1776 Continental Currency Dollar, MS63
1776 $1 Continental Dollar, CURRENCY, Silver, EG FECIT MS63 NGC.
Newman 3-D, W-8470, R.8. This coin is truly magnificent. Only
two examples of the Newman 3-D variety in silver are known, and
this is the finer by a wide margin. There are also two Newman 1-C
dollars in silver, bringing the total of silver Continental
Currency dollars extant to four: The present coin is the finest
silver Continental Currency dollar and the most desirable of the
Continental Currency coinage. Heritage Auctions is privileged
to offer at auction this spectacular MS63 example for the first
time since its appearance in lot 2132 of the George Earle
Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), more than 100 years ago.
Extremely Rare EG FECIT, Newman 3-D in Silver
Finer of Two Known, Ex: Earle, Newcomer, "Col." Green
Eric P. Newman published The 1776 Continental Currency Coinage in 1952, and the work remains the standard reference for the series today. The Continental Currency dollars were struck primarily in pewter, but a few examples are known in brass and silver. Newman identified five obverse and four reverse dies, which were combined to produce seven different die varieties for the series, ranging from Newman 1-A to 5-D. On obverse 1, the word currency is spelled CURENCY; on obverse 2, it is properly spelled CURRENCY; on obverse 3, the spelling is as on obverse 2, with the addition of EG FECIT (appearing only on this obverse); on obverse 4, the spelling is altered to CURRENCEY; and on obverse 5, the spelling is corrected to CURRENCY by punching a Y over the excess E, and adding a floriated cross to cover the extra Y. The reverses are as follows: reverse A shows the linked chain made up of dotted lines; on reverse B, the dots are partially cut into lines; the rings have been completely reworked as lines on reverse C; and reverse D has the same linked chain, but the names of the states appearing within have been reordered geographically, with N.HAMPS now to the left of MASSACHS.
Eric P. Newman, Don Taxay, Walter Breen, Philip Mossman, and Michael Hodder spent many years researching the Continental Currency coinage, mesmerized by its mysterious origins. No authorization for the production of the Continental Currency coinage has come to light, but it is probable that the coins were intended to take the place of the dollar-denominated paper currency issued by the Continental Congress in the latter part of 1776. The four resolutions from May 10, 1775 to May 9, 1776 provided for the issue of paper money in various denominations, including the one dollar bill. The six resolutions of July 22, 1776 through September 26, 1778 omitted the one dollar denomination. Thus, it is logical to conclude the pewter pieces were intended as a substitute for the paper dollars in those issues. The coins had minimal intrinsic value, and like the paper bills they replaced, were valued according to the public's confidence in Congress, who guaranteed their value at one dollar each.
The mintage figures are unknown, but the pewter coins appear with enough frequency to suggest they were produced in substantial numbers. Many of the coins were undoubtedly melted during this period, because Benjamin Franklin observed that pewter was sorely needed for the canteens used by soldiers in the Continental Army. The most reasonable explanation for the brass examples is that they represent dies trials. The silver coins are of full weight and value, suggesting that a precious-metal coinage was contemplated, but the Continental Congress was chronically short of funds and had no reliable supply of silver, so this idea must have been abandoned quickly.
Newman's obverse die number 3 features the EG FECIT (Latin for EG made it) lettering on the obverse. This die is one of the very few signature dies from the colonial period, as Michael Hodder reports the only other examples are the Chalmers coins signed TS for Thomas Sparrow and the unique New Jersey copper signed WM for Walter Mould; further research has shown that the obverse of Maris-62 also contains the letters WM, hidden under the left and right leaves below the horse's head. Eric P. Newman identified Elisha Gallaudet as the engraver of the dies in his article The Continental Dollar of 1776 Meets its Maker, reproduced in this catalog. Gallaudet also engraved the plates for printing the City of New York waterworks notes and the February 17, 1776 Continental Currency one-sixth dollar notes. A comparison of the design and craftsmanship of the latter notes and the Continental Currency dollar coin dies suggests they were all engraved by the same person, Elisha Gallaudet.
