1874 Dana Bickford Ten Dollar in Gold, PR65 Deep Cameo
1874 $10 Bickford Ten Dollar, Judd-1373, Pollock-1518, R.8, PR65
Deep Cameo PCGS. The Bickford pattern ten dollar gold piece,
known to pattern collectors as Judd-1373, is one of the most
celebrated issues in the U.S. pattern series. Only two examples are
known, placing the issue at the pinnacle of rarity. Both known
examples have been meticulously preserved, and their size,
attractive design, and majestic gold composition combine to make
them breathtakingly beautiful numismatic patterns. The rich and
mysterious history shared by these pieces adds to their
One of Only Two Pieces
On the obverse, a fresh-faced, youthful Liberty faces left, with her hair tied back and wearing a diadem, ornamented with six stars, reading LIBERTY. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA rings the rim; the date 1874 is below. Liberty has an olive wreath tied around her neck. On the reverse a rope design forms six separate cartouches around the rim. In the center is the Latin word UBIQUE "everywhere," with 16.72 GRAMS 900 FINE in three lines. In the cartouches are the coin's exchange values in various international currencies: DOLLARS 10; STERLING 2.1.1; MARKEN 41.99; KRONEN 37.31; GULDEN 20.73; FRANCS 51.81. Struck in gold, with a reeded edge. The diameter is the same as a twenty dollar, but the planchet is thinner.
Dana Bickford's proposal for an international coinage captured the public's attention in the mid-1870s. The following article explaining the situation was originally published in The Coin and Stamp Journal in Kansas City, Missouri (February 1876 issue). It has been reprinted in several sources since that time:
"The leading journals throughout this country and Europe are discussing the necessity for an 'international coin,' having been aroused to its importance by a resolution offered in the Senate by Senator Sherman. But Mr. Sherman's plan will meet with the same difficulty that our government has contended with for years, viz., to obtain a coin having a relation of value to the present coins of other nations, without having their denominational value and design changed. This difficulty has been overcome, and to Mr. Dana Bickford, of New York City, the original inventor of the automatic knitting machines, belongs the honor.
"Mr. Bickford, while traveling in Europe, experienced the difficulties and inconveniences that European travelers are subjected to, of having to provide money current in each country he visited, and at times ignorant of its value in our money. Having upon one occasion been particularly annoyed, he determined, if possible, to overcome the difficulty, and being a man of great inventive capacity, was not long in arriving at his present plan, and designed a coin that shows on its face its value in our money and that of the principal commercial nations of the world.
"The United States and foreign governments have endeavored for years, and spent thousands of dollars, to perfect a system of 'international coinage,' but have been unable to get a coin that would prove acceptable to the principal nations, as each one has a peculiar design for its coin, which it is unwilling to change entirely. With Mr. Bickford's coin this difficulty is removed, as each government can fully display its design and value on one side, and on the other show the value of the coin in the currencies of the different nations, also the fineness of the metal and number of grammes without altering their values, and but slightly changing designs.
"Shortly after Mr. Bickford returned from Europe he called on Dr. Henry R. Linderman, the director of the Mint, and submitted to him his design for an international coin. After carefully examining it the director was so impressed with its importance, and the great saving the adoption of such a coin would be to our government, that with his usual foresight and penetration he at once ordered sample coins struck off at the Philadelphia Mint, which proved entirely satisfactory and practical. It is not generally known that the annual expense to our government for recoinage and waste on coin entering this country from abroad is half a million dollars, and the same waste and expense is incurred by foreign governments."
Unfortunately, Bickford's idea was ahead of its time, and more than a century would pass before his dream was at least partially realized by the euro.
An Unknown Rarity
The Bickford pattern ten dollar gold pieces, Judd-1373, were not known to numismatists of the 19th century. The design was struck in copper, aluminum, and nickel compositions, as well as gold, with both plain and reeded edges. Examples of the design in copper appeared in various auction catalogs of the period, but even the greatest pattern collections of the era did not include an example of Judd-1373. Robert Coulton Davis published the first important work on U.S. pattern coins in the Coin Collector's Journal in 1885, where he described both plain and reeded edge varieties of the design in copper, but he was unaware of the strikings in other metals.
The issue remained closeted in the early 20th century. A five-page article was published in the Numismatist in July 1906 that described the Bickford patterns in copper, but made no mention of the gold striking. Numismatists remained unaware of the existence of these patterns until the publication of United States Pattern, Trial, and Experimental Pieces, by Edgar Adams and William Woodin in 1913. Listed as number 1366 in that reference, the authors revealed the following information about the gold Bickford pattern eagles for the first time:
"Gold. Reeded Edge. (Only two specimens known in this metal, one of which is in the collection of W.W.C. Wilson of Montreal, Canada, and the other is owned by William H. Woodin of New York City.)"
