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The Coin That Proves When 1838 Gobrecht Dollars Were Restruck

Our August 11-15 Boston ANA Signature Auction will feature a fascinating example of a 1838 Gobrecht dollar struck over a 1859 seated dollar. This coin was apparently first noticed by Louis Werner in the Earl Bostic Collection (Stack’s, 12/1956). Walter Breen thought it noteworthy enough to comment on it in the May 1957 Numismatist in an article entitled “Some Unpublished Gobrecht Rarities”:

“In a recent New York auction Louis Werner observed that the 1838 brilliant proof Gobrecht dollar (a typical restrike, with two minute rust spots on the obverse die which should have been mentioned in my description of restrikes on page 17 of the monograph) showed a faint but unmistakable date 1859 to the right of the real date 1838. When I first saw the coin I recognized that this could have come about only through the fact that it was actually overstruck on an 1859 silver dollar. …I will simply say that I have looked at over twenty 1838s all told-originals and restrikes alike-and have never seen any other example of the kind.”

While unprecedented among Gobrecht dollars, there are parallels to two other famous coins, the 1851 dollar overstruck on an 1859-O or 1860-O dollar, and the unique Class II 1804 dollar was overstruck on an 1857 Bern Shooting taler. It is conjecture, but certainly possible that the 1851-O dollar, the Class II 1804 dollar, and this piece were all struck within a few months of each other. It is also most likely that all three were struck by the same person, Theodore Eckfeldt.

Theodore’s family had been employed in the Mint since 1792 (when Adam was first employed to do blacksmith work). In a case of poor judgment on the Mint’s part, after firing young Theodore for theft, he was later rehired as a night watchman. Eckfeldt then proceeded to work with employees in the Coiner’s Department to strike various rarities, including 1804 dollars, which he then sold to Dr. Montroville Dickeson.

Much of the Seated dollar undertype is apparent. The 859 is clearly discernible (see closeup), and most of the 1 shows except top of serif, which was struck out by the 8. Under a microscope, all obverse stars are visible (star 9 is faintest), and several of the letters in the reverse legend can be detected.

While the coin has acquired significant toning since its appearance in the Bostic auction in 1956, there are telltale marks on the reverse that confirm it is that piece. There are a couple of shallow marks between the eagle’s upper wing and the second A in AMERICA, and there is a distinctive diagonal mark below the F in OF.

This coin is enormously important. It is the “smoking gun” that proves the earliest date that all Die Alignment III 1838 dollars could have been struck.

Breen mentions this piece in his Encyclopedia (1988), but it is treated more as a curiosity than a coin that makes a definitive statement about the striking period. After the undertype was discovered by Louis Werner, the coin was subsequently sold to Art Kagin. The coin then went into an advanced collection of Gobrecht dollars assembled by the consignor, and has not been offered for auction or private treaty sale since 1969. Graded Proof-64, this coin will undoubtedly attract strong bids from Gobrecht dollar specialists and scholars.

Available as LOT 15008 in the Upcoming Boston ANA Sale

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