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Unique, Unusual 1839 Gobrecht Dollar, Judd-104
1839 P$1 Name Omitted, Judd-104 Restrike, Pollock-116,
R.3--Silver Dollar On An Adjusted Planchet--PR64 NGC. Silver.
Reeded Edge. Die Alignment IV (head of Liberty opposite the O in
OF). 26.0 gm or 401.18 gn. Die cracks connect the tops of MERI and
TE, but the only trace of the crack in LAR is seen between the feet
of the A.
Struck on an Adjusted Planchet, PR64
This coin leaves so many questions unanswered and open to speculation, it would useful first to review the facts we do know about this coin:
1. At 401.18 grains, the coin is 11.32 grains lighter than a regular Seated dollar planchet.
2. It was not struck on a misaligned planchet. Coins struck from misaligned planchets will show weakness of strike in one area of the peripheral details, while the rim directly opposite will show unusually strong definition. The best-known coin struck from misaligned dies is the 1794 dollar. Only a few pieces show an even strike. After those few were minted, the dies slipped out of alignment, and the remainder of the production run shows weakness on the lower-left obverse and corresponding reverse area. On this piece, the details are uniformly strong throughout. The lower half of star 1 is incomplete, but this is from an inadequate amount of metal in the planchet in this area, not weakness of strike.
3. The die adjustment marks were done in the Mint, not after striking. This piece was filed on the rims, and too much metal was removed. (One clue why it was filed on the rim is that sometime in the 1820s adjusting planchets was moved to the edge. Quarter eagles have been observed from the 1890s with adjusting close to the rim. Most likely this was a cosmetic change.) As a consequence, when it was struck there was not enough metal between 8 and 9 o'clock to eliminate the evidence of the planchet adjustment. This is seen by numerous fine file marks over the denticles and onto the face of the planchet. The lower half of star 1 gives a convenient guide how far into the planchet the adjustment marks went.
Original 1839 dollars (struck in 1839) show no traces of reverse die cracks. It is believed by Mike Carboneau, James Gray, John Dannreuther, and Saul Teichman that restrike 1839 dollars show varying degrees of die cracking on the reverse, according to when they were struck. It is generally believed that restrikes were coined beginning in 1858 or 1859. These pieces are generally found in high grade, as they were produced for sale or trade to collectors at that time. Original 1839 dollars are often found in lower grades, as they were released into circulation at the time of issue rather than struck as mementos.
But why was the planchet adjusted prior to striking? The first and most obvious conclusion is it was too heavy. While die adjustment marks are a common occurrence on early type coins until about 1807, they are rarely seen on later dates. However, it was not until 1910 that the adjusting of overweight planchets was discontinued in the Philadelphia Mint. Most planchets that were adjusted in the middle to late 19th century were struck with sufficient force by a steam press that the file marks do not show on the struck coin. That would surely have been the case with this coin also, but too much metal was filed away, both on the obverse and reverse, resulting in an underweight coin and filing lines on the edge, as noted above.
Another possible explanation that would explain why the planchet was adjusted is seen by the amateurish manner in which the planchet was filed. This points in the direction of Theodore Eckfeldt. After he was fired from the Mint for stealing, Eckfeldt was later rehired as a night watchman. He was allegedly responsible for the Class II 1804 restrikes, numerous clashed die strikings that include an 1857 Flying Eagle cent that is clashed with a Seated quarter reverse, and another 1857 Flying Eagle cent that is clashed with a twenty dollar obverse. Theodore Eckfeldt may have had access to the Mint's die vault where his father, George Eckfeldt, was foreman. However, when one examines the pieces he allegedly struck; it appears he did not have access to the refiner's planchets. This appears to have resulted in his using already struck coins (that were filed down, presumably on the edge) as new planchets, or perhaps using spoiled planchets for a new creation. We believe the latter may best explain this coin. One has to wonder what the planchet looked like before it was filed on each side. Surely there was some irregularity in the area of the filing. We can only speculate at this distant date from its manufacture.
What we are left with are the few facts we do know from the coin that we list above. We also know it was well-produced outside the overly filed planchet. The fields are deeply reflective on each side, a strong statement when one considers the multiple layers of blue, gray, yellow, and purple toning splashed over both obverse and reverse. A few light hairlines can be seen with magnification, but they are light and well-concealed by the toning. The striking details are complete throughout with full definition on the head of Liberty, the foot, and the eagle's breast feathers.
However one views this coin, whether as a product of the "Midnight Minter," a carelessly made restrike, or simply as an error, it is a one-of-a-kind Gobrecht dollar. No other Gobrecht has been reported with these features, placing it in the unique category in this singular collection, alongside the 1838 struck over an 1859 dollar and the Judd-107.
Ex: Unspecified New Netherlands Auction; Hollinbeck-Kagin 298th Auction (9/1972), lot 52. (NGC ID# BLY5, PCGS# 11446)
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