FROM THE BRUCE MORELAN COLLECTION
Legend Rare Coin Auctions is honored to offer the UNIQUE Specimen Striking 1794 silver dollar. Ranking not only as one of the FINEST KNOWN examples of the first emission of silver dollars, it is also believed by noted numismatic scholars to be the FIRST example struck of this historically important issue. While every 1794 silver dollar is a numismatic treasure of the first order, regardless of condition, this one is especially important. Truly a numismatic treasure of the first order, a world class rarity, and the current record holder for most valuable coin ever sold in auction, the first one to ever realize in excess of $10,000,000.
All 1794 silver dollars were struck from a single pair of dies, and out of the 1,758 silver dollars delivered on October 15, 1794, the presently offered SUPERB GEM is the only one to have been struck from the earliest state of the dies. The fields retain intense, wholly PROOFLIKE mirrored surfaces, a trait unique to this silver striking. Of the high grade survivors of this date (a very small population indeed) no other 1794 dollar has Prooflike surfaces. The devices are fully rendered, exactly struck up, showing the SHARPEST definition of all the Mint State examples. Showing crisp separation of all of Ms. Liberty’s hair strands, her facial features, and all of the eagle’s wing and breast feathers stand out dramatically. Since the mint did not have a press that could handle the pressure required for the striking of silver dollars, there is the slightest touch of softness at some of the stars and some of the letters of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Clearly careful preparation went into the striking of this coin, with the surfaces of the dies freshly burnished, and with no clash marks, no striking weakness from misaligned dies, and no cracks seen. The die state is an exact match to the copper die trial, cataloged as Judd-19, that now resides in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. These are the ONLY two examples known to be in BB Die State 1. Indeed, as noted in the Jack Collins and Walter Breen reference on the 1794 dollars, it states: “P. Scott Rubin photographically compared this specimen with the Judd-19, and found that both are in the identical earliest die state, and that the striking qualities on these two examples are superior to all of the other known Mint State specimens. This has given conjecture that the Neil-Carter coin was the first silver dollar struck. It is certainly the only known surviving example that displays original die polish."
In order to ensure that this coin met all statutory standards, the mint inserted a plug of silver to bring up the weight of a light weight planchet, then a light filing was done to bring the planchet to its ideal weight. These adjustment marks are seen near the peripheries. Delicate golden and pale azure toning gently caresses the surfaces on both sides, its pattern virtually unchanged since 1947! The surfaces are virtually flawless, indeed if you do not consider the mint made adjustment marks and a lint mark below the I in LIBERTY, the fields are essentially PRISTINE! Having been one of the few who have seen this coin outside of its encapsulation, John Dannreuther said, “Those who have examined this specially struck coin understand how magnificent a specimen it is with deeply reflective fields and almost no marks. The PCGS SP66 grade is conservative!"
Lots of theories abound as to the silver plug and adjustment marks. John Dannreuther believes that “this is a regulated silver dollar, just as Ephraim Brasher regulated Spanish gold coins by drilling a hole and filling it with a plug to bring the weight up to the requisite weight. The Mint was saying when it struck this coin that the United States was going to issue a coin of correct weight. This 1794 silver dollar is within one grain of the weight prescribed by the 1792 Mint Act." Comparing this Specimen striking in silver to the copper die trial, he notes that not only is the same die state, but “both these coins have about 7 degrees clockwise rotation, further indicating that they were struck one after another."
American numismatics is full of iconic coins that mean something to us involved in the hobby. There are few coins in the entire canon of numismatics, from ancient times down to the current day that transcend time and place, and represent the truly amazing miracle story that is the American economic history. The history of establishing the mint, and its premier issuance of silver dollars begins in the 1780s and includes the roles of the most prominent of our founders: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. In March 1791, an act of Congress was passed establishing the U.S. Mint. Stating:
“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, that a mint shall be established under such regulations as shall be directed by law.
