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Usa-Encyclopedia of U.S. and colonial proof coins 1722-1977 - Walter Breen's 197.

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内容提示: Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins 1722 - 1977 "A COINER'S CAVIAR" Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins 1722 —1977 By Walter Breen containing. . . THE PROOFING PROCESS: Colonial and United States U.S. PRESENTATION AND PROOF COINS: Overview PRESENTATION COINS AND SETS 1792-1816 OLD TENOR PROOFS 1817-33 DIPLOMATIC AND OTHER V.I.P. COINS AND SETS 1834-39 "MASTER" COINS AND SETS 1840-57 PUBLICLY SOLD PROOF COINS AND SETS 1858-1889 THE STEREOTYPE YEARS: 1890-...

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Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins 1722 - 1977 "A COINER'S CAVIAR" Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins 1722 —1977 By Walter Breen containing. . . THE PROOFING PROCESS: Colonial and United States U.S. PRESENTATION AND PROOF COINS: Overview PRESENTATION COINS AND SETS 1792-1816 OLD TENOR PROOFS 1817-33 DIPLOMATIC AND OTHER V.I.P. COINS AND SETS 1834-39 "MASTER" COINS AND SETS 1840-57 PUBLICLY SOLD PROOF COINS AND SETS 1858-1889 THE STEREOTYPE YEARS: 1890-1906 NEW DESIGNS AND EXPERIMENTAL FINISHES 1907-16 THE CLANDESTINE YEARS: 1917-35 BRILLIANT PROOFS MAKE A COMEBACK: 1936-64 AFTERMATH: "Special Mint Sets" and San Francisco Proofs 1965—? BRANCH MINT PROOFS 1838—? CAVIAR: Confederate and San Francisco Mintmasters' Provisionals THE 1856 FLYING EAGLE CENTS RESTRIKES AND FANTASY PIECES VALUATION GUIDE GLOSSARY SOURCES AND ABBREVIATIONS INVESTING IN PROOF COINS F.C.I. Press, Inc., NEW YORK Published by F.C.I. Press, Inc. 200 I.U. Willets Rd., Albertson, N.Y. 11507 Copyright® 1977 by First Coinvestors, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief excerpts in connection with a review in a magazine or newspaper. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Breen, Walter Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1977 CJ# 77-79912 ISBN# 0-930076-01-X (Library Edition) 1977 Printed in the United States of America by Amos Press, Sidney, Ohio This book is dedicated to the late Wayte Raymond, patron and mentor, for starting it all, for publishing my earlier efforts in this line, for training and encouraging me; the late Stuart Mosher, for opening up to me the incredible riches of the Smithsonian, and teaching me how to grade coins and dealers' claims; Marion Z. Bradley, for making it possible for me to spend the necessary time writing this — both times; Stanley Apfelbaum, for keeping the project alive long after everyone else had thought it dead. Arlene Kole, Editor of Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, 1722-1977 is a native New Yorker. She holds a B.A. in Social Science and an M.A. in English from the City University of New York. She has been an adjunct lecturer at Queens College and has served as the Director of the Center For Performing Arts in New York City. Currently, she is a free-lance writer and editor. She recently edited Monographs On Rare Coins For Investment Capital, her first association with First Coinvestors, Inc. and with Walter Breen. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Whitman Publishing Co., for permission to reprint Chapter One, originally serialized as "The Proofing Process," Whitman Numismatic Journal, Vol. 2, nos. 1-7, Jan.-July 1965. First Coinvestors Inc., for permission to reprint Chapter Fifteen, first published in FC7 Rare Coin Advisory, vol. IX, no. 13, Feb. 1976. Lester Merkin, for access to some legendary rarities, and photographs of a few of them. Dr. Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, for access to some few of the Smithsonian Institution's holdings, and for unfailing courtesy. Jack Collins, for a variety of technical and bibliographical aid, and for some of the finest coin photography in the world. The American Numismatic Society, for loan of many of its photographic negatives. FCI, Joel Rettew, Eric P. Newman, Kenneth E. Bressett, Essex Numismatic Properties, Catherine E. Bullowa, New England Rare Coin Galleries (Lee Belisario and Jim Halperin), Steve Ivy, Alan Meghrig, Krause Publications (Cliff Mishler), for furnishing photographs actually used herein. TO THE READER Please don't skip any of the following even if you've been around proof coins for forty years. I'm still learning about proof coins; you can too. These days even the neophyte with only the briefest acquaintance with American coins as collectors' items will sooner or later encounter proof coins, whether as offered to the general public by the San Francisco Mint, or as offered to collectors by coin dealers. And sooner or later, as you delve more deeply