Gobrecht dollars in circulation. (This paragraph was written by R.W.Julian.) The Gobrecht dollars of the late 1830s were struck on government account. When these were purchased by the public (either at the Mint or a Philadelphia bank), the money received was then credited to the bullion fund of the Mint. The number produced was rather small so this was no accounting problem. Some of the pieces were paid out to silver bullion depositors, who opted for a small number of silver dollars in payment of their claim again the Mint.
Snowden writes: The Cabinet Collection of the Mint of the United States, by Mint Director James Ross Snowden, 1860, p. 110, told of the coinage of 1836 Gobrecht dollars:
The other silver coins remained unchanged until the year 1836. In this year, the dollar, which had not been coined since the year 1804, again made its appearance, but this time in an entire new costume. On the obverse it presents the goddess of Liberty seated upon a rock, supporting with her right hand the United States shield, across which floats a scroll, inscribed "LIBERTY;" and with her left, the staff and liberty cap. (This effigy has graced our coinage ever since, to the present day.) Beneath it is the date "1836."
On the reverse is an eagle in flight, facing to the left, surrounded by twenty-six stars, of different magnitudes, according to the size of the States which they represent. (The twenty-sixth star was intended for Michigan, which was then an applicant for admission into the Union, but was not admitted until the beginning of the following year.) Legend. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ... ONE DOLLAR.
The dies for this coinage were designed and engraved by Mr. Christian Gobrecht, whose name appears upon the base which supports the effigy of Liberty. The edge is perfectly plain. There was a coinage of 1,000 pieces, which were returned to the Treasurer on the thirty-first day of December. It is probable, however, that they were intended merely as specimen pieces, being issued for the purpose of courting public approbation.
Proofs: All 1836 Gobrecht dollars were struck with Proof finish. Those minted in 1836 and 1837, all dated 1836, are known as originals. All are listed as Judd-60.
A new concept: Conventional numismatic wisdom has it that coins with die alignment IV are restrikes made circa 1858-1860, or even later. However, a number of numismatic scholars-James C. Gray, Andrew W. Pollock III, and the author among them-have questioned this. In a letter dated May 14, 1992, James C. Gray stated the following:
As pointed out in your Norweb III catalogue, it appears that 1836 pieces with Die Alignment IV were struck on 416- grain planchets. The piece is, my collection is lightly circulated and was Lot 3035 of your Ezra Cole Collection Sale; it weighs 413.3 grains. It would be most interesting if one of these coins were subjected to scientific analysis and found to be .8924 fine silver, which of course would mean that they conform to the pre-1837 standard. If this is true, then it would be very unlikely that these coins were struck in the 1850s and 1860s when it is believed that restrikes were made. It is my feeling that these coins are indeed the March 1837 issue struck on planchets left over from the December 1836 striking of original Gobrecht dollars ....
All 1836 Gobrechts which I have seen from Die Alignment III have been [Proof-60 or finer] and have had a cracked reverse die, and I feel that these coins are clearly restrikes.
Survey results: A survey taken by Andrew W. Pollock III of 24 specimens of 1836 Gobrecht dollars passing through the hands of Auctions by Bowers and Merena, Inc. from 1989 through mid-1992 showed these results:
Alignment I: 16 coins = 67% of population.
Alignment II: 1 coin = 4%
Alignment III: 1 coin = 4%
Alignment IV: 6 coins = 25%.
The sample is too small to be statistically precise, especially with regard to alignments II and III with one coin each, but the difference in rarity between alignments I and Iv is readily apparent,
It is believed that 1000+ 600 coins (1,600 total) were struck in 1836 and by March 31, 1837 with the 1836 date. Not considering alignments II and III, which are rare today and may have been struck after March 31, 1837, if the population of alignment I (16 .coins) and alignment IV (6 coins) in this survey is considered alone, the results are:
Alignment I: 16 coins = 73 % of population (of I and IV combined)
Alignment IV; 6 coins = 27% of population (of I and IV combined)
This compares to the following proportions of the number of 1836-dated Gobrecht dollars struck in 1836 (1,000) and in 1837 up to March 31st (600) as follows:
1836 coinage: 1,000 coins = 62.5% of 1,600 total struck. Early 1837 coinage: 600 coins = 37.5% of 1,600 total struck.
Obviously, there is some type of correlation here. Further detailed research of extant coins will permit us to refine the figures.
The following descriptions are different in certain respects from the opinions expressed in print elsewhere by Walter H. Breen and R.W.Julian and are based upon information from Messrs. Gray, Pollock, and others: