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Brasher doubloon face value $15

The Professional Coin Grading Service has changed the label on Brasher doubloon slabs in keeping with new theory about what the face value was at the time of striking.
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The Professional Coin Grading Service has changed the label on Brasher doubloon slabs in keeping with new theory about what the face value was at the time of striking.

Brasher doubloons are considered to be the first gold coins struck in the United States. After examining three of them, researchers have advanced a new theory about why New York silversmith Ephraim Brasher moved the location of his “EB” hallmark on the coins.

The researchers now agree with a theory initially advanced 13 years ago that these coins had a contemporary value of $15 each, not $16 as many numismatists have previously thought.

The three Brasher doubloons now housed in Professional Coin Grading Service holders with the denomination of each listed as $15 are the unique 1787 punchmark-on-breast specimen; the Yale University 1787 punch-on-wing specimen; and the Lima-style dated 1742, which some think was probably struck in the mid 1780s.

The unique specimen with the “EB” hallmark on the eagle’s breast was displayed for the first time in its new PCGS holder at the American Numismatic Association Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Show in Las Vegas, Oct. 28-30. The coin is owned by Steven L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Dana Point, Calif., and Donald Kagin, president of Kagin’s of Tiburon, Calif.

So why did Brasher move his initials?

David McCarthy, numismatic researcher for The Brasher Bulletin, says, “A careful examination of the punch-on-breast doubloon reveals that it is of an earlier die state than the du Pont, Gilmore, Newcomer and Yale specimens, indicating it was struck before these pieces. However, this fails to explain why Brasher changed the location of his countermark on these later pieces.”

When viewing the New York-style doubloons side by side, the answer to the puzzle became clear: it was for aesthetic reasons.

“On most of the coins, an area of flatness is found on the side opposite the EB counterstamp,” said McCarthy. “On the punch-on-wing specimens, this shows up as a little weakness in the mountains to the left of the sun, while on the punch-on-breast doubloon the sun and central mountains – the focal point of the coin’s design – are flattened.”

“If this is true,” said McCarthy, “the punch-on-breast doubloon is not only unique among Brasher’s New York-style pieces, it is also the earlier known specimen of this important and storied type.”

The $15 designation was first suggested in a comprehensive article about Brasher doubloons written by numismatist William Swoger and published in the June 1, 1992, issue of Coin World. Additional information about weights and measures of the era was published in the 1993 book Money of the American Colonies and Confederation, by Phil Mossman.

McCarthy and noted numismatic researchers John Dannreuther and Ron Guth concur regarding the evidence.

“The coinage standards of weight and value established by the Bank of New York in 1784 indicate that doubloons weighing 17 pennyweights (approximately 26.5 grams) were valued at $15. Brasher’s doubloons weigh 17 pennyweights, and therefore, would have been $15 coins,” said McCarthy.

Ron Guth, new PCGS president, says the grading service accepts this as the official value of the Brasher doubloon, fully realizing that the real-world value of the coin could – and did – fluctuate on a daily basis.