Each coin is in gem condition, struck in gold, and unique. This set is considered by many numismatists to be the single most valuable numismatic item.
Our story begins with William Barber, the Mint's Chief Engraver. In 1872 Barber designed two sets of patterns, one design for silver coins and the other for the gold denominations. Both designs share a common reverse but differ completely on the obverse, undoubtedly an attempt to standardize the appearance of silver and gold denominations.
The obverse gold design depicts Liberty facing left with flowing hair curls and a Phrygian cap. The "Amazonian" byname, which has accompanied these patterns for many decades, perhaps a century or more, is believed to have been derived from the warlike female depiction of Liberty on the obverses of the three silver denominations. On the gold designs, the date is in the exergual area below and thirteen stars surround that side. The gold and silver reverse designs are identical, with a defiant eagle perched on top of a rock, holding a shield with three arrows in its talons. IN GOD WE TRUST is engraved on the shield ribbon with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the denomination placed about the periphery. Each coin has a reeded edge. Barber's Amazonian patterns were first brought to the attention of the collecting fraternity by R.C.Davis in The Coin Collector's Journal in 1886. They were immediately counted as among most beautiful and desirable of all U.S. coins.
Most patterns are struck in two to four different metals, but when struck in their intended-circulation metal, they become even more sought after, as evidenced by the enormous premiums commanded by silver quarters, half dollars and dollars over the prices of copper and aluminum examples of comparable rarity. Gold patterns are especially desirable, and this set is unique, each coin having a total mintage of exactly one!
The first recorded acquisition of the Amazonian gold set was by William Woodin, one of the most famous numismatists of his day, a connoisseur and expert in pattern coinage, who would later serve as Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When Woodin's collection was dispersed, the set was broken up, with five of the coins finding their way to the collection of Egypt's King Farouk. (The gold dollar became part of the F.C.C. Boyd collection, which was so vast that when sold in six parts over 1945-6, it was billed as "The World's Greatest Collection." Dr. J. Hewitt Judd, who would later author the standard text on United States patterns, acquired the Amazonian gold dollar from that collection.)
Farouk's passion for rare coins and antiquities was legendary. Had the Egyptian government chosen to keep his collection intact after Farouk's 1952 abdication, it would unquestionably be the most valuable numismatic holding known today. In 1954, when the Farouk's holdings were sold at auction in Cairo by Sotheby's, the new owner, Dr. John E. Wilkison, paid the following prices (stratospheric at the time) for the individual coins, as translated from Egyptian pounds into dollars: quarter eagle, $588.35; three dollar, $631.40; half eagle, $861.00; eagle, $1,219.75; and double eagle, $2,583.00. The $2,583.00 price for the double eagle was the highest price realized by any coin in the sale!
Later, Wilkison contacted Dr. Judd about purchasing the gold dollar, but he was not successful in acquiring it until 1962, after Judd's death.
The most recent previous collector-owner of the coins was industrialist Ed Trompeter, who purchased the set at public auction in the weak market of 1990 for a bargain price of $1,870,000. The gold Amazonian set became the unquestioned highlight of his legendary collection of United States proof gold, part of which was sold to Heritage (with a 20% interest taken by another dealer, Tangible Asset Galleries) by the IRS in 1998 for slightly over $15 million, to settle estate taxes. Heritage subsequently sold the set through its financial-planner affiliate to a highly accomplished and well-known individual who prefers to remain anonymous.
The only group of coins that comes close to the historic and numismatic importance of this set is the 1804 King of Siam proof set. But none of the coins in that set is unique, and the most important coin, the 1804 dollar, is one of 15 known.
This unique six-piece set consists of the following:
- Gold Dollar PR 67 (Judd-1224, Pollock-1366);
- Quarter Eagle PR 66 (Judd-1230, Pollock-1372);
- Three Dollar PR 67 (Judd-1235, Pollock-1377);
- Half Eagle PR 66 (Judd-1240, Pollock-1382);
- Eagle PR 66 (Judd-1245, Pollock-1387), and
- Double Eagle PR 65 (Judd-1250, Pollock-1392).
Ex: William Woodin; F.C.C. Boyd obtained the gold dollar; gold dollar to Dr. Judd; Farouk (Sotheby's, 1954); Wilkison; October 1990 Sale (Superior, 10/90), lot 1908, Ed Trompeter collection.