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    Description

    Unique 1795 Double Plug Dollar, AU53
    The Only B-5, BB-27 With a Silver Plug
    First of Any Variety Seen With Two Silver Plugs

    1795 $1 Flowing Hair, Three Leaves, Two Mint Silver Plugs, B-5, BB-27, R.1, AU53 NGC. Michael Kolman of Federal Brand Enterprises in Cleveland, Ohio described lot 3061 in the 1964 ANA sale as a new discovery, a 1795 Bolender-1 silver dollar with an 8 mm. diameter plug. "The coin has a plug about 8 mm., or about 9/32" in diameter in size, clearly defined through the high cheek and hair of Miss Liberty's face, and this was done, in my opinion, at the mint." Kolman suggested that the planchet had a hole in it that was plugged and then struck. In fact, his opinion is now known as fact. What he didn't know at the time was that multiple examples exist, and that the hole in the planchet was purposely put there so that the silver plug would adjust the weight.

    The next published notice of these Mint-plugged silver dollars came almost 30 years later when Q. David Bowers and Kenneth E. Bressett discussed these coins in the 1993 Bowers reference, Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States. Bowers suggested that the plug was intended to adjust the weight of the coins:

    "It may have been that during the weighing process, certain planchets were found to be slightly too light. Rather than go through the process of melting the planchets, casting the metal into ingots, rolling strips from the ingots, and making new planchets, it may have been deemed more expedient to drill a small hole in the center of the lightweight planchet and insert a silver plug, extending slightly above and below the planchet surface; a plug with enough extra weight to compensate for the drilled hole and also the deficiency in the original planchet weight. The planchet-with-plug was then struck by dies, flattening the plug and producing coins as observed."



    These plugged dollars, first described in 1964, were known to a few numismatic students since the early 1980s. Some had suggested that the plugs might have been intended to adjust the fineness of the silver dollar planchets rather than the weight. However, most students today agree that these plugs were intended to adjust the weight.

    A decade after the U.S. Mint experimented with silver plugs, a visitor to the Lima (Peru) Mint described a similar process. Amasa Delano described the process in Narrative Voyages and Travels in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, published in Boston in 1817:

    "The next process is the weighing; the person who performs this has a little square box containing silver pins that are no longer than the thickness of a dollar, and of different weights and sizes; the dollars are thrown one by one into the scales, but it is seldom that any of them are too heavy. When they are, they generally pass them without notice, but if any are too light, a pin is thrown into the scale, which brings it to the standard weight. The dollar is then put under a screw that has a pointed instrument in the end of it, which is screwed down and pierces a hole in the dollar sufficiently large to receive the pin; then it is placed under another screw, with a smooth end, which completely fastens the pin in the coin; they are then passed into another room and scoured ... (after the pieces were coined ... the master stepped to the pile and took a handful which he brought to me to inspect, and shewed me where the pins were put in to make up the weight, which were very plain to see."



    While we don't know the exact process used at the Philadelphia Mint in 1795, we must assume it was similar. An underweight planchet was pierced and a silver pin was fastened to the planchet by means of smooth "dies" in a screw press. Once the planchet was prepared in this manner, it was reweighed and then introduced to the production line where it was struck with the silver dollar dies. It would appear that in this case the usual first plug in the center did not raise the weight sufficiently to meet the legal standard of 26.96 grams, and that a second plug was then inserted, bringing this coin up to its weight of 26.98 grams - virtually the perfect legal weight called for. Some silver plugs are visible only on the obverse, while others are visible on both sides. If the silver pin that is inserted into the piercing is loose and the combination is introduced into the press with smooth dies, the pin would be flush with the planchet surface and when affixed to that planchet, would only be visible on one side. However, a tight fitting silver pin would extend out of the piercing on both sides, and then would show on both sides of the planchet.

    Many 1795 silver dollars, along with a single 1794 dollar, and a small number of 1795 half dollars, show evidence of a Mint inserted silver plug. Since the design details flow over the plugged planchet, we are certain that this process took place at the Mint prior to striking.

    Today, for the first time ever, we have a 1795 Flowing Hair dollar that has two mint inserted silver plugs, one at the center of the obverse and the other at the lower reverse. Each of the two plugs have a diameter of about 4 mm. The obverse plug is located on Liberty's neck, tangent to the jaw line which appears through the plug. The plug's outline is ragged or uneven, and clearly on the same plane as the surrounding surface, and that is another feature that points to its authenticity as a mint inserted silver plug. Similarly, the reverse plug that is located between the ribbon ends, has a ragged, uneven outline that is also on the same plane as the surrounding surface. The right ribbon end overlaps the plug, and the prominent die flow lines that are typical of the Bolender-5, BB-27 dollar, are clearly visible outside and through the plug.

    Our consignor, who wishes to stay anonymous, identified this Double Plug dollar and submitted the piece to us for study and analysis. The coin was also examined at Hallenbeck Coin Gallery in Colorado Springs where metallurgical testing was conducted. The obverse and reverse fields average 88.13% silver, the obverse plug tested at 93.66% silver, and the reverse plug tested at 90.69% silver. NGC also conducted testing with similar results: an average of 88.75% silver in the fields, 91.64% silver at the obverse plug, and 90.77% silver at the reverse plug.

    This example has lovely pewter-gray, pale blue, and rich gold toning on its satin surfaces with a few trivial contact marks that are consistent with the grade. Both sides exhibit light clash marks, and the reverse has a die crack from the second T in STATES to the left terminal leaf and the top inside leaf pair on the right. (NGC ID# 24WZ, Variety PCGS# 39977, Base PCGS# 6852)

    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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    Auction Dates
    August, 2016
    10th-14th Wednesday-Sunday
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