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Lot
5100

1787 DBLN Brasher Doubloon, EB on Wing, W-5840, MS63 NGC. CAC....

2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando #1201

 
Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
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Auction Ended On: Jan 9, 2014
Item Activity: 15 Internet/mail/phone bidders
27,270 page views
Location: Orange County Convention Center
9800 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Description:

1787 New York Brasher Doubloon, MS63
Only Pre-Federal American Gold Coin, W-5840
Finest-Certified Example of This Classic Rarity
The Discovery Coin, Ex: Gilmor, Newlin, Davis, Brand
1787 DBLN Brasher Doubloon, EB on Wing, W-5840, MS63 NGC. CAC. Among the great rarities of American numismatics, the 1787 New York Brasher doubloon is in a class of its own. It has been acknowledged as the most important and valuable coin in the world by such luminaries as Henry Chapman and Q. David Bowers. When Fort Worth coin dealer B. Max Mehl offered the present coin in his James Ten Eyck catalog in 1922 he noted, "For historical interest and numismatic rarity, this great coin is second to none. It is rightfully recognized as one of the greatest numismatic rarities of the world." Heritage Auctions is privileged to offer the finest-certified example of this iconic numismatic treasure in the January 2014 FUN sale.

The Brasher doubloon has been called the most valuable coin in the world on many occasions, and its record of prices realized at auction and private sale does much to confirm this claim. The rare coin market rises and falls over time, and some other rare issues that are offered more frequently have occasionally eclipsed the prices realized by the Brasher doubloon in its rare auction appearances, but in head-to-head competition, the Brasher always comes out on top. When Henry Chapman sold the fabled collection of Mathew Adams Stickney in 1907, the Stickney doubloon far outdistanced one of the finest and most famous examples of the 1804 dollar offered in that same sale, realizing $6,200 (a world record for any coin at the time) to $3,600 for the dollar. The coin offered here also easily bested the 1804 dollar in the Ten Eyck sale. Even the redoubtable 1822 half eagle and the unique 1870-S three dollar gold piece in the Eliasberg Collection had to settle for a second-place tie behind the Stickney-Garrett specimen of the Brasher doubloon when those great collections were sold in close proximity in the late 1970s-early 1980s. The recent private sale of the AU50 Bushnell Brasher doubloon for nearly $7.4 million suggests that this finest-certified MS63 example is poised to reclaim its title of "World's Most Valuable Coin."

To understand the importance of the Brasher doubloon it is necessary to know something about its creator, a multi-faceted man named Ephraim Brasher. Brasher was a man of many accomplishments and fairly well known in his time, but history had largely forgotten him until scholars began researching his life in conjunction with his numismatic legacy. Much has been learned about Brasher and his coins in recent years, but some questions remain unanswered.

Ephraim Brasher, Silversmith, Patriot, and Businessman
Ephraim Brasher, the originator of the Brasher doubloons, was an American patriot and silversmith, like his more famous contemporary, Paul Revere. He was born April 18, 1744 to an old Dutch family in New York. Different branches of the family spelled their name variously as Breser, Bresert, Brasier, Brazier, and even Bradejor. His lineal descendants reveal that the preferred pronunciation is Bray-zher, but most present-day numismatists and the general public have always pronounced it phonetically (hopefully causing no unintended offense to the illustrious family). Brasher lived all his life in New York City. He was married to Anne Gilbert on November 8, 1766. Ann was a sister of another New York silversmith, William Gilbert. Some sources state that Brasher did not have any children with Anne, or with his second wife, Mary Austin, whom he married in 1797, sometime after Anne's death. Other sources suggest that he did. Indeed, an article by Richard Bagg and Q. David Bowers in the February 1980 issue of The Numismatist, "Ephraim Brasher, Originator of the Famous Brasher Doubloon," mentions Ephraim's great-great-great granddaughter, Deborah. This alone would suggest that he did have children. Ephraim and Abraham Brasher both served their apprenticeship with a silversmith, whose name (or names) are not known today. Ephraim took his studies seriously, and today there is beautiful silverware that survives with his distinctive counterstamp, the letters EB inside an oval (see Figure 1). Little is known about Abraham or his work, but Ephraim did excellent work and many pieces of his craft are seen in New York and New England museums.

FIGURE 1: Ephraim Brasher's counterstamp
FIGURE 1

Ephraim Brasher's counterstamp
Image courtesy of Tom Mulvaney
Click to view larger image
Brasher enlisted in Colonel Lasher's regiment of the New York Provincial Army as a Lieutenant of grenadiers in 1775 and may have served in the battles of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island. He definitely served on the New York Evacuation Committee in 1783, supervising the handover of the city from the British occupying forces. He rose to the rank of major in the militia after the war, retiring in 1796.

One of Brasher's chief claims to fame was that he lived just a few feet from President George Washington in New York City after the war. Washington resided at 3 Cherry Street and Brasher lived next door at 1 Cherry Street. Some sources give Brasher's address as 5 Cherry Street. Cherry Hill was a fashionable section of New York in the 18th century, located just north of the Manhattan side of the present day Brooklyn Bridge. Brasher's business address was 77 Queen Street, not too far north of his home. Not only were Washington and Brasher neighbors, but Washington was also a customer of Brasher. He owned numerous silver pieces made by Brasher, including a number of silver skewers with a surviving receipt. It was certainly important for Washington to make a good impression at state dinners, which he did with the assistance of his Brasher silver.

Brasher was a well-respected member of the community. In his March 1987 Coinage article, "The Brasher Bicentennial," David T. Alexander noted: "In the late 1700's, silversmiths and goldsmiths were particularly respected members of the community, often acting as bankers, assayers, and authenticators of the Babel of gold and silver coins of the world which circulated in the bullion-starved colonies and the new republic." Later, he served in local politics in New York, almost like serving in national posts at the time. New York was the leading center of banking and foreign trade, and was also the new national capital. He served as sanitary commissioner from 1784 to 1785, coroner from 1786 to 1791, assistant justice from 1794 to 1797, election inspector from 1796 to 1809, and commissioner of excise from 1806 to 1810. The Old Middle Dutch Church records say he died on November 10, 1810, aged 66. In his will, he left his wife, Mary, "all my estate both real and personal," perhaps accounting for the theory that he was childless.

Brasher the Assayer
According to Walter Breen, an entry in the July 1892 edition of the American Journal of Numismatics reveals that Brasher was employed, along with David Ott, to assay a number of foreign gold coins received by the newly founded United States Mint in 1792. This is confirmed by an entry in the American State Papers under "Estimated Expenditures for the Year 1796" in which a $27 Treasury Warrant was recorded:

"... in favor of John Shield, assignee of Ephraim Brasher, being for assays made by said Brasher, in the year 1792, for the Mint of sundry coins of gold and silver, pursuant to the instructions from the then Secretary of the Treasury."


The assay of foreign coins was a yearly requirement for the Mint and the results were reported for many years in the annual Report of the Director of the Mint. Unfortunately, the assays could not be legally conducted at the Mint in 1792 because Chief Assayer Albion Cox was unable to pay the $10,000 bond required by Congress to perform precious metal coinage operations. This situation persisted until 1794, when Congress lowered the requirement and Cox was able to provide the surety, with the help of Mint Director David Rittenhouse. Until that date, the assay had to be outsourced, and Brasher, Washington's old neighbor, was a natural choice for the job.

