My Draped Bust Dollars


I've decided to at one point to focus my own Draped Bust efforts on dollars. First, I got the semi-schizoid idea of creating a date set of Heraldic Eagle dollars, 1798 to 1803 (six coins), each graded VF-30, and each in the slab of a different mainstream grading service (six services--PCGS, NGC, ANACS, ICG, PCI, and SEGS). I find the Heraldic Eagle reverse more attractive than the Small Eagle reverse (sometimes described as looking like a dove or even a skinny chicken), and coins with the Heraldic Eagle reverse are more affordable than the earlier Bust dollars (1795 to 1798) with the Small Eagle reverse.

I chose VF-30 because to my eye it represents the most affordable grade in which all of the coin's features stand out clearly. I decided to get these six coins in six different slabs for the visual interest, the novelty, and the daftness. (One old-time dealer told me once that all coin collectors exist on a continuum from eccentric to nuts.)

I almost made it (completing this VF-30 set, not becoming deranged). I acquired a 1798 PCI, 1799 ICG, 1800 PCGS, 1801 SEGS, 1802 PCGS, and 1803 ANACS. Some I acquired already slabbed, some I bought raw and submitted myself. But as you can see, I obtained two PCGSs and no NGCs. This wasn't my doing.

NGC wouldn't cross either PCGS coin into one of its own holders. They wouldn't cross the ANACS either. Yet the three Bust dollars I had seen for sale that were already in NGC VF-30 slabs during the six months or so that I was looking were ugly coins that I wouldn't want as part of my collection--one had even been harshly cleaned and hairlined, as you can see. So I gave up on that and created a Heraldic Eagle Bust dollar date set in PCGS slabs, as illustrated below.

To me, the eye appeal of coins, rather than rare varieties or provenance, is paramount, though I understand how others find these qualities attractive. I'm a big fan of toning, feeling it's one of the key eye-appeal factors of an old silver coin. A beautifully toned coin is a coin that has aged beautifully.

You can click on any coin below to bring up a magnified, close-up view of it.

After completing this set, it was time for me to move on again. I created a 1799 miniset: georgously toned PCGS AU-53 1799 dollar, a scruffy but still attractive holed 1799 dollar, and gouged, stained, and plugged 1799 dollar that's nearly worn to a featureless slug. As I said, coin collectors exist on a continuum from eccentric to nuts....

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








I bought the above 1798 dollar through eBay. It was in an ICG EF-45 "Miller" holder. The Miller Collection, an amazing set of 114 of 118 known early dollar die varieties collected by Warren Miller, was displayed by ICG at the 2002 ANA show in New York City. All of Miller's coins were graded by ICG, and the above coin was once part of this collection.

I've learned that this coin was also once owned by Winthrop Carner of Winthrop Carner Rare Coins, who does business on eBay as "wcarner." This coin is the first pictured in his eBay logo. Small world.

I adhered to the maxim, though, and bought the coin, not the slab. I like ICG (and ICG's James Taylor), but I cracked the coin out of its ICG slab and sent it to PCGS for my all-PCGS miniset (Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds...).

As you can see, it came back at 40, which I believe is stingy. If I were to try again, I'm fairly sure it would come back at 45 or possibly even 50. The not-so-secret game of the grading services is that you sometimes have to resubmit a coin multiple times to get the proper grade. This coin is very meaty in the hair and the feather details.

The coin also has attractive toning, darker around the periphery on both obverse and reverse. There are subtle, and interesting, adjustment marks across the cloud on the reverse at 1 o'clock, which adds to both the coin's eye appeal and its history. Adjustment marks like this were made by Mint officials in the early days to make coin planchets the correct weight.








The above 1799 is my nicest Bust dollar, and for now I'm going to hold onto it. I bought it on eBay in an old green-label PCGS EF-40 slab. I, and the other bidders, knew it wasn't a 40 by today's standards. I was betting it was a 50, and I bid somewhat more than 45 money for it.

As you can see, it came back at 53, which I was ecstatic about, though I'm even more pleased with the coin itself. Coins like this are sometimes described as "hyperoriginal." There's clear indication that it has never been cleaned or otherwise tampered with. The coin has amazing toning. The periphery is darkened, and lovely blue and pink undertones cover most of the coin's surfaces. These colors are plainly visible to the naked eye though they're not as visible in these photos.

The reverse toning is interesting for another reason. Unlike with the obverse, the periphery is darkened in straight lines and without color (the center of the reverse has the same blue and pink undertones as the obverse). My theory is that the coin was stored for a long time inside a folded-up envelope, and that glue or rubber bands from outside the envelope darkened the periphery of the reverse this way.









