1884 Trade Dollar, PR63
1884 T$1 PR63 PCGS. 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 such as Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of
United States and Colonial Proof Coins: 1722-1977, Walter
Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins,
and Q. David Bowers' Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the
United States: A Complete Encyclopedia, either state explicitly
or imply that this issue was created clandestinely by parties
within the Mint, at night, and perhaps at a later date, for the
well-connected Philadelphia dealer William K. Idler. Research done
in 1988 by the late Carl W. A. Carlson, on the other hand, proves
that the 1884 Trade dollar was struck officially and under the
supervision of Mint officials. The following commentary is based on
the evidence that Carlson brought to light in Stack's June 1988
catalog of the Frank Sprinkle Collection.
Classic Rarity, Only 10 Examples Extant
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. Shortly thereafter, the Treasury Department sent orders to the Mint forbidding production of proof Trade dollars for sale to collectors. 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. There are three scenarios that could explain how Idler acquired these coins, all of which hinge upon his special connections with the Mint, probably through a personal relationship with Superintendent Snowden:
1. Idler acquired the first 10 proof 1884 Trade dollars delivered on January 19 before the Treasury Department halted production. He would have done this legally because employees and their friends could acquire current coins from the Mint by exchanging them for the proper amount of bullion. This policy remained in effect through the late 1930s.
2. Idler convinced Superintendent Snowden to save 10 of the proof Trade dollars delivered on January 19, 1884 from destruction. Either Snowden or Idler provided the bullion for exchange so that the Mint's journals would balance.
3. Snowden saved the coins from destruction, provided the bullion, and kept the coins for an unknown period of time. At a later date, Idler acquired the coins from him.
In all of these scenarios, Idler would have obtained the coins legally because the required bullion for exchange would have been deposited at the Mint. The fact that the Mint's bullion journals balanced explains why there is no official correspondence concerning this issue--nobody would have been looking for bullion that was not missing. Regardless of which of these scenarios is correct, there is little doubt that the 1884 Trade dollar is a legitimate issue that was legally produced and properly acquired from the Mint. We are also fairly certain that Superintendent Snowden played a key role in Idler's acquisition of all 10 coins. The remaining 254 proof 1884 Trade dollars were undoubtedly melted, once the Treasury ban on selling them took effect. Both the obverse and reverse dies were destroyed on January 2, 1885, as shown by the die destruction report of the coiner.
While numismatists were familiar with the copper die trial strikings of the 1884 Trade dollar early on, the existence of the 10 silver proofs remained largely unknown until the early 20th century. Idler died in 1901, after which his numismatic estate passed to his son-in-law, Captain John W. Haseltine. In 1907, Haseltine's partner Stephen K. Nagy sold the first 1884 Trade dollar to Chicago beer magnate Virgil M. Brand. The owner of the Brand Brewing Co. would eventually acquire at least four (and possibly six) more of the 10 known examples (see roster below). The first auction appearance of the 1884 Trade dollar took place the following year, when an example was offered in Ben G. Green's 44th Sale in Chicago on November 27. The balance of the numismatic community finally learned of the existence of the 1884 Trade dollar when Haseltine, in an address at the 1908 Philadelphia ANA Convention, revealed that silver examples were included in Idler's estate. By the end of 1909, the existence of 10 proof 1884 Trade dollars was known widely enough that Farran Zerbe could make mention of this fact in the November issue of The Numismatist.
Today, the 1884 Trade dollar holds a place of honor in the pantheon of U.S. numismatic rarities. Its status is now assured thanks to Carlson's research and the resultant conclusions that the 1884 is, indeed, a legitimate product of the U.S. Mint.
The present PR63 PCGS example displays a virtually complete strike. 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 lintmark (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.
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, 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; FUN Signature (1/2014), lot 5311, realized $998,750.
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; Pinnacle Rarities; private collection; the present coin.
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 Sounder Collection, Part II.(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 Sounder Collection, Part II ]
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