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    Description

    1786 Lima Style Brasher Doubloon
    The First Circulating Gold Coin Struck in the United States
    MS61, W-5820, The Finer of Two Examples Known
    Ex: Newcomer-Garrett

    1786 DBLN Brasher Lima Doubloon MS61 NGC. CAC. W-5820. Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima style doubloon is one of the most elusive and enigmatic issues of early American coinage. First discovered in the 1890s, only two examples of this mysterious issue are known to numismatists today. The Partrick coin is by far the finer of these and the only one with enough detail to decipher the all-important peripheral date and legends. Struck by famous New York silversmith Ephraim Brasher in 1786, the Lima style doubloons have always been overshadowed by their more famous New York style counterparts. However, the Lima doubloons are even rarer and may be of equal or greater historical importance. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer the finest-known example of this iconic rarity in just its second auction appearance.

    For information on Ephraim Brasher's eventful life, accomplishments, and other private coinage, click here.



    Composition of the Lima Style Doubloons Confirms Authenticity
    Although the Lima doubloons were intended to closely resemble their Spanish counterparts of the 1740s, specifically the Philip V eight escudos of 1742, Brasher included their true date of manufacture (1786) in the peripheral obverse legend. Unfortunately, the legend overlaps the edge of the coin on one example of the Lima doubloon and is almost completely off the flan on the other. Only the bottom portion of the date was actually impressed into the surface of the present coin, leaving later numismatists to guess at the identity of the four digits partially displayed. The first two numerals were easily recognized as 1 and 7, but the bottom of the third figure was variously interpreted as 0 or 8; the final symbol was thought to represent either a 0 or a 3. The 1914 ANS committee of Wayte Raymond, Edgar Adams, and William Woodin conjectured either 1700 or 1780 for the date, and B. Max Mehl in his 1922 James Ten Eyck catalog thought 1703. It was only in 1991, when Michael Hodder carefully measured and analyzed the features of the coin offered here, that the correct date of 1786 was established.

    In his detailed 1991 study entitled "Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima Style Doubloon," which was published in the 1992 ANS anthology Money of Pre-Federal America for the Coinage of the Americas Conference, Hodder reported the findings of several scientific tests conducted on the Lima style doubloons and their New York and Spanish counterparts. Elemental analysis determined that the compositions of the New York and Lima doubloons were virtually identical, but differed measurably from the earlier Spanish coins. Brasher's coins contained about the same percentage of gold as their Hispanic prototypes, but varied in the amounts of silver and copper in their alloy. The Lima and New York doubloons were produced to the same weight standard as well, which differed only slightly from the expected weight of a Spanish doubloon, as published in tables from the Bank of New York in 1786. Hence, Brasher's coins had about the same intrinsic value as the Spanish coins, but the difference in the subsidiary elements in their alloy suggests they were not produced from common stock. Brasher must have refined the gold he used to strike his doubloons to his own unique alloy specifications rather than just melting a number of contemporary Spanish coins to retrieve the gold for his coinage. If, as we believe, Brasher produced his doubloons for circulation, to augment the meager supply of gold specie that was available for commerce, it would have been counterproductive to melt down gold coins that were already circulating just to produce an equivalent number of coins with a new design. Writing about the New York doubloon in the American Collector magazine in 1938, Stephen Decatur speculated, "... probably the gold he used was obtained from old jewelry which he either bought or accepted in trade." The composition of Brasher's coins was also quite different from the standard of later United States gold coins, which indicates they were not produced clandestinely at a later date, using contemporary federal gold coins for planchet stock.

