Anne Bingham's Legacy:
1804 Dollar

U.S. Mint Class I dollar, described as "carefully cleaned" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, "badly cleaned proof" by Walter Breen," and "impaired proof" by Q. David Bowers

Mickley-Hawn-Queller Class I dollar, graded "very nearly uncirculated" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, "EF-AU, poorly cleaned" by Walter Breen, Proof-50 by Q. David Bowers, and most recently Proof-62 by NGC

 

 

 

The latest date on a coin on which Anne Bingham appeared is 1808, on the half cent. The last coin on which she appeared, however, is one of the most famous, and expensive, of all U.S. coins, the 1804 dollar, sometimes called the King of American Coins.

According to Mint records, 19,570 silver dollars were produced in 1804, but it's nearly certain that they were all dated 1803 (or possibly earlier) and were among the 85,634 dollars minted with this date. It was common practice in those days for the Mint to use dies from previous years provided they were still capable of producing acceptable coinage.

In 1804 the Mint stopped regular production of silver dollars. Massive amounts of them were being shipped to the West Indies and China, where they were used in trade. Half dollars and other smaller coins took up the slack. Regular production of silver dollars didn't resume until 1840, the first year the slightly smaller Liberty Seated dollar was issued for general circulation.

In 1834, however, President Andrew Jackson ordered the Mint to issue 1804 dollars, 1804 being the last year the dollar coin was officially authorized. The State Department wanted a complete set of U.S. coins for use as gifts to foreign dignitaries. Eight of these "original," or Class I, 1804 Draped Bust dollars, minted between 1834 and 1838, are known to exist today.

 

 

 

U.S. Mint Class II dollar, graded "sharp, brilliant proof" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett

Adams-Carter Class III dollar, graded "extremely fine" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, "EF, cleaned" by Walter Breen, "EF-45, cleaned" by Q. David Bowers, Proof-45 by PCGS, Proof-50 by NGC, and most recently Proof-58 by PCGS

 

 

 

In the 1850s, when coin collecting first started becoming popular in the U.S., Mint employees secretly began making restrikes of 1804 dollars to sell to collectors. Today, one Class II 1804 Draped Bust dollar is known to exist, struck in 1858 or 1859 over a Swiss taler, with others having been confiscated and melted down. Six Class III 1804 Draped Bust dollars are accounted for today, struck between 1858 and 1875 with an original obverse die and a reconstructed reverse die. Many regard Class II and Class III 1804 dollars as "Mint forgeries."

Mint employees during this time or somewhat earlier also issued proof Draped Bust dollars dated 1801, 1802, and 1803. Though these pieces are highly prized by collectors today, the king remains the 1804 dollar.

In recent years, a different kind of chicanery has visited 1804 dollars. The grading services have been giving them them higher and higher grades. Their selling prices, no doubt for this and other reasons, have also been increasing.

One Class I dollar, a PCGS Proof-68 once owned by the Sultan of Muscat (now Oman) and the finest known 1804 specimen (pictured below), sold in 1999 to coin dealer David Akers, who reportedly bought it for a private collector. The price was $4.14 million, the second most ever paid for any individual coin through a public auction (the most was for a 1933 Saint-Gaudens twenty dollar gold piece, which sold for $7.59 million in 2002). The same coin had earlier been graded Proof-65 by Q. David Bowers.

This photo, incidentally, illustrates well one of the diagnostics of all authentic 1804 dollars, a thin obverse die crack that runs from the top of star 3 to the top of the "T" in "LIBERTY." The photo most clearly shows the crack before and after the "L" and the "R." All authentic 1804 dollars also depict distorted edge lettering as a result of their lettered-edge planchets being struck inside a smooth-collar press.

 

 

 

Linderman-DuPont Class III dollar, graded "sharply struck, perfect proof" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett and Proof-63 by Q. David Bowers

Dexter Class I dollar, graded "brilliant proof" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, "brilliant proof, dipped" by Walter Breen, and "Proof-63 (counterstamped)" by Q. David Bowers (counterstamp is on reverse)

 

 

 

Another Class I 1804 dollar, a PCGS Proof-67 once owned by the King of Siam (now Thailand), sold as part of the King of Siam 11-coin set for $1.82 million in 1993, for more than $4 million in 2001, and most recently for $8.5 million in 2005 to Rare Coin Wholesalers. The same coin had previously been graded Proof-65 by both PCGS and Q. David Bowers.

