Elusive 1776 Continental Dollar, CURRENCY, MS64
1776 $1 Continental Dollar, CURRENCY, Pewter MS64 PCGS. CAC.
Newman 2-C, Hodder 2-A.3, W-8455, R.4. Our experience is slightly
different than that of Michael Hodder who wrote in 1989 that this
variety "is fairly common, being a low Rarity-3 like its
predecessor, 1-A.3." In our auctions since 1993, we have offered 25
examples (46%) of 1-A.3, 16 examples (30%) of 2-A.3, and 12
examples (22%) of 3-B. The present example will prove to be a
splendid additional to an advanced colonial collection or a type
Newman 2-C, The Garrett Specimen
The light gray surfaces are entirely prooflike with splashes of darker patina on each side. This piece has been called a Choice proof in the past, according to the Garrett catalog description. It is sharply struck with exceptional detail, possibly struck as a presentation piece. Careful microscopic examination reveals a complete absence of significant marks with only trivial imperfections of no consequence.
Ex: Col. James W. Ellsworth; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1980), lot 1492.
One of the mysteries surrounding the Continental Currency coinage is their denomination. Most sources call them dollars due to their one and one-half inch diameter, and the metallic content that resembles silver. The brass pieces have been variably called a penny, or a trial piece. Finally, the existence of a few silver strikes is enough evidence for most numismatists to agree with the dollar denomination.
Eric Newman was the first to address the denomination in detail, concluding that these pieces were, indeed, intended as one dollar coins. He based his opinion on contemporary issues of Continental currency issued from 1775 to 1779. Four issues authorized between May 1775 and May 1776 included a one dollar denomination note. Then six issues from July 1776 through September 1778 lacked a one dollar note, with two dollars as the smallest denomination. Finally, the dollar notes reappeared in early 1779. Newman examined additional contemporary accounts and concluded that "the foregoing facts put to rest any claims that the Continental Currency coins dated 1776 had no official connection, and we can conclude that the date of preparation of the coins was about July 1776."
The intention of Congress was almost certainly the large scale issue of a one dollar silver coin, anticipating a large influx of silver from France. The importation of French silver never materialized, and that is likely the reason that pewter became a substitute.
Although the Continental currency was denominated in dollars, the money of account for each individual colony was the pound. Of course we know that each colony had their own valuation for the pound, further confusing the economics of that era. Crown size European coins typically carried no denomination, which suggests that the Continental Currency coins may have been considered crowns in the European tradition.
The brass pieces, all struck among the earliest pewter coins, were once considered patterns or die trials. Michael Hodder was able to show, through die state evidence, that all of the coins were struck at the same time. He also analyzed recorded weights and was able to show that the brass pieces were probably intended as pennies, with a weight almost exactly twice that of British halfpence. Numismatic tradition tells us that the pewter coins are dollars, and we will continue to follow that tradition until further evidence is uncovered to change that opinion.
From The Collection of a Patriotic American. (NGC ID# 2AYT, PCGS# 794)
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