The Clint Hestor "Menjou" Gem Proof 1884 Trade Dollar, A Classic American Rarity1884 T$1 PR65 PCGS. One of only 10 specimens known. This is the Clint Hestor "Menjou"-Baldenhofer-Wolfson-French coin, and one of the finer examples known. The obverse and reverse are brilliant white with just a trace of dark toning near the devices visible with a loupe. On the obverse we note a curling lint mark low and left of star three, touching the lower left point and curving up toward the rim above the outer point of that star, in the general shape of a question mark. There are also three tiny nicks near the inside point of the eleventh star. For further plate matching, the reverse has a tiny graze in the field left of the U in UNITED and a minute speck in the field below the E of AMERICA. All in all, this is a beautiful coin which is stark white save for a hint of dark gold as noted along the left wing of the eagle. The fields, devices and surfaces are wonderfully clean for the grade, and this coin has all the appeal one would expect for a Gem Proof were it a common date. Although the 1884 Trade dollar is hardly a common date.
The idea of having a competing coin to circulate in the orient was hatched during the early 1870s. At first, patterns were coined of "commercial dollars" which were to serve this purpose. Other countries produced their own silver coins for overseas trade, and America had not addressed this important issue. Compared with regular issue silver dollars then current, the new silver content was increased slightly to 420 grains in order for them to compete with other foreign coins then in circulation as trade coins. By the time 1873 rolled around, Congress decided to call their new coin a "Trade dollar" and the appropriate legislation was passed. Coinage began in earnest, and it is worth stating that the western mints were the primary benefactors of this new coin. Both the Carson City and San Francisco Mint churned out millions of the new Trade dollars, many for export overseas to the orient (those mints being much closer to this important trade region than the Philadelphia Mint). Many of the coins sent overseas received "chop marks", or merchant punches showing who accepted them in trade. In addition to those Trade dollars sent overseas, a number circulated in America. In fact, the heavier Trade dollars were preferred to the earlier Seated dollars as they contained more silver. This fact was important and fruitful for Trade dollars, until later in 1875 and 1876 when the price of silver fell to levels well below face value. From the beginning in 1873 Trade dollars were legal tender and thus circulated freely through the United States. In 1876 the market value for silver had fallen so precipitously that silver could be purchased on the open market for nearly a ten percent discount and then turned over to the mints for coinage. Such a spread is hard to beat, and anyone paying attention had a virtual license to coin money. All the silver that could be purchased was no doubt gathered up, sent to the mints, coined into Trade dollars, and all for a tidy profit of nearly ten percent. Congress rose to the challenge and demonitized the Trade dollar, thus closing the doors to this market abuse. Back to the old monopolistic ways of insiders and mine owners demanding special favors. For soon, the Sherman Silver Act would be passed in February 1878, and the mine owners of the Nevada Mother Load would continue dancing in the streets of Carson City. The trough of silver could be filled for decades from the mines, and the Federal government would shell out billions to the mine owners monopoly.
With the passage of the Sherman Act and the demonetization of the Trade dollar, demand fell for this issue, and business strikes halted as 1878 drew to a close. Nothing was done to officially kill the coin, so when 1879 rolled around, the normal orders from proofs were filled for collectors with new Trade dollars from 1879. This trend continued through 1883, with proofs being coined in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand. Something changed in 1884, and serious inside dealings took place. No 1884 Trade dollar proofs were coined for the public, but 10 pieces were coined for special interests very quietly. In 1885 another 5 pieces were coined, and these were apparently the last Trade dollars struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Obtaining one of these has always been a great challenge, and years may go by between offerings. The present example is apparently the fourth finest known of the ten produced, and is the only PR65 reported by either grading service.
The Condition Census for this coin is as follows:
1). Dunham Specimen. Proof-66. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; William Forrester Dunham; B. Max Mehl's Dunham Sale (1941), lot 1150; Floyd T. Starr; Stack's Starr Sale (October, 1992), lot 844; Jay Parrino; private collection. PR67 PCGS.
2). Atwater Specimen. Proof-66. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; William Cutler Atwater; Mehl's Brand Sale (1946), lot 377; Louis E. Eliasberg; Bowers and Merena Galleries (April 1997), lot 997. Spectrum Numismatics; Legend Collection. NGC PR66.
