When did the first photo of an 1804 dollar first appear in an auction catalog?

Kolbe-Fanning offers literature featuring images from U.S., German publishings
By , Coin World
Published : 10/04/16
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Nineteenth-century auction catalogs from the United States and Germany featuring the earliest known publication of photos of two different 1804 Draped Bust dollars are featured in the online portion of Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers Sale 143.

Lots 1 through 293 will be offered in an online sale beginning at noon ET Oct. 21. Lots 294 to 1113 will be offered via mail-bid only, closing at 9 p.m. ET Oct. 22.

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A 17.5 percent buyer’s fee is added to the closing pricing of each lot won.

Edward Cogan and an 1804 dollar

Edward Cogan’s Nov. 27, 1874, sale of a Catalogue Of A Very Rare And Valuable Assortment Of Coins And Medals, In Gold, Silver And Copper, The Property Of E. Harrison Sanford, Esq. illustrates the earliest known photograph of an 1804 Draped Bust dollar. The example of the coin illustrated became known as the Lorin G. Parmelee/Byron Reed specimen.

The photo illustrates the 1804 dollar's obverse only.

According to the auction lot description, “Though a fine engraving of the 1804 silver dollar had appeared in Eckfeldt & Du Bois’s famous 1842 Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations, the Sanford specimen appears to be the first to be depicted in a published photograph.”

The coin itself is the centerpiece of the Byron Reed Collection at the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha, Neb. The coin was graded and encapsulated Proof 64 in 1999 by ICG.

The condition of the Cogan catalog of the 1884 Sanford sale is described as “internally fine.” It carries an estimate of $1,000.

Another 1804 dollar illustrated

The first photographic evidence of both the obverse and reverse of what is known as the Dexter specimen of Class I 1804 Draped Bust dollar can be found in the auction catalog from Adolph Weyl’s Oct. 13, 1884, sale in Berlin of Verzeichniss Einer Bedeutenden Sammlung Von Münzen Und Medaillen Von Amerika, Australien, Asien Und Afrika, Sowie Einer Stattlichen Reihe Proklamations-Münzen Von Spanien.

The catalog describes the auction catalog in the sale as in “Very good or better” condition, with an estimate of $1,000.

Pasted in near the base of the title and measuring 4.5 by 10.75 centimeters is what is referred to as a Lichtdruck, or “light impression” photographic representation of the 1804 dollar's obverse and reverse. The images were produced through a process similar to a collotype.

A collotype is a dichromate-based photographic process invented by Alphonse Poitevin in 1856 and used for large volume mechanical printing before the existence of cheaper offset lithography. The collotype process allows for making high-quality prints from a sheet of light-sensitive gelatin exposed photographically to the image without using a screen.

According to the auction lot description, “Collotype or Lichtdruck illustrations, while of excellent quality, are photographically printed from plaster casts and, though the quality of detail is excellent, toning or proof surfaces are not apparent.”

Quick tangent: What's so special about the 1804 dollar?

What makes the 1804 dollar, which is often referred to as the "King of American Coins," so intriguing?

The history of the coin — which might be the wrong term for the item — is one of the most famous in U.S. numismatics. That's because no 1804-dated coins were struck for circulation in 1804, according to U.S. Mint records.

Class I 1804 dollars, of which there were at least eight, were indeed issued by the U.S. government, but not until the 1830s. And they were not issued for circulation, but as diplomatic gifts in sets of coins.

"They were intended to be included as part of Proof sets to be given as diplomatic gifts for foreign heads of state beginning in late 1834," Bill Eckberg wrote in his August 2015 Coin World feature about the shadiest of U.S. coins. "Two were actually presented: one to the Sultan of Muscat on Oct. 1, 1835, and the other to the King of Siam on April 5, 1836. Two other sets were prepared in April of 1835 but not delivered. Those four 1804 dollars and four others are known to exist in private and public collections. Remarkably, two of them are in the D. Brent Pogue Collection that was sold at auction by Stack’s Bowers Galleries. The King of Siam set, discovered in 1962, provided the key to understanding the origin of these fascinating and expensive pieces." 

Classes II and III 1804 Draped Bust dollars were produced clandestinely and illegally for sale to collectors beginning around 1859.

MORE ON THE 1804 DOLLAR:  Unlikely stories of finds of 1804 Draped Bust dollars: Coin Lore | Red Book 70th anniversary: The King of Coins

Back to the Kolbe-Fanning offerings

The late Armand Champa is recognized within the annals of numismatic literature collecting for having assembled what was considered among the finest numismatic libraries ever, until its dispersal in 1995.

Included in Champa’s collection was a copy of Thomas L. Elder’s Catalogue Of The Forty-Eighth Public Sale Magnificent Collection Of Rare American Coins of William H. Woodin, Esqr., of New York City from March 2 to 4, 1911.

The condition of the Woodin catalog is labeled in the auction lot description as “Near fine,” with an estimate of $4,000.

The catalog has its original gilt-printed card covers intact, with 1,602 lots featured and 18 photographic plates. It is accompanied by its original prices realized list.

The auction catalog is housed in a brown half calf clamshell box, lettered in gilt. The spine features five raised bands, ruled, lettered and decorated in gilt.

William H. Woodin was the Treasury secretary from March 5, 1933, to Dec. 31, 1933, during President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term. He was also a coin collector and numismatist who co-authored the first book on pattern and other experimental U.S. coins.

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