The Mickley-Hawn-Queller Class I
1804 $1 Original PR62 PCGS. The 1804 Dollar - An
Introduction to the "King of American Coins"
Original 1804 Dollar, PR62 PCGS
From the Greensboro Collection, Part IV
By John Dale Beety
"In all of numismatics of the entire world, there is not today and there never has been a single coin which was and is the subject of so much romance, interest, comment, and upon which so much has been written and so much talked about and discussed as the United States silver dollar of 1804." - B. Max Mehl, in the Dunham Collection catalog of 1941, quoted in the preface of The Fantastic 1804 Dollar
For more than a century, the 1804 dollar has reigned as the "King" of U.S. coinage, a fitting title to bestow on a coin made for royalty. The U.S. Mint received orders to strike complete sets of proof coinage meant to serve as diplomatic gifts for sovereigns such as the Sultan of Muscat, the King of Siam, and the Emperors of Cochin-China and Japan. While most denominations specified by the Mint Act of 1792 were still in production in 1834 and thus simple to produce as proofs, the silver dollar and gold ten dollar (eagle) had not been struck for many years - since 1804, the Mint's research found. There was just one catch: those silver dollars struck in 1804 were made from carryover obverse dies and did not bear that date. When the Mint struck those silver dollars dated 1804 and a few spares, an inadvertent rarity was created.
Jacob Eckfeldt and William E. DuBois revealed the existence of the Class I or "Original" 1804 dollars to the then-small coin collecting community of the United States by including a picture of one in their 1842 reference, the Manual of Coins of All Nations. Matthew Stickney became the first confirmed non-royal, non-government-employee owner of an 1804 dollar in 1843, when he traded a gold Immune Columbia piece - a remarkable numismatic delicacy - as well as other coins to the Mint Cabinet to get his example. The second confirmed piece to come into a collector's hands was this very coin, which had come into the possession of bank teller Henry C. Young in 1850 and was sold to now-legendary numismatist Joseph J. Mickley around 1858. By the end of the 1850s there was enough financial incentive for the self-enrichment crew of the midcentury Philadelphia Mint to try their hand at 1804 dollar restrikes, though their various gaffes - not least of which was striking the singular Class II Restrike over an 1857 shooting thaler from Bern in Switzerland - stopped their plans in the short term. After the Civil War, the market for the various 1804 dollars blossomed. The Mickley specimen offered here sold at a W. Elliot Woodward sale for $750 in October 1867, while the Chapman brothers cracked the four-figure mark and coined the phrase "King of the U.S. series" in May 1885 when they sold the Dexter specimen for $1,000. While those Originals were setting records, the Second Restrike or Class III coins, artificially worn and given artificial backstories (e.g. the Berg specimen of the Class III dollar turning up in Vienna), were working their way toward marketplace acceptance. In 1907, Henry Chapman called the 1804 dollar "The King of United States Coins."
If the 19th century had made the 1804 dollar "niche famous" among the relatively small elite core of U.S. coin collectors, the 20th century was an era of popularization and broader celebrity. While the 1804 dollar has been the subject of multiple scholarly volumes (Newman and Bressett, The Fantastic 1804 Dollar, and Q. David Bowers, The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventures of Edmund Roberts), no one person has done more to raise the 1804 dollar's profile than B. Max Mehl. His Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia set the numismatic gold standard for self-promotion by convincing collectors and non-collectors alike to pay for what was effectively his buylist, and his direct appeals through mass media such as newspapers and radio put his Encyclopedia in hundreds of thousands of homes.
Where B. Max Mehl was a teller of lore, four numismatic scholars in the late 1950s began researching the facts behind the 1804 dollar. At first independent, they joined forces in 1959, and in 1962, authors Eric P. Newman and Ken Bressett, with Walter Breen and Lynn Glaser listed as "associates in research," published The Fantastic 1804 Dollar, a scholarly reference that gave the facts of the 1804 dollars as they were known to that time. Shortly before the book's publication, David Spink revealed the existence of a previously unknown 1804 dollar, part of a set of mostly 1834-dated proof coins that had been presented to the King of Siam. The "King of Siam" set was the last but by no means least important piece of evidence included in The Fantastic 1804 Dollar, which remains a fundamentally sound reference more than half a century after its initial publication.
