1802 Proof Dollar Novodel, PR65 Cameo
1802 $1 PR65 Cameo PCGS. CAC. B-8, BB-302, High R.7. The
1802 proof Draped Bust dollar is a coin that blends absolute
rarity, intense historic interest, and incredible aesthetic appeal
into one irresistible package. Unknown until 1876, the 1802 proof
has been a sought-after issue since the time of its first
appearance, but the coins have been the subject of much
controversy, as well. Today the issue is viewed as a classic
rarity, with a fascinating story that involves some of the most
famous numismatic figures of the 19th century. In this lot,
Heritage Auctions is privileged to offer the finest known example
of the 1802 proof dollar, from a surviving population of only four
Only Four Examples Known, B-8, BB-302
Condition Census Number One
The 1802 proof dollar first appeared on the numismatic scene in 1876, in the possession of John W. Haseltine, one of the foremost coin dealers of the time. The coin was showcased as part of a complete set of 1801, 1802, and 1803 proofs and a Class III 1804 dollar. Haseltine exhibited the set to collectors at the sale of the Jewett Collection, held by coin dealer Edward Cogan. This could be construed as one of the first bourse-floor exhibits, a practice familiar to all collectors at modern coin conventions, but most unusual in the 19th century. Coin dealer Edouard Frossard left the following account of the event in the Coin Collector's Journal of March 1876:
"At the time of the Jewett sale, and while awaiting the hour of business, we had the pleasure, in common with several collectors present, of inspecting four American dollars, dates 1801, 1802, 1803 and 1804. The first three named are not particularly rare dates, and are generally found in collections, but what gave them very great value in the eyes of all present, was their perfectly uncirculated, in fact, proof condition. It is pretty well known that in the early days of the Republic but few coins were placed in collections in this country, hence a very limited number of proofs were struck."
Haseltine informed Frossard that he had found the set in a private collection from England, but the well-preserved condition of the coins and some of their design features caused contemporary numismatists to view this story of the coins' origin with suspicion. Haseltine experienced considerable difficulty finding a buyer for his set.
Design Features of the 1802 Proof Silver Dollar
The borders of the 1802 proof dollar, and all the other issues in Haseltine's set, were of a much different style from that seen on standard Draped Bust dollars dated 1795-1803. The coins in the set had a raised border surrounding a circle of small beads, rather than the ring of elongated denticles of different sizes seen on coins of the 1790s and early 1800s. This beaded rim feature was not seen on U.S. coins until the advent of the close collar in the late 1820s.
Although the edge lettering on the coin offered here is no longer viewable because of the PCGS holder, the description of this coin in prior auction appearances notes the lettering is slightly crushed and the outer portions of the edges are slightly beveled, as if the edges had been ground on a metal lathe. In addition, the surfaces of the coin's edge reportedly lack prooflike reflectivity. These details indicate that the edge lettering was impressed before the coin was struck, and the coin was struck with a close collar that squeezed the edge of the coin as it expanded, causing the letters to deform. The proof surfaces were dulled during this operation, as well. The edges were then beveled to disguise the effects of compression and prevent a wire rim effect. Once again, close-collar technology was not available until the late 1820s.
The letter and device punches used to produce the dies for the 1802 proof dollars were the same ones used to form the dies for the regular-issue 1802 Draped Bust dollars, except for the 2 in the date. This numeral has a curly vertical tip, of a style that was probably copied from the half dollars of the 1820s. From all this evidence, it is apparent that the dies for the 1802 were created sometime after the mid-1820s.
The central bust punch used for the 1802 proof is the same one used on all the 1801- to 1804-dated proof dollars, as well as the business-strike issues from that period. On the 1802 and 1803 proofs, the topmost curl of Liberty's hair ends in a small upward-sweeping flip. On the 1801 and 1804 dollars this final detail is absent, as the curl's end broke off the punch before the design was impressed into the die. Walter Breen once theorized that the broken tip had been hand-engraved into the 1802 die after it was impressed, but the hair detail exactly matches that of the 1803 obverse, and this would be virtually impossible to achieve with manual engraving. Logically, the 1802 obverse die must have been produced before the 1804 die.
The reverse die used on the 1801, 1802, and 1803 proof dollars is the same die employed on the Class I 1804 dollars. The striking period for the Class I 1804 dollars has been established as no later than 1834-1835. Since the 1802 obverse die was produced prior to the 1804, this gives us an upper limit for the date of their production. Q. David Bowers believes the dies were prepared in the early 1830s, in preparation for a planned resumption of silver dollar coinage that never took place.
When Were the Coins Struck?
