1884 Trade Dollar Rarity, PR63
1884 T$1 PR63 PCGS. Ex: Norweb. The 1884 Trade dollar is a
coin that needs no introduction. Numismatists young and old, novice
or experienced, can quote the number of extant examples and
probably relate one or two facts concerning the production and
history of this issue. The true story of this fabled numismatic
rarity is, however, not widely known. The reason for this is clear:
popular numismatic references either state explicitly or strongly
imply that this issue was created clandestinely by parties within
the Mint, at night, and perhaps at a later date, for coin dealer
William K. Idler. However, much of this traditional "wisdom" is
erroneous. Archival research proves that the 1884 Trade dollar was
struck officially, under the supervision of Mint officials, and
recent findings suggest Idler was not the original
owner/distributor of the coins.
Only 10 Examples Known
The "Die Record Book" kept by A. W. Straub, foreman of the Die Makers' Room, clearly records receipt from the Engraving Department of one obverse and one reverse die for the proof 1884 Trade dollar on January 3 of that year. Straub supervised the transfer of these dies from the Die Makers' Room to the Coining Department when Superintendent Colonel A. Loudon Snowden ordered proof production to begin. This most likely happened within the first week of January. The first coins produced with these dies were copper trial pieces (Judd-1732, Pollock-1943), a clear indication that the Mint had plans for large scale production. Today, three or four copper die trial pieces are extant, two of which have been silver plated. According to the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, page 126, there were 264 proof Trade dollars struck in 1884. These coins were delivered to the cashier on January 19. It seems likely that Snowden acquired ten examples of the 1884 Trade dollar from this delivery by exchanging the equivalent amount of coin or bullion for them, a practice that was legal for Mint employees until the 1930s. Shortly thereafter, the Treasury Department sent orders to the Mint forbidding production of proof Trade dollars for sale to collectors and the remaining 254 coins were destroyed. Both the obverse and reverse dies were destroyed on January 2, 1885, as shown by the die destruction report of the coiner. Philadelphia Mint officials later denied any Trade dollars were struck in 1884 and their existence was largely unknown until the early 20th century. Accordingly, it came as quite a shock to the numismatic community when an example of the 1884 Trade dollar was offered in Ben G. Green's 44th Sale on November 27, 1908:
"TRADE DOLLAR 1884 Brilliant Proof. Of excessive rarity, and its existence appears to have been entirely unknown to collectors until quite recently. From the best obtainable information there were not over 10 specimens struck, and five of these are said to have been destroyed. If this is correct, there are only five left and hence of greater rarity than the 1804 dollar. The Mint Cabinet does not contain one of these pieces, and it has never been offered before at auction."
It was soon revealed that Philadelphia coin dealer John W. Haseltine, and his son-in-law Stephen Nagy, had been marketing specimens of the 1884 Trade dollar to super-collector Virgil Brand for more than a year before Green's auction. An entry in Brand's Journal records an example he purchased from Nagy for $50 on 7/1/1907. Another specimen was bought from Haseltine for $150 a year later, on 9/17/1908. Finally, Brand acquired two more coins from Haseltine at $150 each on 10/12/2008. Haseltine finally shed some light on the source of these coins in his address to the ANA Convention that year (see the October-November 1908 issue of The Numismatist):
"One of the oldtime dealers, and also a collector, was the late Mr. William Idler of this city at the time when Mr. Cogan was also a dealer in Philadelphia. Mr. Idler was my father-in-law and he was very reticent about his collection. He would seldom show his coins, even for sale. This was partly caused by the fear that the many pattern and experimental coins he possessed might be seized. Hence the many remarkable pieces that have been found in his collection. Some were not known prior to his death, to be in existence, including the 1884 Trade dollar and some unique United States gold pieces."
William Idler had strong ties to the Mint and often acted as a conduit for sale of patterns and restrikes to favored collectors from the 1860s through the 1880s. Apparently, he acquired six 1884 Trade dollars from Snowden soon after they were struck and placed them in proof sets for the year. The coins only surfaced after his death in 1901, when Haseltine inherited his numismatic estate through his wife, Idler's daughter.
Farran Zerbe provided a little more information in an article in The Numismatist in the November 1909 issue:
"Of the ten specimens recorded as struck, two of them have not been located; of the other eight specimens, Mr. A.M. Smith has selfishly guarded one for many years, another collector, unnamed, did likewise, and six were the property of one man. Not many months ago these six came into the possession of Captain John W. Haseltine, and then, for the first time, it was a published fact, with the coin in evidence, that 1884 Trade dollars existed."
