The Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto quarter dollar, half dollar
and dollar owned by business magnate Willis H. du Pont have been
donated to the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
All three numismatic rarities had been on loan for more than a
decade to the American Numismatic Association for display.
The three coins were among the coins stolen in a 1967 armed robbery
at the du Pont family estate in Florida. All three coins were lost for
more than three decades.
The Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto quarter dollar and half
dollar surfaced in separate over-the-counter transactions in 1999 in
Los Angeles. Both coins are unique, a fact that aided in their
identification and subsequent return to the family
The Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto dollar surfaced in 2004. It
is one of two pieces, but is distinguishable from the other example,
which is in private hands.
The “No Motto” in the coins’ description is a reference to the motto
IN GOD WE TRUST, which was added to the three denominations struck for
circulation in 1866. The three No Motto denominations bear the older
Grateful for donation
Melinda Machado, director of the Office of Communications and
Marketing for the National Museum of American History, confirmed the
donation of the three coins.
“Our curators and exhibition team are discussing how best to
showcase the coins to the public and I hope to have some more
information to share with you on that in the next few weeks,” Machado
said via email. “Since the 1960s, Mr. du Pont has been a generous
donor to the NNC and the museum is grateful that Mr. du Pont has
chosen the NNC as the permanent home for these coins.
“Other coins in the collection that are gifts from Mr. du Pont
include an unprecedented collection of Russian coins which represent
300 years of Russian history under the Romanov Dynasty,
revolutionizing the NNC holdings. Then, in the 1990s, Mr. du Pont
contributed even more notable items, including a rare 1804 dollar.”
Ellen Feingold, curator of the National Numismatic Collection, said
Feb. 19 that Smithsonian officials took physical possession of the
three coins in November 2014.
Feingold said museum staffers are examining various possibilities
for numismatic exhibits featuring the three coins. Feingold said among
the possibilities is an exhibit tracing the evolution of the motto IN
GOD WE TRUST and how it has shaped U.S. coin history.
The Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto coins lack the ribbon
bearing the motto IN GOD WE TRUST in the field above the eagle’s head
on the reverse. All the regular issue 1866 Seated Liberty coins bear
the ribbon with motto. The motto was introduced on the Seated Liberty
coins two years after first being introduced on the 2-cent coin.
The No Motto pieces — thought by some to be transitional patterns,
by others as numismatic fantasies — are believed to have been struck
by the Philadelphia Mint at the behest of influential Philadelphia
druggist and collector Robert Coulton Davis. Davis purportedly had
assisted with the recovery of the 1804-dated dollars that “escaped”
from the Mint in 1858.
Apparently, the Proof coins without the motto were created by muling
a new 1866 obverse with a reverse die engraved for an earlier year’s
production. All three, if created under those circumstances, would be
considered fantasy pieces.
Up until 1967, Willis Harrington du Pont had possession of the Proof
1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto quarter dollar, half dollar and dollar.
That is, until a quintet of masked gunmen burst into du Pont’s
Coconut Grove, Fla., home on Oct. 5, 1967, and made off with an
unparalleled list of numismatic rarities, including the three Proof
Seated Liberty, No Motto pieces, two 1804 Draped Bust silver dollars
and a gold 1787 Brasher doubloon (these latter three coins have also
The story of the robbery and the numismatic items taken was told and
retold in the numismatic press.
Machado said without the help of the numismatic press and efforts of
the numismatic community, the three 1866 coins might never have been
recovered and eventually donated to the National Numismatic Collection.
More than 30 years passed with the whereabouts of the 1866 pieces
unknown, until 1999, when the quarter dollar and half dollar both
showed up at two coin shops in the same geographical area in California.
According to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Coin Co., the 1866
quarter dollar was discovered as part of an over-the-counter purchase
of a coin collection. The 1866 coin was returned to a representative
of the du Pont family Dec. 10, 1999, according to the coin firm.
Paul Wojdak, firm president, said then that the piece was found
among a grouping of “a lot of junk and old electrotype Colonial coins
brought in by a customer.” Wojdak said the collection was purchased
after the Proof Seated Liberty quarter dollar was spotted, but it
wasn’t until further examination that it was determined the piece
lacked the motto.
No sooner had word been spread that the du Pont quarter dollar had
been recovered than the missing half dollar surfaced.
Superior Stamp & Coin of Beverly Hills, Calif., purchased the
Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto half dollar over the counter from
an unidentified seller sometime in September 1999, but apparently the
counter person did not know the rarity of the piece.
Superior’s senior numismatist, Steve Deeds, later examined the
piece. Through further research, it was learned the half dollar
matched the description of the unique coin sold in 1961.
The Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto dollar surfaced in 2004 in
Maine. The unnamed man who had the coin in his possession for nearly
20 years contacted American Numismatic Rarities LLC in February 2004
believing he might have the missing coin.
The man, a librarian, learned of the missing coin after reading a
library copy of the Sept. 13, 2003, issue of Coin World announcing
ANR’s sale of the only other Proof 1866 Seated Liberty, No Motto
dollar known. The Coin World article also addressed the du Pont robbery.
The man met with numismatists John Kraljevich Jr. and John Pack,
both then with ANR, on Feb. 26, 2004, during which time the
numismatists identified the coin as the missing du Pont coin.
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