A pattern coin is a prototype which, for one reason or another, never became a circulation coin. Perhaps the design was unacceptable. Sometimes a new metal is experimented with and rejected. One pattern, the Stella, was made from aluminum. Although often used in European minor coins, aluminum corrodes and wears rapidly, and, in humid climates, swells up after a few years.
Had our new "sandwich" coins been rejected, the hundred or more that might have been produced would be considered patterns. Incidentally, the prototypes did not carry the designs of our present coinage. It is against the law to strike regular designs.on metallic experimental pieces. The experimental quarters showed Martha Washington on the obverse and Mount Vernon on the reverse. All trial coins are supposed to be remelted. One pattern-later-turned-circulation coin is the flying eagle cent. About 1000 dated 1856 were produced before the Act of February 21, 1857, made them official coinage. The 1856 is thus considered a pattern.
Despite the fact that patterns were sometimes sold by the Mint, there were several instances when they were considered counterfeit and the Government threatened to confiscate them. Fortunately the threat was never carried out, and collections of this fascinating phase of our country's coinage remain.
Even before the United States Mint began in 1796, the Thirteen Colonies were minting coins. They were meant to take the place of wampum, the Indian money consisting of strings of beads, as well as the beaver skins, tobacco, and bartering that served as mediums of exchange.
Foreign settlers, of course, brought their own money and it was accepted in the new country. England ignored the Colonies' problem and did not bother to mint coins especially for them. Spanish money, especially the dollar, was accepted in this country until as late as 1857. One facet of Spanish coinage remains to this day: the Spanish real was a coin worth one-eighth of a dollar, or 12½, cents. The real was colloquially called a Sit, and two bits equaled 25 cents. The term remained in our vocabulary.
The first coinage struck exclusively for the Colonies was called "Hogge Money." It was so named because of the hog (spelling was not a strong point in those days) depicted on the obverse. It circulated in the Bermuda Islands, then known as Sommer Islands after Sir George Somers. Shipwrecked on the island, Somers and his men feasted on the wild hogs that overran it.
The first coin struck on the continent and in the English Americas was from a mint just outside Boston. Its design was simplicity itself: the obverse had the letters NE (for New England) in one corner. The reverse had the Roman numerals III, VI, or XII, denoting threepence, sixpence, or one shilling. (A shilling was equal to 12 pennies, or pence.) The Articles of Confederation, adopted July 9, 1778, gave to the Congress the sole right to regulate the content and value of coinage struck by its own authority or by the states. New Hampshire was the first state to produce its own coinage.
Before then, many coins and tokens showing the likeness of George Washington had been produced. However, he did not like the idea of his portrait appearing on coins and neither did the Congress, which considered the practice monarchistic. Not until 1900 was Washington so honored.
The first coins authorized by the United States of America (but not made by our Mint) were the Fugio cents. The obverse carried the legend "FUGIO," meaning "time flies." The reverse showed thirteen circles linked together and carried the legend "MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS," a Ben Franklinism that has resulted in this coin's being known as the Franklin cent. All coins are dated 1787, their year of origin. The first issues from the United States Mint were the half disme and disme (pronounced dime). Also produced at the time but extremely rare and, in some instances, unique are the 1792 silver cent, Birch cent, and the pattern half eagle,
The rarity of many coins makes Colonials draw traffic wherever they are exhibited. Unfortunately, it is this rarity that has driven them out of range of the average collector's budget. Those seeking the unusual should seriously consider Colonial coinage
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