Original 1836 Gobrecht Dollar with Name on Base, PR 63 PCGS1836 PS$1 Name on Base, Judd-60 Original, Pollock-65, R.2, PR 63 PCGS. Die Alignment I. Students of Andrew Jackson tend to focus their studies on the positive effects that he left upon the immature United States of his day. While historians are right to praise Old Hickory as, among other things, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, the Age of Jackson was certainly not a peaceful time for most Americans. During his two terms as president, Jackson displayed one of the most brutal Indian removal policies in United States history and he further alienated the South with his obstinacy during the Nullification Crisis of 1832-1833. While these events only targeted select segments of America's population, the president's war against the Second Bank of the United States had an impact on the economic livelihood of every United States citizen. An advocate of decentralized power, Jackson believed that the bank had evolved into a dangerous monopoly that benefited the rich and trampled the Constitutional rights of the average American. Accordingly, when the bank's charter came before the federal government for renewal in early 1832, Jackson vetoed Congress' initial approval. After the federal legislature sustained the president's veto, the bank faced certain liquidation upon the expiration of its charter in March 1836. Rather than improve the plight of his charges, however, Jackson's decision stripped the nation's largest bank of its credibility, subsequently plunging the United States into the economic doldrums of the Hard Times. Although the Bank of the United States obtained a charter from the State of Pennsylvania one month before the expiration of its federal authorization, the Hard Times would endure intermittently through the early 1840s. It is little wonder, therefore, that Americans in the mid-1830s were in desperate need of a symbol that would reinforce their hopes of better days to come.
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. (NGC ID# BLWV, PCGS# 6915)
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