“The King of American Coins”
A beautiful specimen of the “King of American Coins,” the world-famous 1804 silver dollar, will be presented in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries official auction in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Illinois. The 1804 dollar will be a star attraction in the company’s Rarities Night Auction scheduled for Friday, August 8.
One of just 15 examples of the date known, this is the famous T. Harrison Garrett Class III coin acquired in 1883 and held by the family until 1942, when it passed to The Johns Hopkins University. It was consigned to Stack’s Bowers Galleries and auctioned in March 1980, setting a price record at the time. The coin changed hands several times over the ensuing years before appearing as lot 1736 in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries 1986 sale of The Harry Einstein Collection. At that point, it entered the collection of Mrs. Laura Sommer, where it resided for decades before being sold to Stack’s Bowers Galleries by its latest owner and current consignor.
This landmark rarity will be offered without reserve and is expected to draw bids from all over the world. It has one of the most distinguished pedigrees that can be imagined.
Called the “King of American Coins” by B. Max Mehl in 1941 (as quoted below), this nickname has followed offerings of 1804 dollars ever since:
The King of American Coins: The UNITED STATES SILVER DOLLAR OF 1804
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 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 are as famous as 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.
The First 1804-Dated Dollars
Although Mint records state that 19,570 silver dollars were minted in calendar year 1804, nowhere is it stated that those coins actually bore the 1804 date. At the time, it was Mint practice to keep using dies of earlier dates until they broke or wore out. Sometimes these older dies were overdated (the 1802/1 dollar is an example), but often the original dates were retained as made. Thus, it is believed that the “1804” dollars struck in that calendar year bore earlier dates.
On November 11, 1834, the Department of State ordered two special sets of United States coinage to be made up by the Philadelphia Mint for presentation to the King of Siam and the Sultan of Muscat. These were to be fitted in special cases and to contain an example of each denomination currently in use, to form a complete set. Two other presentation sets were subsequently ordered early in 1835.
In 1834, the currently produced denominations included the half cent, cent, half dime, dime, quarter, half dollar, gold quarter eagle, and gold half eagle. Regular Proofs dated 1834 were made of each of these. A search of Mint records revealed that two other denominations were authorized, but had not been struck for many years. Silver dollars had been last struck in 1804 and $10 gold eagles were last struck in 1804 as well. Although the coiners of the Mint had on hand an 1804 $10 gold coin (which would later become a part of the Mint Cabinet), they had no way of knowing that the silver dollars minted in 1804 were of earlier dates.
Seeking to present coins that were historically accurate, the engraver and coiner at the Mint simply made up new silver dollar and $10 gold dies bearing the 1804 date, to illustrate these coins of yesteryear, thought to have been made, but for which no specimens were on hand. For the first time, 1804-dated silver dollars were struck.
Varieties of 1804 Dollars
Two different reverse dies were used to make the 1804-dated dollars, each mated with the same obverse. In due course, alert numismatists noted these differences. Today they are well known and are discussed in A Guide Book of United States Coins and elsewhere.
Class I 1804-dated dollars: Reverse die with E in STATES over a cloud. Years ago these were called “Original” dollars in some catalogs. These were first officially coined in 1834 for diplomatic presentation purposes, and perhaps continued to be coined through the mid-1850s. Facts are scarce. Eight specimens are known to exist, several of which are in museums. The first example to go into numismatic hands was obtained by Massachusetts collector Matthew A. Stickney in a trade with the Mint Cabinet in 1843. This later went into The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection and was auctioned by us in 1997. The Class I dollar presented to the Sultan of Muscat went into The Childs Collection and was auctioned by us in 1999.
Class II 1804-dated dollars: Reverse die with E in STATES over junction between two clouds. Plain edge. Made in 1859. Five said to have been made, three melted, one unaccounted for. Only one is known today and it is struck over a Swiss dollar-sized silver coin. It reposes in The National Coin Collection in the Smithsonian Institution.
