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  • American Armies Coppers of 1792

    The American Armies Coppers of 1792: Introduction

    In conjunction with the Washington Eagle Cents of 1781, discussed in the previous section, the coin firm of W. and Alexander Walker of Birmingham, England commissioned John Gregory Hancock to produce some additional Washington designs, most of which bear the date 1792. These limited edition patterns were apparently produced soon after the Eagle Cents so the Walker firm would have other options ready if the Eagle Cents were not successful in winning a contact from the American government. As with the Eagle Cents, these coins were produced by Hancock's employer, the mint of Obadiah Westwood in Birmingham.

    Unlike the copper Large and Small Eagle Cents some of these patterns were made from silver or gold, and none of them carried a denomination, thus they have often been referred to as multi-denominational patterns. Most of these patterns imitate the general design of the 1791 Large Eagle Cent but bear the 1792 date. They are briefly described and discussed at the end of the Washington Eagle Cents introduction. Related to these items are the AMERICAN ARMIES coppers, named after the legend found on their reverse. These patterns are found in two basic varieties, both of which use an obverse bust based on the Washington Small Eagle Cent (Baker 16) but with different legends. One variety carries the date 1792 while the other variety is undated.

    The 1792 Dated Obverse

    This variety of AMERICAN ARMIES coppers uses the same legend as the Small Eagle Cent, namely, WASHINGTON PRESIDENT. but with the addition of the date 1792 below the bust (Baker 59, Fuld WA.1792.6). The reverse consists of eleven line as follows: * / GENERAL / OF THE / AMERICAN ARMIES / 1775 / RESIGNED / 1783 / PRESIDENT / OF THE / UNITED STATES / 1789. Only about fifteen to twenty specimens are thought to exist. Additionally, there are four examples with a lettered edge stating: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (Baker 59A, Fuld WA.1792.6a).

    The Undated BORN VIRGINIA Obverse

    The second variety of AMERICAN ARMIES Coppers uses the same obverse bust as the dated Baker 59 variety but with an undated legend that reads: GEO. WASHINGTON BORN VIRGINIA FEB. 11. 1732. This obverse, known as the BORN VIRGINIA obverse, is found with two similar AMERICAN ARMIES legend reverses, which can be distinguished in that the alignment of the letters is slightly different on each die. The more common variety, with some fifty to sixty examples known, is Baker 60, Fuld WA.1792.9. In this variety the reverse legend has the date 1775 aligned with ICAN in AMERICAN and the D in RESIGNED is over the N in PRESIDENT. There are also about five examples of this variety in silver (Baker 60A, Fuld WA.1792.9.Ag). A silver example with the lettered edge UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (Baker 60B or Fuld WA.1972.9a.Ag), is now in the Ford collection with a second specimen untraced since 1961.

    The other reverse, known in only a few examples, combines the obverse of Baker 60 with the reverse of Baker 59. Both reverses have the same legend but the alignment is slightly different. On the reverse of this rarer variety the date 1775 begins between the CA in AMERICAN and extends to the A in ARMIES, also the D in RESIGNED is over the T in PRESIDENT. The variety was unknown to Baker, but is listed in Fuld as WA.1792.10 and by Breen as 1239 (see the image above the caption in Breen). The BORN VIRGINIA obverse was also combined with a spread eagle reverse, similar to that on the Large Eagle Cent; it is briefly discussed in the Washington Large Eagle Cent introduction.

    The original die for the BORN VIRGINIA obverse was apparently purchased from the Westwood firm by the Newburyport, Massachusetts diemaker Jacob Perkins around 1818 or 1819. It remained in the Perkins family until the 1950's when it was offered for sale for $5,000. Albert Collis purchased the die and in 1959 struck about 5,000 single faced examples in copper (Baker 22B) and between 50 to 200 examples in silver (Baker 22C), as well as about three trial strikes in lead (Baker 22D). The die now resides in the American Numismatic Society in New York City.


    See Breen, pp. 139-140; Alexander, pp. 85-86; the revision of W.S. Baker's 1885 catalog by Russell Rulau and George Fuld, Medallic Portraits of Washington ,  Iola, WI: Krause, 1985, p. 32; and George Fuld, "Coinage Featuring George Washington,"in Coinage of the Confederation Period,  ed. by Philip L. Mossman, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11, held at the American Numismatic Society, October 28, 1995, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996, pp. 165-259 on pp. 196-200 where the various types are listed from WA.1792.6 through WA.1792.10.

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    Section Contents Washington American Armies Coppers

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