I’ve been bouncing around the country lately and this week I’ve landed in Colorado to conclude my research into the Dexter 1804 Dollar, before embarking on writing a book about this great rarity. The Dexter Dollar is one of the most famous of the 15 known 1804 silver dollars, known as “The King of American Coins.” I’ve been having fun with this coin for many years, as my connection to it is a beautiful work of art commemorating this particular rare coin which was commissioned by its namesake owner, James V. Dexter in 1887 who was a banker from Denver. I was fortunate to acquire this unknown, but now famous, work of art during the late 1980s, right before the Dexter 1804 Dollar became the very first coin to sell at public auction for the million dollar level – $990,000 at “Auction ‘89” in Chicago on July 7, 1989.
I also have a connection to the Idler 1804 Dollar, now owned by the American Numismatic Association and displayed in The Money Museum at its headquarters in Colorado Springs. This coin was once owned by H.O. Granberg who was a nationally prominent numismatist from my hometown, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I purchased his personal residence in 1983 and found a stack of letters written to him during 1908 by William Idler of Philadelphia, from whom he purchased this great rarity.
Granberg was Chairman of the Board of the American Numismatic Association from 1911 to 1914 and President of the ANA during 1915 and 1916. He also owned many great American numismatic rarities, in addition to the Idler 1804 Dollar, which included 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars, one of just ten and five known, respectively; an 1894-S dime, one of just two dozen struck with only about half of those known today; a rare Continental dollar from 1776; one of three known 1853-O no arrows and rays half dollars; a 1794 silver dollar; superior examples of 1796 and 1797 half dollars; an 1854-S gold quarter eagle, one of just a dozen or so that have survived out of 246 pieces coined; as well as numerous important pattern coins and territorial gold coins and other rare U.S. coins.
These rare coins undoubtedly lived in his impressive old safe, pictured here. This safe is my old friend, and almost like a family pet. I used it for more than 25 years and later donated it to the American Numismatic Association in 2010. While at ANA headquarters yesterday for my library research I helped Doug Mudd, museum curator, learn the combination to the safe so the ANA can open it and use its interior for exhibit purposes. It was a fun day – seeing my old friend, the H.O. Granberg safe, for the first time since I sent it on its way from Oshkosh to Colorado Springs three years ago!
Several years ago I realized that numismatics is a hobby in which participants like to learn. Many people think of coin collecting as a hobby in which odd, lonely people quietly keep to themselves plugging holes with coins in albums. But contrary to this common perception, those of us who really get involved in numismatics read, research, write and debate and develop close friendships across the country and around the world. I encourage you to join organizations, like the American Numismatic Association, and use resources such as the ANA’s large lending library (by mail), enjoy its museum, its courses and seminars on numismatics, the ANA’s major coin conventions, like the World’s Fair of Money, and discover many of the other benefits the ANA has to offer.
Mark Ferguson has been dealing in high-end rare coins and precious metals since 1969. He has graded coins professionally for PCGS and was the Market Analyst for Coin World’s Coin Values magazine between 2002 and 2009. He has written feature articles and regular columns for Coin World, Coin Values magazine, The Coin Dealer Newsletter, Numismatic News, The Numismatist, ANA Journal, Coin News – a British publication, and currently writes a weekly column for CoinWeek. He is a recognized authority in appraising rare coins and a recognized expert on the 1804 silver dollar, which is known as “The King of American Coins.” Mark can be reached at Mark Ferguson Rare Coins, LLC (www.MFRareCoins.com).