Tony P. writes: I inherited a Washington Piece 1783 that is different than any other I have seen. It has the front from one style (Washington robed) and the back from another (full floor). It also has initials struck in it. It has no ridges around the perimeter. What is the story behind it, was it used as a sample design prior to the minting of the series? Any help would be great!
Your piece is part of the “Washington & Independence” series that was struck in about 1820. These tokens in this series have similar characteristics to the large cents that were struck in the United States from 1793 – 1857 and the British pennies that circulated in England until 1967.
Tokens with the portrait of Washington circulated here and in England and though they had no official status, were readily accepted as money. Washington was so revered that anything with his portrait was cherished. The piece from this series is called the “Draped Bust”. There are three varieties with this particular bust and several other varieties that were struck in 1851 and 1860.
Your piece is representative of the 1820 varieties. You can measure the diameter to check. Baker 2 = 28.3 mm (look for the signature “I” in the folds above “3” in the date, (I=Thomas Wells Ingram). Baker 2A is overstruck on a token of I. Walker, Flimby Park Colliery (probably not your piece) = 27 mm and Baker 2B (yours?)= 29 mm.
The obverse shows laureate and mantled bust of George Washington facing left, the date 1783 is below and WASHINGTON & INDEPENDENCE. The reverse shows a similar figure to “Britannia” on the reverse of English pennies but here it is Lady Liberty seated left, a olive branch in her right hand and a staff topped with a Phrygian cap in her left (symbol of freedom of thought); UNITED STATES is around. The token has a plain edge.
Values depend on rarity, variety and condition. Your coin would grade somewhat less with the graffiti (the initials) on it. Approximate value: Baker 2 – US $50 Baker 2B US $800 – $1,000. You can have your piece authenticated and attributed by one of the Grading Services. See the CoinSite Links Page for more information.