Dollars and Eagles
Chronology : 1790-1799 1830-1839 1907 1933
1794 Preparation of the Dollar
2013 SOLD for $ 10 M including premium
Within two years after the Coinage Act of April 2, 1792, the preparation of the silver dollar has not yet started. Hurry up. A pair of dies is created on a design by Robert Scot and a first trial is made in copper. One prototype has survived. It was sold for $ 92K by Goldberg on February 16, 2001.
A further pair of dies is created to insert the fifteen stars in the circumference around the head of Liberty. A copper trial piece is kept at the Smithsonian.
Regarding silver, a unique coin has the characteristics of a specimen as defined by PCGS : superior minting quality and shiny appearance. It has been compared with the Smithsonian prototype : the state of the dies is exactly the same, with no added wear, and the sharpness of the line is perfect.
This coin is certainly the first federal silver dollar. It was struck in October 1794 at the Philadelphia Mint before the very last limited rework of the dies and the launch of the first production batch.
Graded SP66 by PCGS, it was sold for $ 7.85M in private sale in May 2010 and then for $ 10M including premium at auction by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013, lot 13094. It is estimated $ 8M for sale on October 8 at Las Vegas by Legend Rare Coin Auctions, lot 11.
1,758 units were supplied to the cashier on October 15, 1794. Technically, this lot was premature. The available press was not suitable for the required diameter, larger than the previous silver dime. The alignment of the dies did not resist, weakening the strike and limiting the output.
The preparation of the specimen had been extremely careful. The silver planchet had been fitted with a plug and the weight of the specimen is almost perfect, only 0.24 grains (15 mg) above the 416 grains prescribed by the Coinage Act. Its splendid reflectivity has no equivalent among the 135 surviving units. It may be the sample presented to President Washington by Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. It surfaced in 1942 in the deceased estate of Colonel Green with an earlier provenance from the Virgil Brand collection.
The world’s most valuable US coin, that last sold for $10,000,000, is set to appear in an auction again later this year. @LegendAuctions has announced the sale of the Bruce Morelan Collection, an assemblage of #coins valued in total at over $20,000,000. https://t.co/418pbp9URE— PCGS (@PCGScoin) June 17, 2020
1794 The Silver Dollar of Lord St. Oswald
2015 SOLD for $ 5M including premium
Two years later, the Philadelphia plant tries the first production of the silver dollar. The technical difficulties concerned the officials to the point that the preparation is confidential and not documented. The issue is to achieve a perfect strike with the exact weight and purity required by the Congress.
Ingots are bought to cover $ 2,000 in the new coinage. The production is done in one day, 15 October 1794. 1758 pieces are released.
This yield below the target is due to a drift of the strike during the operation, in part because that coin was too large to enable a repetitive adjustment of the weight. Manufacturing is suspended. There will be no further 1794 $ 1 coin.
The first coins are admirable. Only one survivor is ranked as a specimen. Its mint preservation is because it was originally stored in the factory's archives. This coin graded MS66 by PCGS was sold for $ 10M including premium by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013.
On September 30 in New York, Stack's Bowers in association with Sotheby's sells the best silver dollar of 1794, graded MS66+ by PCGS, winner 30 years ago of a friendly confrontation by direct inspection with the only other example in the same grade. It is estimated beyond $ 3M, lot 2041.
It is not a works specimen. Its provenance explains its exemplary preservation.
An Englishman named William Strickland visited the United States from 20 September 1794 to 29 July 1795. He acquired coins in mint state at a time when production was not yet sufficient to really start a circulation. The box containing the treasure was stored in a Chippendale coin cabinet in England and fell into oblivion.
The box surfaces in 1964 when the cabinet is opened for the auction by Christie, Manson and Woods of the collection of Lord St. Oswald. The dates of the coins stored in the box correspond with the time spent by Strickland in the USA.
