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Enigmatic and Extremely Rare New Yorke in America Token

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Enigmatic and Extremely Rare New Yorke in America Token

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Details

(ca. 1668-1673) New Yorke in America token. Breen-245. Brass. VF Details, holed and plugged (PCGS). A nearly impossibly rare entry in the canon of colonial coins and tokens, the single earliest numismatic item to mention New York. With a population perhaps as low as a dozen in private hands, the number of colonial coin enthusiasts who will ever own one is far surpassed by the number who have looked curiously and longingly at its entry early in the colonial section of the Red Book. This one is deep gold with some darker toning, the surfaces granular in areas suggestive of some ground exposure. Bits of dark scale surround the legend NEW YORKE IN AMERICA and some devices. The legend is, unlike that seen on some specimens, complete, but for the left edge of N in NEW which has been reengraved as part of an ancient plug closing an even more ancient hole. The plugging and reengraving within the tree on the obverse is fairly subtle, while it is more easily discerned in the area over the eagle on the reverse. The devices are well defined, and if the overall eye appeal is something less than perfect, the rarity of this piece more than makes up for it. Only a handful have been offered over the years, most recently including the superb Ted Craige piece that realized $94,000 in the March 2013 StacksBowers sale. 

 

In his definitive 1991 paper on the New Yorke in America token, John Kleeberg's thoroughly researched census discovered 20 different ascertainable provenance chains for brass examples, some of which dead-end decades ago, others of which start in the late 20th century, and two of which rely on a Breenian recollection of examples turning up in Civil War token lots that may or may not be apocraphal. Of those 19 chains, we can definitively locate 14 that were sold in the age of reasonably competent photography or are currently located in museum collections. At least one more has been discovered since 1991 (a nice example that showed up on my desk at Bowers and Merena in 2002 in a plain letter-sized envelope from Belgium). This example, sold at auction as part of the "Old New England" collection, does not match any of the specimens listed on Kleeberg's census. Based upon other coins in that collection that were either known to have been owned by, or published in Colonial Newsletter by William Wild of New York, several modern researchers have attributed his name to that collection. Wild, best known for publishing the rare monograph "6 Over 12" on the Oak Tree sixpences overstruck on cut-down Oak Tree shillings, was a fixture in the New York numismatic scene of the late 1960s. If this piece was his (not yet a proveable notion), it may be either 9 or 10 on the Kleeberg census, representing two examples owned by Virgil Brand. Many of Brand's duplicates were sold in the 1960s through New Netherlands Coin Company, one of the primary sources for other pieces in the "Old New England" collection. Of the 19 listings Kleeberg notes, five are currently in museums (Dutch Royal Coin Cabinet, Smithsonian ex Norweb, the Garrett coin that was donated to Colonial Williamsburg by Joe Lasser, and the two examples in the ANS). The better of the two ANS coins is holed and plugged, the other is not as sharp as this one. 

 

In a cataloguing career that spans two centuries (and more than 15 years) specializing in colonials, I only ever catalogued two of these: the newly discovered 2002 specimen and the Craige coin. I've seen only a few more. While Kleeberg's research did much to unlock these enigmatic pieces, including the revelation that the obverse scene is a likely rebus for the last name of New York governor Francis Lovelace, much still remains to be discovered. I believe these pieces were struck in the Low Countries, and that their fabric and design closely resembles the English and Dutch tokens of the third quarter of the 17th century. I couldn't hazard a guess as to whether they were meant as marketing pieces, akin to the Franco-American jetons of the 18th century, or were actually an attempt to produce small change for New York City. The fact that none have been recovered archaeologically in America doesn't mean much: most of 17th century New York City was long gone by the American Revolution, and precious little has ever been recovered in modern times. Given that nearly all show significant circulation, and that at least a few are holed, I disagree that they are patterns: clearly these saw some use and distribution, enough to become worn, pierced, even lost. Their mystery perhaps adds to their romance, and no one can ever disagree that these things say "New Yorke in America." That's reason enough to want to own one.

