USA, regulated $15, Joseph Edwards plug and countermark (Boston, ca. 1780) on a Lima, Peru, cob 8 es

Currency:USD Category:Coins & Paper Money / US Coins Start Price:80,000.00 USD Estimated At:100,000.00 - 200,000.00 USD
USA, regulated $15, Joseph Edwards plug and countermark (Boston, ca. 1780) on a Lima, Peru, cob 8 es
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USA, regulated $15, Joseph Edwards plug and countermark (Boston, ca. 1780) on a Lima, Peru, cob 8 escudos, 1741V, extremely rare, NGC XF 40, ex-Brown (Chapman, 1911). 26.46 grams. (see separate writeup) Pedigreed to the Julius L. Brown collection (S.H. Chapman auction of 1911, plated as lot 343).

Unique Lima 8 Escudos Cob Regulated by Joseph Edwards, Jr. to $15 U.S. Standard

This coin bears several distinctions: So far, it is the earliest known genuine host for a regulated doubloon (see accompanying article, “The Regulated Gold Coinage of North America and the West Indies in the Late 1700s”); it is the only known regulated coin with the mark of Joseph Edwards, Jr.; and it is the only known non-imitation cob to be regulated to the $15 standard. Its weight is 26.46 grams = 408.34 grains = 17 pennyweight (dwt), which matches a value of $15 as established by the Bank of New York in 1784. Since a mint-fresh Lima cob 8 escudos typically weighs 27 grams (418 grains), it is evident the present coin was lightly shaved (visible in two places on the edge) and then plugged to bring the weight back up to meet the $15 standard.

The cross is quite bold, albeit slightly off-center, and the pillars-and-waves are complete, with bold date and traces of a second date in the legend at 11 o’clock. Some elegant toning enhances the quadrants of the cross and the tic-tac-toe design of the pillars. The plug and countermark reside at the foot of the lower-left lion, seemingly a random placement but perhaps chosen so that minimal coin design was lost in the process.

Seven specimens of regulated milled 8 escudos are publicly known. The present coin, the only regulated cob 8 escudos known so far, has specific appeal to treasure- and cob-collecting U.S. numismatists.

A Family of Distinguished Metalsmiths in Boston, Massachusetts

Joseph Edwards, Jr. (1737-spring, 1783), whose regulation imprimatur graces this coin as a simple J•E countermark in rectangular indent pressed onto a weight-adjusting plug, was born into a family of distinguished Boston metalsmiths. His grandfather, John Edwards (1671-1746), was born in England but came to Boston in 1688 and was described in the Boston Evening Post of April 14, 1746 (six days after his death), as “John Edwards, goldsmith” and “a Gentleman of a very fair Character and well respected by all that knew him.” Two of John’s sons, Thomas and Samuel, continued in the metalsmith business, while their brother Joseph became a military man and town officer and later a bookstore owner and printer and therefore was not part of the family legacy of metalsmithing. Joseph’s son, however, Joseph Edwards, Jr., apprenticed under one or both of his uncles to become a metalsmith in his own right, advertising his trade as early as 1758. In 1765 his shop sustained a significant burglary, according to a report in the March 21 Boston News Letter, which listed the stolen items, in addition to some tableware, as the following (misspellings in original):

34 pairs of wrought Silver Shoe Buckles, 20 pair of similar knee buckles, 6 pair of plain shoe buckles, 2 Silver Snuff Boxes, one with a Tortoise Shell Top, 9 Stock Buckles, 3 gold Necklaces, 5 gold Rings, several pair Stone Buttons, 3 pair brilliant Stone Earings, set in Gold, 5 pair gold cypher earings, several pair of silver cypher earings, several stone Rings; a Box of Gold Beads; 3 child’s Whistles; one pair of gold Buttons and 1 silver Pipe.

Edwards offered a $20 reward for the recovery of said items. This is not a trivial amount for the time, nor was the size of the loss, which demonstrates the advanced state of Edwards’ business. Further evidence that Joseph Edwards, Jr. was a significant silversmith is the fact that his mark is known on several important silver items that still exist today, namely a set of six military camp cups for Nathaniel Greene (George Washington’s second-in-command) , a baptismal basin for North Church in Salem, Massachusetts, and a chalice for First Baptist Church in Boston. In addition, the Metropolitan Museum collection in New York City includes six silver tableware items made and marked by Edwards, attributed to the period of 1760s to early 1780s. In 2003, Sotheby’s (New York) sold a Joseph Edwards. Jr. silver teapot for $72,000. At what point he began regulating gold coins is unknown.

By matching the I•E mark on this coin with the exact same mark for Joseph Edwards, Jr. on worked silver items, we can be sure it was he who regulated this coin and not his grandfather, John. Since Joseph Edwards, Jr. died no later than early May of 1783, apparently childless and unmarried, the present coin must have been regulated on or before that date and possibly even before the Revolution.

It is important to note that, despite Joseph Edwards, Jr.’s fame as a silversmith, his mark was heretofore unknown on coins, and in fact is missing in the Ralph Gordon reference West Indies Countermarked Gold Coins (1987), which does list several coins with the marks of Ephraim Brasher (EB, the same mark that is seen on the coins he struck outright in 1786-87), Joseph Burger (script B) and Joseph Richardson (IR), among others now attributed to American metalsmiths (like F& G, I•LT, OH, TP, TS and TU). The I•E mark is also missing in the Edward Roehrs Collection (Heritage 2010, touted as “the largest offering of these historic coins… probably ever”).

Modern History of the Edwards-regulated Lima 8E 1741

The first appearance of this coin known to us was in a May 1911 auction (Lippincott, Son & Co., Philadelphia) cataloged by numismatist S.H. Chapman of the collection of Julius L. Brown (1848-1910), son of famous Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown (1857-1865) and older brother of Joseph M. Brown, who was also governor of Georgia (1909-11 and 1912-13) and executor of Julius’ estate. A former Confederate soldier and Harvard Law Graduate, Julius became a well-known attorney in Atlanta and a significant benefactor of Georgia Tech University. This coin was lot 343 in the Chapman auction (with photo plate, as shown above), simply described as “Countermarked” and “408 grains,” and sold for a mere $19. After the 1911 auction, this coin has traveled from different collections, apparently undetected as a regulated gold piece until the last decade, when it came back to the U.S from Europe and was properly identified, graded and certified by NGC.
1 In fact, General Greene was given command of Boston after it was evacuated by the British in March 1776, so most likely he obtained the cups from Edwards shortly thereafter.
2 Joseph Edwards. Jr had a stepmother, Hepzibah, who married his father in 1763, and was a celebrated letter writer who documented the death of her stepson (“poor fellow is gone”) on May 14, 1783 with an implication that he had no wife or offspring to take care of her (see Dering Letters, Volume 2, 1776-1800, p. 84).
3 The elder Joseph Brown was a leading secessionist during the Civil War and at some time after the war he served as chief justice and senator for the state as well.
4 In fact, the younger Joseph Brown was in office as governor at the time of the auction of his brother’s collection.
5 Tantalizingly, a copy of the catalog available online and pictured here bears handwritten notes in the margin that appear to be of a major buyer, who in fact bought this coin and many other important U.S. coins


The Regulated Gold Coinage of North America and the
West Indies in the Late 1700s