From the Grading Room: Finest NGC-Certified (1860) J-264 Pattern Cent

Posted on 8/14/2012

A rare pattern cent, catalogued as J-264, was recently certified by NGC.

In the standard reference to US Pattern Coins, often simply referred to as the "Judd Book" for its author Dr. J. Hewitt Judd, all coins are assigned a rarity rating. Those of the highest rarity are designated as "unique" or "Rarity-8," meaning two or three are known. Regardless of the number of patterns coins NGC graders have seen, they are always thrilled to encounter any coin at the top end of the rarity scale. Graders recently had such an experience when a pattern cent, catalogued as J-264, was submitted for certification.

This pattern is sometimes referred to as the intaglio cent. It is actually struck from hubs, and therefore its design is incuse and reversed. The obverse shows a hub-impression of an Indian Head Cent, rounded bust style of 1860 to 1864, but it is without date. The reverse shows a wreath surrounding ONE CENT, as appeared on the 1859 Indian Cent, but again it is incuse and reversed. The pattern was struck on a standard copper-nickel cent blank.

Not only is its appearance unusual, but its origin is also an enigma. The exact reason that these patterns were made is not known. Many speculate that they are the product of experiments conducted by Dr. James T. Barclay at the US Mint to find ways to prevent counterfeiting of US coinage. Today, just three examples are known. This coin last traded publicly at a Doyle Galleries sale in 1983. It is illustrated in the Judd reference book.

This example of J-264 is the lone piece certified by NGC and grades PF 66.

(1860) J-264 1C NGC PF-66
click image to enlarge

From the Grading Room is an occasional feature of the NGC E-mail Newsletter in which we highlight some of the more unusual or seldom seen items submitted for certification. Click to explore other special finds.

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