From time to time, the
United States Mint considers implementing new designs on the coins in
circulation. Historically, the Mint developed new designs
either internally or through outside competitions. As the
selection process narrowed, actual sample coins were made of the various
designs. These "Pattern" coins allowed Mint officials to
see how the proposed designs would look in three-dimensional relief, to
test for any problems in producing the coins, and to try out new metal
Pattern coins fall into
a number of different categories:
1. Both sides were rejected for use on circulating coins.
2. One or both sides were modified slightly before they were used on
3. Either the obverse or the reverse was accepted for use on circulating
4. Both sides were accepted for use on circulating coins, but the metal
composition may be different from the one eventually used.
Die Trials were tests
of dies in various stages of production. Back when dies were
"cut" by hand, the engraver would periodically stamp the die
into a piece of soft metal to see how the work was progressing (these
are generally uniface stampings on oversized or irregularly shaped
blanks). Die Trials also include "setup" pieces which
were used to determine proper die alignments and striking pressures
before regular production began.
Fantasy Coins include
unexpected pairings of mis-matched dies made by Mint officials to create
artificial rarities for personal gain or at the request of
collectors. Fantasy Coins include the so-called
"Restrikes" that were made outside the Mint from discarded
dies, often combining dies of different types and vastly different
Sometimes, the line
between Patterns, Die Trials, and Fantasy Coins becomes blurred.
In many cases, we simply lack the information as to when a coin was
struck, why, and by whom. Often, we must turn to the coins
themselves to look for such clues and, thankfully, the coins are willing
Is it important that we
classify these coins properly? Yes, because apart from our natural
human tendency to categorize, pigeon-hole, and classify just about
everything around us, most collectors are concerned about a thing called
"intent". Rarities that were "made-to-order"
or that were created deliberately hold less of an attraction than
legitimate rarities, and justly so.
Interested in United
States Pattern coins? -- visit our friends at www.uspatterns.com
on any active link below to find out what Pattern Coins, Die Trials or
Fantasy Coins were made for that year.