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1742 DBLN Brasher Lima Style Doubloon. XF40 NGC....
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Perhaps the single most important entry into the history of the Brasher Doubloon (specifically the Lima Style Doubloon), was published in the ANS Coinage of the Americas Conference series. "Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima Style Doubloon" was presented by Michael Hodder at the 1991 conference, and was published by the ANS in 1992 as part of Money of Pre-Federal America, edited by John M. Kleeberg.
Walter Breen suggested that the Lima Style Doubloons were produced after the New York Style pieces. In his Complete Encyclopedia, Breen noted: "Most likely their unfamiliar design [the New York Style Doubloons] met with resistance, so that Brasher substituted another design, imitating the then common Philip V Lima Doubloons; he hallmarked these similarly." This statement would probably still be taken as the truth except for the report of Michael Hodder who noted that the EB punch appearing on the Lima Style Doubloons is in an earlier die state, meaning they had to be struck first.
Regarding the Lima Style Doubloon, Hodder (p. 128) noted: "Another gold coin type which bears an 'EB' counterstamp has been known for nearly a century, the so-called 'Lima Style' Doubloon. Apart from a few auction catalogue descriptions of indifferent usefulness, and a report by the American Numismatic Society published in 1915, even less of value has been written about this putative Brasher product. Today, a seemingly more impenetrable aura of mystery surrounds the Lima Style Doubloon than the more familiar New York Style type. It has attracted none of the public attention that has fastened upon the latter, and among serious collectors of early American coins little is known or understood about it."
It has been proven that the Lima Style Doubloon is a genuine product of Ephraim Brasher, from his shop in New York. Hodder (p. 149) noted: "The weights of the two known Lima Style Doubloons are essentially identical to the required weight of a Spanish colonial 8 Escudos piece called for by the Bank of New York and the New York City Chamber of Commerce in a notice dated 1786." An elemental analysis of a Lima Style Doubloon, two New York Style Doubloons, and the Smithsonian Doubloon was compared to a similar analysis of three 8 Escudos pieces from the mid-1740s. It is clear from analysis of the data, recorded by Hodder on page 143, that the Lima Style Doubloon and the New York Style pieces were virtually identical, and these pieces were considerably different than the prototype pieces, being the Spanish colonial gold coins of the 1740s. Also tested was a later date United States half eagle. All of the Brasher pieces had a similar alloy of approximately 6% silver and 3% copper, while the early 8 Escudos pieces were approximately 8% silver and 2% copper. The later date half eagle had approximately 2% silver and 8% copper. It can be concluded that the source of gold for the Brasher Doubloons was not earlier Spanish coinage, precluding the overstrike theory that has been discussed by some, and it was also not later United States gold, ruling out the possibility that they were productions of a later date. The source of gold was not standard U.S. gold or unrefined Spanish colonial gold, as Hodder pointed out.
As Brasher was seeking a coinage contract from the State of New York, and as he produced the New York Style Doubloons as examples of his work, perhaps the Lima Style Doubloons represented a pattern coinage issue. As a neighbor and associate of George Washington, it is almost certain the two gentlemen discussed a State coinage, or perhaps even a National coinage. Perhaps Brasher quickly prepared dies and struck a few of these Lima Style Doubloons as samples of his work without regard to the actual coinage design. In the absence of original written documentation, we will not know for sure, but this pattern theory seems likely.
Another possibility came from B.G. Johnson of the St. Louis Stamp and Coin Company, who wrote to B. Max Mehl prior to the sale of the Ten Eyck coin: "The Brasher Doubloon arrived today, and I have looked it over carefully, and have no hesitancy whatever in pronouncing it genuine and of that period. It was quite likely struck for the West Indian trade. In those days, sugar, rum, etc. being imported from the West Indies and generally paid for in Spanish or Portuguese gold. In all probability there was a shortage of this gold of regular coinage, and these pieces were struck to make up the deficiency. I would guess that the piece was struck before the other Doubloon, probably at the very close of the Revolution. It is an extremely interesting coin, and by rights should be included in the American private gold series. There can have been no other object in striking this coin in good gold except for to circulate as a medium of exchange. Brasher was a goldsmith, and probably struck these off for his customers when he could not supply them with Doubloons. Goldsmiths in those days operated to a certain extent as bankers and as money changers."
