||December 2020 U.S. Coins Auction
||1875 Indian Cent. Snow-16, FS-801. Intentional Die Alteration. MS-65 RB (NGC). CAC.
Here is a beautiful example of this interesting variety, with both sides exhibiting a rich blend of deep rose-orange mint color and lighter steely-olive patina. Sharply struck with expertly preserved surfaces, there is not much separating this premium quality example from an even higher grade. Fivaz and Stanton in their Cherrypickers' Guideconjecture that this variety was produced as part of a "sting operation" to catch a long-time Mint employee suspected of theft. The Mint's theft investigation is well documented, and an altered 1875 Indian cent die was part of the "sting." Rick Snow features it in his new (2014) two-volume study of the series. It is also listed in A Guide Book of United States Coins(as 1875, Dot Reverse, where it is not priced in any grade). The example offered here is one of the very finest known.
In Dave Bowers' 1996 book A Buyer's and Enthusiast's Guide to Flying Eagle and Indian Cents, this study by R.W. Julian is included:
"Mystery cents of 1875: Where are they? What was the 'clue'?: The following narrative is edited and condensed from 'The Case of the Disappearing Cent,' in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, May 1972, by R.W. Julian:
"In the summer of 1875 an aged employee of the Philadelphia Mint was suspected of helping himself to some of the products manufactured there. He confined his activities to that lowly coin, the cent, but the matter was serious and could not be ignored.
"His fellow workers informed the foreman of their suspicions and he in turn repeated the information to the coiner. Instead of proceeding further, let us have the coiner tell the story in his own words:
"Mint of the United States
"August 24, 1875
"The Honorable James Pollock, Sup't.
"Having reported to you my suspicions as to the honesty of X [GEORGE MITCHELL, as Bob Julian advised Q. David Bowers in July 2008] employed in the coining room of this department and having received from you before your departure into the country authority to suspend him in case my suspicions were confirmed or strengthened I have the honor to submit the following facts in relation to the further development of the case.
"On the morning after our conference I was satisfied from the evidence presented to me that X had taken some of the one cent coins and had them on his person. But being anxious to fix his guilt clearly beyond any cavil or doubt, I instructed him not to use more than one coining press so that X's actions could be the more closely watched and that he should report to me any suspicious actions on X's part. About 11 a.m. Mr. Downing reported that X had been acting in a suspicious manner and that in his judgment he had some of the marked coin on his person. In your absence I sent for Mr. Hickox, acting superintendent, and informed him of all the facts, and requested him to remain with me whilst I sent for and examined Mr. X, which he did.
"I sent for X, and after closing the door to prevent our being disturbed I told him that some of the employees suspected him of taking coin out of the coining room. He was little agitated, but laughingly told me that it was a great mistake. I then asked him whether he had any coin on his person and he said he had some, which had been given him by his son. I told him that any coin given him by his son could be designated as the coin of today had been struck upon a marked die.
"At this he immediately became very distressed and wanted a private interview. I went with him into the vault connected with my room and he in there confessed that he had recently taken a few cents and begged me to overlook the offense. I told him how much distressed I was to see that an old man of his long connection with the Mint detected at such an offense. I sincerely sympathized with his family and himself, but I could not overlook an offense which was known to several of the employees as well as to you, the superintendent.
"I then took him back to the presence of Mr. Hickox, where he again confessed his fault. I then exhibited to Mr. Hickox two (2) pieces from the marked dies given to me by Mr. Downing and asked X to take out of his pocket the coin he had pilfered. After some trouble he was made to empty his pockets and we found upon him thirty-three (33) cents marked in a similar manner to the ones previously in my possession. These pieces were sealed up in our own presence together with the proper endorsement. Mr. Downing was requested to put up another lot from the same press in an envelope and seal the same which he did. These packages are now in my vault and subject to your examination. I immediately suspended him.
"Mr. X tendered his resignation for such action as you may see fit. Mr. X has been connected with this institution almost continuously for over 50 years. He is now a very old man, being upwards of 76 years of age. Of late he has manifested in many ways the weakness of his mind and I think it charitable to say that his grave fault can be attributed to mental decay and weakness more than any other cause.
"The feeblemindedness has manifested itself in a marked manner since his recent detection and peculations. At one moment he appears in the very depths of despair and humiliation demeaning himself for the crime. With the very next he speaks of himself as the poor victim of uncharitable people.
"I felt it in my duty to present the whole facts for such action as you may deem proper. I will add that from present appearances I do not think X will long survive this terrible blow. His mental suffering I will not attempt to describe. One cannot witness it unmoved.
"I am, very respectfully
"(signed) A. Loudon Snowden,
Provenance: From the Larry H. Miller Collection.
NGC Census (FS-801 attribution only): 1; 0 finer. There are no RD examples of this variety reported by that service.
Although attributed as FS-901 by NGC, this variety is listed as FS-801 in the Cherrypicker's Guide.
PCGS# 2122. NGC ID: 2282.
Click here for certification details from NGC.