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Auction Name: 2021 January 20 - 24 FUN US Coins Signature Auction
Lot Number: 3030
Shortcut to Lot: HA.com/1326-3030
1885 T$1 Trade PR63+ Cameo PCGS. CAC.
Ex: Carter-Simpson. "It ranks in rarity with the finest 1804 dollar and certainly has no peer in rarity in the entire U.S. series of silver coins. The purchaser of this coin will possess a numismatic treasure, the value of which will equal that of the highest record of that of any U.S. Coin." -- B. Max Mehl, July 1913
Every time an 1885 Trade dollar appears at public auction, it marks a moment in numismatic history that will be long remembered. This is one of the greatest and most coveted rarities in United States coinage, rarer than the storied 1804 dollar, and, in the words of B. Max Mehl, a coin that is "only available when great collections are dispersed." In 1946, it was the Atwater Collection; in 1984, the Carter Family Collection; in 1988, the Norweb Collection; and in 1997, the Eliasberg Collection. Today, it is the Simpson Collection. The 1885 Trade dollar cannot be viewed in a museum. It cannot be seen on a bourse floor. It can be viewed, held, and potentially owned only here, in the presentation of one of the greatest collections of U.S. coins ever assembled. For many collectors, this is the offering of a lifetime.The Origins
Coinage of Trade dollars for Oriental export was suspended in 1878, but the authorizing legislation of the coin was not repealed until 1887. From 1879 through 1883, the Mint continued to produce Trade dollars in proof format for sale to collectors as part of silver proof sets, and had planned to continue that practice in 1884. The Downing-Straub die record contains a receipt for one obverse and reverse die pair for the Trade dollar, prepared on January 3, 1884. This die pair was used to strike at least 10 proof Trade dollars dated 1884, but it is possible that a larger number of coins were struck in early January in anticipation of demand for proof sets. In the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint
for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1886, a table showing the coinage, imports, and exports of Trade dollars from 1874 to 1885 lists a coinage of 264 pieces in the fiscal year 1884. While some of these coins were likely the last of the 1883 coinage struck late in the calendar year and early in the fiscal year, any portion could just as easily have been 1884-dated coins struck in January. After orders were received to cease the inclusion of Trade dollars in silver proof sets, any small mintage of 1884 proofs struck in early January would have been destroyed. The 10 pieces known today would then be those preserved by Superintendent A. Louden Snowden.
The production of the 1885 Trade dollar is not so neatly documented. Neither the 1885 Mint Report
nor the 1886 Trade dollar coinage table record a mintage for the 1885 fiscal year, and there is no mention of the dies in the Downing-Straub die record. Research by R.W. Julian has revealed that the reverse die used for the 1884 Trade dollar was destroyed on January 2, 1885, and indeed, the 1885 coins are struck from a different reverse. However, despite the lack of definitive coinage records, the idea that the five 1885 Trade dollars known today were coins saved from some official, albeit cancelled, mintage remains perfectly plausible. The precedent was set with the 1884 issue for Snowden to preserve several examples of an issue that was ordered melted, and the coinage of proof Trade dollars was entirely legal until 1887, even if the coins were not to be sold to the public for a profit.
Moreover, the Mint director's Annual Report
of 1886 listed the year 1885 in the Trade coinage table, even though no mintage for the date was given. This potentially telling detail of the record was pointed out in the April 1912 issue of The Numismatist:
"On page 154, table 38, a 'Statement showing the Coinage, Imports and Exports of Trade Dollars by Fiscal Years,' will be found, under the column designated as 'Coinage, Mint at Philadelphia,' that there were 264 Trade Dollars coined, dated 1884. The table is continued, including the year 1885, but no number of trade dollars were marked coined in this latter year. As we know that five of these 1885 Trade dollars exist, and as space is shown in the table for the 1885 coinage, it seems certain that the compiler of this table knew that some 1885 Trade Dollars had been coined during that year. It was not until the session of Congress, 1886-7, that the law authorizing the coinage and issuance of United States trade dollars was repealed. The law did not go into effect until 1887, which therefore would have made legal the issue of trade dollars bearing the dates even 1886 and 1887."