    Hodder's painstaking efforts revealed the date on the obverse:

    "The obverse date of 1786 on the Lima style doubloon has not been noticed before. The authors of the 1914 ANS committee report believed that the date was either 1700 or 1780, while Mehl ventured a reading of 1703. The identity of the first two numerals is agreed upon by all previous writers, given the vectors of the strokes of those numbers. The third numeral shows a closed loop composed of two parts, each equally wide, whose vectors describe a circle of evenly decreasing circumference. The fourth numeral's closed loop is wider on the right than the left, but is wider in diameter than the third's. The only possible candidate for the third is a numeral half of whose shape includes a closed loop with design elements of the required vector and thickness, eliminating all but 8 as possible choices. It may be remembered that this reading was one of the two suggested by the ANS in 1914. The fourth numeral, similarly, can only have been 6, given the varying thickness and apparent vector of the visible stroke. The thickness of the strokes with which it was drawn are too narrow on the left to accommodate the shape of a "0," and a reading of "2," "3" or "5" is ruled out by the loop's obvious closure on the left. All numerals composed of straight line elements, such as "1," "4," "7" and '9," are clearly impossible as candidates. Of the remaining two numerical choices, "8" is eliminated by the width of the visible loop and comparison with the vectors of the strokes in the third number of
    the date, leaving "6" as the only logical choice."






    Enhanced obverse of the Lima doubloon, with the incomplete letters and numerals illustrated.



    Hodder carefully measured the EB countermark used on the New York doubloons and used photographic overlays to compare it to the stamp used on the Lima style doubloons, proving the identical hallmark was used on both issues. Evidence of die rust on the punch indicates it was in an earlier state when used to impress the Lima style doubloons than in its use on the New York issue. He wrote:

    "It is clear, therefore, that the Lima style doubloons were counterstamped with the same E.B punch that was impressed into the New York City style doubloons ... The state of the punch, however, shows that the Lima style pieces were counterstamped before the New York City style coins, and thus pre-dated them, an observation borne out by the dates which appear on the two, 1786 on the former, 1787 on the latter."


    Walter Breen believed the Lima style doubloons were struck after the New York doubloons, theorizing that the unfamiliar design of the New York pieces made them difficult to pass in commerce, while the Lima style, with its strong resemblance to the contemporary Spanish issues, would be readily accepted. However, the physical evidence of the EB counterstamp argues against this assumption; it now seems certain the Lima doubloons were struck first. Experts agree all the tangible evidence of the coins suggests both the New York and Lima doubloons were genuine products of Ephraim Brasher, struck at his New York facility during the 1786-1787 time frame.

    Design of the 1786 Lima Style Doubloon
    The Lima style doubloons are stylistic, but not exact, copies of the 1742 Philip V gold coins of the eight escudos denomination (doubloons) issued by the Spanish mint at Lima, Peru.





    Images courtesy of NGC.





    Like many of the Hispanic coins from the mid-18th century that served as prototypes for Brasher's coinage, both examples of the Lima doubloon were struck on planchets that were too small for the dies. As a result, only part of the peripheral legends were actually impressed on the coins, much like the Spanish coins then typically seen in circulation. Hodder believed Brasher deliberately struck the coins in this fashion in order to more closely resemble the earlier Spanish issues and make them appear more authentic. However, he also noted that Brasher reversed the tradition of putting the royal name on the side with the cross, making the obverse of the Lima doubloon correspond to the reverse design of the earlier Spanish pieces.

    Three different sets of punches were used to impress the lettering and the central and peripheral dates on the obverse, while the other devices were hand engraved. Conversely, all the reverse design elements were hand cut. The reverse design is somewhat crude and the workmanship contrasts startlingly with the more sophisticated and finely wrought obverse, causing many numismatists to speculate that the dies were produced by different engravers. No really convincing theory has been advanced for the difference in the fabric of the dies, which adds to the aura of mystery that has always surrounded these coins.

    Obverse: Two pillars with fleur-de-lis above and waves below, divided by two horizontal lines, producing a tic-tac-toe arrangement of nine lettered or numbered sections with L 8 V above, P V A central, and 7 4 2 below. The central devices are enclosed in a beaded border with BRASHER in small letters between bottom beads and waves. The obverse peripheral legend, which is only partially legible on this coin, and missing on the other known example, reads: o PHILIP o V o D o G o H o REX ANO 1786. Between G and H are the small letters NY, signifying New York and identifying the location of the Lima doubloon's creation .


