1884 Trade Dollar, PR66
1884 T$1 PR66 NGC. CAC. The 1884 Trade dollar is a famous
rarity in the U.S. federal series, with a known population of only
10 examples. In terms of absolute rarity, the 1884 compares
favorably to such established numismatic landmarks as the 1927-D
double eagle (12 or 13 survivors) and the 1804 dollar (15 pieces
known), both issues that command multi-million dollar prices
whenever they appear at auction. Curiously, the 1884 is something
of a sleeper among the great rarities of the U.S. series, because
of its undeserved reputation as a clandestine issue. Although the
coins were struck in 1884, and a few rumors were current about the
issue in the 19th century, no specimens were offered publicly until
1908. A number of the earliest transactions were handled by coin
dealer John W. Haseltine and his son-in-law, Stephen Nagy, both of
whom had unsavory reputations for dealing in clandestine issues.
Most of the classic reference books refer to the mysterious origins
of the coin and either directly state, or strongly imply, that the
1884 Trade dollar was improperly produced for sale to collectors.
However, recent research has established that the coins are regular
proof issues, properly produced, under Mint supervision, for
Only 10 Examples Known
The Coins Are Struck
Although no business-strike Trade dollars were struck at any U.S. Mint after 1878, the Philadelphia Mint continued to strike generous proof mintages every year through 1883 to satisfy collector demand for the coins. Apparently, Mint officials assumed this practice would be continued in 1884, as the Trade dollar denomination was not officially cancelled until 1887. The Die Record Book, kept by foremen A.W. Downing and A.W. Straub, records a receipt for both an obverse and reverse proof die for the 1884 Trade dollar prepared on January 3, 1884. Following the customary practice, Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Archibald Loudon Snowden probably ordered the striking of an initial batch of proof sets for the year in the first week of January. The Fourteenth Annual Report of the Director of the Mint for 1886, page 126, Table 30, notes that 264 Trade dollars were "Issued as Proof Pieces" in 1884. The coins were delivered to the Cashier on January 19. However, the Mint received orders to exclude Trade dollars from the annual proof offerings shortly afterward and it is presumed most of the coins were subsequently melted for recoinage. Both obverse and reverse dies were destroyed on January 2, 1885, according to the die destruction report of the Coiner.
However, at least 10 examples of the 1884 Trade dollar were saved from the small proof mintage, probably by Superintendent Snowden himself. Snowden had a history of purchasing interesting items, like proof coins and patterns that were produced during his long tenure at the Mint. Purchasing patterns became problematic after the abuses of the Linderman era, which ended in 1878, but current coins, like the Trade dollar, were still fair game in 1884. Under Mint policy that remained in effect until the late 1930s, Mint employees could legally purchase current coins from the Mint by exchanging the proper amount of bullion for them. Snowden undoubtedly took advantage of this policy to acquire the 10 1884 Trade dollars we know about today. The coins were produced in accordance with accepted Mint policy and acquired legally, with no improper influence or misuse of Mint resources.
Philadelphia Mint officials denied any Trade dollars were produced in 1884, but rumors of the coin's existence soon surfaced, possibly due to several copper patterns that were struck from the Trade dollar dies and acquired by Mint publicist A.M. Smith. In the March 1884 issue of Numisma, Édouard Frossard noted:
"Our critic of the Sandham sale recently, almost openly, insinuated that Trade Dollars have been quietly manufactured at the Mint during the present year; in other words, that notwithstanding the positive assertions of the Mint authorities to the contrary, a Trade Dollar with the date 1884 does exist."
Frossard sided with the Mint authorities on this occasion, and the rumors were largely forgotten in later years.
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 soon developed that Philadelphia coin dealer John W. Haseltine, and his son-in-law Stephen Nagy, had been marketing examples of the 1884 Trade dollar to super-collector Virgil Brand for more than a year. Brand's Journal records an example he bought from Nagy for $50 on 7/1/1907. Another specimen was purchased 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 (see discussion in the description of the 1885 Trade dollar in the following lot). 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. We have summarized the later history of all 10 1884 Trade dollars in our roster below.
The Present Coin
This coin was probably one of the Snowden/Woodin pieces, as it first appeared in the collection of Henry Olsen Granberg when he exhibited it at the 1914 ANS exhibition. Granberg sold a large part of his collection, including the coin offered here, through B. Max Mehl in 1919. The coin was described in lot 128:
"1884 Beautiful brilliant proof, perfect in every respect. Only ten specimens coined! Exceedingly rare. One of the rarest of all U.S. coins. Outside of my Sales I believe that only one other specimen has been offered at Auction in the past twelve years. The specimen in my Sale of the Smith Collection, in 1915, brought $525.00."
The coin sold to Virgil Brand, who already owned the four examples he purchased privately from Haseltine and Nagy in 1907-1908. Brand may have acquired a sixth coin when he purchased much of Judson Brenner's collection in August of 1919 for $9,000, but that remains unclear, as the coins in that transaction were not itemized in Brand's Journal.
This piece went to Armin Brand when the Brand holdings were divided between the heirs after Virgil's death. It was later sold to Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. in 1942. Eliasberg considered this coin one of the highlights of his collection, the only complete collection of U.S. coins ever assembled. Eliasberg's collection was sold posthumously by his heirs in a series of memorable auctions during the 1980s and '90s. His 1884 Trade dollar sold in lot 2353 of the Eliasberg Collection, Part II (Stack's/Bowers and Merena, 4/1997), with the headline "Famous 1884 Trade Dollar Rarity/Spectacular Gem Proof/Only 10 Minted/None Finer Known." It realized a then-record price of $396,000. It has not been publicly offered since.
The present coin is a spectacular Premium Gem, the second-finest certified example in the population data from both leading grading services. It was not certified at the time of the Eliasberg sale, but the cataloger of that offering considered it to be just as fine as the PR67 PCGS Floyd Starr coin in the roster below, calling it "A numismatic masterpiece." The design elements exhibit razor-sharp definition throughout. The interior of the top of the first A in AMERICA is partially filled, not polished, and the R in DOLLAR is connected to the period by a short spine. The virtually pristine surfaces are enhanced by highlights of golden-tan toning, with deeply mirrored fields and frosty devices. Overall eye appeal is tremendous. This coin has been off the market for 21 years and has only been publicly offered twice since it was struck in 1884. This offering represents an important opportunity to acquire one of the finest examples of this classic numismatic rarity. We expect intense competition when this lot is called.
Roster of 1884 Trade Dollars
The following roster has been expanded from the listing in our FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/2014), lot 5311, 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 Auctions, 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 (Bruce Morelan); John Albanese; Heritage Auctions sold privately into the Greensboro Collection in January 2006 for $925,000. The present coin.
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.
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 Greensboro Collection, Part VII. (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 Greensboro Collection, Part VII ]
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