The Reiver-Luebke 1794 Silver Dollar, VF251794 $1 VF25 NGC. B-1, BB-1, R.4. Lowest curl near star 2; leaf joins second T of STATES. This is the Reiver plate coin for the obverse and reverse of this variety. Described in the Superior catalog as, "An unusually attractive coin for the grade with lovely even gray color on both the obverse and reverse. The strike is above average with approximately half of the date present and the stars at the left fairly well detailed. On the reverse, much of the word STATES is indistinct. This weakness is further accentuated by the presence of some fairly heavy adjustment marks which ring much of the border. The obverse fields are very clean with no significant marks noted; two identifying reverse rim marks located at 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock, readily serve as identification. This is as attractive an example of a middle grade 1794 Dollar as we can imagine and it is especially worthy of praise for its originality and excellent appearance."
Of the original mintage of 1,758 pieces, there are approximately 130 coins known. Many show adjustment marks, usually found along the reverse rim. Most of the issue was poorly struck, notably on the left side of the obverse and reverse, as seen on the current specimen. Of the known examples the majority are very weak among the stars on the left of the obverse, and similarly are quite weak on the upper portions of the letters in UNITED STATES. Breen noted that in 1794 the Philadelphia Mint did not have a coining press large enough to coin silver dollars, and thus the smaller press used for half dollars and small coins was used. Of the 1794 silver dollars known, most are generally weak with just a few sharper impressions known. The design featured Liberty looking upward with her hair curls flowing freely in the breeze. Fifteen stars surround Liberty, one for each state in the Union at that time, with the date below and LIBERTY above. On the reverse a delicate eagle is perched on the ground, with its wings outstretched, surrounded by a laurel wreath with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA near the rim. On the edge of the coin the value was noted as HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT with decorations between the words.
This particular coin was used to make at least two counterfeit examples. Apparently a high quality transfer die was created from this master coin, then a new coin was created by melting silver and trace metals together and pouring the liquid metal into the mold. Jules Reiver had the unfortunate luck of buying the counterfeit 1794 dollar from a dealer, Max Kaplan, in November 1967. No indication of the fraud was seen, and Jules never suspected his coin was a counterfeit. Some years later Jack Collins was working on a detailed census of all known 1794 silver dollars, and contacted Jules for a photograph of his coin. Jules provided an excellent photograph and sent it to Collins. Collins returned a note to Jules and thanked him for his input and noted that Jules had the Robison coin from that famous 1982 sale by Stack's. Jules figured Jack was wrong, since he had owned his coin since 1967. Regrettably, the Collins manuscript on 1794 was not published. In 1988 Jules' friend and fellow Bust dollar collector Woody Blevins passed away. Jules worked with Superior Galleries and helped catalog the Blevins collection of Bust dollars. Incredibly, there was a close match to his own 1794 silver dollar in the Blevins collection. In fact, it was an exact match. Jules bought the Blevins coin at the auction and compared it with his coin: Every single adjustment mark, nick, and scratch matched up perfectly. Clearly, one was the copy of the other, and after close examination it was noted that the Kaplan 1794 dollar had a small area on the rim without any edge ornamentation or lettering that was almost certainly the "gate" or opening in the mold to allow the molten silver to be poured into the cast. Further examination noted that the adjustment marks and other nicks were slightly more shallow on the Kaplan coin, and thus it was determined that most likely the Kaplan coin was a copy of the Blevins/Robison coin. When the two pieces were shown to Eric Newman and Walter Breen at the 1990 ANA show, both were amazed at the quality of the suspected counterfeit. Extensive metallurgical tests were run on the counterfeit coin and it was shown to contain the proper amount of silver, but the trace elements were not carefully monitored, as the counterfeit contained too much gold, and not enough copper. The Reiver counterfeit example has been donated to the ANA Museum. The counterfeit might never have been detected were it not for the sheer coincidence that the master and copy showed up and were recognized by Jules, and through the research of Jack Collins on his 1794 silver dollar census. Counterfeits made from transfer dies show slightly less detail than the original master coin, but given the amount of circulation and overall quality of the counterfeit, they can be very difficult to detect. In point of fact, one could imagine both an original and counterfeit example appearing over a span of decades in various auctions, with no one realizing that two coins were thought to be a single example in the census. Of course, the piece offered here is unquestionably the original example.
Obtaining a 1794 silver dollar is certainly one of the highlights of any advanced collection, and this coin is a highly desirable example for the grade. Few coins can boast as much allure and romance as our nation's first silver dollar, the basic "unit" of monetary coinage. Given the paltry number struck and extremely high demand for any specimen of this issue, we anticipate this attractive coin to find many suitors.
Ex: James Kelly (2/1964), lot 1028; Stack's Robison Sale (2/1982), lot 1852; A & B Coins-Bob Cathcart; Superior's H.W. Blevins Sale (6/1988), lot 3574; Jules Reiver (Heritage 1/2006), lot 23464.
From The William Luebke Collection.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 24WY, PCGS# 6851)
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