1834 The Muscat Eagle
2021 SOLD for $ 5.3M including premium
The diplomat Edmund Roberts had convinced the Sultan of Muscat and Oman in 1833 of the interest of signing a treaty of friendship and commerce with the United States. In 1834 President Jackson asks Roberts to prepare for this mission, to which he adds a visit to the King of Siam.
Among the diplomatic gifts, the Americans define a box that will contain an example of each of the coin denominations in circulation. The cumulative face value of the ten samples is derisory : $ 19.415. The double eagle did not yet exist.
The target is indeed to demonstrate the quality of proof coins produced in the United States. This prestige finish had been used sparingly since 1801 for silver, 1817 for copper and 1820 for gold. A 1821 quarter eagle graded PR64 Cameo by PCGS was sold for $ 240K including premium by Heritage in January 2007.
For the largest silver and gold coins, $ 1 and $ 10 respectively, President Jefferson suspended production in 1804 to curb speculation, while maintaining their circulation. For these two denominations, the factory decides to supply coins inscribed 1804 rather than 1834 which would be illegal. These coins will necessarily be a new build, to display the proof finish in mint condition.
Two dollars and two eagles were thus produced at the end of 1834. The eagles used for the obverse a spare die from the 1800s decade on which the engraving of the last digit of the year still had to be done. This 4 designed in the style of the 1830s makes it possible to distinguish between the Crosslet 4 variety produced in period and the Plain 4 variety produced for the Roberts mission.
In March 1835 two other destinations are added to the mission at the last moment. Two new 1804 eagles and two new 1804 dollars are minted. A tiny defect in the eagle die has been repaired in the mean time. There will be no further 1804 Plain 4 eagles, confirming the recent hypothesis that the four 1804 Class I supernumerary dollars are patterns unrelated to the Roberts mission.
The eagles prepared for Muscat and Siam are the two pieces from the first batch. No test eagle having been identified, they are the first two eagles to have been processed as proofs.
The Muscat specimens are the best in both varieties. The dollar is graded PR68 by PCGS. The eagle, graded PR65+ Deep Cameo by PCGS, will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on January 20, lot 3049.
1834 The Dollar of the Kings
1999 SOLD 4.1 M$ including premium by Bowers and Merena
The dollar dated 1804 is an extraordinary coinage whose story is worthy of an oriental tale.
The first specimen identified as Sultan of Muscat-Watters-Brand-Childs-Pogue 1804 dollar class I is really fabulous. It was sold for $ 4.1 million including premium by Bowers and Merena in August 1999, the highest recorded price for any coin at that time. It is for sale by Stack's Bowers, successor to Bowers and Merena, in cooperation with Sotheby's on May 24 in New York, lot 4020.
The Sultan of Oman is an important Arabian monarch who controls the trade in the Horn of Africa which is a major passage to the Orient. His capital is Muscat. An American dealer named Edmund Roberts manages to meet the Sultan in Zanzibar in 1827, opening the possibility to create an American influence in Asia.
Roberts is naturally designated in 1832 by the government of President Jackson to finalize the trade agreement with Muscat. The tradition is to support the negotiations in the East with gifts. Americans are not familiar with this practice: there will be no investment for this operation which, if successful, will however bring huge sources of revenues for the United States.
Roberts does not wish being commissioned to offer a ridiculous gift to the Sultan. He imagines a morocco box containing a sample of each legal coins of the United States. The order is sent to the Philadelphia Mint to run this special operation.
The silver dollar is a legal coin but President Jefferson suspended its production in 1804. Its face value is the symbol of the American currency and this piece should be the focus of the gift. New dies are created from the punches that began to rust after three decades of storage. The date 1804 is selected because it is the latest that is credible.
The first class I 1804 dollar is struck in November or December 1834 with great care so that this brand new piece of silver shall dazzle the Sultan of Muscat when he opens the box. The government is enthusiastic about the idea of Roberts and a similar gift is simultaneously prepared for the King of Siam. Six other class I coins will be struck including at least two before Roberts left for the East.
