PCGS grades 25-cent piece as copper sample
By Bret Evans
For one collector, an unusual coin has turned out to be a remarkable find.
Four years ago Daryl Anderson, a United States collector from Washington State, spotted the coin, an 1872H 25-cent piece struck in copper, for sale online. With an interest in Canadian coins, Anderson was intrigued by the novelty. The British owner of the coin told Anderson it had been part of a larger group of mixed foreign coins.
After successfully bidding for the coin, Anderson set out to find out more about his new acquisition, but without much success.
“I’ve been trying to find out more about it for years,” he said.
A savvy collector, he sent the coin to Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) for authentication.
“They had it for quite a while,” he said. “I’d call to check and they said it was still being processed.”
Eventually the coin returned, described as a copper sample in AU condition with environmental damage.
Still unable to find any more information, he turned to Canadian Coin News for assistance.
Montreal coin dealer Peter McDonald told CCN that off metal strikes are rare but do turn up from time to time.
“It’s a remarkable find,” he said. “It’s possible it should be termed a pattern.”
Based on coins of comparable rarity, McDonald estimates a retail value of $25,000 to $35,000 for Anderson’s coin.
“Wow,” Anderson said when informed by CCN. “Are you kidding?”
The coin is part of a series of 25-cent pieces produced from 1870 to 1901. The type was the first 25-cent coins struck for Canada, replacing the earlier 20-cent silver of 1858.
Designed and engraved by L.C. Wyon, the series has literally dozens of varieties. The 1872H is a high mintage year for the series, with more than 2.2 million coins struck, all with the H mark indicating they were struck by Heaton’s Mint. Every date has a substantial number of varieties, many of them the domain of specialist collectors. For 1872, two obverse types and nearly a dozen obverse varieties are known.
Anderson’s coin appears to have the type two obverse, with a more defined cheekbone than the type one, and a reverse with the wide date small eight, small H mint mark, and high 2 in the date.
During the production process, patterns were occasionally used to see how die pairs would strike up, or how changes would appear. Less expensive and softer metals were often used to reduce costs. In an effort to extend die life, re-engraved features and repunched dates are quite common.
“Copper makes sense for Heaton’s,” McDonald said. “That was sort of their speciality.”
Such patterns were usually struck in small numbers, he said. Any survivors would likely be held in institutional collections and this may be the only one that would be available to collectors.
During that period, the striking of Canadian coins was the responsibility of the Royal Mint in London, England. Heavily tasked, the Mint often sent work to Heaton’s Mint, based in Birmingham, England. The Royal Mint preferred itself as the precious metal issuer of Britain, sending Heaton’s contracts for copper coins, or colonial and commonwealth silver.
However, McDonald says a close examination of the PCGS image of the coin, suggests another possible explanation, just as exciting.
He said the image shows some fine lines which may be evidence of die cracks, particularly below the final three letters it the word VICTORIA on the obverse.
If that is the case, a worn die would imply that Anderson’s coin could be an off-metal error, created during the production of the circulating coin issue.
“If that’s the case it’s an entirely different situation,” he said. “Now a whole different group of collectors are interested.”
McDonald said a final determination would require a close physical examination of the coin.
For Anderson, either way it is news that a hunch paid off in a big way.
“I’m a big fan of Canadian coins, but I’m not obsessed with them,” he said.
“I’m not a wealthy collector and ultimately I’d like to sell it one day.”