By James McCartney – Senior Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
Rare Chapman Proof 1921 Morgan Dollar
The Chapman Proof 1921 Morgan dollar is among the most elusive issues of the entire series, far exceeding in rarity the legendary Proof-only 1895. We are thrilled to offer one of very finest survivors from this clandestine issue in lot 3210 of our March 2020 Baltimore Auction. Certified Proof-67 by PCGS, it is the sole finest example on the PCGS Population Report and is numerically tied with just the NGC Proof-67 * example from the Duke Collection.
As an unofficial United States Mint issue, more mystery than fact is involved in its creation–in fact, the only items that we can be sure of is that these were produced by George T. Morgan at the behest of prominent Philadelphia coin dealer Henry Chapman. Q. David Bowers sums up the situation best in his Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia:
In 1921, Henry Chapman went to the Mint and had some mirror-surface Proofs struck to his order. This was done clandestinely by or for George T. Morgan, chief engraver, who had a little ‘rare coin business’ going on the side. Walter H. Breen reported that he has seen ‘the bill of sale for 10 Proofs, Morgan to Chapman.’ The original production of mirror-type Proofs must have been very small, perhaps just 15 in all (10 to Chapman, 5 to Ambrose Swasey)… They were not officially sold by the Mint, nor were any Proof sets made that year.
The Chapman Proofs are the only pieces considered to be fully mirrored Proofs; the so-called “Zerbe Proofs” are either prooflike business strikes or some sort of presentation striking. PCGS lists the Chapman Proofs with the regular Proof issues, while categorizing the “Zerbe Proofs” as Special Strikes. Though rendered difficult to see from the toning gained through five or more decades of paper envelope storage, this specimen exhibits the tiny die scratches and other markers that identify the Chapman Proofs at the microscopic level — diagnostics outlined in the Bowers Encyclopedia.
This particular specimen is significant as one of the very finest known survivors. At the highest grade ever awarded to a Chapman Proof, this piece is surely destined for the most accomplished Registry Set or cabinet of Proof Morgans.
It will be featured in lot 3210 of our March 2020 Baltimore Auction, which is highlighted by the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Parts VI and VII, the ESM Collection of Half Cents, and further rarities from the E. Horatio Morgan Collection. To consign your collection alongside these treasures or secure a copy of this exciting catalog speak with a numismatic representative today at 800-566-2580 or email [email protected]. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.