Although there was no organized numismatic community in the United States until about 1855, coin collecting was well-established in Europe in the late 18th century. European collectors began collecting and studying the Continental Currency dollars at an early date, and a printed illustration of the coin was published in Allgemeines historisches Taschenbuch, by Matthias Christian Sprengel in Berlin in 1784. Bishop Richard Watson analyzed a pewter example of the Continental Currency dollar in his 1786 scientific study titled Chemical Essays, Vol. 4. Some of the finest Continental Currency dollars we know about today, including the present coin, were preserved by European numismatists for many years before being repatriated to this country, after the hobby gained sufficient popularity to make them sought-after and valuable items.
The different varieties in pewter have been avidly collected since the earliest days of the hobby in this country; the brass and silver coins have always been extremely rare. Sylvester Sage Crosby was aware of pewter examples of the Newman 3-D variety, but the silver coins were discovered only after he wrote The Early Coins of America in 1875. Today, we know of two examples, including the present coin. Crosby recorded a silver example of the Newman 1-C (Parmelee Collection) and a Newman 1-B in brass (Brevoort Collection). Current census data shows the following examples: Newman 1-C, two in silver; Newman 1-A, two in brass; and Newman 1-B in brass, six to eight.
The present coin is the discovery example of the Newman 3-D in silver, which first came to the attention of U.S. collectors through a query in the January 1887 edition of the American Journal of Numismatics. On page 72, the following question was posted by prominent Philadelphia coin dealers S.H. & H. Chapman:
"In an English Sale Catalogue (Dec. 17) we note the following: 'Chain Dollar, silver. Obv. Sundial, Continental Currency, 1776, rev. Chain, American Congress, rare and very fine.' Have any of our collectors this coin in SILVER?"
Numismatic literature authority Charles Davis informs us that the "English Sale Catalogue" referred to must be the Sotheby's offering of the Williams, Smith, Clark and Solly Collections, held on December 17, 18, 20, and 21, 1886. The April 1887 issue of the AJN included the following letter from the Chapman brothers, who seem to have acquired the coin in the meantime.
Continental Currency Dollar in the March 1887 edition
of the American Journal of Numismatics
Click for larger image
The editors of the AJN disputed the Chapmans' assertion that the sundial side was the obverse of the coin, siding with Crosby in thinking the identity of the government issuing the coin should be specified on the obverse. However, in his 1859 American Numismatical Manual, Montroville W. Dickeson designated the sundial as an obverse device. The Chapmans reasoned that the Continental Currency notes displayed the sundial on the obverse, and the coin design should follow suit. Modern authorities, including Eric P. Newman, have adopted the position of Dr. Dickeson and the Chapmans.
The Chapman brothers consigned their "latest important acquisition" to the Frank McCoye sale of May 5, 1887, their next auction. The coin was described in lot 238 of the catalog, with a page and a half of text that vigorously defended their attribution of the sundial side as the obverse. The coin was plated in the catalog, along with a Continental Currency note for comparison, to further strengthen their claim. Unfortunately, the coin did not receive a high enough bid to satisfy the Chapman brothers, who had a significant investment in it by that time, and the lot was withdrawn. Philadelphia collector George Earle purchased the coin privately sometime after the sale.
The second decade of the 20th century saw a surprising amount of numismatic activity involving the Continental Currency dollar in silver. A second example of the Newman 3-D in silver surfaced in the collection of H.O. Granberg of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Granberg exhibited his coin at the Chicago ANA Convention in 1911, and it was the subject of an article by Edgar Adams in the New York Sun, reprinted in the April 1912 issue of The Numismatist. Henry Chapman offered the present coin in lot 2132 of the sale of George Earle Collection in June of 1912. The coin passed to Baltimore financier Waldo Newcomer, for a strong price of $2,200. Both examples of the Newman 3-D in silver were exhibited in the 1914 ANS Exhibition, the Granberg coin described on page 19 of the catalog and the present coin on page 21, with an image of this piece on Plate 13. After this period of rather intense activity, no mention was made regarding the silver Continental Currency dollars for quite some time. By the early 1930s, the two coins found their way into the fabulous collection of "Col." E.H. R. Green.
The former Granberg coin emerged from "Col." Green's estate sometime before 1947, when it was offered by Stack's in lot 10 of the Theodore Grand Collection. Prominent collector F.C.C. Boyd acquired the coin there and it later passed to John Jay Ford, Jr. When Ford's collection was sold through Stack's a decade ago, this uncertified Extremely Fine graded specimen realized $425,500. The present coin was acquired from the Green Estate by Burdette G. Johnson. Upon his death, ownership passed to Mary Cruzan, and Eric P. Newman acquired it in 1956. It is being offered at auction for the first time in more than a century.