into the subject than the blue book or the red book or the grey sheet or the trends pages permit, or as what Dr. Sheldon used to call the collecting bug bites a little harder, you will come across borderline cases, claims of extreme rarity, proofs not listed in the usual reference books, coins which present frank puzzles. And that is partly what this book is about. And though there is no way to become expert overnight in even so well explored a field as United States numismatics, there is a way to raise your own level of knowledge from that of neophyte and swindlers' mark to — at least — informed amateur. And this is to read before you buy. What to read? That depends on the series. If you're interested in colonial coins, the Crosby book and the back files of Colonial Newsletter are absolutely essential. If it's large cents, obtain copies of the Sheldon and Newcomb books and join Early American Coppers, Inc., afterwards ordering back files of their publication Penny Wise. If you plan to specialize in earlier silver coins, the Bolender and Overton and Browning and Valentine books are for you, along with the Liberty Seated Collectors' Club. For gold, there is little available but my own monographs, to date, and these are being revised. Unfortunately for simplicity and instant expertise, most of the above references ignore proof coins, or at best mention that proofs exist — without telling how or why they were made, how to identify real ones, how scarce they are, etc. So what do you do about proof coins, especially the earlier ones, where the various guidebooks have little or nothing to say? Must you believe dealers' pitches in pricelists and auction catalogues? No matter how flashy and elaborate the presentation, how can you tell if the dealer knows what he is talking about? And where did all these people get their information? Here is where the present book comes in. If you now own, or have ever owned, or ever expect to own, a proof coin of any kind — aside from the plastic-enveloped offerings from San Francisco each year — herein you will find information which will help you understand • what have you • how it was made • why it was made — for what occasions • when it was made • what "proof" means — why it isn't (unlike what many dealers would like you to believe) a mere super-uncirculated grade • how many were made • how rare is it • what it has sold for in the past • is it in any way different from and /or more valuable than others of its kind • has it any unusual history • is it a good investment • how you should — and shouldn't — take care of it This book attempts to answer all these and probably dozens of other questions you might have. And if I've forgotten something, or if there is something you need to know on the subject and it's not in here, feel free to write me at FCI. In addition, there is the sheer delight, the glamor of legendary, fantastic, incredible coins, museum pieces, breathtakingly beautiful specimens, which I have seen, whose stories I have heard, and which I would love to share with you, if only by descriptions and — sometimes — photographic record. There is also the frequently chucklesome story of skulduggery at the mint during the period 1858-1909 or thereabouts, imparting levity to what might otherwise have remained a fairly dull and stereotyped period of American numismatics. These are the WHY of this book. The HOW follows. We begin with an overview of minting processes, with special reference to how special mintages, made more like medals than like production coins, and later to be called presentation coins, master coins, or proof coins, were and are made, and how the techniques devised for them in France and England filtered back to the United States. (I have long believed that it is as essential to know how coins are made, if you are going to study them at all, as it is for a doctor to know how the human body is put together before he starts prescribing for it.) The surviving presentation and proof coins of these earlier periods — fortunately not all of them are museum pieces — reflect changes in minting technology: in more than one sense, they exemplify the 1975 National Coin Week phrase "History in your Hands" — history of man's developing mastery of a medium, history of the occasions for which the things were made. I To the Reader A byproduct of this study, then, is ways to tell — most of the time, anyway — whether or not the shiny coin in your collection was, or could have been, made as a proof. In some dates of 19th century U.S. issues, the decision can mean several thousand dollars' difference in potential resale value. Illustrative of the historical survey which begins this book is a detailed listing of all the different kinds of Colonial and