See also : Coin Dollars and eagles US gold coins Silver dollar
1870 San Francisco Cornerstone
In 1834 the 1 dollar and 1 eagle coins had not been authorized in production since 1804. The proof strikes of 1804 coins made in Philadelphia for the voyage of Roberts are some of the most famous US federal coins, second to the unique pre production 1794 dollar and to the unique non-illegal 1933 double eagle.
In May 1870 the construction of a new building is begun for the San Francisco Mint. The ceremony includes the sealing of a time capsule casket for hoarding inside the cornerstone. That set must gather "one of each denomination of the several coins of the United States of America, all struck off at the San Francisco Branch Mint in the year 1870."
Four of these denominations had not yet been minted. The special strike of the 3 dollar coins is known by only one surviving specimen. A hurried production is made of the 1 dollar silver coin of which 9 examples are surviving. The quarter dollar is still elusive.
2023 SOLD for $ 3.1M by Heritage
Only one of them was minted and possibly no other was ever struck beside the cornerstone coin. It surfaced in Chicago in 1978. It was authenticated by SEM inspection as a coin of regular strike with no pollution.
This unique coin with a semi proof finish is graded MS 64 by PCGS plus a CAC endorsement. This great uncirculated condition assesses that this coin of unsignificant value had been hoarded by somebody for some reason. It leads to the assumption that the San Francisco chief coiner had it minted beside the cornerstone coin for presentation to his stepson who had a newborn in that year.
The 1870-S half dime was sold for $ 3.1M by Heritage on January 11, 2023, lot 3341. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
2023 SOLD for $ 5.5M by Heritage
It was observed during the preparation phase that the dies for the three dollar and one dollar gold coins had their S mint identification omitted by the Philadelphia Mint. New reverse dies were required by San Francisco. The chief coiner decided to strike the 3 dollar cornerstone coin with the incomplete die and punch the S. Nevertheless the delivery from Philadelphia arrived in due time. San Francisco got the authorization to release the unique 3 dollar as is and minted the 1 dollar gold with the new dies.
A 1870-S $ 3 coin surfaced in 1907. The building of the Mint had not been damaged by the 1906 earthquake and it was supposed that the casket was still out of reach in the cornerstone. No record could explain the new coin, supposed to be clandestine.
The additional coin has the numerals 893 scratched on the reverse plus the trace of a jewelry mount on the observe. It was decidedly not the cornerstone coin which was obviously pristine.
An assumption is that the San Francisco chief coiner minted it for pressntation to his wife in a necklace. The scratch assesses that he did not do it for collection or proffit. The meaning of the numeral is not known.The unique available 1870-S dime has a similar assumption with a presentation by the same coiner to greet a newborn.
The unique available $ 3 was avidly chased by the collectors. Louis Eliasberg passed it in 1944 and 1945 for a too high required price. He was so close to achieve a full collection of US regular types, mint marks and variants that he changed his mind and purchased it for an unprecedented $ 11,550 in 1946. The unique 1870-S half dime did not surface in Eliasberg's life time.
In the auction of the Eliasberg collection by Bowers and Ruddy in October 1982, a record price of $ 687,500 was separately achieved by both the 1870-S $ 3 and the 1822 half eagle.
The 1870-S $ 3, graded SP50 by PCGS, was sold for $ 5.5M by Heritage on January 5, 2023, lot 9013.
One Week, Two Auctions, Three Unique #USCoins □— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 4, 2023
If another 1870-S three-dollar gold piece exists, it's buried under the San Francisco Mint. https://t.co/mLRDmJMNi9
#HERITAGELIVE The 1870-S three-dollar gold piece is among the rarest and most enigmatic coins in the U.S. federal series. Only a single example of this classic numismatic rarity is known to collectors. And it just hammered for $5,520,000! □https://t.co/IFjq9xGJLh pic.twitter.com/3zRTpN8Fbf— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 6, 2023
1873 Carson City Dime
2023 SOLD for $ 3.6M by Heritage
A mint operated there from 1870 to 1893. The coins are identified by the letters CC.
An industrial activity in such an inaccessible region of the Wild West may seem surprising, especially as the population of this tiny capital did not exceed 4,000 inhabitants during this period. However, separating the years, 111 CC coin variants were created, covering seven values from the dime (10 cents) to the double eagle (20 dollars).
