to an autograph collector with the coin sold elsewhere.
    Is there any database listing the contents of known Washington letters?

    Winner of the ANA's 2020 Heath Literary Award, Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award. Winner NLG 2020 Best Numismatic Feature Article, U.S.
  • cmerlo1cmerlo1 Posts: 7,375 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Posts like this are why I come here. Thank you, Bill!

    You Suck! Awarded 6/2008- 1901-O Micro O Morgan, 8/2008- 1878 VAM-123 Morgan, 7/2013- 1983 No-S Proof Set
  • MacCrimmonMacCrimmon Posts: 7,157 ✭✭✭

    @ColonelJessup said:
    Bill's gonna run out of thread topics like this in, say, another 30 years. Most consistent poster of actual facts around here.

    Just did a search on "BillJones" ..... runs to 100 pages. A mini starter library, eh? To paraphrase, "buy the BillJones before the coin".

  • RB1026RB1026 Posts: 1,446 ✭✭✭✭

    @ColonelJessup said:
    Bill's gonna run out of thread topics like this in, say, another 30 years. Most consistent poster of actual facts around here.

    Agree 100%. If Bill writes a post, I stop and read it. Always interesting and informative. Mr. Jones is a true historian/numismatist and a real asset here.

  • rickoricko Posts: 82,398 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is a great thread, and leaves open some specific avenues of research. @BillJones ...Thank you for your contribution - interesting as always. I have the book (1792 Birth of a Nation's Coinage), but have not read it yet. Cheers, RickO

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 25, 2017 5:10AM

    There are two aspects of the "classical approach" to the classical approach for the 1792 half dismes with which I disagree.

    The first is the labeling of this coin as "a pattern." There are several arguments against this classification:

    Mintage

    Pattern coins are experimental pieces that are made in very limited quantities in order to see how a given design will appear and strike up in sometimes various metals. Mintages of more than 100 pieces are very unusual and are often driven by collector demand as was the case with the 1856 Flying Eagle Cents among many others.

    Depending upon whether or not you subscribe to the mintage of 200 to 300 pieces in the fall of 1792, the half disme had an undisputed mintage of at least 1,500 and perhaps as many as 1,800 pieces. Those numbers are way too high for a pattern coin.

    Preservation

    Most of the surviving 1792 half dismes are well worn. From that it is obvious that these coins were made to be used and were used. The vast majority of patterns are Mint State or Proof and are usually found with little or no wear.

    George Washington's 1792 Report to Congress

    To me, this is the most compelling argument for classifying the 1792 half disme as a made for circulation, regular issue coin. In his November 6, 1792 annual address to Congress (the forerunner of the modern State of the Union address) George Washington said the following:

    "In execution of the authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our Mint. Others have been employed at home. Provisions have been made for the requisite buildings, and those are putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has been a small beginning in the coinage of half dismes, the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them."

    The last sentence cinches the argument for me. If the President of the United States, our nation's chief operating officer, viewed these coins as "a small beginning in coinage," in the year in which they were made, how can their status be in doubt? The 1792 half disme was the first U.S. coin. It is hard to argue against that assertion.

    Despite these facts, some experts continue to call this coin a pattern. Even Adams and Woodin in their pioneering pattern book, written in 1913, wrote that, "This half dime could very well have been a coin of regular issue. although it is usually included among the pattern coins."

    In recent years that has begun to change. NGC moved the coin to the early half dime set in their registry after I asked them to do it, although they persist in labeling the coin as a not for points "display piece" in the type set registry. Go figure. Recently I noted that the 1792 half disme is listed with the other half dimes in the "Coin Facts" site. Bravo! That's a step in the right direction.

    Yet the authors of ^1792: Birth of a Nation's Coinage^ chose to straddle the issue. They decided to call it neither a pattern nor a regular issue and left it in limbo. Why? Their argument was that there were too few of them in circulation to have an impact on the economy. Sorry, but if that is THE argument, it could be placed upon many rare coins, and there would be a lot of coins in limbo. You could almost say that for all of the coins issued by the first U.S. Mint from 1792 to December 31, 1832 when it closed. At that time the population of the United States exceeded the number U.S. coins in circulation according to "The Red Book." As such those coins did not have much of an impact on the economy.