FIGURE 2: Brazil 1600 Reis with Brasher's counterstamp
FIGURE 2

Brazil 1600 Reis with Brasher's counterstamp
Click to view larger image
The necessity for these assays was widespread in the later part of the 18th century, when the money supply in the fledgling United States consisted of a bewildering hodge-podge of foreign coins, private issues, and state sponsored copper coinage, all mixed with counterfeits and coins of reduced weight that had their edges clipped or were "sweated" with acid. Gold coins were primarily used in large transactions by banks or merchants in the larger cities and most people never handled them. Most of the gold coins in circulation were from Portugal, Great Britain, France, Spain, and the many mints in Spanish colonies in the New World. In 1789, the Bank of North America advertised the values of various foreign gold coins and tables were published by other institutions to help merchants conduct the everyday business of commerce. Before the Mint was established, private individuals and banking institutions carried out assays on circulating coins and, although there is some doubt about this, it is believed that Brasher performed this service for many of his customers.

A number of foreign gold and silver coins are known today that bear Brasher's trademark counterstamp (see Figure 2). It is thought that Brasher evaluated these coins and stamped them to signify that they were of full weight and fineness. The Bank of New York employed gold and silversmiths, like Brasher, to test the coins that came into the bank. These men were known as "Regulators" and they would weigh each coin as it was deposited and add a plug of gold to any that were found to be outside the allowable tolerances, stamping the coin with their stamp to indicate that the coin was of proper weight and consistency. These coins are highly regarded and sought-after by collectors today. Brasher's reputation as an assayer was apparently well-established by the late 1780s, and his counterstamp was widely accepted as a guaranty of value.

Brasher's Private Coinage
Brasher's skill as a silversmith, engraver, assayer, and metal worker enabled him to branch out into the field of private coinage for which he will always be remembered. His first endeavor in the field seems to have been the Lima Style doubloon, which resembled the widely circulated 1742-dated Spanish coins of the 8 Escudos denomination. The 8 Escudos coins were called Doblons in the Spanish colonies and the term was adopted and Anglicized to doubloon in the United States. They were worth $16, a large sum for the average man in the late 1700s.

The Lima Style doubloon is a mysterious coin, about which little is known today. It was probably the first of Brasher's personal coin issues to exhibit his distinctive counterstamp and several theories have been advanced to explain its production. Walter Breen believed the Lima coins were produced after the better known New York Style pieces, but Michael Hodder demonstrated that they actually predate their New York counterparts. In his article in the Coinage of the Americas Conference series titled "Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima Style Doubloon," Hodder showed that the EB punch used on the Lima doubloons was in an earlier die state than it was in its later use on the New York doubloons, where it showed signs of die rust above the upright of E, inside the top space of E, above and right of the crossbar, and over the inside right curve of B. The Lima Style doubloons were probably minted in 1786 and the mintage is unknown, but it must have been small. Only two examples of the issue survive today. Some researchers have suggested that they were struck as patterns. Others believe that they were struck as circulating gold issues for use in the lucrative West Indies trade. They may have been the first American trade coins, serving the same role as the Trade dollars of the 1870s did in the China trade. Whatever their purpose, they were closely related to Brasher's more famous New York issue, as the weight and fineness of the two issues are virtually identical.

Brasher next tried his hand at copper coinage. An article by Louis Jordan on the Notre Dame website states:

"In 1787 Brasher appears to have joined with the New York silversmith and noted sword maker, John Bailey in requesting a franchise to produce copper coins for the State of New York. The legislative record for February 12, 1787 stated, 'the several petitions' of Brasher and Bailey were filed with the state. Because of the ambiguous wording it is not known if the petitions were joint ventures or simply individual petitions that just happened to have been submitted on the same day."


As Jordan points out, it is possible that the two men were operating independently, but it is much more likely that they acted together. Unfortunately, the committee considering the matter decided that their mandate did not extend to authorizing a state coinage and opted instead to formulate a bill to regulate the coinage that was already in circulation. No contract was awarded to Brasher and Bailey, or to Thomas Machin, who submitted his own petition at about the same time.

Despite this setback, Brasher and Bailey proceeded to strike copper coins on their own, using a design that resembled the Connecticut state coppers of that era. The blanks were obtained from Colonel Eli Leavenworth of New Haven, Connecticut and the design featured an armored male bust on the obverse and a seated figure of Liberty on the reverse. The number punches and the four-lobed rosettes (quatrefoils) that were used on these pieces, known as Nova Eborac coppers, were later employed to prepare the dies for Brasher's famous doubloon. Their resemblance to the familiar Connecticut pieces and their semi-official appearance undoubtedly aided in the wide acceptance of the Nova Eborac coins.

The New York Style Doubloons
Brasher created his numismatic masterpiece, the New York Style Brasher doubloon, sometime in 1787. Although the specifications for the coin are virtually identical to the Lima doubloons and are extremely close to those of the earlier Spanish coins that served as their prototype, the design was something altogether new:

Obverse: The obverse was apparently adopted from the state coat of arms of New York. The sun is rising over the peak of a mountain with a body of water in the foreground. Brasher's name is spelled out below the waves, in small letters. This central device is enclosed within a circle of beads. The legend, around: NOVA EBORACA COLUMBIA EXCELSIOR has each word separated by a rosette. The legend translates to New York, America, Ever Higher. Excelsior remains the state motto to this day.
Reverse: An eagle with wings displayed, and a shield covering its breast, has a bundle of arrows in its sinister claw (to the observer's right) and an olive branch in its dexter claw. Thirteen stars surround the eagle's head. This central device is enclosed in a continuous wreath. Around, the legend: UNUM E PLURIBUS with the words separated by stars. This legend translates to One of Many. Below, the date 1787 is flanked by rosettes. Many of these devices are similarly used on the Great Seal of the United States. Like many coins of this era, the denomination was not specifically expressed anywhere on the coin.

On one example of the New York Style doubloon Brasher impressed his counter stamp on the shield on the eagle's breast. On the other six known specimens, the counter stamp was placed at slightly varying locations on the eagle's left (facing) wing. The specifications for the issue were:

Weight: 26.66 grams (per Walter Breen).
Diameter: 28.6 mm (per Walter Breen).
Die Alignment: 180 degrees, or coin-turn alignment.
Edge: Plain.
Composition: gold approximately 89%, silver approximately 6%, copper approximately 3%, trace elements 2%.

The composition is interesting, as it varies from the earlier Spanish doubloons, which were approximately 90% gold, 8% silver, and 2% copper. Later U.S. gold coins reversed this ratio of silver to copper, keeping the gold at 90%. This shows that Brasher must have assayed his gold and refined it himself to meet his unique standard of fineness, rather than just melting a cache of older Latin American gold pieces to use in striking his doubloons. The different alloy for the later federal gold coinage proves that the doubloons were not fantasy pieces, struck at a later date from melted down U.S. coinage. At least one example of a half doubloon exists, now in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. It was struck from the same dies as the regular doubloons on an undersized planchet weighing half as much as the larger coins.

Various theories have attempted to explain the purpose of the New York Style Brasher doubloons. Some numismatists have suggested that they were struck from the dies intended for Brasher and Bailey's proposed copper coinage, as patterns to show the design to good advantage. Don Taxay carried this theory further, saying that the gold patterns were intended as bribes for the New York State legislators who would favor Brasher and Bailey with a contract for the copper coinage. Taxay's comments probably came from Robert A. Vlack, in Early American Coins: "There is every reason to believe he [Brasher] contemplated expanding his profession to that of coinage as he filed a petition on February 11, 1787, with John Bailey, for the privilege of coining copper. It is reasonable to assume then, that these original dies were cut to serve more for a copper coinage for New York, than for a gold issue. This is supported by the fact that the dies were of the same size as that for the copper state coinage." Although the doubloons approximated the size of the planchets used on the state coppers, they were also roughly the same size as the Spanish doubloons in circulation at that time, so the size argument seems inconclusive. Furthermore, the cost of producing at least seven gold patterns for a copper issue would have been exorbitant. The intricate design of the doubloons, so different from the simple copper pieces of the day, also argues against a pattern origin. The complex design would be hard to duplicate, increasing the difficulty of counterfeiting the pieces, a much greater concern for gold issues than for copper.

