1884 Trade Dollar, PR65
1884 T$1 PR65 PCGS. CAC. Ex: Legend. The 1884 Trade dollar
and its closely related 1885 counterpart are two of the most
mysterious issues in all of American numismatics. Although rumors
of their existence were current in the 19th century, no example of
either date was known to the numismatic community until 10
specimens of the 1884 and five pieces of the 1885 surfaced in the
estate of Philadelphia coin dealer William K. Idler, who died in
1901. The coins were reportedly found in proof sets of those dates,
among many other numismatic treasures, by Idler's son-in-law
Captain John W. Haseltine and his business partner Stephen K.
Third Finest of 10 Known Specimens
Ex: Legend-Jack Lee
Because the coins only surfaced many years after their dates of issue, and both Haseltine and Nagy had unsavory reputations for dealing in restrikes and Mint-made delicacies, the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars have traditionally been labeled as clandestine issues, like the Class III 1804 dollar and the 1913 Liberty nickel. While the cloud still remains over the 1885 to some extent, modern researchers have proven that the 1884 Trade dollar was legally struck under the supervision of Mint officials, with no taint of impropriety.
Although the Trade dollar had not been produced in business-strike format since 1878, the Mint faithfully continued to strike proofs every year through 1883 to satisfy collector demand. Since legislation officially terminating the Trade dollar denomination did not take effect until 1887, Mint personnel anticipated continued proof offerings in 1884 and prepared accordingly. The receipt for a pair of proof dies, obverse and reverse, for the 1884 Trade dollar was recorded in the "Die Record Book" on January 3, 1884. This journal was kept by A.W. Downing and A.W. Straub, who were foremen in the Die Maker's Room, and it was discovered in the estate of Chief Engraver Charles Barber, after his death in 1917. The dies were used to strike at least two copper patterns, Judd-1732, which were acquired by numismatic author and coin dealer A.M. Smith and retained in his collection until his death. After the copper pieces surfaced in two M.H. Bolender sales in 1935, someone had them plated in silver and they were passed off as real Trade dollars in several sales, confusing the pedigrees of the regular coins.
In accordance with the usual Mint policy, Superintendent Colonel A. Louden Snowden probably ordered the striking of proof coins to begin in the first week of January. An article in the April 1912 issue of The Numismatist reports:
"The attention of our readers is called to the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, of 1886. On page 126, Table 30, showing 'A Statement of Coinage from the Organization of the Mint to June 30, 1886,' will be found, under the head of 'Silver Coinage,' that there were 264 Trade Dollars issued during the year of 1884. These are marked 'Issued as Proof Pieces.' "
According to these records, some 264 proof Trade dollars were struck in 1884, and it seems likely that William Idler, who was unusually well-connected at the Mint, acquired 10 proof sets of the date, including the Trade dollar, soon after they were struck. Idler may have heard rumors from his friends at the Mint that the annual offerings of proof Trade dollars were about to be cancelled and took advantage of this inside information to secure the coins before the directive could take effect. Shortly afterward, the Treasury Department called a halt to the sale of proof Trade dollars, and it must be assumed that the remaining 254 pieces that had been coined were melted.
Haseltine and Nagy distributed the coins from Idler's estate through private transactions, rather than offering them publicly. One coin surfaced many years later, included in an 1884 proof set that was offered in Stack's sale at the 1976 ANA Convention. It seems likely that this proof set was one of the sets discovered in Idler's holdings and sold as a complete set that remained intact for many years. The other coins were marketed differently. Judson Brenner had a set of Trade dollars including the 1884 and 1885 by 1912. H.O. Granberg had an example of the 1884 and 1885 in the sale of his collection through B. Max Mehl in 1913. Granberg had another pair of both dates that he exhibited at the 1914 ANS Exhibition. Edgar Adams offered a pair of 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars in an ad in The Numismatist in March of 1915. These early dual appearances suggest that five examples of the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars must have been offered as two coin sets by Haseltine and Nagy. From information in the Brand Journals in the ANS Library, we know that the remaining four single examples were all purchased by Virgil Brand in 1907 and 1908 (see roster below).
