Chronology : 600 BCE-CE 1790-1799 1830-1839 1850-1859
409 BCE Just before the Fall of Agrigento
2012 SOLD 2.3 MCHF before fees
About 2423 years ago (409BC in our calendar), this coinage reached its artistic zenith with a beautiful silver decadrachm. The detail of the carving is superb, so much that experts are still wondering if this coin was actually intended to circulate. However, we must also consider that even at this distant time the officials were certainly wary of fakes.
We see on one side a quadriga in full motion. More original, the other side shows a remarkably realistic flying eagle carrying a rabbit.
An almost perfect example of this decadrachm was sold $ 570K by Sotheby's on June 19, 1990, an exceptional price for that time. It comes back at auction on October 17 by Numismatica Ars Classica in Zurich, with an estimate of CHF 1.75 M. The image of the quadriga side is shared by Artdaily. Here is the link to the catalog on the specialized online platform Sixbid.
This model is extremely rare for a good reason: as early as 406BC, Akragas was destroyed by the Carthaginians. I told very recently in this group that this terrible defeat, coupled with the installation of anarchy in Athens in 404BC, would pave the way for the highly effective tyranny of Dionysius in Syracuse.
POST SALE COMMENT
The pieces which are exceptional in their category have no price limit! This coin was sold CHF 2.3 million before fees.
405-400 BCE A Sicilian Tetradrachm
2014 SOLD for CHF 2.3M before fees by NAC
2019 SOLD for CHF 1.7M before fees
Syracuse is one of the main cities of the antique Greek world. The Greek process for silver coins is transferred in that city 2,500 years ago. The highest denomination is the decadrachm. The first tetradrachms of Syracuse are illustrated on the reverse by the head of the nymph Arethusa in profile and on the obverse by a quadriga with its driver and a winged victory that brings the wreath.
Around 415 BCE the image becomes dynamic. Horses that were previously static are now featured in full gallop and the victory crowns the man rather than the horses. At the same time the prestigious models are beginning to be signed, certainly to bring a guarantee on the purity of silver. These assayers of the old times are quite numerous but the best pieces are the work of Kimon or Evainetos.
Kimon's masterpiece is a tetradrachm in high relief made between 405 and 400 BCE. Each side is known from two variants of dies and three of these dies are signed. None of these dies have been paired for another use, which confirms that this edition was for prestige.
On both sides the clarity of the graphic style is excellent. This piece is one of the very rare Sicilian coins of that period to show an effigy in full front. The brutal action of the hammer weakens the reverse. Kimon transfers Arethusa to the obverse to improve the portrait. The perfection of this model will be admired by Goethe.
The finest known specimen of Kimon's tetradrachm, perfectly centered, was sold for CHF 2.3M before fees by NAC on May 26, 2014. It will be sold on November 18 in Geneva by NGSA (Numismatica Genevensis), lot 1 here linked on the Biddr auction platform.
1740 silver pattern coin for Ivan VI
2012 SOLD 3.6 MCHF before fees by Sincona
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.
1794 The Dollars of the English Lords
2017 SOLD for $ 2.8M including premium
The best survivors of today had therefore also been among the first struck. There is no doubt about the Cardinal specimen. Benefiting from an exceptional silver polishing and a perfect striking that was probably individually made, this prestige dollar was sold for $ 10M including premium by Stack's Bowers on January 24, 2013.
The war with the former colonial power has been over since November 1783. English visitors are welcomed. A gentleman farmer named William Strickland later 6th Baron of Boynton arrived on September 20, 1794. This economist who comes to study prices and wages in the American agriculture is introduced in the best circles.
Strickland left back for England in July 1795 with a small collection including 35 federal coins that were most likely obtained by him directly at the US Mint. The group surfaced in 1964 in an inventory for a sale from the property of the 4th Baron St Oswald, descendant of Strickland's son-in-law.
Forgotten inside a Chippendale cabinet since the early 19th century, the Strickland collection remained in its original state without any addition. His two 1794 flowing hair dollars are among the most spectacular of that type. One of them graded Mint State 66+ by PCGS is the best behind the Cardinal specimen. It was sold for $ 5M including premium by Stack's Bowers on September 30, 2015. A coin from another provenance got the same PCGS grade.
The other dollar from the collection of the Lords comes immediately behind at position 4 in the condition census. Graded MS-64 by PCGS, it will be sold by Stack's Bowers in Denver on August 3, lot 2113.
This first US dollar is extremely rare in mint state. In addition to the four units discussed above, only two are classified as mint by PCGS, in slightly lower grades : MS-63 + and MS-62 +.
Please watch the video shared by Stack's Bowers from a post sale interview with Coin World.
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.
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.
1858-1859 Class III Restrike of the 1804 Silver Dollar
2009 SOLD for $ 2.3M including premium by Heritage
narrated in 2020 before the sale of another coin by Stack's Bowers (see below)
The 1804 dollar is the last model made before the suspension of production of the silver dollar which will last until 1836. The 19,570 coins declared in the annual report for 1804 have always remained untraceable, creating fabulous myths like the disappearance of the entire production in a shipwreck. The tools existed nevertheless at the factory and had been kept.
The production of silver dollars had already been low in 1803, allowing an extension of the use of the dies. The one dollar coins announced in 1804 in the annual report were certainly struck with dies from previous years, perhaps due to a too late availability of the dies on the date of 1804 which will remain unused until the Class I.
In 1834 the government requests two specimens of each of the denominations of US coinage in the current year or the last year of production as applicable, to constitute inexpensive diplomatic gifts for the king of Siam and the sultan of Muscat. The factory does not have an 1804 dollar in stock. It is easy to recreate a few copies : this is the Class I, of which eight units are known, probably representing the entire production.
One of these copies is used in 1842 to illustrate a manual published by two employees of the Mint, Eckfeldt and DuBois. Collectors are going crazy. The factory accepts an exchange with one of them in 1843, recovering the unique example from a bygone gold coin project of 1785 with the inscription Immune Columbia.
The Class II restrike is created at the factory in 1858. It was a poor quality unauthorized operation intended to make profit from the greed of collectors. The Mint requests to recover them. Three are destroyed and one is kept as a specimen at the factory. No other Class II is known. The only surviving piece was struck on a Swiss thaler from 1857, with a plain edge.
The idea of producing restrikes goes up to the highest level of the hierarchy. In 1859 the Mint director JR Snowden tries in vain to obtain an authorization from the Treasury for such operations.
The production of Class III at the Philadelphia factory is indisputable, probably from 1858 or 1859. The blundering lettering will be done late on the previously struck pieces, which could have been earlier Class II made on blank planchets and remaining at the factory. The first Class III surfaced in 1876, tending to prove that the illicit uses of this variant had been successfully blocked until that date.
Four Class III have been artificially worn by rubbing in a pocket to make it look like authentic coins made in 1804. The batch was however made with a proof finish which did not exist before 1817.
A Class III graded PR58 or AU58 by PCGS was sold for $ 2.3M including premium by Heritage on April 30, 2009, lot 2567. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Another Class III, graded PR55 by PCGS, was sold twice by Stack's Bowers : for $ 1.88M including premium on August 6, 2014, lot 13146, and for $ 1.44M including premium on March 20, 2020, lot 7304.
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