    The second question I have is the assumption that George Washington took an almost hands off approach to the 1792 half dismes other than the statement he made in his 1792 message to Congress.

    One of the major issues that the Washington presidency faced was with the monetary system on both ends of the spectrum. On the low end, the country was flooded with low weight, low quality coppers that was destroying the value of those pieces. Many people depended upon them, and Washington addressed that issue in his message to Congress. His solution was an issue of silver coins that had an intrinsic value.

    On the other end the monetary system for the "big money" was a mess. The Continental Currency was worthless, and the state issued paper money was not much better. Alexander Hamilton was trying to find solutions to the problem, with levels of obstruction coming from Thomas Jefferson and his supporters. Jefferson was a great man when it came to writing about the ideals of freedom, but he didn't know much about money and finances.

    Perhaps Washington just went to Jefferson and Hamilton and said "fix it," but I doubt that. To get anything new up and running it would have taken his prestige and support. Maybe he stayed in the totally background, but I tend to doubt it. It's a part of our history that needs more research.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,881 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 24, 2017 9:28AM

    A couple of thoughts:
    1. The principal workers had experience in dealing with dies, die steel, presses, etc. But beyond these few people, there was no depth of knowledge.
    2. I suspect that Hamilton and Jefferson split responsibilities: Hamilton handled finance and Jefferson handled money. The two remain distinct areas of expertise today.
    3. Banks of the time were more bullion brokers than anything we would understand today.

  • northcoinnorthcoin Posts: 4,987 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 24, 2017 11:43PM

    @BillJones said:

    @grip said:
    I heard house hold silver was used?

    The claim was that Martha Washington give up her set of silver flatware to produce these coins. Breen even claimed that the Washingtons only had silver plated flatware left after that contribution. This was another product of Breen's wild imagination.

    This is one part of the legend I don't believe along with the claim that Martha Washington was the model for Ms. Liberty. If you use your imagination you might see a resemblance, but the claim was not made until the 1850s.

    I know the current view is to discount the traditional belief that Martha Washington's silver was used. There is one significant piece of evidence though which supports the premise and I don't recall seeing it mentioned in the subject book that just came out, though admittedly I have not yet read it cover to cover. The evidence as I recall reading it in the past was that there had been an inventory taken at Mount Vernon and the silverware was no longer included in the inventory after the minting of the half dismes. The alternative possibility that the silverware was used for the second batch of half dismes is an interesting suggestion.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The evidence as I recall reading it in the past was that there had been an inventory taken at Mount Vernon and the silverware was no longer included in the inventory after the minting of the half dismes.

    This is the scenario that Breen laid out in his Encyclopedia.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • BStrauss3BStrauss3 Posts: 1,729 ✭✭✭✭

    They may have been coined "for circulation", however, the half dismes could not have LEGALLY been coined, as the required surety bonds had not been obtained!!!

    The Mint & Coinage Act of April 2, 1792 required the Chief Coiner to be bound to the United States of America and to post a surety bond of $10,000.00. This sum was too large for Voigt and he was unable to post his bond. This issue was one of the impediments to converting silver and gold bullion into coins during 1793 and most of 1794. Without the required bond in place, Voigt was unable to receive custody of silver and gold bullion. As a result, the employees in his department could not roll the bullion into strips, punch planchets out of the strips, process the planchets through the Castaing Machine (if required), and strike the planchets into United States money.

    The bond was obtained only after the law was changed in 1793/4 - the bond was posted April 4, 1794.

    See: http://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v18n36a20.html

    -----Burton
    ANA 46 year/Life Member
  • CoinosaurusCoinosaurus Posts: 9,413 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Bstrauss makes a good point - the coiner in 1792 wasn't bonded. However, the correspondence between Rittenhouse, Jefferson, and Washington just prior to the July 11-13 striking period demonstrate that Washington was aware of what was about to happen and authorized the coining.

