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NNP Blog

Jun 08 2020

More on the Golden Biscuit

In the 6/7/2020 E-Sylum Ron Guth mentioned the “golden biscuit,” referring to an 1816 N-1 large cent presented by Doug Smith in an 1976 EAC whist match with Ted Naftzger. Newman Portal results for “golden biscuit” provide additional context on the use of this term. The earliest mention found is the February 1976 Stack’s sale in which the cataloguer (probably Smith) describes an 1827 N-1 cent, in part: “the obverse brings to mind a golden biscuit fresh from the oven.” The usage of the term evolves to silver coins, such as in Goldberg’s Kardatzke I (February 2002, lot 1165) where an 1894-S 50c is cataloged as “a golden biscuit from the mint’s oven. Lovely and delicious.” Still, “golden biscuit” is used primarily with copper and more specifically with the Smith 1816 N-1, which reappears in in the Stack’s Halpern sale (March 1988, lot 286). 

Good coins need good names, such as the “ice cream” specimen of the 1894-S dime, or the “Martha Washington” 1792 half disme. This is a longstanding tradition within American numismatics, well-established with the publication of the Dr. Maris 1869 work on 1794 cent varieties. Maris proposed descriptive terms for various 1794 large cent varieties, such as the “scarred head,” “pyramidal head,” “patagonian,” etc. The sheer quantity of coin varieties demands the use of numbers at some point, but the use of descriptive terms for more memorable pieces lends color to what might otherwise be tedious technical studies.

Link to NNP search results for “golden biscuit”: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/searchwithterms?searchterm=golden%20biscuit
Link to Edward Maris’s Varieties of Copper Issues of the United State Mint in the Year 1794: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/523977
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