Stack’s Bowers Galleries Presents

The Tester’s Testing Collection

For the last two years, most of my numismatic efforts have been concentrated on the cataloging of this magnificent collection. Since these undertakings began, I’ve been reminded consistently of the good fortune I’ve had to get to know so many expert numismatists who have been happy to help, eager to share stories, and generous in offering access to their libraries and their memories. Along with a research library that has been dutifully assembled over the course of three decades, these relationships have been the sine qua non of writing the Pogue catalogs.

Half cents and large cents, collectively termed “early American copper,” compose the bulk of the present sale. They’ve also been the series that have most captured my attention over the course of my numismatic life. From the time that I was combing the flea markets of Pennsylvania for them as a boy, large cents have quickened my pulse more than any other series of United States coinage. While silver can take on a spectrum’s range of toning, and gold has a liveliness all its own, there is no other coining metal with as wide a span of inherent variation and beauty as copper. The sedate gloss of a well worn cent may not match bright red luster in most collectors’ estimation, but to those drawn to the coppers above all else, each has a distinctive appeal. Beyond visual attractions, no other series has as long and storied a past as do the early coppers. Coin collecting as we know it in this country literally owes its existence to the large cent. Just as the disappearance of silver from the tills of stores from Boston to Berkeley presaged an overwhelming growth of interest in coin collecting in the 1960s, so too did the end of the large cent’s reign over pockets and countertops. The lowly cent became the coin that unified a nation of collectors in the late 1850s and the decades that followed. Before long, the finest of cabinets was defined by the finest of cents. The humble had become the most exalted.

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