Heritage Auctions is offering, as a part of the May 16 – 17 Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection IV Signature Auction in New York, a spectacular MS63 Continental Currency dollar in silver. This is this coin’s first auction offering since its appearance in lot 2132 of the George Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), more than 100 years ago. Only two examples of the Newman 3-D variety in silver are known, and this is the finer by a wide margin. There are also two Newman 1-C dollars in silver, bringing the total of silver Continental Currency dollars extant to four: This coin is the finest silver Continental Currency dollar and the most desirable of the Continental Currency coinage.
Eric P. Newman published The 1776 Continental Currency Coinage in 1952, and the work remains the standard reference for the series today. The Continental Currency dollars were struck primarily in pewter, but a few examples are known in brass and silver. Newman identified five obverse and four reverse dies, which were combined to produce seven different die varieties for the series, ranging from Newman 1-A to 5-D.
On obverse 1, the word currency is spelled CURENCY; on obverse 2, it is properly spelled CURRENCY; on obverse 3, the spelling is as on obverse 2, with the addition of EG FECIT (appearing only on this obverse); on obverse 4, the spelling is altered to CURRENCEY; and on obverse 5, the spelling is corrected to CURRENCY by punching a Y over the excess E, and adding a floriated cross to cover the extra Y.
The reverses are as follows: reverse A shows the linked chain made up of dotted lines; on reverse B, the dots are partially cut into lines; the rings have been completely reworked as lines on reverse C; and reverse D has the same linked chain, but the names of the states appearing within have been reordered geographically, with N.HAMPS now to the left of MASSACHS.
Eric P. Newman, Don Taxay, Walter Breen, Philip Mossman, and Michael Hodder spent many years researching the Continental Currency coinage, mesmerized by its mysterious origins. No authorization for the production of the Continental Currency coinage has come to light, but it is probable that the coins were intended to take the place of the dollar-denominated paper currency issued by the Continental Congress in the latter part of 1776.
The four resolutions from May 10, 1775 to May 9, 1776 provided for the issue of paper money in various denominations, including the one dollar bill. The six resolutions of July 22, 1776 through September 26, 1778 omitted the one dollar denomination. Thus, it is logical to conclude the pewter pieces were intended as a substitute for the paper dollars in those issues. The coins had minimal intrinsic value, and like the paper bills they replaced, were valued according to the public’s confidence in Congress, who guaranteed their value at one dollar each.
The mintage figures are unknown, but the pewter coins appear with enough frequency to suggest they were produced in substantial numbers. Many of the coins were undoubtedly melted during this period, because Benjamin Franklin observed that pewter was sorely needed for the canteens used by soldiers in the Continental Army. The most reasonable explanation for the brass examples is that they represent dies trials. The silver coins are of full weight and value, suggesting that a precious-metal coinage was contemplated, but the Continental Congress was chronically short of funds and had no reliable supply of silver, so this idea must have been abandoned quickly.
The different varieties in pewter have been avidly collected since the earliest days of the hobby in this country; the brass and silver coins have always been extremely rare. Sylvester Sage Crosby was aware of pewter examples of the Newman 3-D variety, but the silver coins were discovered only after he wrote The Early Coins of America in 1875. Today, we know of two examples, including the present coin. Crosby recorded a silver example of the Newman 1-C (Parmelee Collection) and a Newman 1-B in brass (Brevoort Collection). Current census data shows the following examples: Newman 1-C, two in silver; Newman 1-A, two in brass; and Newman 1-B in brass, six to eight.
The present coin is the discovery example of the Newman 3-D in silver, which first came to the attention of U.S. collectors through a query in the January 1887 edition of the American Journal of Numismatics.
The 1776 Continental Currency dollars are among the most important and historically interesting issues in all of American numismatics. They have a distinctively American character, as our first dollar coin, although not denominated as such. They were struck at a crucial time in our nation’s history. The young country badly needed a medium of exchange to continue to finance the American Revolution, and to promote confidence in the paper currency as well. The silver pieces are among the rarest and most valuable coins in the American Colonial series.
This coin is the finest-known silver example, with no serious challenger. The design elements are well-centered and sharply rendered, with some doubling evident on the date and some letters in the obverse legend. EG FECIT is bold, although the EG is not as well-formed as the other letters. Both sides are blanketed in pleasing shades of silver-gray toning, with attractive highlights of lavender and champagne-gold. Original mint luster is evident beneath the toning. There are no signs of planchet adjustment marks and only minor contact marks are evident. A small depression in the obverse field, to the left of the sundial, is most likely an imperfection in the planchet. A few minor die breaks are evident on the reverse, the most prominent traveling through the N.HAMPS and MASSACHS rings. Eye appeal is outstanding.
The combination of this coin’s importance in American history, its stunning appearance, and the highest available technical grade makes this offering a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
|Items being sold are from the extensive collection of Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (a Missouri not-for-profit corporation) and have been assembled over a period of 90 years. Proceeds of the sale of all items will be used exclusively for supplementing the Society’s museum operations and scholarly numismatic research efforts and for the benefit of other not-for-profit institutions selected by Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society for public purposes.