PCGS reward for 1964-D Peace dollar is certainly curious

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Published : 01/16/13
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Professional Coin Grading Service’s Jan. 11 announcement that it would be offering a reward of $10,000 to view in person and verify a genuine 1964-D Peace dollar is certainly curious.

Why?

Because these pieces — by nearly all accounts — were never officially issued and are probably illegal to own, buy or sell. It’s a stretch to even call them coins as they were never monetized for use in commerce. The U.S. Mint considers them trial strikes.

Since the time of their production, rumors have circulated that a handful escaped and are now clandestinely held in collections. In discussing this issue with Coin World’s news editor, Bill Gibbs, we wondered how PCGS could even determine the authenticity of a 1964-D Peace dollar without any reference points, as nobody knows what a real one looks like. Bill asked, “How do you authenticate something that has never been seen, and for which no images exist, that we know of?”

The press release cites examples of the 1804 Draped Bust dollar and 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece as coins that weren’t known until years after their production as comparables. It referenced the $10,000 reward of the Walton 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece, with PCGS co-founder David Hall stating that the reward resulted in the rediscovery of that coin. The Walton coin is set to be auctioned in April at Heritage’s Central States Numismatic Society Platinum Night auction where a seven-figure price is assured.

Yet, 1964-D Peace dollars are very different from 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins.

First, unlike 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent pieces, 1964-D Peace dollars have never been openly and actively traded by collectors and there’s no evidence of any open-market sales taking place since their production. They are so mysterious that the usual image is a conceptual rendering.

Second, the Langbord 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle case has perhaps heightened sensitivity of the government’s eyes and ears to 20th century coins produced but not intended to be released. The Langbord coins were viewed as stolen property, and the government has shown a continued interest in retrieving these coins and preventing their public sale. The government would likely take a similar view of any 1964-D Peace dollars, and here there could be no arguments that the dollars were ever monetized or that some slipped out that could have been used in normal business transactions.

For the response to our questions about the potential legality of this coin, steps that PCGS will take to protect the identity of a person who submits a coin in response to the reward offer, and the firm’s ability to offer a reward to view property that may be considered stolen government property, see our news article on page 1 of this issue.

In 2005, Independent Coin Grading Service certified a 1974 Lincoln aluminum cent as About Uncirculated 58, and that coin was later certified by PCGS as Mint State 62. That coin has an authentication reference point, because an example is in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and could be used for comparison. That coin is also in a legal gray area as the Mint considers it unreleased and, as such, government property.

The Secret Service has been aware of the PCGS-graded coin since at least 2001 when it was first widely published, but has not seemed to make any public steps to retrieve it.

A 2005 article by Alan Herbert in Numismatic News stated, “The owner of the coin has spent a considerable sum on lawyers, who have been in constant touch with Treasury Department attorneys, negotiations which apparently have reached an impasse.”

Someone could step forward for $10,000, only to set themselves up for legal liability that could well exceed that reward. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! ■

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