FROM THE BRUCE MORELAN COLLECTION
Legend Rare Coin Auctions welcomes the “KING" of American Coins, the 1804 silver dollar! One of only eight Class I examples struck in 1834. Ever since 1842, the 1804 dollar has held a mythical place in American numismatics. In the entire U.S. series, no other coin can captivate the numismatic imagination as the 1804 dollar. This is the Dexter-Dunham-Williams-Bareford-Pogue-Morelan example, graded PCGS PR65, it is one of the finer pieces known, behind the famed Childs PR68 and the PR67 King of Siam set coin. Of the eight known Original or Class I pieces, three are impounded in institutional collections, leaving a mere five examples for collectors. When Class I 1804 dollars come to the market it is usually only when WORLD CLASS collections, like the Morelan Collection, come up for sale! The Dexter-Dunham dollar, as it is forever identified, has always broken barriers, being the first coin to even approach the seven figure price—realizing $990,000 in RARCOA’s session of Auction ’89. Garnering headlines in the numismatic, as well as the main stream press, the sale of the 1804 dollar further sealed its status as one of the most famous coins that exists!
Perhaps the greatest introduction to this coin can come from B. Max Mehl’s description of this coin in the 1941 sale of the Dunham Collection:
“In all the history of numismatics of the entire world, there is not today and there never has been a single coin which was and is the subject of so much romance, interest, comment, and upon which so much has been written and so much talked about and discussed as the United States silver dollar of 1804.
While there may be coins of greater rarity (based upon the number of specimens known), none is so famous as to the dollar of 1804! This is due to the fact that this great coin was the first coin of United States mintage to have been recognized as the rarest coin of the United States, from the very beginning of American numismatics, more than one hundred years ago. And it is today, as it always has been, the best known and most sought-after coin, not only among collectors, but among the public in general as well."
Like the great numismatic promoter, B. Max Mehl said nearly 80 years ago, no coin in the entire cannon of numismatics, from ancient to modern times, takes up as much shelf space as the 1804 dollar. The first mention of an 1804 dollar was in A Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of all nations, struck within the past century, published in Philadelphia in 1842 by Jacob Eckfeldt and William Du Bois. That book illustrated the U.S. Mint collection piece, and that was the 1804 silver dollar’s introduction to the general public. At least three books have been written about these majestic rarities in the last 20 years. Auction catalog descriptions add many pages, as do the countless articles appearing in numismatic publications. The research conducted by Eric Newman and Ken Bressett in their book The Fantastic 1804 Dollar (originally published in 1962 and reproduced in 2009), Q. David Bowers in his 1999 tome The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventures of Edmund Roberts, and Mark Ferguson’s 2014 book The Dollar of 1804 the U.S. Mint’s Hidden Secret, as revealed by the true story of the “Dexter Dollar." The King of American Coins. This last volume is all about the specific coin offered here.
In the mid 1830s, in an effort to expand influence around the world, the State Department had special presentation sets of coins struck as diplomatic gifts to heads of state in the Near and Far East. The mint ceased silver dollar and gold ten dollar eagle production in 1804, and would not resume until the late 1830s. The sets were to include an example of every authorized denomination. Reviewing their records, the mint struck 1834 Proofs for all but the dollar and eagle, yet struck Proofs of the 1804. The 1804 dollars were struck from newly produced dies, creating what Russians numismatists refer to as novodels (a back dated coin that was not originally struck, which differs from a restrike). While random Specimen or Master Coins were produced by the U.S. Mint prior to 1817, and random Proofs were struck from 1817 to 1834, never before had a full set of all denominations been produced.
Four of these sets were brought overseas on the U.S.S. Peacock, under the direction of Edmund Roberts. Two of them have been positively identified, the Sultan of Muscat piece, which, like this one, was a part of the D. Brent Pogue Collection and the other one is the King of Siam coin, which is now impounded in a fabulous cabinet, one of the greatest ever assembled. Two other sets were intended for Japan and Cochin-China (what is Vietnam today). These sets’ trail runs cold after the death of Edmund Roberts; however it is very interesting to note that the three finest examples all trace their provenance to Europe: the Muscat and King of Siam set both were discovered in England, and this one in Europe. Two examples, the U.S. Mint Cabinet coin (now in the Smithsonian) and the Stickney coin have unbroken provenance chains from the U.S. Mint. Others were discovered in the mid 1800s: Mickley’s was from a Philadelphia bank teller in 1847; Parmelee’s was said to be from the Mint sometime during the Polk Administration (1845-1849); the Cohen example was reportedly from a Richmond Virginia exchange house in 1865. This is the latest “discovery" piece, appearing for the first recorded time in a German auction conducted by Adolph Weil in October 1884.
