Pattern Overstrike Certified by NGC

Posted on 10/1/2005

Numismatists at NGC identified an unusual overstruck U.S. pattern, which lends some insight into the production of the pattern issues of the late 1860s and 1870s.


Click to enlarge
J-839 Struck Over J-845, NGC graded Proof-64 Brown

Previously Unreported and Believed to be Unique

Numismatists at NGC identified an unusual overstruck U.S. pattern, which lends some insight into the production of the pattern issues of the late 1860s and 1870s. The coin is an 1870 Standard Silver dime showing Liberty with a cap and three stars (J-839). The undertype is also an 1870 Standard Silver dime, struck in copper, showing Liberty with tiara without stars (J-845).

Patterns are often referred to by their Judd Number, the catalogue reference number assigned to them in United States Pattern Coins, Experimental, and Trial Pieces, by J. Hewitt Judd. Both J-839 and J-845, the coin and its undertype are Standard Silver series patterns. If released, these coins would have been used to redeem Fractional Currency notes, but legislation authorizing their issuance was never passed.

An image progression shows the location of the undertype details. The top coin is a detail of J-839, while the bottom coin is J-843 which is the same design as J-845, but is struck in silver.

The Standard Silver pattern series was struck in both 1869 and 1870 and consists of over 200 different issues. Three different head styles of Liberty were used to make pattern dimes, quarters, and half dollars, and all are married to two different reverse designs. All were struck in silver, aluminum, and copper, and with reeded edge and plain edge. Other alloys and variations exist.

This great variety and abundance of pattern coinage was made expressly for collectors who purchased them in sets from the Mint. Since no production records were kept, many view the practice of striking pattern coins as a clandestine enterprise undertaken by Mint employees for their own profit.

But why was this overstrike produced? Since this pattern was made for collectors, one speculation is that an example of J-839 was needed to complete a set. None were available and a J-845 was taken from inventory to be recoined. This is further corroborated by the relative rarity of both coins, as J-845 is more common than J-839. Only 4 to 6 examples of J-839 are known, while an estimated 7-12 examples of J-845 are known, according to the Judd reference.

Very few overstruck patterns have been identified, but this is the second such discovery that NGC has made this year.