By James McCartney – Senior Numismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……
Featured in lot 493 of our August 2019 ANA Auction is a desirable electrotype copy of the legendary Brasher doubloon and is sure to appeal to collectors of early American rarities. It is a significant relic of American numismatics, relating to both the Revolutionary-era economy and the practices of the United States Mint nearly a century later. It precisely replicates the Mint Cabinet specimen of the 1787 Brasher Doubloon, which was found in a bullion deposit in circa 1838 and rescued from the melting pot by Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt. The Doubloon is now part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
This copy features a plain edge that has been filed smooth, though traces of the seam are visible in select areas. The gilding is nicely intact, revealing hints of the underlying copper on the high points. Fine die lines surround the devices as seen on the genuine Doubloon, lending a lustrous complexion to each side. A few stray marks are visible around the A of COLUMBIA and the E in the reverse legend, though the surfaces are otherwise free from notable abrasions. The scratch that appears on the shield at the central reverse reflects a scratch on the genuine Doubloon and does not represent damage to this piece. It is an attractive copy that has been both expertly produced and well-preserved.
Much of the insight relating to this electrotype issue is owed to researcher Craig Sholley, whose article on these pieces was published in the E-Sylum on October 28, 2018. The Mint Cabinet/Smithsonian Brasher Doubloon has not been outside of the U.S. government’s possession since its discovery before June 1838, allowing us to attribute this copy as a US Mint product with absolute certainty. Sholley points out that the process of electrotyping had not even been invented at the Russian Academy of Sciences until October 1838, eliminating the possibility that it was duplicated before it entered the Mint.
He identified three examples sold by W. Elliot Woodward in 1863, which seem to be the earliest appearance of this issue.
The first one was offered in lot 2105 of Woodward’s April/May sale and was won by Charles Bushnell for $2.50. It was described as “A fine fac-simile of the New York Doubloon, made at the mint by Mr. Dubois.” Sholley believes this to be describing the present piece, which was then gilt after the sale. Researcher Saul Teichman suggests that it was again sold over the following few years, as it does not appear in the 1882 sale of the Bushnell Collection.
A second electrotype was offered by Woodward in lot 2478 of his April/May sale but was not attributed to Dubois.
The third example was offered by Woodward in lot 3061 of his October sale and was cataloged as a “Copy of the New York Doubloon, a perfect facsimile, made by Mr. Dubois, at the mint, much finer than the one in my last sale.” It was won by Joseph Levick for $3.50, who would sell it for a loss in his April 1865 sale where it realized just $1.
Beyond these four noted offerings, auction appearances of this issue are few. Most other 19th- and early-20th century offerings include ambiguous descriptions that likely reference the more common die-struck copies produced in 1861 by Alfred Robinson of Hartford, Connecticut. However, we find another electrotype sold by Barney Bluestone in lot 375 of his April 1945 sale.
Another offering by Frank and Laurese Katen (Milford Coin and Stamp Co.) in December 1946 is particularly noteworthy for its mention of a gilt specimen in lot 1242.
More recently, we featured an example in lot 7086 of our October 2018 sale of the Archangel Collection, which went on to realize $8,400.
The present piece was acquired by our consignor from Colonel Bill Smothers of Midas Coins in the late 1960s, and it has been cherished privately in the five decades since.
This piece is accompanied in our sale by a remarkable Mint-made electrotype of the Class II 1804 dollar in lot 5240, a piece that carries a similar provenance back to Dubois in the 1860s. Individually, these pieces represent considerable rarity, and the appearance of both in one sale is a truly historic event.
This rare Brasher Doubloon electrotype will be featured in lot 493 of our August 2019 ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction, where it will be sold alongside incredible rarities from the Taraszka Collection, the ESM Collection, and many others. The sale is now available for bidding and viewing on our website www.StacksBowers.com. You can also call 800-566-2580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your copy of this incredible catalog. Be sure to download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.