Class III 1804-dated dollars: Reverse die as preceding. Lettered edge. Made circa late 1850s onward, last date of manufacture unknown, but possibly into the late 1860s or early 1870s. Six specimens are known to exist.
The Garrett Specimen to Be Auctioned
The 1804 dollar about to be sold, known as the Garrett Specimen for its most famous owner, was made in 1859 or later as noted above. By circa 1875 it was in the hands of Captain John W. Haseltine of Philadelphia, one of the leading rare coin dealers and auction catalogers of the era, who stated that he had found it in the inventory of Koch & Co., professional numismatist in Vienna. Haseltine sold it to O.H. Berg, a Baltimore collector. On May 23 to 24, 1883, Haseltine cataloged and sold The Berg Collection, where the dollar was lot 568.
The buyer was George W. Cogan, New York City dealer, who acted as the agent for T. Harrison Garrett of Baltimore. Garrett, a connoisseur par excellence, became interested in coins while he was a student at Princeton in 1864. By 1883 he had assembled the largest private collection in United States, a cabinet that included coins from ancient to modern and had outstanding specimens of most of the great American rarities. In 1888 Garrett died in a boating accident aboard his yacht in Chesapeake Bay. The collection was then passed to his estate, and later to one of his sons, Robert Garrett (who as a star athlete won the first American gold medal in the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896). In 1919, Robert transferred ownership to another brother, Ambassador John Work Garrett, who lived in the family mansion, Evergreen House. After his passing, the collection was gifted in 1942 to The Johns Hopkins University.
In the 1960s, the collection was under the curatorship of Sarah Elizabeth Freeman, then Carl W.A. Carlson, and Susan Tripp. The 1804 dollar was kept at Evergreen for a long period of time, but was later taken with most of the rest of The Garrett Collection to a subterranean bank vault in downtown Baltimore for safekeeping. As security and other expenses prevented the collection from being available for study, the University opted to sell it at auction to raise funds for the improvement of Evergreen House, by then a conference and study center, and the restoration of Homewood, Charles Carroll’s mansion on the grounds of the University. Carroll was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. On March 26 and 27, 1980, in Part II of The Garrett Collection, our predecessor firm Bowers and Ruddy Galleries presented the 1804 dollar as lot 698. The buyer was the partnership of Pullen & Hanks. Later the coin changed hands several times, the details of which will be given in the forthcoming auction catalog along with many other aspects of the history of “the King of American Coins.”
Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries, noted: “Over the years many rarities come back to us after being off the market, sometimes for years or decades. It is a great pleasure to see this great 1804 again. It brings back memories of my working with Susan Tripp and The Johns Hopkins University from 1979 to 1981, including many visits to Baltimore. Its buyer will gain a rich link with numismatic tradition and history.”
The Garrett 1804 dollar will be on display at several upcoming conventions, including the Long Beach Coin Expo, June Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo, and the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money.
About Stack’s Bowers Galleries
Stack’s Bowers Galleries conducts live, Internet and specialized auctions of rare U.S. and world coins and currency and ancient coins, as well as direct sales through retail and wholesale channels. The company’s 80-year legacy includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable United States coin and currency collections to ever cross an auction block — The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, The Norweb Collection, The Cardinal Collection and The Battle Born Collection — to name just a few. World coin and currency collections include The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection of World Gold Coins, The Kroisos Collection, The Alicia and Sidney Belzberg Collection, The Wa She Wong Collection, The Guia Collection, The Thos. H. Law Collection, and The Robert O. Ebert Collection.
Topping off this amazing numismatic history is the inclusion of the world record for the highest price ever realized at auction for a rare coin, the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar graded Specimen-66 (PCGS) that realized over $10 million, part of their sale of the famed Cardinal Collection. The company is headquartered in Irvine, California, with offices in New York, Wolfeboro, Hong Kong, and Paris. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is an Official Auctioneer for several important numismatic conventions, including American Numismatic Association events, the New York International Numismatic Convention, the Professional Numismatists Guild New York Invitational, the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring, Summer and Winter Expos, and its April and August Hong Kong Auctions.