Stunning, Boldly Defined 1776 Continental Dollar Struck in Pewter, MS 65 PCGS1776 Continental Dollar $1 MS 65 PCGS. EG FECIT. Pewter. Breen-1095; Crosby Pl. VIII, 17; Newman 3-D. As tensions between Great Britain and her American colonies mounted through the mid-1770s, General Thomas Gage, the British Military Governor of Massachusetts, received orders from his superiors to destroy the rebel's military stores at Concord, New Hampshire. After three British infantry and grenadier columns departed Boston on April 15, 1775, the famous rider Paul Revere shadowed their movements and sent word that alerted rebel forces scattered about the countryside. When the first British unit under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith reached Lexington Green, they ran into the formed militia of Captain John Parker. Although the British troops easily dispersed Parker's men, the militia and Minutemen that they encountered at Concord proved to be their superior in both tactics and discipline. Fighting in dispersed, well concealed companies, the American troops routed all three British units and drove them back to Boston in utter defeat.
While historians rightly judge the Battles of Lexington and Concord to be the starting point of the American Revolution, the United Colonies realized that military prowess alone could not prove their independence to the established nations of the world. The nations of Europe, like most societies before them, also measured their prestige by the amount, value, and acceptability of their circulating currency. It is little wonder that, before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and in the midst of their life and death struggle against the mother country, the founding fathers attempted to issue their own circulating currency as rapidly as possible. Although the Continental Congress had already started to issue fractional notes by early 1776, the dubious financial status of the United Colonies and the disputed outcome of the war combined to prevent the new paper money's widespread acceptance. In an effort to satisfy the twin goals of backing its fractional currency and proving to the world their status as an independent nation, the Continental Congress enacted plans in mid-1776 to issue coinage.
Congressional agents commissioned Elisha Gallaudet, an engraver from Freehold, New Jersey, to prepare dies for the coinage of various denominations. With plans to obtain a loan of silver bullion from France well underway, the Continental Congress made the delivery of a circulating dollar coin its first priority. Meanwhile, Gallaudet's work proceeded apace with designs that Benjamin Franklin had provided. The obverse dies consisted of a sundial rebus flanked by the words CONTINENTAL CURRENCY. The reverse displayed the unity of the American colonies with thirteen links encircling the inscriptions AMERICAN CONGRESS and WE ARE ONE. Using slight variations of this basic design, pattern pieces were struck in pewter (or, according to some sources, tin), brass, and silver. Unfortunately for the Continental Congress' lofty plans, the silver bullion from France failed to materialize, the fractional currency depreciated, and the pattern pieces were destined to survive as testimony to the failure of America's first bid for economic independence and prestige.
Although they were part of a failed plan, the surviving Continental Dollars are prized by numismatists for both their rarity and historical significance. Unlike the majority of patterns prepared, the current piece carries the added phrase EG FECIT on the obverse just below the sundial rebus. An embellished substitute for the designer's initials, this Latin phrase is translated as 'E(lisha) G(allaudet) made it.' One of only three examples to receive an MS 65 designation from PCGS, this specimen displays the characteristic die crack that encircles the reverse and bisects the thirteen links. Even though the denticled borders are incomplete in isolated areas of both the obverse and the reverse, we note that the balance of this coin is well impressed and readily reveals each minute detail. What appear to be lumps of die rust are scattered about the surfaces along with a few trivial planchet flaws, although we stress that this piece is devoid of post-production impairments and is fully deserving of the vaunted gem designation. The reverse is rotated about twenty-five degrees clockwise in relation to the obverse. Although military victory would have to secure America's political independence on its own, the Continental Dollar, as a symbol of the colonies' hopes and plans for the future, is just as important as the sacrifice that each American patriot made on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War.
From the Gilchrist Collection of Dollars. (NGC ID# 2AYU, PCGS# 795)
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