1804 dollar recognized as rare: In 1842, Etkfeldt and William E. DuBois; assayer at the Mint, published the Manual of Coins of All Nations, which illustrated oh Plate II a Draped Bust silver dollar bearing the date 1804, the first book published in the United States relating to American numismatics. The volume achieved fairly wide sale (judging from the number of. copies still in existence today), and helped to popularize the young hobby of coin collecting. Soon, collectors who assembled holdings of silver dollars by date realized that an 1804 dollar existed, as illustrated. They desired to own one.' Of course, bullion dealers, banks, and exchange houses the traditional sources for silver dollars for collections-could not supply an 1804, as none was ever circulated.
Eckfeldt and Dubois realized that they had a profit-making potential on their hands, if not for them personally, then certainly as a way to add needed pieces to their pet project, the ever expanding Mint Cabinet. Apparently, the first opportunity to dispose of an 1804 dollar at a meaningful advantage took place on May 9, 1843, when Massachusetts numismatist Matthew A. Stickney visited the Mint and obtained an 1804 dollar in exchange for a 1785- dated IMMUNE COLUMBIA token struck in gold.l The token was larger than a current $5 gold piece, and for gold value alone represented a profit of several hundred percent over the face value of the 1804.
There is no indication by die rust marks, documentation, or any other evidence that 1804 dollars struck using Reverse X were ever made later than the 1830s, perhaps with the exception of the Parmelee coin (for reasons to be given below).
A question of weight: At the Mint at any given time, a silver dollar currently being struck under official auspices would be made to the prevailing standard of weight. Until January 18, 1837, the authorized weight of the silver dollar was 416 grains. After that date, the legal weight was 412.5 grains.
Presumably, any 1804 dollar struck officially at the Mint before January 18, 1837-and it is to be remembered that during this period there still was no premium value attached to the 1804 dollar-would have been struck to the 416-grain standard. Any specimen struck after January 18, 1837 would have been made to weigh 412.5 grains.
An examination of the weights of 1804 dollars made by combining the 1804 novodel obverse with Reverse X (known as Class I 1804 dollars), as listed by Newman and Bressett, reveals the following:
Mint Cabinet coin: 415.2 grains. Within legal tolerance for pre-1837 coinage.
Siam coin: 415.5 grains. Waters coin: 416.7 grains.
Stickney coin: 415.3 grains. Within legal tolerance for pre- 1837 coinage.
Cohen coin (worn down to the VF level): 410.21 grains. Original weight not known.
Mickley coin: 416.4 grains. Within legal tolerance for pre- 1837 coinage.
Parmelee coin: 412 grains. (per Newman-Bressett.) Within legal tolerance for post-1837 coinage.
Dexter coin: 415.8 grains. Within legal tolerance for pre- 1837 coinage.
Not including the worn Cohen coin, it seems that all known 1804 dollars of the Class I type are of the pre-1837 standard. The unworn, high-grade Proof Parmelee Collection coin is a likely candidate for having been struck after January 18, 1837. If this is the case, then the obverse die break should be at least equal to, and perhaps greater than, the largest extent of the break as found on any 416-grain standard Class I dollar. The Parmelee catalogue mentions a break through the tops of LIBERTY.
A Scenario for Class I 1804 Mintage
It seems likely that a batch of 1804-dated dollars was made in the early 1830s, probably all within a short time frame. With the possible exception of the Parmelee coin, none seems to have been struck after January 18, 1837.
I suggest that a group of 1804 dollars was made in the early and/or mid-1830s as noted, and whatever remained (after diplomatic gifts and other dispersals during the early years) as "working stock" was used by Eckfeldt and DuBois for disposal as they saw fit.
As to the Parmelee coin, in The Fantastic 1804 Dollar, p. 123, this comment is found: "It has been stated that a lady obtained this dollar from the Mint during the period of President Polk's administration (1845-1849)." If, indeed, a lady had visited the Mint circa 1845-1849 and had sought an 1804, and if all had been disposed of from the "working stock" before then, another coin could have been struck for her-using available planchet stock of 412 grains weight.
I can find no evidence, nor does the literature indicate, that there was any chicanery, deception, fraud, or anything else misleading in the original distribution of the Class I 1804 dollars. This was to change in later years, however, when certain Mint officials issued affidavits and statements to the effect that such coins absolutely and positively were struck at the Mint in the year 1804, not at any other later date!
What happened to the obverse dies of the 1802-3-4 novodels and Heraldic Eagle reverses X and Y after the striking of the Parmelee coin (or whatever coin was the last to be made) is not known. Apparently, the 1804 obverse and the not-yet-used Reverse Y were kept together in one location at the Mint, and the 1802 and 1803 novodel obverse dies, and Reverse X, were kept together in another place.