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Reverse of the New York Theatre Penny        Reverse of the New York Theatre Penny

New York Theatre Penny
Images courtesy of Early American History Auctions

The New York Theatre Penny was issued in London circa 1796 by Skidmore as part of a series of Penny tokens depicting various buildings of architectural importance.  Although the coin is more properly a part of the British so-called "Conder" tokens, the New York Theatre Penny has become a "must-have" item for U.S. Colonial coin collectors.

Construction on New York's Park Theatre began in 1795 and the official opening was held on January 29, 1798, when Shakespeare's "As You Like It" was presented.  In 1820, the Theatre burned to the ground but was promptly rebuilt by owners John Jacob Astor and John K. Beekman.  A fire on July 4, 1821 delayed the re-opening and another fire on December 16, 1848 destroyed the Theatre forever.

All of the known examples are Proofs that were struck for sale to collectors.  Contrary to some opinions, these Pennies were not used for admission to the Theatre itself -- the only way they would have come to America was if they had been purchased from the issuer by interested collectors.

Approximately 10-20 examples are known.  All bear edge lettering that reads: WE PROMISE TO PAY ON DEMAND THE BEARER ONE PENNY (Breen lists an unverified plain edge).

Size: 34 mm
Engraver: B. Jacobs
Equivalents: Breen 1055 and 1056, Dalton & Hamer Middlesex 167

Some known examples:

1.  PCGS Proof-65.  The coin illustrated above.
2.  Lot 1529 in Bowers & Ruddy's October 1980 sale of the Garrett Collection, Part III at $8,000.
3.  Lot 355 in Stack's December 1983 sale of the John L. Roper collection at $4,400.
4.  Norweb - David Palmer - Roger S.


Breen lists a possibly unique muling of the obverse of this coin with a reverse of Wyon's 1797 Loch Leven Penny.  This tin piece was discovered in the 1890's by Dr. Benjamin P. Wright, became part of the F.C.C. Boyd collection, thence to John J. Ford.