I think I have officially hit the point where I can no longer justify the expense of new additions. There have been some stellar coins offered for sale already this year, but more often than not, these pieces realize prices that are just a bit out of my comfort zone. Consequently, I have only added four new noteworthy pieces to my collection, which pales compared to last year. On any note, I am delighted with my latest purchase which brings back memories of a much simpler time. A time before COVID, before insane auctions prices, and before I was thoroughly infected with the bug of collecting Soho pieces.
We can probably all think back to the first piece that eventually became the foundation of a new collecting pursuit. For me, this took the form of a 1788 Great Britain pattern Halfpenny (P-945) struck at the Soho Mint (pictured above). I remember being sucked into the history and immense conflict between Jean Pierre Droz (the engraver of this coin) and the founder of the Soho Mint, Matthew Boulton. Fast forward several years and that research has dramatically expanded and now represents almost all of my numismatic pursuits. There is just so much fascinating history left to be discovered! The original piece holds a special place in my collection, and I am ecstatic to add a second similar example alongside it.
My newest purchase is the “1788” Great Britain pattern Halfpenny (P-1003) pictured below. Although this piece is dated 1788, it was likely struck nearly a century later. Peck classifies this variety as a restrike, meaning that it was struck using Soho dies sometime after the demise of the Soho Mint. I provide more detail about restrikes in the introduction of my registry set, so if you are looking for more information about restrikes, it can be found there. On any note, this piece was likely struck in the 1880s by Taylor after he acquired the dies from Matthew Pier Watt Boulton, the grandson of Matthew Boulton. Often dubbed “Taylor restrikes”, these pieces make the proper attribution of English coinage struck at the Soho Mint far more complicated, as he often intentionally created new varieties to sell to unsuspecting collectors. When considering the sheer number of restrike varieties paired with the frequency with which some of these come up for sale, it appears that this was a relatively successful operation. For instance, we know that 10 of these pieces, along with 794 other restrikes of different varieties and types, were part of a consignment from W. J. Taylor’s workshop on June 29th, 1880 (Peck, 1964). This was a single consignment, and it stands to reason that multiple of this caliber were likely placed over the careers of Taylor and his two sons. As such, it would be nearly impossible to ascertain how many of each variety were produced. Peck (1964) specifically notes that this variety (i.e., P-1003) was created with the sole intent of creating something new to trick unsuspecting collectors.
Although Peck (1964) notes this coin as rare, it appears to be much more common than other similarly rated varieties, with nearly 60 examples coming up for sale over the last five decades. This estimate only includes the examples attributed by TPGs and numerous auction houses. It makes no effort to include those not directly attributed, so the actual number of market appearances is likely higher. However, this example is somewhat more unique because both the obverse and reverse are double struck, the reverse being far more dramatic than the obverse. From my estimates, it appears the obverse is double struck with about a 3-degree rotation between strikes. The reverse, however, is double struck with about 21 degrees of rotation between strikes. The result is a coin that looks as though it has been circulated, but the flat areas are where the strikes overlapped. This is abundantly apparent when examining the bust of King George III and the outer portion of Britannia’s shield. In contrast, examining the inner portion of the shield demonstrates the conflicting design details. It will be interesting to see how NGC grades this piece, given its odd nature.
So what got you started in your current collecting pursuits? Has it come full circle as it has for me?