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.