Sample “Special Assay” report for 1890 Morgan dollars

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RogerB
Posts: 323
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:30 pm

Sample “Special Assay” report for 1890 Morgan dollars

Post by RogerB » Sat May 23, 2020 9:03 pm

The U.S. Mint term “Special Assay” is occasionally confused with “Annual Assay.

From the earliest days of our national mint, samples of gold and silver coins were reserved during the year, and then subjected to independent testing by a presidentially appointed body of citizens called the Annual Assay Commission. Although details varied from time to time, this Commission met in February of each year to weigh and assay samples from each mint accumulated during the previous calendar year. The purpose of this event (called the “Trial of the Pyx” in Britain) was to verify that all U.S. gold and silver coins met legal specifications for coinage.

The Coinage Act of 1873 introduced an internal U.S. Mint test to place validation of coinage quality on a more frequent, routine and organized basis than the annual assay commission work. This was called the “Special Assay,” and required that coins from each delivery be reserved, sent to Mint Headquarters for weighing and assay, and the results returned to individual mints before the coins from that delivery could be released. If any coins were found to be out of legal specification, an investigation was initiated which could result in disciplinary action of dismissal. The entire delivery might be ordered condemned and melted.

Since all Special Assay coins were destroyed during testing, Mint HQ returned the bullion to mints at the end of each quarter.

The page below is a report for silver dollar special assay of dollars struck in August 1890. Notice that weight and fineness vary although all were within legal specifications. If fineness ran consistently above 0.900, the mint Superintendent might be admonished to have M&R be more careful in mixing alloy. Overweight or excess purity coins – even if within legal tolerance – reduced the mint’s profits.
18900916 P Special Assay result-Sample.jpg
18900916 P Special Assay result-Sample.jpg (146.08 KiB) Viewed 142 times
[For more information see:
Burdette, Roger W. Annual Assay Commission United States Mint 1800-1943. 4-DVD set, Seneca Mill Press LLC. 2010.
Burdette, Roger W. From Mine to Mint. Seneca Mill Press LLC. 2013.
Forty-Second Congress, Session III, Ch 131. “An Act revising and amending the Laws relative to the Mint, Assay offices and Coinage of the United States,” February 12, 1873.]

RogerB
Posts: 323
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:30 pm

Re: Sample “Special Assay” report for 1890 Morgan dollars

Post by RogerB » Wed May 27, 2020 4:09 pm

These Special Assay reports were made monthly for each mint, so there are a lot of them scattered throughout US Mint archives. It's unclear if they have much research value or are more just curiosities.

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