Walter Breen's Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins 1722-1989

U.S. Presentation and Proof Coins: Overview
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Mention of those same low-mintage items brings up the question of restrikes in general. I shall deal with it in detail in a later chapter. The practice appears to have begun more or less accidentally (?) in 1831 with a few half-dimes, then in 1834-36(?) systematically with the experimental dollars dated 1801 through 1804 and half dollars dated 1833-35, made under supervision of Mint Director Samuel Moore, and it continued at intervals thereafter mostly unofficially, reaching its apogee in 1858-60 under the then Mint Director James Ross Snowden. Despite Snowden's sanctimonious language, and despite his storing away (1860) of a number of dies which had been used for restriking, restrikes of later dates continued to be made well into the eighteen seventies under later Directors and Superintendents, principally while Henry R. Linderman was connected in one or another capacity with the Philadelphia Mint. Claims, repeatedly made, that the dies of any given issue had been defaced in the presence of mint officials, did not prevent the manufacture of restrikes, so long as working hubs of the same type, and date logotypes (4-digit gang punches), remained in custody of the Coiner's Department. It would be a matter of an idle hour or two to logotype an obsolete but coveted date into a hub bed but otherwise incomplete die, harden and polish it like any other, and strike the coins on any available press of suitable size on any blanks of appropriate size, whenever that press was not in service for other purposes. I have seen a flat piece of lead with numerous date logotypes of various sizes stamped into it, including 1873 closed 3 and 1875, evidently a record of logotypes then available (when? 1877-80?) in the Coiner's Department. It is significant that restrikes are known for the three-dollar pieces in both years, and possibly of other denominations as well, even as for 1863-64-65. Presumably William Idler, father-in-law of Capt. John W. Haseltine (both being coin dealers), and a party extremely favored by successive people in the Coiner's Department for a generation, placed surreptitious orders. It is significant that one of the 1804 dollars, Class III (the coin offered with the Edwin Hydeman collection, March 1961), originated with Idler; that the proof restrike or fantasy (simulated series) dollars dated 1801-2-3 were first disclosed to the numismatic world by John W. Haseltine, apparently having been obtained by him from Idler; that the 1884-85 trade dollars also originated with him; that he also owned many other restrikes and similar pieces, many of which went into numismatic circulation via Haseltine, others not until after Idler's collection was dispersed by Haseltine in 1908-9.

