The Historic Frothingham 1794 Dollar, XF451794 $1 XF45 PCGS. B-1, BB-1, R.4. In his unpublished manuscript about the 1794 dollars, Jack Collins called Alexander Hamilton the "Grandfather of the 1794 Dollar." He could equally be named the Father of the U.S. Mint. At the request of Congress, Hamilton prepared an exhaustive report on "a proper plan for the establishment of a national Mint." His report was delivered to Congress on January 28, 1791, and by all accounts was a brilliant and clear report on the principal issues. Prior to that time, the colonial American money situation was certainly undesirable. Aside from Spanish colonial dollars, available coins were limited to whatever immigrants brought with them. Currency was limited to local issues, some based on shillings and others based on dollars. To make matters worse, prior to the Declaration of Independence every individual colony had there own valuation. Neil Carothers wrote in Fractional Money (pp. 19-20): "the shilling was a nominal unit, serving as a local measure of values and basis of monetary calculations. Each colony chose for itself the shilling and pence valuations of the sundry coins and commodities upon which it conferred legal tender. This practice is the outstanding feature in the history of colonial currency. It influenced the currency development of the United States long after the achievement of independence."
At the beginning of his report, Alexander Hamilton discussed the valuation problem: "The immense disorder which actually reigns in so delicate and important a concern, and the still greater disorder which is every moment possible, call loudly for a reform. The dollar originally contemplated in the money transactions of this country, by successive diminutions of its weight and fineness, has sustained a depreciation of five per cent., and yet the new dollar has a currency, in all payments in place of the old, with scarcely any attention to the difference between them. The operation of this in depreciating the value of property, depending upon past contracts; and, (as far as inattention to the alteration in the coin may be supposed to leave prices stationary) of all other property, is apparent. Nor can it require argument to prove, that a nation ought not to suffer the value of the property of its citizens to fluctuate with the fluctuations of a foreign mint, and to change with the changes in the regulations of a foreign sovereign. This, nevertheless, is the condition of one which, having no coins of its own, adopts with implicit confidence those of other countries."
Hamilton continued: "The unequal values allowed in different parts of the Union to coins of the same intrinsic worth; the defective species of them which embarrass the circulation of some of the States; and the dissimilarity in their several moneys of account; are inconveniencies, which, if not to be ascribed to the want of a national coinage, will at least be most effectually remedied by the establishment of one--a measure that will, at the same time, give additional security against impositions by counterfeit as well as by base currencies."
Hamilton's entire plan for the Mint was based on a detailed analysis and answers to six questions, and the Mint Act of April 2, 1792, essentially followed to the letter the answers that Hamilton recommended:
1. What ought to be the nature of the money unit of the United States?
2. What the proportion between gold and silver, if coins of both metals are to be established?
3. What the proportion and composition of alloy in each kind?
4. Whether the expense of coinage shall be defrayed by the Government, or out of the material itself?
5. What shall be the number, denominations, sizes, and devices of the coins?
6. Whether foreign coins shall be permitted to be current or not; if the former, at what rate, and for what period?
The inclusion of any 1794 dollar as the centerpiece of a collection establishes that collection as one of importance in the present numismatic world. The present 2009 FUN auction gives collectors an opportunity to choose from three different examples of this landmark issue. Known as the Frothingham Specimen, this 1794 dollar has a rather unusual early history, being stored in an attic for many years, as noted in our provenance, below. It is an amazing coin with a bold strike. The date and first few stars are all sharply defined. The surfaces are smooth and retain considerable original mint flash from the time it was made. The obverse has delightful warm gold toning with some faint blue and iridescent overtones. Weakness at the left obverse rim, and at ED STATES, results from peripheral obverse adjustment marks, some remaining and others carefully smoothed in past years. Martin Logies writes in The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars of 1794: "A careful examination of auction photos reveals that Liberty's hair details have been expertly re-tooled, and the planchet adjustment marks at the left obverse rim have been partially smoothed out."
Ex: Unidentified Troy, New York, collection formed between the 1840s and 1894; to the collectors heirs, who stored the collection for several decades in their attic; Charles French who purchased the collection intact in the late 1930s; Dr. Frothingham (French's 106th Sale, 11/1973), lot 737; purchased jointly by Julian Leidman, Mike Brownlee, and Ed Milas, Jr.; 1974 CSNS Sale (RARCOA, 5/1974), lot 257; The Coin Den; Bowers and Ruddy (6/1975), lot 963; purchased jointly by Julian Leidman, Robert Hughes, and Douglas Weaver; Robert J. Coulter; Jay Cammack; later, Superior (5/1987), lot 1932; John Koppell; Bowers and Merena (3/1989), lot 1932; American Rare Coin Fund; offered jointly with Bowers and Merena in A Cabinet of Rarities (Rare Coin Review, #78, 1990); Superior (10/1990), lot 3710; to a private collector; later to our consignor.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 24WY, PCGS# 6851)
Weight: 26.96 grams
Metal: 89.24% Silver, 10.76% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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