1866 $1 No Motto PR63+ PCGS. CAC. Judd-540, Pollock-605, R...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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1866 No Motto Seated Dollar, PR63+
1866 $1 No Motto PR63+ PCGS. CAC. Judd-540, Pollock-605,
R.8. Ex: Simpson. The 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty dollar is a
fabulous rarity, with only two examples known. One of those coins
is included in the National Numismatic Collection at the
Smithsonian Institution, forever out of reach of eager collectors.
The 1866 No Motto dollars are so rare, and auction appearances are
so infrequent, that collectors sometimes lose track of their status
as premier rarities. In the Adams-Woodin pattern reference they
were mistakenly listed as R.6 on their rarity scale (meaning 36-50
specimens known) and the Guidebook listed them at
common-date prices as late as 1949. When discussing the great
rarities of American numismatics, more famous coins, like the 1804
dollar (15 examples known), the 1913 Liberty nickel (five specimens
known) and the 1894-S Barber dime (nine examples extant), tend to
dominate the conversation. Despite their undeniable rarity, the
aura of mystery that surrounds them, and the intense pride of
ownership that accompanies them, none of those coins can match the
1866 No Motto dollar for absolute rarity. We hope this high profile
offering, the first in 15 years, will place the 1866 No Motto
dollar in its rightful place at the center of any conversation
about the rarest U.S. coins from now on.
Rarest Seated Liberty Dollar, Judd-540
Only Example Available to Collectors
Creating a Rarity
It is believed that the 1866 No Motto dollar (two examples known), and its No Motto quarter (one example known) and half dollar (one example known) counterparts, were struck at the behest of pattern specialist Robert Coulton Davis, sometime in the late 1860s or early 1870s. Davis, a Philadelphia pharmacist, had good connections at the Mint. He endeared himself to Mint Director James Ross Snowden by helping him track down and recover the Plain Edge Restrike 1804 dollars that were clandestinely created and sold by unscrupulous Mint employees in 1858. Despite his praiseworthy actions on that occasion, Davis was not above collecting restrikes and fantasy pieces himself, and his collection contained many examples of mules and "transitional" patterns that were actually Mint-made delicacies sold for profit to collectors. Snowden's nephew, Archibald Loudon Snowden, became Chief Coiner of the Philadelphia Mint on October 1, 1866, and there is a good chance he was the man that actually struck the No Motto coins for Davis (he later served as Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint from 1879 to 1885). Snowden acquired many rarities for his own collection during his long career at the Mint, including many rare patterns, examples of the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars, the only two 1877 half union patterns in gold, and a duplicate specimen of the 1866 No Motto dollar. He apparently purchased these coins from the Mint account by exchanging an equivalent amount of coin or bullion for them, a practice that was legal until the 1930s. Snowden figures prominently in the history of the 1866 No Motto dollar later on, as well.
The 1866 No Motto coins were called transitional patterns when they first appeared on the numismatic scene. R.C. Davis listed them as numbers 236, 237, and 238 in his seminal work on patterns in the Coin Collector's Journal in 1885. Today, they are considered fantasy pieces, like the 1804 dollar and the 1913 Liberty nickel. They have been called restrikes, but their exact date of manufacture is unknown. Dick Osburn and Brian Cushing have identified the obverse die as the same die used to strike the OC-P2 variety of the 1866 proof With Motto Seated dollar. Similarly, the reverse die is their 1865 PB die, which was used to strike the extremely rare 1865 OC-P1 die variety. Since both dies were on hand in the Mint in 1866 and they seem to be in the same die state as they were when used to strike the regular proof coins, it is entirely possible that the No Motto coins were struck in the year of their date.
