1783 John Chalmers Shilling. W-1785. Short Worm. AU-50 (PCGS).
The Mickley (1867) 1783 Chalmers Shilling
55.56 grains. "Perfectly uncirculated, and as fine [a] specimen as can be produced," in the words of cataloger W. Elliot Woodward in the 1867 Joseph J. Mickley sale. The surfaces are a lovely even gray with hints of deep blue, with a liveliness that we can't call luster, but not far removed thereof. The strike is perfect on both sides, with none of the localized weakness from axial misalignment seen so often on this issue. Likewise, the planchet is flawless, with no striations or other issues. The centers are crisp and bold. We can forgive Woodward for calling this Uncirculated considering its detail and eye appeal, but there is a whisper of friction on the high points. The centering is ideal on the reverse, with bold denticles around the full circumference. The obverse is only trivially misaligned, with denticles all the way around and the die edge visible above CHALMERS. An old field scratch is noted below CHA, but no other problems require mention. The visual appeal surpasses nearly every specimen offered in the last decade.
The provenance is unsurpassable. This piece is accompanied by a note reading "Chalmers shilling, sixpence, and threepence coined by John Chalmers at Annapolis in 1783. This is as fine a set of these rare pieces as there is in existence. I purchased them from the Mickley Collection and paid forty one dollars for them. I have given them to Robert Perkins, Feb. 12. 1881. F.S. Perkins." Consulting the reprint of the priced and named Mickley sale published by Charles Davis in 1996, we find that lot 2531, a set of shilling, sixpence, and threepence all graded Uncirculated, indeed sold for $41 to a bidder using the name McCoy (code names were often used in this era). Further delving finds that F[rederick]. S[tanton]. Perkins of Burlington, Wisconsin subscribed to the American Journal of Numismatics in July 1871 and remained active in numismatics and archaeology throughout the 1880s. He died in Cincinnati in 1895 and was described in his obituary as a "painter and antiquary." He was an abolitionist (his home served as a stop on the Underground Railroad), a leading collector of Indian artifacts (he owned 34,000 stone implements), and a friend to celebrities from Asher B. Durand to Ralph Waldo Emerson. What happened to the sixpence and threepence we don't know, nor do we know how the shilling got to Craige, along with the note passing this shilling along to Perkins' son Robert, who was just 11 years old when he received this magnificent coin from his father. Thanks to F.S. Perkins' foresight, we not only have a coin with an unbroken provenance to one of the greatest cabinets of coins ever formed, we also have the opportunity to tell the story of his numismatic endeavors for the first time in over a century.
The note referenced in the second paragraph of this description is available to the winning bidder upon request to Stack's Bowers Galleries after the close of the auction.
Pedigree: From the Ted L. Craige Collection. From W. Elliot Woodward's sale of the Joseph J. Mickley Collection, October 1867, lot 2531; Frederick Stanton Perkins to Robert Perkins on February 12, 1881; unknown intermediaries to Ted Craige. Paper envelope with attribution and pedigree notes included.