I have discovered a second example of the previously unique DuVall 4-E Lafayette commemorative dollar variety.
It was confirmed by Dominion Grading.com the firm said Sept. 15 and it will be consigned to a future David Lawrence Rare Coins DLRC Auctions sale.
In August of 2007, Heritage Auction Company sold a very rare coin owned by Frank DuVall – a longtime specialist in the field of commemorative coinage. The piece was a Lafayette dollar thought to be the only piece in existence of the die variety. It was given the designation of DuVall 4-E. The “4” meant it was the fourth obverse for Lafayettes, and the “E” was a fifth reverse. Both “4” and “E” were newly discovered varieties. With the “4” and the “E” combined they formed a totally new Lafayette not previously known.
Lafayette dollars have traditionally been divided into four distinct die varieties. These were described by George Clapp and Howland Wood after a detailed study of several thousand of the pieces. The two men collaborated on this study after discovering their common interest and research of several years.
Their conclusion described four distinct varieties of the Lafayette dollar featuring three distinct obverses and four different reverses. The reverse sides of the coin were designated into varieties A, B, C, and D. The obverse designations were identified simply as 1, 2 and 3. They were paired as follows:
I. Variety 1 – paired obverse “1” and reverse “A”
II. Variety 2 – paired obverse “1” and reverse “B”
III. Variety 3 – paired obverse “2” and reverse “C”
IV. Variety 4 – paired obverse “3” and reverse “D”
The most common coin is variety 1-B, accounting for an estimated 40-45 percent of the series. The second most common is 2-C, representing 30-35 percent of the coins. The third, in terms of numbers, is 3-D with an estimated 14-17 percent of the dollars. The fourth, 1-B, is quite rare accounting for only 3-6 percent of the pieces.
Acquiring a complete set of these four varieties is a very real possibility with a little persistence. This writer has put together seven sets of the varieties in a little over two years.
Several years ago Frank DuVall, a renowned collector, writer and auctioneer, discovered a different variety at a coin show. He was encouraged by his wife to purchase the coin and proceeded to do so. Interestingly, both the obverse and reverse were totally different from the established varieties previously known. Almost no one besides DuVall ever saw this very unique piece until last year when he sold his extensive collection. His piece designated “4-E” was sold at a Heritage auction and brought $18,400. It was slabbed by ANACS as having MS-60 characteristics that had been cleaned.
With DuVall’s unveiling of his 4-E variety came many questions. Why were there no other examples of this variety? What happened to create such a very unique piece? Would the Mint use a set of dies to only produce one coin? How could such a circumstance take place? What happened to the 4-E dies?
Recently a discovery of a second 4-E Lafayette might offer some answers to these puzzling questions. The newly found coin has excellent details, but appears to have considerable hairlines. However, this appears not to be the case. Allen Stockton, an expert with problem coins, examined the piece and reported:
“Upon very close examination I find that the surface does not have hairlines from being cleaned. What you are seeing are lines on the coin from harshly cleaned dies. The dies were brushed so hard that they were scored. Therefore when the coin was struck the impression from the cleaning was struck along with the coin. The lines are not just in the fields but under the letters as well … The coin should be graded very high in the Mint State Grade.”
The heavily scored dies producing the DuVall 4-E might account for the lack of this rare variety. Perhaps their rough condition led to their being destroyed without producing a quantity of pieces. Could this account for this unusual variety?
Following is a bit of history about the Lafayette dollar. There were 50,000 pieces struck on Dec. 14, 1899 on the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s death. Of these, 36,000 were sold leaving 14,000 pieces stored at the Mint. No one knows which variety or varieties were stored. Could the pieces held have been from the problem 4-E dies? Were they minted in similar numbers to the other varieties but held back for some reason of inferior quality? Of what did the 14,000 unsold pieces consist? Does this account for the use of a set of dies whose product never materialized?
This is known – the 14,000 leftover Lafayette dollars were melted in 1945. Master coin dealer Max Mehl submitted a bid to buy the pieces but apparently his bid was not received in time to save the coins. It is too bad that these answers can never be found.
There are now two DuVall 4-E Lafayette dollars. Perhaps more will surface in the future by educating people on the diagnostics that identify this great rarity.
The pictures show Frank DuVall’s 4-E number one and the newly found number two. On the second coin the distinct characteristics that identify 4-E are exactly shown for the obverse and reverse. Study these pictures and have fun looking for future findings of this great rarity!
This article was written and reported by Robert W. Grout, who discovered this rare coin.