Following their much publicised, and very successful, auction of an experimental 1942 glass 1 cent piece in January of 2017, Heritage Auctions have managed to secure an unprecedented 28 experimental pattern strikes from the same era for their upcoming ANA Convention event.
During the height of world war two the Lincoln penny was still produced from 95% copper. However copper was a much needed material for the war effort, in order to produce munitions and other crucial parts. So the War Production Board refused to allocate the needed quantity of copper to the US Mint that they would need to produce 1 cent coins.
The Mint immediately began to experiment with different metal types to replace the copper coins they would need. As it became obvious that there would be no clear end in sight for the raging war any time soon, the Mint Bureau grew fearful that other metal types may also be in short supply soon. In an effort to head off such a potential shortage, the Mint Bureau called on private industry to submit proposals for alternate materials(such as plastics, resins or rubber) that could be used to produce coinage if needed.
One company that answered this call was the Blue Ridge Glass Company, located in Kingsport, Tennessee, who had the idea to make coins from tempered and treated glass. The Mint accepted their proposal and supplied them with a pair of dies of the same design as other experimental alloy cents.
The experiment was largely unsuccessful though as the practical realities of striking glass coins were soon laid bare. The process was too complicated as the preforms(the glass planchettes or blanks) had to be struck hot, just under melting point in fact, and then cooled rapidly to maintain it's form. As they only had a single pair of dies, they couldn't risk heating them either. The result was a soft strike with weak details, suffering from surface imperfections. They were also plagued by irregular glass flow patterns and cracks. This was only compounded by the fact that each “coin” was manually rounded, resulting in imprecise size and weight measurements for each piece.
The Blue ridge Glass Company submitted the findings of their experiments to the US Mint in a six page report on December 8, 1942. Eventually the Mint decided to use zinc plated steel as a replacement for copper cents. But these experimental strikes provide a valuable insight into the ingenuity and the lengths that the Mint was willing to go to in order to secure a stable supply of coinage during a very uncertain time in world history.
Up to this point, only two confirmed examples of these coins were known to exist. So this collection represents a veritable treasure trove. The bulk of the coins on offer are secured from the Glynn Collection. The collection was inherited by the Glynn family from Theodore Glynn, who was a manager for the Blue Ridge Glass Company.
Other items also included in the auction include trial strikes and tokens of varying compositions such as aqua-glass tokens, amber glass tokens and glass cent pieces used for impact strength tests.
Mark Borckardt, Senior Cataloger and Numismatist at Heritage Auctions, had the following comments about these tokens:
“These trial impressions were crucial to the development of the finished product”
Related coins that were secured by Heritage outside of the Glynn collection will also be represented at the event. These include a reverse image plastic cent, experimental zinc-coated steel cents and an impregnated parer one cent coin believed to have been produced by the Colt Firearm Company.
The coins will be auctioned off by Heritage Auctions at their ANA Convention event on August 4th, 2017. A similar glass 1 cent coin was sold by Heritage in January of the same year for $70 500.00, so it will be very interesting to see how much these items will close for.