U.S. presentation, master, and proof coins and sets known to me, by date, from the beginnings under Sir mathematician and physicist and astrologer, who spent his last years as Master of the Mint) on behalf of William Wood of Wolverhampton, through the contributions of Matthew Boulton, (partner of James Watt of steam-engine fame, and possibly the greatest innovator in minting technology since Leonardo da Vinci), through the United States mint's attempts to perfect these processes, even unto their present stupefying mediocrity. As this book is a corpus rather than a mere survey, completeness is attempted, though there are a few private collections and estates to which I have not had access, so that a few gaps still exist — to be closed in future editions, one hopes. Preservation and Values. In proof coins, more than in any other kind, value differs according to condition, and the difference may be a factor of more than 100% between one of the usually found cleaned examples and a perfect pristine gem, kept well wrapped in a dry place. Though proof coins do not normally get into circulation (so that wear is not an expected factor here), still they are subject to other vicissitudes, all of which affect value adversely. In particular, the heavier coins (silver dollars, trade dollars, eagles and double eagles most of all) often fell out of the mint wrappers, or the cellophane envelopes collectors once favored, as these dried and split up, jangling against their neighbors, giving and receiving nicks and scratches. Owing to the brilliant mirror surfaces, these nicks ("contact marks") are more noticeable than they would be on ordinary production coins or business strikes of the same denominations and types. A proof coin on which contact marks are really noticeable might bring half or less than half the figure commanded by a perfect proof coin of the same denomination, date and type. Also, proof coins of all denominations kept for long in the original mint wrappers (which were cheap sulfite paper never intended preservation) tarnished, and the longer they stayed in contact with such paper, the more deeply they tarnished. The luckier coins acquired a fairly stable bluish tone, which protected them to some extent against further oxidation reactions. Copper and bronze coins sometimes acquired a variety of rainbow tints, mostly favoring the cooler end of the spectrum. But the unluckier coins in all denominations developed Isaac Newton (the for longterm spots or stains, and their later owners usually cleaned them. Some misguided souls used silver polishes developed originally for tableware (the pink ones include jeweler's rouge, which is powdered iron oxide better known as rust and whose action is scrubbing or abrasion), or other abrasives such as salt wetted with vinegar, or baking soda pastes. Use of any of these home remedies is a cure worse than the disease; all leave indelible "hairlines" or hairmarks" (sometimes in old catalogues called "haymarks" for no imaginable reason), which are microscopic superficial scratches, by the thousands, rendered visible to the naked eye by tilting the coin from side to side in a good light. Later blue toning sometimes has mercifully obscured these, though nothing will render them permanently invisible; and dipping, no matter in what, will make them once again mercilessly obvious. Repeated use of these cleaning agents destroys the mirrorlike quality of fields which had been a hallmark of the old style of brilliant proofs even as of the current San Francisco output. You might think, however, that perhaps tarnish can safely be removed in other ways. However, if any of the commercial cleaning methods demands rubbing with any kind of cloth, the answer is a loud NO for the same reason as above — even the softest cloth in the world can leave hairlines. How about commercial solutions or "dips"? The answer is a very cautious "It depends." In particular, it depends on what active ingredients give the dips their effect, and these are not always listed on the label. Formerly, cyanide was one of the most popular, though among coin collectors the stuff began to lose a little of its reputation after 1916, when the illustrious J. Sanford Saltus picked up the wrong water glass while cleaning coins, and died a few seconds later, possibly without realizing that he had made a mistake. Cyanide lost the rest of its reputation a few decades later, after collectors heard that it acts by dissolving away the top layer of metal from the coins, dulling proofs with even brief use. The dips that consist primarily of detergent mixtures may be safe for gold or nickel, but the effect on silver is likely to be an unnatural white color, and the effect on copper is an equally unnatural pale pink, which quickly