R.C. Davis retained his set of 1866 No Motto silver coins until his death in 1888. The set was split up after his death, with the dollar going to Virgil Brand, via John W. Haseltine and the Chapman brothers, while the quarter and half dollar were sold in the Robert Coulton Davis Collection by the New York Coin & Stamp firm in 1890. The Davis dollar was a highlight of several important collections before it was reunited with the quarter and half dollar in the famous duPont Collection in the 1960s. All three coins were stolen, along with the rest of duPont's collection in 1967, but they were later recovered. All three No Motto coins were donated to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in 2014.
The Present Coin
We believe the coin offered here is the example Chief Coiner A. Loudon Snowden struck and acquired for himself during his tenure at the Mint. Snowden retained his enormous collection of patterns and other rarities long after he retired, but he began selling them off in the early 20th century. The most famous transaction took place in 1909, when Snowden sold William Woodin the two gold 1877 half union patterns for a staggering sum of $20,000 in a transaction brokered by John W. Haseltine and Stephen Nagy. The general public became aware of the deal and a scandal ensued when Mint officials claimed those patterns should have been retained in the Mint Cabinet and never sold. After much negotiation, a three way deal was agreed upon in which Woodin returned the half union patterns to the Mint, Snowden kept the $20,000, and Woodin received a large portion of Snowden's trove of rare coins in compensation. More than half the patterns listed in the Adams-Woodin pattern reference were included in Woodin's hoard, along with several 1884 Trade dollars, all five 1885 Trade dollars, and the duplicate 1866 No Motto Seated dollar. Woodin succeeded in uniting Snowden's No Motto dollar with the Davis specimens of the No Motto quarter and half dollar to form a new three-piece set (He may have purchased the two subsidiary coins at the Davis sale in 1890, or he may have acquired them later on).
Curiously, Edgar Adams and William Woodin seem to have underestimated the rarity of the 1866 No Motto coins, as they listed all three coins as only R.6 (36-50 known) on their rarity scale. Perhaps their thinking was influenced by the fact that the issues had been listed in Davis' work in 1885 and known to collectors ever since. In any case, shortly after their pattern reference was published in 1913, Woodin sold the set of No Motto coins to H.O. Granberg, who exhibited them at the 1914 ANS Exhibition. The set stayed together for the next forty years, passing through the fabulous collections of F.C.C. Boyd, "Colonel" E.H.R. Green, and King Farouk of Egypt. After the Farouk sale in 1954, Abe Kosoff split the set up again, selling the dollar to Alaska collector Ben Koenig and offering the quarter and half dollar in his Edwin M. Hydeman Collection in 1961. Willis duPont succeeded in acquiring the quarter and half dollar and reuniting them with the Davis No Motto dollar to reform the original set. The Snowden d No Motto dollar (the coin offered here) appeared in a series of Stack's sales in the 1960s and was last offered in an American Numismatic Rarities auction in 2005, where it realized $1,207,500. It has been off the market ever since.
This Plus-graded Select specimen exhibits sharply detailed design elements throughout, with just the faintest trace of softness on Liberty's fingers. The well-preserved surfaces are blanketed in dappled shades of sea-green and bluish-gray toning on the obverse, with subtle hints of pale gold and violet. The reverse is mostly pewter-gray, with hints of steel-blue, lavender and sea-green patina. The mirrored fields shine through the toning, with more reflectivity on the obverse. A few minor hairlines are evident in the fields, but no individually significant distractions are present.
The 1866 No Motto dollar is a key issue, avidly collected by pattern specialists and Seated Liberty dollar collectors alike. As the only available example, this coin is irreplaceable to advanced Registry Set enthusiasts. Off the market for 15 years, the opportunity to acquire this landmark rarity will only come once in the collecting life of most numismatists reading this catalog. The discerning collector will bid accordingly. The 1866 No Motto Seated Liberty dollar is listed among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. This coin is pictured on PCGS CoinFacts.
Roster of 1866 No Motto Seated Dollars
The pedigrees of these pieces are convoluted and little documentation is available, making it difficult to establish a definitive roster. We have pieced together the scattered bits of sometimes contradictory evidence the best we can, but acknowledge some of what follows is just a best guess and the actual history of these coins may have been much different. Because the No Motto dollars are so closely related to the No Motto quarter and half dollar, and have appeared together with them in so many collections over the years, we have tried to keep track of those issues in this roster, as well.