Another theory suggested that these coins were produced as souvenirs to visitors of Washington, who lived next door to Brasher during his residence in New York. The cataloger for RARCOA, in Auction '79, stated:

"The logical conclusion, then, is that the coins were minted by Brasher to be sold as souvenirs. Brasher's shop was located at 1 Cherry Street (as listed in the 1787 New York Directory), directly next door to the 'first White House' where George Washington lived from his inauguration in April 1789 until February 1790. When important persons came to town, Brasher now had something to offer (other than his expensive hand-made silverware) that had a real, tangible value. For about $16, they could purchase a gold piece, complete with the famous and treasured hallmark of a well-known craftsman, that was a true souvenir of their visit to New York. This might account for the fact that at least three of the seven known Doubloons were discovered in Philadelphia."


This souvenir theory suggests that the EB hallmark was famous and treasured. Today, we consider the hallmark to be famous and treasured as suggested. However, in the late 1700s, the hallmark was probably not all that famous. Although a number of gold coins had been stamped with the EB hallmark, it is doubtful that their continued circulation had reached enough people to make the hallmark famous. Because the doubloons contained about $16 worth of gold, they would have been an expensive souvenir of a late 18th century visit. Few visitors could have afforded one.

The third theory advanced to explain the doubloons is that they were intended as a circulating medium of exchange, useful in large transactions between merchants and banks. In support of the theory that these coins were, in fact, intended to represent a gold coinage issue is the weight and gold content, which is within the tolerance for the Spanish doubloons in circulation at the time. The doubloon was one of the most widely used of all circulating gold coins in America, according to James Risk in his article in the September 1981 issue of the Colonial Newsletter (p. 754):

"Banker's lists of gold coins acceptable for receipts and payments show quite clearly that the pieces were largely the issues of Brazil and Portugal, Britain and France, and, possibly the most important, Spanish Mints in Mexico and Peru. It was in all these mints that the familiar single and double Pistoles and, above all, the Doubloons were struck. The latter were large coins, somewhat greater in diameter than the U.S. $20.00 gold piece, but thinner and worth about $16.00 in terms of the old United States gold coinage. The Doubloon was probably the most common gold trade coin used in Colonial America, and one with which every merchant of substance was on intimate speaking terms."


Of all the theories created to explain the existence of the Brasher doubloons, the gold coinage theory seems to be the most credible.

Importance of Brasher Doubloons
The Brasher doubloons were the only colonial gold coinage issues produced with intent for circulation, and therefore, must be considered among the most important of all colonial coinage issues. A case can certainly be made that these are the most important American coins, bar none. When discussing this particular coin in the Ten Eyck catalog, B. Max Mehl proclaimed: "This celebrated coin has the unusual distinctive importance of being rightfully included in the American Colonial Series, and, as it is the first issue of a private gold coinage, is also included in that important series." The significance of being the most important and sought-after coin in both the Colonial and Private and Territorial Gold series is enough to ensure the Brasher doubloon's immortality, but its importance extends well beyond that. Brasher's adherence to strict weight and composition specifications set a standard for the personnel at the First Mint of the United States to follow to ensure the widespread acceptance of our national coinage on the international economic scene. The artistry of his design and the aesthetic appeal of even the worn specimens of the doubloon proved that artistic merit could coexist with minting efficiency. When President Theodore Roosevelt complained about the "atrocious hideousness" of American coinage at the dawn of the 20th century, his model for an ideal coinage was the Greek issues of antiquity, but the Brasher doubloon could have served as a creditable example just as well. There is scarcely any coin collector or student of history who would not treasure this coin, whatever his collecting discipline or field of study, and connoisseurs of art would appreciate its intricate design and the quality of its devices. A coin of greater significance and aesthetic appeal can scarcely be imagined.

Numismatic Discovery of the Brasher Doubloon
Carl Carlson identified four distinct phases in the numismatic history of the Brasher doubloon. The first phase started with the discovery of the coin and extended through 1875, by which time it had become a well-known issue, described in the leading reference books of the day and having several landmark auction appearances to its credit.

The present coin is not only the finest-certified Brasher doubloon, it is also the discovery coin for the issue. By the 1830s, two decades after his death, Brasher's historic gold coinage had faded from public memory and examples of the doubloon were seldom encountered in everyday transactions. The declining price of silver versus gold caused almost all early American gold coins to be hoarded and melted in the period after 1820, and it is possible that some of Brasher's doubloons, both Lima and New York Style pieces, perished in these frequent assays. Adam Eckfeldt discovered at least one example of the Brasher doubloon in a consignment of gold coins turned in to the Mint for recoinage in 1838 and rescued it for the Mint Cabinet. That coin still resides in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution today.

The wealthy Baltimore merchant and prominent early collector, Robert Gilmor, Jr., discovered the coin offered here even before Eckfeldt found the Mint Cabinet piece. A letter from early numismatist W.G. Stearns, who Carlson identifies as the numismatic patriarch of the famous family collection sold by Mayflower Coin Auctions in 1966, contains a description of the doubloon and identifies Gilmor as its owner. The letter is addressed to a numismatist in England named Dr. Bowditch, and includes the following statement:

FIGURE 3: Excerpt from an 1840 letter from W. G. Sterns to Dr. Bowditch about the Brasher Doubloon
FIGURE 3

Excerpt from an 1840 letter from W. G. Sterns to
Dr. Bowditch about the Brasher Doubloon
Click to view larger image
"There is also a gold coin of New York, of the value of about ten dollars, but I know nothing of its place of coinage or its history. Obverse, the arms of New York. Reverse, the arms of the United States. The only specimen within my knowledge, is in the possession of Mr. Gilmore, of Baltimore. I have not seen the coin, and do not know even its date."


Stearns' letter was dated March 18, 1840, and Carlson believes the coin was in Gilmor's collection for some time before that date. The letter was printed in the Numismatic Chronicle in the July 1840- January 1841 volume, and later reprinted in the October 1872 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics (see Figure 3). Although Stearns had little information about the coin, he did provide researchers with the first mention in print of the Brasher doubloon and established the first owner-of-record for one of those coins (in fact, the coin offered here).

Dr. Joel Orosz has written extensively about Gilmor and his collection in a series of articles in The Numismatist (May 1990, November 1996, and December 1996 issues). Orosz discovered that Gilmor established a close relationship with Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt at the Philadelphia Mint and was influential in encouraging him to form the Mint Cabinet, which was formally established in 1838. In the May 1990 article Orosz quoted an 1841-dated letter from Gilmor to Joel Roberts Poinsett including the following important information about his Mint connections:

"The Mint has aided me considerably, and has even provided my desiderata from the old dies, when I require it - Mr. Eckfeldt of the Mint has been of great service to me, and was stimulated by my attempt to commence one for the Mint itself..."