retarnishes, depending on (among other things) how acid or alkaline they are, and how carelessly — if at all — they were rinsed off. Those that derive their punch from thiourea require the same comment only more so, the color imparted to silver often being yellow or even chalky, and that imparted to copper or bronze looking like the bottom of a copper pot which has been scrubbed to remove burnt-on spills. Thiourea dips keep on working indefinitely long unless they are completely rinsed off, and they activate metal surfaces (as does cyanide), accelerating further tarnishing. II To the Reader What is left? For gold or nickel proofs, get a covered dish of ammonia (either clear or cloudy will do — the cloudiness is from a detergent), put the coin in a tea strainer, dip it for a couple of seconds only, rinse immediately in hot running water, smell to make sure the last traces of ammonia are gone, air-dry; repeat only once if necessary. Whatever is unaffected by the ammonia dip will probably yield to a dip in methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). Silver proofs may be given the MEK treatment. Ammonia is not recommended except in the emergency of black stains, against which it may not work anyway; the reason is that ammonia forms soluble complexes with the cuprous or cupric ions in the tarnished alloy, so that repeated ammonia dips leave an unnaturally white surface which under a microscope shows thousands of minute rough streaks — irreversible damage. The stable golden and bluish tones should be left strictly alone, as they protect the coin against further atmospheric attack in the absence of grease or moisture. We have as yet had no opportunity to test either the ultrasonic bath or the magnesium plate; these will be discussed in future editions. There is no way for any amateur safely to remove spots or stains from copper proofs. Dulling is often associated with thin greasy films on copper or bronze; this will yield to MEK though with a certain risk of imparting a bluish color. A safer procedure is CARE, either as a dip (freshly poured only) or applied with a Q-tip and the excess removed the same way, using extreme care not to leave lint. Old CARE — even after only 5 to 10 minutes' exposure to air in a dish — is not to be used, as the essential solvent has by then mostly evaporated, leaving mostly silicone, which has no effect except to retard access of atmospheric contaminants. Unfortunately, the stuff becomes sticky as it progressively dries, attracting lint. If the above sounds a little intimidating, it is meant to; the only safe procedure for the beginner is to leave cleaning and restoration to experts. And some stains will deter even experts. The reason we do not recommend experimentation is that mistakes can be too costly even if you are not using cyanide. Beauty emphatically is skin deep on proof coins, and once it is gone, it does not come back. Investment. As I write this the market is in a state of confusion, the most recent auctions containing im-portant offerings of proof coins failed to show any trend either up or down; within the same series, some coins brought world's record highs, other of the same quality sagged and slumped unpredictably. At present some gold proofs can be obtained less expensively than their twin sisters could be in 1974, which was one of the regular 10-year peaks (years ending in 4 have long been notorious for brief peaks in coin prices), but others have gone into orbit, and there is not emergent pattern. On the other hand, I am inclined to believe that — brief fluctuations aside — proof coins of any metal, for which either low mintage or high meltage can be proved, will be on a longterm upward trend as long as people collect U.S. coins at all, especially as long as early proofs continue to remain the caviar and truffles and peacock's tongues of the series. I refuse to believe for a moment that interest could permanently disappear in a coin of which only a dozen are known, though the amount of market interest (the number of collectors, and their enthusiasm at any one time) will of course fluctuate with such factors as the momentary state of the stockmarket, the state of the economy generally, the number of specialists around at the time, the amount and type of publicity, the frequency with which any individual coin has been making the rounds among dealers, and for all I know the phase of the moon. There is no way to Get Rich Quick in this field — otherwise instead of writing this book I would have been stashing every spare cent since 1950 into coins of this kind, and cashing in since 1974 — but there is a way to manage your collection rationally so that at the very worst the possessions which gave you a lot of fun over the years will have cost