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1859 Cent In Brass? Does Anyone Know The Specs?

 
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New Member
Canada
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 Posted 04/21/2019  8:20 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add whatdowehavehere to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Hello everyone! We hope this finds you well... this is the same die variety as are all the known Cents struck in Brass: die lumps on the neck, and an arcing diebreak under 18. It's yellow more than rose in tone, and yellowish under the "brown". Does anyone know the specs of the Brass variety?

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Canada
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 Posted 04/21/2019  9:30 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sid Belzberg to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I don't know what you mean by specs but indeed the one we had in our collection had the same diebreak under the 18. Back in the early 2000s the best ICCS had graded was fine, and the PCGS web site shows the highest graded is VF 35. Our coin was only a fine. The coin you have posted appears to be AU 55+ which makes it a major condition rarity. Congrats on a truly great find!
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 Posted 04/21/2019  9:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add whatdowehavehere to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I saw that NGC had graded one recently, and asked them if they had the spectrum analysis of the planchet; they didn't... yes: broken out of a PCGS AU58 holder! I've been looking for a few decades for one
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 Posted 04/21/2019  10:00 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add DBM to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Have you had it XRF tested?
"Dipping" is not considered cleaning...
-from PCGS website
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Canada
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 Posted 04/21/2019  10:14 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add whatdowehavehere to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
no, just broke it out a little while ago
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 Posted 04/21/2019  11:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Sid Belzberg to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
One test you could do at home is simply measure the specific gravity of a regular 1859 copper large cent and compare it to your presumably brass coin. There is lots of information on line on how to do a specific gravity test on a coin. I would bet a donut that the specific gravity of the brass coin will differ from the copper one.
Edited by Sid Belzberg
04/21/2019 11:36 pm
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Canada
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 Posted 04/22/2019  12:56 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Alan to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I understood it to be thinner?
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 Posted 04/22/2019  02:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add okiecoiner to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
If you are an RCNA member, or if you already receive the Canadian Numismatic Journal, try to get a copy of the March 2012 of the CNJ. Four of us wrote a great article of the 1859 Brass Cent titled "1859 Brass Cent: Modern Science Addresses a Classic Numismatic Question" ... all of us long-time (20 + years) numismatic researchers. Your post is the first one that I knew had ever spoken of a specific "die variety", with accompanying markers. Where did you hear of this?

Our study, originally done with about 600 1859's, and then another 200 or so at later dates to include some additional questionable coins, was centered on XRF analysis of each coin. It was our conclusion that the so-called "brass cents" were the result of improper alloy mixing at Heaton, who furnished the planchets. It was caused by settling of the alloy in the crucible/vat containers that were then poured into the small ingots in prep for the rollers. This essentially backed up previous numismatic speculation that the "brass cents" were NOT struck as a pattern, test, or even on-purpose. They were punched out by accident because a small portion of the planchettes sheets were rolled from ingots improperly mixed. As such, there would have been no single specific working die that punched out those cents, hence no commonality with any markers.

Generally, coinage brass consists of approximately 70% copper and 30% zinc, although normal common brass alloys run from 67-85 Cu & 15-33 zinc, depending on its use or purpose. However, for our study, we considered a coin to be "brass" if it had less than 90% copper and more than 10% zinc. The coins tested varied minimally with few exceptions for the Cu, Zn. Sn, and Pb components. For the tests, we broke down the coins tested into 3 approximate equal groups ... 1) random, 2) color, and 3) die groups determined by when in the striking cycle the working die was made. This is/was determined by the width of the vine break at leaf 7 or the existence of a break at 2 ... ALL 1859's have a vine break at 12. It appears that all known and tested "brass cents" came early in the striking year with very small vine breaks at 7. For 1859, the master die suffered incremental damage through wear/chipping, that gradually widened the gap at 7. With the master die "damaged", each working die made/struck as the year went by showed widened vine gaps at 7. Then a vine break at 2 started, again, incrementally widening as the year went on. A narrow vine gap at 7 means that the working die was made/manufactured early in the mintage year. Average die life for the reverse dies was about 40,000 coins, though I'm sure it varied from 5,000 to over 50,000.

