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1787 DBLN Brasher New York Style Doubloon. EB Punch on Breast. XF45 NGC....
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In the Garrett Collection sale, this coin was called "the single most important coin in American numismatics." Today, its status is no different. Any coin that is unique can be considered an important coin. The importance also depends on the coin's position in the numismatic world. A Colonial American gold coin, one of two varieties intended for actual circulation, maintains a higher position in American numismatics than another coin which might be part of a long series of coinage issues. In his day, B. Max Mehl was fond of comparing certain rarities to that "King of American Coins," the 1804 dollar. Today, we have other coins that can provide a comparison. Certainly, we feel this coin is the equal of the 1804 silver dollar in terms of importance. It seems far more important than the unique 1870-S three-dollar gold piece, or the 1870-S half dime, or other unique coins. Is it as important as the 1933 double eagle? In our opinion, it is. Is it worth as much, or will it sell for as much as that coin recently sold for? We certainly hope so. In fact, we whole-heartedly agree with Dave Bowers' comments regarding the offering of this coin in the Garrett Collection. We feel that this coin is the single most important coin in American numismatics!
The Lilly-Smithsonian Brasher Half Doubloon
Lilly Specimen. Unidentified non-collector accumulation (1928); David Proskey; F.C.C. Boyd; Col. E.H.R. Green; Frank Smith; Major Ball; Josiah K. Lilly; Smithsonian Institution. Breen stated that this piece is "said to weigh 204 grains = 13.2 grams."
The Unique Brasher New York Style Doubloon
With Hallmark on Eagle's Breast
Bushnell Specimen. Bushnell Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 6/1882) $505; Edouard Frossard; Garrett Collection; Johns Hopkins University (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2340, $625,000. 26.66 grams.
Obverse and Reverse
The surfaces have bright yellow gold with some peripheral weakness. The tops of most letters are merged with the border. On the obverse, the mountain and the sun show considerable weakness with the sun merely outlined. Unfinished or crude die work is visible in the central fields, in the form of horizontal and vertical raised die lines. Below the central reverse device, small letters of BRASHER are slightly disfigured. The entire design on both sides shows evidence of slight doubling, most likely from multiple punches to impart the appropriate detail to the coin.
The reverse is similar with the bottom of the date and tops of the letters slightly merged with the border. EB punch in an oval on the eagle's breast is actually on the shield which covers the breast. This shield is lacking nearly all of its horizontal and vertical lines and is nearly flat.
Breen Encyclopedia 982.
Weight: 26.41 grams (per Walter Breen).
Die Alignment: 180 degrees, or coin-turn alignment.
The NGC Photo-Proof lists a different set of specifications, and they are recorded as the same for both specimens. As those specifications are the same as the general specifications recorded by Walter Breen in his Complete Encyclopedia, it is likely that they simply copied this information from his work.
The unique Brasher Doubloon with punch on the breast reportedly was in the Parsons and Bushnell Collections.
Charles Ira Bushnell was an uncle of the Chapman brothers. He was born in New York City on July 28, 1826 and died there on September 17, 1880. He wrote articles for the New York Sunday Dispatch, and also studied law but did not practice. After his death, Bushnell's collection was offered for sale for $10,000, and Lorin Parmelee paid $8,000 for its acquisition. Once he had removed needed pieces, Parmelee consigned the collection to the Chapman Brothers who offered it for sale under the original Bushnell name. The sale was held June 1882 and Ed Frossard paid $505 for the Doubloon.
Edouard Frossard was born in Switzerland circa 1837 and died in Brooklyn, New York on April 12, 1899. Frossard saw active service in the Civil War, and was wounded in a battle at West Point, Virginia on May 7, 1862. Ed Frossard was the publisher of Numisma, a magazine that also served as his own sales vehicle. This was also the platform for his literary jabs at W. Elliott Woodward, he returned blows in the pages of his own auction catalogs. Frossard sold this Doubloon to T. Harrison Garrett, patriarch of the Garrett family of Baltimore.
John Work Garrett was the son of T. Harrison Garrett of Baltimore. He 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, winning 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. This Doubloon was sold as lot 2340 in the fourth sale, held March 1981, where it realized $625,000.
Ephraim Brasher (pronounced Bray-zher) lived just a few feet from President Washington in New York. Washington resided at 3 Cherry Street and Brasher lived next door at 1 Cherry Street. Some sources give the address of Brasher 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. His business address was 77 Queen Street, not too far north of his home.