The time window in which the 1885 Trade dollars were struck can be fairly certainly narrowed down to the first half of the calendar year 1885. Since the 1884 proof reverse was destroyed on January 2 of that year, it can be assumed that the 1885 dies were prepared later. However, Superintendent Snowden retired from his position in June 1885, and his successor, Daniel Fox, is not known to have been involved in the coinage or preservation of any numismatic rarities, adhering strictly to Mint standards of not allowing any such coins to escape the Mint. Thus, as most scholars agree, the 1885 Trade dollars were coined at some point during the first half of their year of issue, and completely legally, whether as part of an unrecorded but official issue or singularly as an item of interest to Snowden.Revelation of the 1885 Trade Dollar
Virgil M. Brand, a wealthy Chicago brewery owner and charter member of the Chicago Numismatic Society, was one of the most prolific collectors of United States coins during the early 20th century. His affinity for amassing what would become one of the largest numismatic collections in American history forged ties with numerous prominent dealers of the period, including Edgar H. Adams of New York. On April 26, 1911, Brand acquired an 1885 Trade dollar from Adams for $750 in what is now the earliest known transaction involving an example of the famed rarity.
It was believed by contemporary numismatists that the 1885 Trade dollars, like so many of the 1884 Trade dollars, came out of the William Idler estate, through John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy. Haseltine and Nagy's involvement in marketing the first known examples of the 1884 Trade dollar beginning in 1907 was well established, and it was naturally assumed that all 10 1884 coins and the five 1885 pieces originated in the estate of Idler, Haseltine's father-in-law. Idler was a prominent collector in the late 19th century with strong ties to the Mint during the years when Henry R. Linderman and A. Louden Snowden oversaw the clandestine creation of many patterns and other rare experimental issues. He was the direct recipient of many of these Mint delicacies from the late 1860s into the 1880s, which he secretly held until his death in 1901. Haseltine inherited the collection, and over the following years he and Nagy marketed many of the pattern rarities and other coins to the public. Idler's collection contained no less than six examples of the 1884 Trade dollar, four of which Haseltine sold to Brand between July 1907 and October 1908.
Haseltine and Nagy's connection to the origins of the 1885 Trade dollars, though, is only circumstantial. In his address at the ANA Convention in 1908, Haseltine spoke in detail concerning the coins of his father-in-law's collection and specifically referenced the 1884 Trade dollars; yet, he never spoke of the 1885 issue. Moreover, there is no traceable link between Haseltine and Nagy and any of the five 1885 coins. Two '85 Trade dollars can be traced to Edgar Adams -- one the coin that he sold to Brand in 1911, the other a specimen that he offered in a Numismatist
ad in March 1915; two more examples are traced to prominent collector Henry Olson Granberg -- one sold in B. Max Mehl's July 1913 sale of a portion of Granberg's collection, the other displayed by Granberg at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; the fifth coin, by January 1912, was in the possession of ANA president Judson Brenner, as was revealed in an article in The Numismatist.
The association of Adams, Granberg, and Brenner, as well as the time frame in which the 1885 Trade dollars appeared in their possessions, lays the foundation for an alternative explanation of the coins' origins, one that does not lead to William Idler, but to William Woodin, the prominent New York collector who was centrally involved in one of the most famous numismatic transactions of the early 20th century.The Snowden-Woodin Connection
Archibald Louden Snowden, nephew of former Mint Director James Ross Snowden, achieved one of the longest tenures with the United States Mint of any prolific figure in numismatic history. First serving as Register in 1857, he was promoted to Chief Coiner in 1866, a post he held until 1877. Snowden left the Mint for a few years to serve as Postmaster in Philadelphia before returning, in 1879, to the office of Superintendent at Philadelphia, in which capacity he served until his retirement in June 1885.
