In the realm of classic U.S. coins, famous rarities capture the imagination and stimulate the dreams of collectors, dealers, and those who like to learn about coins. Famous rarities are prime topics of current conversations and significant parts of the history of coin collecting. Moreover, they receive a great deal of coverage in the general news media. A remarkable number of famous rarities, including some of the greatest, have been or will be auctioned in late 2020 and 2021.
In November and probably in December 2020, Stack’s Bowers will auction rarities from the late Larry H. Miller collection. During the summer, it was announced by Heritage that most of the tremendous collection formed by Bob Simpson was scheduled to be auctioned in six events starting in September 2020 in Dallas and ending in August 2021 at the ANA Convention near Chicago. It was also announced that the collection of Donald G. Patrick would be sold by Heritage starting in October 2020 with three separate sales, followed by most of the collection presented in multiple auctions during the first six months of 2021.
Very famous rarities in the Patrick Collection will be auctioned in January and in April 2021. The most famous coin in the Patrick Collection is a Brasher Doubloon. This coin has been ‘off the market’ since Patrick acquired it, possibly through an agent, at the Garrett I sale in November 1979 for $725,000. Did that auction price set a record for a coin or coin-related item?
Ephraim Brasher was a well-established silversmith in New York City. His hallmarks on silver utensils and foreign coins were widely recognized. There are sharp differences of opinion as to whether Brasher Doubloons are privately issued coins or patterns intended to interest New York State authorities into allowing Brasher to mint official coins for New York State.
The critical aspect of Brasher’s interest in seeking the ability to mint was to produce New York State Coppers. In 1785, the State of Connecticut authorized a private firm to mint official Connecticut Coppers, and the State of Vermont contracted with an entrepreneur to mint official Vermont Coppers. In 1786, New Jersey and Massachusetts also arranged for the private production of authorized state coins. Under the Articles of Confederation, before the U.S. Constitution’s ratification, states were free to authorize coins’ issues.
While the State of New York never authorized the minting of New York coins, the idea of doing so was seriously considered. Understandably, Brasher sought to become involved. Like other leading silversmiths of his era, Brasher stamped his hallmark on foreign coins that he found to be satisfactory in terms of weight and fineness, in the context of markets in the United States. Additionally, Brasher and other silversmiths ‘regulated’ foreign coins of various weights and gold content to conform to prevailing standards for money in the United States.
As Doubloons were gold coins of the Spanish Empire wildly accepted for substantial sales or purchases in the U.S., likely, Brasher often dealt with them. Brasher also stamped imitations of Spanish Doubloons, which were legitimate if they contained a proper or fairly revealed amount of gold. Evidently, Brasher himself made some of these imitations. If so, these were clearly privately issued coins intended to circulate in the United States alongside gold coins of the Spanish Empire.
‘Lima Style’ imitation Spanish Doubloons made by Brasher, by Brasher’s firm, or in Brasher’s name, should not be confused with Brasher Doubloons with an original design. These showcase symbols and terms associated with the national government on one side and with the State of New York on the other side, a coin or pattern that was indeed an original creation in the U.S.
As some Brasher Doubloons around currently show expected wear and because a great deal of work must have gone into minting Brasher Doubloons, some researchers believe that dozens or hundreds of Brasher Doubloons were made during or around 1787 and that they circulated as money. Throughout the 18th century, the Spanish Empire’s silver and gold coins were the dominant coins of North America, Central America, and most of South America. It would have made sense for Brasher to create a New York area product similar to a Spanish Doubloon and acceptable to people engaging in large transactions.
Whether they be privately issued patterns for U.S. or State of New York gold coins or privately issued gold coins, Brasher Doubloons are extremely famous and important historical relics. In the Patrick Collection, there is the finest known Brasher Doubloon with the distinctive Brasher design and one of perhaps two known ‘Lima Style’ Brasher imitations of Doubloons of the Spanish Empire. Presently, seven original design Brasher Doubloons are known and one Brasher Half-Doubloon, which is in the Smithsonian. Two of the seven are in museums, one in the Smithsonian and one in the American Numismatic Society museum.
