By James McCartney – Senior Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
No specific documentation has ever been found detailing the origins of the enigmatic Continental “dollar”. The vast majority of surviving examples were struck in pewter, although a few silver and brass impressions are also known. These interesting early American pieces are very popular and always attract attention when we offer one at auction.
In lot 247 of our June 2020 Santa Ana auction we present a desirable bold pewter example graded EF-45 (PCGS). It displays dove-grey patina and has hints of original luster in the protected areas. A few moderate marks are noted across the obverse, but these are ancient and nicely worn into the complexion. The reverse is admirably preserved and has no remarkable distractions.
The earliest known published record of the Continental dollar came, oddly enough, in the German book Historical and Genealogical Almanac, or Yearbook of the Most Remarkable New World Events for 1784 by Matthias Christian Sprengel. A few years later, in 1786, Bishop Richard Watson’s Chemical Essays (Volume IV) also mentioned the Continental “dollar”.
As tempting as it is to assign primary source status to the Sprengel and Bishop Watson accounts because they date to the 1780s, recent research and a two-part article by Erik Goldstein and David McCarthy entitled “The Myth of the Continental Dollar” published in the January and July 2018 editions of The Numismatist challenge the long accepted theories surrounding these coins. They discovered that a long string of early Americans — people who were actually in a position to provide concrete facts about these pieces — went on the record to mention that they had never seen or heard of such a thing as a Continental dollar coin. Paul Revere and Josiah Meigs both went on the record within a decade of the end of the American Revolution to correct Bishop Watson’s report that the pewter “dollar” was an American coin.
That the Continental “dollar” was intended as a medal and not a coin, and that it was struck in London in 1783 instead of an unknown American location in 1776, changes very little in the scheme of things. It remains scarce, attractive, historic and valuable. It’s a piece that Paul Revere — no man of letters, typically — felt passionately enough about to write a missive to the Bishop of London.
This sharp EF-45 (PCGS) in pewter will be offered in lot 247 of our June 2020 Santa Ana Auction, featured alongside Vermont coppers from the Q. David Bowers Collection, the Dazzling Rarities Collection, the Francesca Collection of US Gold Coins, and many other rarities. The sale is currently available for bidding and viewing on our website www.StacksBowers.com or you may contact us to secure a copy of the printed catalog. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.