Some researchers have speculated that Gilmor may have acquired the present coin through the agency of his friends at the Mint. This theory is tempting, but some factors argue against it. The condition of the coin is much finer than the specimen that we know Eckfeldt rescued for the Mint Cabinet. This MS63 piece certainly did not circulate extensively in commerce and, if it was turned in as bullion at the Mint, why did Eckfeldt keep the lower-grade example for the national collection, rather than this beautiful specimen? There may be logical explanations for such a series of events, but we suspect that the coin was acquired through other means.

We believe Robert Gilmor, Jr. acquired his doubloon at an early date, through the business activities of his father's firm Large denomination gold coins were a rare sight in everyday commerce in the late 18th century. In September 1981, James Risk noted in the Colonial Newsletter, "In fact, gold was familiar only to a limited group of prosperous merchants, ship owners, and bankers." If the doubloons were used as circulating coinage, and the condition of most of the known specimens indicates they were, the Gilmors were engaged in exactly the kind of transactions that they would be used for. In a recent communication Joel Orosz noted:

"So how did Robert, Jr. get the Brasher? I believe that you are absolutely correct that is was very likely through the extensive mercantile activities of Bingham, Inglis & Gilmor, or, after 1799, Robert Gilmor & Sons. Robert, Jr. was only 16 when he started collecting coins, and didn't become a partner in his father's firm until 1799, but it is entirely possible that he could have had his father and the employees on the lookout for anything unusual that was taken in the course of business. And since Robert Gilmor & Co. was an importer of both European and East Indian goods, a lot of business was done in cities all along the Eastern seaboard. Of course, it is possible that the Brasher could have been kept uncirculated by a single owner until it was spent to import something from Gilmor & Sons, but I agree with you that it is more likely that it came in over the counter during the 1790s or early 1800s."


Gilmor would naturally try to save the finest available example for his collection. Since Brasher lived until 1810, it is even possible that he obtained this Uncirculated specimen directly from the coin's creator. Of course, no documentation has survived and we can only speculate today on how this coin came to rest in Gilmor's holdings.

Robert Gilmor, Jr. died on November 30, 1848 and, as he was childless, his coin collection passed to his nephew, who was also named Robert Gilmor, causing some confusion for later researchers. The collection remained in the family for many years, although none of the later Gilmors were numismatists of note. Joel Orosz discovered that the main body of the collection was finally sold around 1861, but the family seems to have attached great importance to the Brasher doubloon, and it remained in their possession for many more years, as some kind of family heirloom. Maryland was a border state, and the Gilmors sided with the South in the Civil War. Their wealth and influence undoubtedly declined sharply during this period, but the family retained possession of this coin through all the hardships of the war and the Reconstruction era. A later generation of Gilmors finally sold this coin to well-respected coin dealer Lyman Low in 1886, by which time its existence had faded from the memory of the numismatic community.

FIGURE 4
FIGURE 4

Image courtesy of Karl Mouton
Click to view larger image
Contemporary numismatists were astounded when Low offered this coin in lot 524 of his John T. Raymond Collection in June of 1887. Raymond was a famous comedian and he may possibly have owned the coin for a short time, but internal evidence in the catalog suggests that Low was the real owner and simply consigned the coin on his own behalf. The description notes that it had "been in one family (in Maryland) for over fifty years, and never yet in a coin collection." Low also indicated that he was familiar with Brasher's work, that this specimen was the fifth example known to him, and he considered it the finest-known at the time (see Figure 4):

Although the Raymond sale was judged to be a success by the American Journal of Numismatics in their July 1887 issue, with many world coins going to bidders in England, it was overshadowed in this country by the controversy surrounding the offering of Mint Director Henry Linderman's collection, which was scheduled to take place the following day. The U.S. government forced Low to cancel the sale and confiscated some of the most important pattern issues which Linderman was accused of obtaining improperly. The distraction of this event may account for the fact that the Brasher doubloon did not sell at the Raymond sale, being withdrawn by Low and later sold privately to early half dime specialist Harold P. Newlin.

While the Gilmor coin had been out-of-sight and out-of-mind for a long period of time by 1886, most of the other surviving examples were well-known to collectors, and had established a remarkable record of intense collector interest and high prices realized at auction.

Knowledge of the Doubloon Spreads
Although little was known about the discovery coin in the years after Robert Gilmor, Jr. passed away, knowledge of the doubloons spread quickly, even before the coin collecting hobby became well-established in the 1860s. No doubt the presence of the coin in the Mint Cabinet kept interest in the doubloons high among collectors and the general public. In 1846, W.E. Dubois mentioned the Mint Cabinet Brasher doubloon in his Pledges of History, calling it "a very remarkable gold coin, equal in value to a doubloon, coined at New York in 1787." John H. Hickcox described the design of the coin and mentioned Brasher and Bailey's petition to strike copper coinage in his 1858 treatise titled An Historical Account of American Coinage. Dr. Montroville W. Dickeson reported that he had seen four examples of the Brasher doubloon in his 1859 work, the American Numismatical Manual, and provided an illustration of the coin. Dickeson was the first numismatist to suggest that the doubloons had been struck as patterns.

Just which coins Dickeson was familiar with is not certain, but it is unlikely that he was aware of the Gilmor piece, which had been traveling outside of numismatic channels for a long period by 1859. He specifically mentions the Mint Cabinet coin, so that accounts for one specimen. An example was discovered by pioneer coin dealer Edward Cogan around 1858, and this doubloon was also probably one of the four known to Dickeson. Cogan sold this piece to John F. McCoy, who later sold it to J.N.T. Levick, by 1864. Legendary collector Mathew Stickney acquired a specimen from an unknown source at an early date and Dickeson may have been familiar with that coin, as well. The final coin that Dickeson knew about was probably the unique Punch on Breast example, which was in the celebrated collection of Charles Ira Bushnell. In addition to the present coin, which reappeared on the numismatic scene in 1887, two more examples of the Brasher doubloon have surfaced over the years, but they were discovered long after Dickeson's book was published in 1859. Dickeson's census was accepted as accurate for decades.

The first public offering of a Brasher doubloon was in lot 1540 of W. Elliot Woodward's Fifth Semi-Annual Sale of October 1864. The coin offered was the piece originally discovered by Ed Cogan and consigned to the sale by J.N.T. Levick, who was treasurer of the American Numismatic Society from 1867-1874. Woodward only knew about three examples of the doubloon, and he called the Levick coin the finest of the three. This would indicate he was unfamiliar with the Stickney specimen, which is much nicer than the Mint Cabinet coin and the Punch on Breast example, and even somewhat better than the Levick piece, which currently grades AU55 PCGS. Woodward said the doubloon was "as rare and desirable as the 1804 dollar, purchased for a larger sum than was ever before paid for an American Coin..." The lot realized a staggering $400, to Colin Lightbody. Surprisingly, Lightbody only held the coin for a short time, consigning it to Woodward's Sixth Semi-Annual Sale in March of 1865. The coin, described in lot 2628, realized the identical amount as its previous offering, $400, to Massachusetts collector George Seavey. Seavey retained the coin until he sold his collection in 1873, through dealer William Strobridge. Strobridge prepared a catalog for the sale, including what was probably the first photographic representation of the Brasher doubloon, offered in lot 157. Millionaire Boston collector Lorin G. Parmelee purchased the entire collection intact before the auction took place, but Strobridge published a limited edition of the catalog, known as the Seavey Descriptive Catalog, for reference purposes.

Sylvester Sage Crosby described the Brasher doubloon in his 1875 masterpiece, The Early Coins of America, ensuring its popularity with Colonial collectors for all time. The doubloon was described in the Patterns and Tokens chapter, probably following Dickeson's classification of the coins as a pattern issue. Crosby listed the specimens known to him as:

"Four of these doubloons have come to our knowledge; they are owned by Mr. Bushnell, Mr. Parmelee, Mr. Stickney, and the United States Mint at Philadelphia; the first has the punch-mark on the breast of the eagle."