    On July 9, Rittenhouse wrote to Washington asking for approval to coin silver, "as small money is very much wanted." Washington then wrote to Jefferson asking him to draft a letter of approval for what Rittenhouse "is about to do."
    Washington then wrote to Rittenhouse and authorized him to proceed with coining silver dismes and half dismes. On July 11, Jefferson drops off the silver at the Mint.

    Now, in today's environment, we would immediately string up all three of these guys for conspiring to break the law regarding bonding, and being dumb enough to do it in writing. The President would be impeached, all three would lose their offices in disgrace, the Republic would fall apart, and we would all be speaking French today. Quelle horreur!

    By calling these coins "patterns" we escape the legal requirements, and the Republic survives. The problem is that Rittenhouse clearly refers to circulating coinage in July, Washington referred to circulating coinage in this November address, and Jefferson put coins in circulation as soon as he received them. So you can't call them patterns. And you can't call them coins because they fall outside the Mint Act. In a sense, they are both and neither at the same time.

  • ColonelJessupColonelJessup Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 25, 2017 7:30PM

    Edited to say, after reading much earlier in the thread and drafting the below, forgetting it, and then reading what, ironically, is posted directly above me - -

    Several years ago, a signed Jefferson document from his tenure of supervising the Mint showed up in a Kolbe auction. Brought about $15K IIRC. The catalogue said only five Jefferson documents relating to Mint matters were known.

    At the time, the streets of Philadelphia were not exactly paved with gold.
    $10,000 was likely in the range of the pay-off to the King's second cousin for "helping" on one's path towards an English Patent of Nobility.

    Just assuming very few had specie of that amount, and that a bond was posted (guess I'll have to order the book to expand my own knowledge), who posted the collateral?.

    "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is King" - Voltaire
  • ColonelJessupColonelJessup Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 25, 2017 9:22PM

    I've heard it suggested that Jefferson, as Secretary of State, viewed coinage as propaganda in the same way as Washington and Alexander the Great.

    And that he used these paltry pieces as meta-symbolic lagniappes in much the same way as the 1804 sets were intended to be utilized.

    Imagined:
    Thos. J, to the Ambassador of France.

    "They screwed up my business cards, but George had Jess Patrick knock these out overnight. Our conversion to decimal is arithmetically correct, but a committee couldn't spell dixieme

    Don't repeat this, but George can't pronounce it either. Maybe the limitations of genially idiotic British educators, or just his new teeth. He's pretty sensitive about them. If you guys ever invent something like Tik-Taks in this millennium (creative hyperbole), I think some tariff problems with the Clintons in NY can be made to go away.

    Actually, no. Governor George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. Yankee Doodle Dandy in a repurposed wannabe House of Lords peruke? Effing globalist crypto-Tory.

    Not Dom Perignon. Makes him [email protected] Calling them Tique-Taques.

    George W. knows that's not Martha. It's not true that we intended a post-guillotine meme of cher Marie, but Ben got an idea from Vlad, who thinks it might be useful to specifically and vehemently deny that before anyone even sees the coins. Same media splash as the tuna fisherman and Saddle Ridge.

    Corleone says we owe you guys a lifetime favor and, as we both know it in this century, Normandy is just a place with a bad beach and mediocre wine. We'll show our gratitude

    Majesties might dine on the tongues of peacocks, but that's a "Republican cloth coat" free-range turkey. We're going to invent Twitter in a couple of centuries, but, in the meanwhile, that bad-@ss eagle represents as something with a bit more panache for social media branding. As you mention it.. Yes. I CAN picture that august, brave, noble, that virtuous quintessentially American bird, as you so exquisitely put it, ripping the eyes out of the British Lion.

    When I say that my tongue tingles. The Mad Monk knows his booze,

    Eagle WOULD be a great name for our money.

    FAFTA?
    A case of Chateau d'Yquem '88 for Alex might smooth the way."

    "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is King" - Voltaire
  • EagleEyeEagleEye Posts: 7,656 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @BStrauss3 said:
    They may have been coined "for circulation", however, the half dismes could not have LEGALLY been coined, as the required surety bonds had not been obtained!!!

