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A Synopsis of the US 1804 Dollar: The King Among Rarities


By Eric Brothers for CoinWeek …..

In all 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.
B. Max Mehl, Dunham Collection catalog, 1941

It was the highest price ever offered for a single coin: $10,575,000. The bid came over the phone for the finest of all the 1804 silver dollars – the Sultan of Muscat specimen, graded PR68 by PCGS. A legendary price for a legendary coin.

But it was below the consignor’s predetermined reserve, and it didn’t sell. This coin was one of the highlights of the D. Brent Pogue Collection auctioned by Stack’s Bowers Galleries in collaboration with Sotheby’s in May of 2016.

A ‘Delicacy’ That Was Never Meant to Be

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The 1804 silver dollar was never meant to be. It is a ‘delicacy,’ a coin struck for official presentation, then minted on the sly to cash in on its growing popularity among the nascent coin collecting community in the United States.

It was first produced in special proof sets as diplomatic gifts brought to Asia by Edmond Roberts, who was appointed by President Andrew Jackson as the United States’ first envoy to the Far East. Roberts did not like the items he was first given to present to those people with whom he was negotiating trade deals. He described them as being of “very mean quality, and of inconsiderable value.”

Feeling that they were inadequate and insulting, he requested a set of coins:

I am rather at a loss to know what articles will be most acceptable to the Sultan, but I suppose a complete set of new gold & silver & copper coins of the U.S. neatly arranged in a morocco case & then to have an outward covering would be proper to send not only to the sultan, but to other Asiatics.”

Secretary of State John Forsyth approved Roberts’ idea, writing to Mint Director Samuel Moore in a letter dated November 11, 1834:

The President [Andrew Jackson] has directed that a complete set of the coins of the United States be sent to the King of Siam, and another to the Sultan of Muscat. You are requested, therefore, to forward to the Department for that purpose, duplicate specimens of each kind now in use, whether of gold, silver, or copper.”

“Class I” 1804 Dollars

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Some confusion took place at the Mint, and two coins that were not produced in 1834 were included in those sets: the silver dollar and the gold eagle, both of which bore the year ‘1804’ upon them. We don’t know why those two coins carry that date, but numismatic scholar R.W. Julian suggests that it may have been in order not to upset collectors who would not have been able to purchase such 1834-dated coins and put them into their collections.

1804pogueIt was on October 1, 1835, that Roberts presented the first set of coins to Said bin Sultan of Muscat. April 6 of the following year saw the second set delivered to Rama III, King of Siam. Roberts died in Macau in June of 1836. Therefore the proof sets intended for Japan and Cochin-China were returned to the US. Those diplomatic dollars, along with other pieces struck with the same dies, are collectively known as “Class I” 1804 dollars.

Eight of them exist today.

A significant diagnosis for the Class I 1804 dollars is that the edge lettering is flattened; this was the result of a lettered-edge planchet being placed in a press with a smooth collar. Thus the strike squeezed the edge lettering, which made many letters illegible. Q. David Bowers details this process in his book, The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventures of Edmund Roberts.

According to the Heritage Auctions listing for the Adams-Carter 1804 Class III Silver Dollar AU58 PCGS: “Each of the Class I pieces struck before the new lower weight standard of 1837 should weigh 416 grains, and in fact, every one does–with one exception. The Parmelee [Cohen] specimen weighs 412 grains, close to the post-1837 standard, suggesting that it was the last of the 1804 Class I dollars minted.”

“Class II” 1804 Dollars

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During the 19th century, personnel at the Philadelphia Mint struck unauthorized restrikes of medals and coins that were at times backdated. This practice became clandestine by the 1850s. These 1804 restrikes were produced on the sly, among other illegally struck restrikes inside the Mint in 1858 by Mint employee Theodore Eckfeldt. They had plain, unlettered edges, while the standard issue Draped Bust dollars and those struck as diplomatic gifts in 1834 had edge lettering via the Castaing machine; these clandestine coins are known as “Class II” 1804 dollars.

