1836 PS$1 J-60ORG
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During the last days of December 1836, the United States' avenues of commerce received the first substantial quantity of the coin that Americans undoubtedly viewed as their savior. The piece was, of course, the Gobrecht dollar. The revolutionary artistic qualities of the coin's design once again gave Americans something to flaunt to their more established brethren in Western Europe. The reverse design seemed especially suited to the prevailing sentiment in the country. The eagle had been placed in onward and upward flight at the request of Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson. While the creature itself represented the United States, Patterson intended its manner of flight to signify the hope with which Americans should view their future prosperity. Finally, the disappearance of gold coins from circulation in the aftermath of substantial bank note issues meant that commercial interests eagerly received the Gobrecht dollars simply for what they were--a circulating medium of exchange.
While the first Gobrecht pattern dollars that the Mint produced displayed the engraver's name prominently below the base of Liberty's rock, public outcry forced Gobrecht to move his name to the more inconspicuous location along the bottom border of the base. Gobrecht had completed this modification by November 1836, but mechanical difficulties with the Philadelphia Mint's new steam press led to further delays. Sometime around mid-December, coinage finally began and four hundred Gobrecht dollars with C. GOBRECHT F. on the base flowed from the steam press. The Mint kept these pieces on hand for individual distribution, but the six hundred specimens that followed toward the end of December were intended for widespread circulation. It must have seemed ironic to attentive Americans at the time that, while the Gobrecht dollar carried all of their hopes for better days ahead, the Philadelphia Mint chose the besieged Bank of the United States as the avenue for the dollar's distribution. The bank, nonetheless, did its job dutifully and the Gobrecht dollars that passed through its hands saw heavy circulation for many years. Despite their symbolism and the issuance of a further six hundred specimens for circulation in early 1837, the dollars were too few in number to prevent the Panic of 1837 from stripping all coinage from the avenues of commerce.
The first thousand Gobrecht dollars that the Mint produced in December 1836 were, like all circulation issues in this short-lived series, double struck and endowed with a proof finish. As a series, they are unique as the only proofs that the federal government intended for commercial distribution. While their counterparts of early 1837 were produced with the same dies, the initial specimens of late 1836 displayed Die Alignment I--the eagle flying onward and upward when one rotates the coin about its horizontal axis. In addition, the Mint struck the 1836 circulation issues on planchets that conformed to the pre-1837 weight standard of 416 grains. Although these late-1836 issues circulated heavily enough to reduce 85% of the extant survivors to impaired proof levels of preservation, curious Americans saved enough specimens to make these coins the most available of all Gobrecht dollars in today's numismatic marketplace.
With C. GOBRECHT F. along its rocky base and Die Alignment I, the present piece is a beautiful, original survivor of the December 1836 Gobrecht dollars. The obverse of this example carries a rich blanket of charcoal-gray patination with ample evidence of lavender and gold highlights throughout. The reverse, while equally well endowed with toning, displays lighter lavender-gray patina in its central area that deepens to olive-charcoal about the peripheries. Expertly struck and crisply delineated, the wispy, grade-defining abrasions that lie hidden below the patina hardly inhibit this specimen's overall eye appeal and originality. For pedigree purposes alone, we mention a small abrasion in the obverse field below the pilleus cap as well as two others to the right of Liberty's right (facing) forearm. One will certainly require suitable magnification to discern these inconspicuous features. Its status as the first circulation Gobrecht dollar imparts great importance to this lovely piece among advanced silver dollar specialists. While it failed to end the Hard Times era, the Gobrecht dollar, nonetheless, gave hope to a nation in distress. The strong bids that this specimen will garner at auction should prove that the legacy of the Gobrecht dollar's artistic perfection lives on as an inspiration to collectors across America.
From the Gilchrist Collection of Dollars. (PCGS# 6915)
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The most thorough review to date of the existing scholarship on these much sought-after U.S. coins.
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