The Parmelee Brasher doubloon was plated on Plate IX, number 24 to illustrate the issue. Crosby's work brings to a close what Carl Carlson identified as the first chapter in the history of the Brasher doubloon.

The Brasher Doubloon, Second Chapter
The second phase in the history of the doubloons extended from 1875 through 1922, and was characterized by the discovery, or rediscovery, of two previously unknown examples and frequent sales by private treaty and at auction that solidified the doubloon's reputation as the most valuable coin in the world.

FIGURE 5: First photographic Image of the present coin
FIGURE 5

First photographic Image of
the present coin.
Click to view larger image
The first big event of this second phase was the auction of the unique Punch on Breast specimen in the Bushnell sale. Charles Ira Bushnell was one of the pioneer collectors in the United States, collecting actively from the 1850s until his death in 1880. All the prominent coin dealers in the country hoped to secure the collection after his death but, as he had done with the Seavey Collection in 1873, Lorin G. Parmelee purchased the entire collection privately, from Bushnell's son. After integrating selected specimens into his own collection, Parmelee offered the majority of Bushnell's holdings in a blockbuster auction cataloged by the relatively new firm of S.H. & H. Chapman. The choice of the Chapman brothers came as a big surprise to the more established dealers of the time, who reacted with some chagrin and not a little professional jealousy when the Chapmans published their voluminous catalog of the sale in June of 1882. A deluxe plated edition of the sale was offered for the outrageous price of $5 per catalog, causing much consternation and ridicule from the Chapman's competitors. Strobridge was Parmelee's dealer of choice in earlier times, but he had retired in 1878, due to partial blindness. Edward Cogan had also retired in 1879. Both Strobridge and Cogan had sons that tried to carry on their father's business, with limited success, but Parmelee saw more promise in the young Chapman brothers, and his choice was vindicated by events. The Bushnell sale was an unqualified success and the Chapman brothers went on to dominate the U.S. coin auction scene for most of the next 50 years, selling several examples of the Brasher doubloon in future sales. The Bushnell Brasher doubloon improved considerably on its already remarkable earlier auction appearances, realizing $505 to coin dealer Édouard Frossard, acting as an agent for George Parsons. Parsons only kept the coin for a short time, before selling it to T. Harrison Garrett, also with Frossard as intermediary. The Garretts were the major stock holders in the B. & O. Railroad, of Monopoly board game fame, and the Bushnell doubloon remained in that storied family collection for most of the following century.

The long-forgotten discovery coin resurfaced in Lyman Low's 1887 auction of the Raymond Collection, as detailed above, increasing the number of known specimens to five, with this piece hailed as the finest known. After a short sojourn in the possession of Philadelphia attorney and coin collector Harold P. Newlin, the present coin was sold to pattern specialist Robert Coulton Davis. This must have been one of the last big acquisitions in Davis' long collecting career, as he died in 1888. Davis' collection was offered by the New York Coin & Stamp Co. in a large format auction catalog with the sale scheduled to take place in January 1890. The Brasher doubloon was described in lot 2342, identified as the finest known, and photographed for the first time on plate I (see Figure 5). There is some controversy about the exact dispensation of the coin at this sale, as a priced copy of the catalog lists a price realized of $450, but Carlson declares the coin was actually sold privately to John G. Mills, an Albany, New York collector. The Chapman brothers handled the sale of Mills' collection in 1904, but the doubloon was sold privately to James Ten Eyck and was not described in the catalog.

Lorin G. Parmelee sold his fabulous collection through New York Coin & Stamp in June of 1890, with the Brasher doubloon described in lot 451. The cataloger notes that the coin offered there was "nearly as fine as that in Davis sale" referring to the January 1890 appearance of the present coin. The lot was purchased by Andrew C. Zabriskie, who formed one of the finest collections of Pioneer and Territorial gold coins of all time. Zabriskie's collection was handled by Henry Chapman in 1909, by which time prices for rare coins had increased by an order of magnitude over earlier sales. The Brasher doubloon, listed in lot 73 realized a whopping $4,100 to super collector Virgil Brand. Two years earlier, Henry Chapman sold the Stickney Brasher doubloon for a stunning $6,200, a world record that remained the high-water mark for any coin for many years to come.

Another landmark event in the history of the Brasher doubloon occurred in 1897, when a previously unknown specimen was discovered by Philadelphia laborers who were digging a cellar for a building in a part of town that had once served as a landfill. The coin came into possession of the ubiquitous Chapman brothers, who sold this newly discovered example to Allison W. Jackman. Jackman's collection was sold by Henry Chapman in June of 1918, marking the last time that either of the Chapman brothers handled a Brasher doubloon. The Chapman brothers probably did more than any other coin dealers to establish the reputation of the Brasher doubloon, as they handled the coin on more occasions and sold examples for higher prices than any of their contemporaries. The Jackman doubloon was purchased by Baltimore collector Waldo Newcomer.

The final event in the second chapter of the doubloon's history occurred in May 1922, when Fort Worth coin dealer B. Max Mehl sold the present coin in lot 374 of his James Ten Eyck sale. Mehl related that Ten Eyck stored the coin in a box labeled "Brasher Doubloon. Finest Known. Davis Sale." Virgil Brand purchased the coin, becoming the first collector to own two examples of the Brasher doubloon (discounting the short period between Parmelee's purchase and sale of the Bushnell specimen, when he briefly possessed an example of both the Punch on Wing and Punch on Breast doubloons).

Popular Fame in the Third Chapter
After the period of intense auction activity and rapidly rising prices that the Brasher doubloon experienced in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the coin embarked on a long hiatus of sorts, in which the coins were mostly impounded in long-term collections and only infrequently appeared in the numismatic press. There were no public offerings of the Brasher doubloon during this 57-year period, which was neatly bracketed by the sale of the present coin in the 1922 Ten Eyck sale and its next appearance in Auction '79. One of the greatest collectors of all time, Louis Eliasberg, began collecting in the late 1920s, completed his collection of U.S. coins in 1950, and continued updating his holdings until his death in 1976. Eliasberg was the only collector in history to assemble a complete collection of U.S. federal coins, and he had an extensive collection of colonial and world issues as well. Unfortunately, his long collecting career coincided with the period when the Brasher doubloon was on hiatus. He never had the opportunity to bid on one at auction and never acquired a specimen on the few occasions when a private sale took place. Clearly, the opportunity to purchase a Brasher doubloon is not something that any collector can afford to take lightly.

Some important events did take place during this time period. One of the most important being the sale of the Colonel James Ellsworth Collection to the partnership of Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett through Knoedler Galleries in 1923. The purchase of the collection for $100,000 was the largest numismatic transaction on record up to that time, with New York coin dealer Raymond getting the federal portion of the collection (including two 1804 dollars) and Baltimore collector Garrett getting the colonial and territorial portion, including the Stickney specimen of the Brasher doubloon. The Stickney coin is an Uncirculated example, the only specimen that might challenge the present coin for the title of "Finest Known." Ellsworth had purchased it at the Stickney sale in 1907 for the astonishing price of $6,200, which was still a record price in 1923. Garrett had inherited his father's coin collection, after it was owned for a time by his brother Robert. The collection still included the Bushnell Punch on Breast Brasher doubloon, making Garrett the second collector in history to own two specimens and the first to own an example of both types (Punch on Breast and Punch on Wing).

