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1900 Lafayette Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

The 1900 Lafayette Dollar. This example, graded PCGS MS63, was sold by Stack's Bowers on 8/31/2022 for $1,440.
The 1900 Lafayette Dollar. This example, graded PCGS MS63, was sold by Stack’s Bowers on 8/31/2022 for $1,440.

While the Lafayette dollar was the third official United States commemorative coin (after the Columbian Exposition half dollar and quarter), it was still the first commemorative dollar coin, the first commemorative to feature a U.S. citizen, and the first authorized coin from the United States Mint to feature President George Washington, whose accolated bust appears alongside Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de La Fayette (known simply as Lafayette to countless generations of school children). It is also the only silver dollar issued in the classic commemorative series and the only commemorative silver dollar issued until the release of a triumvirate of discus-wielding Olympic coins in 1983 launched the modern commemorative silver dollar era in earnest. The Lafayette coin was authorized by an Act of Congress dated March 3, 1899, with proceeds from its sale going to the Lafayette Memorial Commission in support of the construction of a Lafayette Monument to be built at the Place du Carrousel adjacent to the Louvre in Paris, France.

The obverse of the coin, according to a Philadelphia Ledger article published in 1909 and later reprinted in The Numismatist, is the side with the horse-mounted general, which was designed by Paul Bartlett, a New York-based artist, and approved by the Fine Arts Board of Paris. The bust of Washington was modeled after a bust sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon–the same one used by John Flanagan for his adopted Washington quarter design. Lafayette’s bust was derived from a French medal designed by Jacques Counois. It’s worth noting that Barber’s jugate design is eerily similar to Peter L. Krider’s 1881 Yorktown Surrender Centennial Medal. This is doubtfully a coincidence.

Paul Bartlett's design on the 1881 Surrender at Yorktown Medal. Image: Stack's Bowers.
Paul Bartlett’s design on the 1881 Surrender at Yorktown Medal. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Upon release, the Lafayette silver dollar was offered for sale at $2 USD each. $5,000 was offered for the first coin struck, but the offer was rejected as the Mint was directed to give it to President William McKinley to present to French President Émile Loubet. The Lafayette dollar’s entire production run was minted in one day, on Friday, December 14, 1899, which marked the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s death. As the Mint was not legally authorized to strike coins with a different date than the date minted, the coin’s 1900 date is considered part of its inscribed legend.

1900 Lafayette Dollar Varieties

Collector George H. Clapp first noticed the existence multiple Lafayette dollar varieties in 1925, after the one he owned differed from the one described in Howland Wood’s monograph The Commemorative Coinage of the United States, published by the American Numismatic Society (ANS) in 1922. Wood further researched the matter and identified three obverse dies and four reverse dies for the issue.

Using a cataloging system that identified the coin based on the marriage, with the obverse dies being numbered and the reverse dies being lettered, Wood numbered the four varieties that he discovered as 1A, 1B, 2C, and 3D.

DGS Certified Lafayette dollar with DuVall 4E variety attribution.
DGS Certified Lafayette dollar with DuVall 4E variety attribution.

Commemorative coin expert Anthony Swiatek discovered an example with with a 1C marriage in 1980. The deployment of a fourth obverse and a fifth reverse was discovered by series specialist Frank DuVall in 1988. This became known as variety 4E. Twenty years later, John Feigenbaum announced that the graders at Dominion Grading Service (now defunct) had certified a second example of the 4E variety. This one was certified “DGS AU58 – Cleaned”.

DuVall variety attribution is not standardly denoted on third-party labels and is only sometimes mentioned in auction listings.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

The Lafayette silver dollar has remained a popular collectible coin in the decades since its release.

In an ad published in the July 1964 issue of Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Oklahoma dealer Roy L. Baker offered a Brilliant Uncirculated Lafayette dollar for $135.

In a December 1974 Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine ad, dealers Frank and Laurene Karen of Silver Spring, Maryland, offered Brilliant Uncirculated examples of the Lafayette dollar for $575 each.

In a two-page ad published in the October 1976 issue of The Numismatist, dealer Joel Rettew offered GEM BU examples of the Lafayette dollar for $900 each.

Top Population: PCGS MS-67+ (2, 2/2024). NGC MS-67 (10, 2/2024). CAC MS-67 (3:0 2/2024).

  • PCGS MS-67 CAC #45357305: “Pavonini Collection of Toned Silver Commemoratives”, GreatCollections, September 25, 2022, Lot 1146221 – $90,000. Pleasing, even pastel toning on both sides. Comparable in quality to the Pogue coin.
  • PCGS MS-67 CAC #38634071: “The D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part VII”, Stack’s Bowers, March 20, 2020, Lot 7356 – $60,000. Attractively toned with red, purple, and blue along the periphery and golden hues covering the coin’s interior.
  • PCGS MS-67 CAC #21038766: Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2004, Lot 2233 – $66,700; Heritage Auctions, January 10, 2008, Lot 3414 – $69,000; Heritage Auctions, April 17, 2008, Lot 2528 – $86,250; “The Louis Bassano Collection of U.S. Commemoratives”, Heritage Auctions, July 31, 2009, Lot 1388 – $77,625; “The Empire Collection”, Heritage Auctions, January 7, 2015, Lot 4438 – $73,437.50;  DuVall 1-B variety. Toned on both sides. Peripheral aqua toning on the obverse, turns to red and gold into the interior. Reverse has streaky red toning with splotches of aqua and green.
  • NGC MS-67 #3314520-004: As NGC MS67 #1951144-007. Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2009, Lot 4205 – $34,500. As NGC MS67 #3314520-004. Heritage Auctions, August 3, 2012, Lot 5467 – $35,250. Regraded and given new certification number; Heritage Auctions, April 24, 2014 – $36,718.75. DuVall 2-C. Pale blue, green, and gold toning on the obverse. Streaky muted toning on the reverse with giant fingerprint on the right side. Ugly coin.
  • NGC MS-67 #398216-001: “The Cary & Cheryl Porter Collection”, Heritage Auctions, May 10, 2007, Lot 2445 – $51,750; Heritage Auctions, April 27, 2017, Lot 4377 – $25,850; DuVall 2-C variety. Mottled amber and green toning throughout both sides. 
  • PCGS MS-67 #21765038: As PCGS MS67 #6590428. Heritage Auctions, July 27, 2002, Lot 5041 – $59,800; “Bruce Scher Collection”, Heritage Auctions, February 24, 2005, Lot 4140 – $71,875. Regraded and given new certification number. Bruce Scher on insert. Darkly toned. 

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Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1900
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Distribution: 36,026
Alloy: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Weight: 26.73 g
Diameter: 38.10 mm
Edge Reeded
OBV Designer Charles E. Barber
REV Designer Charles E. Barber
Quality: Business Strike

 

Additional CoinWeek Coverage

https://coinweek.com/commemorative-stories-the-1900-lafayette-dollar-coin-part-i/

https://coinweek.com/commemorative-stories-1900-lafayette-dollar-part-ii/

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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