Brasher was born in 1744 and lived to 1810, the entire 66 years a resident of 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 counterstamp. 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.
Brasher was also a 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."
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.
Ephraim Brasher was a member of the New York Provincial Army in 1775 and 1776, serving the role of grenadier. He retired from the militia in 1796 with the rank of Major. Later, he served local politics in New York, almost like serving national posts at the time. New York was the leader of banking and foreign trade, and was also the new national capital. Brasher served on the New York Evacuation Committee in 1783, marking the departure of British troops from New York City. He also 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. In addition to all of his service, and his private business affairs, Brasher served the United States Mint in the early 1790s. This is known from a Treasury Warrant in the amount of $27, paid to John Shield as "assignee of Ephraim Brasher." This warrant was specifically identified as a payment for assaying work that Brasher performed in 1792 for the Mint, following instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury.
A Cast of Characters
The following biographies are adopted from Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies, Rocky River, Ohio: Gold Leaf Press, 1992, with permission of the publisher, and with additional notes from other sources. These individuals play a role in the pedigree of various examples of the Brasher Doubloons, and all are listed in the individual rosters. More notes are included below for those whose coins are being sold today.
The Chapman brothers began their numismatic career as employees of John Haseltine, and formed their own auction company with the first sale held in 1878. From then until 1906, they conducted 82 auction sales together, and continued separately, conducting more sales. The Chapmans set the standard for numismatic cataloging at the time.
Henry Chapman was born on October 18, 1859 and lived until January 4, 1935. He and his wife Helen had a son and three daughters. He conducted 51 auction sales from 1907 through the end of his career. His business was continued by his wife, and his long time employee Ella B. Wright who operated the business until 1948.
Samuel Hudson Chapman was born on July 15, 1857 and died on September 22, 1931. He and his wife Bertha had three sons. Samuel Hudson Chapman conducting 28 auction sales from 1907 until 1924. He retired from the business in 1929 and the remainder of his collection and inventory was sold by Thomas Elder in 1932.
Robert Coulton Davis was born in Philadelphia circa 1813 and died on August 25, 1888. He was a pharmacist who was employed by Charles Ellis and was later in business for himself. His collections included signers of the Declaration of Independence, in addition to his coin collection. Davis wrote a serial on Pattern coins published in the Coin Collector's Journal. He held membership in the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia as well as the American Philosophical Society.
Lammont duPont (sometimes spelled Lammot) was born near Wilmington, Delaware on October 12, 1880 and died on July 24, 1952. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1901 and joined the family firm in 1902. He was married several times and had a total of 10 children. He was president of E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co. from 1926 to 1940 and chairman of the board from 1940 to 1948.
Willis H. duPont Willis was born on May 27, 1936, one of Lammont's sons, by the elders fourth wife. His father was 56 years old when he was born. The duPont Collection was stolen on October 6, 1967 during a break in at the duPont home. The Brasher Doubloon was returned in July 1968.
James W. Ellsworth was born in Hudson, Ohio on October 13, 1849 and died in Palmieri, Italy on June 2, 1925. He was a multi-millionaire with extensive business interests, including coal mining. He was married to Eva Francis Butler on November 4, 1874 and she died in 1888. The couple had a son, Lincoln Ellsworth, who participated in the Amundsen-Ellsworth Polar Flying Expedition, which his father helped finance. James Ellsworth died during the 25-day period that his son was missing after a crash landing on the polar ice. James remarried to Julia Fincke on April 22, 1895 and she died in 1921. James Ellsworth was an exhibitor at the 1914 ANS Numismatic Exhibition. His collection was sold to Wayte Raymond for $100,000, with half the money coming from John Work Garrett who selected coins he needed, including a Brasher Doubloon.
John J. Ford was born on March 5, 1924 in Hollywood, California. He and his wife Joan have three daughters. He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II and remained involved with the military afterwards, including the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and Army Counter Intelligence from 1950 to 1959. Ford's collecting interests began at the age of 11 with Lincoln cents. He worked part time or full time for Stack's from 1939 to 1942, and he also conducted a few auction sales under his own name in the 1940s. His association with New Netherlands Coin Company from 1951 to 1971 was a significant aspect of his career. During this time he developed a style of auction cataloging that had far-reaching implications for future firms. Ford was a pioneer of the modern style of informative auction catalog descriptions containing actual numismatic research. His collection, which is currently being sold by Stack's in a series of sales, consists of all aspects of American numismatics except for regular issue coinage.
