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Obverse of 1792 Silver-Center Cent     Reverse of 1792 Silver-Center Cent


Variety equivalents:
Judd 1, Pollock 1, Breen 1369, Rubin 5

Mintage: unrecorded

Rarity: approximately 12 known

Designer: attributed to Henry Voigt

Engraver: unknown

Diameter: 23 mm

Metal Content: Pure Copper with a Silver plug

Weight range: 69.9-72.8 grains

Edge: Vertical reeding

Images courtesy of Stack's

1792 saw a flurry of activity aimed at establishing a Mint in America.  Congress passed a Mint Act, chose a Director, purchased a plot of land, erected a building, and hired employees.  

Four prototypes of the One Cent piece were tested: a large copper piece (the "Birch" Cent), a smaller copper piece with a silver center (the Silver-Center Cent"), another of the same size (the Fusion Alloy Cent, in which the silver and copper were melted together), and another of the same size in pure copper.  The Silver-Center Cent answered the concerns of then Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, who felt that a billon coin could be too easily counterfeited.  However, the technical difficulties in producing quantities of the Silver-Center Cent remained.  Although no written evidence remains to record the testing, clearly the large, pure copper piece was favored, as this was the chosen format when production of Large Cents began in 1793.

When Frank Stewart demolished the original Mint building circa 1924, he discovered some blank planchets for the Silver-Center Cents (missing the silver center).  In 1994, Anthony Terranova discovered a struck Silver-Center Cent missing the silver center.  The several experts who examined this piece believe that the silver center was never included and that the coin may have been a test piece to show the size of the new coin. The weight of this discovery piece was 72.6 grains. The planchet diameter measured 29.3 millimeters on the vertical axis and 29.2 millimeters along the horizontal axis. Planchet thickness varied from 1.3 to 1.4 mm.

Judd considered all the plain edge pieces to be counterfeits.

Credit for the design and engraving of the Silver-Center Cent normally goes to Henry Voigt, the first Chief Coiner of the U.S. Mint, however this assignment is subject to interpretation and is probably incorrect.  The engraving skills shown on the Silver-Center Cent exceed those possessed by someone with no previous engraving experience.

Known examples (11-12 known):
Finest known.  Ex - Garrett

"Brilliant Uncirculated" (illustrated above).  Ex - Norweb - Stack's "Americana / Hain Family Part II" Sale, January 15-17, 2002, Lot 724, illustrated, sold for $414,000.00

National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution

"Choice Extremely Fine, nearly About Uncirculated."  Ex - Cogan's sale of April 1863 - Charles Ira Bushnell, Lorin G. Parmelee, H.P. Smith - George H. Earle - Carl Wurtzbach - Virgil M. Brand - Belden Roach - Will W. Neil - F. Eubanks - Stack's sale of January 3, 1952 - Mrs. R. Henry Norweb - New Netherlands sale of December 13, 1958, Lot 104 - Stack's "Corrado Romano" Sale, June 16, 1987, Lot 143 - Stack's "Americana II" Sale, January 12, 1999, Lot 143 - Stack's 65th Anniversary Sale, October 17-19, 2000, Lot 56, illustrated, sold for $178,250.00.  This was the 1914 American Numismatic Society Exhibition Coin, and was once the coin used to illustrate the variety in both the Standard Catalogue and the Guidebook of United States Coins.

Nigel Willimott - Glendening's 1997

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces" by J. Hewitt Judd, M.D.

"Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins" by Walter Breen

"United States Patterns And Related Issues" by Andrew W. Pollock III

"Silver Center Cents - Patterns Lay Claim To First Struck At Mint" by Paul Gilkes, COIN WORLD, February 21, 2000, pp. 78-79