    Reverse: A Jerusalem cross divides the die into four quadrants. Rough hand-engraved castles appear in the northwest and southeast quadrants, lions in the opposing quadrants. The EB hallmark of Ephraim Brasher appears at the center of the cross."



    As the hallmark was stamped at the center, on a raised portion of the design, it takes on roughly the same shape as the design, and thus is not a well-defined oval. The EB stamp is inverted on this example, but the stamp on the Paris piece is oriented correctly. Only portions of the reverse legend are legible on the present coin and are not at all legible on the Paris example. Deciphering those partial legends required extensive study despite the fairly sharp vestiges of the symbols seen on the Partrick coin. Although the 1914 ANS committee interpreted the complete legend as I HISPANIARUM ET IND REX, empirical evidence contradicts that conclusion. In his 1991 study, Hodder writes:

    "The reverse of the Lima style type is inscribed I HISPAN [followed by vestiges of other letters and the upper elements of four numerals representing another date, all too far off flan for a sound reading, IND REX, the inscription ending with a clumsy floral ornament. The letters between N and the second I are so far off the flan as to be entirely illegible. The reverse inscription needlessly repeats the Spanish title found on the obverse in an abbreviated form, another of the curious features of the Lima style doubloon. The reading suggested by the authors of the 1914 ANS committee report is not supported by the evidence of the coin. On the prototype, the inscription would have read ET INDIARVM REX, continuing the obverse titulature, ending with a date composed of four numerals."

    Specifications:
    Weight: 407.5 grains = 26.38g.
    Composition: 90.2% gold, 5.3% silver, 3% copper, remainder trace elements (per Michael Hodder).
    Note: composition of a 1743-dated eight escudos piece was found to be 88% gold, 10.45% silver, and 1.5% copper, remainder trace elements. Expected weight from the 1786 Bank of New York table was 408 grains.


    History of the 1786 Lima Style Doubloon
    Although the New York doubloons were known to numismatists as early as the 1830s, the Lima style doubloon went unrecognized until an example appeared in lot 813 of the Paris Collection catalog (Scott Stamp & Coin Co., 12/1894). It is possible that the Lima doubloons were included in earlier collections but, if so, they must have been misattributed as some variety of early Spanish doubloon, escaping the notice of U.S. colonial collectors. A careful examination of the title page of the above-cited December 1894 Scott catalog shows a total of three consignments included in the Paris Collection sale. After the description of the of the Paris Collection as "The Property of an American Gentleman / Long a Resident of Paris," it says: "To Which Has Been Added / A Cabinet of American Coins." Within the catalog, the section in which the Lima Doubloon is listed begins on page 37 and is titled, "Another Property." Thus, the "Paris" Lima Doubloon is actually not from the Paris Collection despite the nomenclature. The worn condition of the coin suggests it may have seen considerable circulation before it was preserved by the anonymous collector. Lyman H. Low (who was cataloging for Scott's from 1888 to 1896) noted:

    "1742 Lima, Peru. Gold. 8 Escudos or Doubloon. L - .8.-V/P.-.V.-A/7-.4.-.2 (which we read, Lima, 8 [Escudos] Value (Valor). Plus ultra Anno 1742) through two pillars in sea. Below, BRASHER. R., Cross, with arms of Castile and Leon alternating in angles. Counterstamped E.B. in small oval on center of cross, same as on Ephraim Brasher's N.Y. Doubloon of 1787. Circle of dots around borders. Fine. Small scratches on rev. (Weight, 408 grains) Exceedingly rare. Size 27.