William Randolph Hearst was a publisher who was born April 29, 1863 and died August 14, 1951. He was the editor of San Francisco Examiner in 1886, and later bought his own newspaper, the New York Morning Journal. He bought additional newspapers after the financial success of the Morning Journal. The Hearst empire included a 240,000 acre ranch at San Simeon, California. Hearst acquired a Brasher Doubloon from Col. Green, the Philadelphia Sewer specimen.
Allison W. Jackman was born in 1849, although his date of death is not known. His coin collection was sold by Henry Chapman in June 1918. The introduction in the catalog stated, "Mr. Allison W. Jackman was a highly cultured gentleman who devoted his life to study, having never engaged in business and being a most devoted son with an equally appreciative mother, his collecting was a pleasure to both of them."
Josiah K. Lilly was born in Indianapolis on September 25, 1893. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1914 and served as a captain in the Medical Supply Service during World War I. He worked with the family business, Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company, holding the position of director from 1914 to 1923, vice president from 1923 to 1953, and chairman of the board from 1961 until his death on May 5, 1966. Lilly had an extensive library that he donated to the University of Indiana in 1959. He also collected military miniatures, stamps, gems, guns, and paintings. The Lilly Collection of gold coins was donated to the Smithsonian by his estate in exchange for a tax credit in excess of $5 million. His gold collection was formed over a period of 12 years, much of the business being done exclusively through Stack's. He acquired more than 6,000 pieces, including the unique Brasher half-Doubloon.
John G. Mills was born in Albany, New York on July 19, 1865. His collection was sold by the Chapman Brothers on April 27-29, 1904.
Waldo C. Newcomer was born in Baltimore on September 14, 1867 and died on June 29, 1934. He was a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University in 1889. Newcomer and his wife Margaret had three children. He was employed as a clerk with the Baltimore Storage and Lighterage company and later with Atlantic Transport. Newcomer was president of the National Exchange Bank from 1906 until 1924, also serving important positions with other banks and also railroads. Part of his collection was stolen in 1913 by an electrician who had installed a burglar alarm in his home. Included in his collection were two Brasher Doubloons, a Lima Style Doubloon and a New York Style with punch on the wing.
Harold P. Newlin was an attorney in Pennsylvania who, numismatically, specialized in half dimes and dimes, authoring the first significant variety guide to early half dimes in 1883. John Haseltine sold his collection at auction on April 10, 1883. Newlin acquired the Col. Adams collection of gold coins, with many sold privately to T. Harrison Garrett.
Emery May Holden Norweb (Mrs. R. Henry Norweb) was born on November 30, 1895 in Salt Lake City, Nevada. She was the granddaughter of Liberty Emery Holden who was the founder of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, still published today. She was the daughter of Albert Fairchild Holden who gave her an interest in numismatics. She was married to R. Henry Norweb, Sr. in Paris in 1917, where she was driving an ambulance and working in French hospitals. The couple's first child, R. Henry Norweb, Jr. was born in August 1918 in a cellar during an air raid. Mrs. Norweb was president of the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1962 to 1971. She was a member of the American Numismatic Association for almost 70 years, joining in 1914. Much of their collection was sold in the late 1980s by Bowers and Merena, but they made several donations, including their Brasher Doubloon which was given to the ANS in 1969 and their 1913 Liberty Nickel that was donated to the Smithsonian in 1978.
Walter Perschke was president of Numisco Rare Coins in Chicago. The firm handled five auctions sales from 1980 to 1982. Earlier, Perschke paid $430,000 for his Brasher Doubloon in 1979.
David U. Proskey was a dealer who was born in Wappingers Falls, New York on December 12, 1853. He was married to Madgie Van Houton in 1884 and the couple and three sons and a daughter. He began his career as a coin dealer in 1873, conducting five auction sales from 1876 to 1887. He cataloged coins for J.W. Scott and Company from 1877 to 1886, and later joined with Harlan P. Smith to form New York Coin and Stamp Company. Smith was the financier and Proskey the cataloger. The firm continued in business after Smith died. Proskey himself died on August 16, 1928 and his son, David V. Proskey continued the business.
