Circular from the Director of the Mint James Pollock dated July 1, 1866, regarding pattern and experimental coins

The following document is from the Mint Archives. It makes for interesting reading as some of the discussion especially regarding off-metal pieces appears to have been ignored.

"The occasion calls for a revision of our operations in this line, and for some reduction of prices, as will be found in the annexed schedule. And as cognate branches, it is proposed to unite therewith, the annual issue of proof or master coins of the regular series, as heretofore; and the specimen or pattern coins which are not adopted, or do not become so, within the year of their date, (The term pattern is used here, out of deference to the technicalities of collectors, not because of its peculiar fitness; for if the pieces fails to be adopted, it is not properly a pattern. Experimental is a better term.) These last have hirherto been given out, or withheld by no rule whatsoever; although they have by degrees attained to a very considerable importance, on account of the eagerness of many collectors to obtain them. There is, indeed a pretty strong reason, why these should be used only for their special purpose; namely to aid the Treasury Department, or a Congressional Committee, in forming an idea of the size, appearance and practicability of any newly propsed coin, or of any change of devices in an old one. But it has been found impossible to put this rigid limit upon them. If ew strike only a few, the ambitious collector will have one at any price; and competition is created, out of all proportions to the merits of the prize; It seems better, therefore, avoiding the error of making such pieces to plentiful, to give some scope to the acquisition of them.

This whole department will be under the supervision of the Director of the Mint, and all inquiries and requests, with or without money, much be addressed to him. The medals and coins will be in the responsible custody of one of his clerks, who will also attend to the orders, reply to letters, and keep the accouts. The making of dies and the striking of medals, proofs, and patterns, will be in the charge of the Engraver, and at his responsibility; other officers of the Mint rendering such aid of materials and machinery as may fall within their province. These arrangements, though internal, are here openly stated, witho a view to assure the public that there is a system of suitable cheks and guards, against under or secret issue of coins.

The ensuing rules are in plain terms, and hardly require a statement of reasons. It may be said, however, in regard to the rule against striking a coin or pattern after its proper date, that while it seemed desirable that some patterns of former years, which are very scarce or curious should be repeated, yet we could not issue them impartially, without giving out an indefinite number. And if some kinds are thus struck, there would be a call for other kinds; there would be no knowing where to begin or end.

Pieces struck out of date, bear a falsity on their face, and have not the interest or value of a synchronous issue. An undertainty is also kept up, as to the extent of the supply. And if the case of regular coinage, they so far falsify the Mint records and Tables, as to the amount of coinage and delivery, or as to the very fact of such and such pieces having been coined in any given year.

On the whole, therefore, it seemed a plain course, to let the past go, and begin afresh. And it is a satisfaction to be able to assure all parties, that there has been no resurgent striking in the present Directorship.

The striking of specimens in other than their proper metal, never much practiced, is to be discontinued. This irregularity has, of course, never been with unlawful intent, and never would have happened, but for the importunate desire to possess something odd, or to avoid the outlay of gold or silver. Such pieces have been struck, as patterns, from the dime of 1792 down to our day; but the united voice now is against using dies meant for gold or silver upon copper or other base metal.


1. No coins, nor pattern pieces, shall be struck after the year of their date; and to insure this, the dies shall be rendered unfit for that use.

2. No coins, nor patterns, are to be issued in any but their proper metal.

3. Any experimental or pattern piece can be obtained at the Mint, within the year of its date, but not after. Standing orders for such pieces will be registered, and attended to. Any patterns that remain on hand, at the end of the year, must be defaced: It is not desirable to make them as common as proofs of regular coinage. If any sets of regular proofs remain over, they may be sold in the next year, but not later.

4. The price of pattern coin, in any but precious metal, will be three dollars in currency; if in gold or silver, the value of the metal is to be added. But when a pattern piece is adopted and used in the regular coinage, in the same year, it will then be issued as a proof, at a price near its current value; or if it comes our early in the year, it will be placed in the regular proof set. The Director reserves the right to send a pattern piece, without charge, to any incorporated Numismatic Society in the United States. In such cases, if the pattern is gold or silver, the value of the metal will be expected.

5. The price of the regular proof set of gold, will be fourty-three dollars in gold; the proof set of silver and copper, three dollars in silver as heretofore.

6. The profits of this whole department are reserved to the Medal Fund, which is a part of the public moneys; and are not to be perquisite to any person holding a place in the Mint. All such persons are expected to refrain from dealings in this line, or affording aid to friends or dealers outside. If this expectation is counteracted, it will call for serious notice."