Prices for 1804 dollars at auction soared as the decades passed. In 1960, the Davis Restrike 1804 dollar brought $28,000 at auction, while in 1970 the Mickley Original specimen realized $77,500. In 1980, at one of the U.S. coin market's great heights, the Berg Restrike example reached $400,000, while the 1989 offering of the Dexter Original representative saw it go for $990,000, another bull-market record tantalizingly close to the million-dollar threshold. The Stickney Original piece, which in 1946 was the first five-figure U.S. coin at $10,500, became the first seven-figure 1804 dollar and the most expensive U.S. coin ever auctioned when it sold as part of the legendary Eliasberg Collection in 1997 for $1,815,000. The Sultan of Muscat Original, universally considered the best-preserved of 1804 dollars, leapfrogged that price to bring $4,140,000 in 1999, a record that stood for several years.
As of June 2013, two of the top ten all-time U.S. coin prices realized at auction belong to Original 1804 dollars, including the last offering of the Mickley coin, by Heritage in 2008, at $3,737,500. Just outside the top ten is the most recent auction result for an 1804 dollar, the Adams Restrike piece in a 2009 Heritage auction at $2,300,000. The various 1804 dollars have sold for more than a million dollars at auction six separate times, a feat unmatched by any other issue, and this offering of the Mickley specimen will add even more weight to the 1804 dollar's claim as the "King of American Coins."
Some Views of Joseph Jacob Mickley
By George Huber
19th Century Renaissance Man
Joseph J. Mickley was born in South Whitehall, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in 1799, the year the most-difficult U.S. large cent issue was struck; he died in 1878, the year the Morgan dollars were introduced.
Mickley was a piano-tuner and musical instrument-repairer by profession. A Renaissance man of the 19th century, Mickley was a historian and antiquarian; a collector of coins, books, historical documents, and autographs; a numismatic bibliophile; and a polyglot, speaking French, German, and Swedish fluently along with varying degrees of Spanish, Italian, Russian.
He was not a professional coin dealer, even though he managed to assemble over a period of many years what was considered to be the most valuable coin collection in America. Mickley's accomplishments in coin collecting earned him the title of the "father of American numismatics."
Much of his professional life revolved around musical instruments, particularly pianos and stringed instruments. He was a talented violist, a tuner and seller of pianos, a repairer of violins, violas, and other stringed instruments, and a seller of musical instruments and supplies.
Joseph J. Mickley the Historian
Mickley became interested in his own family history at an early age. In the year 1819, when he would have been 20, he visited his great-uncle John Peter Mickley (1752-1828) and interviewed him about the massacre of two of his ancestors by Indians. Many years later, Mickley wrote in a preface to a "Brief Account of Murders by the Indians and the Causes Thereof, in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, October 8th, 1763," which he read at a family reunion in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the event, in 1863:
"From what I have been able to gather, it appears that our family is descended from French Huguenots, the name having originally been written Michelet, but corrupted, and variously written Miquelet, Miickli, etc., and finally anglicized into the present form, Mickley; that during the persecution of the Huguenots in France, they emigrated to the bordering Dukedom of Deux Ponts (Zweibrücken), then a part of the German Empire; where they were unmolested in the exercise of their religion."
Mickley conducted extensive research into the history of New Sweden, a 17th century Delaware colony. In 1874 he presented to the Historical Society of Delaware a paper, "Some Account of William Usselinx and Peter Minuit: Two Individuals Who Were Instrumental in Establishing the First Permanent Colony in Delaware," published posthumously in 1881.
Mickley the Tradesman
Mickley's friend Jacob Bunting writes that Mickley went to Philadelphia at age 17 to serve as apprentice to a piano-maker, but he did not manufacture pianos, limiting himself to tuning, repairs, and sales. Mickley's detailed, daily business journals that he kept meticulously from 1840 to 1848 (at least) show a workaday tradesman. Violin strings, cello strings, bridges, necks, fingerboards, harp strings, repairing violins and guitars, the occasional piece of sheet music, tuning sometimes two or three pianos a day for a dollar each -- these were day-in, day-out affairs. However, he also sold pianos, handling what were huge sums of money at the time. A typical piano sale might cost $200 or so, but two entries from July 25, 1846, show Mickley selling two expensive Louis XIV-style "Piano Fortes", one for $686, the other for $855.