Of the five privately owned Brasher Doubloons, one has Brasher’s ‘E.B.’ punch on the eagle’s breast while the others each have this punch on a wing. The ‘punch on breast’ piece is considered different and worth a premium over other circulated Brasher Doubloons. That piece was NGC graded as Extremely Fine-45 when it was auctioned on January 12, 2005, for $2.99 million. In that same auction on January 12, 2005, in Fort Lauderdale, an NGC graded AU-55 Brasher Doubloon with the wing’s punch brought $2,415,000. The ‘punch on breast’ Brasher was later PCGS graded AU-50. In December 2011, it sold privately for $7.395 million, according to the parties involved. In 2020, a representative of the owner has been publicly asking for $15 million for the ‘punch on breast’ Brasher Doubloon.
Two Brasher Doubloons have received ‘mint state’ grades from NGC. As far as I know, the DuPont piece has never been sent to NGC or PCGS.
The ‘Ten Eyck’-Brand-Perschke Brasher Doubloon was NGC graded as MS-63 and had a CAC sticker, when Heritage auctioned it for $4,582,500 in January 2014. If experts at CAC find that a coin’s quality is “solid” for its previously certified grade, then a green sticker is placed on its NGC or PCGS holder. CAC verification can be confirmed by entering a PCGS or NGC serial number for an encapsulated coin on the CAC website.
Not long after the NGC graded the MS-63 Brasher Doubloon sold in January 2014, the buyer turned down an offer of $6 million. In 2018, the ‘Ten Eyck’-Brand-Perschke Brasher Doubloon was sold privately to a collector in California for an amount higher than $4.5 million through less than $6 million. This coin has cool die finishing lines. I found it to be attractive and very memorable.
The Partrick Collection Brasher Doubloon was graded MS-65 by NGC, probably during the spring or summer of 2020. Experts at NGC added a star for super eye appeal. As of September 20, 2020, it had never been submitted to CAC.
Although the ‘Lima Style’ pieces seem to have been created by Brasher as well, these are called ‘Lima Style’ gold pieces rather than Brasher Doubloons to avoid confusion. The ‘Lima Style’ gold pieces are imitations of the Spanish Empire’s Doubloons, with very similar designs. Curiously, Brasher’s name was part of the design, in small letters on the obverse. Merchants in the late 1780s would have been accustomed to the general design and immediately understood the purpose of the ‘Lima Style’ imitation Doubloons by Brasher. Some merchants may have found the original-design Brasher Doubloons to be puzzling, the likes of which they never saw before.
The gold typeset that Heritage auctioned on January 12, 2005, included two original design Brasher Doubloons and a ‘Lima Style’ piece, essentially three Brasher Doubloons in one collection. The ‘Lima Style’ piece in that auction was NGC graded XF-40 and had deliberate etchings, in my opinion. I viewed the lots and I attended that auction. On January 12, 2005, that ‘Lima Style’ piece brought $690,000, more than eight times as much as the same amount brought in the Garrett II sale by Bowers & Ruddy in March 1981, which was 80,000.
The NGC graded MS-61, Partrick Collection’ Lima Style’ Doubloon is different from the ‘Lima Style’ Doubloon that Heritage auctioned on January 12, 2005. The Patrick Collection also includes three foreign coins that were counter-stamped by Ephraim Brasher. One of the three is an ‘E.B.’ stamped 1750 British Guinea gold coin that was NGC graded as VF-25. It is planned for all of these Partrick Collection Brasher pieces to come to auction in January or April 2021.
Although Brasher Doubloons are legendary, more collectors identify with 1894-S dimes. No other Barber dime is rare. Circulated Barber dimes do not cost much and many people collect them. I did when I was a kid.
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