Johnson was correct that these were struck before the New York Style Doubloons, and suggested that they were specifically produced as trade pieces in exchange for the import of goods. Perhaps the Lima Style Doubloons were the original American trade coins, long before the trade dollars of the 1870s. Certainly, these Lima Style Doubloons should be considered part of the American colonial series, and also part of the private gold series, desirable to two different classes of collectors today.
Obverse and reverse design
Obverse: Two pillars with fleur-de-lis above and waves below, divided by two vertical lines into nine sections with L 8 V above, P V A central, and 7 4 2 below. All is enclosed in a beaded border with BRASHER in small letters between bottom beads and waves. Lettering around is absent on this example, the outer portions clipped or filed away. Although not visible on this specimen, the obverse legend reads: o PHILIP o V o D o G o H o REX ANO 1786. Between G and H are small letters NY, identifying Brasher's place of residence.
Reverse: A Jerusalem cross divides the die into four quadrants. Rough engraved castles appear in the northwest and southeast quadrants, lions in the opposing quadrants. EB hallmark of Ephraim Brasher appears at the center of the cross. As the hallmark was stamped at the center, on a raised portion of the design, it takes on roughly the same shape as the design, thus is not a well defined oval. Only portions of the reverse legend are legible on the Newcomer specimen, and are not at all legible on this Paris specimen: I HISPAN ... IND REX. The complete legend would be: I HISPANIARUM ET IND REX.
In the catalog of the Paris Collection, sold by Scott Stamp and Coin Co., December 12-13, 1894, lot 813 was described:
"813. 1742 Lima, Peru Gold 8 Escudos or Doubloon. L - .8.-V/P.-.V.-A/7-.4.-.2 (which we read, Lima, 8 Escudos Value (Valor). Plus ultra Anno 1742) through two pillars in sea. Below, BRASHER. Rev., Cross, with arms of Castile and Leon alternating in angles. Counterstamped E.B. in small oval on center of cross, same as on Ephraim Brasher's N.Y. Doubloon of 1787. Circle on rev. (Weight, 408 grains) Exceedingly rare. Size 27."
The EB Punch
Hodder was able to show that two known Lima Style Doubloons were produced with the same EB punch, and that this punch was entered into these coins at the same time, which was before any of the New York Style Doubloons. This punch developed rust pits over a period of time, appearing in three clusters, making it possible to determine the order of punching, if not the order of striking. These rust pits are located above the upright of E, in the upper space of E above and right of the crossbar, and over the inside right curve of R.
A number of gold coins are known with an EB counterstamp, the mark of Ephraim Brasher. Most are contemporary gold coins that were actually circulating in Colonial America. A number of these coins exist with Brasher's hallmark. Of course, some counterfeit hallmarks have also been punched into colonial era gold coins. Some of these gold coins have additional metal added in the form of gold plugs that were probably inserted to bring the weight or value of clipped pieces back to standard. If Brasher was adding his mark to these coins as a sign of good value, he certainly would have wanted to maintain his reputation.
It is not known, of course, whether Brasher had just a single hallmark punch or if he had several punches. Gold coins with the identical punch characteristics, including the rust marks discussed above and as found on the Brasher Doubloons, can be considered as hallmarked by Ephraim Brasher. Different punches have been observed, and until it can be proven that those, too, are punches used by Brasher, such pieces cannot be authenticated.