These illegal delicacies were passed on to Dr. Montroville W. Dickeson, who sold them out of his shop in Philadelphia. After the discovery of these illegal 1804 dollar restrikes was made public, Mint Director James Ross Snowden clamored for their return. A minor scandal erupted over Mint officials permitting restrikes, which resulted in a congressional investigation and the subsequent demolition of out-of-use coin dies. The only Class II in existence was struck over an 1857 Swiss Shooting Thaler produced for a shooting festival in the Canton of Bern. It was placed in the Mint Cabinet and is currently in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

“Class III” 1804 Dollars

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1804dollar3Class III 1804 dollars are exactly the same as the Class II dollars, except that lettering similar to that found on the Class I coins was added to the edge of the coins after they were struck. These coins are slightly concave because the Castaing machine was meant to be employed on blank planchets before striking. Eric P. Newman and Kenneth Bressett tell us that the Class III coins were produced around the same time as the Class II dollars (1858), and that the edges were lettered afterwards and the coins were hidden by Mint employees until 1869, when one was offered to a collector.

There are six examples of the Class III dollars known today. Four of the Class III 1804 dollars were artificially worn in order to give them the look of well-circulated coins; they were carried as pocket pieces to achieve that appearance.

Dies for 1804 Silver Dollars

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There was one obverse die and two reverse dies created for all 1804 dollars. All of them were polished as was the standard for proof production. We are confident that these dies were crafted at the same time, and not after 1834. The same engraver produced all three dies. Following past research on the subject by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth Bressett, the two reverse dies are called Reverse X and Reverse Y.

Class I specimens employed the Reverse X when they were produced in 1834. It was many years later, in 1858, that the obverse die for the 1804 dollar was used with Reverse Y to strike the Class II and Class III specimens.

Reverse Die Diagnostics

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1804dollarreverseThe diagnostics of the two reverse dies are provided in the Heritage listing for the Adams-Carter 1804 Class III Silver Dollar AU58 PCGS (see link above for more):

Reverse dies X and Y are both copies of the earlier Heraldic Eagle design used for the silver dollars of 1798 to 1803, but they are inexact copies. Both dies have identical Heraldic Eagle motifs from a hub punch that still existed after its earlier use for the silver dollars made in 1801, 1802, and 1803. The engraver added additional details from individual punches, including all of the letters, stars, berries, and berry stems.

With hand-punching of the various elements, positional differences occurred between Reverse X and Reverse Y.

The most important difference between the new reverse dies and the original dies of 1798 to 1803 is the border, now consisting of beads rather than pointed denticles. Reverse X has the A in STATES positioned over the space between clouds 3 and 4, and the O in OF entirely over cloud 7. Reverse Y has the A in STATES centered over cloud 3, and the O in OF over the space between clouds 7 and 8. There are other differences, but those mentioned are sufficient for identification.

Specimen Nicknames

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Class I

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  • Sultan of Muscat Specimen
  • King of Siam Specimen
  • Stickney Specimen
  • Dexter Specimen
  • Parmelee Specimen
  • Mickley Specimen
  • Mint Cabinet Specimen
  • Cohen Specimen

Class II

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  • Mint Cabinet Specimen

Class III

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  • Linderman Specimen
  • Idler Specimen
  • Adams-Carter Specimen
  • Berg Specimen
  • Davis Specimen
  • Ellsworth Specimen, a.k.a. Driefus-Rosenthal Specimen

Pedigree of Class I

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1.) Sultan of Muscat Specimen.

PR68 PCGS. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; U.S. Department of State, c/o Edmund Roberts; Sayyid Sa’id-bin-Sultan (Sultan of Muscat), as part of a cased presentation set; unknown intermediaries; Charles A. Watters of Liverpool, England; Glendining & Co., London (5/1917), lot 227 (£330); Henry Chapman (6/1918); Virgil Brand, later, Brand Estate; Armin W. Brand; Horace Louis Philip Brand; Ruth and Charles Green; Charles Frederick Childs; F. Newell Childs; Charles Frederick Childs II; Walter H. Childs; Bowers and Merena (8/1999), lot 458, $4,140,000; Mack and Brent Pogue.

2. King of Siam Specimen

PR67 PCGS. Part of the King of Siam encased presentation set. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; U.S. Department of State, c/o Edmund Roberts; King Ph’ra Nang Klao (Rama III) of Siam; presumed remaining in the family until about 1950; David F. Spink, who acquired the set personally; Elvin I. Unterman, via agent Lester Merkin; Bowers and Merena (10/1987), lot 2209, not sold; Rarities Group (Martin Paul) and Continental Rarity Coin Fund I (Greg Holloway); Superior (5/1990), lot 3364, $1,815,000 for the entire King of Siam set; Iraj Sayah and Terry Brand; Superior (1/1993), lot 1196; Spectrum Numismatics; private western collection (2001); Goldberg Coins (privately, 11/2005) to Steve Contursi and private collector.

