The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, Part VII, U. S. Colonial Coins and Early American Tokens, 1776 Silver Continental Dollar, 1776 Silver Continental Dollar. CURENCY obverse. Newman 1-C. Very Fine. 373.3 gns From our sale of June 16, 1987, lot 24 (the Estate of Corrado Romano , where it was ably catalogued by the late Carl Carlson. Mr. Ford once owned three of the four Continental Dollars struck in silver. Carlson's description, which caught Mr. Ford's eye, reads as follows. It is a good example of Carlson at his best and while some of his conclusions have been reappraised, his enthusiasm for this great rarity still comes across loud and clear. 'Very Fine, but weak across central obverse through 'N' and left part of 'C', and on matching areas of the Maryland and Virginia rings on reverse; obverse break at 'GI' well advanced. Natural light grey and iridescent toning, no significant marks, the surfaces very nice for the grade. This specimen is apparently unlisted anywhere in American numismatic literature. Until we received it on consignment, we were unaware of the existence of any silver example of the N.1-C dies other than the Garrett specimen. In common with that piece, and also with the two known specimens in silver of the E.G. Fecit N.3-D dies, the present coin is overstruck on a Spanish milled dollar of the type manufactured in many Latin American mints in the 1740's to 1750's, with the continuous wreath of leaves on the edge characteristic of that period. (The use of Spanish milled dollars as planchets for the silver Continental Dollars was first discovered by John J. Ford, Jr.) Its weight is less than 0.5% below that of the Garrett coin, both specimens being better, not out of line with the Spanish undertype. The two specimens show strong and weak points in different areas, particularly on the reverse. This specimen represents a later die state than that of the Garrett coin, the die buckling evident on the earlier piece from right central obverse to the rim in the same area, running in fan shape from the sun face to the rim in the same area, virtually obliterating the center of the sundial and eliminating most of the left half of the second 'C' in CURENCY, though the present specimen shows less actual wear. Without question, both were struck after the production of the pewter specimens from the same dies, but before failure of the obverse die led to the introduction of the new N 2 obverse. Apparently, the previously struck silver of the Spanish dollars, even if annealed before overstriking, proved too tough for the dies, and they began to break down on the right obverse (similar die buckling is known on some 1794 Half Cents, New Jersey Cents, and Connecticut Cents, among others of the same general period). For a decade, a theory concerning the nature and purpose of the Continental Currency coins has been under development. Taking into account the known specimens in pewter, brass, and silver, it also utilizes contemporary records concerning both the coins themselves and the surrounding conditions of the economy and the governing bodies. Initially proposed by John J. Ford, Jr., and now supported (as well as further developed) by other scholars, this theory holds that the earliest pieces struck were those in brass, and that they were patterns for coins in that metal which were intended to circulate as heavy Pennies, passing at 12 to the shilling (which was equal to 1/8 of a Continental Dollar). As evidence in support of this part of the theory is the item reported in the June 27, 1776 issue of The New-York Journal, or the General Advertiser, printed and published by John Holt near the Coffee House, reprinted in the June 29 issue of the Constitutional Gazette in Philadelphia: 'We hear it is proposed, that after three months, the currency of all Copper Coin made of bad metal, or wanting in weight, is to be totally suppressed, and that the rest is to pass at the rate of 15 for an eighth part of a dollar. And if it shall appear that there is not a sufficiency for common use, that it will all be called in, and a new impression struck of Continental Copper Coin, of a larger size, twelve of which is to pass for an eighth of a dollar, after which no other coppers are to pass current. Mr. Holt's Journal).' The theory further suggests that the earliest Continental Currency pieces, the brass Pennies, were struck in New York, which certainly agrees with the earliest published information in the papers occurring in that city rather than Philadelphia. The great rarity of brass pieces is believed to have been caused by the shortage of brass and copper in the developing war situation in 1776 ( much as we produced the zinc-coated steel Cents in 1943 when copper was so vital to production of military goods during World War II). If the brass Penny issue was terminated due to lack of brass, then it stands to reason that the familiar pieces in high-grade pewter, like our 1943 steel Cents, were produced as an emergency substitute, and were intended to serve as Pennies during the war years. The information in Ben Franklin's diary to the effect that an extreme shortage of tin and high-grade pewter developed in 1776, affecting the ability of the tinsmiths to produce canteens and other implements for the soldiers, may have been caused, to some extent, by the number of pewter Pennies being struck; the number of surviving specimens from the N.1-C, 2-C, and 3-D dies combined indicate an original mintage total of more than 6,000 pieces. What then was the relationship of the silver specimens from the 1-C and 3-D dies to the specimens in pewter, which the theory proposes were emergency Pennies? Eric P. Newman provides us with one clue. In his book on The Early Paper Money of America, in discussing the Continental Congress issue dated July 22, 1776, he notes that the $1 denomination was an intentionally omitted series because production of the Continental Dollar in silver was expected shortly; as confirmation, we note John Ford's point that the New York paper money issue of August 13, 1776, also omitted the $1 denomination, undoubtedly for the same reason if the Continental coins were being produced in that city as early as