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1794 Dollar, VG10, The Arnold Specimen1794 $1 VG10 PCGS. B-1, BB-1, R.4. One of the more interesting and obscure facts about all early American coinage is the standard used to strike these pieces. Rather than use the simple 900 fineness that was mandated on U.S. coins beginning in 1837, the early mint was legally obliged to use the awkward standard of 892.42788 fineness. This standard was apparently based on a large-scale assay of contemporary Spanish and French silver coins, pieces that the new U.S. coins would have to compete with in international markets. Albion Cox managed to persuade David Rittenhouse that a standard that was lower than 900 fine would darken these silver coins. Perhaps Rittenhouse knew this was an absurd notion, and he used it as a rationalization to raise the fineness to 900. But raising the fineness to the workable 900 meant that the dollars struck on this standard could only contain 41.5 grains of copper with the legal amount of 371.25 grains of silver, yielding a coin that weighed 412.5 grains. This, of course, was the solution Congress arrived at in 1837, but it was opposed in 1794-1795. What was actually done in 1794 was to increase the copper alloy to 41.6 grains of copper. Apparently only one depositor noticed the discrepancy, John Vaughn. He protested and in 1800 was awarded a settlement of $2,260.
All of the bullion used to strike 1794 dollars was from a deposit made by Mint Director David Rittenhouse. He deposited a little over $2,000 in silver ingots in August of that year. Because he deposited all the bullion used for this issue, all the 1794 dollars were also delivered to him. The entire mintage of 1,758 silver dollars dated 1794 was officially delivered to Rittenhouse on October 15, 1794. This did not constitute all of the bullion deposited by Rittenhouse, the remainder being made up by 1795 Bolender-11 dollars on May 6, 1795.
This is the Arnold Specimen. The surfaces have deep tan and rose interspersed with charcoal patina, the latter color predominately present on the obverse. The Martin Logies' reference on 1794 dollars accurately sums up the pedigree markers and overall appearance of this piece:
"Die State III with clash marks visible on obverse and reverse, and third hair curl shallow. The obverse is relatively well struck throughout, with just minor weakness at the bases of the numerals of the date. The reverse displays a weaker strike, showing weakness at the top of all lettering in the peripheral legends. This specimen is readily identified by two planchet defects, with one on Liberty's throat and a thinner, but longer, lamination defect on the reverse just beneath the eagle's left (viewer's right) wing. Both sides of this specimen show numerous small to medium handling marks. The most notable of these include a long horizontal scrape just below obverse star nine, running toward Liberty's eye, a series of small nicks behind Liberty's head, and a nick directly on Liberty's jaw line just below her chin, and a grouping of nicks in the right obverse field."
Ex: C.L. Arnold Estate (Stack's, 9/1968), lot 1364; Superior (5/1991), lot 416; Craig N. Smith and George William Youngman Collections (Bowers and Merena, 3/2003), lot 4001.
(Registry values: N4719) (NGC ID# 24WY, PCGS# 6851)
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