FIGURE 6: Cover of Raymond Chandler's book The High Window
FIGURE 6

Cover of Raymond Chandler's book
The High Window
Click to view larger image
The advent of the Great Depression had a profound effect on the coin collecting hobby, just as it did on almost all aspects of life in this country. The focus of the hobby changed from the grand auctions and large private sales to wealthy collectors, to a more popular pursuit indulged in by average people who collected coins from circulation as a form of affordable entertainment. The advertising campaigns of B. Max Mehl and the advent of the well-known Whitman folders and inexpensive reference books like Wayte Raymond's Standard Catalog of United States Coins did much to popularize the hobby in the 1930s. The Brasher doubloon kept pace with the rest of the hobby and, while no spectacular auction appearances occurred during this period, the fame of the doubloons grew by leaps and bounds in the popular media. The first extensive article on Ephraim Brasher was published by Stephen Decatur in the American Collector magazine in June of 1938 and acclaimed novelist Raymond Chandler based one of his popular Philip Marlowe mysteries on the fictional theft of a Brasher doubloon in 1942. Chandler's novel, The High Window (see Figure 6), inspired a major motion picture called The Brasher Doubloon (see Figure 7) by 20th Century Fox in 1946. Ironically, two specimens of the Brasher doubloon actually were stolen from their rightful owners 20 years later, toward the end of the third chapter in the doubloon's story.

FIGURE 7: Movie Poster for The Brasher Doubloon
FIGURE 7

Movie Poster for
The Brasher Doubloon
Click to view larger image
Behind the scenes, some of the greatest collections of all time were being dispersed in the 1930s and 1940s, through largely undocumented private transactions. The mainline U.S. collection of Baltimore financier Waldo Newcomer was sold through B. Max Mehl in the early 1930s, with most of the gold portion, including the Brasher doubloon, passing to eccentric millionaire Colonel E.H.R. Green. Green retained the doubloon until his death in 1936, after which it passed through several collections in private treaty sales until it came to rest in the fabulous Norweb Collection. The Norwebs donated the coin to the American Numismatic Society in 1969, and it remains in that august collection today.

In similar fashion, the incredible collection of Virgil Brand was dispersed by his heirs, mostly in a series of private transactions during this period. Brand's holdings included approximately 350,000 coins and it required decades for the heirs to settle the final distribution of the collection. A selection of Brand coins was offered in J.C. Morgenthau's Great American Collection in October of 1933, and portions of the collection were offered at auction by Bowers and Merena in the 1980s, but most of the coins were sold privately. The Parmelee Brasher doubloon, which Brand purchased at the Zabriskie sale, was assigned to Brand's youngest brother Armin in the division of the collection on June 30, 1932, while the present coin (which Brand considered his primary, or original piece) was apportioned to his other brother Horace, according to a notation in the Brand ledgers at the ANS Library (see Figure 8).

FIGURE 8: Page from the Brand ledgers showing the division of the two Brasher Doubloons between Brand's heirs
FIGURE 8

Page from the Brand ledgers showing the division of
the two Brasher Doubloons between Brand's heirs.
Image courtesy of The American Numismatic Society
Click to view larger image
The present coin was acquired by Jack Friedberg who, along with his brother Robert, was affiliated with Gimbels Department Store. In keeping with the trend toward popularization in the hobby, the coin was publicly exhibited on several occasions, including the 1964 World's Fair in New York. The Parmelee specimen passed through the hands of several famous numismatists and eventually came to rest in the collection of Reverend William H. Owen, curator of the Yale University Collection. Owen donated the doubloon to the University, and it was part of a famous theft of a portion of the collection in 1965. Fortunately, the Brasher doubloon was recovered by insurance investigators in Florida in 1967.

One of the most surprising events in the long history of the Brasher doubloon occurred on October 4, 1967, when a previously unknown specimen of the Brasher doubloon was stolen from the home of millionaire collector Willis duPont. Five masked men entered the duPont compound late that night, held the duPont family and their staff at gunpoint, and stole a large portion of the duPont coin collection and other valuables. The lurid story made national headlines and the Brasher doubloon was recovered in an FBI sting operation in July 1968, but the actual thieves were never apprehended. Many of the coins have been recovered over the years, but some coins remain missing to the present day. The Brasher doubloon that played such a dramatic role in this affair was completely unknown to the numismatic community before it appeared on the list of items stolen in the burglary. Later research indicates that Lammont duPont purchased the coin from B. Max Mehl circa 1933, but no further history of the coin has ever been established. It has not been publicly offered or displayed since its return to the duPont family, but Tom Mulvaney did photograph the coin in the duPont's bank vault for an article in Coin World many years ago (see roster below).

Resurgence of the Brasher Doubloon in the Fourth Chapter
The long drought of public offerings came to an end in the summer of 1979, and the Brasher doubloon entered a period of unprecedented numismatic activity, setting one price record after another. The first event of this new period featured the present specimen of the Brasher doubloon, which was offered in lot 1433 of the RARCOA segment of Auction '79. Excitement ran high in numismatic circles, as collectors braced for the first public offering of a Brasher doubloon in almost six decades. No one was disappointed, as Chicago numismatist Walter Perschke purchased the lot for an astounding $430,000, a new world record for any coin. Perschke followed the tradition of popularizing his coin, sharing it with the public in many exhibits over the years, including an extremely popular display at the ANA World's Fair of Money in 2012. The coin has been a highlight of Perschke's collection for nearly 35 years and he has finally decided to give another collector a chance to own this fabulous piece.

The record price realized by the Perschke coin was destined to be short-lived, as the famous Garrett Collection, including two specimens of the Brasher doubloon, was sold by order of Johns Hopkins University in a series of auctions by Bowers and Ruddy from 1979-1981. The Auction '79 appearance had broken all price resistance for the issue and the Brasher doubloon in lot 603 of the first Garrett sale realized a stupendous $725,000, another world record that stood for ten years. The unique Punch on Breast specimen was offered in the fourth Garrett sale and it realized a staggering $625,000. Yale University decided to sell their Brasher doubloon through private treaty transaction in 1981, through Stack's. Thus, four of the known specimens changed hands in a period of just two years, after 57 years without a public offering. Two of the other coins were impounded in the collections of the ANS and the Smithsonian, so the only privately held piece that did not change ownership was the mysterious duPont coin.

A more sedate pace of public offerings has prevailed since the early 1980s, with only three auction appearances taking place between 1981 and the present sale. Two of those appearances were in the same sale, the famous Gold Rush Collection by Heritage Auctions in January 2005. The Gold Rush Collection was a remarkable gathering assembled by a private collector with the help of Atlanta area numismatist Al Adams of Gold Rush Galleries. The Gold Rush collector was only the third numismatist in history to own two examples of the Brasher doubloon, and the second to own a specimen of both varieties. The Punch on Wing example realized $2,415,000 and the Punch on Breast coin brought $2,990,000. The 2014 Guide Book lists these prices as number 9 and number 6 on their "Top 250 U.S. Coin Prices Realized at Auction."

Several private transactions have occurred in the present era, including the remarkable sale of the Punch on Breast coin in 2011. When Steve Contursi and Don Kagin bought that coin at the Gold Rush sale for nearly $3 million, Contursi remarked that "It went too cheap." No one else would have thought so at the time, but Contursi's words proved prophetic. In December 2011, John Albanese, founder of NGC and CAC, purchased the coin for an undisclosed figure, "somewhere in the low 7s" according to Albanese. The coin was placed with an unnamed Wall Street investor that same month through the agency of the New Orleans area firm of Blanchard and Company for a truly stunning price of $7,395,000.