Today, we know that A.M. Smith's coin was a copper pattern. It seems likely that the unnamed collector's coin was a reappearance of one of the coins sold earlier, as Zerbe mentions later in the article that it was the last one sold and brought a record price. The six coins owned by Idler were probably the four specimens that went to Virgil Brand, the coin in Ben Green's 1908 sale, and another example that only surfaced many years later, in a complete silver proof set of 1884, as the coins in Idler's collection were originally reported to be arranged.
Because of the publicity surrounding these early appearances, it was assumed that Idler, through Haseltine and Nagy, was the source for all 10 1884 Trade dollars that eventually surfaced, as well as the 1885 Trade dollars that appeared later, and the 1877 half union gold patterns that were sold to William Woodin in 1909. While Haseltine was definitely involved in the sale of the half unions, we know today that the ultimate source for those coins was actually Snowden, not Idler. We also suspect that the 1885 Trade dollars were Snowden's property, not Idler's, and were marketed by William Woodin after 1910. The final four 1884 Trade dollars appeared several years after the first six specimens were sold. Those coins were marketed differently, appearing in two-coin sets along with an example of the 1885 Trade dollar. Two of the sets were owned by H.O. Granberg, one appearing in the sale of part of his collection through B. Max Mehl in 1913, and another in his display at the 1914 ANS Exhibition. Judson Brenner was reported to own examples of both the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollar in a January 1912 article in The Numismatist. Edgar Adams offered a final two-coin set of these issues in an advertisement in The Numismatist in March 1915. Granberg, Brenner, and Adams were all numismatically associated with William Woodin. None of the later appearances can be linked to Haseltine or Nagy, the coins were marketed much differently, and they all went to collectors with close relationships with Woodin. Therefore, we suspect the final four 1884 Trade dollars were Snowden's property, not Idler's, and were sold by William Woodin after he acquired them in 1910, as partial compensation for the return of the two half union gold patterns he bought from Snowden (see USPatterns.com section on Judd-1548 for details of the transaction between Snowden and Woodin). We have summarized the later history of all 10 1884 Trade dollars in our roster below.
The present PR63 PCGS example displays a sharp strike, with full head details on Liberty. The surfaces are lightly to moderately toned in silver-gray shades that allow appreciation of the reflective qualities at most angles. Scattered hairlines account for the PR63 designation, but there are no individually bothersome contact marks. A small toning spot in the obverse field below Liberty's outstretched arm, as well as a lint mark (as struck) in the field after the date, are worthwhile pedigree markers. This is the plate coin in Bowers 1993 book Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia.
Roster of 1884 Trade Dollars
The following roster has been expanded from the listing in our FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2019), lot 4552, with the help of numismatic researchers Wayne Burt, John Dannreuther, Ron Guth, and Saul Teichman. All of the coins are believed to have been purchased by Colonel Archibald Loudon Snowden in 1884. Six coins were acquired from Snowden by William K. Idler shortly afterward and placed in 1884 proof sets, which he kept in his collection until his death in 1901. Idler's coins were marketed by Haseltine and Nagy in 1907-1908, with most of them going to Virgil Brand. The other four coins stayed with Snowden until 1910, when he gave them to William Woodin as part of his compensation for the return of the 1877 half union gold patterns. Wooden marketed the coins to his associates H.O. Granberg, Judson Brenner, and Edgar Adams. The further history of the coins is documented below.
1. PR67 PCGS. William Forrester Dunham; B. Max Mehl; William Forrester Dunham Sale (B. Max Mehl, 6/1941), lot 1150; Floyd T. Starr; Starr Estate; Starr Collection (Stack's, 10/1992), lot 844; Jay Parrino (The Mint); later, California Sale (Goldberg's, 10/2000), lot 1784; Jay Parrino; New York Signature (Heritage, 11/2003), lot 8312; Jay Parrino.
2. PR66 NGC. H.O. Granberg, exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition as part of a full set of Trade dollars; H.O. Granberg Sale (B. Max Mehl, 7/1919), lot 128, realized $260; Virgil Brand (Brand Journal number 92357); Armin Brand (sold 9/1/1942); unknown intermediaries, possibly Stack's in 1942; Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr.; Eliasberg Estate (Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), lot 2353; Spectrum Numismatics; Legend Collection; private collection; FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2019), lot 4552, realized $1,140,000.
