A Cache of 1826 Large Cents Hidden in the 1800s

The late Oscar G. Schilke lived on the shore of Dodge Pond in Niantic, Connecticut, in the 1950s and 1960s. Prominent on the numismatic scene for many years beginning in the early 1930s, he would often set up exhibits in banks. These displays served to attract customers to the financial institutions, and for Oscar, it meant getting leads which often resulted in his acquiring choice pieces for his collection.​

On one particular day a gentleman told him that in the course of doing some work in the Boston harbor area, he came across what was left of an old building which was once the office of a customs agent or toll-taker of some kind—the informant was not sure. In any event, cemented into the floor of the structure was a little metal vault or strong box which, through an opening, appeared to contain a bunch of old coins.​

Oscar went to Boston with the gentleman in question, and after some effort, pried the top off the box revealing an early-day version of a piggy bank. All in a heap were dozens of large cents dated 1826, and no others. Grades ranged from worn nearly smooth on up to lustrous Uncirculated, or close to it. Apparently, some long-forgotten person once took a fancy to this particular date and each time an 1826 cent was found in the course of commerce it was dropped through a slot in the floor into this tiny chamber. As large cents did not circulate much after 1857 and not at all after the summer of 1862, presumably this cache was formed in the 1840s or 1850s, after which it was untouched for the best part of a century.

Perhaps the original depositor passed away and never told anyone about the cents, or perhaps he realized that their value was insufficient to warrant tearing up the floor. For several years afterward, Oscar Schilke had a good trading stock of cents of this date.

In the 2021 Guide Book of United States Coins an MS-60 1826 large cent is listed at $600; an AU-50 at $300, an EF-40 at $150, and a G-4 at $55. The 1826 large cent had a mintage of 234,000 pieces.

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