3. Stickney Specimen

PR65 PCGS. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; Matthew Adams Stickney (1843); Henry Chapman (6/1907), lot 849, $3,600; Col. James W. Ellsworth; Wayte Raymond; William Cutler Atwater, later, Atwater Estate; B. Max Mehl (6/1946), lot 213, $10,500; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr., later, Eliasberg Estate; Bowers and Merena (4/1997), lot 2199, $1,815,000; Spectrum Numismatics; private collection.

4. Dexter Specimen

PR65 PCGS. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; unknown intermediaries; S.H. and H. Chapman; Adolph Weyl, Berlin (10/1884), lot 159, $216; S.H. and H. Chapman; Chapman Brothers (5/1885), lot 354, $1,000; Scott Stamp & Coin Company; James Vila Dexter, later, Dexter Estate; H.G. Brown; Lyman H. Low (10/1904), lot 431, $1,100; William Forrester Dunham; B. Max Mehl; B. Max Mehl (6/1941), lot 1058, $4,250; Charles M. Williams; Abe Kosoff and Sol Kaplan; Harold Bareford; Stack’s (10/1981), lot 424, $280,000; RARCOA (Ed Milas); Leon Hendrickson and George Weingart; Auction ’89 (RARCOA), lot 247, $990,000; American Rare Coin Fund, Ltd. (Hugh Sconyers, manager); Northern California collector; Superior (7/1993), lot 551, not sold; Northern California collector; Superior (5/1994), lot 761; Harlan White; private southeastern collection; Stack’s (10/2000), lot 1167.

5. Parmelee Specimen

PR64 ICG. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; unknown intermediaries; “an aged lady” who gave the coin to her son; E. Harrison Sanford; Edward Cogan (11/1874), lot 99, $700; Lorin G. Parmelee; New York Coin & Stamp Co. (6/1890), lot 817, $570; Byron Reed; Omaha City Library; Western Heritage Museum.

1804mickley6. Mickley Specimen

PR62 NGC. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; unknown intermediaries; Henry C. Young, a teller at the Bank of Pennsylvania (circa 1850); Joseph J. Mickley (circa 1858); W. Elliot Woodward (10/1867), lot 1676, $750; William A. Lilliendahl; Edward Cogan (1868); William Sumner Appleton (1868); Massachusetts Historical Society (1905); Stack’s (10/1970), lot 625, $77,500; Chicago collection; Reed Hawn; Stack’s (10/1993), lot 735, $475,000; David Queller; Queller Family Collection; Heritage (4/2008), lot 2089, $3,737,500; Heritage (8/2013), lot 5699, $3,877,500.

7. Mint Cabinet Specimen

Impaired Proof, per conventional wisdom. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.

8. Cohen Specimen

PR30. Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt; unknown intermediaries; Edward Cohen, Richmond, Virginia; Col. Mendes I. Cohen, Baltimore, Maryland; Edward Cogan (10/1875), lot 535, $325; Henry S. Adams; Edward Cogan (11/1876), lot 356, $500; Lorin G. Parmelee; Henry G. Sampson; Major William Boerum Wetmore; Chapman Brothers (6/1906), lot 208, $720; S.H. and H. Chapman; Thomas L. Elder; James H. Manning; B. Max Mehl (5/1921), lot 778, $2,500; Elmer S. Sears; B. Max Mehl; Lammot DuPont; Willis H. DuPont; unknown thieves, recovered in Zurich, Switzerland, on April 23, 1993; donated to the American Numismatic Association museum.

Pedigree of Class II

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9. Mint Cabinet Specimen

Proof. Struck over an 1857 Bern, Switzerland, shooting thaler. National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution.

Pedigree of Class III

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10. Linderman Specimen

PR63. Mint Director Henry R. Linderman, later, Linderman Estate; Lyman H. Low (6/1887), lot 40, not sold; Linderman Estate; J.W. Scott (2/1888), lot 40, $470; James Ten Eyck, later, Ten Eyck Estate; B. Max Mehl (5/1922), lot 394, $840; Lammot DuPont; Willis H. DuPont; unknown thieves; recovered March 16, 1982; loaned to American Numismatic Association; donated to Smithsonian Institution.

