In the January 2016 issue of The Numismatist (the official publication of the American Numismatic Association), P. Scott Rubin
published an article on the discovery of the original Confederate Cent. Here's an excerpt. I added an image of the Confederate Cent
from an earlier E-Sylum article. -Editor
The story of the creation and discovery of the Confederate cent is one of the most misunderstood in numismatics. Dated 1861, the first year
of the American Civil War, the coin is the same size and appears to be the same composition as the U.S. Indian Head cent of the same year.
The coin’s obverse image of Liberty (sometimes called “French Liberty”) is unlike that on any cent circulated by the United States;
however, it is identical to the image used by die-sinker Robert Lovett Jr. (1824-79) to create trade tokens he made for himself and coin
dealer William Idler (1808-1901). The obverse also bears the legend CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.
The reverse displays a wreath of corn, cotton and tobacco, with two barrels and a cotton bale along the bottom. Within the wreath is the
denomination, 1 CENT. The letter “L” on the bale identifies Lovett as the designer. The coin was struck in “medal turn” (side-to-side
rotation) as opposed to the standard “coin turn” (top-to-bottom rotation).
As far as we know, the coins’ connection with the Confederate government is undocumented. It has been speculated that Lovett, who had
done work for Bailey & Company of Philadelphia, had been asked to create dies for a proposed cent coinage for the Confederacy through the
Pennsylvania firm. Again, no documentation exists to support this assumption.
I believe one of two events prompted Lovett to produce the Confederate cent: either he was contacted by a Southern sympathizer, or he
thought he could entice the Confederate government to purchase dies for a cent coinage.
Copper token produced in 1859 by Robert Lovett Jr.
for the Marshall House hotel in Alexandria, Virginia
Numismatist John W. Haseltine (1838-1925) took credit for discovering the Confederate cent, and mentioned that Lovett had inadvertently
spent one at a tavern in Philadelphia. However, he never provided concrete details of either claim. Interestingly, numismatic auction
catalogs provide the most accurate information about the Confederate cent and its discovery.
Two sales in particular—Haseltine’s auction on January 13-15, 1874 (Lot 665) and S.H. & H. Chapman’s auction on November 27-28, 1891
(Lot 823)—reveal how the coin became available to the collecting public and who was involved. The catalog for the latter describes the true
discovery of the Confederate cent and indicates Haseltine had nothing to do with it.
The numismatic world had all but forgotten Haseltine’s original story until I presented an exhibit at the American Numismatic
Association’s 1992 convention in Orlando, Florida, entitled “Auction Catalogues as Sources of Information.” Among the items I displayed was
a copy of Haseltine’s 1874 catalog, along with his description of the Confederate cent:
[Lot] 665 1861; head of Liberty; inscription, “Confederate States of America; rev., “1 Cent,” in 2 lines, surrounded by a Wreath of ears of
corn and wheat, with a cotton bale at the bottom; nickel; very fine; excessively rare.
[The dies for the above piece were made by Mr. Lovett, of Philadelphia, In 1861. Mr. Lovett says that they were ordered in 1861, for
the South, and that the dies were delivered. Previous to delivering the dies, he struck twelve pieces, but showed them to no one and kept
the matter quiet, fearing that he might be arrested if it were known. It was not until about six months since Mr. Lovett parted with all
he had (either ten or twelve) to Dr. E. Maris, of Philadelphia, from whom this one was obtained.
Although it is evident that the Southern Confederacy did not adopt this piece, still it will always be considered interesting and
valuable as the only coinage designed for the Southern Confederacy, and will no doubt bring a high price. I have been somewhat particular
in giving the facts about this piece, as there are persons who always sneer at and doubt anything new and interesting that is discovered
by other than themselves. J.W.H.]
For more information on the American Numismatic Association, see:
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
MORE ON THE LOVETT CONFEDERATE CENT
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Wayne Homren, Editor
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