Although the dies for the 1802 and most of the other Draped Bust proof dollars were apparently produced before the mid-1830s, it seems likely that only the Class I 1804 dollars were actually struck during that era. When the 1801-1803 proofs first started to appear, in the late 1870s, they displayed perfectly preserved mirrored surfaces that showed no signs of circulation or long-term storage. The coins were sharply detailed and exhibited a more uniform strike than the coins of earlier years. Contemporary numismatists suspected that the coins were not produced in the early 19th century because of their association with the 1804 dollars, which were restruck circa 1858 and perhaps reissued in 1876.
On the reverse of the 1802 proof dollar, a thin die crack appears through the letters NITED. This feature suggests the 1802 was struck at a later date than the 1804 dollars, which only show this crack in an earlier state.
Perhaps the most compelling argument against the coins' being produced at an early date is the weight of the planchets. All 1801-1803 proof dollars that have been weighed are in a range of 419.5-423 grains. The standard weight for silver dollars minted before 1836 was 416 grains, and the standard weight for silver dollars after that date was 412.5 grains. The weight standard for Trade dollars -- the only U.S. dollar coins being produced in 1876, when the 1801-1803 proof dollars first appeared -- was 420 grains. The 1801-1803 proofs were clearly struck on Trade dollar planchets, as overweight blanks would have been adjusted or melted in earlier years.
Samuel Hudson Chapman, a prominent coin dealer who started his career in numismatics working for Haseltine in 1876, had this to say about the 1801 proof in lot 13 of the John P. Lyman Collection (S.H. Chapman, 11/1913):
"Struck between 1870 and 1876. When I entered this business in May 1876, these dollars of 1801, 2, and 3, were being offered by mint officials now deceased, but very few have ever appeared and I believe they are very rare. I have only known of about three sets."
To summarize, the high quality of the coins, weight of the planchets, and testimony of knowledgeable contemporary numismatists all indicate that the 1801-1803 proof dollars were struck in the 1870s.
How Many Coins Were Struck?
Like all other aspects of this story, the number of proof Draped Bust silver dollars minted has been a topic of contention since they first appeared. The 1801-1803 dollars seem to have been struck in sets, like many rare patterns that were issued during the tenure of Mint Director Henry Linderman from 1873-1878. One set seemingly stayed intact until 1989, when it was split up after the L.R. French sale (Stack's, 1/1989). The coins were marketed through Haseltine, the favorite conduit of Mint employees for clandestine sales. When Haseltine offered the present coin in its first auction appearance in lot 982 of his June 1880 sale, he noted, "1802; brilliant proof; everything sharp and boldly struck, no scratches in field; in fact, a perfect dollar of this date; excessively rare in this condition, only two others known." This statement corresponds exactly with Chapman's account in the Lyman catalog, where he said he knew of only three sets.
On the other hand, Eric Newman and Ken Bressett estimated the number of known specimens of the 1801, 1802, and 1803 proof dollars at about a dozen each, and reported a rumor of a hoard of 20 or more pieces of each date in the possession of one of Linderman's descendants. It is clear from auction records over the years that no such number of coins has ever entered the marketplace, but the possibility of a hidden hoard always exists.
Today we know of four specimens of the 1802 proof dollar, three 1803's, and only two 1801s. At this time, there seems no reason to think that more than four sets of coins were produced, with one example of the 1803 and two 1801s lost over the years. Of course, there may still be some examples that we are unaware of, but there is nothing in the available evidence to indicate a larger mintage. As Saul Teichman has pointed out, of the nine known Draped Bust proofs, six specimens were impounded in the collection of Virgil Brand, and the other three were in Waldo Newcomer's collection. Since neither of those vast collections was dispersed at public auction, tracing the history of the coins is an extremely difficult task. We have listed all known specimens of the 1802 proof dollar in a roster below, expanded from earlier work by Carl Carlson, with the assistance of Saul Teichman and Wayne Burt.
What Are the 1801, 1802, and 1803 Proof Dollars?
The fundamental nature of these beautiful coins has always been a subject of contention. Although the coins were initially offered as regular products of the Philadelphia Mint, it is now generally agreed that they were struck long after their putative dates by Mint personnel, using Mint machinery and planchets, for sale to collectors through unofficial channels. The dies for the coins were specially prepared but were never used to strike any coins of proof or business-strike format during the dates indicated on the coins themselves, so they cannot be classified as restrikes. Q. David Bowers has suggested "novodel," a term borrowed from Russian numismatics, to describe these pieces.
It is an interesting fact that Haseltine listed none of the proof Draped Bust dollars as varieties in his 1881 Type Table, the first published attribution guide to the series. Haseltine had publicly offered examples of the coins on at least four occasions by 1880, so he was definitely aware of their existence and distinguishing characteristics. Perhaps this lends credence to the recently proposed theory that John Colvin Randall actually did most of the work on the Type Table. Today the 1802 proof Draped Bust dollar is a Guide Book variety and is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins.
