Finest Known 1884 Proof Trade Dollar, Ex: Dunham, Starr1884 T$1 PR67 PCGS. The history of the United States Trade Dollar is one that is checkered with abuses, misuses, and deceit. More than 40 years ago a definitive history was written of the Trade Dollar by John Willem. The subtitle of Willem's book sums up the coin's status: America's Only Unwanted, Unhonored Coin. Originally intended as a competitive coin for the Mexican 8-reales and also as an additional outlet for Comstock silver, the coin's questionable legal status coupled with declining silver prices in the mid to late 1870s resulted in a tarnished image for the Trade Dollar. But in the century since, it has become one of the most popular and collectible coins in all of American numismatics.
Production of business strike Trade Dollars ceased in 1878, but proofs continued to be available on an individual basis from the Mint for $1.25. Most of the known 1884 Trade Dollars surfaced in 1908, having originated with William Idler. It has been assumed since that these mysterious rarities (both the 1884 and 1885) were a "nighttime operation;" that is, specimens that were clandestinely produced after hours using hubs and punches available in the die cutter's workroom. However, in June, 1988 Carl Carlson of Stack's revealed in the Sprinkle catalog new information he had gleaned from A.W. Stroub's Die Record Book. Carlson's write-up is in-depth and convincing, and we refer anyone interested in this lot to refer to his article on page 26 of the Sprinkle catalog. The upshot of his research is that the 1884 Trade Dollars were, in fact, proper coins that were properly struck under proper authority. The effect of such information is that it adds legitimacy to this issue, a date that has lived under a clandestine cloud for nearly a century. Because the ten coins struck were properly prepared and properly receipted within the Mint, the 1884 Trade Dollar is a legitimate issue and the next logical date extension of the proof-only issues of 1879-83.
As mentioned, William Idler is responsible for distributing most of the known 1884 Trade Dollars early last century. A roster of known specimens is as follows:
1) The Dunham/Starr specimen (offered here), the Finest Known. Ex. mint official, probably Col. A. Louden Snowden; William Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine; unknown; William Forrester Dunham and sold with his collection to B. Max Mehl in 1939; Mehl's inventory; Mehl's 1941 sale of the William Forrester Dunham Collection, lot 1150, $315; Floyd T. Starr; Stack's sale of the Starr Collection, October 21, 1992, lot 844; Goldberg's California Sale, lot 1784, where it had been certified by both NGC (#900003-011) and PCGS as PR67 and realized $510,600.
2) The Newcomer/Carter coin (as above, Snowden, Idler, Haseltine) Waldo Newcomer to Colonel E. H. R. Green; B. G. Johnson around 1943; B. Max Mehl Jack Roe sale, June 12, 1945, lot 627; B. Max Mehl Jerome Kern sale, May 23, 1950, lot 896; Stack's Amon G. Carter, Jr. sale, January 18, 1984, lot 440.
3) The Atwater/Eliasberg coin Snowden; Idler; Haseltine; B. Max Mehl Atwater sale, June 11, 1946, lot 377 to the Eliasberg Collection; Bowers and Merena Galleries, April 1997, lot 2353.
4) The Menjou/Wolfson coin as above, Abe Kosoff Adolphe Menjou sale, June 15, 1950, lot 2040; Stack's Farish-Baldenhofer sale, November 11, 1955, lot 1039; Stack's Fairbanks sale, December 10, 1960, lot 698; Stack's Samuel Wolfson sale, May 3, 1963, lot 1541; Abner Kreisberg/ Carlson-Shipkey sale, November 8, 1976, lot 426; Bowers and Merena's Arnold-Romisa sale, September 17, 1984, lot 2342; Stack's French Family sale, January 18, 1989, lot 201.
5) The Farouk/Norweb coin as above, Sotheby's Palace Collections sale, February 1954, lot 1679; Bowers and Merena Norweb II sale, March 24, 1988, lot 1847; Heritage Silverman Collection. April 25, 2002, certified PCGS PR63, where it realized $138,000.
6) The Marks/Herstal coin as above, Virgil M. Brand estate; Bowers and Ruddy RCR 15; Bowers and Ruddy Stanislaw Herstal sale, February 7, 1974, lot 734.
7) The 1976 ANA coin as above, Stack's sale, as part of a complete proof set of the year.
8) The Neil/Pelletreau coin as above, B. Max Mehl, Will Neil sale June 17, 1947, lot 296; Stack's Robert Pelletreau sale, March 6, 1959, lot 1054; NERCA/NENA Convention sale, November 7, 1975, lot 635; Hanks & Associates, April 20, 1985 sale, lot 351; RARCOA auction '89, lot 327; Superior Auction '90, lot 1163.
9) The Olsen/Ewalt coin as above, B. Max Mehl/ Fred E. Olsen sale, November 7, 1944, lot 997; Stack's George S. Ewalt sale, November 22, 1965, lot 42, Stacks' Dr. C.L. Emmons sale, September 19, 1969, lot 814, Ivy ANA Convention sale., August 18, 1980, lot 1809; RARCOA Auction '84, lot 1809; Superior L.W. Hoffecker sale, February 8, 1987, lot 1446A; Goldberg's Kardatzke sale, February 2000, lot 1470.
10) The Colonel Green/Kelly coin Colonel E. H. R. Green estate; B.G. Johnson; James Kelly (1943-44) Frank Sprinkle; Stack's Frank Sprinkle sale, June 21, 1988, lot 461; RARCOA Auction '90, lot 845.
Of the pedigreed examples of the 1884 Trade Dollar, only the Eliasberg coin could possibly rival the quality of this magnificent specimen. Once described by B. Max Mehl as a "beautiful perfect brilliant proof," the surfaces acquired over the next half century concentric layers of toning dominated by varying amounts of electric-blue iridescence at the borders that frames interior shades of golden-rose and steel-gray.
A truly unique opportunity to obtain an American numismatic classic, the single finest specimen from only a handful of known 1884 Proof Trade Dollars. (#7064) (NGC ID# 27YW, PCGS# 7064)
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