June or July. If the proposed Dollars are represented by the surviving examples (including the present specimen) then it is logical that they should all be overstruck on Spanish milled dollars since those were by far the most common large silver coins available in America at the time. That they should have been overstruck on well worn Spanish dollars also make sense, since worn coins would not have brought their full face value in international trade. There is some indication, both in the weight of the known specimens (roughly 370 to 385 grains) and in the almost total absence of traces of the underlying type, that the coins used were smoothed down before overstriking them; this would have served both to bring them within a certain weight range (apparently, from the specimens themselves, roughly 385 grains) and to keep them from being exported for bullion since their weight would have been well below the 416 grain Spanish standard. As to the dates of striking of the silver Dollars, as well as to the proposed theory that while the first issues were struck in New York, the later issues were struck in Philadelphia, analysis of the die combinations and the known surviving specimens in various metals from them provides relatively clear evidence. Newman undoubtedly has the first group of dies in the correct order. It is significant that essentially all collectible specimens in brass are from the N.1-B dies, and that pewter strikes from those dies are extremely rare; this is precisely the situation we would expect if the initial pattern strikes were made in brass, as the newspaper article implied they were to be, but that pewter had to be substituted shortly thereafter for the Pennies. That the brass pieces were struck as patterns is, to some degree, supported by the presence of both the unique 1-A and some of the 1-B's in the Bache Collection (W.E. Woodward sales of 3/20/1865 and 12/19/1865); Benjamin Franklin is closely associated with the obverse design of the coins, and the Bache family was descended from Richard Bache (1737-1811) who married Franklin's daughter Sarah in 1767, and succeeded Ben as Postmaster General in 1776. The rather high number of surviving specimens in pewter of N.1-C and N.2-C shows the importance attached by the Continental Congress to production of pennies as a far more important factor in the daily economic life of the country than the striking of large silver coins; on the other hand, the existence of the Garrett specimen and the present piece in silver shows that the issuance of Dollars was also regarded as of importance, doubtless for trade and international payments as well as to bolster public confidence. There is a clear break between the N.1-A-2-C die series and the later N.3-D- 5-D dies. If we assume, as seems logical, that the N.1-B dies were used to strike pattern brass pieces in late June, 1776, and if a large number of pewter 1-C pieces were then struck, followed by the silver 1 C issue, and then by the large issue of pewter 2-C coins, we have a logical termination of this series of dies in late August, 1776, when the British seized New York City and environs. The die cutters may have escaped; the dies surely perished; either through capture or through destruction by mint personnel. The second die series, which must have been made outside New York, and may well be attributed to Philadelphia, are probably not in the correct order of production; it is much more likely that N.5-D was made first, since that obverse is poorly arranged; N.4 was probably the next obverse made, though it also fell short of expectations in quality. Finally, obverse die N.3 was engraved; this one was accepted, and the die cutter (Gallaudet, or whoever-that is still in dispute) signed his name to the dies and production began. That Congress had not lost hope of producing Silver Dollars is indicated by both the existence of two silver specimens of the N.3-D issue and by the continued omission of the $1 denominations in the November 2, 1776 Continental Congress paper money issue. Analogous to the Muera Huerta silver pesos of the Mexican Revolution in 1915, silver (or other) Continental coins would have been dangerous if not fatal, to carry in British occupied territory during our own Revolution. The well worn state of both specimens of the N.1-C issue in silver, as compared to the EF condition of the two known N.3-D silvers, does not really indicate circulation in the economy since those earliest two coins have surfaces which imply use as pocket pieces; they lack the nicks and bruises normal to coins in their grades. As the Garrett specimen of this issue came from England in the 1860's as part of the Clay Collection, and as at least one of the N.3- D pieces came from England in the mid-1880s, it is possible that British officers captured or otherwise recovered them and kept them as souvenirs. We have no documented appearance of a silver specimen of either issue being found within the bounds of Colonial America. The degree of difference in the obverse die deterioration between the Garrett piece and the present specimen indicates striking of quite a number of other Dollars in silver between those two pieces. As a rough guess, we would estimate that between 50 and 100 others were coined, possibly even more. In view of the value of silver in that period, a survival rate as high as 2% would have to be regarded as extraordinary so it is possible that far more than 100 pieces were actually struck from the N.1-C dies, though there is little reason to suspect that more than these two specimens survive today. The importance of the present specimen in showing that the N.1-C Garrett piece was not merely a mint master's trial or something similar cannot be overstated With the single exception of the 1783 Nova Constellatio .005 pattern in copper, it is probably the most important Colonial piece to surface in more than 50 years; in fact, since the 1783 piece merely confirmed the existence of something whose production was already recorded, this present piece, due to its testimony concerning production of the Continental Currency issues, is of even greater significance to our understanding of the history of American numismatics.'