Wayte Raymond was a dealer and publisher who was born in South Norwalk, Connecticut on November 9, 1886. He and his wife Olga were married in 1917. The couple remained childless. Raymond was employed as a bank teller from 1901 to 1912, working for the City National Bank of South Norwalk. He was a member of the Sons of the Revolution and also a mason. Raymond joined the ANA at age 16 and later joined with Elmer Sears to form the United States Coin Company, conducting 43 auctions sales from 1912 to 1918. he later joined with James G. Macallister as numismatic catalogers for J.C. Morgenthau and Company, holding over 50 sales. From 1908 to 1950 he held 69 auctions sales under his own name and served the Scott Stamp and Coin Company from 1934 to 1946, handling important clients such as Col. Green. From 1946 until his death on September 23, 1956, he operated New Netherlands Coin Company. Raymond produced his own line of coin albums and also wrote or compiled several monographs, books, and other references. He published Coin and Medal Bulletin from 1924 to 1933, Coin Collector's Journal from 1934 to 1954, and Coin Topics from 1936 to 1940.
Matthew A. Stickney was born at Rowley Massachusetts on September 23, 1805. His childhood collection consisted of nearly 2,000 birds eggs that he acquired by the age of 10. Stickney was employed by the firm of Sawyer & Pierce, dealers in West India goods. He retired from this position in 1854. His coin collecting interest began at about age 18. He had a good relationship with Eckfeldt and DuBois at the Mint and was able to acquire needed items from them, in trade. These included an 1804 dollar. He was a member of the ANS. Stickney died at his home in Salem, Massachusetts on August 11, 1894. His collection was sold several years later by Henry Chapman in June 1907, one of his first important sales after he and his brother parted company.
Many of the pedigree entries above involve auction catalogs that often repeat the same basic story of the Brasher gold Doubloons. Only a few articles delve into the subject with much depth. The following are some of the more important articles for all of the Brasher issues. In addition to the following references, various auction catalogs offering Brasher Doubloons for sale have been utilized.
Alexander, David T. "The Brasher Bicentennial." Coinage. Ventura, CA: Miller Magazines, Inc., March 1987, pp. 16-17, 22, 116-122.
Bagg, Richard A. and Q. David Bowers. "Ephraim Brasher as Mint Assayer and the Lima Style Doubloon." The Numismatist. Colorado Springs, CO: ANA, March 1981, pp. 608-611.
Breen, Walter. Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. New York: F.C.I. Press, Inc., 1988. Breen's masterwork covering nearly all aspects of United States coinage and most related issues.
Crosby, Sylvester S. The Early Coins of America. Boston: the author, 1875. This remains the definitive reference on colonial coinage, one of the most important 19th century numismatic references published.
Felt, Joseph B. Historical Account of Massachusetts Currency. Boston: the author, 1839. Reprinted by Burt Franklin, New York, 1968. An indispensible reference for the collector of Colonial American coins and currency.
Hodder, Michael. "Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima Style Doubloon." Coinage of the Americas Conference. New York: American Numismatic Society, 1992. This is the single most important presentation of the topic ever published, and provides the basis for all current knowledge of the Lima Style Doubloons.
Mehl, B. Max. The James Ten Eyck Numismatic Collection of Rare Coins and Medals of the World. Ft. Worth, Texas, May 22, 1922. The auction catalog of the important Ten Eyck Collection, which included two Brasher Doubloons and many other important rarities, such as an 1804 silver dollar.
Mossman, Philip L. Money of the American Colonies and Confederation. New York: American Numismatic Society, 1993. An original study of the economic history of Colonial America. This is one of the most important numismatic works covering pre-Federal America.
Risk, James C. "The Yale University Brasher Doubloon." The Colonial Newsletter. Huntsville, AL: J.C. Spillman, editor, September 1981, pp. 753-764. This was essentially a reprint of the booklet prepared by Stack's when they offered the Yale specimen for sale in 1981.
Smith, Pete. American Numismatic Biographies. Rocky River, Ohio: Gold Leaf Press, 1992. The author spent considerable time and resources seeking biographical material for many of the most important collectors and dealers in American numismatics.
Vlack, Robert A. Early American Coins. Johnson City, NY: Windsor Research Publications, Inc., 1965. The author provided an overview of the various colonial issues, including a brief value guide that is of little use today.
From The Gold Rush Collection. (PCGS# 488)
Service and Handling Description: Coin/Currency (view shipping information)