The 1870-CC double eagle was a low mintage of 3,789 pieces of which about 40 are surviving. Most of the strike was soft. The finest example, graded AU58 by NGC, was stolen soon after its recent discovery and is not currently located. A coin graded AU53 by PCGS was sold for $ 1.62M by Heritage on November 11, 2021, lot 3099.
Two subsequent variants are known of the 1873-CC dime : without and with two small arrows on the obverse, one on the left and one on the right of the date. Made mandatory after March 1873, these arrows are a somehow confidential code which attests for a change in the normalization concerning the silver weight of the coin.
The 1873-CC dime without arrows was struck in a single run of 12,400 pieces which was melted when the modification was made applicable.
It is known as a unique surviving example that had possibly escaped the group prepared for the Assay Commission. This specimen is graded MS65 by PCGS in a fine strike. A die crack is seen through the CC mark.
It is indeed not possible to build a full collection unless you own this specific coin. On November 7, 1950, it enabled the completion of the Eliasberg Collection, which went to include all regular U.S. variants. Another owner gathered all the CC varieties and sold his collection in separate lots at Stack's Bowers on August 9, 2012.
Over the years, the price of this unique 1873-CC no arrows dime has always increased : $ 550K from Eliasberg's son in 1996, 630K in 1999, 890K in 2004, $ 1.88M in 2012. Please watch the video shared before the 2012 sale by Stack's Bowers. It was sold for $ 3.6M by Heritage on January 12, 2023, lot 3671.
It is estimated that about one hundred 1873-CC with arrows dimes are surviving. The finest of three confirmed mint state survivors, graded MS65 by PCGS, was sold for $ 550K by Heritage on August 24, 2022, lot 3542.
#HERITAGELIVE In all our years, we can name very few more prestigious coins. The 1873 No Arrows Seated Dime from the Carson City mint is among the most storied and collected in all of US #numismatics. It sold for $3,600,000 in our US Coins Signature Event! https://t.co/KHkfU0M5up pic.twitter.com/PQArbHNig1— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 13, 2023
1874 Bickford Ubique
2022 SOLD for $ 1.98M by Heritage
Back to home, Bickford proposed a system of international currency based on the US dollar to the Director of the Mint, Henry Linderman. The reverse of a gold coin would be inscribed in its center with the weight of 16.72 grams and the .900 fineness corresponding to an eagle coin. A crown of six cartouches would display its value of exactly 10 dollars plus its trade value in Sterling, Marken, Kronen, Gulden and Francs. The word 'Ubique' (everywhere) referred to its international purpose.
Linderman was enthusiast for this project which was referred in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer on January 1, 1874. Dies were prepared at the date of 1874 with the new head of a pretty youthful Liberty on the obverse. Some patterns were struck in copper, aluminum and nickel, with reeded and plain edges.
The trials in gold were not referred anywhere until two specimens were revealed in 1913 by the arch-collector William Woodin in the wake of the scandal of the marketing of the half union $ 50 pattern coins. It will appear much later that the most important pattern coins from 1874 to 1877 had escaped the collection of the Mint through the industry of its Chief Coiner A. Louden Snowden with the excuse of saving them from melting..
The two gold coins have the reeded edge. These eagles have the diameter of a double eagle with a half thinner planchet.
Both were sold by Heritage. One of them, graded PR65+ Cameo by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.98M on January 13, 2022, lot 3834. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The other specimen, graded PR65 Deep Cameo by PCGS, was sold for $ 1.27M on January 7, 2010, lot 2373.
#HERITAGELIVE 1874 Bickford Ten Dollar, Judd-1373, PR65+ Cameo - Extremely Rare Gold Pattern sold tonight for $1,980,000!— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 14, 2022
With only two examples known, the 1874 Bickford ten-dollar gold patterns are among the rarest issues in U.S. numismatics. https://t.co/e3TRCZ59uQ pic.twitter.com/hf4RKUumnV
The Latin Monetary Union, created in 1865 by France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland, had succeeded in standardizing the currencies. Several countries had joined in, creating a true monetary Europe. In 1879 some economists worry about the risk of marginalization of the United States in international trade.
The 20 francs Napoléon is worth about 4 dollars. A new currency of that value could replace the three dollar and the half-eagle coins. It will be named the stella. A quintuple stella will exactly match the double eagle.
The US minister to Austria suggested to calibrate the weight of the currency with the metric system extensively used in Europe. The stella of US $ 4 shall correspond to 8 florins. In a great momentum of globalization, a five-pointed star replaces the eagle on the reverse while on the obverse the figure of liberty was selected in a competition between two engravers.
