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    Deseret Currency Association $10 Copper Printing Plate

    Salt Lake City, UT- Deseret Currency Association Copper Printing Plate for Unknown $10 Denomination 18__ "As Made" condition.
    We are honored to be offering a ground breaking and historic piece of numismatic and Mormon history this evening. The item being offered is the original copper printing plate which was intended to be used to print a $10 denomination as part of the Deseret Currency Association (DCA) issue. The DCA was formed in January 1858 to provide currency for use in commerce in an area that was almost totally without other types of currency. Prior to the issue of the DCA notes, all that was available was a minimal amount of U.S. coins, an equally small issue of Mormon gold coins, and a few reissued earlier Mormon bank notes.

    Early DCA notes were simple, hastily printed designs and comprised denominations including $1, $2, $3, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Nearly $67,000 of these first series notes were printed by the spring of 1858 in Salt Lake City and Fillmore. According to noted expert Douglas Nyholm, only $1s and $2s along with a single $3 are known from this first series at present.

    Mere months after the first series, engraved copper plates, whose note designs were created by Henry Maiben and engraved by David McKenzie, were used to print a second and more elaborate set of four denominations: $1, $2, $3, and $5. Surviving notes of all four denominations are known, although all are very rare. Nyholm reports that by late Summer of 1858, engraved second series notes were being printed at the Deseret News office in Salt Lake City. Engraved notes, with a face value of just over $28,000, were printed. A large percentage of the notes of both series were ultimately redeemed and destroyed. Thus ends the common wisdom on this subject which was turned upside down with the discovery of a printing plate designed to print a $10 note as part of the second series.

    The Plate The $10 plate fits well into the parameters of the second series engraved notes. The text promises that the notes are payable in livestock and Brigham Young's signature is engraved and of the same style as on other denominations. The portraits of two prominent men associated with the Church appear on the $10. According to Nyholm, those appearing on the newly discovered $10 plate are Parley Pratt on the left and Willard Richards on the right. Pratt was an early leader of the Latter Day Saint Movement whose writings were widely read and served as an exposition on the Latter Day Saint faith. Pratt died in 1857. Willard Richards was a physician and Second Counselor to Church President Brigham Young from 1847 until his death in 1854. Interestingly, the portrait of Richards does not appear to have been completely engraved when work on this plate ceased. There is a good deal of background information available to help explain why the $10 plate was never completely finished and apparently never used.

    The most important piece of information is a speech given by John Cradlebaugh in the United States House of Representatives on February 7, 1863. Cradlebaugh was appointed Associate Justice for the District of Utah on June 4, 1858. He convened a grand jury in Provo, UT in March, 1859 to investigate the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre, but the jury declined to return any indictments or deliver any report on the charges. Cradlebaugh later moved to Carson City, NV and was the first elected delegate from the Nevada Territory to the 37th Congress. Cradlebaugh was an outspoken opponent of the Mormons. His speech includes some key information which is quoted directly here:

    "In the summer of 1858 David McKenzie was arrested charged with engraving plates for counterfeiting Government drafts on the Treasury at St. Louis. The evidence showed that the engraving had been done in the upper part of the Deseret Store in Salt Lake City. This store is within the enclosure of Brigham's Young's premises, the same being walled in with a stone wall some 12 or 14 feet in height. Judge Eckels, who issued the warrant, directed the Marshal, Peter K. Dotson, to seize the plates, and any other matter that might be found in the room where the engraving had been done, which would establish the offense. The Marshal accordingly went to the room and seized the plate. He also found another plate there, belonging, as it since appears, to Brigham Young, and used for striking off the Deseret currency ; and, observing that the copper-plate upon which the counterfeit engraving had been made had been cut off one side of Brigham's Deseret currency plate he brought away with him the currency plate. After the trial Brigham refused to take them back, but brought his action against the Marshal, P.K. Dotson, in the Probate Court."

    This establishes that two plates were confiscated: the counterfeit St. Louis Draft plate and a Deseret Currency Association Plate and that the plates were not put back in Brigham Young's hands. Since the plates were confiscated in a raid, this may also explain why the one portrait appears to be only partially engraved; work had not been completed when the plate was seized. Young filed a civil action alleging that the plates were damaged and was awarded $1668 for damage to the plates plus court costs of $648.66 according to Nyholm's research. Cradlebaugh's speech continues:
    "I have the plates here, ( exhibiting them .) I have shown them to engravers in the city, and they tell me the original cost of making them could not be more than five or six hundred dollars, and say that they can be put in as good order as ever they were for twenty-five dollars."

    While Cradlebaugh's point was that the award of damages was excessive, this statement establishes that both plates were physically in Washington, DC in 1863 in Cradlebaugh's possession. That piece of information is important because this $10 plate was discovered in the basement rafters of a home located in Washington DC in 2020. While the the plate's whereabouts and ownership can not be traced from 1863, when Cradlebaugh was apparently brandishing it in the halls of Congress to 1909, when the house was built, the circumstantial evidence is strong that this is the original plate confiscated from the Deseret News office 163 years ago.

    Pieces like this are difficult to value. Obviously the plate is unique, but it also has important historical and numismatic significance. We believe that our estimate for this wonderful item is both conservative and reflective of the plate's significance


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2021
    6th-8th Wednesday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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