Over the years, the United States Mint has produced many Pattern Coins featuring designs that have been put forward for use on circulating coins. They’re often called experimental or sample pieces and are important for allowing Mint officials to test for any potential production problems and how well a certain design will look on a real American coin. While some Pattern Coins will display modified versions of designs that have been used on circulated pieces, others will show images that have never made it any further than the Mint. Some will even display accepted designs, but the metal composition may differ from the one used for official issues.
As each Pattern Coin is merely a test piece, the number of examples struck is generally very small. Despite being extremely rare (and often expensive), a wide variety of designs exist, making Pattern Coins even more appealing to not just collectors but also investors. However, we must make it clear that achieving a full set of United States Pattern Coins is virtually impossible.
When it comes to collecting Pattern Coins, many enthusiasts choose to adopt a specific strategy, so you might wish to do the same. For example, you could decide to collect Pattern Coins by design, metal type or denomination. You can also collect these coins by era, or you may even be happy to acquire a few interesting pieces or just one design.
Rare United States Patten Coins
Although there are many unique Pattern Coins that have been struck by the United States Mint, collectors are usually keen to get their hands on the rarest pieces. The 1849 $20 Liberty Head Gold Double Eagle Pattern Coin is considered to be the greatest and most valuable United States coin because it is the first Double Eagle ever made and only one is known to exist. It is a high relief design created by James Barton Longacre. As the Mint was unable to strike large quantities of high relief coins for circulation in 1849, the design was dropped. Today, this Pattern Coin can be found in the Smithsonian.
The 1907 $20 Indian Head Gold Pattern Coin is also rare and valuable. It was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and once belonged to Theodore Roosevelt. The design on the obverse is slightly different to the regular issue coin and was preferred by Saint-Gaudens, but later refined as requested by President Roosevelt. According to records, only one gold Pattern Coin was struck between March and May 1907.
Another super rare Pattern Coin is the 1877 $50 Half Union Gold Coin, struck in two different designs. Both varieties were minted in gold for the cabinet of the United States Mint and are now considered priceless. It was believed that the coins had been melted because the design was rejected; however, both Pattern Coins were discovered in a private collection in 1909. The collection belonged to William H. Woodin, who was ordered to return the coins to the Mint in 1910.
In 1879, the United States Mint considered releasing a $4 gold coin, which was officially called a Stella. Two varieties were made, one featuring Charles Barber’s Flowing Hair design and the other displaying George Morgan’s Coiled Hair design. The Flowing Hair variety is the more common of the two but still exceptionally rare. Just over 400 pieces were made before the Mint decided not to release a four dollar coin.
One of the most fascinating Pattern Coins has to be the 1906 $20 Gold Double Eagle, designed by Charles Barber. This particular design was rejected in favor of a different design, created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Only Mint officials knew of the Barber’s Pattern Coin for a number of years until it was later acquired by the Smithsonian where it can still be found today
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