Snowden's tenure as Chief Coiner coincided with the Henry R. Linderman administration as Mint Director, during which numerous rare patterns and other curiosities were struck and sold to outside collectors at a profit for those Mint personnel involved. Snowden's position as Chief Coiner allowed him to partake himself of the purchase of many great rarities and unusual Mint products by simply exchanging for them the proper amount of gold or silver coin from his own pocket. Some of the most famous Mint relics that Snowden preserved were the two gold fifty dollar half union patterns struck in 1877. Long after his retirement, after he began selling off many of his amassed clandestine rarities around the turn of the century, Snowden sold the two half union patterns to William H. Woodin in 1909. Woodin paid the unheard of price of $10,000 apiece for the two coins, with John W. Haseltine serving as an intermediary for the transaction.
Edger Adams published a lengthy article about Woodin's purchase of the patterns in the July 1909 issue of The Numismatist,
which made public for the first time the fact that the proposed fifty dollar gold pieces from 1877 were still in existence. Widespread sentiment erupted that the patterns should not have been sold to a private collector but should have remained in the Mint Cabinet as national treasures, and legal proceedings developed to negotiate Woodin's return of the half unions to the Mint. By June 1910, an agreement had been reached. A June 7 letter from Woodin's attorney to Henry W. Wise, the U.S. government's attorney (transcribed by Saul Teichman on USPatterns.com), states:
"Col. Snowden, who had originally purchased these coins from the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia by depositing the bullion value and the charge for pattern pieces to save them from being melted down, in the course of negotiations between himself and Dr. Andrew, Director of the Mints, came to an agreement with the latter over all matters in dispute between them, and proposed to Mr. Woodin to repay him the $20,000 he had paid for these pieces, in order that he might carry out his arrangement with Dr. Andrew. Mr. Woodin after numerous visits to Philadelphia and Washington and conference with Dr. Andrew, both there and in this city, decided to accept this offer, returned the 50's to Col. Snowden, and I thereupon notified Mr. Pratt, as did Mr. Woodin, that the incident was closed, and we requested a letter from your office confirming the same. In view of the trouble and expense to which Mr. Woodin was put to facilitate Dr. Andrew in the adjustment of a very difficult situation, your letter seems a little unfair, in that it would tend to create the appearance of a record some time in the future that Mr. Woodin had been compelled to give up something of which he was improperly in possession."
Snowden's reimbursement to Woodin for the half union patterns included, in part, a large group of other patterns and rare coins that Snowden still held in his collection from his years as Chief Coiner and Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint. This mass of pattern rarities was the basis for the prolific reference work United States Pattern, Trial and Experimental Pieces,
which Woodin wrote with Edgar Adams in 1913. Duplicates from the pattern hoard were auctioned by Adams on Woodin's behalf in February 1911.
The significance of the Snowden-Woodin pattern trade for the 1877 half unions is that the transaction occurred just a few months before the 1885 Trade dollars began appearing in the possession of prominent numismatists, all of whom were close associates of Woodin. Moreover, four of the five 1885 Trade dollars, when they first appeared, were paired with an 1884 Trade dollar; the lone 1885 was the coin that Adams sold to Brand in 1911.
Contemporary numismatists would not have known that Snowden was the original owner of the 1877 half union patterns, as Adams' article only named Haseltine. Had Haseltine sold the half unions to Woodin in 1909 after pulling them out of Idler's estate, it would have indeed meant that Idler was the sole source for all of the patterns and other Mint delicacies struck during the 1870s and 1880s, including, most likely, all of the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars. However, we now know that Snowden was the owner of the half unions, and Haseltine was merely a middle man for their sale to Woodin. Since Haseltine never spoke of 1885 Trade dollars being a part of his father-in-law's estate, and since the 1885 coins did not emerge until after the massive trade between Snowden and Woodin in 1910, it seems more likely that the 1885 Trade dollars -- as well as four of the 1884 coins -- were among the "trunks" of Mint delicacies that Snowden gave to Woodin in 1910 for the return of the two half union gold patterns. Although it cannot be proven, the possibility that Woodin was the original recipient of the 1885 Trade dollars, and not Idler, would explain both the timing of the coins' appearance as well as the fact that the coins all initially showed up within a tight circle of Woodin's close associates. The Present Example
Of the five 1885 Trade dollars known, one -- the Menjou specimen -- has not appeared at public auction since 1955; the Farouk coin was last documented in the 2004 Richmond Collection sale; the Olsen piece recently changed hands in a March 2020 Stack's sale, after having been off the market for more than three decades; and the Eliasberg specimen -- the finest 1885 Trade dollar known -- changed hands for the first time in more than two decades in our 2019 FUN Signature, where it realized $3.96 million.