3). Newcomer Specimen. Proof-66. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; Waldo C. Newcomer; B. Max Mehl (1931) Fixed price list; Morgenthau & Company Newcomer Sale (May, 1935), lot 431; Col. E.H.R. Green; Burdette G. Johnson circa 1943; Jack V. Roe; B. Max Mehl Kern sale (May, 1950), lot 896; Amon G. Carter; Amon Carter, Jr.; Stack's Carter Collection (January, 1984), lot 440. Private Collection.
4). The Present coin, PCGS PR65. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; Clint Hester; Numismatic Gallery's Menjou Sale (June, 1950), lot 2040; Benjamin Stack; W.G. Baldenhofer; Stack's Farish Baldenhofer Sale (November, 1955), lot 1039; Stack's Fairbanks Sale (Ben Koenig) (December, 1960), lot 698; Stack's Samuel Wolfson Sale, (May, 1963), lot 1541; Jack Klausen; Joel Rettew; Quality Sales Corporation, Carlson-Shipley Sale, (November, 1976), lot 426; Bowers and Merena's Arnold-Romisa Sale (September, 1984), lot 2342; John N. Rowe, III; L.R. French, Jr.; Stack's French Sale (January, 1989), lot 201; Anthony Terranova; Larry Whitlow; Jay Parrino; Superior Auction (2000?); Legend Collection; current consignor.
5). Stack's-Rettew Specimen. Proof-63. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; Private collection (late 1940s); ANA Sale, Stack's (August, 1976), lot 723; Joel D. Rettew; Heritage Early Spring 96 ANA Sale, (March, 1996), lot 6513; Jeff Garrett.
6). Sprinkle Specimen. Proof-63. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; Virgil M. Brand; Colonel E. H. R. Green; Burdette G. Johnson; James Kelly; Frank F. Sprinkle; Stack's (June, 1988), lot 106; Larry Whitlow; Dana Linett's Sale (October, 1988), lot 461; Auction '90, Rarcoa, (July 1990), lot 845; Mark Chrans; Stack's, (March, 2002), lot 795; private collection; Kevin Lipton; Legend Numismatics; private collection.
7). Neil Specimen. Proof-63. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Virgil M. Brand; Colonel Edward H.R. Green; Will W. Neil; B. Max Mehl's Neil Sale, (June, 1947), lot 296; Stack's Pelletreau Sale, (March, 1959), lot 1054; Jerry Cohen; Julian Leidman; Mike Brownlee; Hugh Sconyers; James Halperin; New England Rare Coin Auctions Sale (November, 1975), lot 630; Mulford B. Simons, Jr.; Larry Hanks Sale (April, 1985), lot 351; Auction '89, Rarcoa (July, 1989), lot 327; Jay Parrino; Auction '90, Superior, (July, 1990), lot 1163; Richmond Collection, Part II (DLRC, 11/04), lot 1568; private collection.
8). Rarcoa Specimen. Proof-63. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; Rarcoa; World-Wide Coin Investments; Steve Ivy; Robert Marks Collection; Bowers and Ruddy Galleries Rare Coin Review No. 15, 1972; Bowers and Ruddy Galleries' Herstal Sale, (February, 1974), lot 734; Donald Apte and Mulford B. Simons; Private Southern collection.
9). Farouk Specimen. Proof-62. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; King Farouk of Egypt; Baldwin & Son's Ltd., Palace Collections of Egypt Sale, (1954), lot 1679; Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; Bowers and Merena Galleries' Norweb Sale (March, 1988), lot 1847; American Coin Portfolios; Private New York collection; Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc.; Private New England Collection 1992; Legend Collection; Morris Silverman (Heritage, April, 2002); Dale Friend.
10). Olsen Specimen. Proof-60. Mint official; William K. Idler; Captain John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Unknown intermediaries; Fred Olsen; B. Max Mehl's MBS of the Fred Olsen Collection, (November, 1944), lot 997; George Sealy Ewalt; Stack's Ewalt Sale, (November, 1965), lot 42; Calvert L. Emmons, M.D.; Stack's Emmons Sale, (September, 1969), lot 814; Private collection in 1972; Western Numismatics (Jan Bronson);. 1980 ANA Sale by Steve Ivy, (July, 1980), lot 2643; Auction '84, Rarcoa, (July, 1984), lot 1809; Fred L. Fredericks; Superior's Hoffecker Sale, (February, 1987), lot 1446A; Auction '84 (July, 1984), lot 1809; Eugene Worrell; Superior's Worrell Sale, (September, 1993), lot 1324.(Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 27YW, PCGS# 7064)
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