Mickley the Philographer
Mickley collected autographs, letters, and manuscripts as avidly as he did coins. His extensive collection included the signatures of every American president up to Ulysses S. Grant, and the autographs of every signer of the Declaration of Independence. Forty generals of the Revolutionary War, Napoleon and Josephine, Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven and Mozart, an original Joseph Haydn music manuscript, an India-ink sketch of Mozart drawn by Mozart's wife, Constanze -- all figured in his collections. Mickley owned the last letter that George Washington wrote, six days before his death. A letter from Abraham Lincoln to General George McClellan brought nearly $100 when it was sold in Mickley's estate.
Mickley the Musician
Mickley was far advanced in his musical tastes and abilities. He interacted with an enormous range of musicians daily, both socially and professionally; oftentimes a "scratch" performance would develop. Bunting writes:
"If a quartette were assembled -- and many times the musical party was enlarged to a quintette or a septette ... Mr. Mickley was always happy to join in these impromptu musical assemblies, when occasion offered, although performing music was one of the few things which he never succeeded in doing well. He invariably played the viola on these occasions ... While in the midst of numerous and always congenial pursuits during his long life, quartette playing remained a favorite pastime of very many days in very many years."
Mickley's skill in violin repair and his extensive research into earlier luthiers led him to make the acquaintance of some notable musicians of the era. One was the celebrated Norwegian composer and violin virtuoso Ole Bull (1810-1880), who came to visit Mickley and to play a violin that had once belonged to George Washington. Mickley was a friend with Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870), Italian composer of more than 50 operas, whom Mickley visited in Italy in 1870, shortly before Mercadante's death. Other friends of Mickley included Life of Beethoven biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817-1897), and François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871), eminent Belgian musicologist, composer, critic, and bibliophile.
Mickley the Numismatist
Today Joseph Mickley is remembered, more than anything else, for his ownership of the present Mickley-Hawn-Queller-Greensboro Collection Class I Original 1804 silver dollar -- the capstone of what was, by the late 1860s, the most valuable assemblage of numismatic material in America. Mickley became interested in numismatics around the year 1816, at age 17, when he began seeking a large cent dated 1799 -- not only the year of his birth, but by far the most elusive of the large cent series.
Mickley's house on Market Street between Ninth and 10th was literally blocks away from both the first U.S. Mint building and the second Philadelphia Mint building. Mickley and his older brother Jacob did sign the Mint visitors register in 1841, the first documented visit of Mickley to the Mint. There seems little doubt that Mickley would have seen the Mint Cabinet then; it was formed in 1838. The only question is whether 1804 silver dollars were on display during his 1841 visit. It is possible that Mickley became aware of their existence in 1841, before Massachusetts collector Matthew Stickney learned of them via the Eckfeldt-Dubois "Mint Manual," published in 1842. The "Mint Manual" was the first publication that alerted many American collectors to the existence of genuine American silver dollars dated 1804.
Mickley obtained his copy of the "Mint Manual" in 1845, as recorded in his daily business journal, so he certainly became aware of the 1804 silver dollar sometime in the period between 1841 and 1845. One can only imagine how Mickley must have felt during the many years between learning of the existence of the 1804 silver dollars, and the crowning moment when he finally obtained one. The example came from an improbable source: Bank of Pennsylvania teller Henry C. Young, who reportedly fished Mickley's future prize out of his cash drawer for face value. Mickley acquired the coin sometime before 1859, making the window between when he learned of the 1804 dollar and the time he acquired one somewhere from five to more than 15 years. Mickley, even at such an early date, surely recognized his new 1804 silver dollar to be the capstone of his collection -- just as it will be for its next owner.
In all, Mickley is recorded as making 11 visits to the Philadelphia Mint from 1841 to 1848. He likely made many more visits during the next 20 years. With his ingratiating personality, winning ways, and vast local network of personal and business connections, it seems certain that after some of those visits, he walked home with a few more baubles and a bit less cash in his pockets.