Design Differences and Authentication
An important difference between the Brasher Lima Style Doubloon and the original 1742 (prototype) Doubloon was noted by Hodder (p.136): "One major design difference would have served to distinguish for contemporaries the prototype from the Lima Style at first glance. The obverse of the prototype, the side bearing the royal name, was always the side with the Jerusalem cross; the pillars side bore the two dates (central and peripheral) and the continuation of the royal titulature. The Lima Style Doubloon bears the royal name on the pillars side, while the cross side bears the continuation of the titulature, directly opposite to the required style of the prototype. The Lima Style Doubloon does not appear to have been a slavish copy from its prototype. The substitution of a cross fleury for the expected Spanish element is another difference that would have been immediately noticeable to a contemporary familiar with the usual appearance of the prototype."
Michael Hodder was able to provide conclusive proof that the 1786 Lima Style Brasher Doubloon is a genuine product of Ephraim Brasher, from his shop in New York. The hallmark found on all of the Brasher pieces remains consistent, in varying states from early to late. The alloys of these various pieces has been found to be very nearly identical. The weights of all the pieces is so nearly identical as to suggest a single maker. Hodder concluded: "The 1786 Lima Style Doubloon appears to be a genuine product of Ephraim Brasher's New York workshop, given the identity of the EB touchmark and the virtual identity of their alloys. Neither was struck on cut down or rolled out Spanish colonial gold coins, but refined Latin American gold may probably have been the source of their planchet stock. Both were struck to a close approximation of the Spanish colonial weight standard for the 8 Escudos denomination. The weights of the two known Lima Style Doubloons are essentially identical to the required weight of a Spanish colonial 8 Escudos piece called for by the Bank of New York and the New York City Chamber of Commerce in a notice dated 1786."
The Mehl letter about the Lima Style Doubloon
One of the most intriguing chapters of the story about the Lima Style Doubloon involved a specific promotional effort of B. Max Mehl, who wrote a letter to Col. E.H.R. Green, dated January 3, 1933:
My dear Colonel Green:-
In glancing over the Newcomer Collection I find the companion coins of the Brasher Doubloon. I thought that inasmuch as you are interested in the coins of New York, and as you now own this great coin, the Brasher Doubloon, you would very likely be interested in its companion coins, especially so since it included the Brasher Spanish Doubloon, of which only two specimens are known to exist.
Am taking the liberty of submitting the balance of the Brasher coins to you together with the original Newcomer cards. Am offering them to you on the same advantageous basis, at less than their original costs, although you will notice that most of these coins were purchased nearly twenty years ago.
The Spanish Brasher Doubloon is, in my opinion, of equal, if not even greater rarity, than the New York Doubloon.
Enclosed is a complete description and history of this most interesting coin, as published in my catalog of the Ten Eyck Collection.
Also pleased to advise you that I am negotiating for the purchase of one of the greatest of all American Pioneer Gold rarities, the Conway $2.50 gold piece. This is the first specimen I have ever handled or discovered and which came to me through my extensive advertising. As you undoubtedly know, there are only two other specimens of this coin known, one of which is in the United States Mint Collection.
The most telling remark by Mehl was his assessment of the rarity and importance of the Lima Style Doubloon, the "Spanish Brasher Doubloon," which he opined was of equal or possibly greater rarity than the more familiar New York Style Doubloon. It appears that Mehl's promotional efforts via this letter were successful in placing both the Brasher piece and the Conway $2.50 gold coin, the latter having a similar pedigree from Newcomer to Green.
Roster of the Two Known Lima Style Doubloons
Paris Specimen. Paris Collection (Scott Stamp & Coin Co., 12/1894), lot 813; James Ten Eyck (B. Max Mehl, 5/1922), lot 375, $260; John Work Garrett; B. Max Mehl; Col. E.H.R. Green; Col. Green Estate; Bern's Jewelers; John J. Ford with Stack's; Hollinbeck Coin Company (Kagin Family); Eastern collector. 26.40 grams.
Newcomer Specimen. Newcomer Collection; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2341, $80,000. 26.39 grams.