I bought this 1800 dollar in its PCGS VF-30 slab. It was one of the coins I tried to cross into an NGC slab without luck.

It's a very pleasant if not spectacular coin, with nice contrast between the more heavily worn devices and the recessed fields. The toning has subtle blue and rose undertones. There's a small planchet flaw in the right obverse field, barely visible in the photo, which was the reason cited by NGC for not grading the coin. Harsh... There's also a slight flatness of strike on two of the obverse stars and part of the reverse legend, which appears more pronounced in the picture than in person.








This 1801 dollar was my best buy. An old-time collector had simultaneously put up for auction on Yahoo about 400 coins and collectibles, his intention being to liquidate his collection, including this 1801. This is the toughest Heraldic Eagle Bust dollar date to find.

I offered to buy this coin immediately, and the seller agreed. I first sent it to SEGS, since at the time I was creating a set of Bust dollars in the slabs of different grading companies. I was pleased when it came back at VF-30.

I wasn't pleased at all when PCGS put it in a 20 holder after I cracked it out of its SEGS holder for the all-PCGS set I was creating. So I immediately sent it back to SEGS still in its PCGS VF-20 holder, along with a photo I had taken of it in its SEGS VF-30 holder. I asked SEGS to place it back in a VF-30 holder, thinking I'd sell it that way. But SEGS refused, saying they could now only holder it at VF-25. The games of the grading companies...

I believe that if I were to try again, there's a good chance PCGS would 25 it, which I feel is its true grade, though if it did the coin would be a PQ VF-25. The hair detail is a bit weak, but the bust is strong, and the reverse is very strong. The coin also has beautiful toning, with gorgeous pink and blue undertones, and spectacular overall eye appeal for a coin that has circulated.








I bought this 1802 dollar raw at one of the Baltimore Coin and Currency Conventions, a large national coin show, thinking it stood a fair chance of grading EF-40.

I sent it with some other coins to PCGS, but right now PCGS is in one of its conservative grading phases, and it came back at VF-30, which I believe is stingy. Along with well-preserved detail, the coin has very nice toning over both obverse and reverse that combines subtle shades of rose and cobalt blue. The surfaces of the coin are also very nice, with no significant scratches, gouges, stains, or problems of any sort.

There's lots of detail in the places that matter most with Bust dollars, including Liberty's bust and face, the eagle's feathers and eye, and the reverse motto. There's just a tad of striking weakness in the hair detail above Liberty's forehead, though this is characteristic of this variety, and the rest of Liberty's hair is brilliantly detailed. The coin is well centered and has strong denticles and undamaged rims.

I've since sold this coin, and the buyer told me he cracked it out and sent it to NGC. It came back EF-40...








The above 1803 dollar is another beautifully toned coin. I bought it through eBay from Tangible Asset Galleries/Superior Galleries, the largest volume seller of high-grade Bust dollars in the country. Incidentally, at the same ANA show where ICG was displaying the Miller Collection, Tangible Asset Galleries/Superior Galleries was displaying the Cardinal Collection, a 56-coin set of Draped Bust and Flowing Hair dollars they helped a California collector put together, all coins graded AU-50 to MS-65, all major varieties represented. Glom city.

Before this, in one of their periodic blowouts, Tangible Asset Galleries/Superior Galleries put about 40 Draped Bust dollars up for auction on eBay, an amazing selection, with many coins in AU condition and a few in mint state. This 1803 was among the least expensive and is still a very beautiful coin.

I sent it to PCGS, and though I wasn't displeased with its VF-30 grade, I believe if I were to have tried again, it would have had a decent chance of coming back at 35 or perhaps even 40. The bust and reverse have very strong detail. Most impressive, the turquoise iridescent peripheral toning, seen best in person when rotating the coin, is stunning.

I also like collecting oddball coins. Draped Bust dollars with holes are generally considered to be damaged. But there's a lot of history, and visual interest, in dollars that are holed.



Draped Bust


Anne's Life

Anne's Death

1804 Dollar


Dollar Set






Other Images

More Info

Other glomworthy coins:

Oldest Coins

 Athenian Owls

Alexander the Great Coins

Medusa Coins

Thracian Tetradrachms

House of Constantine

Draped Bust Coins

Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

Coin sites:
Coin Collecting: Consumer Protection Guide
Glomming: Coin Connoisseurship
Bogos: Counterfeit Coins

© 2014 Reid Goldsborough

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