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  • Washington Ship Halfpenny

    The Washington Ship Halfpenny of 1793: Introduction

    The Westwood mint used John G. Hancock's designs for the Washington - Eagle cents in several projects. The Small Eagle bust was used for the multi denominational patterns and the American Armies coppers (with different legends), while the Large Eagle obverse was muled with a Liverpool Halfpenny. However, these items were all produced in very limited quantities. It was the Ship Halfpenny of 1793 (Baker 18, Fuld, WA.1793/2.1) that gave the Hancock obverse portrait of Washington its widest circulation. The 1793 Ship Halfpenny used the obverse of the Small Eagle Cent (Baker 16) consisting of a Washington bust left in military dress with the legend WASHINGTON PRESIDENT but no date. Before the die was used for the Ship Halfpenny the letters in the legend were recut, so that the serifs are mostly straightened, while in the original use of the die for the Small Eagle Cent the serifs were usually bifurcated (that is, curved with a notch in the center).

    The reverse die depicts a ship on the sea (in imitation of, but not the same as, the ship on the Washington Liverpool Halfpenny) with the legend HALFPENNY above and the date 1793 below. The edge carries the same legend as on the 1791 Small Eagle Cent: PAYABLE IN ANGLESEY LONDON OR LIVERPOOL · X · The date was originally cut into the die as 1792 but was changed to 1793 before being used. Apparently the dies clashed early in use. The resulted in a buckeling of the dies, evident as a bulge on the coin between 3:00 and 5:00 o'clock on the obverse. Only five extant examples are reported that are in perfect condition without the bulge. Breen states the overdate can only be seen on these five examples as it is not apparent on examples from after the die clash.

    There is a variety with a plain edge for which three or four specimens are known and a unique lettered edge specimen in brass rather than copper.


    Alexander, p. 86; Breen, pp. 138-139; the revision of W.S. Baker's 1885 catalog by Russell Rulau and George Fuld, Medallic Portraits of Washington ,  Iola, WI: Krause, 1985, p. 31 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 p. 201.

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    Section Contents The Washington Ship Halfpenny

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