117.4 grains. Medal turn. Dark chocolate brown with some lighter undertones over finely granular surfaces. Nicely struck on a broad planchet, with long denticles surrounding nearly the entire obverse circumference. Reverse aligned to 9 o'clock, denticles long at right, short at left. A bit soft at central reverse, opposite the highest relief of the obverse device. INIMICA a bit softer than other portions of obverse legends. Very skillfully plugged between head and base of denticles at 11 o'clock, so professionally accomplished as to have evaded the notice of the great John Ford, whose infallibility rivaled that of most popes. Indeed, PCGS has called this coin "smoothed" with no mention of its hole and plug. Ford's purchase of this coin and subsequent detection of its repair between 1949 and 1952 was fully documented in two lots in the George Frederick Kolbe catalog of the Ford Library, part I. Lot 477, called "The Confederatio Papers," detailed Ford's acquisition of this piece from Jim Kelly, who advertised it in "Kelly's Coins and Chatter" in July 1949 for $175. Then relatively new to the business, Ford engaged in furious research and correspondence, particularly with Eric Newman, to learn as much about his acquisition as possible. In Kolbe's Ford Library, part I, lot 478, the so-called "Confederatio Caper" papers, Ford learned that when the coin was owned by B. Max Mehl it had been holed, a point which Kelly had failed to mention. The indefatigable Ford eventually got his money back from Kelly; Kelly's partner Sol Kaplan sold this coin to Mrs. Norweb at the 1953 ANA convention, and she was all too happy to add it to the Small Circle Confederatio already in her family's collection, even knowing it had been repaired. Mrs. Norweb was told the provenance could be traced back to Henry Chapman, Waldo Newcomer, and Col. E.H.R. Green, but Mehl did not recall this very distinctive coin being a part of the Newcomer Collection when he acquired it. Without any evidence, we would guess this piece actually came from the Brand Collection, which was being dispersed in this era, large portions of which were sold by Burdette Johnson through Jim Kelly. This would not be the first coin with an inaccurate provenance to Newcomer and Green.
There are perhaps no more distinctive type coins in the early American series than the Confederatios, nor is there a more enigmatic group of rarities. The iconic design of "an Indian, his right foot on a crown, a bow in his left-hand, in his right-hand thirteen arrows; and the inscription Manus inimical Tyrannis" was described in the May 1785 committee report of the Continental Congress entitled "Propositions Respecting the Coinage of Gold, Silver, and Copper." The committee members were David Howell of Rhode Island, Abiel Foster of New Hampshire, Rufus King of Massachusetts, Joseph Platt Cook of Connecticut, Melancton Smith of New York, John Beatty of New Jersey, Joseph Gardner of Pennsylvania, John Vining of Delaware, William Hindman of Maryland, James Monroe of Virginia, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, William Houstoun of Georgia, and chairman Hugh Williamson of North Carolina. Just whose idea this design was isn't known, or even suggested in the Journals of the Continental Congress. None of these men are known to have been involved in production of Confederation-era coppers, it is interesting that the copy of this committee report in the National Archives is in the hand of Gouverneur Morris, who is known to have been involved in the Nova Constellatio copper coinage. Perhaps non-coincidentally, the Nova Constellatio dies are known muled to the 1785 Immune Columbia dies, and the reverse of the present coin exists muled to the 1786 Immunis Columbia obverse, an amateurish copy of its 1785 antecedent. A drawing in the original committee journals, depicted in Breen's "Encyclopedia" on page 120, has never been attributed, but it had to have been drawn by one of the committee members and then seen by -- or recalled to -- someone involved in this coinage's creation. Melancton Smith was well acquainted with William Constable and Gouverneur Morris, two of the three men who signed the partnership that imported Nova Constellatio coppers, so perhaps he was involved? Smith was also thick as thieves with Wiliam Duer, whose graft steered the Fugio copper contract to James Jarvis, and Royal Flint, who ended up defaulting on his purchase of a substantial portion of the Fugio mintage in 1790. It is a tangled web, one that was never fully unraveled by Ford, Breen, or anyone else who has researched the Confederatios, but one that likely centers on New York in 1786 and 1787. Considering the tiny numbers known, it is reasonable to think that no more were struck than would have been useful as patterns. Ironically, this great rarity is the most common of Confederatio coppers.
When we offered this coin in our 1989 fixed price list, we noted the existence of just five examples. The Breen plate coin is permanently impounded in the Eric Newman Money Museum Collection and the George Clapp coin is permanently impounded at the ANS. That leaves just three collectible pieces: the Roper coin, the Parmelee-Ellsworth-Garrett coin, and this one. The Roper piece is very similar to this one in terms of sharpness, the Garrett coin is weaker. When Mrs. Norweb bought this piece in 1953, the last public appearance of a specimen was in 1910. Today, 23 years have passed since this example has been available. When will the next specimen turn up?
From the John "Jack" Royse Collection. Earlier from our (Stack's) 1989 fixed price list, Lot C114; said to be from Henry Chapman to Waldo Newcomer, then Newcomer Collection to B. Max Mehl; Mehl to Col. E.H.R. Green; Green Estate to Burdette G. Johnson; (likely ex: Brand Estate, then to B.G. Johnson); James Kelly to Robert Prann to Alan Harper to James Kelly; John J. Ford, Jr to New Netherlands' 1952 ANA sale, lot 2416; withdrawn, returned to Kelly; Sol Kaplan (Kelly's partner) to Mrs. Emery Mae Norweb at the 1953 ANA Convention; our (Bowers and Merena's) sale of the Norweb Collection, Part II, March 1988, lot 2626.