The choice fell on the Liberty with flowing hair designed by Charles Barber, the son of the recently deceased chief engraver. A few hundred coins were struck on the date of 1879 and presented to congressmen for promoting the proposed standard.
The project was immediately rejected by Congress : to be easily exchanged with LMU coins, the stella should have been worth $ 3.88 ! They could have thought about it before.
Stellas were produced in three variants in addition to the flowing hair selected in 1879 : with flowing hair dated 1880, and according to George Morgan's rejected design with coiled hair in 1879 and 1880. These three releases have not been documented. They were perhaps only intended to please a few collectors.
The termination of the stella in 1880 responds to common sense. Multiplication by 4 is not natural in the circulation of currencies and the dollar and the florin have no reason to maintain a parity in the long term. In total, less than 500 stellas had been struck.
A patent had been granted in May 1877 to William Wheeler Hubbell for a gold, silver and copper alloy named goloid to replace the 90% silver alloy of the 1 dollar coin. The officials were convinced and the first dollars in goloid had been struck in 1878. The mass of the piece is carved in the metric system (14.25 grams) beside the proportions : 1 G, 16.1 S, 1.9 C.
The stellas were prepared in 6 G, .3 S, .7 C (7 grams). At the top of the monetary range the $ 20 quintuple stella is weighing 35 grams with 86 % gold, 4 % silver and 10 % copper (inscribed 30 G 1.5 S 3.5 C) . It should be noted that the alloy of the stellas and quintuple stellas is too heavy in gold to be designated as a goloid.
The goloid patent stated an increased difficulty of counterfeiting. It was naïve : it was enough to remove the gold and increase the copper to obtain a cheaper piece impossible to distinguish from a real dollar coin. The government understands it in 1880 and stops altogether the goloid, the metric dollar and its multiples. The goloid will never more be used in a coinage.
2016 SOLD for $ 1.88M by Legend
The immediate failure of the stella makes it one of the rarest types in US numismatics with a population of only five pattern units.
The five specimens of quintuple stellas remain in mint condition, graded between PR 62 and PR 64+.
Bob Simpson owned the two Deep Cameo specimens. He kept the best, graded PR 64+ by PCGS. The other, graded PR 64 Deep Cameo by PCGS also, was sold for $ 1.88M by Legend Rare Coin Auctions on May 19, 2016, lot 377.
A quintuple stella graded PR 62 by PCGS was sold for $ 860K by Heritage in January 2007, lot 1594. Now upgraded PR 63 Cameo also by PCGS, it passed at Stack's Bowers on March 22, 2018, lot 2272 and at Heritage in Dallas on January 14, 2022, lot 4793.
1880 Coiled Hair
2013 SOLD for $ 2.6M by Bonhams
It is logical that the happy owners of a 1880 coiled hair stella gather around it the other three variants. On September 23, 2013, Bonhams dispersed the four One Stellas, each one graded PR67 by NGC.
The 1880 coiled hair in that sale is probably the best surviving specimen of all Stellas with its pleasant warm color and cameo surface, this term designating a genuine mirror-like effect without polishing. It was sold for $ 2.6M and is illustrated in the press release. It had been sold for $ 980K by Heritage on January 12, 2005.
The three other results were $ 1.04M for the 1879 coiled hair, $ 960K for the 1880 flowing hair and $ 280K for the less rare 1879 flowing hair.
1880 Coiled Hair
2021 SOLD for $ 1.86M by Heritage
One of the three, which had belonged to Eliasberg, was sold for $ 1.86M by Heritage on February 24, 2021, lot 3754.
A collection of the four stellas was dispersed by Heritage on April 23, 2015. The 1880 non-cameo coiled hair graded PR67 by NGC was at lot 5301, the 1879 coiled hair graded PR65 by PCGS at lot 5299, the 1880 flowing hair graded PR66 by PCGS at lot 5300 and the best of the 1879 flowing hair in that sale, graded PR67 cameo by NGC, is lot 5297.
The results were :
1880 coiled hair : sold for $ 1.82M
1879 coiled hair : sold for $ 880K
1880 flowing hair : sold for $ 520K
1879 flowing hair : sold for $ 305K
1885 Trade Dollar
In 1878 the drop in price of silver bullion generates speculation and the commercial applications of the Trade dollar are halted. Until 1883 a limited activity is maintained at the Philadelphia Mint for the use of collectors. The Trade dollar is abolished in 1887.