Roberts presented the box to the Sultan on October 1, 1835, the day following the signing of the treaty of friendship between both countries. This exceptional coin has been kept in mint condition. It is graded Proof 68 by PCGS. The image below has been downloaded a few years ago from Wikimedia.
The prestige of this piece with coin collectors is further increased by the fact that it is the first silver dollar on the date of 1804. At the time of Jefferson's decision the dollars produced earlier in that year were still using the dies dated from the previous year.
Please watch the video shared by Stack's Bowers in 2018.
1835 The Presentation Dollar
2013 SOLD 3.9 M$ including premium
2018 SOLD for $ 2.64M including premium
The dollar struck at the date of 1804 is the most desirable regular coin issue. Although the number of specimens made in the first issue also known as Class I is not recorded, it is probable that it did not exceed the eight units currently known.
They were prepared in three strikes : two presentation coins in 1834 for the diplomatic travel of Edmund Roberts in Asia, two additional coins in early 1835 for an an extension of the same trip and a final set of four in 1835 for the archives of the Philadelphia Mint.
The reason for the later Class II and Class III restrikes made between 1857 and 1860 is not clear.
The sixth specimen in the Class I roster is graded PR62 by PCGS. It was twice sold by Heritage, for $ 3.7M including premium on April 17, 2008 and for $ 3.9M including premium on August 9, 2013. It is now listed as lot 4003 by Heritage in Long Beach on June 14.
I summarized the reason for its rarity as follows before the 2013 sale.
The dollar is a symbol of money and the East is a dream of wealth. During the presidency of Jackson, Edmund Roberts became ambassador at large of the United States to the East.
In 1834 Roberts was responsible for presenting the richest monarchs with a complete series of the then legal US coinage from its current or last year.
When this decision was made nobody appreciated that this special set was to include for its credibility a coin that had never existed : the 1804 silver dollar. Its production had stopped after that date and all the coins from that ultimate year had been made with 1803 dies.
The 1804 dollars prepared for Roberts's diplomatic mission were for these reasons the first to use that face date, with a delay of thirty years.
Please watch the video shared by Heritage. The image below has been downloaded a few years ago from Wikimedia.
1835 The Voyage of Four Coins
2017 SOLD for $ 3.3M including premium
Diplomat and traveler, Edmund Roberts had imagined returning to the East with gifts altogether prestigious and cheap for the king of Siam and the sultan of Muscat. The Secretary of State accepted in November 1834 his idea of constituting for each of these powerful monarchs a case containing a set of all the coins in circulation in the United States including the silver dollar whose production had been suspended since 1804.
While preparing the execution of that federal order, the US Mint found that all the dollars regularly produced in 1804 had used the dies of the previous year and thus carried the date of 1803. To avoid entering into lengthy debates, the factory decides to modify old dies and to make two coins dated 1804, which are struck in December 1834. They will at least have the advantage of being brand new.
The Secretary of State decides that Roberts must extend his mission up to Cochin China and Japan. Two additional sets are assembled in April 1835 just in time before his departure. A third strike is made before 1837, certainly for the use of the archives of the US Mint : four of these coins survive.
The eight coins referred above are together designated as the 1804 Class I dollar. They are a flagship of American numismatics by the quality of their execution scheduled for a prestigious operation. The wear of the reference image of Liberty, designed in 1795, is not a numismatic defect.
The king and the sultan have received their gift but it is not known what happened to the two other sets after the death of Roberts in Macau in June 1836. It is probable that a member of the crew caught them discreetly.
The monarchs did not handle their gifts, of course. The Siam specimen remaining in its presentation case is graded Proof-67 by PCGS. The Muscat specimen graded Proof-68 by PCGS was sold for $ 4.1M including premium by Bowers and Merena in August 1999. It passed at the fourth Pogue sale on May 24, 2016.