Roster of 1802 Proof Dollars
1. PR65 Cameo PCGS. Captain John W. Haseltine; possibly the Haseltine Sale (Haseltine, 6/1880), lot 982; C.S. Wilcox Collection (S.H. & H. Chapman, 11/1901), lot 323; Virgil Brand (journal number 22666); F.C.C. Boyd "World's Greatest Collection" Sale (Numismatic Gallery, 1/1945), lot 119; Milfred H. Bolender (M.H. Bolender's 183rd Sale 2/1952), lot 175; New York Collection; "Groves" Collection (Stack's, 11/1974), lot 443; Four Landmark Collections Sale (Bowers and Merena, 3/1989), lot 1981; January-February Auction (Superior Galleries, 1/1993), lot 615; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 8/1999), lot 245. (Plate coin in Breen's Proof Encyclopedia and his Complete Encyclopedia.) The present coin.
2. PR65 Cameo. Captain John W. Haseltine; possibly from the Coin Sale (Haseltine, 1/1879), lot 283; unknown intermediaries; Waldo C. Newcomer; Colonel E.H.R. Green via B. Max Mehl (ca. 1932); Jack Roe Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1945), lot 427; Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 29; Amon Carter, Sr.; Amon Carter, Jr. (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 239; L.R. French, Jr.-French Family Collection (Stack's, 1/1989), lot 13; David Queller-Queller Family Collection (Heritage, 4/2008), lot 2088, realized $920,000. (Plate coin in Newman and Bressett's The Fantastic 1804 Dollar.)
3. PR64 PCGS. Captain John W. Haseltine; possibly from the set of coins Haseltine exhibited at Cogan's Jewett sale in January 1876; Thomas Cleneay Sale (S. Hudson Chapman and Henry Chapman, 12/1890), lot 949; Peter Mougey Sale (Thomas Elder, 9/1910), lot 962; John P. Lyman Sale (S. Hudson Chapman, 11/1913), lot 14; H.O. Granberg Sale (B. Max Mehl, 7/1919), lot 30; Virgil Brand (journal number 92339); Armin Brand; B. Max Mehl private treaty sale to Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb (1/1937); Norweb Collection (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3770; Don Hosier (Superior, 2/1991), unsold; Jack Lee Collection III (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 2199.
4. PR65 Cameo PCGS. Captain John W. Haseltine; Dr. G.F.E. Wilharm Collection (B. Max Mehl, 2/1921), lot 592; Virgil M. Brand (journal number 106474); Armin Brand; B.G. Johnson on 2/27/1937; William Forrester Dunham Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 1055; 1942 ANA Convention, sold privately by Abe Kosoff to Michael Higgy; Michael F. Higgy Collection (Abe Kosoff, 9/1943), lot 817; Beverly Hills Stamp & Coin Co. (Max L. Justus FPL, 8/1957); Abe Kosoff; Ken Nichols; Newport Balboa Savings and Loan; Abe Kosoff; unknown intermediaries; Autumn Sale (Stack's, 9/1978), lot 304; Ellis H. Robison Collection (Stack's, 2/1982), lot 1884; Larry Whitlow; Larry Hanks-Auction '84 (Superior, 7/1984), lot 171, unsold; subsequently sold by Larry Hanks to a Pennsylvania collector; Harry Einstein Collection (Bowers & Merena, 6/1986), lot 1734; Worrell Collection (Superior, 9/1993), lot 1301; Seymour Finkelstein Collection (Stack's 10/1995), lot 696; Philip Flanagan Collection (Bowers & Merena, 11/2001), lot 4297.
The Present Coin
M.H. Bolender, who was one of the most astute students of the Draped Bust series and wrote the definitive attribution guide for early silver dollars, included this remarkable specimen in his collection. The coin was earlier a highlight of Virgil Brand's collection, possibly the largest and most valuable numismatic holding ever assembled by a single individual. It held a prominent place in F.C.C. Boyd's gathering, whose title of the "World's Greatest Collection" speaks volumes about the quality of its contents. This coin is a spectacular Gem with frosty devices that contrast dramatically with the deeply mirrored fields. There is no sign of the rust pit on the reverse that Walter Breen reported on all 1802 proofs. The design elements are sharply detailed throughout, except for the slightest touch of softness on star 13. Fine definition is evident on the strands of Liberty's hair and drapery, while the eagle's feathers show exquisite detail. The virtually pristine fields are blanketed in delicate shades of silver-gray patina with golden-brown highlights at the peripheries. All known examples of the 1802 proof dollar show similar high quality and eye appeal, but this coin holds the top spot in Q. David Bowers' Condition Census. Heritage has now handled three of the four known specimens. We believe this coin is the finest known, by just the tiniest of margins. This fantastic rarity belongs in the finest collection or Registry Set of Draped Bust dollars. The following population data includes at least one resubmission, as the Norweb coin is still in a PR64 PCGS holder. Population: 4 in 65 Cameo, 0 finer (6/12).
From The Aberg Collection. (PCGS# 86905)
Weight: 29.96 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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