 

Additional Information

Grading Service PCGS GEN
Grade VF20
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Circulated
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 28790734

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

Description

Details

(ca. 1668-1673) New Yorke in America token. Breen-245. Brass. VF Details, holed and plugged (PCGS). A nearly impossibly rare entry in the canon of colonial coins and tokens, the single earliest numismatic item to mention New York. With a population perhaps as low as a dozen in private hands, the number of colonial coin enthusiasts who will ever own one is far surpassed by the number who have looked curiously and longingly at its entry early in the colonial section of the Red Book. This one is deep gold with some darker toning, the surfaces granular in areas suggestive of some ground exposure. Bits of dark scale surround the legend NEW YORKE IN AMERICA and some devices. The legend is, unlike that seen on some specimens, complete, but for the left edge of N in NEW which has been reengraved as part of an ancient plug closing an even more ancient hole. The plugging and reengraving within the tree on the obverse is fairly subtle, while it is more easily discerned in the area over the eagle on the reverse. The devices are well defined, and if the overall eye appeal is something less than perfect, the rarity of this piece more than makes up for it. Only a handful have been offered over the years, most recently including the superb Ted Craige piece that realized $94,000 in the March 2013 StacksBowers sale. 

 

In his definitive 1991 paper on the New Yorke in America token, John Kleeberg's thoroughly researched census discovered 20 different ascertainable provenance chains for brass examples, some of which dead-end decades ago, others of which start in the late 20th century, and two of which rely on a Breenian recollection of examples turning up in Civil War token lots that may or may not be apocraphal. Of those 19 chains, we can definitively locate 14 that were sold in the age of reasonably competent photography or are currently located in museum collections. At least one more has been discovered since 1991 (a nice example that showed up on my desk at Bowers and Merena in 2002 in a plain letter-sized envelope from Belgium). This example, sold at auction as part of the "Old New England" collection, does not match any of the specimens listed on Kleeberg's census. Based upon other coins in that collection that were either known to have been owned by, or published in Colonial Newsletter by William Wild of New York, several modern researchers have attributed his name to that collection. Wild, best known for publishing the rare monograph "6 Over 12" on the Oak Tree sixpences overstruck on cut-down Oak Tree shillings, was a fixture in the New York numismatic scene of the late 1960s. If this piece was his (not yet a proveable notion), it may be either 9 or 10 on the Kleeberg census, representing two examples owned by Virgil Brand. Many of Brand's duplicates were sold in the 1960s through New Netherlands Coin Company, one of the primary sources for other pieces in the "Old New England" collection. Of the 19 listings Kleeberg notes, five are currently in museums (Dutch Royal Coin Cabinet, Smithsonian ex Norweb, the Garrett coin that was donated to Colonial Williamsburg by Joe Lasser, and the two examples in the ANS). The better of the two ANS coins is holed and plugged, the other is not as sharp as this one. 

 

In a cataloguing career that spans two centuries (and more than 15 years) specializing in colonials, I only ever catalogued two of these: the newly discovered 2002 specimen and the Craige coin. I've seen only a few more. While Kleeberg's research did much to unlock these enigmatic pieces, including the revelation that the obverse scene is a likely rebus for the last name of New York governor Francis Lovelace, much still remains to be discovered. I believe these pieces were struck in the Low Countries, and that their fabric and design closely resembles the English and Dutch tokens of the third quarter of the 17th century. I couldn't hazard a guess as to whether they were meant as marketing pieces, akin to the Franco-American jetons of the 18th century, or were actually an attempt to produce small change for New York City. The fact that none have been recovered archaeologically in America doesn't mean much: most of 17th century New York City was long gone by the American Revolution, and precious little has ever been recovered in modern times. Given that nearly all show significant circulation, and that at least a few are holed, I disagree that they are patterns: clearly these saw some use and distribution, enough to become worn, pierced, even lost. Their mystery perhaps adds to their romance, and no one can ever disagree that these things say "New Yorke in America." That's reason enough to want to own one.

 

Additional

Additional Information

Grading Service PCGS GEN
Grade VF20
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Circulated
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 28790734

Related Blog Article(s)

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

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