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    Description

    Brazil. Joao V 6400 Reis 1735/3-R. Rio mint. GL for Gabriel Lewyn. KM149. VF. Clipped and re-edged. Plugged and marked GL for Gabriel Lewyn, Baltimore. Weight is one grain below the common pre-Revolutionary standard of 9 dwt, 3 grains (217.8 grains) to which Lewyn likely regulated. Kovel places Lewyn's career ca. 1768-80, before the new lower standards became commonplace. Edge heavily clipped to just above the tops of the obverse legend without affecting any letters. Re-edged in a three leaf device, poorly applied and somewhat flat in some areas. The plug is large and nearly perfectly round, raised above the central obverse, rimmed by an upset portion of the coin itself with great expertise. The plug on the reverse is plane to the surface, though surrounded by a narrow gap where part of the coin was pushed upwards on the obverse. The mark is highly distinctive: GL in a crenellated rectangle, three dots above and three below. While we have not been able to positively link this to a known piece of Lewyn's work, the initials GL are unusual in the canon of silversmith marks. The circumstances of his career, the possible date range of this regulation, and the style of the mark give us a reasonable level of confidence in the attribution if not absolute certainty. The mark is impressed twice, once perpendicular to the coin's designs and again upside down, at right angles to each other. The coin is light yellow gold, evenly worn and showing some hairlines. A low spot is present in the northeast obverse, perhaps left behind from the act of plugging, and some mint-made striations are seen. The plug is striking in appearance and the eye appeal is nice.

    Gabriel Lewyn has long been known to numismatists for engraving the cuts used on the April 1776 North Carolina currency series. His work in Baltimore, where he identified himself as a "goldsmith and jeweler," makes him a natural for work as a regulator. Only one other regulator from Baltimore has been thus far identified: Standish Barry. Barry's cast doubloon production, sold in the 2005 Eliasberg sale, was signed by Barry with two touchmarks placed at angles at each other. Perhaps it is no accident that this piece, the only other regulated gold coin we've ever heard of marked twice by the same regulator, also comes from Baltimore. Lewyn and Barry were contemporaries and undoubtedly knew each other. Baltimore was a small city before the Revolution and boomed thereafter. The 1790 census counted 13,503 residents.

    Baltimore was an apparent hotbed of regulating. Mint Director Henry DeSaussure complained to President George Washington in October 1795 of this problem:

    "Permit me, sir, to suggest the necessity of protecting laws for the coinage. I understand that none of the laws of Congress have provided any penalties for the various offences which may be committed against the coinage. In most countries, strict laws are enacted, prohibiting the interference of individuals in this attribute of the sovereignty; and, in some, the very possession of dies, or presses, or other implements essential in the coinage, is made criminal. In this country, mints are said to be boldly erected at Baltimore, and elsewhere, professedly to imitate the coins of foreign countries, and to furnish a debased gold coin for the West India markets; and so much of the gold bullion which would be brought to the national mint, is carried to these private establishments, which degrade our national character. Encouraged by this negligence of Government, men have carried their ideas farther; and there is too much reason to fear, that a recent attempt on our dies and other implements was made with nefarious views."

    When the Standish Barry Doubloon was discovered in the Eliasberg Collection in 2005, the scale of these operations was never imagined to be large. Recently discovered documents reveal that not only was Barry making false gold coins to the post-Revolutionary standard, but that a Baltimore merchant house was actively clipping and exporting Half Joes to the West Indian market. The Robert OIiver record books span 27 volumes; today they reside in the Maryland Historical Society. While research into their contents has only just begun, they reveal that the firm charged 20 cents each to regulate Half Joes to a standard light weight. In other words, they would weigh, process, and clip Half Joes to a consistent light West Indian standard for American firms to export, return the stock of now-light Half Joes to the consignor along with the excess gold clippings, and keep 20 cents per coin for their efforts. Among the Baltimoreans who consigned Half Joes to Robert Oliver for processing was Robert Gilmor Sr. His son, Robert Gilmor Jr., was one of America's earliest numismatists and owned two Brasher doubloons before the Civil War. We have to wonder if he acquired them when they were consigned for shipping and export?

    Provenance: From Spink America's sale of December 2001, Lot 473. Earlier, "discovered recently with the aid of a metal detector in southeast Georgia, interestingly on a site along with other coins and artifacts from the late Colonial period."
    From the Edward Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    12th-16th Thursday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,045

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