Pogue owned another 1804 Class I dollar, graded Proof-65 by PCGS. It was sold for $ 3.3M including premium in the fifth sale of his collection by Stack's Bowers on March 31, 2017, lot 5045. Coming now from the Morelan collection, it is estimated $ 4M for sale by Legend Rare Coin in Las Vegas on October 8, lot 25. Its image is shared by Wikimedia.
This coin had surfaced in Germany in 1884 with no identified history and was at that time the subject of a dispute of authenticity closed by an official statement in its favor issued by the US Mint. Moreover the hues of its patina and the perfect condition of its reverse suggest that this coin has long been preserved in a case identical to those offered to the two sovereigns. It is therefore probably one of the last two silver dollars of Roberts' voyage.
A Class I coin graded Proof-62 by PCGS was sold for $ 3.9M including premium by Heritage on August 9, 2013.
1831-1836 The Stickney Dollar
2020 SOLD for $ 3.36M including premium
1804 had been the last year of production of the silver dollar. In 1831 the Treasury Department authorizes the restart of this denomination. Tests are carried out by reusing dies dated from 1801 to 1804. The preparation of a new design by Gobrecht in 1836 is the terminus ante quem of these tests.
The four diplomatic pieces had been the subject of specific productions, so that they could be offered in the best possible condition. Two of them were delivered, respectively to the Sultan of Muscat and the King of Siam. Remained in mint condition, they are alongside the prototype of 1794 the finest of all silver dollars.
In 1842 two managers of the Mint, DuBois and Eckfeldt, publish an illustrated manual devoted to gold and silver coins. The collector Matthew Stickney is puzzled. Plate II includes, among other coins, without further explanation, a 1804 dollar. According to official records, 19,570 dollars were minted in 1804. Stickney had never found a mere one.
In the following year Stickney manages to obtain a specimen kept at the Mint in exchange for a lot containing a 1785 Immune Columbia gold cent. This dollar, graded PR-65 by PCGS, is one of the two finest 1804 Class I after the copies offered to the kings. It was sold for $ 1.8M including premium in April 1997 by Bowers and Merena. It will be sold at lot 1094 in Newport Beach on December 17 by Stack's Bowers, successor to Bowers and Merena.
It became evident after Stickney's intervention that dies from earlier years had been used in 1804 until it was ordered to stop this denomination, and that no dollar with the date 1804 was minted before the 1831 restart authorization. The hypothesis that the 1804 dies had been specially put back into service for the diplomatic gifts has recently been refuted by the above considerations.
1885 Extra Time for the Trade Dollar
2019 SOLD for $ 3.96M including premium
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 existence of 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars was not revealed in period. 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 dies are scraped at the beginning of the next year. For 1885 there is no record of a similar activity.
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.
Colonel Snowden, Superintendent in Philadelphia from 1877 to 1885, had legally acquired prototypes and rare pieces during his mission, for the purpose of hoarding. He sold in 1909 through Haseltine the two unique gold prototypes of a $ 50 coin from 1877, prompting the disapproval of numismatists.
The State gets the return of these two gold coins. Five 1885 Trade dollars then come out of Snowden's hoard, no doubt by way of compensation so that he could repay the owner of the returned coins. The only plausible assumption for these previously unheard Trade dollars is a limited strike in 1885 on the initiative of the Superintendent. 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.
The best 1885 Trade dollar was sold for $ 910K including premium in the sale of the Eliasberg collection by Bowers and Merena in April 1997. At that time only the 1804 dollar and the 1913 nickel both from the same collection had exceeded $ 1M. Graded PR66 by NGC, it will be sold by Heritage in Orlando on January 10, lot 4553. In the same grade the second best 1884 Trade dollar, which had also belonged to Eliasberg, will be sold as lot 4552.
Please watch the videos shared by the auction house.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
1885 SOLD for $ 4M
1884 SOLD for $ 1.14M
1907 Saint-Gaudens versus Barber
2021 SOLD for $ 3.6M including premium
Experienced in the design of medals, Saint-Gaudens knows nothing about industrial production. The conduct of the project will be marked by his bad relationship with Chief Engraver Charles Barber.
