Rarely Seen 1838 Dollar in Die Alignment IV, PR65
1838 P$1 Name Omitted, Judd-84 Restrike, Pollock-93, R.5, PR65
NGC. Ex: Norweb. 413.2 grains. Silver. Die Alignment IV: Center
of Liberty's head opposite the right side of the F in OF. According
to Walter Breen there are four principal die alignment
configurations for Gobrecht dollars. This particular coin exhibits a Die Alignment IV orientation; that is, the head of Liberty opposite the F in
OF (i.e., medal turn with the eagle flying level). This is a rare
situation for an 1838 dollar! In fact, most 1838 dollars seen today exist
in Die Alignment III. 1838 Gobrecht dollars are found in three different
1. Original 1838 dollars (Judd-84) appear in Die Alignment IV and were struck
from a perfect reverse die (i.e., no reverse die cracks). The exact
mintage of these coins is not known, however, it has been suggested that
about 25 proofs were struck in 1838. No Die Alignment I coins are known to
exist. In fact, the original 1838 dollar in the Smithsonian Collection is of
2. Early restrike 1838 dollars struck in Die Alignment IV with
microscopic reverse die cracks through MERI and other reverse letters.
These coins are believed to have been struck from 1857 until 1859. The die
probably cracked after striking the 300 1839 dollars that were made
in 1839. The mintage of these coins is not known; however, not very many
are extant. In fact, far fewer are known than the Die Alignment III coins
mentioned below. In general, these coins are well preserved and usually
appear in grades of PR60 through PR65, which agrees with the grade
assigned to this coin.
3. The second set of restrike 1838 dollars found in Die Alignment III
and have reverse die cracks similar to the Type II coins. However, these
pieces were probably struck in the late 1860s (or perhaps slightly later); a
time period when the Die Alignment III Judd-60s were made. In any case,
the 1838 dollars in Die Alignment III are scarce with fewer than 100 known today.
Unlike the circulation issues of 1836 (Judd-60) and 1839 (Judd-104), no 1838
dollars were intentionally made for public distribution. Therefore, unlike
the 1836 and 1839 dollars, the 1838 issue is considered a true pattern. The
main purpose of the 1838 dollars was to test two or perhaps three new design
features: (1) a reeded edge, (2) the removal of the 26 stars from the
reverse of the 1836 dollar and the placing of 13 new stars around the
obverse, and (3) probable testing of a steam press for the next generation
of dollar-size coins. It is clear that the dies for the 1838 dollar were
made in 1838; however, it is not certain how many (if any) 1838 dollars were
actually struck in 1838. Only one original specimen is known, and this coin
is a part of the U.S. Mint Collection now retained by the Smithsonian.
However, the Smithsonian specimen exists in Die Alignment IV orientation
(not Alignment I), and was struck from perfect (un-cracked) dies. All 1838
dollars that have been observed in private or other museum collections all
appear to be restrikes made in the late 1850s under the authority of
Director James Ross Snowden, or in the late 1860s by Director H. R.
Linderman. Like the present specimen, the restrikes were made to satisfy
collector demand for these beautiful coins. The later-year restrikes are
generally found in Die Alignment III orientation (i.e., head of Liberty
opposite the N of ONE); however, a few restrikes were also made in Die
Alignment IV (like the present example). Although the exact mintage of 1838
dollars is unknown, recent estimates suggest that very few coins were
ultimately made. The restrikes can be distinguished from the originals by
the presence of a faint die crack through the top portions of MERI, as seen here.
Very few 1838 dollars exist in Die Alignment IV orientation. In fact, the
dominant configuration for 1838 dollars is Die Alignment III, with no Die
Alignment I coins known to have been made. The reasons for these
observations are unclear and remain a mystery today.
This is a splendid Gem example. The deeply reflective fields show several layers of deep, multicolored toning. The devices are fully struck throughout, and there are no noticeable contact marks on either side. Overall this coin represents a pleasing example of a very rare Gobrecht dollar that should fit nicely in any high grade collection of early silver dollars.
Ex: Norweb III (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3776, where it was photographed in Die Alignment I or II orientation. (NGC ID# BLXE, PCGS# 11352)
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