David Finkelstein wrote:
The following is a start of an article. It is not complete. Although some parts are correct, some parts may be incorrect. I am publishing this in the JRN because I need assistance in solving this puzzle.
While participating in a Facebook group discussion, someone posted the following two links:
- Inside The Denver Mint: The First Coining Press
- First coining press used in the United States Mint
Each web page contains a picture of a screw press:
Denver Mint (usmint.gov)
The Denver Mint claims that the screw press pictured on their website “is a replica of the first coining press from 1792… This coining press was used to produce trial coins in 1792 and many of the half-cents and cents of 1793”. Note that this screw press is also imaged on page 62 of 1792: Birth of a Nation’s Coinage.
Alamy.com claims that the screw press on their website was displayed by the United States Mint at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition (aka the Louisiana Purchase Exposition or the 1904 World’s Fair) as the “first coining press used in the united states Mint. Over one Hundred Years old”.
Ignoring the tables that the presses are on, the two presses look similar, but are definitely not identical. Since they are clearly not the same screw press, how can they both be the first coining press?
Per 1792: Birth of a Nation’s Coinage, it is believed that the trial coins of 1792 were struck in John Harper's cellar around July 11-13, 1792. We do not know when the Mint acquired their first screw press. We do know that the first expense warrant for a “press” was Warrant 7 and issued on August 29, 1792 to pay John Harper $247.85 "for cutting presses castings". Note that the Mint paid John Harper for cutting presses, and not simply a cutting press. Also note that the warrant was for cutting presses and not screw presses, and not cutting and screw presses. Also, $247.85 was a lot of money for one press, so the Mint most likely acquired multiple presses.
Is the screw press pictured on the Mint’s website one of the cutting presses obtained from John Harper and not a coining press? It looks like a coining press without a collar to me. Was the screw press used to strike the 1792 coinage in John Harper’s cellar, then sold to the Mint, paid for on August 29, 1792, and used to strike the copper coins of 1793? Maybe the screw press on alamy.com was also John Harper’s? Maybe both were sold to the Mint by John Harper? I have not seen any contemporary evidence to verify that either screw press was John Harper’s. I emailed the Mint for assistance, clarification and documentation regarding their claim that their screw press was the first coining press. Hopefully, I will receive a response.
Note that there is a flaw with the statement made on the Mint’s website that “this coining press was used to produce trial coins in 1792 and many of the half-cents and cents of 1793”. We know that the second time a “press” was paid for by the Mint was on June 3, 1794. Expense Warrant 84 paid Hannah Ogden $47.44 “in full of her account for a coining Press for the use of the Mint”. Is it therefore logical to assume that prior to the arrival of the coining press purchased from Hannah Ogden, the only coining press (or presses) in use by the Mint was the one (or more than one?) purchased from John Harper in 1792? Since 10,000 half cents and 297,300 cents were delivered from Chief Coiner Henry Voigt to Treasurer of the Mint Tristram Dalton between January 13 and March 28, 1794, they could not have been struck on the coining press purchased from Hannah Ogden. If, in fact, the screw press imaged on the Mint’s website is a replica of the first coining press purchased from John Harper, then the coining press was used to produce the trial coins in 1792, all of the half cents and cents of 1793, and many of the half cents and cents of 1794.
Note that the press pictured on the Mint’s website does not have a retaining collar that moved up and down as the press was cycled to center the planchet on the anvil die. I do not claim to be an expert on the minting of half cents and cents. Were the half cents and cents of 1793 and 1794 struck in an open collar or struck without a collar? If anyone knows and can enlighten me on this, please contact me at dfinkelstein(at)comcast.net
Regarding the screw press that is pictured on alamy.com… I can see the screw in the picture on the Mint’s website, so I can envision the hammer moving downwards towards the anvil. I cannot see the screw in the picture on alamy.com, so it is unclear if it is embedded within the press and not visible. Also, I cannot tell if the hammer is fully retracted, the hammer has come into contact with the anvil, if the press has a collar, or if the press is a coining press. The only thing I can tell is that it is not the same press that is pictured on the Mint’s website.
If anyone can provide additional information, references, pictures, or assistance, please contact me at dfinkelstein(at)comcast.net
Steve Herrman wrote:
Auction & Mail Bid Prices Realized for Bust Half Dollars 1794-1839, Spring 2021 Revision, Number 58 was published and distributed to regular subscribers last month. This issue includes the revised rarity rating estimates from the 2020 study completed by the Bust Half Nut Club Rarity Ratings Committee last December. The information from the study was approved for public release in February.
This issue includes auction records for R4 to R8 varieties from all major auctions for a minimum of the last 10 years, and Condition Census specimens for all varieties. Separate sections are included for overdates & other popular varieties, proofs, mint errors & patterns, countermarks, and contemporary counterfeits.
To receive a copy, please contact Steve at herrman102(at)aol.com
This is a semi-yearly publication. $2.50 is donated to the JRCS for each copy sold.
Steve Herrman, JRCS LM #28