    "This type of coin is not new to us; one similar is to be found in Fon. Cat., No. 8892 [Lot 8892 in the Fonrobert Collection, sold by Adolf Weyl in Berlin on February 18, 1878, listed under 1734 with the description '8892. G. kantige Onza. (16 Pesos, Lima.) Im Perlenkreise Krukenkreuz mit den Wappen von Kastilien und Leon in den Winkeln. Rf. (ET In) DIARV (M REX) | Im Perlenkreise zwischen den gekrönten Säulen * | (auf Linien) L-.8.- | P.-:V:-.A. | (auf Wellen) 7. 3-4 V 29 mlm. 26,80 gr. E2.]; but this particular variety by Brasher and counterstamped with his initials, we have never met with or heard of. The position of the letter V is one generally occupied by the initial of the moneyer on similar coins of Lima, both silver and gold, but here we regard it as an abbreviation of the word Value. It is not presumed that the date indicates year of coinage. We conclude it was made at a subsequent time, and probably while Mr. Brasher was established in New York City as a goldsmith, during which period his memorable Doubloon was coined. So closely is this piece allied with our early coinage, which is classed as Colonial, that we feel it is but a just tribute to place it here with them. It is a well-known fact that Spanish-American Doubloons were openly imitated and minted in New York City so late as 1821, as a legitimate or undisturbed pursuit."


    The Paris sale example of the Lima doubloon shows none of the peripheral legends or date clearly, so Low had only the central 742 to suggest the date of manufacture. He deserves much credit for correctly identifying this piece as a later striking associated with Brasher's New York shop and contemporaneous with his more famous 1787 doubloon. Apparently, New York collector James Ten Eyck acquired this coin at the sale, but it was not well-publicized, and the issue soon faded from numismatic memory.






    The present coin first came to light in 1914, when it was submitted to the American Numismatic Society for examination by their Committee on United States Coins (William H. Woodin, Chairman, Edgar Adams and Wayte Raymond participating members). The committee reported:

    "A most noteworthy discovery during the present year has been made by Mr. Waldo Newcomer, of Baltimore, Md., and one which raises many questions regarding the early coinage of the United States. Mr. Newcomer recently obtained a number of early Spanish and other foreign gold coins from a lady, who informed him that they had been accumulated many years ago. Among these coins was what purported to be a golden ounce or eight-escudo piece of Spanish issue, dated 1742."


    The committee provided a detailed description of the coin, which, being better-preserved than the Paris example, enabled them to decipher some of the outer legends. They guessed the peripheral date was either 1700 or 1780 and concluded:

    "From a careful examination, it is certain that the whole coin design was entirely fabricated outside of any authorized Spanish mint, and the stamp of BRASHER N Y must have appeared in the original die, although the counterstamp EB was added after the piece had been struck, and seems to be exactly like the stamps of this assayer which have been examined on the various Brasher doubloons and other gold coins, usually of Spanish or Portuguese origin, which have appeared from time to time."


    Edgar Adams' ensuing three-page article, "A Noteworthy Coin Discovered," appearing in the April 1915 issue of The Numismatist, enthusiastically described Newcomer's "discovery" of the Lima doubloon among a group of foreign gold coins he had purchased, and continued with an analytical discussion of the coin, its place of manufacture, maker, etc. Hodder referred to that article, saying:

    "Adams went on to assert that: Brasher very likely struck the goldpiece first described [i.e., the Lima style doubloon] for circulation in the American Colonies, rather than in the West Indies, and it may be that his issue of the Brasher New York City Doubloon was suggested by the piece which has been acquired by Mr. Newcomer."


    Hence, in 1915 Edgar Adams considered the Lima doubloon to have been coined before the New York doubloon.

    In response to the assertion that the Newcomer example was a new discovery, cataloger Lyman Low wrote a letter to the editor of The Numismatist that was published in April 1916 explaining that the example from the Paris sale was the actual discovery coin and that he had cataloged it "twenty-one years ago." However, Low seems to have made no other comments about the contents of Adams' article. We have noted that Hodder's examination of die rust evidence on the EB counterstamp showed that the Lima style doubloon was struck prior to the New York style doubloon. Therefore, the Lima style Brasher doubloon is the first circulating gold coin made in the United States, and this, the Newcomer example, is the finer of only two known.