Our tests for the article discovered no new "brass cents", but one of the co-authors DID have a certified/tested circulated brass cent of his own. Other brass cents were examined as well. While there is a "possibility" that all known brass cents came from a single die, that was not our conclusion. We did find, however, that the known "brass cents" that were seen all came from very early strikings, with working dies showing very small vine breaks at 7. I am not sure where in Canada you reside, but one of the co-authors of the paper has access to a laboratory XRF machine that can be used. I will inform him of this thread to read/comment and contact may be made through him. Pls PM me and I'll contact him.
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 Posted 04/22/2019  07:06 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add okiecoiner to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As an aside to my post above, the Heaton and Sons Mint in Birmingham had considerable experience with the making of bronze planchetts, working with the French for their 1, 2, 5, 10 centime blanks. But the mixing of the melted alloys in the pots/crucibles before pouring into small ingots is where the problems arose. There are also reported/documented for "brass" cents in 1858, 1882 and 1893, but it is not known who documented, tested or certified any of the rarities. The XRF that I mentioned is in Ottawa and has been used on occasion to perform non-destructive testing (nothing touches the coin) on coins from collectors from time-to-time to specify the exact chemical alloy components.

Specific gravity tests mentioned above I don't believe could even be close to accurate enough to show the specific alloy percentages. The difference between the atomic weights and specific gravities of zinc and tin in extremely small proportions would be very difficult outside a lab.... zinc (6.9-7.2), tin (7.29), copper 8.8-8.95) where rolled bronze consisting of 7.9 - 14% tin is 7.9-8.9 and brass is 8.4-8.7. Remember that you are dealing with alloy that was meant to be 95% copper and 4% tin and 1% zinc. To measure any difference in the specific gravity of the coin, you are talking about comparing atomic weights of less than 5% of the coin weight .. 95% of the specific gravity of the object in question is copper! A laboratory XRF is the only way to find out what specific metals are in your alloy. For a complete, comprehensive discourse on the minting/manufacturing processes The Royal Mint used for the production of the first Canadian large cents, pick up a copy of Rob Turner's "The 1858 Cents of Provincial Canada". It is an outstanding book that should be a proud member in any Canadian's reference library for Victoria large cents. Rob was the instrumental member of the group that wrote the aforementioned CNJ study on the "brass" 1859's that I referenced earlier.
Edited by okiecoiner
04/22/2019 08:04 am
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 Posted 04/22/2019  11:35 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bosox to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I agree with many of Bill's points. It would be tough to tell by any homemade specific gravity tests. Besides zinc and tin have close to the same specific gravity. 95/4/1 is bronze. Copper and only zinc = brass. Copper and only tin = bronze.

Although some may be the same, I have seen brass cents from several different die pairs.
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 Posted 04/22/2019  11:37 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bosox to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

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 Posted 04/22/2019  1:24 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add okiecoiner to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The brass cent above my post (bosox) is owned by the author of the 4 outstanding books on Vicky large cents and holder of the finest PCGS Canadian large cent collection in the world ... also the main author of the CNJ article/research paper that I referenced before.

If the coin you have is "brass" and verified by XRF, then you have one of the most important Canadian numismatic finds in the last few decades. It would be worth a great deal of money or the basis for huge tax savings as a deduction should it be donated to the museum in Ottawa with YOUR name on it. I would try to get it XRF'd and certified as soon as you can ... a photo means nothing. What a discovery if it is one!
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 Posted 04/22/2019  3:25 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add whatdowehavehere to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Wow! Did I ask the right people! Thank You all so very much!

