Investing in Gold: Pattern Coins, predecessors of our coinage
For the Nevada Appeal
In numismatics, an area that is collected by advanced collectors and specialists is pattern coins. Patterns are trial strikes of coins being proposed. These coins are usually struck in very limited numbers and very often only a few survive.
Most patterns are pieces that have been struck as a proposed new design for a coin. The new designs are struck for a host of reasons. First and foremost is how the coin looks in its struck state. Often a drawn concept of a coin looks different than the three-dimensional product that is produced from the artist’s rendering.
The next reason for striking patterns is for their ease of production. Sometimes the designs are too elaborate and that creates troubles for the minting process. Details that will not transfer during the striking process, too high of die pressure being required to strike the coins, or dies breaking due the details being too close are just a few of the problems to some of the rejected designs. Coins are not only selected for their aesthetics but also for their ease of production.
Another reason for striking patterns is trying different types of metals. Our coins today are struck mostly in clad (a mixed metal planchet) but we have struck coins in copper, nickel, zinc, silver, and gold as well. Patterns from our country have been stuck not only in these metals but also brass, aluminum, and steel. The reason for trying the various metals is not only for ease of production but also durability. Our coins are designed to last for years of everyday use.
In 1942, our country was looking for an alternative to our copper cent due to the need for copper in World War II. Cents ended up being struck in zinc during 1943 for the war effort, but zinc was not the only medium tried in 1942. The cent was struck in several different plastics as well. Some of the plastic cents were tested for strength and durability. Stress tests literally broke the patterns during the tests. Ultimately we never produced a coin in plastic, but who knows where the future will lead from this testing.
Over the years there have been more than 2,000 different patterns produced. This high number of patterns creates numerous ways for them to be collected. Some try to collect patterns as a separate genre, but others use patterns to top off an advanced collection. A great example of this came from one of our local collectors. Not only did he have collection of Indian head pennies, but he also added about five different patterns of Indian Heads to his already complete collection. Even if you are not up to tracking down patterns as a collection adding a few to an advanced collection can help to add a little uniqueness to your set.
• Allen Rowe is the owner of Northern Nevada Coin in Carson City.