Learn About the Varieties of the 1792 Washington Cent
After the Revolutionary War had ended, the American government had no coinage to distribute among its citizens in order to allow them to conduct commerce. Circulating in the former colonies, now the fledgling states of the United States, were many different types of colonial copper tokens as well as hundreds of different foreign coins. This mish-mash made commerce very difficult.
A British company, W. and Alexander Walker a coin that they hoped would be accepted by American politicians who would order more of them to be distributed across the country. The coins were well-executed, beautiful, and looked truly American and all were dated 1791 – but they had one critical flaw. The obverse of the coin had a wonderful portrait of George Washington in military garb and the reverse has another well-executed design, a majestic American eagle. The critical flaw was the bust of George Washington.
Washington saw the coins and strenuously objected to his portrait on the coins. It isn’t that he didn’t like how he was portrayed. He did not want to be portrayed on the coins whatsoever. The portrait looked to Washington like he was the monarch of the United States and after a long war against the armies and navy of King George III, Washington wanted no part of having his face on American coinage.
4,000 of these coins were sent to the United States and distributed to Washington, his cabinet members, Senators and Congressmen, and other important officials. Washington said an emphatic NO and these coins would not be ordered. But prior to the word reaching the British company striking these coins, additional coins bearing a 1792 date were also struck.
The coins continued the same design of a portrait of a bust of George Washington, facing left, dressed in a military frock coat. To the left periphery was the word “WASHINGTON” and to the right periphery was the word “PRESIDENT.” On the bottom periphery, centered below the bust was the new date “1792.”
The reverse has a large American eagle with wings spread but downward-facing, 13 six-pointed stars above the eagle, a banner in its beak with “E PLURIBUS UNUM” inscribed on it, a shield covering the eagle’s breast, 13 arrows in the eagle’s left talon and an olive branch in its right.
These were un-denominated and used the 1791 Washington large eagle designs. About 6-10 examples of these copper coins are known to exist.
The above silver 1792 Washington Cent also has about 6-10 examples known. They rarely come to auction.
There is but one, unique, example of the 1792 Washington Cent, struck in Gold. While all examples are rare, there have been 6 examples sold at auction in the last 10 years, including the unique Gold specimen that brought $1,745,000 at a Heritage auction in August of 2018.
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