This is the Amon Carter specimen. Waldo Newcomer displayed this piece at the 1916 ANA Convention, and it later went into the vast holdings of "Col." E.H.R. Green. B.G. Johnson acquired the piece from the Green estate and distributed it to San Antonio collector Jack Roe. The coin finally appeared at auction for the first time in Mehl's June 1945 sale of the Roe silver dollar collection, lot 628:
"1885 Trade Dollar.
Perfect brilliant proof gem. Only five specimens said to have been struck. In point of rarity, it is even more rare than the 1804 dollar, a specimen of which brought $4,250.00 in my Sale of the Dunham Collection in 1941. A similar specimen in my Sale of the Olsen Collection, held in November, 1944, brought $1,150.00. Considering the very few specimens minted, and its great rarity, it is as rare as any
U.S. Dollar with records well into the four-figure mark. The great rarity of the 1885 and the 1884 Trade Dollars can be well estimated from the fact that the great collection of Dollars recently sold at auction did not have either of these great rarities. These two Dollars are from the great Colonel Green Collection."
The buyer was Jerome Kern, at $1,275. Mehl auctioned Kern's collection in May 1950, and the 1885 Trade dollar realized $1,450 to Amon G. Carter. The coin's last public auction appearance was Stack's May 2003 sale of the L.K. Rudolph Collection, where it realized $920,000.
One simply does not expect a coin in PR63 to display the level of eye appeal generated by the Carter-Simpson 1885 Trade dollar. The coin is Plus designated by PCGS, but what is perhaps most telling about its quality is the fact that this is the only 1885 Trade dollar with CAC endorsement. Traditional lavender and lilac toning surrounds the peripheries, ceding to sunset-gold that warms the interiors. Slight strike softness on stars 5 to 7 is characteristic of the issue, but this piece is both significantly sharper than the Eliasberg coin and slightly sharper than the Olsen coin -- the two higher-grade pieces. The fields glimmer with watery reflectivity. Faint hairlines can be discerned with a loupe, but the toning effectively obscures them from the unaided eye. Appreciable cameo contrast fulfills the eye appeal on each side in equal measure, accenting not only the central devices but also the stars and border legends. While many rightfully argue that the grade or quality of an 1885 Trade dollar is at most an after thought compared to the rarity and numismatic appeal of the issue, the excellence of the Carter coin's aesthetic qualities merits description here.
The story of the 1885 Trade dollar is one that continually captivates numismatists, and the numismatic legend surrounding this rarity has captured the imagination of generations of collectors. Many collectors remember the first time they saw an 1885 Trade dollar change hands at auction, but only a handful of numismatists throughout history can say that they remember the time they acquired one of these coins. The offering of the Carter-Simpson specimen here presents those collectors who have long waited with the opportunity to turn the dream of ownership into a reality.Roster of 1885 Trade Dollars
This roster was compiled with the assistance of Wayne Burt, John Dannreuther, Ron Guth, and Saul Teichman. Grades are per the last auction appearance, unless a subsequent certification event is known.1. Eliasberg Specimen, PR66 NGC.
Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint Archibald Loudon Snowden in 1885; possibly William Woodin in 1910; William Cutler Atwater; Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 378; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Collection, Part II (Stack's/Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 2354, realized $907,500; Jay Parrino; purchased by Heritage Auctions in a private transaction from Legend Numismatics for $1.5 million in late 1999; sold privately by Heritage Auctions in January 2006 for $3.3 million; private collection; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2019), lot 4553, realized $3.96 million.2. Olsen Specimen, PR64 PCGS.
Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint Archibald Loudon Snowden in 1885; possibly William Woodin in 1910; unknown intermediaries; Fred Olsen Collection (B. Max Mehl (11/1944), lot 1767; George Ewalt; Ewalt Collection (Stack's, 11/1965), lot 43; Leo Young; Auction '80 (RARCOA, 8/1980), lot 1626; Julian Leidman; Mike Follett; private collection; Auction '84 (RARCOA, 7/1984), lot 1810; John Rowe III; L.R. French Collection (Stack's, 1/1989), lot 202; Charles Barasch/International Coins & Currency, circa 1992; Northeast collection; E. Horatio Morgan Collection (Stack's Bowers, 3/2020), lot 3216.3. Simpson Specimen, PR63+ Cameo PCGS.
Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint Archibald Loudon Snowden in 1885; possibly William Woodin in 1910; Waldo Newcomer (per Carl Carlson), displayed at the 1916 ANA Convention; "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; B.G. Johnson; Jack Roe; Ryan, Roe, and Waltman Collections (B. Max Mehl, 6/1945), lot 628; Jerome Kern; Kern Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 897; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr.; Carter Family Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 441; Kevin Lipton; Auction '84 (Superior, 7/1984), lot 192; Fred Fredericks; Hoffecker Collection (Superior, 2/1987), lot 1446B; Eugene Worrell Collection (Superior, 9/1993), lot 1325; Rudolph Collection (Stack's, 5/2003), lot 2175; Legend Numismatics; Simpson Collection. The present coin.4. Farouk Specimen, PR62 NGC.
Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint Archibald Loudon Snowden in 1885; possibly William Woodin in 1910; H.O. Granberg; Granberg Collection (B. Max Mehl, 7/1913), lot 392 (plated); Ruth Green advertisement in the December 1941 issue of The Numismatist
, page 976 (plated); King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 1680; Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb; Norweb Collection, Part II (Bowers and Merena, 3/1988), lot 1848; Dan Drykerman; private New York collection; sold privately by Bowers and Merena in 1992; New York private collection; Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 11/2004), lot 1569.5. Adolphe Menjou Specimen, Brilliant Proof.
Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint Archibald Loudon Snowden in 1885; possibly William Woodin in 1910; Edgar Adams; sold to Virgil Brand on 4/26/1911 for $750; Armin Brand; consigned to B.G. Johnson on 11/2/1936, reportedly sold 11/1937; Clinton Hester; Adolphe Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 2041; Benjamin Stack, advertised in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine
in March of 1955; Farish Baldenhofer Collection (Stack's, 11/1955), lot 1040; private collection; Julian Leidman, Mike Brownlee, and Hugh Sconyers; Jim Halperin/New England Rare Coin Galleries, circa 1974; John Kamin/ The Forecaster Moneyletter
; private collection.Additional AppearancesA. Proof.
Judson Brenner owned an example of both the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars, as reported in the January 1912 issue of The Numismatist
on page 23. These coins may have gone to Virgil Brand along with other coins and the dies for the Confederate cent, which were purchased as a group from Brenner in 1919, but the Brand journals are not clear on this.B. Proof.
H.O. Granberg exhibited a complete set of Trade dollars, including the 1884 and 1885, in the 1914 ANS Exhibition (in addition to the 1884 and 1885 he sold with his collection in 1913, see number 4 above).C. Proof.
Edgar Adams offered both an 1884 and an 1885 Trade dollar in an advertisement in The Numismatist
in March of 1915.D. Proof.
"Colonel" Green owned at least one more 1885 Trade dollar (in addition to the coin in number 2 above) according to the inventory of his collection. In the Eliasberg catalog, it is mentioned that B.G. Johnson sold this coin to the Celina Coin Company (Carl and Ted Brandt) and they advertised it in the June 1944 issue of The Numismatist
on page 546.E. Proof.
St. Louis coin dealer B.G. Johnson offered an example of the 1885 Trade dollar to Stack's on 8/23/1943 for $800.F. Proof.
B.G. Johnson offered another example of the 1885 Trade dollar to B. Max Mehl on 4/3/1944 for $775. This might be the coin in the Waltman Collection in number 3 above.(Registry values