This is the Martha Washington quarter. It is believed to be the first metallurgical trials using the current cupro-nickel clad planchets. The Martha Washington obverse was designed by Edward R. Grove and the reverse is by Philip Fowler.
There are 6 examples in the Smithsonian embedded in two blocks of blue lucite along with J2101/P2081 and J2134/P2083. To view one of these blocks, click here.
The first example reported in private hands was by Michael Byers, uspatterns.com member #88. For more on this piece, click here. Another example from different dies, was offered in Superior's 11/03 and 2/05 sales. This discovery was made by your editor, Saul Teichman, and was the subject of an article in the December 22, 2003 edition of Coin World by Eric von Klinger. Both are shown for comparison below:
On the first illustrated piece, the Byers example, the lettering on both sides is closer to the rims. On the obverse, Edward Grove's initials are under Martha's neck to the left of the "1" in "1759" and on the reverse, the tree touches the letter "A" in "Washington". This is the same die arrangement as used on the Smithsonian pieces, all 3 denominations, known to have been struck in 1965.
On the second illustrated piece, the Superior example, the lettering on both sides is further from the rims and Edward Grove's initials are not on the obverse. On the reverse the tree touches the "S" in "Washington". This die arrangement is the same as used on the 1999 pieces used to test the Sacagawea dollar planchets - J2185.
Since this was written, a second example from the first set of dies like the Byers piece was offered in Stacks 6/06 sale. The Stacks example was later graded NGC63 and consigned to Heritage. At least 2 are known from the later dies. The total known today is over a dozen.
In addition to the cupro-nickel clad examples listed above, these were struck in additional alloys as shown below which were taken from the "Final Report on a Study of Alloys Suitable for Use as United States Coinage to U.S. Department of the Treasury Bureau of the Mint February 12, 1965" by Batelle Memorial Institute:
50% silver, 50% copper J2117
silver clad J2118
columbium (type 1) J2119
columbium (type 2) J2120
Monel (nickel base alloy) J2122
nickel-5% silicon with magnetic core J2123
stainless steel (type 301-Type I) J2124
stainless steel (type 301-Type II) J2125
stainless steel (type 302) J2126
With regard to the alloys, the first 4 were considered the best choices for coining with the last 4, the worst. It is clear that the Monel and stainless steel pieces, for example, did not strike up fully. It is not known if any of these other pieces still exist. As expected, they were struck from the earlier dies.
These Martha Washington dies are now used by the U.S. Mint to test various planchet sizes and alloys. They were used in 1999 to test the new "brass" planchet used on the Sacagawea dollar. To view one of these trial pieces, click here.
These dies were also given out to certain vendors including IDX Inc, PMX Industries and the Olin Brass Corporation by the Mint to test planchets and may be the source for the one or two pieces which have recently appeared in collector's hands.
A waffle cancelled example appeared in Heritage 4/14 sale.
Photos courtesy of Michael Byers and Superior.