Feuchtwanger One Cent Varieties
Posted on 8/13/2019
|Lewis Feuchtwanger, as illustrated in his Popular Treatise on Gems (1867) 3rd Edition.|
Dr. Lewis Feuchtwanger was a German chemist who was born in 1805 and immigrated to the US in 1829, settling in New York City. There he opened the first German pharmacy in the city, importing medicines from his native land. Feuchtwanger assembled many intriguing collections, such as rare minerals, gemstones, fossils, coals, ores, and Indian artifacts. These he exhibited in his shop along with other curiosities like preserved reptiles, offering them for sale. He published two popular references, Treatise on Gems (1838), and Elements of Mineralogy (1839).
In 1829, he debuted his “Feuchtwanger Composition” which became known as German silver. It is a tarnishable alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel which resembles silver. He lobbied for the government to replace the cumbersome large cents of the time, supplying each member of congress with a specimen of his handsome 1C piece. It featured an eagle grappling a snake on its obverse. He argued that his composition was more durable than copper coins, which tend to corrode and turn green. At 18.5mm, they are the size of a dime, and significantly smaller than 27.5mm large cents. Just like today, during that time, the mint was concerned about the fact that manufacturing costs of producing a one cent coin exceeded its value. His composition was in fact less expensive than pure copper.
While his proposal was turned down by mint director Robert M. Patterson in 1838, Feuchtwanger did obtain permission to mint them for circulation in the wake of the panic of 1837. By then the public had begun hoarding coinage all the way down to the smallest denominations because of widespread concern that the Federal Reserve would collapse. This became known by numismatists as the hard times era. Between 1837 and 1844, over a million pieces flowed out of his pharmacy in New York City, and the public accepted them with great enthusiasm. His tokens have remained popular with collectors today, and his coinage earned the number 4 slot in Jaeger and Bowers’ 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens.
In addition to the one cent tokens, Feuchtwanger also issued a small number of three cent pieces of the same composition. In 1864, Feuchtwanger again made three cent tokens, but they were never released to the public. His one cent tokens, however, remained in circulation for decades, and circulated up to and during the Civil War.
Since many of the tokens circulated heavily, they are hard to attain in higher grades. Mint state examples can bring $500 or more, while circulated ones might be had for under $200. Some of the dies and combinations are rare and difficult to obtain in high grade. Grading can sometimes be tricky because the feathers on the eagle’s body don’t usually come fully struck due to the token’s high relief. Robert Lindesmith suggested that varieties 5G, 5H, 6G and 6I were struck during the Civil War as lists by Bushnell and Cogan in 1858 and 1859 omit them. The tokens are listed has HT-268 (formerly Low-120), but James Theodore Koutsoures’ reference on the varieties has been the go-to source for collectors. There are 14 known varieties. Many of the diagnostics for the dies below are taken directly from Koutsoures’ reference.
|FEATHERS||7 feathers, 4 touch ground|
|DATE||Upward slanting, large date, nearly touches ground, 7 above 3|
|SNAKE||Snake’s tongue filled in, break in ground just left of the loop|
|FEATHERS||8 feathers, 5 touch ground|
|DATE||Upward slanting, large date, far from ground, 7 even with 3|
|SNAKE||Snake’s tongue almost “W” shaped, ground ends beyond eagle’s bottom feather|
|FEATHERS||7 feathers, 3 touch ground, 1st, 2nd, & 4th (3rd just misses)|
|DATE||7 sometimes shows crumbling, rim breaks down at lower right|
|SNAKE||Snakes tongue in shape of slanted “Y”, Small break in ground under left loop|
|FEATHERS||8 feathers, 3 touch ground (just barely)|
|DATE||3 rather low, 7 distant from 3, but connected via a tool mark|
|SNAKE||Large “V” shaped tongue, virtually no ground under left loop, right loop above 7 in date|
|FEATHERS||7 feathers, 2 touch ground just barely, (3rd misses)|
|DATE||Bar above 83|
|SNAKE||Left loop touches edge of bar, no ground under right loop|
|FEATHERS||7 feathers, 4 touch ground (3rd just barely), base of neck is smooth|
|DATE||Dash to left of upper serif of 1|
|SNAKE||Right side of “V” curves out, lots of ground under left loop|
Below is a table of the 14 known mulings of the six obverse dies and nine reverse dies. The rarities are taken from Koutsoures’ reference, which indicates that R8 is unique or nearly unique. While a complete collection of obverse dies could be attained, even the diligent collector would have trouble acquiring the C and F reverse dies. While there are several 4F tokens in existence, they are extremely rare. The 3C token is probably unique.
Occasionally, due to the improper mixing of metals, Feuchtwanger cents come with large planchets flaws.
The dramatic examples above (6G) and (5H) earned the grade of Mint Error NGC MS 64 and MS 62 respectively.
Click images to enlarge.