11. Idler Specimen

PR60 or slightly finer. Philadelphia Mint; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine; Stephen K. Nagy; Henry O. Granberg; William Cutler Atwater, later, Atwater Estate; B. Max Mehl (6/1946), lot 214, $2,875; Will W. Neil; B. Max Mehl (6/1947), lot 31, $3,125; Edwin Hydeman; Abe Kosoff (3/1961), lot 994, $29,000; Edwin Hydeman; World-Wide Coin Investments, Ltd. (John Hamrick and Warren Tucker); Bowers and Ruddy Galleries; Continental Coin Galleries; Mark Blackburn; Larry Demerer; Dr. Jerry Buss, via Superior Galleries; Superior Galleries (1/1985), lot 1337, $308,000; Aubrey and Adeline Bebee; American Numismatic Association.

12. Adams-Carter Specimen

adamsflanaganPR58 PCGS. Philadelphia Mint; Captain John W. Haseltine; Phineas Adams; Henry Ahlborn; John P. Lyman; S.H. Chapman (11/1913), lot 16, $340; Waldo C. Newcomer; Col. Edward H.R. Green, later, Col. Green estate; A.J. Allen; Frederick C.C. Boyd; Percy A. Smith; B. Max Mehl; B. Max Mehl (5/1950), lot 804, $3,250; Amon G. Carter, Sr.; Amon G. Carter, Jr., later, Carter Estate; Stack’s (1/1984), lot 241, $198,000; John Nelson Rowe, III; L.R. French, Jr., later, French Estate; Stack’s (1/1989), lot 15, $242,000; Rarities Group (Martin Paul); National Gold Exchange (Mark Yaffe); Heritage Rare Coin Galleries; Indianapolis Collection; unknown private collection; David Liljestrand; unknown Midwest collection; David Liljestrand; National Gold Exchange and Kenneth Goldman; Legend Numismatics; Phillip Flannagan; Bowers and Merena (11/2001), lot 4303, $874,000; Donald H. Kagin, Ph.D.; Bowers and Merena (8/2003), lot 2026, $1,207,500; West Coast collector, via Kevin Lipton; Heritage Rare Coin Galleries, $2,250,000; East Coast collector, the former consignor (3/2006) $2,475,000; Heritage, (4/5 2009), $2,300,000.

13. Berg Specimen

PR55 NGC. Philadelphia Mint; Captain John W. Haseltine; Koch & Co., Vienna; John W. Haseltine (3/1876), lot 194, $395; O.H. Berg; John W. Haseltine (5/1883), lot 568, $740; George W. Cogan; Thomas Harrison Garrett, later, Garrett Estate; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Bowers and Ruddy (3/1980), lot 698, $400,000; Pullen & Hanks, later with Sam Colavita; Pullen & Hanks (2/1982), lot 1076, $190,000; Sam Colavita; Mike Levinson, in trade for eight acres of land in El Paso, Texas; Pennsylvania private collection; Bowers and Merena (6/1986), lot 1736, $187,000; Rarities Group (Martin Paul); American Coin Portfolios (Dan Drykerman); Laura Sommer; Stacks Bowers (8/2014), $1,880,000.

14. Davis Specimen

PR40. Philadelphia Mint; probably, Captain John W. Haseltine; Robert Coulton Davis; John W. Haseltine; George M. Klein; W. Elliot Woodward (5/1888), lot 1940, $660; Robert Coulton Davis, via J. Colvin Randall, later, Davis Estate; John W. Haseltine; John M. Hale, later Hale Estate; R.H. Mull; Parke-Bernet Galleries (5/1950), lot 221, $3,400; Henry P. Graves, later, Graves Estate; Stack’s (4/1954), lot 1333, $8,000; Ben H. Koenig; Stack’s (12/1960), lot 576, $28,000; Samuel Wolfson; Stack’s (5/1963), lot 1394, $36,000; Norton Simon; James H.T. McConnell, Jr., via Stack’s.

15. Ellsworth Specimen, a.k.a. Driefus-Rosenthal Specimen

PR40. Philadelphia Mint; unknown intermediaries; W. Julius Driefus; Isaac Rosenthal; Col. James W. Ellsworth; Wayte Raymond; Farran Zerbe, via Guttag Brothers; Chase National Bank; American Numismatic Society.

* * *


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1804 Silver Dollar Hits $1.4 million“, Numismatic News. August 21, 2014. Web. Accessed 9/12/2016.

Cherelus, Gina. “Bidders fail to reach minimums for two rare U.S. coins at auction“, Reuters. Web. Accessed 9/12/2016.

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