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First Morgan struck for President


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Is there any record of the first Morgan dollar struck in 1878?

The coin was located in the Rutherford B. Hayes Library and Museum in Freemont, Ohio. Silver dollar experts Leroy Van Allen and Pete Bishal found the certificate in 1980 in the library files among correspondence from Chief Coiner O.C. Bosbyshell, indicating that the coin had been struck March 11, 1878. The second went to Treasury Secretary John Sherman, and the third of 10 proofs struck went to James Pollock, director of the Mint.

We know of attempts to get the turkey on our coins by Ben Franklin, but wasn’t a duel fought over a proposal to put a goose on the first dollar?

A challenge, but no duel. Congressman Matthew Lyon opposed putting the eagle on the coin. In response Judge Thatcher proposed the goose, commenting that “the goslings would fit on the dime.” The resulting laughter angered Lyon, who issued the challenge, but Thatcher refused it, saying Lyon knew he was a coward, or he wouldn’t have offered to fight. The two made up and became good friends, but the eagle won.

From all the accounts it would seem that newspapers carried a lot more weight a century ago than they do now. An example is the ability of a newspaper story to get the Mint to change the location of Gobrecht’s name on the dollar. Why the difference?

At that time newspapers were the principal news source, leading to the axiom “If it ain’t in the newspaper, it didn’t happen.” Today a story like that on the Internet or TV probably would be ignored by the Mint.

Why was the stylized “Miss Liberty” a universal design on our early coins?

The choice was in deliberate contrast to the personality cult of European rulers whose visages adorned all the major coins and many minors as well. Exceptions included the Fugio cent of 1787, the Flying Eagle cent of 1856 and the two-, three- and five-cent coins of the mid-1800s that failed to bear the Miss Liberty design, as well as the Columbian half dollar, Lincoln cent, Isabella quarter and the Lafayette dollar. She is missing from most of the modern commemoratives, but shows up on both the silver and gold Eagles.

What was so unusual about the 1982 proof sets that they were worth double issue price right after they were issued?

Such is the power of rumor that for a time it was thought there would be no regular 1982-dated half dollars so the proof sets were in demand to fill that potential gap in the series. When halves were struck for circulation, the price dropped immediately for the proofs. The lack of mint sets that year probably also helped.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.

• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.