1884 Trade dollar pattern has regular design but was struck in copper

Also offered was an undated splasher for the obverse of the 2-cent coin
By , Coin World
Published : 05/11/17
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Heritage’s Central States Numismatic Society auctions offered a few oddities for connoisseurs including an 1884 Trade dollar pattern, listed as Judd 1732 in United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd.

Graded Proof 60 by Professional Coin Grading Service, the pattern utilizes the standard Trade dollar design of that year, but rather than silver it was struck in copper with a reeded edge and then years later, plated with silver. Just 10 Proof 1884 Trade silver dollars were struck, with two copper examples surviving, both of which were initially presented to 19th century numismatist A.M. Smith. Smith’s collection included an 1884 Proof set containing the quarter dollar through double eagle denominations struck in copper.

In a 1935 sale by M.H. Bolender, a lot was described as follows: “1884 Trade Dollar. Regular dies, but struck in copper. Not in Adams-Woodin. Uncirculated. Excessively rare.” Prior to Judd’s book on pattern coins, the Adams-Woodin text was the essential pattern reference.

Heritage writes that the subject coin was silver-plated at an unknown date between 1936 and 1975. When offered at Superior Galleries’ August 1975 American Numismatic Association sale it was described as one of the 10 Proof 1884 Trade dollars. By 1980 it was recognized as a silver-plated copper example and it has been offered several times at auction, most recently at a 2004 American Numismatic Rarities auction where it was described as “silver plated copper.” The other known example is in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, so this is the only collectible example. It sold for $70,500.

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For comparison, of the 10 1884 Trade dollars struck in silver, one graded Proof 63 by PCGS sold for $423,000 earlier this year at Heritage’s Florida United Numismatists auction. In the description for that 1884 Trade silver dollar, Heritage writes that the copper patterns were the first coins produced with Proof dies for the 1884 Trade dollar and were delivered on Jan. 3, 1884, as recorded in a “Die Record Book” kept by A.W. Straub, foreman of the Die Makers’ Room.

Several lots later, two unusual die trials were offered. The first was an undated die trial for a gold $2.50 quarter eagle with a design that is similar to the copper-nickel 3-cent coin. The PCGS Mint State 65 die trial — sometimes referred to as a splasher — is undated but considered to have been struck in 1857 as it shares a design with Judd 189 (which is dated with that year), and the design of the die trial is complete except for the date. It is struck in a white metal and has a remnant of a paper backing. The piece is one of just four known. It sold for $15,275, a slight improvement on the $14,950 it brought when offered in January 2006 at Heritage’s Florida United Numismatists auction. It is listed as J-A1857-3 in Appendix A of the most recent edition of Judd’s United States Pattern Coins.

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The next lot was a unique undated 2-cent coin splasher graded MS-64 by PCGS. The undated splasher is an obverse die trial for the 2-cent piece as used on the Judd 312 and Judd 315 patterns, considered to be struck in 1863 and listed as J-A1863-1. Heritage writes, “The impression by the die on this soft metal sunk in deeply and created a piece that is visually similar to a die cap among error coinage. Missing a piece of the outer flan from 3 to 7 ‘clock. The surfaces are still-bright and show numerous spots.”

The unique piece was also offered at the 2006 FUN auctions where — like the previous lot — it brought $14,950. At Heritage’s Platinum Night auction it improved on that decade-old result when it sold for $21,150.

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