The present coin is a resplendent GEM Proof. Richly mirrored fields are complimented by a wonderful, original, antique pewter gray tone, imbued with light blue, violet, and gold accents, very similar to other high grade Class I Original 1804 dollars. An ancient fingerprint on the obverse has taken on the surrounding hues and has become a part of the aesthetic appeal of this important rarity. A strong glass reveals a few very minor hairlines and scattered ticks, but these can be overlooked. Even on a lesser coin, these would not be distracting on a PR65 grade; on a legendary rarity like an 1804 dollar they can be totally ignored. Indeed, the only “flaw" that deserves specific mention is a tiny “D"punched on the seventh cloud on the reverse.
This “D" is the hallmark of this present GEM. There are generally two schools of thought as to the origin of the “D." It has been theorized by many, to stand for Dexter, one of the previous owners. P. Scott Rubin believes that Dexter himself, or the dealers at Scott Coin and Stamp Co punched it as a way to identify it upon its submission to the mint for authentication. Another branch of the scholarship believes that since the same punch was also used on other numismatic properties by William Dunham, it was Dunham who stamped this coin with his initial for posterity; it was famed numismatist John J. Ford, Jr. who made the connection. Regardless of its minimal, tiny imperfections this is a coin whose fame, legend, myth, history, and importance transcends all normal numismatic standards.
The biography of this specific specimen is as shrouded in mystery, myth, legend, and controversy that an entire book was written about it. The 2014 book by Mark Ferguson, The Dollar of 1804 The U.S. Mint’s Hidden Secret reads like a novel, and keeps the reader engaged on the fascinating story of its origin in the 1884 Adolph Weyl auction and subsequent travels into the James Vila Dexter Collection. Prior to the publication of this work, little was known about Mr. Dexter, other than his collection was quite impressive, boasting many important rarities besides this 1804 dollar.
The long, unbroken pedigree chain to 1884 is as follows:
Adolph Weyl's sale of October 1884, lot 159; Henry and S. Hudson Chapman; Henry and S. Hudson Chapman's sale of May 1885, lot 354; James V. Dexter Collection, via J.W. Scott; James V. Dexter Estate, 1899 (Roland G. Parvin, executor); H.G. Brown Collection, by sale, via Roland G. Parvin, November 1903; Lyman H. Low's sale of the H.G. Brown Collection, October 1904, lot 431; William Forrester Dunham Collection; William Forrester Dunham Estate, 1939; B. Max Mehl, en bloc, by sale, 1939; B. Max Mehl's sale of the William Forrester Dunham Collection, June 1941, lot 1058; Charles M. Williams Collection, by sale, before June 1941; Harold Bareford Collection, by sale, via Abe Kosoff and Sol Kaplan, 1950; Stack's sale of the Harold S. Bareford Collection, October 1981, lot 424; RARCOA (Ed Milas); Leon Hendrickson and George Weingart, by sale, 1985; RARCOA's session of Auction '89, July 1989, lot 247 (realizing a record $990,000); American Rare Coin Fund, L.P. (Hugh Sconyers); Superior Galleries' sale of July 1993, lot 551; Superior Galleries' sale of May 30, 1994, lot 761; Holecek Family Trust, by sale, via Harlan White, before May 30, 1994; Stack's 65th Anniversary sale, October 2000, lot 1167 (realizing $1,840,000); D. Brent Pogue Collection; Stack’s Bowers and Sotheby’s sale of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part V, March 2017, lot 5045 (where it realized $3,290,000); Kevin Lipton and John Albanese; sold to Bruce Morelan, via private treaty, with Laura Sperber (Legend Numismatics), as agent, March 2017; Bruce Morelan Collection.
We close out this description with Henry Chapman’s immortal words: “There is no other coin in the United States series which has such a widespread and acknowledged great value and rarity, which adds so much numismatic glory to a collection, as the King of American rarities—the 1804 dollar." You now have the opportunity to add the glory and fame of owning this world-renowned rarity to your collection.
Cert. Number 36065478
PCGS # 6907