In fact, the continued availability of date logotypes and working hubs in the Coiner's Department is the key not only to the restrikes of 1863-4-5, 1873 and 1875 (which supposedly would have been impossible because of Snowden's orders to deface working dies at each year's end) but to the existence of trade dollars of 1884-85 (double eagle date logotypes being used for these) and the unduly frequent appearance of some proof issues of supposedly great rarity. In the chapters to follow I shall exhibit, first by date, then by denomination, an inventory of all known or reported varieties of United States proof coins, including commemoratives and some few supposed transitional coins and simulated series issues, but at this juncture excluding patterns. Absolute completeness, as of the present edition, is not claimed, as there are early proof coins known to exist in several estates. It is rather difficult to enter into correspondence with a bank vault or to induce it to exhibit selected coins for die variety examination! Pedigree information is also very incomplete for several reasons, none of which reflect any credit whatever on 'the alleged profession of numismatics: (1) A coin, offered at the So and so auction early in a given year, may have a reserve bid on it and fail to move, or be bought in by the auctioneer, who subsequently reoffers it later in the year, or in the next 2 or 3 years, without mention of its identity, but with the interesting information that this piece is "equal to the coin in the So and so collection that brought the world's record price of $7200." (2) The same coin may change hands several times during a single convention, being reoffered at a subsequent convention or in a dealer's auction in the meantime, as often as not having been dipped to remove evidence of its identity (as well as of tarnish or even attractive toning). (3) Some dealers in the 1940's and early to middle 1950's notoriously used and reused the same old halftone cuts to illustrate different coins, rather than photographing for record the individual coins offered at successive auctions. They were unwise, of course, because without a photographic record coins could easily be switched and nobody be the wiser - such an offense being unprovable by the very lack of any such record. Of course, later proofs are often difficult to tell apart because they are so much alike in any given year and denomination. Two proofs from the identical pair of dies, both well centered and without imperfections other than at most microscopic hairmarking, and showing about the same degree and location of knife-rims, untoned and unspotted, will look almost undistinguishable even on high quality contact prints (as in some Chapman auctions), let alone in the usual half-tones, and their imperfections (if any) certainly would not be mentioned in verbal descriptions. When pedigrees have been traceable at all, they have been so generally because the coins had some pecularities of centering or striking, or distinctive patterns of tarnish or toning, or spotting, or in a few instances minute pre-striking chips, lint marks (from bits of thread adhering to the die by static electricity after a cloth had been used to wipe away oil or grease or foreign matter), or nicks. Nicks on proof coins not showing evidence of circulation usually come about because of the disintegration of thin paper wrappers in which sets were distributed from the Philadelphia Mint, after which the coins were free to jangle against each other. (4) Dealers were often unwilling to allot the space in catalogues to owner's pedigrees even when these were available, let alone to make the effort to, retrace them once they had been lost. (5) Many dealers and collectors have been reluctant to say anything at all about pedigree, especially for publication, owing to fear of someone's finding out how much their coins cost - or, perhaps more strongly, owing to fear that the coins might prove to be less rare than they had hoped, believed, or been persuaded. (6) In recent years some early proofs have gotten into numismatic circulation through the 'most unexpected channels. Sometimes the attempt to trace them back to previous owners results in refusal to cooperate, or in "A little old lady brought it into my store last March," or "Some vest-pocket dealer sold it to me at the ANA Convention"; and in a few instances such coins have proven to be from one of the larger robberies of private collectors or of museums in recent years, though presumably bought in good faith by subsequent dealers. If a stranger offers you a rare coin at your convention bourse table, your automatic question is infinitely more often "How much?" than "Is this stolen goods?"

Mint records of proof coinage from 1860 on, and for a few earlier dates, came from Archives documents (internal records of the Philadelphia Mint) rather than from published annual Reports of the Director of the Mint. For many of these I made the primary researches in the early 1950's; for the rest I herewith publicly thank Robert W. Julian, whose detailed investigations -in some cases involving documents not accessible to me in 1951-53 - have made more complete our knowledge of mid 19th century mintages of all denominations, proof and nonproof. There is a specific reason for using internal records of the Mint rather than official reports. In the earlier years proof mintages were not identified as such in the annual reports. And by the Act of 1873, the Mint Director no longer retained his office in the Philadelphia Mint, but instead to the present day handles a bureau in Washington, D. C., the superintendents of each mint taking on duties formerly devolving on the treasurers. Accounting and auditing procedures in the Coiner's Department through at least 1889 (and possibly later) were, to say the most charitable word possible, extremely sloppy, accounting for many errors in published figures. Julian'sinvestigations, supplementing those of Harry X Boosel for 1873 and my own for most other dates, have enabled nearly complete knowledge of the correct mintages – often varying vastly from previously published figures, which are still repeated verbatim in annual reports from the Director's office. The figures for 1860-89 inclusive are subject to another source of doubt in that proof coins left unsold at any year's end were often melted down, but in some instances retained for sale during the subsequent year, after which mixed meltings took place and the amounts of each date failed to be recorded. Hence the amounts then surviving cannot be even nearly accurately ascertained. Connivance with William Idler in 1884-85 resulted in the surreptitious mintage of a few trade dollars, but the amounts made are not known as no accounting of the bullion for them was made, any more than for restrikes of earlier years. Data on minor proofs prior to 1878 are minimal. R. W. Julian's article "Notes on U.S. Proof Coinage: Silver and Minor," NSM, March 1966, pp. 513-517, cannot at present be bettered. Proof coinages for dollars of 1921-1922 and commemorative coins 1903-38 (with a couple of minor exceptions) are not on record anywhere, save possibly in mint documents not yet released to the Archives, Unfortunately, many Archives records of manufacture and sale of proofs were destroyed in 1925.

U.S. Presentation and Proof Coins: Overview
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