Author Topic: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)  (Read 263 times)

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Offline brandm24

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Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« on: May 16, 2019, 03:32:40 PM »
Counterstamps on US gold coins are exceedingly rare, especially those that can be attributed to a particular issuer. This 1845 Quarter Eagle with B.C. Hoff's backstamp was once part of a charm bracelet bought from a dealer at the Chicago A.N.A. Convention several years ago. The bracelet also consisted of five or six other world gold coins, but none counterstamped as this one is. The buyer removed it from the bracelet and sold it to me still in it's bezel. Out of fear of damaging the coin, I never had it removed, though I suppose it could be safely.

Benjamin Campbell Hoff was in business in Syracuse, NY from 1859 until his bankruptcy in 1867. Originally he sold firearms, but dropped that line in favor of jewelry, music and fancy goods about 1860. Hoff wasn't a jewelry manufacturer, but a retailer who backstamped not only jewelry, but other hard-goods that passed through his store. I've attached a picture of a teaspoon showing his mark, as well as three pseudo-hallmarks. I believe the use of pseudo-hallmarks was used as an indicator of quality.

Inexplicably, Hoff appeared in Pittsburgh, PA city directories from 1875 to 1880 where he was described as a clerk or superintendant. His whereabouts between 1868 and 1875  are unknown to me. It's been noted by researcher Hank Thoele that the few later dated silver and trade dollars were stamped twice, while earlier dated coins were stamped only once. Though we don't know exactly what he did in Pittsburgh, this would indicate that he issued them from there.

There are over 60 known examples of Hoff counterstamps extant. They appear on almost every denomination of US coin ranging from half cents to silver dollars and the one Quarter Eagle. In addition to US coins, there's one documented on an unspecified Canadian token and another on a 1780 2-Reales.

I've attached a picture of the gold coin, as well as an 1854 Half Dollar with an additional stamp on it. Though I looked long and hard, I was never able to identify L.F. Hunt. Perhaps he had a business or fraternal relationship with Hoff, or he just randomly came across the coin and decided to add his name to it. I suppose we'll never know.

As always, comments are welcomed. Thanks for looking.

Bruce
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2019, 11:26:12 AM »
In view of the BC Hoff 3 coin's date and its proximity to the US civil war, I wonder if the chisel marks could have been an attempt to make a star, a device on the flags of the North, the South, Texas and possibly other devices and flags. Those stars are five-pointed, but maybe the chiseler intended one of the lines to end at the centre and overshot. Note that the chisel marks seem to be placed to obliterate the liberty figure. Was the chiseler thinking that blacks need not apply for liberty? Or was he out to deface a symbol of the Northern establishment? In both cases, his sympathies seem to have been with the South.

I first thought the HUNT counterstamp came before the chisel mark on the strength of the N being incomplete, but realised that HUNT could have come later also, as the punch would not have reached the bottom of the chisel mark. Still, rather than another retailer, HUNT might have been a military man with time and punches on his hands, out to create a war souvenir for himself.

That's not much to add to what you know already, but I hope it inspires you.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2019, 12:03:41 PM »
Surprisingly, I've seen this same mark or a very similar one on quite a few US coins. Your Civil War comment is interesting and one I hadn't thought of. Unfortunately, I never made a list of examples I've seen, so don't have a range of dates or denominations to fall back on. It seems likely that it was struck by someone other than Hoff as I've not seen it on other examples of his work.

The spoke design has also caught the attention of Greg Brunk, and puzzles him as well. He once opined to me that they may have been applied with a tool of some sort. I thought about that and never could come up with anything that would make a mark like that. Maybe there's an answer on a tool collectors forum...there's a few good ones out there.

I'm going to think on the Civil War angle for a bit, Peter. Thanks for your perspective.

Bruce
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2019, 12:18:45 PM »
I am pretty sure the marks are made with a small chisel. This is the instrument of choice of mint workers for defacing demonetised coins they did not have time to re-melt yet. However, in the case of your coin, there are three such marks, not the usual two, they are less deep and meeting in a centre, so I think this particular chisel was not used for that purpose in those circumstances. Perhaps the chiseler was a woodworker, unused to the hardness of metal, but perfectly capable of producing straight lines meeting in a centre.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2019, 04:36:22 PM »
A chisel seems to be the preferred method of defacing coins, but these marks have a thin line at the center and generally end with a flare. Almost a paddle shape. I've looked for pictures of others I've seen, but haven't found any yet. I think I may have one or two others in my collection, but I'll have to check my picture files to be sure.

Bruce
Bruce

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2019, 09:27:55 PM »
It's the other way around, Bruce. They start with the "flare" and end in the thin line.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2019, 07:10:18 PM »
Just another example of a spoke-shaped counterstamp on a coin. Saw this one today on eBay. A little different than the B C Hoff example, but basically the same. The "Sparrell" was added after the spokes were.

Brunk lists the Sparrell stamp but only on an 1877 US Dime. This one on an 1875 Quarter is a new one. In his reference the piece is unattributed.

Being curious as I am, I looked into the name to see if anything interesting popped up. It did.

This is just a guess, but I think there's a fair chance that the man in question was a Columbus, Indiana architect beginning in the early 1880s. His name was Charles Franklin Sparrell, who would become the city's most influential architect of the day. Sparrell was born in Boston in 1852, moved to Columbus when he was about 30 years old, and designed many of the most important buildings in the city, including city hall. Some still survive today.

The dates of the two known examples are 1875 and 1877, so it fits perfectly the time frame of Sparrell's activity in Columbus. I've attached a picture of the man himself.

Sorry, I just realized my picture of the coin will have to be resized. In the meantime please introduce yourself to Mr. Sparrell.

Bruce
Bruce

Offline brandm24

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2019, 07:17:01 PM »
Ok, here it is.

Bruce
Bruce

Offline malj1

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2019, 12:47:40 AM »
Obviously its a one piece punch and not done individually by a chisel as its too regular. The striking above in the first example was poorly struck and slightly out of true leading to a weak impression at one side and a wobble at the other. Also we must take into account the slightly uneven surface to which the punch is being applied.

I have had first hand use of similar punches and know this can happen frequently with any hand-held punch..
Malcolm
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Offline brandm24

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Re: Rare counterstamped gold coin (B.C. Hoff)
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2019, 01:06:25 AM »
I've spoken to some of the most knowledgeable counterstamp researchers I know, and no one has even a good guess as to what the stamp represents. It's surprising how many coins I've seen stamped this way over the years. Though the real answer probably isn't very exciting or interesting. it's driving me to drink...well, more drink than usual ;D

As you say, Mal, it's a prepared punch because of the even spacing of the spokes. I've also run into the problem of getting a strong even strike on a coin. Years ago I had four personal dies made with my own designs. I punched coins and sent them to fellow collectors as a way to say hello. I struck my examples with a 3 pound sledge on a metal worker's anvil...not always successfully either. My avatar is one example of my work.

Bruce
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