A new exhibit at the American Numismatic Association’s Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo., shows coins that could have lined people’s pockets – such as the 1863 Washington 2-cent piece – but never made it past a trial design.
This display of 19th century pattern coins, unveiled on Nov. 15, is an expansion of the museum’s interactive Harry W. Bass Jr. Exhibit. The permanent gallery displays 80 years’ worth of pattern coins.
Pattern coins can tell visitors a great deal about the times they were created in, with items of special interest for coin collectors, history buffs, artists and designers.
“Artistically, the various designs provide an interesting look at what coin designers were thinking at the time,” said Douglas Mudd, Money Museum curator. “This is what our money could have looked like. It’s one of the finest collections out there.”
The collection reveals much about America’s political climate during the 1800s, Mudd said. While seeing former presidents and other important historical leaders on money is common practice today, it was a different story in the 1800s. At that time, Mudd explained, portraits of real people on currency had been traditionally reserved for monarchs.
Economically, the coins document the debate over the use of a gold or silver standard to back U.S. currency. Another major topic of the time was the potential introduction of a world-wide currency standard – several series of patterns were created during this period to explore how U.S. coins could be made to match the standard used by the Latin Monetary Union, such as the famous “Stella” series of $4 gold coins.
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These specimens are part of the collection assembled by the late Harry W. Bass Jr., for whom the gallery is named. Bass was a life member of the ANA for more than 30 years and was inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame in 1998.
For more information about the exhibit or the ANA, call (719) 632-2646, or go to www.money.org.