Once their existence became known, the 1884 Trade dollars became one of the most sought-after issues in the American series. We believe that six examples were eventually acquired by super-collector Virgil Brand. Another three examples were listed in the inventory of the fabulous collection of Colonel E.H.R. Green. With so many of the known specimens tied up in just two collections, public offerings were quite scarce during the 1920s and 1930s. Once those holdings were liquidated, the 1884 Trade dollar became an extremely popular trophy coin on the public auction circuit. We have listed all appearances of the 1884 Trade dollar known to us in the roster below.
This coin traces its history through several well-known collections, including that of Jack Lee, who compiled one of the finest collections of silver dollars of all time. When Heritage sold this coin in lot 2281 of the Palm Beach Signature Sale in November 2005, it realized a record price for an 1884 Trade dollar of $603,750. Despite its popularity, the 1884 Trade dollar is offered infrequently because of its absolute rarity. Only one other example of the 1884 has been offered at auction since this coin's last appearance, and that was in 2006, eight years ago.
The present coin is a magnificent Gem, with extraordinary eye appeal to complement the high technical grade. The well-preserved surfaces are mostly brilliant with just a trace of dark gold toning near the sharply detailed design elements. There are some elements of contrast between the deeply mirrored fields and the moderately frosted devices, but not enough to warrant a Cameo designation. On the obverse we note a curling lint mark low and left of star three, touching the lower left point and curving up toward the rim above the outer point of that star, in the general shape of a question mark. Similar lint marks can be seen in different locations on many specimens of the 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars. P. Scott Rubin recalls a conversation between Q. David Bowers and Stephen Nagy in which Nagy indicated that examples of the 1801, 1802, and 1803 proof novodels were deliberately marked with some kind of signature marks like these. Since the 1884 Trade dollars were legitimate issues, the explanation for the lint marks is probably innocent, but the phenomenon is interesting. For further plate matching, the reverse has a tiny graze in the field left of the U in UNITED. The coin offered here is the third finest of the 10 known examples and it may be years before a comparable specimen becomes available. Advanced collectors should bid accordingly.
The following roster has been expanded from the listing in our Palm Beach Signature (Heritage, 11/2005), lot 2281, with the help of numismatic researchers Wayne Burt, Scott Rubin, and Saul Teichman.
Roster of 1884 Trade Dollars
1. PR67 PCGS. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly Virgil M. Brand; 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. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; 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.
3. PR65 PCGS. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly Virgil M. Brand; 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; the present coin.
4. PR64 Cameo PCGS. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; Virgil M. Brand; Armin Brand in 1938; B.G. Johnson; William Cutler Atwater (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. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly Virgil M. Brand; 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. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly William H. Woodin; 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; Col. 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. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly Virgil M. Brand or Colonel Green; 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.
8. PR63 NGC. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries; Col. 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. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly Virgil M. Brand; 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. Unnamed Mint Official (possibly Col. A. Loudon Snowden); William K. Idler; Capt. John W. Haseltine and Stephen K. Nagy; unknown intermediaries, possibly Virgil M. Brand; 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.
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).
D. Proof. 44th Sale (Ben Green, 11/1908), lot 74. This coin may have been consigned by Virgil Brand, since he already owned at least four examples of this issue by November of 1908 and was beginning to sell some of his duplicates through the Chicago Coin Company, which he had founded with T.E. Leon the previous year. Ben Green was a Chicago dealer, so it would have been convenient for Brand to consign to him. Brand may have had no intention of selling the coin, intending to buy it in and establish a price for the other specimens he owned. A priced copy of the sale in P. Scott Rubin's library indicates the lot brought $280, a significant profit over the $150 price Brand had paid for most of his coins. If Brand did not buy this coin in, it may have gone to William Forrester Dunham, another Chicago collector (see number 1 above).
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. Probably 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 (a different example from the coin in number 2 above); 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; possibly the same as number 8 above, between Haseltine-Nagy and Colonel Green.
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. A specimen exhibited at the February 1936 meeting of the Westchester County Coin Club by a Dr. Corbin.
J. 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.
K. 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.
L. Proof. Horace Grant (7/1946), lot 212.
M. Proof. Melvin E. Came, a New Hampshire coin dealer, offered an example at an ANA Convention in the 1960s, per Wayne Burt.
N. Proof. Abe Kosoff remembers two examples sold to Sidney Olsen in the 1960s.
From The Smoke Rise 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.
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