Featured A brief introduction to the 1793 Bermuda Penny

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Coinsandmedals, Apr 5, 2020.

  1. Coinsandmedals

    Coinsandmedals Well-Known Member

    This past week I had the opportunity to acquire an example of a 1793 Bermuda Penny, which is a highly sought after and particularly rare issue. In doing a little research before its arrival, I stumbled upon an excellent article written by Mark A. Sportack (Link to article). For those of you who wish to learn more about this one-year type coin, his article is an invaluable asset.

    Most of you are probably familiar with the modern coinage of Bermuda, such as the 1970 coinage or the odd triangle-shaped collector’s coins issued in the recent past; however, you are likely much less aware of their earlier coinage. Like most other British colonies, one might assume that Regal coinage was issued in a sporadic fashion that provides a handful of examples to collect. This assumption, however, would be incorrect. In fact, the 1793 Penny would be the first Regally sanctioned coinage issued in Bermuda during its first three centuries under English control. Sportack discusses the numerous explanations of why this might have been in his article. He notes that coins were likely issued as a commemorative to mark Bermuda’s settlement of a capital city (i.e., Hamilton). Looking over various historical accounts, it appears that this was a hotly debated topic amongst Bermudians, and therefore was deserving of a celebratory coinage. Sportack argues that this was likely proposed to George III to increase the chances of the new coinage being approved. This seems logical given the Monarch’s resistance towards issuing copper coinage despite the shortage of low denomination coins even in England at the time.

    Eventually, the coinage was approved, and permission was granted to use the King’s effigy on the pieces; however, the burden fell on Bermuda and not the crown to acquire the materials needed and secure a contract with a Mint to produce the coinage. The Royal mint would play no part in their final production. Bermuda contracted John Brickwood of London to act as their agent, and Brickwood contacted Boulton on November 8th, 1792 (Sportack, 2001; Doty, 1998). Boulton replied the next day, and as Sportack points out seems to suggest that he has dies ready-made for use. Looking at the obverse design, it is clear that the design used is some rendition of George III’s effigy designed by Droz (Link to an example in my collection). This obverse design was employed on numerous pattern Halfpennies struck in an attempt by Boulton to secure a contract to strike regal English copper coinage. The reverse design is new to me, but Sportack points out that it is likely attributable to the work of Noel-Alexandre Ponthon. I am not nearly as familiar with his work as I am that of Kuchler and Droz, but if the reverse design is his, then he was quite talented. The idea of recycling old designs is something that would occur again with the coinage of the Bahamas in 1806. This process served to keep Boulton’s expenses down.

    Like most of the pieces struck by Boulton, not to his fault, there was a lengthy delay between initial talks and actual production. A total of 100 specimens had been sent to Bermuda on May 9th, 1793, but over a month later, there was no response back from Bermuda. It would not be until April of 1794 that the final products would make their way into circulation. Although the actual mintage figures for the 1793 Bermuda coinage is a mystery, most estimates fall in a range from 70,000 to 83, 589 pieces. According to several records, it appears that this coinage disappeared from the Island by 1823, and no effort was made to seek another contract.

    Many of you are probably wondering why these pieces are so rare today. A mintage of 80,000 or so would likely ensure a decent amount of well-preserved survivors; however, this is clearly not the case. Finding a well-preserved example is no easy feat, and a quick trip over to the Heritage archives confirms this with just 24 sold examples in Mint state since 2009. We can bump this number up to 29 if we include AU examples. Even the TPG data confirm this with only 37 Mint state examples at NGC and 17 at PCGS. So what gives, why did so few mint state examples survive? One potential explanation is that a large amount were melted down as the intrinsic value of the metal quickly exceeded the declared value of the coin. Sportack provides some evidence that large numbers of these pieces were exported to Spain for this very reason, and perhaps an equally large number were melted to meet domestic metal needs to produce products that were otherwise not economically viable to ship to Bermuda. To this extent, the mintage figure becomes irrelevant as it would likely have little to no bearing on the number of well-preserved examples left for collectors today. If you find this intriguing or would like to check out some other Soho products, I encourage you to check out my custom registry set over at NGC (Link to my set).

    The newest addition to my collection (Pridmore 5A; S4/4):

    IMG_0001.JPG IMG_0002.JPG
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  3. giorgio11

    giorgio11 Senior Numismatist

    Beautiful, rare coin and a great article. Thanks for sharing all of that and congratulations on your new prize!

    Kind regards,

    Coinsandmedals likes this.
  4. Evan Saltis

    Evan Saltis College Dorm Collector Supporter

    Truly a beautiful coin. One I could never afford, but would be lying if I said I didn't want one.
    Coinsandmedals likes this.
  5. dirty_brian

    dirty_brian Well-Known Member

    mine has seen a lot of hands and pockets. I think I bought it for $7. yours is amazing
  6. Coinsandmedals

    Coinsandmedals Well-Known Member

    Thank everyone for your kind words!

    @dirty_brian that looks better than most and for $7 how could you go wrong?
  7. Chris B

    Chris B Supporter! Supporter

    I thought I had one but was mistaken. Similar but later and wrong location.

  8. Coinsandmedals

    Coinsandmedals Well-Known Member

    @Chris B very nice piece! I just recently traded a proof restrike of the same type. This is the obverse design that Boulton recycled from the English Halfpennies.

    Here is a picture of the coin I used to own

    1806 Bahamas Restrike Plain Edge Penny PCGS PR-63 BN.jpg
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