||October 2018 Baltimore U.S. Coins Auction
||Wonderfully Choice 1792 Copper Disme
Jefferson’s Decimal Lynchpin
1792 disme. Copper. Judd-10. AU-58+ (PCGS). CAC.
61 grains. Reeded edge. Medal turn. A historic relic from the earliest days of the United States Mint, this exceptional 1792 disme is as beautiful today as it was then. Its excellence in execution belies the inexperience of those who produced it, with finely engraved dies capably struck onto a well-made planchet. Ideally centered on both sides, a broad frame of denticles of even length surround the frosty chocolate brown surfaces on both obverse and reverse. The surfaces are both glossy and lustrous, rich in tone and lightest in the protected areas where mint color was last to fade. The portrait of Liberty was brought into full relief and detail by a single bold strike, standing out in good contrast from the smooth fields that surround it. The reverse is similarly choice, with a nicely rendered eagle showing just the usual flat area at absolute center but maintaining better than usual details in the head, wings, and talons. The light shades around the peripheral legends are gold and olive, barely faded from mint color. The fields on both sides are essentially immaculate, free of any troubling marks or post-striking contact points. A trivial and shallow flaw below the eagle is noted only as an identifier, as it is not of sufficient boldness to manifest in a photograph. A tiny speck of scale clings at the obverse rim above T in PARENT, harmless and stable. An infinitesimal rim nick above I of LIBERTY is both hidden by the holder and inoffensive without it. The aesthetic appeal is unimprovable at this grade level and ranks this as easily the prettiest of the non-Mint State examples of this issue. Indeed, it is easy to class this as superior to several a grade higher.
Clearly any 1792 issue is of special importance and interest, but the disme is truly foundational to our monetary system. It was the lynchpin of Jefferson's decimal plan, the small denomination that held the decimal place between the lowly cent and the mighty dollar. Jefferson conceived it as equal in value to the Spanish half pistareen, which he described as "a coin perfectly familiar to us all." Though the disme was a key part of the 1792 experimental program, struck in both silver and copper, with edges that were both plain and reeded, the circulation dime program was bogged down early, as few depositors wanted their silver back in the small denomination, preferring dollars or halves instead.
There are only three silver 1792 dismes known, making it one of the most august American rarities. In 1792:Birth of a Nation's Coinage, authors Smith, Orosz, and Augsburger recorded 19 discrete specimens of Judd-10 in copper. One is silver-plated, one is graded Poor-1 (PCGS), and three are impounded (Smithsonian, Byron Reed / Durham Museum, Independence National Historic Park). Most are well worn; just seven of those listed are graded AU-55 or higher. Three additional specimens of Judd-11, with plain edge, are known, one of which is badly disfigured.
Off the market since 1976, this piece is now ranked as the third finest certified by PCGS.
Provenance: From the Archangel Collection. Earlier, from Stack’s 1976 American Numismatic Association sale, August 1976, lot 131; New England Rare Coin Auctions’ sale of November 1975, lot 383.
PCGS Population: 1; 2 finer (SP-64 BN finest).
Click here for certification details from PCGS.