Unique 1838 Restrike Gobrecht Dollar, Judd-84
1838 P$1 Name Omitted, Judd-84 Restrike, Pollock-93--Overstruck
on an 1859 Dollar--PR64 NGC. Silver. Reeded Edge. Die Alignment
III (center of Liberty's head opposite the N in ONE). 26.0 gm or
401.18 gn. The eagle flies slightly downward after a normal coin
turn. This coin was apparently first noticed by Louis Werner in the
Earl Bostic Collection (Stack's, 12/1956). Werner bought the coin
(lot 1188), and Walter Breen said Werner sold it to Art Kagin.
Breen thought it noteworthy enough to comment on it in the May 1957
Numismatist in an article entitled "Some Unpublished
Struck Over an 1859 Seated Dollar, PR64
The Coin That Proves When 1838 Dollars Were Restruck
"In a recent New York auction Louis Werner observed that the 1838 brilliant proof Gobrecht dollar (a typical restrike, with two minute rust spots on the obverse die which should have been mentioned in my description of restrikes on page 17 of the monograph) showed a faint but unmistakable date 1859 to the right of the real date 1838. When I first saw the coin I recognized that this could have come about only through the fact that it was actually overstruck on an 1859 silver dollar. Mr. Werner bought the piece for $580 and subsequently sold it into the Kagin Reference Collection for $2,000. Without attempting to comment on the commercial angle of the transaction, I will simply say that I have looked at over twenty 1838s all told-originals and restrikes alike-and have never seen any other example of the kind."
While unprecedented among Gobrecht dollars, there is a parallel to another famous coin, the 1851 dollar overstruck on an 1859-O or 1860-O dollar. This famous overstriking produced a coin with a faint remnant of the mintmark, thus an "1851-O dollar." That coin was offered but not sold in our 1998 ANA Auction (lot 8200). The 1859-O or 1860-O dollar used as a planchet was apparently too large to fit into the collar and the edge was filed down. Enough metal was lost in the process of filing that the coin's weight was reduced from the standard 412.5 grains to 400.3 grains. On this piece we see no evidence of such filing.
Another similar piece was struck two years previously, the unique Class II 1804 dollar was overstruck on an 1857 Bern Shooting taler. This coin is also notably underweight. While the 1851-O dollar weighs 400.3 grains, the Class II 1804 dollar weighs a mere 381 grains, with these talers normally struck on 392-grain planchets. This overstruck Gobrecht weighs 401.18 grains, which is 11.32 grains less than a standard 412.5-grain silver dollar planchet. This loss was most likely taken off the rim in order to make the struck coin work as a planchet. However, no evidence of filing is seen, as the 1859 dollar would have expanded in the collar after filing and taken on new reeds from the second striking. This suggests that the collar used on this 1838 Gobrecht dollar restrike had a different reed count than on the 1859 Seated dollar.
It is conjecture, but certainly possible that the 1851-O dollar, the Class II 1804 dollar, and this piece were all struck within a few months of each other. It is also most likely that all three were struck by the same person, Theodore Eckfeldt. Theodore's family had been employed in the Mint since 1792 (when Adam was first employed to do blacksmith work). In a case of poor judgment on the Mint's part, after firing young Theodore for theft, he was later rehired as a night watchman. Eckfeldt then proceeded to work with employees in the Coiner's Department to strike various rarities, including 1804 dollars, which he then sold to Dr. Montroville Dickeson.
Examination of this piece with a microscope set at 5.4 power shows absolutely no die cracks at the top of MERI and none at the base of LAR, but a crack is evident between the tops of TE. In the Gobrecht Dollar Book (2009) it was noted that the usual Die Alignment III cracks were present on this piece. It appears there was confusion between die cracks and the shifted tops of some of the letters on the 1859 dollar. This lack of cracks would seem to indicate the order of progression of the reverse die cracking. This must have been one of the first coins struck in 1859, since no crack is apparent yet at the top of MERI or LAR.
The devices on each side are also double-struck with a slight rotation between strikings, similar to the Judd-81 in this same collection, but here it is considerably more subtle, the doubling barely apparent on this piece. Much of the Seated dollar undertype is apparent. Following are notes taken regarding what is apparent with a microscope:
"Obverse: 859 clearly discernible, most of the 1 shows except top of serif, which was struck out by the 8. All seven stars on the left of the undertype are seen from the rock to the dominant star 7, all shifted north of the dominant punches. Star 8 picks up again just right of the head of Liberty. Star 9 is faintly evident. Stars 10, 11, 12, 13 seen plainly between dominant stars 9-13. No discernible trace of the figure of Liberty from undertype. Faint evidence of die rust on figure of Liberty.
Reverse: I between D and S, part of TED in fields between STAT. A right of dominant S2. Partial ES between F and A. Partial F between M and E. A partially outlined on bottom of ER. Partial M between RI. I right of A3. C between pellet and R in DOLLAR. Partial branch and leaves in field below eagle's head. Microscopic traces of die rust."
While the coin has acquired significant toning since its appearance in the Bostic auction in 1956, there are telltale marks on the reverse that confirm it is that piece. There are a couple of shallow marks between the eagle's upper wing and the second A in AMERICA, and there is a distinctive diagonal mark below the F in OF.
This coin is enormously important. It is the "smoking gun" that proves the earliest date that all Die Alignment III 1838 dollars could have been struck. Breen mentions this piece in his Encyclopedia (1988), but it is treated more as a curiosity than a coin that makes a definitive statement about the striking period. After the undertype was discovered by Louis Werner, the coin was subsequently sold to Art Kagin. The coin then went into an advanced collection of Gobrecht dollars assembled by the present consignor, and has not been offered for auction or private treaty sale since 1969.
Ex: Earl Bostic Collection (Stack's, 12/1956), lot 1188, where it brought $580, bought by Louis Werner; sold to Art Kagin and placed in the Kagin Reference Collection, for $2000; published in Numismatic Scrapbook (10/1961); listed in Walter Breen's Proof Encyclopedia (page 259); Breen's Complete Encyclopedia (1988), #5418. (NGC ID# BLXE, PCGS# 11352)
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