Pattern collectors were amazed to learn of the existence of the familiar Bickford patterns in a precious metal variant, as the copper pieces had been well known since their date of striking. The dramatic tale of their discovery is still being pieced together today. In his United States Gold Patterns (1975) David Akers offers two possible sources for the new patterns. The first scenario involves the activities of William Idler, an old-time coin dealer with particularly good connections at the Mint. Idler's collection was being marketed by his son-in-law, John W. Haseltine, at the time. Alternatively, Akers suggests the coins may have been part of the hoard of patterns William Woodin received in the famous exchange for the gold half union patterns.
Haseltine and Idler
William Idler was a Philadelphia coin dealer of the 1860s who enjoyed a special relationship with the staff and officials of the Mint. He used his contacts to secure examples of many pattern delicacies and restrikes that were not available to other numismatists. His prize possession was a Class Three 1804 dollar that he used to make electrotypes for favored clients. When he died in 1901, his holdings and numismatic contacts passed to his son-in-law and fellow coin dealer, Captain John W. Haseltine.
Haseltine developed his Mint connections to an even greater degree than Idler. He became the Mint's marketing pipeline for all the 1801, 1802, and 1803 proof restrike dollars, as well as most of the Class Three 1804 dollars made in the 1870s. He continued to market patterns and restrikes throughout his career, obtaining examples directly from the Mint, or selling specimens from Idler's collection. In the early 20th century, he was responsible for the first appearances of the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars.
In time it became popular to assume that any newly discovered numismatic phenomenon probably originated with the activities of Haseltine or Idler in conjunction with greedy Mint officials. While these suspicions were often well grounded, modern numismatists have learned that clandestine deals were not the exclusive property of these two gentlemen. Writing mainly about the contemporary scandal of the half union patterns in the Numismatist in July 1910, Edgar Adams hints that the nefarious parties were not Haseltine and Idler, but someone much closer to the Mint:
"It has been generally stated, usually as a supposition, that the unknown coins that have recently come to light were from the Idler collection. The senior Mr. Idler, who died some years ago, was a dealer who was supposed to have a very considerable stock and, also, favorable opportunities at the mint. The Idler stock passed to other hands and has been quietly marketed. When the great unknowns were heralded, the conclusion was jumped at that they were 'from the Idler collection,' some explanation was necessary, and as this served quite well, it was left to pass uncorrected. The Idler collection had some good things, but not the good things that most interest Uncle Sam. No, they did not come from the Idler collection, they never were that far away from home."
Clearly, Adams knew the source of the half union patterns, and many other hitherto unknown pieces, such as the Bickford gold eagles, was not the infamous Idler- Haseltine dynasty, but someone even more intimately associated with the Mint.
One of the greatest stories in American numismatics involves the sale and recovery of the 1877 fifty dollar half union patterns by the Mint in the early 20th century. The fabulous trade William Woodin supposedly transacted with Mint officials to secure their return is almost certainly the conduit by which the gold Bickford pattern eagles entered the numismatic marketplace. However, like most good stories in numismatics, the details of Woodin's trade have been deliberately obscured to protect the guilty. Only in recent times have the full details of the transaction emerged from the shadows.
The traditional story, as outlined in an article by Edgar Adams in the July 1909 Numismatist, tells of Woodin purchasing the two half unions from Haseltine for $10,000 each, a record price for any coin at the time. The publication of this story resulted in much public dissatisfaction, as it was generally felt the coins were national treasures that should never have been sold to a private individual. The government threatened legal action to recover the coins and, after much maneuvering, a settlement was agreed to in which Woodin returned the half unions to the Mint in exchange for "three crates" of pattern coins, with Haseltine acting as the middleman. William Woodin became the premier collector of patterns in the country at one stroke. His giant pattern windfall included specimens of many issues that were extremely rare, or even unknown before that time. As Akers posited, the two Judd-1373s were undoubtedly part of this treasure. However, many details of this classic numismatic tale have proven to be false.
Even though Adams named Haseltine as the seller of the half union patterns in his 1909 article, his own words in 1910 show that he knew the real source was someone much closer to the Mint. Noted pattern researcher Saul Teichman has recently uncovered the true source of the half union patterns, and the identity of the individual who reimbursed Woodin when the deal was reversed. Haseltine was merely the front man acting as agent for former Chief Coiner A. Louden Snowden. Noting a gap in the Mint's pattern collection corresponding to Snowden's tenure there, Teichman believes Snowden acquired many patterns during his time at the Mint, essentially paying bullion prices for the rare pieces. As Teichman says:
"If one looks at the Mint collection, there is a gap with regard to coins from 1874-1877. This is probably not an accident. I believe all of the gold patterns from the 1872 Amazonian set, the two Bickfords, the two 1875 Sailors Head sets, the two 1876 double eagles in addition to the two 1877 half unions come from Snowden as well as most of the 1877 half dollars and the silver 1876 dollar patterns."
