A friend who knows I collect coins found this piece in a flea
market in Argentina.
I looked it up in the “Red Book” but couldn’t find anything like
it. It looks like a normal silver dollar, but it feels a bit lighter.
What is it?
Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
Your piece is not listed in A Guide Book of United States
Coins (the “Red Book”) because it is not a product of the U.S. Mint.
The “coin” is a fantasy piece that is a pastiche of several
designs used on regular issue United States coinage. It likely was not
made to deceive coin collectors, but instead was designed to serve as
a novelty item.
A fantasy piece is defined as an item that has similar basic
elements of an authentic coin or similar item, but is an imaginary
piece, not issued by the entity represented. It’s not considered a
counterfeit in that it is not made to resemble a specific coin,
although some can be deceptive. Collectors might consider such a piece
to be a medal.
Different fantasy coins might be struck by private mints that also
create coins approved by governments, but that isn’t likely the case
with this coin.
It also should not be confused with a pattern coin, which is a
piece produced to test a new design or composition or to serve as a
model for a new denomination.
The obverse of this piece depicts an Indian bust, derived from the
Indian Head cents designed by James B. Longacre and produced for
circulation from 1859 to 1909. The design lacks the sharpness of an
actual Indian Head cent. Note the incomplete bridge of Liberty’s nose
and the dislocation of the lower feathers from the headdress. Also,
rather than placing a date on the obverse, the medal’s creator placed
two stars there.
The reverse of this silver-colored piece is dated 1851 but mimics
the design of the small-sized Coronet gold dollar reverse — also
designed by Longacre — and produced from 1849 to 1854.
A genuine 1851 silver dollar would be a Seated Liberty type, which
was struck from 1840 to 1873.
Your fantasy piece has a diameter measuring 45 millimeters. In
comparison, a real Seated Liberty silver dollar would be 38.1
millimeters. This piece has a weight of 27.2 grams, whereas a real
Seated Liberty silver dollar should weigh 26.73 grams, barring any
metal loss from circulation wear. Its reeded edge is consistent with a
silver dollar of the period, but its composition is likely a low value
base metal rather than the 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper that
characterizes genuine silver dollars of the era.
All said, fantasy pieces are still sometimes sought after by coin
collectors, and what this piece might lack in value, it certainly
makes up for in novelty.
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