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Lot 3035

Image Information

Type Coin
Title Lot 3035
Date 1792
Side reverse
Grade 65
Service NGC
Service Catalog # 732
Denomination CENT
Description 1792 CENT Washington Roman Head Cent PR65 Red and Brown NGC. CAC. Baker-19, Breen-1249, W-10840, R.6. Ex: "Col." E.H.R. Green. 197.5 grains, 99% copper per NGC metallurgical tests. The edge is lettered UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The dies of the Roman Head cent, a product of Obediah Westwood's Birmingham Mint, are attributed to the talented young engraver John Gregory Hancock. Walter Breen gave Hancock's life dates as 1775-1815 in his Complete Encyclopedia and described him as a "juvenile engraving prodigy." However, Forrer's Biographical Dictionary of Medalists suggests that those dates were his active years of engraving: "Medallist and die-sinker of the latter part of the eighteenth century and first two decades of the nineteenth, circ. 1775-1815." His son, also John Gregory Hancock (born 1791) was described as a prodigy who was engraving tokens at the age of eight or nine years. If the elder Hancock was born in 1775, he was just 16 years old when his son was born. Birmingham records indicate that John Gregory Hancock and Sarah Ward were married in 1780, suggesting that the elder engraver was likely born a couple of decades earlier, perhaps around 1760. It is known that President Washington objected to the appearance of his likeness on the Federal coinage. However, the Senate version of the Mint Act called for "an impression or representation of the head of the president of the United States." The House of Representatives, apparently ceding to Washington's wishes, changed the wording to call for "an impression emblematic of liberty." As the Getz pattern followed the designs of Hancock's earlier Washington cents, this piece appeared as a response, although opinions of its purpose differ. In the Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, Q. David Bowers wrote: {blockquote}"The Roman Head cent depicts Washington dressed in the style of a Roman official, a popular way of honoring him, at least in memory, but these are dated during his life. The apotheosis of Washington saw many forms, most famously in Horatio Greenough's statue of epic proportions showing Washington as a Roman emperor seated on a throne. For years this was displayed on the U.S. Capitol grounds. There are many versions of similar tributes in the classic style to be found on bank note vignettes."{/blockquote} In his Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, Walter Breen labeled this variety "Hancock's Revenge:" {blockquote}"When news of Washington's rejection reached Birmingham, John Gregory Hancock (doubtless with Westwood's gleeful consent, possibly at his instigation) undertook an extraordinary piece of revenge. As Washington's spokesmen had compared the idea of presidential portraits on coins to the practices of Nero, Caligula, and Cromwell, so Hancock's (and/or Westwood's) idea was to portray Washington on a coin as a degenerate, effeminate Roman emperor. Hancock's satirical masterpieces, the 'Roman Head' cents manage to convey this impression--with a subtle resemblance. ... Beginning as tokens of incredible spite, these cents have become among the most highly coveted of Washington items."{/blockquote} This example is from the "Celebrated and Valuable" Charles Ira Bushnell Collection that the Chapman Brothers sold in June 1882. Bushnell (1826-1880) was an uncle of the Chapman Brothers who was born and died in New York City. After his death, Lorin Parmelee purchased the entire collection, kept a few for his own collection, and consigned the balance to the Chapman Brothers who described this piece as: {blockquote} "1792 Cent. A very fine undraped bust, facing right, the hair confined by a fillet, tied in a bow with long ends; WASHINGTON PRESIDENT. 1792. Rev. A small eagle with upraised wings, on his breast a shield; an olive branch in right talon and a bunch of arrows in left; about his head, six stars; above, CENT. Edge lettered, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. A splendid sharp, even impression, of beautiful color. Proof. Excessively rare, but about six known. This cent, usually termed the 'Naked Bust' or 'Roman head' generally brings about $225, but has sold for as high as $480 in McCoy sale."{/blockquote} NGC and PCGS have certified 10 examples of this variety, including seven designated Brown and three called Red and Brown. This piece is the finest of those designated Red and Brown. This lovely Gem combines bluish olive-brown with chestnut toning, showing considerable glimpses of mint red, especially on the reverse. Ex: Charles Ira Bushnell Collection; Lorin Parmelee (Chapman Brothers, 6/1882), lot 1250; later, "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; Partnership of Eric P. Newman / B.G. Johnson d.b.a. St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co.; Eric P. Newman @ $250.00; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. Realized $102812.50. Description courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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