Coins Certified as of 2/8

1801 Proof Novodel Dollar

Fewer than 5 Proofs (estimated)


1801. Proof Novodel. BB-301.

1801 Proof Novodel BB-301

• OBVERSE: The obverse of the 1801 novodel is anomalous, and is stylistically different from either the original dollars of this date or the other novodels dated 1802-3-4. I believe that it was made at the Mint in the 1870s, possibly starting with a die that had received an impression of the Draped Bust punch, but no other details, in the early 1830s. Alternately, it may have been created in its entirety in the 1830s, but not used.

As noted in the introductory text, the differences include the following:

The 1801 has curved-top 1's in date, quite unlike the straight-top 1 's of the early 1800s.

The stars on the 1801 are entirely unlike any used on original early silver dollars or the novodels of 1802-3-4. On the 1801, the stars do not have narrow, somewhat delicate points. Instead, the stars are, as Newman and Bressett relate, heavy with 60° angles to the points, somewhat like a traditional Star of David.

The letters in LIBERTY are more angular, without curves to the inside of the serifs. A different letter punch font was used to make the obverse of the 1801 novodel, in contrast to the traditional, early font (with curves to the inside of the serifs) employed on the novodels of 1802-3-4.

In addition, the obverse die has these characteristics: On the left, the stars are fairly evenly spaced, with excellent alignment of the star points. On the right, the star spacing is also of a high order, except that stars 11 and 12 are slightly closer together than are the other pairs. The alignment of the star points is excellent. The letters in LIBERTY are well spaced and aligned. I conclude that the die represents the work of a skilled craftsman.

As is the case with all 1801-2-3-4 novodels, the denticles on the borders are bead-like (rather than the tooth-like style used in the early 1800s).

The left tip of the highest curl is missing, a flaw caused by a broken portrait punch. This flaw also is represented on the 1804 novodels, but not the 1802 and 1803.

Obverse die used to strike 1801 Proof novodels only.

• REVERSE: The reverse; called "Reverse X" by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett, is a Mint copy of the Heraldic Eagle reverse type used to coin silver dollars of the dates 1798-1803, but is not precisely identical to any die of that era. It was made by using a Heraldic Eagle punch, and adding details including the letters of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, stars above the eagle, and the berries and their stems. Old letter punches, the Small Letters font of 1798 or a similar set, were used; the lopsided T, with the left serif shorter than the right, is distinctive. Twelve of the arrows were part of the eagle punch (the 13th arrow, with its tiny shaft and head to the right of the two leftmost large shafts, was added by hand and differs slightly on this as compared to Reverse V). This identical die was used to coin all 1801-2-3 novodel and-Class I 1804 varieties.

The A in STATES straddles clouds 3 and 4; 0 in OF is entirely over cloud 7. The arc star pattern is employed, as was standard after 1798. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in the same general Small Letters font as used 1798-1803. The 12 arrows in the Heraldic Eagle punch are perfectly formed and delineated (as noted, a 13th was later added by hand), far better than any definition seen on any original business strike dollar c. 1798-1803.

Top right berry slightly lower on branch than top left berry. The border denticles are more bead-like (later style) than tooth-like (original style).

"Reverse X" die used to strike 1801, 1802, 1803, and Class I 1804 novodel silver dollars.

Die State I: Obverse without cracks. Reverse with tiny crack through NITED to wing tip. May not exist with perfect obverse die.

Die State II: Obverse crack from below bust through bottom of the date through the stars on the left (description from Newman-Bressett, 1962; Kenneth E. Bressett advised the author that the illustration of the reverse of the l801 restrike in that book was not of an lS01 but, rather, was a "stock photo" of an 1802 or 1803 reverse, mentioned here for the record). Reverse with hairline crack from top right serif of N, sloping slightly downward through ITED, and ending at the bottom of the leftmost wing tip feather (cf. Newcomer specimen).

Die State III: Obverse crack from below right side of bust, through the date, and continuing through stars 1 through S. Rough, unpolished field areas above and behind Liberty's head and hair ribbon.

Note: All known 1801 and 1803 Proof dollars (but not 1802 or 1804) have a small linear depression in the space between UM in UNUM and the shield from a piece of metal or other foreign material on the die face during striking.

• COLLECTING NOTES: Of all of the 1801-2-3-4 novodel dates, the 1801 Proof dollar is by far the rarest. Numerous collections which had an example of the 1804 lacked the 1801.