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The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 31, July 30 , 2000, Article 9


On July 19, 1832, The Boston Weekly Messenger published the following article, which in turn was copied from the Hampshire Gazette:

"NEW SPECULATION! -- Within a few days there have been runners in most of the towns in this vicinity, gathering up cents coined in 1814. They find but few and buy them as they can, giving 2, 4, 6, 10, 12 or 17 cents each; and we have heard of 75 cents being given for a single cent. 12 1-2 cents have been offered in this town. The story is that in 1814 some gold was accidentally mixed with the copper at the United States Mint, and that the cents of that year contain gold. We verily believe that the whole affair is a humbug, and that the cents of 1814 are of no more intrinsic value than those of any other year. It has been suggested that the speculation originated in the following manner. Copper was very scarce in 1814, on account of the war, and but few cents were coined at the mint during that year. Some virtuosi, who were desirous of laying up in their cabinets specimens of the coinage of every year, could not find any cents coined in 1814, and offered certain toll-gatherers a dollar or two to collect for them a few cents of that year. This offer led others to suppose that the cents of 1814 contained gold. -- We know not whether this be a true explanation of the mystery. "

The March 27, 1997 issue of The Coin Collector, published by Bowers and Merena Galleries printed this interesting follow-up:

"During the last century there was a persistent rumor to the effect that at the Mint in 1814 a pot of molten gold was emptied by mistake into a pot of copper from which planchets for cents were made. Thus, cents of this date were of great value for their gold content. Every so often someone would offer a cent of 1814 to the Mint, seeking a strong premium for it. Unfortunately for the possessors of such cents, the rumor was baseless.

However, it is likely that 1814 cents did contain at least a little bit of gold, as did other large copper cents of that era. William Ewing Dubois, assistant assayer at the Philadelphia Mint, presented a paper, "On the Natural Dissemination of Gold," to the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, in June 1861. He noted that a cent of 1822, made on a planchet imported from England, proved to have gold to the extent of 1 part in 14,500, which, because of the value of the gold, meant that every 20 cents of that date contained, in the aggregate, one cent's worth of gold. An 1843 cent, made of copper obtained from a New England source, was found to have a higher content; 14 of those cents contained one cent of the precious metal. Gold was found to exist as an "impurity" in most batches of copper."

Wayne Homren, Editor

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