you little or nothing, but more likely you will have made more than you put in (including the cost of this and your other reference books), and quite possibly you will have made a tidy profit. The way is to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the rarity levels herein, with the price histories, and with the difference between ordinary cleaned proofs and the really pristine ones (which are the real blue chips), and be guided accordingly. As more people do this, the difference in price levels will become greater and greater, both proportionately and absolutely, to the benefit of those who were discriminating as to quality from the very outset. There is, of course, no way to seek completeness in this field. Despite the fame of the Louis Eliasberg collection, even he never managed completeness of date-mintmark combinations: he never owned an 1841 0 half eagle, a strawberry leaf cent, or an 1861 Paquet twenty, even aside from some overdates or certain of the restrike half-cents; and no other collection is anywhere close, even the Smithsonian's being weak in mintmarked silver coins. However, you can try for completeness in a given date (like Harry Boosel on 1873) or denomination, or for either first or last years for a given design, or you name it. Even brief issues like the capped bust half dimes 1829-37 will make very impressive displays, and they are as of this writing still undervalued compared to dimes or quarters of the same period. Smaller coins like trimes, nickel 3¢ pieces, or half dimes, have long been neglected compared to their larger brethren. I have III To the Reader the distinct impression that a collection organized around a theme or specialty is likely to perform better at auction than a collection of more haphazard kind in which a few rarities are imbedded; and certainly it will win more exhibit prizes at major conventions. Proofs with which original cases or mint wrappers or mint transmittal envelopes are included have a historical interest far in excess of their counterparts lacking such papers, and this too is likely to show up in the prices realized at auction. This is notoriously true of the 1938 Jefferson nickels on original presentation cards (150 made) or of the 1903 Jefferson or McKinley dollars in original frames signed by mint officials testifying to their being among the first 100 struck. In addition, coins provably traceable back to famous collections of the past, especially retaining the original papers and/or envelopes, acquire what Dr. Sheldon used to call "pedigree premium." Your own imagination and common sense can now probably enable you to figure out similar factors which can override the law of supply and demand, causing individual coins to perform better, or at least to show higher potential, than their sisters without such factors. Happy hunting! Walter Breen Albertson, N.Y. April, 1977 IV TABLE OF CONTENTS To the Reader I I. THE PROOFING PROCESS: AMERICAN COLONIAL PROOFS AND THEIR ANTECEDENTS ... 1 II. U.S. PRESENTATION AND PROOF COINS: OVERVIEW 19 III. PRESENTATION COINS AND SETS 1792-1816 29 IV. PROOF COINS AND SETS, OLD TENOR, 1817-1833 39 V. DIPLOMATIC AND OTHER V.I.P. COINS AND SETS 1834-39 57 VI. PRESENTATION AND OTHER "MASTER" COINS AND SETS, 1840-57 71 VII. PUBLICLY SOLD PROOF COINS AND SETS 1858-1889 107 VIII. STEREOTYPY RULES, 1890-1906 191 IX. EXPERIMENTAL FINISHES, 1907-16 207 X. THE CLANDESTINE YEARS: 1917-35 219 XL BRILLIANT PROOFS MAKE A COMEBACK: 1936-64 225 XII. AFTERMATH: SANDWICH METAL, "SMS" AND 'S' MINT PROOFS 231 XIII. BRANCH MINT PROOFS 233 XIV. CAVIAR: MINTMASTERS' PROVISIONALS 239 XV. THE 1856 FLYING EAGLE CENTS 243 XVI. RESTRIKES AND FANTASY PIECES 249 XVII. VALUATION GUIDE 267 XVIII. GLOSSARY 297 XIX. SOURCES AND ABBREVIATIONS 309 XX. INVESTMENT IN PROOF COINS 321 Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Proof Coins I. THE PROOFING PROCESS: AMERICAN COLONIAL PROOFS AND THEIR ANTECEDENTS Though a great deal has been written about minting processes old and new, some of the biggest remaining gaps in our knowledge of them are connected with the various ways in which the special mintages called "master coins" or "proofs" have been made over the centuries, why changes in finish have occurred, or indeed just when such coins started to be made and why. I hope to be able to throw a little light on all these questions, though the full answers are not yet available. Any such study, even though emphasizing principally American Colonial, U.S., and Canadian coins, cannot be limited to them, because our mint personnel obtained their knowledge of minting processes (including those connected with proofing) from other sources, primarily the Royal British Mint on Tower Hill, London, and later on Boulton & Watt's Soho