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Obverse of Judd 181     Obverse of Judd 181
1856 Flying Eagle Cent Pattern - Judd 181
Images courtesy of
Superior Stamp & Coin

PATTERN COINS, DIE TRIALS & FANTASIES

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 alloys.

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 circulating coins.
3. Either the obverse or the reverse was accepted for use on circulating coins.
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 dates.

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 to help.

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

Click on any active link below to find out what Pattern Coins, Die Trials or Fantasy Coins were made for that year.
  

      1792 1793 1794 1795 1796 1797 -- 1799
1800 -- -- 1803 1804 1805 1806 -- 1808 --
1810 1811 -- 1813 1814 -- -- -- 1818 1819
-- -- 1822 1823 -- -- -- 1827 -- --
-- 1831 -- -- 1834 -- 1836 1837 1838 1839
1840 -- -- -- -- -- 1846 -- -- 1849
1850 1851 1852 1853 1854 1855 1856 1857 1858 1859
1860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865 1866 1867 1868 1869
1870 1871 1872 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879
1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 -- -- -- --
1890 1891 1892 -- -- -- 1896 -- -- 1899
1900 -- -- 1903 1904 -- 1906 1907 1908 1909
1910 1911 1912 1913 -- 1915 1916 -- 1918 --
-- -- 1922 1923 -- 1925 -- -- -- --
-- -- -- -- -- 1935 -- -- 1938 --
-- -- 1942 -- 1944 -- -- -- -- --
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
-- -- -- -- 1964 -- -- -- -- --
-- -- 1972 -- -- -- -- -- -- --
(1759) Martha Washington Test Pieces
 
 

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