Obverse and Reverse
The obverse surface has attractive green-gold color with traces of pale rose and lilac toning. Most of the design elements show very slight and shallow doubling, a form of doubling that would be called "machine doubling" today. Tiny crossing scratches appear in the northwest section, just above and right of the upright of L. Only minor handling marks are otherwise visible, as expected on a 215-year old gold coin.
The reverse surface has similar greenish-gold color to that found on the obverse, with light lilac and blue toning, mostly above and to the right. All but the southeast quadrant have minor scratches. Those in the northeast and southwest quadrant are very similar in appearance, resembling a W with a line across the top. That in the northwest quadrant is circular. The surfaces are otherwise pleasing with only minor abrasions as expected. The EB counterstamp appears at the center of the cross.
Breen Encyclopedia 984.
Weight: 26.40 grams. Standard weight for the 1742 Peruvian "Doubloon" was 27.0674 grams. The Brasher Doubloons weigh between 26.36 and 26.66 grams with an average of 26.48 grams. The Lima Style Doubloons weigh 26.39 and 26.40 grams, thus all of these pieces are very nearly identical in weight. Based on the average weight, the tolerance was just 0.68% from lowest to highest, a figure that would make any mint director happy.
Diameter: 28.4 mm. vertical x 28.2 mm. horizontal.
Die Alignment: 270 degrees on the vertical axis, i.e., the reverse is rotated 90 degrees clockwise based on the coin alignment normally associated with United States coinage, or 90 degrees counterclockwise, based on the medallic alignment normally associated with world coinage.
Plain with considerable filing, clipping, and rubbing. The weight of this piece is very nearly identical to that of the Brasher Doubloons produced later, suggesting that the current appearance may be nearly identical to that of colonial days, perhaps Brasher himself doing the filing and clipping to keep this at the appropriate weight.
The discovery of this specimen dates back to the Paris Collection, sold by Scott Stamp & Coin Company in December 1894, where it appeared as lot 813. John Walter Scott was born on November 2, 1845 and died on January 4, 1919. He was most widely known for his activities in the field of philately, and even today, the most widely used stamp catalogs are the Scott Stamp Catalogs, named for the Scott company. He also published coin catalogs, as well as the Coin Collector's Journal. During his career, Scott held 146 auctions, and about one-third of these included numismatic material. In the numismatic field, he is perhaps most widely known for his restrikes of the Confederate half dollars, known as Scott Restrikes.
At the Paris Collection Sale, James Ten Eyck of Albany, New York acquired this piece. The Ten Eyck Collection was sold by B. Max Mehl, the prominent Ft. Worth, Texas coin dealer who held numerous auctions over his 50-plus year career. Most of Mehl's auctions were actually mail bid sales with outstanding catalogs.
James Ten Eyck sold his first coin collection in 1865, the "coin collection of his youth." His second collection was sold by B. Max Mehl in 1922, and included such items as the Linderman specimen of the 1804 Class III silver dollar, an 1822 half eagle, a Washington obverse New Jersey copper, a Washington obverse Confederatio copper and a New Jersey copper with the date below the plow beam. He also owned a Lima Style Doubloon and a New York Style Doubloon with the punch on the wing. Ten Eyck was born in Albany on February 16, 1840 and lived in that city until July 28, 1910, 100 years after Brasher's death. He was descended from Dutch ancestors who came to America among the first settlers. He was associated with the firm of Bacon, Stickney and Company for over 50 years. Ten Eyck served public roles as well, and was also a grand master of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York.
B. Max Mehl was born in 1884 in Ludz, Lithuania and immigrated to America in 1893. Mehl was married to Ethel Rosen on August 18, 1907, and the couple resided in Fort Worth, Texas. It is not certain when he first entered the coin business although it is known that he worked in a shoe store as a teenager. Mehl claimed that his coin business began circa 1900, although his first advertisement in The Numismatist did not appear until the December 1903 issue. His first auction sale was held in May 1906. During his career, he held 120 auctions, handled 1804 silver dollars on eight occasions, and sold the collections of many important numismatists. Mehl died in Fort Worth on September 27, 1957.
