Click to enlargeJ1748/P1960

This popular pattern has 'E Pluribus Unum' in raised letters on the edge. Remember to click on the thumbnail image for a better picture of the edge lettering.

Examples were struck as follows:

Silver J1747/P1959 with about 15-20 known.

Copper J1748/P1960 with about 15-20 known.

Aluminum J1749/P1961 with about 8-10 known. When Brand purchased one from Henry Chapman on 4/22/1899 journal #20658, he noted "only 10" which may actually be correct !! Col Green owned 3.

Please note that the listing for the plain edge copper example of J1750A/P1962 has been discredited. That coin ex Randall 4/1897, Brand #16945, B.G. Johnson invoices (Boyd on 7/16/1941 and Kosoff on 5/9/1945 per Newman Numismatic Portal), Farouk, Crouch-Superior 8/77 was described as having partial edge lettering. It is possible that the collar slipped or broke during the striking of this coin. This coin was later graded PCGS62RB as a J1748/P1960 when it appeared in Superior 1/96 and Bowers and Merena 1/97 sales.

Image of the copper dollar is courtesy of Teletrade, image of the edge device courtesy of Bowers and Merena.

The story behind the lettered edge shown below is courtesy of Roger Burdette.

Late in 1884, Snowden became aware of the arrest of two counterfeiters. In their possession were false dies "…prepared by a process, which if intelligently followed, would practically place the coinage of our country at the mercy of those possessing the secret….By this process, as you [Director Burchard] and the Secretary of the Treasury are aware, I recently produced one cent pieces, which…an expert, long connected with this mint, pronounced…from genuine dies."

Snowden began a series of experiments aimed at producing a mechanism for impressing raised lettering on the edge of a coin without damaging the lettering thus produced. The process is fairly simple to describe: "…a segmented collar could open to receive the blank, close when the pressure was applied, and open at the instant the lower die lifted the coin out of the collar." This was, however, a task that most of the mint mechanics thought was impossible to do on production presses. After much experimentation, on June 12, 1885 Snowden and the mint staff succeeded in getting the mechanism to work at normal production speeds of eighty to one hundred ten coins per minute.

Superintendent Snowden explained the new edge collar in more detail to director Horatio Burchard in a letter dated June 23, 1885.

The collar used is in three segments, with the letters, "E Pluribus Unum" sunk on the inner circle. This collar is enclosed in a steel ring fitted to the brass table of the coining press. The segments are held in place by springs underneath, which by the movement of the ring opens the collar. Through the brass table, a rod connected on each side is moved backward and forward by cams, which are worked from the main shaft of the press, closing and opening the segmented collar. The ring, through which the collar is opened and closed, has on its inside circumference, three circular widges, to which the outside of the segments are fitted. The partial revolution of the ring acting on the line of the widges, forces the segments toward their common center, thereby closing the collar. The movement in opening and closing the segments, must be in exact harmony with the complex movement of the press, by which the planchets or blanks are carried forward from the tubes by the feeders, dropped on the dies, stamped, thrown up by the lower die, and carried off by the feeder in placing the succeeding blank in the collar, [all] at a speed of 80 to 110 per minute.

As a mechanical appliance it is very accurate in its work, the letters can be placed even on so small and thin a coin as the gold dollar. The cost of making the attachment…will be insignificant – say one hundred and fifty dollars each."

Snowden's opinion was that coins with raised edge lettering would not only be beautiful, but more secure from counterfeiting and alteration than reeded-edge coins. But, if the mechanism worked well and was relatively inexpensive and offered greater protection to the coins, why was it not used? The answers may be near the end of Snowden’s long letter.

"As I am about retiring from the Mint, I must leave to my successor and to you the labor of obtaining such legislation from Congress as will authorize the placing of raised letters upon our precious metal coins. I enclose herewith a specimen of the coin in copper, for yourself."

Director Burchard left office within a month; Snowden resigned before the end of the year. No one with the superintendent’s insight, ability or willingness to experiment stepped up to complete the work. Snowden closed his report by thanking engraver Charles Barber, assistant engraver William Key and mechanic George Soley for perfecting the mechanism.