The double eagle in Ultra High Relief prepared by Saint-Gaudens is featuring on the obverse a standing figure inspired by the Victory of Samothrace and on the reverse the Gobrecht flying eagle.
The first trial, in February 1907, fails : one of the dies breaks, preventing the fourth and last unit from being completed, its edge being left plain. After repair of the tooling plus some minor modifications, a second campaign is carried out in the spring, in two variants : several parts have an inverted position of the edge inscription.
Saint-Gaudens dies in August 1907. Barber knew from the start that this Ultra High Relief which Roosevelt liked so much was impossible to industrialize. 361,667 double eagles are finally minted in December, reusing the Saint-Gaudens design with a flattened relief.
On December 31, an additional production of three UHR pieces is carried out at the request of the Mint Director, bringing the quantity struck after the modification to a total of about 16 pieces. The four examples below belong to this undifferentiated population.
The highest ranked is a PR69 by PCGS. It was sold for $ 3M including premium by Heritage in November 2005 and for $ 2.76M including premium by Stack's Bowers on June 29, 2012.
Several pieces were graded PR68. A coin graded by PCGS was sold for $ 1.84M including premium by Heritage in January 2007. A coin stamped with the initials ASG of Saint-Gaudens, graded by PCGS, was sold for $ 2.1M including premium by Heritage on January 7, 2015.
A coin graded PR68 by NGC has been sold twice by Goldberg, for $ 1.2M in May 1999 and for $ 1.15M in February 2003. It will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on February 24, lot 3802.
On the heels of the successful FUN auctions, Heritage Auctions is proud to present a diversified selection of more than 24 American gold and silver coins, all from The Paramount Collection.https://t.co/4dnHSsego6#USCoins #CoinCollectors #Numismatics pic.twitter.com/1ogUX1JSMk— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) February 9, 2021
This 1907 Ultra High Relief $20 gold piece is a numismatic rarity of the highest order. This seven-figure piece designed by famed sculptor Augustus St. Gaudenshttps://t.co/5TRUm7Zw9C— Heritage Auctions - Coins (@heritagecoins) February 1, 2021
Lot No. 3802 I February 18 - 21 US Coins Signature Sale No. 1327#USCoins #CoinCollectors pic.twitter.com/XIvTqYytzk
1933 Double Eagle
2002 SOLD 7.6 M$ including premium by Sotheby's and Stack's
narrated in 2020
The crisis had lasted since 1924 and the production of eagles and double eagles was considerably slowed down. The production of the 312,500 eagles of 1933 was finished before April 5 and this denomination was legal at that time. The production of the double eagles, which was in progress, was not interrupted.
On September 13, 1934, all gold coins in federal stocks were declared obsolete (uncurrent). In the following month two 1933 double eagles were sent to the Smithsonian for the National Collection as non-monetized samples. 445,469 pieces were in the vaults. This stock was melted in 1937.
Ten pieces escaped that melting, certainly stolen by the cashier of the Mint who was jailed in 1940 for another scam. All of them were recovered and destroyed by the government except one that King Farouk had managed to acquire in 1944. The King had obtained for this piece an export license issued by the Secretary of the Treasury, either simply by mistake or to please the King. This license being federal, the Farouk specimen became the only 1933 double eagle with some legal US status.
Removed at the request of the US government from the auction of the Farouk collections in 1954, the double eagle resurfaced in 1996, brought to New York by an English dealer. He was caught in the act by the FBI during his negotiations with his American customer.
The coin of the English dealer was the specimen which had been legally exported for Farouk. A judicial compromise was found in 2001. The double eagle was listed for auction on July 20, 2002 by Sotheby's and Stack's. In order to declare for the first time the official release of this specific coin, the buyer was required to pay to the federal government its face value of $ 20 in addition to the auction. It was sold for $ 7,590,020 including premium. Here is the link to the catalog in the website of Stack's Bowers, successor to Stack's.