Obverse with Liberty Head facing right crowned with star on her forehead supported by ribbon inscribed LIBERTY, legends surround with motto below on raised ribbon. Reverse with open wreath of laurel and oak, with large 50 and smaller CENTS inside, surrounded by STANDARD SILVER with date below.
The visual impact is rather intense for a pattern of this era, with faded mint hues of rose-red dominating blended with teal and blue peripheral accents on the obverse, the reverse a matching combination but with more teal of vibrant consistency. Incredibly free of spots or toning troubles that are so often encountered, hence the "*" designation from NGC for high eye appeal, richly deserved and hard won here, especially for such a large copper coin. Designed by William Barber, who had just ascended to Mint's Chief Engravership after the passing of James B. Longacre on January 1, 1869.
According to USPatterns.com this issue is Rarity-8 with three or fewer known. These were originally sold for $15 in 1870, a significant sum at the time and clearly not intended for your run of the mill numismatists assembling date collections of Large cents or other coins of interest. Hence the mintages were often tiny, and just a few were sold to memorialize these intriguing efforts of Barber to update our coinage.
Numismatic Reflections by Q. David Bowers
The so-called Standard Silver patterns beginning in 1869 were made primarily in copper, aluminum, and silver with plain as well as reeded edges. The result was a vast production of numismatic delicacies for sale to numismatists through private channels.
The theme of the Standard Silver coinage was sound enough. Silver coins disappeared from the channels of commerce in the spring of 1862, when Legal Tender paper currency was introduced, not redeemable in coins but only in other paper. The outcome of the Civil War was uncertain and the citizens rushed to hoard all of the silver coins they could. Already, since the waning days of December 1861, gold had disappeared. It was thought that after the Civil War ended (in April 1865) silver coins would again return to circulation. However, monetary conditions remained uncertain, and silver coins were still hoarded, with no pieces at all seen in circulation in the East and Midwest. The Treasury Department came up with the idea of the Standard Silver patterns, of various denominations, to be of a slightly smaller diameter and to contain less metal, making them unattractive to speculators. However, such pieces were only made in pattern form. It was not until after April 20, 1876, that silver coins and Legal Tender notes reached parity in the marketplace and silver again circulated in quantity. Large numbers of dimes, quarters, and half dollars came out of hiding, resulting in a glut and explaining why mintages of these three denominations were very low for the next several years. Silver dollars were a separate situation, a political boondoggle, and were made in vast quantities.
NGC Census: 1; none finer.
From the Samuel J. Berngard Collection.