Those curious patterns

Collecting U.S. pattern coins

Patterns represent one of the more interesting sectors of American numismatics. They are at their essence experiments testing new designs, compositions and even denominations. From the first U.S. pattern coins of 1792, to a proliferation of pattern coins in the 1870s, to the end of the classic pattern era with beautiful 1916 patterns, it's a fascinating area.

Metal Spot Pricing

19th century aluminum coins?

You won't find a regular issue U.S. aluminum coin, but in the
mid-19th century some coins were struck on aluminum planchets. These patterns were produced both for testing the properties of aluminum as a metal for coinage and for use as presentation pieces.

Much of the interest in aluminum for U.S. coins can be attributed to Mint Director Henry Linderman. In 1868 he requested two aluminum Proof sets to be sent to England and France, although

Which of the following patterns exist


Pattern 1916 Walking Liberty half dollar

What's most extraordinary about this 1916 Walking Liberty half dollar is that it circulated down to Very Good 8 condition. Because nearly all patterns were produced as Proofs, Numismatic Guaranty Corp. graded this coin Proof 8. It realized $21,850 at an April 29, 2010, auction.


Pattern 1916 Standing Liberty quarter dollar

The rarest of the 1916 patterns are those for the Standing Liberty quarter dollar. This pattern is notable for its reverse where the stars have been replaced by an olive branch at both the left and right border. Formerly in the collection of Egypt's King Farouk, this Proof 50 example brought $189,750 when offered at an Aug. 9, 2012, Stack's Bowers Galleries auction.


Pattern 1916 Winged Liberty Head dime

Four distinct types of patterns are known for Adolph A. Weinman's Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) dime. This pattern differs from the regular issue in that Liberty's head is larger and it is one of two confirmed examples in private collections. This Proof 58 example realized $79,312.50 when offered at an Aug. 3, 2012, auction.


Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.

A $1 million pattern

Gold patterns are rare and this 1874 $10 Bickford pattern — one of two known and graded Proof 65 Deep Cameo — brought $1,265,000 when offered at a Jan. 7, 2010, auction. It is a gorgeous relic of Dana Bickford's proposal for an international coinage in the mid-1870s.

Entry level
pattern coins

Pattern coins, because of their rarity, are generally expensive and while there are no "cheap" U.S. pattern coins, some examples may be found for less than $1,000. Finding them will take some searching and a bit of luck.

Typically at this price level one will be looking at mid-19th century patterns with relatively high production numbers. Although patterns by definition were not intended to circulate, a few did and show wear. Others have been cleaned or otherwise tampered with, rendering them more affordable than their counterparts that did not suffer such indignities.

Copper pattern cents were struck in 1792 with silver centers.

1877: A busy year
for patterns

Patterns are a well-studied area in U.S. coins and several books have been written on patterns, including United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd (first published in 1959 with recent editions edited by Q. David Bowers) and United States Patterns and Related Issues by Andrew W. Pollack III (1994).

The year 1877 was a busy year for pattern coins and it is especially notable for the diversity of half dollar designs. Among the artists kept busy designing patterns in 1877 was George T. Morgan, a British die cutter who arrived in America in 1876. He was initially tasked to produce new designs for the silver coinage and he began with the largest silver coin in production – the half dollar.

However, when Congress began debating the resurrection of the silver dollar in late 1877, his half dollar pattern designs were adapted for the silver dollar, including the two designs that were used on the legendary Morgan dollar, which was struck from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921.

Organize your collection

Many options to choose
from Amos Advantage!

Research materials, coin folders and albums, and more! We offer different items and guides for your collection at www.amosadvantage.com.

  • A versatile, compact light that provides superior image and color rendering while reducing glare and eye strain.

  • Need to display a set of favorite coins? This beautiful red oak display box with an acrylic-top may be just right!

  • This 2.5x magnifier from Lighthouse has a 3" high-quality acrylic lens attached to a modern, ergonomically designed handle.


August 15, 2013

The half cent is the smallest denomination the U.S. Mint produced and is featured in this issue of Coin World Next. These were struck from 1793 to 1857 and the denomination has received far less attention than its big brother, the large cent. Is this historic slight justified?


August 8, 2013

Look into the large and in charge "hockey puck" 5-ounce silver coins that debuted in 2010! Hot Springs National Park was the first honored. The Aug. 8 Coin World Next shares some photographs and more from the production of this large coin.


August 1, 2013

Learn about the design process that resulted in the Barber half dollar series in the Aug. 1 Coin World Next. Grading tips on this coin series are also included!

The Kennedy half dollar

July 25, 2013

While the coins aren't seen much in circulation these days, collectors still love Kennedy half dollars. The July 25 issue of Coin World Next looks at the accessible and surprisingly diverse series that features different metal compositions, surface finishes and design types.

19th Century Proof Type Coins

July 18, 2013

Classic 19th century Proof coins have long been viewed as a luxury product among U.S. coins. While these special coins produced for collectors can be expensive, some more-affordable collecting options are also explored in this issue of Coin World Next.

  • August 15, 2013

  • August 8, 2013

  • August 1, 2013

  • July 25, 2013

  • July 18, 2013

Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.

Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.

Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.

Image courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.

Images courtesy HeritageAuctions.com.

Images courtesy of HeritageAuctions.com.

  • obverse
  • reverse
  • info
  • enlarge

return to cover

table of contents

post-it, tweet-it, share-it

navigate between pages