By Q. David Bowers – Stack’s Bowers ….
One of the Finest Known!
The 1804 silver dollar is the very definition of the icon of American numismatics. For over 150 years more has been written about this rarity than for the next several combined!
When it was crowned as “king” we don’t know. George G. Evans in his popular Illustrated History of the United States Mint, published in the 1880s and ’90s in multiple editions, commented: “This coin among collectors is known as the ‘king of American rarities.’”
In their 1906 catalog of the Major W.B. Wetmore collection the Chapman brothers noted, “There are many very desirable coins here offered, notably the Grand Old King of American coins, the 1804 dollar, a coin the possession of which has afforded Major Wetmore much pleasure for nearly 30 years.”
The grand prize for the deification of the 1804 dollar surely goes to B. Max Mehl in his description of the William Forrester Dunham Collection coin in 1941:
“In all the history of numismatics of the entire world, there is not today and there never has been a single coin which was and is the subject of so much romance, interest, comment, and upon which so much has been written and so much talked about and discussed as the United States silver dollar of 1804.
“While there may be coins of greater rarity (based upon the number of specimens known), none is as famous as the dollar of 1804! This is due to the fact that this great coin was the first coin of United States mintage to have been recognized as the rarest coin of the United States, from the very beginning of American numismatics, more than one hundred years ago. And it is today, as it always has been, the best known and most sought-after coin, not only among collectors, but among the public in general as well.”
For well over a century the possession of an 1804 silver dollar in a collection has bestowed an aura of glory upon its owner. More than any other single coin, the 1804 dollar has attracted a lot of attention in numismatic circles. Three books have been written and posters have been printed showing it. From time to time specimens have been placed on display at museums such as the Smithsonian Institution, the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the American Numismatic Society (ANS), and elsewhere. The exhibit of an 1804 dollar at a convention has always been a prime drawing card. Crowds gather around!
There are eight known Class I or “original” 1804 dollars–struck from Proof dies in 1834 for diplomatic presentation. Three are in museums: the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution (impaired Proof), the American Numismatic Association Museum in Colorado Springs (VF-30), and the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha (Proof-64 with friction in the fields).
The Dexter Specimen, the coin to be offered in The D. Brent Pogue Collection Part V set a record price for a coin sold at public auction in 1989 when it just missed realizing a seven-figure price, the million-dollar barrier which would not be broken until 1996 with the sale of the Eliasberg 1913 Liberty nickel.
You are invited to be the next owner! We congratulate in advance the successful bidder. You will join this fantastic roster of those who have bought and sold this identical coin:
From S. Hudson and Henry Chapman in or before 1884, possibly obtained from a Mint official who requested privacy. William E. DuBois, co-curator of the Mint Cabinet for many years is a good candidate. Sold by them at auction on May 14, 1885, stating that it had come from a sale held in Berlin, Germany, by Adolph Weyl in October 1884, lot 159. However, the Weyl coin is different. Particulars are given by Eric P. Newman in The Fantastic 1804 Dollar (1962), co-authored with Kenneth Bressett. Returning to the Dexter coin it was sold to the following: J.W. Scott, proprietor of the Scott Stamp & Coin Co., New York, agent for the following: James Vila Dexter, Denver, Colorado. He seems to have taken a tiny D punch and placed his initial on a cloud on the reverse. Apparently, he marked certain other of his coins as well, tying them to his collection; 1899-1903 in the Dexter estate; On November 5, 1903, Roland G. Parvin, executor of the Dexter estate, sold the coin to the following: H.G. Brown, Portland, Oregon. October 11. 1904: Lyman H. Low, Part I of the Brown Collection, lot 431; William Forrester Dunham, Chicago pharmacist, until 1939, sold with his collection to B. Max Mehl, who added it to his inventory, offering rarities by private treaty to John Work Garrett, Charles M. Williams, and others. Sold privately to the following sometime between 1939 and early 1941, although it was showcased in the May 1941 catalog and claimed to have been sold for a record price; Charles M. Williams, Cincinnati insurance executive who sold his collection intact in 1949 to the following; Numismatic Gallery; 1949 by private treaty to the following: Harold Bareford; our sale of the Bareford Collection, October 22-23, 1981, lot 424; RARCOA (Ed Milas), sold in 1985 to the following: Leon Hendrickson in partnership with George Weingart; RARCOA. July 7, 1989, Auction ’89, lot 247; American Rare Coin Fund, L.P., Hugh Sconyers, financial manager, Kevin Lipton, numismatic manager; sold in the early 1990s to the following: Northern California collector; Superior Galleries sale, May 30-31, 1994; lot 761; Harlan White, proprietor of The Old Coin Shop, San Diego, California; Holecek Family Trust; Our 65th Anniversary Sale, October 2000, lot 1167; D. Brent Pogue.