Physical Description
The Brasher doubloons as struck coins are an odd mix of artistic skill and lapses in coining practice. The highest-grade examples, including this one, show the effect most clearly. An engraver's "guide line" encircles the obverse, underlining the date and topping the lettering. Raised die polish lines are strong on both obverse and reverse. The edges are smooth and the rims irregular. Striking pressure was uneven, leaving the tops of certain letters and the highest design elements weak, the latter effect particularly visible on the reverse where the sun and mountain are merged.

The surfaces remain immensely lustrous with rich yellow-gold color. Some letters show doubling similar to the so-called "Longacre doubling" on selected 19th century U.S. coinage, a feature credited in the past to multiple strikings. The punch on the left (facing) wing is clear with a corresponding area of flatness on the opposite side. The coin's abrasions are mostly scattered and well-hidden, though a rim nick to the northwest of the P in PLURIBUS is more obvious and this example's most prominent pedigree marker. Overall eye appeal is tremendous for an 18th century issue and collector interest could not be higher. The coin collecting fraternity is now bracing for a possible new world record when this finest-certified specimen, the original discovery coin, is offered for the first time in nearly 35 years.

Roster of the 1787 New York Style Brasher Doubloons.
The following roster and provenance was expanded from our listing in the Gold Rush Collection with the assistance of Karl Moulton, Dr. Joel Orosz, P. Scott Rubin, and Saul Teichman.
Punch on Wing Type
Perschke Specimen, MS63 NGC.
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Perschke Specimen, MS63 NGC.
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1. Perschke Specimen, MS63 NGC. Robert Gilmor, Jr. in the 1830s; Gilmor family; Lyman Low; possibly John T. Raymond; John T. Raymond Collection (Lyman Low, 6/1887), lot 524, bought in by Low; purchased privately by Harold P. Newlin; Robert Coulton Davis; R.C. Davis Collection (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 1/1890), lot 2342; John G. Mills, privately; James Ten Eyck Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1922), lot 374, realized $3,000; Virgil Brand (Brand Journal ID number 120069); Horace Brand; Jack Friedberg; Auction '79 (RARCOA, 7/1979), lot 1433, realized $430,000 to Walter Perschke. 26.40 grams. The present coin.
Note: A letter from William G. Stearns to a numismatist in England (Dr. Bowditch), dated March 18, 1840, was reprinted in the Numismatic Chronicle in 1840 and again in the October 1872 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics. The letter discussed this piece and noted that it was in the Gilmor family collection in the 1830s, prior to the Eckfeldt discovery, thus this coin is actually the "discovery specimen" of the Brasher Doubloon. The Perschke Specimen was displayed at the 1964 World's Fair in New York through courtesy of the coin and stamp department at Gimbels Department Store (Robert and Jack Friedberg). Since Walter Perschke purchased the coin in 1979 he has generously displayed it at many public venues, including the ANA's World's Fair of Money in 2012. He estimates the coin has been seen by more than 2 million people during these exhibits.
Stickney Specimen, MS63 not certified, grade per Garrett Collection description
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2. Stickney Specimen, MS63 not certified, grade per Garrett Collection description. Matthew A. Stickney; Stickney Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1907), lot 236, realized $6,200; Colonel James W. Ellsworth; Wayte Raymond; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part I (Bowers and Ruddy, 11/1979), lot 603, realized $725,000 to Donald Groves Partrick, via Martin Monas. Illustrated on plate 10 in the 1914 ANS Exhibition Catalog. 26.43 grams.
Parmelee Specimen, AU55 PCGS.
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Parmelee Specimen, AU55 PCGS.
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3. Parmelee Specimen, AU55 PCGS. Edward Cogan; John F. McCoy; J.N.T. Levick; Fifth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 10/1864), lot 1540, realized $400; Colin Lightbody; Sixth Semi-Annual Sale (W. Elliot Woodward, 3/1865), lot 2628, realized $400; George F. Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (W.H. Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 157; Lorin G. Parmelee, who purchased Seavey's entire collection intact before the date of the public auction sale ; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp Co., 6/1890), lot 451, realized $415; Andrew C. Zabriskie; Zabriskie Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1909), lot 73, realized $4,100; Virgil Brand (Brand Journal ID number 49064); Armin Brand (drew this coin in the division of the collection on 6/30/1932); B.G. Johnson; F.C.C. Boyd; Rev. William H. Owen, curator of the Yale University Collection; Yale University (stolen May 1965, recovered 1967); Stack's (offered privately, 1/1981); Dr. Jerome S. Coles; Stack's fixed price list, Summer 1997; Americana Sale (Stack's, 1/1998), lot 199, not sold; Donald Kagin and Jay Parrino in February 1998, per Coin World (3/2/1998); private collector via Al Adams (Gold Rush Gallery, Inc.); Gold Rush Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30016, realized $2,415,000. 26.41 grams.
ANS Specimen, VF35 estimated grade.
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4. ANS Specimen, AU50 estimated grade per PCGS CoinFacts. Found by unidentified laborers while digging a Philadelphia cellar in 1897; S.H. & H. Chapman (1897); Allison W. Jackman; Jackman Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1918), lot 140; Waldo Newcomer Collection (Inventory number 2895, grade listed as Fine, cost $3,900); Col. E.H.R. Green; William Randolph Hearst; B.G. Johnson; F.C.C. Boyd; New Netherlands Coin Company; Mrs. R. Henry Norweb (1969); American Numismatic Society. 26.63 grams.
Note: This coin has often been called the Philadelphia Sewer specimen, but that is incorrect. The description in the Jackman catalog states it was found by workmen digging a cellar for a building, not a sewer. The area of town in which the building was located had once been some kind of landfill or dump, perhaps causing the confusion.
DuPont Specimen, grade unknown.
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DuPont Specimen, grade unknown.
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5. DuPont Specimen, AU50 estimated grade per PCGS CoinFacts. B. Max Mehl (1933); Lammont duPont; Willis H. duPont (stolen October 1967, recovered July 1968). 26.45 grams. Although known to B. Max Mehl in 1933, this piece was apparently unknown to the numismatic community until it appeared on a list of material stolen from the duPont family in 1967.
Mint Specimen, XF45 estimated grade.
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6. Mint Specimen, VF25 estimated grade. Adam Eckfeldt (pulled from a deposit of gold coinage at the Mint in 1838); Mint Cabinet; National Numismatic Collection; Smithsonian Institution. 26.36 grams.


Punch on Breast Type
Bushnell Specimen, AU50 PCGS.
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Bushnell Specimen, AU50 PCGS.
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7. Bushnell Specimen, AU50 PCGS. Charles Ira Bushnell; Lorin G. Parmelee, privately; Bushnell Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1882), lot 892; Édouard Frossard, acting as an agent for George Parsons, purchased the coin at the sale for $505; offered in the March 1883 issue of Numisma; sold to the following, again with Frossard as agent; T. Harrison Garrett; Robert Garrett; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2340, realized $625,000; Florida collector; sold privately in 1994 to Don Kagin and Jay Parrino, per Coin Week (7/3/2012); private collection; purchased in 1998 by a private collector via Al Adams (Gold Rush Gallery, Inc.); Gold Rush Collection (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30017, realized $2,990,000; Steven Contursi and Don Kagin; purchased by CAC (John Albanese); sold to an undisclosed Wall Street investment firm via Blanchard's in December 2011 for $7,395,000. 26.66 grams.