3. PR65 PCGS. Clinton Hester; Adolphe Menjou Collection (Numismatic Gallery, 6/1950), lot 2040; Benjamin Stack (Imperial Coin Co.); W.G. Baldenhofer; Farish-Baldenhofer Sale (Stack's, 11/1955), lot 1039; Ben Koenig; Fairbanks Sale (Stack's,12/1960), lot 698; Samuel Wolfson Sale (Stack's, 5/1963), lot 1541; Dan Messer; Jack Klausen and Joel Rettew; Carlson-Shipkey Sale (Quality Sales Corporation, 11/1976), lot 426; Danny Arnold Collection; Arnold-Romisa Sale (Bowers and Merena, 9/1984), lot 2342; John N. Rowe, III; L.R. French, Jr. (Stack's, 1/1989), lot 201; Anthony Terranova; Larry Whitlow; Denver Coin Company; Jay Parrino (The Mint); Pre-Long Beach Sale (Superior, 10/2000), lot 3576; Legend Collection; Jack Lee Estate (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 2281, realized $603,750; private collection; John Albanese; private collection; FUN Signature (1/2014), lot 5311, realized $998,750.
4. PR64 Cameo PCGS. William Cutler Atwater Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1946), lot 377; Will W. Neil Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1947), lot 296; Robert C. Pelletreau Collection (Stack's, 3/1959), lot 1054; Jerry Cohen; later, Julian Leidman, Mike Brownlee, and Hugh Sconyers; purchased by James Halperin at the 1974 ANA Convention; New England Rare Coin Galleries fixed price lists in December 1974 and February 1975; 31st Annual NENA Conference (New England Rare Coin Auctions, 11/1975), lot 639; Mulford B. Simons, Jr.; Larry Hanks (Hanks and Associates, 4/1985), lot 351; later, Auction '89 (RARCOA, 8/1989), lot 327; Jay Parrino; Auction '90 (Superior, 8/1990), lot 1163; Jay Parrino; May Auction (Superior, 5/1991), lot 987; L.K. Rudolf Collection (Stack's, 5/2003), lot 2174; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 5/2004), lot 328; private collection; Old West and Franklinton Collections (American Numismatic Rarities, 8/2006), lot 855.
5. PR64 NGC. Private collection in the late 1940s and included in an 1884 proof set consigned to the following; 1976 ANA Sale (Stack's, 8/1976), lot 723; Joel D. Rettew; Midwestern medical doctor; Mid-Winter ANA Signature (Heritage, 3/1996), lot 6513; Mid-American Rare Coins (Jeff Garrett); Richmond Collection (David Lawrence, 11/2004), lot 1568.
6. PR64. Edgar Adams ad in the March 1915 issue of The Numismatist; Waldo C. Newcomer, exhibited at the 1916 ANA Convention; B. Max Mehl in 1931; Sale 348 (J.C. Morgenthau, 5/1935), lot 431; "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Burdette G. Johnson; Jack V. Roe Collection (B. Max Mehl, 6/1945), lot 627; possibly Percy A. Smith, who displayed a complete collection of U.S. Trade and silver dollars at the Third Annual Convention of the Oregon Numismatic Society and the Seattle Coin Club on May 5, 1946, as reported in the July 1946 issue of The Numismatist, probably consigned by Smith to the following; Golden Jubilee Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1950), lot 896; Amon G. Carter, Sr.; Amon G. Carter, Jr.; Carter Collection (Stack's, 1/1984), lot 440.
7. PR63 PCGS. King Farouk of Egypt; Palace Collections of Egypt (Sotheby's, 2/1954), lot 1679; Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb (Bowers and Merena, 3/1988), lot 1847; American Coin Portfolios (Dan Drykerman); private New York Collection (3/20/1992); Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc. (privately, 3/23/1992); Q. David Bowers (personal collection); Summit Rare Coins (Chris Napolitano); Morris Silverman Collection (Heritage, 4/2002), lot 4131; U.S. Coins (Kenny Duncan); private Nevada collection; Pinnacle Rarities; private collection; Fun Signature (Heritage, 1/2017), lot 5735, realized $423,000. The present coin.