Mint near Birmingham, England — and more recently from other European sources. It was for just such reasons, for instance, that in the 1830's the Philadelphia Mint financed a transatlantic trip for Franklin Peale during which he visited all the principal European mints. This is why I shall go to what might seem unusual length tracing changing methods of making proof coins in Britain. But there are even more obvious reasons: some Colonial and early U.S. proofs — now hardly ever obtainable for study — were made by methods virtually identical to those used on the far less rare or costly British proofs, and study of the latter makes recognition and understanding of the former far more easy. And most Colonial proofs were made at the Tower Hill mint, (e.g. the 1773 Virginia "Penny", 1774 Virginia Shilling), or under supervision of British mint officials elsewhere in London or Bristol (including all the Rosa Americana and Wood's Coinage proofs), or at the Boulton & Watt mint (the 1796 Kentucky Myddelton patterns). Furthermore, the remark holds for both pre-decimal and decimal series Canadian proofs; all of the decimal ones until the beginning of the 20th century were in fact made in London. Since the term "proof" has shifted its meaning, even as the coins so designated have changed in function over the decades and centuries, this study has to pay some attention to the shifting meanings and purposes. The very term "proof" seems to have been of British origin, analogous at the start to its use in graphic arts (i.e. preliminary trial, as of an engraving plate), and may at inception have meant something very much akin to an artist's proof piece — something struck from master dies ordinarily used only for making hubs, and too precious to be risked directly on production coinages where breakage would necessitate an immediate halt and perhaps weeks of delay while another such die was being perfected. Later on, and most familiarly, the name "proof" began to be applied to various kinds of special "polished-up portraits of the coinages" (Sheldon's term), presentation pieces remotely like business strikes in appearance or finish, though of normal designs, and made by different processes primarily intended for medals and calculated to show off what splended results moneyers could achieve if they paid particular attention to each individual piece, principally in improved relief detail. This usage seems to have been introduced to American numismatics in 1858 by James Ross Snowden; the Oxford English Dictionary does not record the term in this sense 1 Proofing Process: Overview (#14) before 1901! More recently, of course, the name "proof" has become merely a technical term for a kind of mass-production coins with unusually shiny surfaces, things of curiosity value, little if at all more attractive than the regular coinage, intended less for display or presentation purposes than for sale to investors — often enough (through the 1950's) being bought, sold and traded in quantity in mint sealed boxes without even having been looked at. Together with this deterioration in meaning and function has come similar deterioration in appearance of the coins, enormous quantity and stereotypy, and great overvaluation as well. BEGINNINGS Nothing comparable to proofs seems to have been known in antiquity, though Greek technology permitted the striking of coins in far higher relief than is practicable today, and Greek celators created individual dies of artistic merit ranging from fairly good to extraordinary. Why nobody thought of polishing dies or blanks is unknown; probably this refinement was thought unnecessary, the high relief affording ample contrast between devices and fields. In later centuries, until the Renaissance, despite excellence of design and execution of some dies, such characteristic features of later proofs as high relief and unusually sharp striking remained impossible while moneyers used the ancient hammer method of striking. Even several blows from the largest sledge-hammers hardly sufficed to bring up designs in more than slight relief without very marked danger of shattering the dies. Multiple strikings (as nearly always on multiple thalers and other very large coins) usually tended to impair the general appearance of the coins because successive blows imparted confusing or mutually obliterative extra lines to each letter or design element. This is easily enough understood: after all, planchets — not being confined by collars — spread out from each successive blow, often irregularly to the point of no longer being round. It follows, then, that we need not seek a beginning to the proofing process earlier than the 15th century, when Italian and French medallists began experimenting with "Coyning Engines" (as