Teichman also refers to a June 7, 1910 letter from Woodin's attorney to U.S. Attorney Henry W. Wise that establishes Snowden as the owner of the half unions at the time of the transaction, and explains how he came to possess them in the first place. The letter was sold in George Kolbe's sale of the Ford Library, and has been reprinted on the USPatterns.com website. We excerpt from the letter:
"Col. Snowden, who had originally purchased these coins from the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia by depositing the bullion value and the charge for pattern pieces to save them from being melted down, in the course of negotiations between himself and Dr. Andrew, Director of the Mints, came to an agreement with the latter over all matters in dispute between them, and proposed to Mr. Woodin to repay him the $20,000 he had paid for these pieces, in order that he might carry out his arrangement with Dr. Andrew. Mr. Woodin after numerous visits to Philadelphia and Washington and conference with Dr. Andrew, both there and in this city, decided to accept this offer, returned the 50's to Col. Snowden, and I thereupon notified Mr. Pratt, as did Mr. Woodin, that the incident was closed."
So, as Teichman's research confirms, Snowden was the source for the coins. Having obtained the half unions in a questionable deal during his years of service at the Mint, he was the individual who had to restore them to the Mint and repay Woodin for his loss. The only means for him to do this was to hand over to Woodin all the patterns he had acquired over the years, including the Bickford eagle patterns in gold. Interestingly, there was even a cover story in place to explain the absence of the half unions after Snowden acquired them. Robert Coulton Davis was aware the gold coins existed when he published his seminal work on patterns, but he was told they had been melted:
"One specimen of each of these patterns was struck in gold and placed in the coin cabinet at the Philadelphia Mint. But afterward, as no appropriation had been made for them, they were melted up, much to the regret of those interested in coins, for they were the only coins of this denomination in gold that have ever come from the United States Mint."
Of course, Snowden later claimed he purchased the patterns to prevent them from being melted. Once the mystery of their first appearance is solved, the further history of these remarkable patterns is well documented (see roster below). It is interesting to note Woodin did not display an example of Judd-1373 in the 1914 ANS Exhibition, even though their existence had first been published in his book the previous year. Perhaps he was gun-shy after his experience with the half unions, and did not want to further advertise his ownership of the rare gold patterns. Another striking circumstance is the lack of early auction appearances. Neither specimen was offered at public auction until 1979, a full 66 years after their discovery.
Roster of Bickford Pattern Eagles in Gold, Judd-1373
1. Ex: Philadelphia Mint in 1874; A. Louden Snowden; William H. Woodin; Waldo Newcomer; Newcomer consigned the coin to Wayte Raymond in 1932 but it did not sell; returned to Newcomer; F.C.C. Boyd; Dr. J.H. Judd; Abe Kosoff; Illustrated History of United States Coinage (Kosoff, 1962), lot 467; acquired in a trade by Dr. John Wilkison in 1962; sold to Paramount, 9/1973; A-Mark in 1976; repurchased by Paramount in 11/1978; Auction '85 (Paramount, 7/1985), lot 1306, realized $82,500; Randolph S. Rothschild; 68th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2003), lot 1118, realized $276,000; Judd and Akers plate coin. The present coin.
2. Ex: Philadelphia Mint in 1874; A. Louden Snowden; possibly William H. Woodin; W.W.C. Wilson; sold through F.C.C. Boyd to Virgil Brand in 1919 for $2,000 (Brand Journal number 90921); Brand Estate; sold by Abe Kosoff to Dr. John Wilkison for $8,000 in the 1940s; sold to Paramount, 9/1973; A-Mark in 1976; repurchased by Paramount in 11/1978; Auction '79 (Paramount, 7/1979), lot 184, did not sell; later sold to Julian Leidman; ANA Convention Sale(Bowers and Ruddy, 7/1981), lot 2433, realized $90,000; Ed Trompeter; Trompeter Collection (Superior, 2/1992), lot 137, realized $198,000; Baltimore Auction (Superior, 7/1993), lot 695, realized $154,000; Bob Cohen; sold to Harlan White in 1994; the Holecek Family Trust; 65th Anniversary Sale (Stack's, 10/2000), lot 1621; a Southern collection; Simpson Collection.
The surfaces of this piece are extraordinary. The fields are deeply mirrored, and as the insert states the devices are heavily frosted, giving the coin a profound cameo contrast. The color is bright yellow-gold throughout. Discerning which of the two examples this piece is turned out to be an extraordinarily difficult task. It came down to this: There is a tiny planchet flake just above the end of the top ribbon on the obverse, a minute planchet mark in the field just above the curve of that same ribbon, and on the reverse there is a squiggly lint mark below the 2 in the value beneath GULDEN. These are consistent with the black and white photos from the Stack's (10/2003) Sale.
Few coins or patterns can rival the absolute rarity and desirability of a Bickford ten dollar in gold. We are proud to be able to offer this example for sale at public auction, and we know the next owner will be just as proud to be the steward of this premier rarity. (NGC ID# 2AAE, PCGS# 61677)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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