Resolved, that the President of the Unites States be, and is hereby authorized to cause to be engaged, such principle artists as shall be necessary to carry out the preceding resolution into effect and to stipulated the terms and conditions of their service, and also to cause to be procured such apparatus as shall be requisite for the same purpose."
Signed into law on March 3, 1791, by President Washington, the work to create the beginnings of the American coinage system could begin. David Rittenhouse, a Philadelphia polymath was appointed director of the mint, and work began on building the facilities that would house the first Mint of the United States.
The federal mint fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of State, and as such, was under the control of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had long been a proponent of using a decimal coinage system. This system was put into law with the passage of the “1792 Coinage Act," passed on April 2, 1792. Thus, the gold denominations would be based off of the $10 Eagle, and its half and quarter fractions; the silver coins would be based on the Silver Dollar and its fractions: half and quarter dollars, a dime or 1/10th of a dollar, and half dime or 1/20th of a dollar. Copper coins, representing the smallest denominations were the cent and half cent. The Act established the weights and standards of each denomination. Further, the Act stipulated that one side of the coin was to have a representation of Liberty and the word LIBERTY, along with the date; the reverse side of gold and silver issues were to have an eagle and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, while copper coins had to have the denomination represented on the reverse.
The first coinage struck under the auspices of the April 2, 1792 Act of Congress that established the coinage system were half dismes, struck in the basement of John Harper’s sawmill while the Mint facilities were still under construction. Once the mint officially opened, Joseph Wright, Henry Voight, Robert Birch, Robert Scott, and other famed engravers would find employment in the early days, though some of their tenures would be cut short due to yellow fever epidemics that ravaged the city each summer. It was not until 1794 that the mint officers were able to post the required bonds to strike coins in silver.
There are two 1794 dollar die trials listed in the Judd reference on pattern coins. The aforementioned Judd-19 is struck from the same dies. There is a listing for Judd-18, which is a similar design, without the stars surrounding Liberty’s head. It was thought that after Judd-18 was struck the stars were added, however Andrew Pollock’s study of the piece revealed that Judd-18 and Judd-19 are two distinct dies. The Judd-18 currently resides in the Bob Simpson Collection; while Judd-19 as mentioned, is impounded in the Smithsonian, a gift from the Stack Family (and was formerly in the famous Davis-Graves Collection sale in 1954).
The dies were most likely engraved by Robert Scot; the obverse depicting the head of Liberty facing right with flowing locks of hair, surrounded by the word LIBERTY, which divides 15 stars representing the 15 states then in the union; the date 1794 below. The reverse features a small eagle, its wings outstretched, as if about to take off, perched in a wreath of olive branches representing peace, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA around. The edge is lettered with the words: HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT, with ornamentation between the words. This is the only declaration of the denomination.
Silver dollar production took place in October 1794. Approximately 2,000 examples were struck from a single pair of dies. The mint machinery was apparently not up to the task of striking such a large diameter coin, and the dies were not placed into proper alignment. The majority of the known examples that survive today have significant striking weakness, especially at the lower obverse periphery. Of those produced, 1,758 examples that were deemed satisfactory were delivered to the coiner with the remaining melted down to be re-coined later.
In an article by noted numismatic scholar, R.W. Julian, which appeared in Numismatic News, in September 2019, entitled, “Silver dollars of 1794-1795 were illegal." the scene was described as follows:
“On Oct. 15, 1794, there was a special ceremony honoring the first regular coinage of silver under the new government. In the hurry to begin coinage, however, it was found that the largest press available was not really powerful enough to strike silver dollars all that well. Moreover, the dies were slightly out of parallel, meaning that struck dollars would have areas, especially on the lower left of the obverse and the corresponding part of the reverse, where the design did not come up properly.
The President was unable to attend this special event, being absent from Philadelphia, but Secretary of State Edmund Randolph did.
At the end of the day on the 15th, Chief Coiner Voight delivered exactly 1,758 silver dollars to Mint Treasurer Tristam Dalton, who had the legal duty of paying out the coins to the depositors. In this case, however, the coins did not travel very far because they were all given to David Rittenhouse. The director went to some lengths to send specimens to various parts of the country, at his own expense, so that others might see what the Mint was doing.
