The illustrated example is the first Martha Washington 5 cent piece to come onto the marketplace. It was offered as lot 899 in Superior’s August 2004 sale.
Its existence confirms that the U.S. Mint has created these “token” dies in all currently minted denominations.
The Martha Washington design has been used by the Mint as an all-purpose test piece since 1965 when it was first used for testing the cupro-nickel clad sandwich alloy on most of todays coinage.
This discovery piece was struck from dies using the original 1965 design with the lettering close to the rims, Edward Groves initials under the portrait and on the reverse the tree touching the “A” in “Washington”. To compare this die to the 1999 die, click here.
It also represents some kind of enigma. To our knowledge, the Mint had not contemplated changing the alloy of the 5 cent piece. The piece is described by Superior as being struck in “cupronickel-copper composite metal”, but, according to NGC, was struck on a standard nickel planchet.
We believe it was likely struck to test the Schuler coin press in the 1980s. As these dies were given by the Mint to outside contractors, it is not known whether this coin was struck inside or outside of the Mint.
We are hoping that additional information will be forthcoming now that the coin is available as to how many and what year they were struck.