1885 Morgan Dollar Aluminum Pattern

One of the fascinating pieces being offered in the Beverly Hills Signature Auction is an experimental 1885 Snowden dollar. The obverse and reverse dies are from the regular-issue 1885 Morgan dollar, but an experimental edge has been used with the legend: * * * * * * E * / PLURIBUS * / UNUM * * * * *. This coin, graded Proof 65 by PCGS, is struck in aluminum with a tripartite collar for the edge lettering.

The so-called Snowden dollars were struck as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

The edge was struck from a novel three-part collar that produced raised edge lettering on the coin. Considerable experimentation went into the production of these pieces, and on June 12, 1885, Snowden and his staff succeeded in getting the mechanism to work at normal production speeds of 80 to 100 coins per minute.

Snowden retired at the end of the year and left placement of the raised lettering to his successor. Mint Director Horatio C. Burchard left the office around the same time, and no one remained in the Mint who had Snowden’s insight, ability, or willingness to experiment to carry his project forward to completion. The tripartite collar was not used again until 1907 when Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ double eagles went into production.

As with most aluminum patterns, the fields are exceptionally bright and mirrored. Slight haziness is present on each side with ever-so-slight darkening of the metal over the eagle on the reverse.

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