Brasher Doubloon Provenance
Walter Perschke's 1787 Brasher doubloon has been known to the numismatic community for more than 170 years, and enjoys a long provenance of illustrious collectors. The record begins with the Gilmor Family of Maryland.

Robert Gilmor, Jr.
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Robert Gilmor, Jr. was the son of Robert and Louisa Gilmor, born at St. Mary's County, Maryland, on September 24, 1774. He died in Baltimore on November 30, 1848. His father was a principal partner of Bingham, Inglis, and Gilmor, coffee importers and retailers. The younger Gilmor was an active collector of many things for nearly 50 years. His collections included art, autographs, and coins, many acquired through his close relationship with Adam Eckfeldt. Gilmor, Jr. was educated in Amsterdam and Marseilles, and became a partner in his father's firm along with his younger brother, William, in 1799. The firm became known as Robert Gilmor and Sons. Soon after joining the firm, the younger Robert Gilmor embarked on an extensive trip to Europe, and on this trip began his numismatic interest. His influence in American business was such that he was able to convince Mint Director Robert Patterson to produce a personal medal to mark his parents 50th wedding anniversary. In an 1841 letter, Gilmor claimed to be the inspiration for the National Numismatic Collection, and he states in very clear terms that the Mint had already begun restrike activities, writing "The Mint has aided me considerably, and has ever provided my desiderata from the old dies, when I require it." The Robert Gilmor, Jr. coin collection, including the Brasher doubloon, was passed down to his nephew, also named Robert Gilmor, the son of his brother William.

Glen Ellen Castle, Home of Robert Gilmor, III
Glen Ellen Castle,
Home of Robert Gilmor, III
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Robert Gilmor, III was the son of William and Mary Ann (Smith) Gilmor, born in 1808, and educated at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1828, alongside his classmate, Oliver Wendell Holmes. At least one source (Dr. Charles J. Scheve, Baltimore County Historical Society) notes that the younger Robert Gilmor was a favored nephew of Robert Gilmor, Jr. In 1832, Gilmor married Ellen Ward, and soon built their famous residence, Glen Ellen, at Loch Raven's Hampton Cove in Baltimore County. Robert and Ellen Gilmor were the parents of 11 children, including Col. Harry Gilmor of the Confederate cavalry. Their other children included Baltimore judge Robert Gilmor, IV, and railroad president William Gilmor. Robert Gilmor, III died in November 1874. The Brasher doubloon likely passed to his children who eventually sold the piece before the 1887 Lyman Low sale.

John T. Raymond
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Some sources suggest that John T. Raymond (1836-1887), the actor known for portraying Col. Mulberry Sellers from Mark Twain's Gilded Age, owned this example as it appeared in Lyman Low's June 1887 sale offering material from the Raymond cabinet. However, the lengthy title of that sale suggests otherwise:
Catalogue of Coins and Medals, embracing an important collection of English Coins, Which will be found especially rich in Rare and Fine Gold; together with the Cabinet formed by the late Eminent Comedian, John T. Raymond, (Col. Sellers), also, A small but very choice selection of American Colonial Coins, including the valuable Brasher Doubloon.

The description of the coin in that catalog provides further evidence that Raymond likely never owned this coin: "Really uncirculated, but showing slight chafing on most prominent point in centre, as from cabinet friction having been in one family (in Maryland) for over fifty years, and never yet in a coin collection."

Harold Parker Newlin was the son of William Parker Newlin and Elizabeth Wagener, born at Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on October 7, 1855. He died in San Francisco on August 8, 1900. Newlin of Philadelphia appears as a lawyer in city directories from 1878 to 1894. His father was also an attorney. Newlin married Ruby Kate Illidge in 1893 and relocated to her San Francisco home a short time later. They were the parents of Elizabeth Newlin who was born about 1898. He was a half dime collector, and the author of The Early Half Dimes of the United States, published in 1883. John Haseltine sold has collection at auction in April 1883. Newlin served as an agent for the sale of several numismatic cabinets, including the Colonel Adams gold coin collection, with many pieces sold privately to T. Harrison Garrett.

Robert Coulton Davis
Photo courtesy of
Pete Smith and the E-Sylum
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Robert Coulton Davis was born in Philadelphia about 1824, and died there on August 25, 1888. He was married and the father of three sons. Davis worked as a pharmacist. He collected letters and autographs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and he was also an active numismatist who specialized in pattern coins. He was the author of a series of articles titled "Pattern and Experimental Issues of the United States Mint," that originally appeared in the Coin Collector's Journal. Davis was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Pennsylvania. New York Coin and Stamp Company sold his collection in a January 1890 auction.

John G. Mills was born in Albany, New York on July 19, 1865 and died there on May 7, 1906. He was a business man, coin collector, and pigeon fancier. Mills was the son of Charles D. and Elizabeth Mills. His father was born in New York about 1824, and his mother was born in New York about 1826. He was the youngest of five children. His siblings were Julia (b. 1846), James (b. 1853), Esther (b. 1855), and Arthur (b. 1857). The Chapman Brothers sold his coin collection in April 1904. The 1900 Census records John G. Mills at 921 Madison Avenue in Albany, and lists his occupation as "Capitalist." He was married to Anna Elizabeth McGarvey (1867-1913) and there is no record of children. An obituary with photo appeared in the Albany Evening Journal, May 7, 1906.

James Ten Eyck
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James Ten Eyck was a coffee and spice merchant from Albany, New York, who was the senior member of the firm of Bacon, Stickney, and Company at the time of his death. He was the son of Visscher Ten Eyck and Ann Youngs, born in Albany, New York, on February 16, 1840, and died there on July 28, 1910. His Dutch ancestors were among the early settlers of America. Ten Eyck was educated at Albany Academy and Burlington College in New Jersey. He served as president of the Albany Institute Historical and Art Society, president of the Home Savings Bank, trustee of the Homeopathic Hospital, director of the New York State National Bank, and trustee of the Union Trust Company. Ten Eyck also participated in Masonic activities and served as grand master of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. Ten Eyck sold his first collection in 1865. The extensive cabinet that he formed over the next 45 years was sold by B. Max Mehl in May 1922.

Virgil M. Brand
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Virgil M. Brand was born in Blue Island, Illinois on January 16, 1862, and died on June 20, 1926. His family moved to Chicago where his father established the Michael Brand & Company Brewery. Virgil graduated from Bryant and Stratton College in Chicago. He was initially appointed secretary treasurer of his father's brewery and became the first president of the United States Brewing Company. He established the Brand Brewing Company in 1899. His numismatic activities began about 1889. He was a charter member of the Chicago Numismatic Society and served as that organizations library and curator. He served as president of the society in 1908 and 1909. At the time of his death in Chicago, Brand's collection consisted of more than 350,000 items. His estate took many years to settle, and items from his collection remained to be sold more than 50 years after his death.

It has often been reported that Robert Friedberg purchased the Brasher doubloon from the Brand estate, but his brother, Jack Friedberg, was the actual owner of this coin. Jack was Robert's partner in many of his ventures, including operating the coin department at Gimbels Department Store. Jack was the president of the Capitol Coin Company and the Coin and Currency Institute from 1963 until his retirement in 1977. He took over the editing and updating of Robert's numismatic references (Gold Coins of the World, Paper Money of the United States, Coins of the British World, and Appraising and Selling Your Coins) after Robert's death in 1963. After his retirement, he consigned the Brasher doubloon to RARCOA's section of Auction '79, where it was purchased by the current consignor. Jack died on June 14, 1998 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 83. (PCGS# 487)

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