Funding a Nation
Alexander Hamilton’s Request for Copper, and the Coins that Copper Became, in Rago’s June Auctions
24 May 2018
Seldom does one get to handle a piece of American history as important as a document written by one of our Founding Fathers. But to have both a document written by Alexander Hamilton requesting $10,000 for copper to be struck as the first coinage in the United States, as well as several of the coins minted under this request in the same auction series is simply kismet.
Both the letter and the coins will be offered for sale at Rago on June 9. The letter, penned and signed by Alexander Hamilton, reads as follows:
December 18. 1793.
For the purpose of obtaining a final settlement at the Treasury of the bills drawn on Amsterdam, I have this day issued a warrant on you in favor of the Treasurer of the United States for ten thousand dollars, being the amount of the bills furnished by you to the Director of the Mint. I have therefore to request that until an appropriation be made for the purpose (a circumstance which will shortly take place) you will be pleased to consider the said 10,000 dollars as an advance on account of the Mint. I have [illegible] a warrant to cover all your advances heretofore to that establishment [illegible] of two June for the purchase of copper which must also want an appropriation.
I have the honor to be,
With great respect, Gentlemen
Your Obed’ Servant.
The President and Director
Of the Bank of the US.
The Bank of the United States was created to assume the Revolutionary War debts of several states; pay off the war debts accumulated through the Revolution by the United States Government; raise money to operate the new government; and create a common currency. This correspondence from Alexander Hamilton to the President of the Bank of the United States was an effort to fulfill the last of these aims, the creation of a common currency.
The deposit requested in this letter was provided to the Treasury Department of the United States for the purchase of copper on behalf of the United States Mint. The mint struck the first official coinage in March 3, 1793.
Several coins likely struck with the copper ordered and paid for by this letter will be offered the same day during the Coins + Currency Auction, including two 1793 Chain Cent Coins and a 1793 Liberty Cap One Cent Coin. 1793 Chain Cents were designed and engraved by the mint director Henry Voigt and have a mintage 36,103 - of which it is estimated that slightly over 1,000 have survived to present day. The two examples that will be offered are graded PCGS Fine 12 and Fine 15, respectively.
The 1793 Liberty Cap One Cent Coin comes from a mintage of only 11,056 with an estimated survival quantity of 450 - making this coin a true rarity in any grade. The example which we will be offering is graded Very Good, details with corrosion.
Fateful as this pairing is, these lots represent only a brief glimpse at the quality and quantity of property on offer in Rago’s June 9 auctions.