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A 1795 Half Cent Struck over Talbot, Allum and Lee Cent

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It has been a while since I have paid a substantial price for a raw coin that I knew would not receive a slab grade, but this piece is an exception. I bought this 1795 half cent at the recent Early American Coppers auction. It was struck over a Talbot, Allum and Lee cent and shows a fair amount of undertype from the host coin.


Talbot, Allum and Lee was a New York City based company that was involved in the Asian export - import trade. In 1794 and '95 TAL imported cent tokens from England despite the fact that the U.S. mint in Philadelphia was making similar coins at the time. Their coins weighed a bit less than the U.S. mint products, but they were more creditable than the thin, light weight "bungtown coppers" that had brought down the market for copper coins in the U.S. in the late 1780s.


In 1795 the U.S. mint purchased 1,076 pounds of TAL cents (about 52,000 coins), cut them down and re-coined them as half cents. A couple of large cents are also known to a have been struck on TAL cent planchets, but they are exceedingly raw. The mint would purchase more TAL cents in 1796 and use them for 1797 half cents.


This 1795 half cent (Cohen 6a, R-3, "scarce") shows some TAL undertype on both sides. The "1794" TAL date is partially visible on the obverse, and the word "CENT" from the TAL coin is even more discernible on the reverse. As such this is a neat example of how the first U.S. mint obtained copper for its products during its early days.


Here is the half cent which was assigned a net EAC grade of VG-7, lowered from VG-8+ because of the rim bump on the reverse at 3k. Neither of the TPGs will grade this piece because of that bump.




And here is a fairly nice Talbot, Allum and Lee cent.




And here are close-ups of the undertype on the half cent and the same areas on a TAL cent.



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...and why did the Philadelphia Mint do this?


According to Dr. Sheldon, finding copper to use for the early cents (and half cents) was "a heroic task." The quality of the copper used for the later Sheldon numbers of the Wreath cents, and the 1793 Cohen 4 half cents was horrendous. Here is a 1793 S-11c that illustrates the point. Just a little more separation, and this coin would have laminated itself into two pieces.




The copper in the TAL cents was of a known purity and quality. All that was needed was to roll out the planchets to the required thickness, which was now thin because of the change in weight ordered by George Washington (after it had been authorized by Congress) in December 1795, a little cutting, a quick strike, and the mint had a half cent. The scraps could have melted to make more half cents or large cents, or they could have used to get some silver or gold to the legal standard, once more from some good English copper.


I might add that this 1795 half cent was struck in 1796. The mint did not make any copper coins in 1795 until October, because its main mission was to produce gold and silver coins, given some loud Congressional complaints. By the time mint began to produce copper coins, they had plenty of dies available dated 1795. Why discard a perfectly good die because of a year change?


As a result all of the thin planchet, plain edge half cents dated 1795 were minted in 1796. The mint didn't get around to making any 1796 dated half cents until the end of the year, and they made very few of them. That created a classic rarity.

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Very nice, Bill. I also have a '95 half cent struck over a TAL cent. But not nearly as dramatic as yours.

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That is just a very cool historical piece!


Congrats on being able to snag it!

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