1776 EG FECIT Pewter Dollar, MS67
1776 $1 Continental Dollar, CURRENCY, Pewter, EG FECIT MS67 NGC.
Newman 3-D, Hodder 3-B, W-8460, Low R.4. In the first edition
of 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth listed
the 1776 Continental dollars in 12th place. In the third edition of
that reference, the ranking was raised to the 10th spot. Therefore,
the 1776 Continental dollars would be included in the shorter book,
the 10 Greatest U.S. Coins, if someone were to write such a
book. Garrett and Guth comment:
The Finest Known Continental Dollar
"In 1776, American Patriotism reached a fever pitch. The Revolutionary War was already well under way, and America's representatives felt confident enough to declare independence from Great Britain on July 4. To celebrate their newly found independence and to show the world that they were part of a sovereign nation capable of producing its own money, the Continental Congress initiated a plan to produce the first American coins."
Patterns or Regular Issues
Experimental pieces were struck in copper and brass, and a few others were struck in silver. Both varieties are extremely rare. Most Continental dollars, like this piece, were coined in pewter, and those are the pieces that probably made their way into circulation in the late 1770s. Walter Breen called all of these pieces "patterns" and further suggested that the copper and brass pieces were intended as pence coins.
However, patterns coins, then as now, were not intended for circulation, and only a few large mintage issues actually saw use in commerce. Examples include the 1856 Flying Eagle cent and the 1836 Gobrecht dollar. Today, those issues are routinely collected alongside regular issue coins of their denomination. Whatever was actually intended in 1776, these pieces must be considered regular issue coins of America, issued in the year of independence. Further from Garrett and Guth:
"A number of patterns were struck in a variety of metals: brass, tin, copper, and silver. Quantities of circulating coins were made in a pewter-like alloy, with little intrinsic value but still more 'solid' than paper. America was unable to secure a loan of silver from the French; thus, there was no way to make the coins in that metal-if, indeed, it had been desired to do so. While the political dream of American independence eventually became a reality, the economic dream of an American coin faded into the background. Today, the only remnants of this dream are specimens of the 1776 Continental dollar that have survived the past 229 years [sic], mostly in pewter, but a few in other metals."
Sylvester S. Crosby's Early Coins of America, published in 1875, remains highly valuable for its historical reference regarding the background of various colonial issues. However, he was unable to find out much about the 1776 Continental Currency coins. We do know from Crosby that they were contemporary issues of the time, for he reports on Watson's Chemical Essays, a book published in Dublin, Ireland, in 1791, that discussed the composition of the pewter pieces. According to Crosby, Watson wrote:
"The Congress in America had recourse to the same expedient; [the coinage of tin,] they coined several pieces of about an inch and half in diameter, and of 240 grains in weight; ... I estimated the weight of a cubic foot of this Continental currency, it was equal to 7440 ounces: this exceeds the weight of our best sort of pewter, and falls short of our worst; I conjecture that the metal of the continental currency consisted of 12 parts of tin and one of lead."
One Dollar Denomination
No documentation about the origin of the Continental Currency coins has been located. However, documentation regarding the issue of Continental Currency paper money exists, and combined with the known paper money denominations, a denomination of one dollar for these coins is thought correct. Congress authorized four different issues of paper money in 1776 via resolutions dated February 17, May 9, July 22, and November 2. The first two issues, dated prior to the Declaration of Independence, included one dollar denominated notes. The last two issues, dated after the Declaration, omitted one dollar notes. Although undocumented, it is highly probable that the members of that early Congress knew of a pending one dollar coin, and omitted the notes in favor of a metallic piece.
The finest Continental Dollar of any variety that PCGS has certified is MS65. NGC has graded a CURENCY piece in MS66, one EG FECIT variety in MS66, and this EG FECIT example in MS67.
In all grades, NGC has only certified 10 examples of the EG FECIT variety. Those coins include XF45 (1), AU53 (1), AU55 (1), MS63 (1), MS64 (3), MS65 (1), MS66 (1), and MS67 (1). The MS67 is offered in this sale, and one of the MS64 coins is also offered in this sale.
The necessary text to describe the physical characteristics of any coin is inversely proportional to its grade. This Superb Gem has a sharp strike that accentuates the reverse die crack joining the rings. That strike is nicely centered, with border detail visible around 60% of its circumference. Both sides have fully prooflike surfaces with only a few minuscule abrasions. It is virtually perfect for a coin that is more than 200 years old.
Ex: Virgil Brand; F.C.C. Boyd; John J. Ford (Stack's, 10/2003), lot 8. (NGC ID# 2AYU, PCGS# 795)
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