Top Five Unique U.S. Pattern Coins

Posted on

Within numismatics, pattern coins are an intriguing and historically significant group of U.S. rare coins. Before striking new designs for circulation, the U.S. Mint produces a pattern coin to see how the proposed features work in three dimensions. Collectors are attracted to pattern coins as many boast unusual features that were never adopted for circulation. Let’s take a look at five of the most unique U.S. pattern coins:

  • 1792 Copper Birch Cent J-4
  • 1792 Cent J-C1792-1, Dickeson Restrike
  • 1849 Gold $1 J-115
  • 1860 Transitional Half Dime J-267
  • 1866 Indian Head Cent J-456

1. 1792 Copper Birch Cent J-4

1792 Copper Birch Cent J-4





It is believed that Robert Birch, one of the original U.S. Mint employees in 1792, engraved the large copper pattern coins known today as “Birch cents.” This 1792 Copper Birch Cent with a Lettered Edge reveals two stars on the edge and this inscription on the edge: TO BE ESTEEMED*BE USEFUL*. This Birch Cent is a highly sought after and scarce pattern coin, with only seven or eight survivors.

2. 1792 Cent J-C1792-1, Dickeson Restrike

1792 Cent J-C1792-1, Dickeson Restrike





This pattern coin, also struck in 1792 is a privately issued token, known as the 1792 “Trial Piece” struck by Dr. Montroville Dickeson. This interesting coin features an eagle die from a revenue stamp with a reverse die inscription: TRIAL PIECE DESIGNED FOR THE UNITED STATES, implying it had been used at the U.S. Mint to produce the coins, which it had not!

3. 1849 Gold $1 J-115





What makes this gold dollar unique? It has a hole in the middle of it. In 1849, the U.S. Mint began striking $1 gold coins for circulation. However, they had a tiny diameter, because there wasn’t much gold in them. Soon after, the U.S. Mint began receiving complaints about the coin—specifically that its small size at 14.3 millimeters made it easy to lose. This pattern coin shows one of the ideas that Mint had to increase the coin’s diameter—putting a hole in the middle of it! It was a thinner, larger coin that still contained a dollar’s worth of gold. There are only a handful of these unique rarities know to survive today.

4. 1860 Transitional Half Dime J-267

4. 1860 Transitional Half Dime J-267





In 1859, the U.S. Mint decided to move the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from the reverse of the half dime to the obverse. This transitional pattern coin minted in 1860 combined a Stars obverse with the new, larger wreath on the reverse. However, neither sides of the coin showed the name of our country! The reason? The inscription had been removed from the reverse die, but not yet added to the obverse! The omission of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA only adds to the intrigue around these ultra-rare pattern coins.

5. 1866 Indian Head Cent J-456

1866 Indian Head Cent J-456





This 1866 Indian Head Cent pattern is made from copper and nickel. Yet, this coin should have been made of bronze! Even today, numismatic historians don’t fully understand how or why this coin was created. Since the last copper-nickel cents were struck in 1864, there is speculation this is an off-metal error coin. However, because there about half a dozen known survivors, another theory suggests this was an off-metal coin deliberately produced for sale to collectors. Either way, this 1866 Indian Head pattern is a highly desired coin by collectors of this series.

Want to read more? Subscribe to the Blanchard Newsletter and get our tales from the vault, our favorite stories from around the world and the latest tangible assets news delivered to your inbox weekly.