The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 53, December 29, 2013, Article 11


Last week, speaking of the Confederate Cents, Bill Eckberg wrote:

... let's just call these fantasy pieces.

I added:

Not that there's anything wrong with fantasy pieces - there are the 1913 Liberty Nickels and the Fantastic 1804 dollars, of course. All fantasies, yet avidly collected and sought after for both their rarity and notoriety

Leon Saryan writes:

I think there is something wrong. The 1913 nickel and the 1804 silver dollar are clearly two of the highest priced and most storied "coins" in American numismatics. However, I personally believe that it is embarrassing for the hobby that we have hitched our horse to a couple of pieces that are nothing more than fantasy concoctions. Uninitiated outsiders must wonder why we are promoting items that are not true coins to the pinnacle of our pursuit.

John Dannreuther writes:

The Confederate cents may be fantasies, but the 1804 dollar should not be called such, in my opinion. They were struck by the US Mint in 1834, just dated 1804. You can call them novodels or whatever, but they are not fantasies, as I understand the term.

The 1913 nickel issue is a fantasy, I guess, but I call that one a clandestine issue, as it was from Mint dies, just struck in secrecy, like the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars (thank you, A. Loudon Snowden for these two Trade dollars and for not melting the two Half Unions!).

Mark Van Winkle writes:

I refer Bill Eckberg to the study of all things CSA cent-related in The Lovett Cent, a Confederate Story (2006), by Harold Levi and George Corell. The original strikes are definitely not fantasy pieces.

Well, that's the thing. Bill has read the book and corresponded with the authors. See the July 10, 2011 E-Sylum (link to article below). -Editor

Harold Levi wrote:

I agree with Bill Eckberg that technically the Confederate cent is a fantasy. At this time, there are no known Confederate records directly mentioning the Confederate cent made by Robert Lovett, Jr. This is not to say that none exist or never existed. A large volume of Confederate records were burned by officials when Richmond was evacuated in 1865 and Juda P. Benjamin (CSA Secretary of State) burned all of the records he had.

So without a smoking gun, we can't say definitively that the Lovett Confederate cent was made at the request of the Confederate government. It's possible and even plausible; we just have no proof. -Editor

In response to Bill's latest comment, Harold Levi writes:

It is not my purpose to debate or sell Bill Eckberg, or anyone else, on the legitimacy of the Confederate cent, but to present some evidence that the Confederate cent was struck in 1861.

The Confederate cent, like many other coins, does not have a clean pedigree. As with other coins in this category, many stories have been conjured up to add mystery and intrigue to get a higher price at auction. It is up to each collector to look at the evidence and stories and then decide for themselves what to believe or not believe. In my book, The Lovett Cent; a Confederate Story, with assistance by George Corell, several logical arguments are presented to support the manufacture date of 1861. The strongest single forensic argument is the publication of a photograph of an original Confederate cent in 1875. By the way, the second edition of the book has been published.

In 1875, Dr. William Lee published his study of Confederate notes. The title is: The Currency of the Confederate States of America. A Description of the Various Notes, Their Dates of Issue, Varieties, Series, Sub-Series, Letters, Numbers, etc.; Accompanied With Photographs of the Distinct Varieties of Each Issue. Compiled From Official Records and Other Sources. On page 27 is a photograph of an original Confederate cent and the text he wrote, which is a repeat of part of John Haseltine’s auction description from January 1874.

The attached image was scanned by personnel at the American Numismatic Society in New York City from their copy of Dr. Lee’s book. As you can see, the toning is somewhat splotchy, or mottled, and tends to be around the edge of the coin, both obverse and reverse. This toning pattern matches the style of toning on other known original Confederate cents. If this coin was struck in 1873, as some suggest, the toning should not have been as advanced as it was in two years.

William Lee Confederate cent image

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: DECEMBER 22, 2013 : The Fantastic Confederate Cents (


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