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Chapman story about buying a large cent in England

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This is an interesting letter  from S.H. Chapman about a large cent he purchased in England. The coin's date was likely 1796 since he compares it to another 1796 cent owned by Ten Eyck. Note his comment about how "gems" of American coinage were preserved.


October 29, 1889

John G. Mills, Esq.

Dear Sir:

            Yours of 28th received. Glad to hear of successful operation.

            Yes, it [the cent] has a peculiar color which is difficult to account for, but its history may aid us in determining it, and that is, that it was wrapped in a piece of paper for many years and so far as we known from the time of its mintage, and it may have acquired that beautiful color from some chemical property in the paper. I purchased it in England (after two days of offering, bargaining and finally paying the gentleman his figure) paying nearly the amount asked you (the owner offered me £1 profit the second sold and he regretted exceedingly having let it go at any price; that he had named a price and did not like to back from his word).

            He said he secured it at private tender from an estate together with a choice collection of English coins – many fine specimens of coppers as if the collector had preferred copper or a specialty of that series and from what he could gather he had been a collector before and about the years 1775 to 1810. That they had evidently lain away untouched for a long time, etc.

            It is just such circumstances that preserve for us the great and few gems we have of American coins – the 1796 cent @ $50 came from the same source.

            Without comparing the two coins together we should say this equaled Mr. Ten Eycks, but really that are both great gems, superb – and perfection pieces.

            It may interest you to know that this was the only specimen I saw or heard of in Europe, the only specimen we have or know of for sale.

            The price is low and we cannot change it.

            Very Respectfully,

S.H. & H. Chapman

Edited by RWB
Fix formatting - as usual
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I agree, $50 was rather expensive for the period. In the process of researching the Boulton family, I came across an auction catalog from 1912, and I made a note of the handful of U.S. coins that sold (the prices realized and often who bought them are penciled in the margins).  

Lot 51 Federal Quarter Dollar, 1796, and a dime of the same date, both brilliant proofs, the latter from flawed die, very rare. This lot realized £7-17-6

Lot 54 Copper, &c. Washington Cent, 1791, small eagle; Federal Cent, 1797; and a tin Continental Currency Piece (two R's in currency), 1776, all very fine and rare. This lot realized £5-2-6

Lot 55 U.S.A. Cent, 1795, head of Liberty with cap behind pole, ONE CENT high in wreath, unlettered edge, extremely fine, uncirculated, and very rare. It sold for almost £5-18 

Lot 56 U.S.A. Half Cent, 1795, Head of Liberty with cap behind, on pole, Half Cent in centre of wreath, with lettered edge, extremely fine, uncirculated and very rare. This one fetched £7-2-6

From what I can make of the handwriting, Spink won all of these lots. 


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On 9/29/2020 at 9:48 PM, RWB said:

I guess there aren't many of us left who knew S.H. Chapman....

Samuel died in 1931, so I imagine you're correct. 

This catalog was from the brothers tenth year in business together. 

They were once employed by John Haseltine, while still teens. They must have entered the business with a true love of the hobby.



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Chapman correspondence suggest more love of money than "love of the hobby." Much like Mehl and so many duplicitous persons selling/buying coins....Much the same approach as modern "shopping center" buyers.

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