By Steve Carr
Many coins were counter-stamped in their day. On these coins, the imprint was usually stamped on, not engraved. This usually distorted the shape of the coin and led to unusual wear. Even on coins worn almost slick though, the counter-stamp is often visible.
Almost always, there is a story behind the counter-stamp. Some of these coins were used by merchants to test a newly made punches while others were made to advertise ones business. Many of these advertisements were for patent medicines while a few political stamps are known. The Dr, G.G. Wilkins stamped pictured was from a doctor who sold unusual medicines.
Two US cents counter-stamped Dr. G.G. Wilkins
If foreign coins circulated in a country, many times these coins were counter-stamped with an official emblem and, perhaps, a value. In the 1830s, many newly independent South American countries had coins circulating in the Philippines. Fearing revolution in these isles, Spanish authorities counter-stamped these coins with a stamp denoting the current king. In China, merchants would apply their “chop” to a coin, certifying that they believed it was of full value. This made the coins acceptable in their adopted land.
A Chop Marked Mexican 8 Reales
One of the more interesting counter-stamps I have seen was an 1828 large cent counter-stamped “BECHTLER.” The Bechtlers were the North Carolina family that minted gold coins from the 1830s through the 1850s. The image on the large cent even matched a known Bechtler stamp! Another cool counter-stamp is a 1793 chain cent with the name “R. CUTLER” stamped on the obverse. Richard Cutler was a New Haven, CT silversmith whose shop was at Church and Chapel Streets. He was in business from 1763 until he died in 1810. On-line research reveals his shop was once robbed and that he formed a partnership with two sons in 1800. Check out our coins for sale to see an image of this coin.
As one numismatist once said, “You can double your enjoyment of collecting coins if they are counter-stamped. Their numismatic value is usually low, but the stories they tell can be fascinating.”