By Gary Miller
During these strange times, I thought that I would take the opportunity to introduce an interesting area of coin collecting to our readers. The coins pictured above are known as countermarked or counterstamped coins. By definition it is a coin that has been stamped or marked with a design after it was originally struck. There are many examples and reasons for countermarking coins, some are simply personal items with initials of loved ones, family members or events, there are political examples and, of course, advertising. It is the latter types that I would like to discuss today.
Many businesses from the time of the Industrial Revolution though the better part of the 19th Century countermarked coins to be distributed and redeemed as a marketing tool. By the middle of the 1800’s this was becoming a problem. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper and Pears soap were so prolific in their activities that the British Government intervened and passed an act in 1853 to “prevent defacing of coin of the Realm by stamping the same for Advertising purposes “. Canada passed a similar act in 1869 aimed at preventing “Devins and Bolton”, a Montreal based druggist, who were by far the most active in Canada, stamping thousands of coins and tokens with their company name. One can find “Devins and Bolton” countermarks on a great variety of Canadian, American and World coins and tokens, making for a fascinating series to collect.
The photographs are courtesy of my friend and colleague, Jacob Lipsom of Ottawa (www.jacoblipsonrarecoins.com) and they show an 1859 large cent with “H.A.LEAVITT (Brunk L-213 plate coin) and an 1872H 25 cents with H. WETTSTEIN” (Brunk W-438). The ability to identify the issuer makes a great difference as to it’s value. (See “American and Canadian Countermarked Coins”, by Gregory G. Brunk, 1986 and ” Marked Impressions” by Warren Baker, Montreal 2006)
We do not, at this time, have any information on H.A. Leavitt, but we do know that “Herman Wettstein, of Harvard, Illinois, is listed in the Illinois State Gazetteer as dealing in and repairing jewelry, clocks and watches. Wettsteins mark is known on a variety of Canadian and American coins from the 1870’s and earlier, suggesting he was probably producing these counterstamps about the late 1870’s”
These countermarked coins are generally not expensive and can be acquired for $20-$100. With a little research and luck much can be gleaned about their history.Next time that you see a coin dealer or when browsing online, have a look for some of these numismatic novelties and they may just catch your attention!
Happy Hunting and stay safe!