It’s a numismatist’s delight as several world-class rarities come up for bid in Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ official auction of the Baltimore Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo March 18-20 at the Baltimore Convention Center.
An 1804 silver dollar, what Stack’s Bowers calls “a million-dollar piece of Baltimore history,” will cross the block on March 20.
The rare piece, one of just 15 known to exist, is “the most famous prize in coin collecting,” according to the auction house, who expects the coin to bring between $1.2 and $1.5 million in the sale. When it was auctioned on behalf of Johns Hopkins University in 1980, it became the most valuable silver coin in the world. It was acquired by JHU by a bequest from the Garrett Family, who first bought the coin in 1883.
Though dated 1804, the Garrett specimen of this renowned rarity was struck in secret at the Philadelphia Mint sometime between the 1850s and early 1870s, as coin collectors realized how rare 1804-dated silver dollars were, and the U.S. Mint sought to cash in. The original 1804 dollars were struck in 1834, intended as diplomatic gifts to Asian monarchs, produced as part of special presentation sets of American coins. Due to a misunderstanding of mint records, which indicated that the last silver dollars were struck in 1804, American government officials produced new silver dollars with the 1804 date. The last silver dollars before 1834 were coined in 1804 but bore the date 1803.
As American coin collectors realized how rare 1804-dated silver dollars were, they became legendary trophies in the world of numismatics, setting new price records at each auction. T. Harrison Garrett, the Baltimore railroad magnate who was one of the leading coin collectors in America before his death in 1888, acquired the coin in a Philadelphia auction in 1883. The Garrett Collection was given to JHU in 1942, then sold in a series of auctions from 1976 to 1981 by the predecessor firms of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
“The 1804 dollar is known as the King of American Coins for good reason,” said Brian Kendrella, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “We’ve been fortunate to sell nearly every privately owned specimen since our firm’s founding in 1935. Every time one crosses the auction block, it makes for a headline-grabbing event.”
As popular as the 1804 is, there are two other dollars in the Baltimore auction that will garner much attention: 1884 and 1885 Trade dollars from the E. Horatio Morgan Collection.
Stack’s Bowers calls these two Trade dollars “legendary U.S. Mint rarities,” ranking #78 and #15 respectively among the 100 Greatest U.S. Coins (Garrett & Guth, 2019).
While the Mint had ended production of circulation-strike Trade dollars in 1878, proof examples were officially distributed in proof sets through 1883. Additional proof examples were struck at the beginning of 1884 but were never distributed, and all but 10 were eventually melted. It is believed that a similar situation occurred in 1885, leaving just five examples of that date for collectors today.
It has been 17 years since Stack’s Bowers last offered both dates in the same sale, its May 2003 presentation of the L.K. Rudolph Collection. Prior to that, six years had passed since the April 1997 sale of the Eliasberg specimens, and over a decade since the L.R. French (1989), Norweb (1988) and Amon Carter (1984) examples were offered in its salerooms. The pair of rarities to be presented in the March Baltimore sale has not appeared at auction in more than three decades.
At Proof-64+ Cameo (PCGS), the 1884 ranks as the fourth finest certified of the 10 known examples. It first appeared on the market in an ad placed by dealer Edgar Adams in the March 1915 issue of The Numismatist. It has since resided in several significant cabinets, including those of Waldo C. Newcomer, Colonel E.H.R. Green and Amon G. Carter, Jr. It last was offered at auction as lot 440 in Stack’s January 1984 sale of the Carter Family Collection.
The 1885 example is certified Proof-64 (PCGS) and ranks as the second finest certified behind only the Eliasberg specimen (Proof-65+ Cameo PCGS). It was first offered at auction in B. Max Mehl’s sale of the Fred Olsen Collection in November 1944 amidst the chaos of World War II. Two decades later, it appeared in Stack’s November 1965 sale of the George Ewalt Collection. It most recently appeared at auction as lot 202 in Stack’s sale of the L.R. French Collection in January 1989.
These two Trade dollars will be offered in the firm’s presentation of further items from the E. Horatio Morgan Collection. Built with a focus on dimes, half dollars, and select major rarities, highlights from the collection included a Choice Proof 1894-S dime, a Gem 1876-CC 20-cent piece, a Choice Proof 1838-O half dollar and a nearly complete set of half dollars by die variety from 1794 through 1836.
Stack’s Bowers Galleries has conducted auctions in Baltimore for more than a quarter of a century, most recently in conjunction with the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo.
The auction in its entirety can be found online at StacksBowers.com. For more information about the auction, contact Christine Karstedt at CKarstedt@stacksbowers.com or call (800) 566-2580.