On the following day, Secretary Randolph penned a note to the President which read in part that, ‘The silver coin of the U.S. bears upon its face so much neatness and simplicity, that I cannot restrain myself from transmitting a dollar for your inspection."
Again, there is no documentary evidence that this coin is the exact one to be presented by Edmund Randolph to George Washington, but we can speculate that a special burnished example would have been the one given the President. Further, it is opined by P. Scott Rubin that since the silver dollar was the largest silver coin of the realm, it would have been important for David Rittenhouse to show the first example to its finest advantage, and in all likelihood, he probably took a very hands on approach to their striking.
Of the 1,758 pieces delivered, perhaps 150 or so examples are known to survive. The vast majority are heavily circulated, showing extensive wear. Many have condition issues that preclude third party grading. Of those precious few that remain in Uncirculated condition, PCGS has graded a 62+, a 63+, a 64, and two in 66+, this SPECIMEN striking SP-66 ranks at the very top of every published Condition Census.
An extensive pedigree accompanies this GEM. Ex. Virgil Brand Collection; Col. E.H.R. Green Collection; Green estate to St. Louis Stamp and Coin (B.G. Johnson) 1942; James Kelly Fixed Price List #20, 1945; C. David Pierce; Art and Paul Kagin; Numismatic Gallery (Kosoff and Kreisberg) sold to following in 1946; Will W. Neil Collection, B. Max Mehl, June 1947, lot 1; Amon Carter Collection, Stack’s, January 1984, lot 207; Hugh Sconyers for the American Rare Coin Fund, LP; Wayne Miller and Hoagy Carmichael Collections sale, Superior, January 1986, lot 1173; Anthony Terranova; RARCOA/Ed MIlas/ Marvin Browder; Andrew Lustig; An Amazing Collection of Silver Dollars, Superior, May 1991, lot 699; Knoxville Collection; Jay Parrino; Steve Contursi; Cardinal Collection, privately in May 2010 for a then record $7,850,000; Cardinal Collection, Stack’s Bowers, January 2013, lot 13094, for a WORLD RECORD $10,016,875. Purchased for Bruce Morelan by Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ founder Laura Sperber, more than seven years later, no coin sold for anywhere close to what this one sold for.
The importance of this coin’s UNIQUE status, goes back at least as far back as the June 1947 B. Max Mehl sale of the Will W. Neil Collection, lot 1, where Mr. Mehl described it as “Probably finest known specimen." Purchased out of the Neil Collection sale by Amon Carter, Sr, a Dallas, Texas based businessman, whose collection was sold in January 1984 in an historic sale conducted by Stack’s, where the cataloger added the following to Mr. Mehl’s original description:
“This cataloger has been privileged to either examine or sell every known Mint State 1794 Silver Dollar: the two Lord St. Oswald coins in London in 1964, the 1973 Kreisberg-Cohen coin (formerly from our Price List #47, 1950); the Austrian specimen (purchased by us in 1956); the Empire specimen we sold in 1957; and now we have the pleasure of selling the Amon Carter example.
We feel confident that this specimen is certainly the “Finest Known." Our rating of this coin as “Finest Known" can be confirmed by the following information.
B. Max Mehl in describing the coin in 1947, unfortunately, doesn’t quite state that the coin is wholly prooflike. However, Stack’s has in its possession the Unique 1794 Dollar in Copper which is excellently described in Breen’s book on Proof coins and we quote from that book:
“Dollar. The unique copper specimen with lettered edge, struck from the same dies presumably early on Oct. 15, 1794 just before the production run of 1,758 pieces, does show evidence of having been coined from polished ides on a burnished blank. The stars at left are sharper than the known silver pieces. It is unique… Silver dollars of 1794, unlike this piece, almost invariably have weak areas at left obv. and rev., rendering left stars, part of date, and parts of UNITED STATES hardly visible even on uncirculated or nearly uncirculated specimens; in addition, the hair is seldom well brought up. This copper piece did receive two blows from the dies while they were still parallel; after the first few silver ones were made, some accident rendered them skew (not quite in parallel planes) producing the mentioned weakness. (It is known that some of the weakest 1794’s were not allowed to leave the mint, but instead used as planchets for striking dollars of 1795.) If it can be established hat this copper dollar did in fact receive two blows from the press, then it qualifies as a true proof and the first definitely established to have been issued by the Philadelphia mint."
