The 1776 Continental dollar is an enigmatic, complex issue that has fascinated numismatists for more than 200 years. Numismatic scholars from Sylvester Sage Crosby to Eric P. Newman and Michael Hodder studied the issue in detail, mapping out a convincing theory of the origin and purpose of the coins and classifying the numerous varieties that surfaced over the years. Recently, exciting discoveries by authors like Eric Goldstein and David McCarthy have raised questions about the fundamental nature of these coins and their place of origin. The new evidence is certainly thought-provoking, but we suspect the last word on the Continental dollar has yet to be heard.
Heritage Auctions is pleased to present the single-finest certified 1776 Continental dollar of any variety in our upcoming June 16-20 Long Beach Expo US Coins Signature Auction.
No official documentation on the striking of these coins has ever come to light. The traditional thought on the origin of the Continental dollar is that it was a type of fiat money, created as a substitute for the paper money issued by the Continental Congress to pay government obligations during the Revolutionary War. In February and May of 1776, the Continental Congress passed resolutions issuing various denominations of paper money, including the dollar bill. However, similar resolutions passed in July and November of that year authorized the printing of many other denominations but omitted the dollar note. Eric Newman believed the Continental dollar coins were struck to take the place of paper dollars in the last half of 1776.
Authors Eric Goldstein and David McCarthy published their “Myth of the Continental Dollar” in the January 2018 issue of The Numismatist, detailing several new discoveries in the literature and advancing a new theory on the origin of the Continental dollar. They first note the coin was absent from the collection of Pierre Eugene du Simitierre, the preeminent 18th-century coin collector in America. Apparently, du Simitierre became aware of the Continental dollar at some point but believed it was a fantasy piece. From this and a few contemporary citations, Goldstein and McCarthy conclude the 1776 Continental dollars were privately struck in Europe as souvenir commemoratives, shortly after the war.
Whatever its origin, the coin offered here is the finest known Continental dollar, regardless of die variety or composition. This delightful NGC-graded Superb Gem offers impeccably preserved silver-gray surfaces, with prooflike reflectivity in the fields. The design elements are razor-sharp in most areas, with complete detail on the sun’s face and all the lettering bold, except for a touch of softness on WE ARE ONE in the center of the reverse, opposite the high points on the obverse. A representative of the popular Newman 3-D variety, the important EG FECIT stands out boldly. The obverse is struck slightly off-center, to the upper left, while the reverse is perfectly centered. A diagnostic semicircular die crack extends through the centers of the rings on the reverse from GEORGIA through DELAWARE. This coin was once a highlight of several important numismatic collections, including those of Virgil Brand and John J. Ford.
We expect intense competition from numismatists of all collecting disciplines when this iconic issue crosses the block.