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December 2, 2002

CW acquires Lasser colonial coin collection

Joseph and Ruth Lasser of New York, N.Y., have presented the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation with a highly significant collection of 18 colonial American coins totaling more than $460,000 in appraised value. The collection will be on display in a future exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

“This gift has greatly enhanced Colonial Williamsburg’s numismatic collection,” said Erik Goldstein, Colonial Williamsburg curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “Not only has the Lasser gift rounded out our holdings in areas where previously we were wanting, but this donation really has put us on the map with a number of extremely important pieces.”

Highlights of the Lasser gift include:

  • An exceptional denomination set of 17th-century Massachusetts silver, including a large and small planchet Pine Tree shilling, a Pine Tree six-pence, a Pine Tree three-pence and an Oak Tree two-pence. The set also includes two contemporarily cut Pine Tree pieces produced during the period for small change.
  • A high grade “Rosa Americana” type set including a two-pence, a penny and a halfpenny.
  • Two 1737 Higley coppers (one ‘3 hammers’ and one ‘broad axe’ variety) struck by Dr. Samuel Higley in Granby, Conn. Once abundant, these coins were melted down in large quantities for use in alloying gold and silver due to their purity in content and, consequently, are very rare today.
  • One of the few known 1773 pattern Virginia halfpennies, in superb condition. This proof is one of the prototypes, struck to the Irish weight standard and is heavier than those struck for circulation. Unique in American colonial history, the Virginia halfpenny is the only coin produced under royal authority for the only colony with a legal right to such coinage.
  • An outstanding example of Benjamin Franklin’s 1776 “Continental Currency” tin pattern commonly known as the “Continental Dollar.” This coinage, with a sundial on one side and 13 chain links on the reverse, may be the most widely recognizable coin of the period.
  • A very well preserved 1792 pattern ½ dime believed to have been struck from silver donated by George and Martha Washington. Thomas Jefferson is known to have passed them out as presentation pieces to foreign and domestic VIPs. Washington referred to them as “a small beginning” for the new coinage in his annual address of November 1792, symbolic of our national sovereignty.
  • One of the eight known 1792 Birch Cents with a provenance going back to the Parmelee Sale of 1890 and the Brand Collection. These cents may be the first coins officially struck by the United States Mint and are the only ones to conform to the weight standard mandated by the Mint Act of 1792.
  • A 1793 “Chain” cent (Sheldon-4 variety), the first regular coin struck by the newly established United States Mint in Philadelphia.

    Joseph and Ruth Lasser, who have made numerous annual gifts to the foundation since 1994 valued at close to $2.5 million, previously have given an important set of Spanish colonial coins, a comprehensive collection of Continental and American colonial currency, French coins and coins of the Netherlands.

    “We are very pleased to move Colonial Williamsburg another step forward as a center for American colonial numismatics,” said Mr. Lasser.

    Media Contact:
    Sophia Hart
    (757) 220-7272

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