The PCGS Proof-64 Dexter specimen, another Class I dollar, sold for $1.84 million at Stack's 65th anniversary auction in 2000. The same coin had previously been graded Proof-63 by Q. David Bowers.

The Adams-Carter specimen, graded Proof-58 by PCGS, sold in August 2003 for $1.2 million through Bowers and Merena. The same coin sold just two years earlier for $874,000. Reportedly, during the time the Carter family owned the coin, from 1950 to 1984, Amon Carter Jr. occasionally carried it unprotected in his pocket, which caused the wear.

The Adams-Carter coin is currently graded Proof-58 by PCGS, but in the past it was graded Proof-50 by NGC and before that Proof-45 by PCGS. To PCGS's own graders, the coin improved an astonishing 13 points in quality over time. PCGS contended that it graded the coin as it most recently did because previous graders didn't account for its weak strike. But Q. David Bowers, Walter Breen, and Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett had all graded it extremely fine as well. A considerably more likely explanation is that this coin is just another example of how the grading "standards" of the grading services are anything but consistent over time and how they treat rare coins or coins with provenance more leniently than other coins.

 

 

 

King of Siam Class I dollar, graded "perfect brilliant proof" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, "brilliant gem proof" by Walter Breen, Proof-65 by Q. David Bowers, Proof-65 by PCGS, and more recently Proof-67 by PCGS and Proof-67 by NGC

Sultan of Muscat/Watters-Childs Class I dollar, graded "perfect brilliant blue proof" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, Proof-65 by Q. David Bowers, and Proof-68 by PCGS

 

 

 

NGC recently engaged in two similar acts of blatant overgrading. It graded the Berg-Garrett specimen, a Class III 1804 dollar not pictured here, Proof-55. This is a whopping 15 points higher than everyone else had graded it. Q. David Bowers graded it EF-40 in his 1993 book Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia. Walter Breen graded it EF in his 1988 book Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett graded it extremely fine in their 1962 book The Fantastic 1804 Dollar. When it was last sold, in 1980 as part of the Garrett sale, it was also graded EF-40. Before NGC graded it Proof-55, ANACS had graded it, also EF-40.

Similarly, NGC graded the Mickley-Hawn-Queller Class I dollar (pictured at the top of this page) Proof-62, whereas Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett graded it "very nearly uncirculated," Walter Breen "EF-AU, poorly cleaned," and Q. David Bowers Proof-50. This is the last 1804 dollar to reach the market, having sold for $3,737,500 through Heritage Auction Galleries in April 2008.

These sleight-of-hand grading tricks with 1804 dollars by the legitimate grading companies may boost the selling prices of these coins, and they may create an incentive for those selling these kinds of coins to submit them for treatment like this, but they don't reflect well on the grading services or numismatics. On the other hand, official and unofficial trickery has always been a part of numismatics in this and other ways.

Some numismatists derogatively refer to 1804 dollars as fantasy pieces or novadel dollars ("novadel" is Russian for "new replica") because they were never struck for circulation, and the Class II and Class III dollars as Mint forgeries, minted as they were, on the sly and illegally by Mint employees seeking personal gain. The most highly valued U.S. coins by the numismatic marketplace are all tainted by illegality, deliberately minted or released to the public against the law. The 1804 Draped Bust dollars, the 1933 Saints, and the 1913 Liberty Head nickels are the most visible examples, with other examples including all 1852 proof denominations and the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars. What's more, the 1964-D Peace dollars and the 1974 aluminum cents, according to reliable sources, are either out there or must be out there in private hands.

All this is merely academic for most collectors for whom these celebrity coins are out of reach. Fortunately, other Draped Bust coins, including the stately silver dollars, were minted officially and released legally, entirely above board, and they're considerably easier to
collect.

 

 

Draped Bust

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1804 Dollar

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Oldest Coins

 Athenian Owls

Alexander the Great Coins

Medusa Coins

Thracian Tetradrachms

House of Constantine

Draped Bust Coins

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

Coin sites:
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Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins
Pre-coins

© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

Note: Any of the items illustrated on these pages that are in my possession are stored off site.