It was in 1867 when the "great robbery" happened, one that sapped much of Mickley's passion for numismatics. In brief, a great assortment of rare coins, mostly foreign, was stolen from his residence on April 13, 1867. The cost of the stolen coins was put at $19,000; their market value was far greater. Chilled from the idea of further collecting, Mickley sold his remaining coins to W. Elliot Woodward. Numismatic auction expert John Adams has judged Mickley's collection of U.S. and world coins the "best all around" and "perhaps the greatest U.S. collection."
Mickley the Bibliophile
Mickley seems to have become a bibliophile at an early age as well. He recorded his book purchases daily along with his musical labors in his business journal and ledger.
Mickley records an entry from September 24, 1846 -- with his incessant, meticulous attention to detail -- for a purchase of $6.88 worth of books:
A Lot of Books Consisting of
Marshall's Life of Washington 6 Vols. @.525 3.15
Stephens Central America 2 Vols. @1.25 2.50
Wanostrocht's French Grammar 0.20
New Testament in French 0.10
Five Philadelphia Directories 0.93
A biography of Washington, a geography book, a French handbook and Bible, and city directories -- this lot summarizes Mickley's eclectic tastes. After much of his numismatic collection was stolen in 1867, Mickley seems to have become increasingly interested in books about coins rather than the coins themselves.
Mickley's Later Years
Mickley's great coin robbery was a misfortune from which he never fully recovered. Bunting hints that Mickley knew or suspected the identity of the perpetrator(s) but scarcely said a further word about it. Mickley set about a new plan. He undertook a remarkably ambitious three-year trip to Europe and Asia -- alone. He started his last great enterprise on June 5, 1869. He toured the Nile River in Egypt, scaled the Great Pyramid at Giza, saw the catacombs of Rome, the domes of Saint Petersburg and Moscow. He hiked the back streets of Constantinople and marveled at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In Madrid, he viewed what he called the finest collection of coins in the world, numbering 150,000 pieces. He visited the musicologist Fétis in Brussels, the composer Mercadante in Naples, and Beethoven biographer Thayer in Trieste. He saw the midnight sun in Finland and crossed the Arctic Circle into Lapland. Spain, England, Holland, Germany, France, Sweden -- all were on his itinerary.
Mickley managed to visit virtually every major mint and museum in Europe. In Stockholm, he discovered in the Swedish Royal Mint Cabinet an extremely rare 1815 half eagle, a coin about which Heritage catalogers David Stone and Mark Van Winkle recently issued a monograph.
Bunting writes that the Philadelphia Mint had authorized Mickley to make some purchases on its behalf to be added to the Mint Cabinet. "Here the old passion appears to have blazed up again for a little while. It was an entire surprise to his family to discover among his possessions at his death the nucleus of a new collection, which was sold for about two thousand dollars."
The greatest encomium that Bunting wrote about Mickley, however, was not about his remarkable coin collection:
"The late Joseph J. Mickley comprised qualities at once more attractive and more unusual than are often met with in one person .... in Philadelphia he was most of all admired for his delightful social qualities and his extensive information on a surprising variety of topics. During forty years his house was a rendezvous for a numerous group of specialists -- not alone in his favorite pursuits, which, indeed, were both many and diverse, but in any and every department of art or learning."
Note: Research by John Dannreuther, Bill Nyberg, and Bryce Brown reveals that the dies for the 1804 Plain 4 proof eagles included in the diplomatic presentation sets presented by Edmund Roberts (King of Siam, Imam of Muscat, etc.) were actually leftover dies engraved in the early 1800's, and were not new dies specially created in 1834. The obverse was a Capped Bust Right eagle die with the first three digits of the date already punched in. The final digit was added in 1834, using the punch from the 1834 half dollar punch set. The reverse was an unused half dollar die from 1806 (See Coin World, August 14, 2006 and John Reich Journal, June 2007). This information corrects the old theory, stated on page 26 of the full 60-page catalog of the 1804 Dollar PDF linked-to, above, that the 1804 Plain 4 eagle dies were engraved in 1834. (NGC ID# 24XH, PCGS# 6907)
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