1776 CURENCY Continental Dollar, A Spectacular MS64 Example1776 $1 Continental Dollar, CURENCY, Pewter MS64 PCGS. Breen-1089, Newman 1-C, Hodder 1-A.3, R.3. This piece shows the diagnostic glory of rays on the reverse attenuated, especially at RESS M R, and incomplete border beading.
Much quality research has been done on Continental "dollars" over the years, and after several speculative dead-ends, there seems to be agreement today on most of the important features of these coins. The first, and probably most important feature, is the nature of the coins themselves. According to Breen (1988), the United Colonies (so named before the country took the name United States) anticipated a loan of silver bullion from France in 1776. He later states: "Whatever the tin pieces might have represented, the copper and brass strikings most likely were pattern pence." Frankly, we cannot imagine a different purpose for the tin (more correctly pewter) coins other than as pattern pieces. Since they were struck in 1776, and since they were clearly not intended for circulation but as patterns for the expected shipment of silver from France (that never arrived), it is our position that these pieces are technically Colonial patterns. That is a narrow field of interest, rather than Colonials or patterns, but it does seem to us to be the logical way to view these pieces. The second feature of these coins is their composition. They have commonly been referred to as struck in pewter, and PCGS has designated this piece as such. Breen said they were struck in tin in his 1988 Encyclopedia. However, Bowers and Merena included the following entry directly following their description of a Newman 1-C in their Norweb Collection II catalog: "With the cooperation of Mr. Eric P. Newman, two of his pewter specimens were sent to ANACS for x-ray spectrographic analysis. The results were as follows ... tin: 84%, lead: 13%, copper: 1.5%, other trace elements. This analysis clearly establishes the fact that these pieces were made of a metal appropriately called pewter, or more technically, Ley metal. The older theory that these were made of over 90% tin can be laid to rest now." This conclusion was confirmed by Michael Hodder in the October 2003 sale of the John J. Ford Collection. He reported x-ray testing of certain examples and found that a pewter piece was composed of 83.7% tin, 13.3% lead, 1.6% copper, and 1.4% silver or trace elements. Again, pointing to a composition that we know as pewter.
The obverse design is another feature that has been extensively researched. The sundial and FUGIO inscription was based on sketches by Benjamin Franklin. Apparently, Franklin had adapted his sketches from an eight-day clock constructed by David Rittenhouse in 1756 that bore the mottoes TEMPUS FUGIT and GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. The Continental dollars, in turn, served as a model for the Fugio cents, struck 11 years later. Franklin also was the designer of the linked rings device seen on the reverse.
At this grade level, this is one of the finest Continental dollars known. The surfaces are remarkably well preserved, especially considering the dull nature of lead, and the high content of that metal contained in these coins. Most of the original brightness can still be seen around the devices on each side with slight mellowing to medium gray seen elsewhere. The reverse shows a 270-degree rotation, a feature we have not seen on any other Continental dollar. The singular surface "flaw" that serves to identify and may help pedigree this piece in the future, is a teardrop-shaped planchet void beneath the second T in CONTINENTAL. There is also a curious broken letter punch on the bottom of the second C in CURENCY.
These historic pattern pieces have a legacy that has endured since the time of the Confederation. This particular piece, with the misspelled word CURENCY, represents one of the finest known examples of this distinct type among Continental dollars. Population: 9 in 64, 2 finer (3/07). (NGC ID# 2AYN, PCGS# 791)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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