By James McCartney, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers ……
The Rarities Night session of our August 2017 ANA Auction will feature a magnificent Chilean 1756/5-So 8 escudos regulated by famed goldsmiths Ephraim Brasher and John Burger, a coin that ranks among the finest coins known from either regulator.
Brasher and Burger were contemporaries working in New York after the British Evacuation in November 1783, with Burger advertising his services as a coin regulator as early as January 1784. Though Ephraim Brasher has been forever immortalized by his legendary doubloons, John Burger was a similarly influential figure, notable for declaring Alexander Hamilton’s 1804 death a murder in his capacity as city coroner. Both men belonged to the New York Gold and Silversmiths Society, and they worked within just a few blocks of each other in a lower Manhattan neighborhood adjacent to the East River.
A regulated gold coin from either of these master tradesmen is a significant numismatic prize. To have both marks on the same coin is truly fascinating, not only for the coin’s direct association with each of these historical figures, but also for what the appearance of both marks might say about their relationship or how their marks were received or valued by those who used regulated coins in trade.
Brasher’s punch is level and deeply impressed in Ferdinand’s shoulder, with traces of the underlying design still discernible. Burger’s monogram is in its usual place at the eye of the portrait, though the right side of his script B is weak from placement too far over the adjacent field. The lower obverse border is lightly trimmed by a clip to the right of the date that is characteristic of Brasher’s regulation technique. The modern weight of 406.76 grains is just negligibly shy of the 408 grains standard for an 8 escudos that both goldsmiths were working to by May of 1784, establishing the value of this piece at $15.
Evidence of gentle circulation is apparent across the high points and fields, though the protected regions harbor traces of reflectivity. Rich honey-gold hues accent the recesses, including the countermarks, subtly blending with the brighter khaki tones seen throughout. Remnants of die clashing are visible around the legend in select areas, remaining most dramatic at the left obverse and corresponding reverse legend.
The U.S. Mint would not strike its own gold coinage for circulation until over a decade later in 1795, with $10 being the largest denomination produced until the introduction of the $20 double eagle in 1850. The acceptance and proliferation of foreign gold coins like the 8 escudos and the Double Joe ($16) were crucial in the growth of the early American economy, and regulators like Brasher and Burger were important in the maintenance of this system.
While the coexistence of a Brasher and a Burger mark is not uncommon, the co-regulation of such a sizable piece is nearly unprecedented.
The 2010 sale of the Roehrs Collection offered a 1749 George II guinea displaying the marks of both goldsmiths, and our May 2016 Rarities Auction featured a trio of lower denominations with dual stamps, including a 1778 George III guinea, a 1745 6400 reis, and finally a 1728 12,800 reis or $16 piece, graded VF Details by NGC. That example sold for $105,750.
However, of just five known 8 escudos with the Brasher mark, the present piece is the only one to also display the stamp of John Burger. This particular combination of countermarks and host coin offers historic significance and rarity that is unmatched in the realm of regulated gold.
This doubloon will accompany two additional regulated 8 escudos in our August 2017 ANA Auction: a Brasher-stamped piece which ranks as the finest known from that goldsmith, and another bearing the mark of Joseph Richardson, Sr. that is one of just four surviving pieces with his stamp. For enthusiasts of this rarified area of numismatics, our offering this August in Denver, Colorado will surely be a monumental event. Contact us today at 1-800-458-4646 or email [email protected] to secure your copy of this exciting catalog!