    Newcomer retained this coin until he sold his collection, on a consignment basis, through B. Max Mehl in the early 1930s. John Work Garrett acquired this piece from Mehl in a private transaction, circa 1931. Interestingly, Garrett also owned the example from Scott's Paris Collection catalog, which he purchased when it surfaced for the second time in the James Ten Eyck Collection (Mehl, 5/1922), lot 375. Mehl was not aware of the prior appearance of the coin and advertised his Ten Eyck sale as the earliest auction appearance of the Lima doubloon. Garrett obtained the example from the Paris sale for only $260 at the Ten Eyck sale and sold it back to Mehl for $500 in 1931, as partial payment for the present coin. This piece remained in Garrett's Collection until 1981, when it was acquired by an anonymous collector/investor at a memorable Bowers and Ruddy auction. Jon Hanson later purchased the coin and passed it on to Donald Partrick. The inferior-grade and less well detailed Paris example was owned by several prominent collectors over the years, including "Colonel" E.H.R. Green and Art Kagin. It last appeared in lot 30015 of the FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005), where it realized $690,000. For a detailed ownership record of the two Lima style doubloons, please see the roster below.

    Physical Description
    Struck on a planchet that was too small for the dies, as both examples are. The majority of the design elements are sharply impressed, making it possible to decipher the peripheral legends, although most of the symbols are cut off by the edge of the coin. The letter V, at the center of the obverse, was somewhat flattened when the counterstamp was impressed into the corresponding area on the reverse (this effect is apparent on both known examples). Both sides show evidence of doubling, and a circular guideline was inscribed around the obverse to provide a foundation for the peripheral inscription. Several mistakes were made by the engraver of the crude reverse, as evidenced by the partially effaced battlements in the second quarter and the die scratch below the castle in the third. The pleasing antique-gold surfaces are free of large or distracting flaws, and overall eye appeal is quite strong.

    The 1786 Lima style doubloon is one of the rarest and most important issues of the colonial era, with only two examples known. This coin is the finer of the two survivors by a wide margin, and much of what we know about the issue was derived from careful studies done on this particular piece by the ANS committee in 1914 and Michael Hodder in 1991. Struck by famous patriot and silversmith Ephraim Brasher, the Lima style doubloons were the predecessors of the New York Brasher doubloons, the most famous and valuable of all colonial coins. For historic importance, technical quality, and absolute rarity this coin is unsurpassed. Off the market since 1981, this Mint State example of the first circulating gold coin struck in the United States may not reappear for another generation. The discerning collector will bid accordingly.

    The Lima-style Brasher doubloon is the first circulating gold coin made in the United States, and this, the Newcomer example, is the finer of only two known.

    Roster of 1786 Lima Style Doubloons




    1. Uncirculated MS61 NGC CAC. Discovered by Waldo Newcomer, circa 1914; B. Max Mehl privately, circa 1931; John Work Garrett, purchased privately for $1,500; Johns Hopkins University; Garrett Collection, Part IV (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 2341, realized $80,000; anonymous collector/investor; Jon Hanson; Donald G. Partrick. 407.5 grains. The present coin.
    Note: This coin was reportedly part of a group of foreign gold coins assembled many years earlier and sold to Newcomer by an elderly lady in 1914. Alternatively, a May 5, 1958-dated letter from Sarah Elizabeth Freeman, of Johns Hopkins University, to Eric P. Newman suggests the lady, who lived in Cumberland, Maryland, donated the coins to the Red Cross in 1914, and Newcomer acquired them from that organization.




    2. Extremely Fine EF40 PCGS. Paris Collection (Scott Stamp & Coin Co., 12/1894), lot 813; James Ten Eyck Collection (B. Max Mehl, 5/1922), lot 375, realized $260 to John Work Garrett; sold back to Mehl circa 1931 for $500, when Garrett acquired the Newcomer example; "Colonel" E.H.R. Green, circa 1933; Green Estate; Bern's Jewelers; John J. Ford, Jr. in partnership with Stack's; Hollinbeck Coin Company (Kagin family) in the 1950s; Massachusetts Collection, after 1981; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2005), lot 30015, as XF40 NGC, realized $690,000. 407.3 grains.

    Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# E62Z, PCGS# 491)


    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Donald G. Partrick Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

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