This Doubloon appeared as lot 375 in Mehl's May 1922 sale of the Ten Eyck Collection. At the Ten Eyck sale, Mehl sold this coin to Baltimore collector John Work Garrett. Garrett was the son of T. Harrison Garrett of Baltimore, was born on May 19, 1872 and lived 70 years until June 26, 1942. His father served as President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Other members of this family had their own talents, and his brother, Robert, participated in the 1896 Olympics and won America's first Olympic gold medal (shotput). John Work Garrett served in the diplomatic service. His collection was donated to the Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, and was sold by Bowers and Ruddy Galleries in four sales held from 1979 to 1981.
A short time later, Mehl served as agent to resell the piece when Garrett acquired the other known example which he preferred for his collection. In a letter that is discussed further below, Mehl resold the Paris-Ten Eyck specimen to Col. E.H.R. Green, in whose collection it remained until after his death. The Colonel saw no military service, and was only a Colonel by title. He was the son of Hetty Green who was known as the witch of Wall Street. Stories about Hetty Green are seemingly legendary. It is told that she refused to hire a doctor to take care of her son's injured leg after an accident, and that his leg had to be amputated. Another story tells of a photo session with Col. Green when he was a child. When it was suggested that his suit be pressed before the photograph was taken, Hetty Green instructed that only the front half of the suit needed to be pressed for the photo. This would obviously save a few cents at the time. Col. Green had a business connection with the Garrett family, serving as a Director of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. He was also President of the Texas Midland Railroad, a concern that his mother reportedly purchased for him as a toy. Green was active in politics and had many other concerns and hobbies, including philately. Col. Edward Howland Robinson Green was born on August 22, 1868 in London, England and died on June 8, 1936 in Lake Placid, New York. At the time of his death on June 8, 1936, his coin collection had an estimated value of $5 million and his stamp collection was valued at $3.5 million. F.C.C. Boyd determined the tax value of his coin collection to be just $1,240,299. The total value of his state was more than $40 million in 1930s dollars.
An enterprise by the name of Bern Jewelers was the next owner, and that firm sold this piece to John J. Ford, Jr., in partnership with Stack's. Nothing is known of Bern Jewelers. The names of Ford and Stack's need no introduction to the current generation of hobbyists. John J. Ford, Jr. was born in Hollywood, California on March 5, 1924. He served in World War II with the Army Signal Corps. He later served with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1948 to 1950 and with Army Counter Intelligence from 1950 to 1959. Ford is most well-known for his 21-year association with New Netherlands Coin Company from 1951 to 1971. His extensive collection is currently being sold by Stack's in a series of auction sales. Stack's is a New York City numismatic auction company that held their first sale in 1935. They have conducted over 600 auctions during their 70-year tenure. The firm also holds mail bid sales under the trade name Coin Galleries.
The Hollinbeck Coin Company acquired this Doubloon from Ford and Stack's, and resold it to an eastern collector. The Hollinbeck Coin Company later changed their name to Kagin's. The original firm was a stamp and coin company formed by R.O. Hollinbeck in Minneapolis in 1928. Just seven years later, 15 year old Arthur Kagin joined the firm as a full-time employee and, within a year, Kagin opened branches of the company in Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa. At the time, Iowa had few collectors, no coin clubs, and seemingly no possibility for business in the field. In the short period of two years, the scene had changed as their were twenty coin clubs in the state, and the Iowa Numismatic Association had been formed, the first coin club in the country formed on a statewide basis. By 1940, Art's brother, Paul, had joined the firm. Art handled most of the work with customers while Paul took care of the administrative functions. The Hollinbeck Coin Company, later Kagin's, was one of the most active auction companies in numismatics, holding their first sale circa 1940 and continuing for almost 50 years. During this period, they held approximately 350 sales, for an average of seven auctions per year. Even today, in 2004, the Kagin family remains active in numismatics, and Art Kagin can still be seen at coin shows on a regular basis, 70 years after entering the business. (PCGS# 491)
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