If the Brass alloy was in a single ingot, or two, it's not inconceivable that the planchets would end up in the same batch for striking on a given day... that said, the examples I could see on Heritage's site have a tilted 9, along with an arcing die break under the 18, along the dotted circle. That pairs with an obverse die that has a few lumps on the Queen's neck. We know that it's not a die-specific variety, but it doesn't hurt...Funny, neither NGC or PCGS have any specs of those that they certified. I wonder what they used for confirmation. Granted most of them have been cleaned, to better show the alloy. Mine's not cleaned. So, if they "visualized" the coins for certification, then what? Is the 90/10 alloy the only recognized mix for the 1859 Brass cents? That's used for Civil War tokens and those are olive in tone. This one's like French's spicy mustard...
Edited by whatdowehavehere
04/22/2019 3:31 pm
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 Posted 04/22/2019  4:40 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add okiecoiner to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
No, there are any number of brasses, depending upon their use. It's considered brass if it's 67-85% copper and 15-33% Zinc. Almost all brasses, especially back in the 1850's, will have some other small amounts of maybe iron, lead, manganese, etc .. the same that bronzes do. Most older "certified" brass 1859's were never XRF'd or any other kind of lab testing. They went by color and, if you can believe it, they took the coin out into the sunlight and scratched the edge minutely .. if it showed yellow in color, then it was thought to be brass, not bronze. We used the 90/10 ratio only for our study and experiment. Just Google "brass" and you'll see how many different brass alloys that there are. The Royal Mint ordered 10 million planchets for the Provincial large cents (58 & 59)that were 1/3 thinner than the Brit half pennies. Early records show that only about 460,000 1858 cents were struck, but that number is in some doubt. Current thought is that there were probably 1.5 million 1858's struck and then the 1859/8's. I think (without reading) that the 10 million planchets came in 2 orders and more than one press was operating at a time. The planchetts would have been in a large bin, so any operating press with working dies in place could have struck a "brass" one... hence examples from different dies.

When the supposedly fully-mixed alloy was poured into the small ingot molds, some of the mixture was richer in Zinc and a small portion of the ingot then also became richer in zinc. When the ingots went into the rollers to press out the sheets from which the planchets were cut, maybe only a small portion of the sheet was richer in zinc. Planchets stamped out from that portion of the sheet would be classified as brass ... and down the hopper they went with all the bronze planchetts. Who knows? .. it's all supposition from something that happened 160 years ago and no records kept.

Just to picture it, here's an extreme example to show what may have happened. Fill a glass with water (heavy) and put a small layer of oil(light) on top of it .. the oil stays on top, just like the zinc would do with pure copper (on the bottom)in the crucible/vat. Then pour your oil/water glass into another glass slowly. Does all the water and just a little oil come out first or is most of the oil(the zinc) nearly the last to pour out. Different specific weights,when poured, come out not like the original "homemade" alloy. That's why it is now thought that the ingots that were poured were NOT pure brass alloy all the way through .. only maybe portions of it was. When the small ingots were then rolled to make sheets, the whole sheet was then not brass .. only portions. It wouldn't have been hard to think that 20, 40 or a hundred planchets stamped out could be brass and the other 10 million bronze or closer to bronze. Read the CNJ article/study and you will see the variances that were found just in the "bronze" one. When you mix the 50-100 "brass" ones into a huge bin with a million or so, or 5 million, bronze ones, you can see that the "brass" ones weren't necessarily in one or two batches.

All I can say is that you may have a very valuable and numismatically important coin... a part of Canadian Heritage You need to try to get it to a laboratory XRF machine (not a coin-shop hand-held one) and see what your alloy is. I would expect for "spp" to chime in on this thread, unless he's out in the field in the far Canadian reaches. I'm glad that I could be of some help and happy that bosox tuned in. Welcome to this site .. lots of knowledge here on a multitude of subjects. Once I get out of large cents, I'm a mid-range experienced novice.
Edited by okiecoiner
04/22/2019 4:46 pm
New Member
Canada
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 Posted 04/22/2019  5:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add whatdowehavehere to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Sorry, as a Newbie I am not allowed to eMail anyone on here. The Powers That Be don't think you all want to be bothered by us...
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 Posted 04/22/2019  5:45 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bobby131313 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Sorry, as a Newbie I am not allowed to eMail anyone on here. The Powers That Be don't think you all want to be bothered by us...


No, the Powers That Be don't think the members would like to be bothered by the automated spammers that occasionally get through and can use software to send spam emails at a rate of about 5K an hour if they could.

But your snark has been duly noted in your profile for the Powers That Be to reference later.

We are here to share the knowledge anyway, not keep things secret in private.
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