8. PR63 NGC. "Colonel" E.H.R. Green; Burdette G. Johnson; James Kelly; purchased by Frank Sprinkle on 6/24/1944 for $375; Frank F. Sprinkle Collection (Stack's, 6/1988), lot 106; Larry Whitlow; Dana Linett; Early American Numismatics/Newport Beach Sale (San Diego Show, 10/1988), lot 461; Auction '90 (RARCOA, 8/1990), lot 845; Mark Chrans; ANA National Money Show (Stack's, 3/2002), lot 795; private collection; Kevin Lipton; Legend Numismatics; private collection; Rarities Sale (Bowers and Merena, 1/2003), lot 569
9. PR63. Chicago Estate; RARCOA (Ed Milas); World-Wide Coins (John Hamrick); Steve Ivy; Robert Marks Collection; Bowers and Ruddy, Rare Coin Review No. 15 (1972); Herstal Sale (Bowers and Ruddy, 2/1974), lot 734; Donald Apte and Mulford B. Simons; Mulford B. Simons; private Southern collection.
10. PR50 PCGS. Fred Olsen (B. Max Mehl, 11/1944), lot 997; George Sealy Ewalt (Stack's, 11/1965), lot 42; Calvert L. Emmons, M.D. (Stack's, 9/1969), lot 814; private collection; Western Numismatics (Jan Bronson); 1980 ANA (Steve Ivy, 8/1980), lot 2643; Auction '84 (RARCOA, 7/1984), lot 1809; Fred L. Fredericks (Superior, 2/1987), lot 1446A; Eugene Worrell Collection (Superior, 9/1993), lot 1324; Dr. Jon Kardatzke Collection (Ira and Larry Goldberg, 2/2000), lot 1470.
A. Proof. An example purchased from Stephen Nagy by Virgil Brand for $50 in 1907 (Brand Journal number 39133).
B. Proof. An example purchased by Virgil Brand from John W. Haseltine in September 1908 for $150 (Brand Journal number 44965).
C. Proof. Two more examples purchased by Brand from Haseltine in October 1908 for $150 per coin (Brand Journal numbers 45343 and 45344).
Note: One of the Brand coins passed to his brother Armin in 1938. This piece was sold to B. Max Mehl in 1940, via B.G. Johnson.
D. Proof. 44th Sale (Ben Green, 11/1908), lot 74.
E. Proof. A specimen owned by Judson Brenner as part of a set of Trade dollars (also including the 1885 Trade dollar) mentioned in the January 1912 volume of The Numismatist. Possibly sold to Virgil Brand as part of a large collection of coins and numismatic items (including the Confederate cent dies) for $9,000 in 1919.
F. Proof. H.O. Granberg Collection (B. Max Mehl, 7/1913), lot 391; B.W. Smith Sale (B. Max Mehl, 5/1915), lot 749, unknown intermediaries, possibly including Fred Joy; Mehl again, advertised in the November 1925 issue of The Numismatist.
G. Proof. A specimen exhibited by B. Max Mehl at the 1913 ANA Convention. Possibly the same as the coin in F above if Mehl bought the coin in the 1913 Granberg sale for inventory, then sold it to B.W. Smith.
H. Proof. A third specimen in the collection of "Colonel" Green; sold to B.G. Johnson on 5/15/1944; offered by the Celina Coin Company on page 546 of the June 1944 issue of The Numismatist as part of a complete set of Trade dollars.
I. Proof. "Colonel" Green also owned a fourth example of the 1884 Trade dollar, according to F.C.C. Boyd's appraisal of his collection.
J. Proof. A specimen exhibited at the February 1936 meeting of the Westchester County Coin Club by a Dr. Corbin.
K. Proof. A specimen purchased over the counter by Leonard Kusterer of Scott Stamp and Coin Company circa 1936 or 1937 as part of a complete 1884 proof set. Possibly an early appearance of the coin in number 5 above.
L. Proof. A specimen in an 1884 proof set offered in a James Kelly ad on page 830 of the October 1939 issue of The Numismatist. The collection was from an Iowa collector who formed his collection between 1870 and 1907.
M. Proof. Horace Grant (7/1946), lot 212.
N. Proof. Melvin E. Came, a New Hampshire coin dealer, offered an example at an ANA Convention in the 1960s, per Wayne Burt.
O. Proof. Abe Kosoff remembers two examples sold to Sidney Olsen in the 1960s.
From The Poulos Family Collection. (Registry values: N1) (NGC ID# 27YW, PCGS# 7064)
Weight: 27.22 grams
Metal: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
View all of [The Poulos Family Collection ]
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