This, the Carter 1794 Silver Dollar is a twin to the Copper Dollar, both in surface and strike. It is perfectly conceivable that this coin was the very first 1794 Silver Dollar struck!"
Later offered in Superior’s May 1991 Auction of “An amazing Collection of United States Silver Dollars," lot 699, this dollar was described, again, in part:
“Prooflike and superb! This is ‘The Coin,’ the World’s Finest 1794 Silver Dollar which has the added value of also being the only Presentation Specimen known. Although there were no 1794 Proofs officially made, there is no denying this coin received extra care when it was made…Unlike every other Mint State 1794, of which about 5 are known, there are fully developed prooflike fields behind the devices. These prooflike fields provide a wealth of beauty to the coin and five contrast to its relief details…
When our consignor submitted it to the grading service for encapsulation, he was told in writing by Mr. David Hall ‘PCGS has examined and graded the Amon Carter 1794 Silver Dollar. PCGS grades the coin Mint State 65. A strong case can be made for calling the coin a Proof. It certainly is a presentation piece of some sort."
We acknowledge that there is no documentary evidence that is connected to this coin to say for certain, 100% that it is the first silver dollar struck by the United States Mint in Philadelphia. However, the preponderance of the numismatic evidence, special care in preparation of both planchet and dies, its earliest state of the dies, and its exceptional quality clearly suggest that this is the FIRST American dollar struck, a coin that represents the beginning of the most powerful and recognized currency in the world economy—a coin whose future impact would not have been even a whisper of a dream when it was produced in October 1794. Few historical artifacts, collectible or otherwise has so much importance. Fewer still exist outside of institutional collections and are available for private ownership. Among the pantheon of all coins, struck from ancient to modern times, NONE can compare to this, the first American silver dollar struck. No American coin can transcend place and time in the same way this coin does; opening its allure to not just advanced collectors of American coins, but also buyers of other world famous treasures. The owner of this coin becomes not just a legendary coin collector, but a custodian of a numismatic treasure unlike ANY OTHER!
PCGS 1, NGC 0, CAC 1. Ex. Virgil Brand Collection; Col. E.H.R. Green Collection; Green estate to St. Louis Stamp and Coin (B.G. Johnson) 1942; James Kelly Fixed Price List #20, 1945; C. David Pierce; Art and Paul Kagin; Numismatic Gallery (Kosoff and Kreisberg) sold to following in 1946; Will W. Neil Collection, B. Max Mehl, June 1947, lot 1; Amon Carter Collection, Stack’s, January 1984, lot 207; Hugh Sconyers for the American Rare Coin Fund, LP; Wayne Miller and Hoagy Carmichael Collections sale, Superior, January 1986, lot 1173; Anthony Terranova; RARCOA/Ed MIlas/ Marvin Browder; Andrew Lustig; An Amazing Collection of Silver Dollars, Superior, May 1991, lot 699; Knoxville Collection; Jay Parrino; Steve Contursi; Cardinal Collection, privately in May 2010 for a then record $7,850,000; Cardinal Collection, Stack’s Bowers, January 2013, lot 13094, for a WORLD RECORD $10,016,875. Purchased for Bruce Morelan by Legend Rare Coin Auctions’ founder Laura Sperber; Bruce Morelan Collection; and now (YOUR NAME COULD BE HERE). Bid accordingly.
Cert. Number 36065467
PCGS # 86851.00