The 1776 Continental Currency dollars are among the most important and historically interesting issues in all of American numismatics. They have a distinctively American character, as our first dollar coin, although not denominated as such. They were struck at a crucial time in our nation's history. The young country badly needed a medium of exchange to continue to finance the American Revolution, and to promote confidence in the paper currency as well. The silver pieces are among the rarest and most valuable coins in the American Colonial series.
This coin is the finest-known silver example, with no serious challenger. The design elements are well-centered and sharply rendered, with some doubling evident on the date and some letters in the obverse legend. EG FECIT is bold, although the EG is not as well-formed as the other letters. Both sides are blanketed in pleasing shades of silver-gray toning, with attractive highlights of lavender and champagne-gold. Original mint luster is evident beneath the toning. There are no signs of planchet adjustment marks and only minor contact marks are evident. A small depression in the obverse field, to the left of the sundial, is most likely an imperfection in the planchet. A few minor die breaks are evident on the reverse, the most prominent traveling through the N.HAMPS and MASSACHS rings. Eye appeal is outstanding. The combination of this coin's importance in American history, its stunning appearance, and the highest available technical grade makes this offering a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
Roster of 1776 Continental Currency Dollars in Silver
The following roster was compiled with the assistance of Bryce Brown, Charles Davis, Ron Guth, and Saul Teichman.
1. Newman 3-D. MS63 NGC. British auction sale, probably the Williams, Smith, Clark and Solly Collections (Sotheby's, 12/1886); two unknown intermediaries; S.H. & H. Chapman; consigned by the Chapman brothers to the Frank McCoye Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 5/1887), lot 238, withdrawn; George H. Earle Collection (Henry Chapman, 6/1912), lot 2132, realized $2,200; Waldo Newcomer (Inventory number 2751), exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition, described on page 21 and illustrated on Plate 13 of the catalog; sold to "Col." E.H.R. Green in 1933, via B. Max Mehl; Green Estate; Burdette G. Johnson in the early 1940s; Johnson Estate; Mary Cruzan; purchased by Eric P. Newman in May of 1956 for $2,500; Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. The present coin. Note: This coin is the discovery piece, mentioned in a query on page 72 of the January 1887 edition of the American Journal of Numismatics, giving the lot description from the British auction of 12/17/1886. According to British Auction Catalogues 1710-1984 by Manville and Robertson, the date corresponds to the Sotheby's sale of the Williams, Smith, Clark and Solly Collections, but we have not seen the catalog. The coin was more fully discussed in an article on page 89 of the April 1887 edition of the AJN.
2. Newman 3-D. Extremely Fine. H.O. Granberg, purchased sometime before 1911, exhibited at the 1911 ANA Convention in Chicago; exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition, described on page 19 of the catalog; unknown intermediaries; "Col." E.H.R. Green (there are two examples of this issue listed in the Green Collection appraisal compiled by F.C.C. Boyd, so Green must have owned both of the known examples); Theodore Grand Collection (Stack's, 12/1947), lot 10; F.C.C. Boyd; Boyd Estate; John Jay Ford, Jr.; Ford Collection, Part I (Stack's, 10/2003), lot 7, realized $425,500.
3. Newman 1-C. Very Fine. Corrado Romano; Romano Estate; Romano Collection (Stack's, 6/1987), lot 24; John Jay Ford, Jr.; Ford Collection, Part VII (Stack's, 1/2005), lot 159, realized $345,000.
4. Newman 1-C. Fine/Very Good. Dr. Charles Clay; Clay Collection (William Strobridge, 12/1871), lot 867; George Seavey; Seavey Descriptive Catalog (William Strobridge, 6/1873), lot 836; Lorin G. Parmelee; Parmelee Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 6/1890), lot 573; John G. Mills; Mills Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 4/1904), lot 110; James W. Ellsworth; Knoedler Galleries; Wayte Raymond and John Work Garrett in 1923; John Work Garrett; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part III (Bowers and Ruddy, 10/1980), lot 1491; John Jay Ford, Jr.; Ford Collection, Part I (Stack's, 10/2003), lot 2, realized $287,500. (NGC ID# 2AYV, PCGS# 796)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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