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Obverse of Bar Cent     Reverse of Bar Cent


PCGS No: 599

Rarity: Scarce

Mintage: Unknown

Designer: Unknown

Diameter: 24.5 millimeters, rare exceptions are known on large, oval planchets

Metal content:
Copper - 100%

Weight: 84 grains (5.44 grams)

Edge: Plain

Mintmark: None

Images courtesy of Ron Guth

Normal Planchet
Broad Planchet
Overstruck on an India (Bengali Presidency / Prinsep Coinage) 1/2 Anna

The Bar "Cents" first appeared in the American Colonies in 1785, when they joined the mix of motley coppers then in circulation.  Their weight was too low to be valued at a Cent, but the name has stuck through use and tradition (in fact, the weight is almost identical to the U.S. Half Cents of 1795 and later years).  The obverse copies the U.S.A. monogram seen on pewter buttons worn on the uniforms of Continental soldiers.  The reverse consists of thirteen parallel bars, signifying the original 13 Colonies.  Their simple, patriotic design makes them a favorite with collectors, although they are rather scarce and expensive.

Bar "Cents" were made in England, possibly at Wyon's mint in Birmingham (more famous for their Nova Constellatio Coppers).  Various forgeries exist, ranging in quality from crude casts to excellent struck copies and electrotypes.  All genuine examples have a small, thorn-like projection on the far right side of the bottom edge of the second bar from the top (this defect is seen clearly on the illustration above).  Electrotypes will also show this projection, so authentication is mandatory.

Breen lists two specimens that are known on larger, oval planchets and speculates that they might have been "...some kind of special presentation or souvenir striking", but this is unlikely.  Until the weights of these two unusual examples is ascertained, we can only speculate that they are normal strikes on misshapen blanks.

The finest Bar "Cent" certified by PCGS is a single MS-66 Brown.

Significant examples:
PCGS MS-66 Brown.  Offered at the 2002 New York American Numismatic Association convention by RAAB coins for $36,000.00

Recent appearances:
PCGS AU-58.  Ex - Paul Arthur Norris (puchased privately) - Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.'s "Pre-Long Beach Sale", September 23 & 24, 2002, Lot 80, illustrated, where it was described as follows: "PCGS graded AU-58.  Nearly perfect surfaces on this one, a medium light brown color and no signs of abuse. There are a couple of very light specks on the reverse between the bars. Boldly struck and well centered, and truly an American classic in every sense of the word. The diagnostics of the A over the S are clear, as is the small spur on the right end of the second bar, which confirm this to be one of the originals. The first bar coppers were reported in the New Jersey Gazette, November 12, 1785 which is likely near time of their release.
Charles Bushnell attributes this issue to the famous George Wyon III and his Birmingham Mint. The coins were likely ordered by an American merchant, perhaps using a soldiers button for the simple, but endearing design. These coppers were struck at a lighter standard than the usual 60 to the pound, but they likely passed at 14 to the shilling, nowhere near the "cent" value long attributed to these because of their similarity in size to later large cents. Most of the survivors grade from Fine to Very Fine, and rarely are these encountered in grades even approaching mint state."

"AU-50" (illustrated above).  Ex - H. Cuddy, sold in October 1970 - Dr. Robert J. Hinckley - Bowers and Merena "The Collections of Phillip Flanagan, Dr. Robert Hinckley...", November 29-December 1, 2001, Lot 2423, illustrated, "...85.0 grains.  Diameter: 24.8 mm.  A die crack connects the two central-most bars at their centers...", sold for $5,520.00

"EF-45, cleaned and retoned".  Ex - Superior Stamp & Coin's "The ANA 2000 National Money Show Auction", March 2-3, 2000, Lot 30, "Breen 1145"

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia Of U.S. And Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen

"The PCGS Population Report, April 2002" by The Professional Coin Grading Service