“Open for me your cabinet of Patterns, and I open for you a record, which, but for these half-forgotten witnesses, would have disappeared under the finger of Time. ....Now, only these live to tell the tale of what might have been.” Those words of Mint Curator Patterson DuBois in the January 1883 American Journal of Numismatics still speak volumes about this often neglected area of U.S. numismatics. Even more than their intended-for-commerce brethren, patterns reflect the events, economics and personalities of their time. The status, origins, the very definition of these frequently enigmatic pieces have been a subject of fascination and debate ever since the little-known Mint products first came to the attention of collectors in the 1830s.
In his 1994 reference United States Patterns and Related Issues, numismatic researcher Andrew W. Pollock III defines a pattern as “an experimental piece which either illustrates a proposed coinage design, or which embo.... (Expand Text)