1. PR65 Deep Cameo PCGS. Philadelphia Mint official (possibly Chief Coiner, and later Superintendent, A. Loudon Snowden) sometime during, or after 1866; Robert Coulton Davis, part of a set with the No Motto quarter and half dollar, before 1885; Davis Estate; anecdotal evidence suggests the dollar passed to dealer John W. Haseltine, while the half dollar and quarter were sold in lots 709 and 1469 of the R.C. Davis Collection (New York Coin & Stamp, 1/1890) respectively, breaking the set; S.H. & H. Chapman sold the dollar to Virgil Brand on April 22, 1899 for $100 (Brand Journal number 20657); Brand Estate; F.C.C. Boyd; Boyd Estate; Abe Kosoff; Lammot duPont; Willis duPont (who purchased the No Motto quarter and half dollar at Kosoff's Hydeman sale in 1961 to reunite the original set); stolen, along with the rest of duPont's collection, in October 1967; the quarter and half dollar were recovered circa December 1999 and the dollar was recovered in 2004; the coins were exhibited at the ANA Money Museum until November 2014, when they were donated to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
2. PR63+ PCGS. CAC. Philadelphia Mint official (possibly Chief Coiner, and later Superintendent, A. Loudon Snowden) sometime during, or after 1866; possibly given to William H. Woodin as partial compensation for the two 1877 half union patterns he purchased from John W. Haseltine and Stephen Nagy, circa 1910 (per the article in The Numismatist, February 1975 edition), Woodin may have been the buyer of the quarter and half dollar in the 1890 Davis sale (see number 1 above), or he may have acquired the coins at a later time, either way he combined those coins with this second dollar to form another set; listed in the Adams-Woodin pattern reference, but mistakenly estimated as R.6 on their scale (meaning 36-50 specimens known); H.O. Granberg, who exhibited the set at the 1914 ANS Exhibition; Granberg offered the quarter in lot 642 of the catalog of his collection, called the Collection of a Prominent American (United States Coin Company, 5/1915), and all three coins ended up with Wayte Raymond, who was a principle of the United States Coin Company; the set passed to F.C.C. Boyd; "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Green Estate; the partnership of B.G. Johnson and Eric P. Newman; F.C.C. Boyd purchased all three coins again, per invoices from B.G. Johnson (the half dollar on 8/5/1942 for $125, the dollar on 1/3/1943 for $400, and the quarter on 4/9/1943 for $325); King Farouk; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), with the dollar in lot 1797 and the quarter and half dollar in lot 1798; Sol Kaplan and Abe Kosoff; the dollar was sold to Ben Koenig, owner of the Fairbanks Collection, and Kosoff offered the quarter and half dollar in his sale of the Edwin M. Hydeman Collection (3/1961), in lots 1107 and 1108, where they were purchased by Willis duPont, reuniting them with the Davis dollar for the first time since 1890 (see number 1 above); Fairbanks Collection (Stack's, 12/1960), lot 611; Samuel Wolfson Collection (Stack's, 5/1963), lot 1425; Charles Jay Collection (Stack's, 10/1967), lot 182; Winner Delp Collection (Stack's, 11/1972), lot 91; A-Mark; New England Rare Coin Galleries; Texas Collection; Classics Sale (American Numismatic Rarities, 9/2003), lot 31; Kennywood Collection (American Numismatic Rarities, 1/2005), lot 689, realized $1,207,500; Simpson Collection. The present coin.
Note: The set of 1866 No Motto silver coins has often been attributed to the collection of Waldo Newcomer, but John Dannreuther's records indicate Newcomer never owned those coins.
Coin Index Numbers: (NGC ID# 252L, PCGS# 7009)
Weight: 26.73 grams
Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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