The Dexter Specimen of the 1804 Silver Dollar
One of the highlights of the William Forrester Dunham Collection (sold June 3, 1941 by B. Max Mehl) was the Dexter Specimen of the 1804 Silver Dollar. It is one of the eight "Class I Originals" struck in 1834 pursuant to a request from the State Department for special sets of coins to be prepared for diplomatic purposes.
The coin's first appearance for sale in the U.S. came in a Chapman Brothers auction in May, 1885, where it was purchased by J.W. Scott (founder of Scott Stamp and Coin Co.) on behalf of his client James V. Dexter. It became the subject of a lawsuit the following year over its authenticity and was settled when the U.S. mint provided a "Certificate of Genuineness" for the coin. In celebration of his victory, Dexter commissioned an artist to paint "The Dollar of 1804", showing the coin in a red display box.
In celebration of his victory, Dexter commissioned an artist to paint "The Dollar of 1804", showing the coin in a red display box. Additionally, Dexter punched a small "D" into one of the clouds on the reverse, forever marking his ownership of the treasured coin.
According to Mehl, the Chapmans originally acquired the coin from Adolph Weil, a noted numismatist from Berlin, Germany. The coin passed through several hands before being sold by the Dunham estate in 1941. The coin brought $4,250 to Harold Bareford.
The coin subsequently appeared in Auction '89, where it brought $990,000. Five years later, it was sold by Superior Galleries to Harlan White, who in turn sold it to a private collector where it remains today.
B. Max Mehl lavished a great deal of attention on the coin in the sale, devoting an incredible 14 Pages to the coin and its fascinating story. We hope you enjoy this look at one of the true prizes of American numismatics.