Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 25

Lot 2359

1836 Pattern Dollar. Silver, plain edge. PCGS graded Proof 65 PQ. 1836 Pattern Dollar by Christian Gobrecht. Silver, plain edge. Judd-65. Pollock-68. Rarity-8.

A superb iridescent tone on top of essentially flawless mirrored surfaces makes for a simply stunning specimen, newly discovered for the numismatic fraternity. As well, this marvelous coin is the finer of just two certified by the grading services, outstripping in eye-appeal and also in technical quality the only other specimen available to collectors, the NGC graded PR-64 coin sold in May 2003 as part of the L.K. Rudolph Collection of silver dollars sold by Stack's (for $184,000); that coin has since been removed from the NGC Census and appears in the PCGS Population Report, again as PR-64. Hence the population of Judd-65 is 2.

The currently offered specimen, decidedly the finer of the two known in the population reports, is now making its first appearance on the numismatic marketplace since "disappearing" into a collection in the 1920s! It had been purchased at that time from a "major dealer" and has not been seen since, in some 80 years.

The latest edition of the Judd reference (edited by Q. David Bowers) calls heavily upon the details supplied by Walter Breen in his massive "Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins," in which, on pages 433-434, Breen explains the origins, instant popularity of the design, and the long-established rarity of not only the series of Gobrecht dollars as a class but also selected issues, both originals and restrikes. His comments should be reviewed by prospective owners of this coin, for they place this important specimen in perspective and illuminate the blunt allure of this coin.

Pertinent details from both Breen and Judd include these: this coin has a Plain Edge, there are no stars in the field of either side, the engraver's signature "C. GOBRECHT. F." ("fecit," made it) occurs in recessed form on Miss Liberty's rock, and the eagle is flying upward to the left, this latter indicating a die first used for restrikes in 1838. The literature suggests that, while in the past the "restrike nature" of such coins was often veiled for fear it could be mistaken for a coin of lesser significance, modern research has shown decisively that certain Gobrecht dollars, including Judd-65, exist only as restrikes and are, in themselves, major rarities. They are part of a complicated series featuring both currency-only and Proof-only specimens, both types having "lost" examples to hard times, when even fine collector pieces went into commercial circulation.

Technically, as Breen so well explains, Judd-65 is a mule, a combination of an early 1836 die with the starless reverse of 1838. A smidgeon of die-rust in the field just to the left of Miss Liberty's face is present here as well as on the Garrett specimen, the only other specimen seen, obviously in minuscule numbers (it does not get much fewer than two, after all). One of the charming details associated with this coin seems to be fading from memory amid the numerous technical facts cited by the references; and that detail is this, that the glorious Flying Eagle was modeled directly from an ancient resident of the Philadelphia Mint, "Peter the mint eagle," whose stuffed body remained on view at the old Philadelphia Mint on Spring Garden Street for over a century, this cataloguer seeing it in person in the early 1960s!

Judd-65 is one of the rarest of all Gobrecht dollars. Not only that, but its design, showing the engraver's signature, hales back to the very origins of this short-lived, inspiring series. As Breen states, this signature was initially viewed as artistic "arrogance" by some Vips, even though Mint Director Patterson had approved its use. Gobrecht was following the long tradition in Europe of proudly signing a work of numismatic art. The original 1836 circulation-strikes had his signature, but a number of Proofs and restrikes did not. Restrikes with the "name on base" are among the most desirable of the Gobrecht issues.

In considering the desirability of this coin, remember that only one other example has appeared for sale during almost a century's span. That piece, the PR-64 mentioned above, prior to being in the Rudolph sale, had made the following appearances: Bowers & Merena, Clemente sale, May 1994, lot 1058; Bowers & Merena, 1987 ANA sale, August of that year, lot 1504; Bowers & Ruddy, Garrett II sale, March 1980, lot 700; previously it had belonged in W. Elliot Woodward's 58th Sale (late 19th century).

The presently offered example has been off the numismatic market since the 1920s, having just resurfaced and being freshly graded PR65 by PCGS. That places it at the top of the Pop Report, but to be fully appreciated this coin has to be viewed in person. Wonderful as our color photos are, online and in print, they do not do justice to the sparkle and awesome originality of this exquisite Gobrecht dollar rarity (PCGS # 11249) .
Estimated Value $175,000 - 225,000.

Realized $184,000

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