NGC-certified 1897 Szechuan Ferracute Pattern Set Expected to Break Records in Heritage Auction

Posted on 12/11/2019

This renowned double specimen set ranks among the most important Chinese numismatic items.

An 1897 Szechuan Ferracute Pattern Set certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation™ (NGC®) will be the dazzling centerpiece of an upcoming Heritage Auctions sale. This famed double specimen set of 10 silver and brass coins is one of only three complete sets known to exist.

Offered as a single lot, the set is expected to break price records in the Heritage Auctions Hong Kong International Numismatic Fair (HKINF) World and Ancient Coins Signature Auction, taking place December 5-6, 2019.

The 1897 Szechuan Ferracute Pattern Set includes 10 silver and brass coins with grades ranging from NGC SP 63 to SP 66.
Click image to enlarge.

The provenance of this set is well-documented and demonstrates the historical connection between US and China mints. The story begins when the Ferracute Machine Company of Bridgeton, New Jersey was awarded the contract to provide coining presses for the Chengtu Mint in Szechuan Province.

Ferracute was selected for the job through American Trading Company, a New York-based importer and exporter with a presence in several Chinese cities. Previously, Ferracute had provided presses for the US Mint in Philadelphia. (Notably, the Philadelphia Mint would become the model for the Shanghai Mint when it was designed in 1921.)

On March 24, 1897, Ferracute demonstrated the presses it built for China at its factory in New Jersey. A small number of patterns were struck in silver and brass, with US Mint officials and other dignitaries present, including US Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber, who engraved the dies for these patterns based on the twisting dragon design of the Kwangtung dollar. (A pattern is a proposed coin design or composition.)

The day after the demonstration, the presses were shipped to China, but the journey proved too arduous for the dies, which rusted and had to be re-created. Thus, the small sample of coins struck at the Ferracute factory are presumably the only coins produced with Barber’s original dies before they were damaged.

The set in its original wooden case.
Click image to enlarge.

At the time Ferracute struck the patterns, a few, round wooden cases were made to display the entire 10-piece set. Three of these presentation sets have been confirmed. One resides in the Smithsonian Institution. Another is in a private collection in Asia. The last—the NGC-certified set that will be sold by Heritage Auctions in December—was given to American Trading Company and kept by the salesman who completed the deal with China.

This set was submitted to NGC for certification in 2017 by Clark Smith, a respected world coin dealer. The 10 coins were still in their original wooden case, where they had been for more than 100 years. While the case had provided protection, the coins were glued inside.

Numismatic Conservation Services™ (NCS®), an independent affiliate of NGC that specializes in coin conservation, expertly removed the glue and fibers while preserving the coins’ attractive original patina. To see a gallery of before and after images of the set, go to NGCcoin.com/gallery/ferracute.

“To be part of this set’s legacy by conserving, authenticating and grading these amazing coins is a thrill and a privilege,” said Mark Salzberg, NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer. “We are proud that NGC certification will protect these incredible coins and their legacy for future generations.”

The reverse of the Silver 5 Cents before conservation by NCS (left) and after the glue and fibers were removed (right).
Click images to enlarge.

After conservation, the coins were authenticated, graded and encapsulated in NGC’s secure protective holders. The individual coins in the 1897 Szechuan Ferracute Pattern set are:

  • A Silver Pattern Dollar graded NGC SP 65
  • A Silver Pattern 50 Cents graded NGC SP 63
  • A Silver Pattern 20 Cents graded NGC SP 65
  • A Silver Pattern 10 Cents graded NGC SP 65
  • A Silver Pattern 5 Cents graded NGC SP 65
  • A Brass Pattern Dollar graded NGC SP 63
  • A Brass Pattern 50 Cents graded NGC SP 64+
  • A Brass Pattern 20 Cents graded NGC SP 66
  • A Brass Pattern 10 Cents graded NGC SP 65
  • A Brass Pattern 5 Cents graded NGC SP 65

“It was a great honor to have owned this fantastic set for a brief time, and I am excited to pass its extraordinary beauty and history on to another collector,” said Smith, the consignor of the set to Heritage Auctions. “NCS and NGC did outsanding work to preserve and protect these treasured coins.”

“This is one of the most important sets in all of Chinese numismatics. Its sale is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cris Bierrenbach, Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President. “NGC's certification will undoubtedly make it easier for collectors and dealers from around the world to appreciate and bid on these coins.”

For more information about this set and other pieces in the Heritage Auctions Hong Kong International Numismatic Fair Signature Auction, visit HA.com.


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