The production of 264 units in January 1884 is recorded in the archives of the Mint. In February the government forbids these pieces to be offered to the public and they are melted. The 1884 dies, however, were not destroyed until January 1885, as if the factory had been waiting for a government counter-order. There was a precedent, the 1878 muddle, when the production of circulation trade dollars was restarted on bad arguments after being banned.
The existence of 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars was not revealed in period. Ten 1884 Trade dollars appeared on the market from 1908 in the circle of John Haseltine, a dealer specializing in coins from the special operations of the Mint.
Five 1885 trade dollars have survived. Physically, this coin is identical to the 1884 trade dollar except for the date. It was made in Philadelphia using factory production methods and cannot be a novodel.
They were not recorded at the Mint. Unknown to the factory cashier, they were probably test pieces for a production that was never authorized, which would explain the omission of internal records. Meanwhile the Democrat Grover Cleveland had become president, and the position of the Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, the Republican A. Louden Snowden, was becoming untenable. He resigned, or was forced to resign, in June 1885.
In 1908 the dealer John Haseltine announced at the ANA Convention the existence of the 1884 trade dollar, which some numismatists close to the factory had supposed. The 1885 trade dollar was still unsuspected at that time.
Snowden used to keep samples from plant operations during his superintendence. In 1909 he needed money and sold to the collector William Woodin through Haseltine the jewel of his treasure, the only two $ 50 gold coins made in 1877 for a project of union ($ 100) and half union ($ 50) in the context of the development of the gold standard. The project had been abandoned for reasons of technical feasibility.
The fact that the two half unions were still in private hands caused an uproar, and the sale was canceled after a legal action. Snowden took back the two pieces which were immediately returned to the Mint by donation or confiscation. After an amicable settlement, Snowden, unable to pay Woodin in cash, gave him his hoard in 1910.
This transaction was not the subject of an inventory but there is no doubt that the four 1884 trade dollars which had not belonged to Haseltine and the five 1885 trade dollars were part of the lot. All of these pieces were brought to the market by associates of Woodin between 1911 and 1915.
Produced in Philadelphia before the cancellation of the Trade dollars, the 1885 Trade dollar is classified as a regular coinage. It has the same rarity as the 1913 Liberty nickel.
2019 SOLD for $ 3.96M by Heritage
In the same grade the second best 1884 Trade dollar, which had also belonged to Eliasberg, was sold for $ 1.14M in the same 2019 sale, lot 4552.
Please watch the videos shared by the auction house for the 1885 (below) and for the 1884 (linked).
2021 SOLD for $ 2.1M by Heritage
A coin graded PR63+ Cameo by PCGS was sold for $ 2.1M by Heritage on January 20, 2021, lot 3030.
#HeritageLive: The 1885 T$1 Trade PR63+ Cameo PCGS. CAC, one of the greatest and most coveted rarities in United States coinage, soars to $2,100,000 at our FUN #US Coins Signature Auction. https://t.co/we3GkoJhCy#auctionupdate #Numismatics #HACoins pic.twitter.com/ChHd9rqkVt— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) January 20, 2021
1894 Barber Dime
2016 SOLD for $ 2M by Heritage
No less than fifty collectors contact the San Francisco branch in 1894 for acquiring specimens of all denominations in mint state. Regarding the silver dime worth ten cents, only one response is made: San Francisco does not produce that value in 1894.
However, the plant's records indicate that a minuscule amount of 24 dimes was delivered on June 9, 1894. This information goes unnoticed at first glance. The 1894-S dies with a Barber-type figure had been prepared but the decision for a mass production has not been taken.
On the next year, an official says that he had to close the fiscal accounts of the silver stock and that the very small remaining volume could only be used for dimes.
The 24 units manufactured with the new tools have not benefited from the perfect setting usually applied when beginning an actual series but they may nevertheless be considered as proofs. 5 coins have undergone destructive assays. The other 19 were probably mixed in a bag with dimes of previous years for their release into circulation.
The hunt for this scarcity is launched in 1900 when Heaton reveals the existence of the 24 coins in a specialized magazine. It later became legendary when collectors told fancies on the fate of these coins of which only eight or nine units have surfaced.
One of the two 1894-S dimes that had belonged to Eliasberg is the finest example, graded PR66 by PCGS. It was sold for $ 2M by Heritage on January 7, 2016, lot 5317. The image is shared from PCGS on Wikimedia. Another coin graded PR64+ by PCGS was sold for $ 1.55M by Stack's in October 2007. The price of each of these two units was later considerably increased in private sales.