    The Mint & Coinage Act of April 2, 1792 required the Chief Coiner to be bound to the United States of America and to post a surety bond of $10,000.00. This sum was too large for Voigt and he was unable to post his bond. This issue was one of the impediments to converting silver and gold bullion into coins during 1793 and most of 1794. Without the required bond in place, Voigt was unable to receive custody of silver and gold bullion. As a result, the employees in his department could not roll the bullion into strips, punch planchets out of the strips, process the planchets through the Castaing Machine (if required), and strike the planchets into United States money.

    The bond was obtained only after the law was changed in 1793/4 - the bond was posted April 4, 1794.

    See: http://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v18n36a20.html

    I don't see why having the coiner or assayer bonded or not makes a difference in the legality of the coins. Bonding protects the mint against theft. I think this point is more appropriate for general bullion deposits, not the striking of coins.

    Rick Snow, Eagle Eye Rare Coins, Inc.Check out my new web site:
  • CaptHenwayCaptHenway Posts: 29,105 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @afford said:
    This is my proof that the lady on the h10c i Martha Washington:

    If you compare every feature from forehead, to eye brow, to eye lids, to eyes, to nose, to moth, to chin to ear lobe, other than hair style it is practically an exact match. Now when you compare the obj to the photo in this post it is much harder because Martha aged poorly and gained a great deal of weight. I would think that the engraver would want to take a more flattering likeness. Also event hough it is said that Martha wasn't the type for any recognition that shouldn't stop anyone from using her likeness for the first coin of the nation showing the first lady of the nation. After all look how many coins bears George on the obj side. If he was dead against the idea he would have left instructions for never to use his likeness, but he didn't.

    I see neither a resemblance nor any reason to think this is or is not the portrait on the coin.
    Sorry.

    Winner of the ANA's 2020 Heath Literary Award, Wayte and Olga Raymond Literary Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award. Winner NLG 2020 Best Numismatic Feature Article, U.S.
  • BStrauss3BStrauss3 Posts: 1,729 ✭✭✭✭

    @ColonelJessup the link has the bond, it was just an agreement by several monied gentleman to pay if required. No specie involved.

    @EagleEye what make it a coin vs. a medal? I've always read it needed to be money of a nation with a denomination. If you can't legally handle bullion how do you make money? That's not to say these didn't fill the role of money. But our colonial ancestors were already quite adept at using whatever "money" came to hand.

    -----Burton
    ANA 46 year/Life Member
  • EagleEyeEagleEye Posts: 7,656 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @BStrauss3 said:

    @EagleEye what make it a coin vs. a medal? I've always read it needed to be money of a nation with a denomination. If you can't legally handle bullion how do you make money? That's not to say these didn't fill the role of money. But our colonial ancestors were already quite adept at using whatever "money" came to hand.

    It says "Half Disme." medals don't carry monetary imprints. The bullion was deposited by Jefferson. He didn't care if the workmen making the coins were bonded for $75.

    Rick Snow, Eagle Eye Rare Coins, Inc.Check out my new web site:
  • BStrauss3BStrauss3 Posts: 1,729 ✭✭✭✭

    Even though both are made from the same 1 oz silver blanks, an ASE is a coin and a ALM is not.

    So whatever they were, the half dismes circulated as money and people were quite happy to have them - the wear patterns tell us that.

    -----Burton
    ANA 46 year/Life Member
  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 29,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Two comments;

    I totally discount the story the Martha Washington was the model for the 1792 half disme. That story surfaced in the mid 1850s, more than 60 years after the coins were made. There is a resemblance, as there might be for any middle aged woman, but I don't think that Martha was the model. If she had been, there should have been some sort of documentation earlier than 60 years after the fact.

    I don't how you could all the half disme "a medal." It is a coin with a denomination on it that was used as a coin, which Washington himself declared to be "a small beginning in coinage." It amazes me that people continually insist upon discounting the works of the President of the United States at the time that these coins were issued. As I wrote earlier, even Adams and Woodin speculated that the 1792 half disme could be a coin of realm in their work which was published in 1913. Subsequent information has only served to confirm that observation.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
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