The writer, a few years since, after enriching his almost complete collection of silver and minor issues of the parent institution with all attainable varieties, became much interested in gathering United States coinage bearing the letters to which he has referred. The attraction of his pursuit grew with each piece acquired, each series completed, and each unknown variety found, until his modern dates quite divided his consideration with the old. The difficulties encountered were the lack of any guide-book to this new territory, the remoteness of the very few collectors who were also attracted to it, the absence of information among collectors at large, as well as dealers and experts, wise in older coinage, and consequently the entirely hap-hazard search for desired Mint Marks amid large stocks and private accumulations, because such pieces were not distinguished from similar Philadelphia dates, and saved in appreciation of a separate table of values.
The need of distinct estimates was evident. Preliminary searching proved that the rarity and consequent value of pieces of the same date from different mints were scarcely ever equal, and that some dates necessary to complete Branch Mint sequences never came to view.
The Mint Report, annually issued by the Government, was the first substantial ground of information.
Among its voluminous statistics are found lists of the coinage of every mint in the United States to the year preceding the publication of the Report with the not-always consecutive annual amount of the coinage of each denomination. This knowledge was valuable as indicating what dates a collector should look for, and what should be accounted scarce or rare from limited coinage.
But these statements had to be established by investigation and experience. It often happens that but a portion of the registered coinage of any piece is issued for circulation, the remainder being remelted. Occasionally an entire coinage has either never left the mint or has been sent abroad and recoined there. Thus the Report announces the coinage of several dates in different denominations never known to numismatists; but it omits also any reference to certain pieces which many collectors possess, and which are genuine and stubborn facts. The dates that exist in visible shape are, therefore, the essential things for a collector, and it became necessary in our new field of investigation to find out how far the Mint Report was realized in attainable coins.
Persistent attention and search brought their reward. Date after date was found, series after series completed, mintage after mintage classified until a collection was formed, from which we are now able to verify nearly every piece reported in the Branch Mints' coinage of silver from 1838 to the present year 1893. Of the total two hundred and seventy-seven dates, of all denominations, which these mints coined in the interval named, we lack but seven, and, knowing that three or four of these exist, have no doubt the remainder were coined also and will yet be found.
The unrealized dates of the Report are, therefore, confined to old Philadelphia coinage entirely, and the 'Mint Mark' field can no longer be avoided as indefinite and unsurveyed. The Mint Report is, indeed, only at fault in regard to Branch Mint coins from its omissions. No mention whatever is made of the existing Half Dime of 1838, the Quarter of 1849, and the Half Dollar of 1838 (all of the O mint), or of the exeessively rare Dahlonega Mint gold Dollar of 1861.
With these exceptions the Report of our Branch Mint coinage gives the dates of each series accurately, and we are convinced, from an examination of large quantities of money in different sections of the country, that its statements of the amount of each date struck can be confidently taken as a basis for deciding relative or actual rarity, with due allowance for the unknown difference between coinage and issue, the location of the collector and other points referred to elsewhere. I
As the Mint Report is not easily accessible to many collectors, we have digested all statistical information upon these topics of date and amount of coinage that could be of any value to them, and note in these pages the coins that are either scarce or rare from restricted number.
Here the usefulness of the Mint Report ends.
The VARIETIES of many dates are in no way referred to by it, though these are of the highest numismatic interest. We therefore have searched for and studied them with especial enthusiasm.
Some of these varieties are already known and have been described, but of more than an hundred recorded in this Treatise from examples in our possession, the greater portion are new to collectors and are now first published. They include large, small, and differently placed Mint Marks, high and low dates, broken dies, and other peculiarities which will give exceptional value to our lists beyond.
The estimates given of the rarity of these varieties, as well as of Mint Mark dates are the result of close attention to not only large quantities of money in circulation, but to the courteously submitted stocks of twenty coin dealers in various cities, whom we know personally, and our search has been so widespread, and the specimens seen and collected so sufficient for the purpose, that we feel assured the investigations of others will confirm all statements here made. Where a coin is not referred to as rare or scarce in these pages it should be understood to be of ample issue, and to be probably found without long search by any one having access to large amounts of money in prominent cities, especially those in the section where the coin is produced, but many more pieces would be scarce, of course, to a collector in a secluded place unfamiliar with bank tellers or trades' people. If, on the contrary, the chance of location enables a collector to find several coins of a date or variety we consider rare, he is the more fortunate, and will do well to preserve them. New varieties will, doubtless, be found from time to time as more active and general search is stimulated.
Such a search has only been delayed by the absence of exact lists of coins known to exist, close descriptions of them, and, in fact, some other information than that given in occasional catalogues of coin sales of stray Mint Mark pieces which the owner has usually acquired by chance on account of the date or condition alone.
This needed information, and our views at large upon the collection of Branch Mint coinage, we have decided to present publicly, as a cause of new interest in United States coinage at the beginning of its second century of existence, that others attracted to Mint Marks may better know what they require; that general attention may be given to a most fascinating branch of numismatic study, and that rare or scarce Branch Mint pieces may be sooner rescued from circulation and new varieties found.
|May, 1893.||A. G. H.|
The Mints already mentioned, in the order of their organization after the Philadelphia Mint, were for many years strictly "Branch Mints" of the parent institution.
At present the direction of all mints of the United States is from a bureau in the Treasury Department at Washington, but as the older Mint still supplies the dies, issues the widest range of coinage, and is to be so enlarged as to have a capacity for any future demand, the term 'Branch Mint' may still, from a numismatic point of view, apply to the others, and, being the most concise designation available, is employed in the present treatise.
We have also, to avoid monotony of words, used the terms "coinage" and "issue" interchangeably where unimportant, having explained that all of a coinage may not necessarily be issued. The Mint Report gives the coinage only, the amount of issue being never published.
The mints furnish but the coins of the current year, whether the applicant be a banker or numismatist. Anterior dates can only be found in circulation or, of higher condition, in dealers' hands.
We have written this treatise upon Branch Mint coinage entirely from personal investigation upon the lines given in the preface, and have thus far seen or heard of nothing but fragmentary references to the subject in a printed shape, which have in no way added to information already acquired.
There may have been, however, in old catalogues or numismatic publications, which we have not chanced to meet with, lists of Branch Mint pieces, or well-studied articles covering, to some extent, the ground we have passed over, and even giving additional details.
If such exist we should be glad to know of them, and credit any knowledge they may give upon our subject, but as they have not been mentioned during our several years' interest in Mint Marks, we must consider any such articles as either very brief, very doubtful, or very inaccessible, and offer our researches as an original contribution at a time when some hand-book to this coinage is much needed.
Any information of the discovery of varieties of Mint Marks, not recorded in this Treatise, will be gladly received by the writer, and, if duly authenticated by inspection, will probably be published later in a supplementary sheet. Care should be taken that Mint Marks, flattened by wear, are not mistaken for varieties.
For the unacquainted reader it may be stated that the writer is not a Dealer. His artistic profession is better known to Philatelists than Numismatists from the reproduction of his painting at the U. S. Capitol, entitled 'The Recall of Columbus,' upon the 50-cent Columbus Stamp; but coin collecting with him is simply a relaxation from professional work, and, in common with all private collectors, he sells only occasional duplicates, Among these, however, are a number of Mint Marks accumulated for the study of varieties.
Persons requesting information should enclose the return postage to assure a reply.
This Treatise can be procured either through coin dealers and periodicals devoted to numismatics or directly from the author by sending the price in a money order, a postal note, or in a greenback so wrapped as to be unseen through the enclosing letter and envelope and at the sender's risk.
A. G. H.,
1618 17th Street, N. W., Washington, D. C.