Monday, April 19, 2010

Coin Monday: One Cent, Two Cent, One Cent Planchet

April 19, 2010
Written by John Dale

Before I get to the coin part of today’s post, a bit of timely fantasy artwork that caught my eye, Real Musgrave’s The Audit. Don’t let the glasses and the so-cute-it-hurts expression fool you; that little whelp of an auditor probably has a big, bad dragon for backup. I could imagine The Audit adding a touch of whimsy to an IRS agent’s office when it sells in May, but now that I think about it, a whimsical IRS agent might be even scarier than a giant red dragon!

From giant scaly winged monsters to other wrong things, Coin Monday is going back to errors. It’s a category that never lacks for variety at Heritage, and in the upcoming Central States U.S. Coin auction there are 77 different pieces in the Errors category. The coin that immediately caught my eye was lot 1585.

First things first: it’s a two cent coin dated 1864. Odd denominations are always a favorite of mine, and the two cent coin had a practical application when it was first struck in 1864, supplementing the new bronze cent as small change in the difficult Civil War economy. In the postwar period, though, it didn’t have much reason to go on. Along with several other coinage denominations, the two cent piece was abolished in a major “housekeeping” bill passed in 1873.

A two cent coin, in and of itself, is certainly interesting but not necessarily expensive. A two cent coin on a one cent planchet, though? That’s a lulu. Error coins from the 19th century are extraordinarily popular with collectors, since far fewer of them have survived compared to 20th century errors, and this wrong-denomination coin is a beauty. It has light wear, possibly from being kept as a pocket-piece, or else passing through a few hands before somebody looked at it closely and saved it as a curiosity.

The one cent planchet it’s struck on is compelling in its own right, since the bronze alloy was introduced in 1864, the same year this error was struck. One cent coinage had gone through several rapid transitions, from the bulky copper large cents to smaller copper-nickel small cents with two different designs. The bronze alloy stuck, however, and aside from a brief period in World War II, one cent coins were struck in bronze until 1962.

Two important firsts came together in 1864, and the result was this important error. Collectors of the category, especially pre-20th century specialists, will want to give it serious thought. As for the auditor or quality control types who prefer their two cent pieces non-erroneous, well, Heritage just might have you covered, too…

-John Dale Beety

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