their British successors called the apparatus) ancestral to the 18th Century screw-press and on the same principle. The advantages these rotating pile-drivers had over the hammer method were largely those of producing a more vivid impression from dies in higher relief; the Italian medallists who invented the screw press did so in frank efforts to make medals in the manner of Roman coins. An immediate by-product of this technological innovation was that dies could be hubbed, saving a great deal of time and handwork. Placing a die blank in the press opposite a carved and hardened relief model or hub meant that one could immediately impart devices to a working die which might otherwise have taken weeks of the most eye-taxing labor; further, one could multiply similar dies and accommodate even the largest coinages, insuring meanwhile against delays due to die breakage. I have not been able to learn who introduced the practice of polishing dies and blanks and making multiple impressions to bring out details in unusual clarity. Some sort of special proofing treatment dates back to the early 1660's; earlier coins alleged to show it are very equivocal, even British experts sometimes being unable to ascertain for certain whether the pieces in question were made by these medallic processes. Had they been in France in the 1500's, most probably the French fugitive Eloye Mestrell would have produced some pieces by them during his own ill-fated experiments in the Tower Mint — as gifts to the British monarch, showing that whether or not his coinages were slower than those of the regular moneyers they nevertheless showed designs of unusual merit, clarity and vividness. No such pieces seem to be known. Seaby's monograph, English Silver Coins, lists only two pieces prior to 1662 with any claim to proof status, and about both there is doubt. One of these is ESC 427, a 1651 Commonwealth half-crown, with footnote (p. 47) "May be just an exceptionally well struck ordinary coin." The other is a 1658 Cromwell half-crown struck in gold, from dies by the illustrious Thomas Simon, ESC 447a. Now Seaby generally refers to off-metal impressions (favor coins, pieces de caprice, and the like) as "proofs," without any remark on their method of manufacture; this may be mere linguistic usage, following OED, but if so it is confusing indeed. Never having seen the gold Cromwell piece in question, I cannot say if it was made by processes comparable to those used on later British proofs. What is definitely established, however, is that beginning with an order by Charles II in 1662, machine-made coins (i.e. those struck in screw presses) gradually superseded those made by hammer; and in the same year proof crowns began to appear. ESC 16 and 21 are two varieties of 1662 crowns of Charles II, with and without rose below bust; and there exist similar coins dated 1663 and after. As one would expect, the half-crown of 1663 also comes in proof (ESC 458), and a single copper shilling of the same year is recorded (ESC 1022A). For some reason, the smaller denominations followed only later on. Peck (British Museum Catalogue) shows copper and silver proof halfpence of 1672-73 (Nos. 508-9, 514-15), differing from the circulating issue only in having plain linear inner circle instead of the regular toothed borders. And the smaller silver coins began to appear in proof only in later reigns, the Maundy 2 Proofing Process: William Wood coins starting as late as 1763 (ESC 2412A, unique?). Which brings up a curious point about British proofs. From the 1670's on, until well into the reign of Queen Victoria, proofs were almost invariably struck from dies differing in some immediately noticeable way from regular issues. The linear inner circle replacing toothed borders, or a different style of branch in Britannia's hand, or a different portrait punch from any regularly in use, or the like, are consistent features of such proofs, enabling recognition of them even when they have been recovered from circulation in worn state. Differences of this kind or degree in American coins would automatically characterize them as patterns. Even ESC and Peck complain on occasion that it is difficult to tell whether a given coin was intended only as a proof or actually as a pattern. In the same way, proofs were often struck on very thick planchets (pieforts), broader than normal, or with edges differing from normal — reeded (the British term is "grained") on copper coins, plain on silver, etc. Not meant to circulate, they were apparently exempt from normal rules for weight, alloy and other physical characteristics of business strikes; and there is no evidence that they were ever in the earlier years subjecte...

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