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1884 T$1 PR65 PCGS. CAC....

2014 January 8 - 12 FUN US Coin Signature Auction - Orlando #1201

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Auction Ended On: Jan 9, 2014
Item Activity: 10 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Orange County Convention Center
9800 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819

1884 Trade Dollar, PR65
Third Finest of 10 Known Specimens
Ex: Legend-Jack Lee

1884 T$1 PR65 PCGS. CAC. Ex: Legend. The 1884 Trade dollar and its closely related 1885 counterpart are two of the most mysterious issues in all of American numismatics. Although rumors of their existence were current in the 19th century, no example of either date was known to the numismatic community until 10 specimens of the 1884 and five pieces of the 1885 surfaced in the estate of Philadelphia coin dealer William K. Idler, who died in 1901. The coins were reportedly found in proof sets of those dates, among many other numismatic treasures, by Idler's son-in-law Captain John W. Haseltine and his business partner Stephen K. Nagy.

Because the coins only surfaced many years after their dates of issue, and both Haseltine and Nagy had unsavory reputations for dealing in restrikes and Mint-made delicacies, the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars have traditionally been labeled as clandestine issues, like the Class III 1804 dollar and the 1913 Liberty nickel. While the cloud still remains over the 1885 to some extent, modern researchers have proven that the 1884 Trade dollar was legally struck under the supervision of Mint officials, with no taint of impropriety.

Although the Trade dollar had not been produced in business-strike format since 1878, the Mint faithfully continued to strike proofs every year through 1883 to satisfy collector demand. Since legislation officially terminating the Trade dollar denomination did not take effect until 1887, Mint personnel anticipated continued proof offerings in 1884 and prepared accordingly. The receipt for a pair of proof dies, obverse and reverse, for the 1884 Trade dollar was recorded in the "Die Record Book" on January 3, 1884. This journal was kept by A.W. Downing and A.W. Straub, who were foremen in the Die Maker's Room, and it was discovered in the estate of Chief Engraver Charles Barber, after his death in 1917. The dies were used to strike at least two copper patterns, Judd-1732, which were acquired by numismatic author and coin dealer A.M. Smith and retained in his collection until his death. After the copper pieces surfaced in two M.H. Bolender sales in 1935, someone had them plated in silver and they were passed off as real Trade dollars in several sales, confusing the pedigrees of the regular coins.

In accordance with the usual Mint policy, Superintendent Colonel A. Louden Snowden probably ordered the striking of proof coins to begin in the first week of January. An article in the April 1912 issue of The Numismatist reports:

"The attention of our readers is called to the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, of 1886. On page 126, Table 30, showing 'A Statement of Coinage from the Organization of the Mint to June 30, 1886,' will be found, under the head of 'Silver Coinage,' that there were 264 Trade Dollars issued during the year of 1884. These are marked 'Issued as Proof Pieces.' "

According to these records, some 264 proof Trade dollars were struck in 1884, and it seems likely that William Idler, who was unusually well-connected at the Mint, acquired 10 proof sets of the date, including the Trade dollar, soon after they were struck. Idler may have heard rumors from his friends at the Mint that the annual offerings of proof Trade dollars were about to be cancelled and took advantage of this inside information to secure the coins before the directive could take effect. Shortly afterward, the Treasury Department called a halt to the sale of proof Trade dollars, and it must be assumed that the remaining 254 pieces that had been coined were melted.

Haseltine and Nagy distributed the coins from Idler's estate through private transactions, rather than offering them publicly. One coin surfaced many years later, included in an 1884 proof set that was offered in Stack's sale at the 1976 ANA Convention. It seems likely that this proof set was one of the sets discovered in Idler's holdings and sold as a complete set that remained intact for many years. The other coins (NGC ID# 27YW, PCGS# 7064)

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