US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for July 16, 2018

Research suggests that the 1776 Continental dollar, long attributed as a coin authorized by the Continental Congress, may actually be a privately struck medal from Europe produced about 1783.

Original images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Education never ends, or should not, and that includes our hobby of numismatics. In fact, continuing education, including new research, is essential in order for us to more accurately understand the origins of the numismatic objects that we collect.

Case in point #1: Kudos to my colleague Barbara J. Gregory, editor-in-chief of the American Numismatic Association journal The Numismatist, for a really great cover article in the July issue of that monthly magazine. Erik Goldstein writes about the pieces we commonly call “Continental Dollars.” His article features more groundbreaking research into this 1776-dated piece, which had long been considered a dollar-denominated coinage authorized by the Continental Congress to supplement the Continental Currency paper money, designed by Elisha Gallaudet. New research by Erik and other numismatists smashes that theory. (Goldstein and David McCarthy, in the January issue of The Numismatist, show that no evidence exists pointing to authorization of these pieces by the Continental Congress. Evidence suggests they are not even American in origin, nor a coin, and one Elisha Gallaudet had nothing to do with the pieces. Instead, as Erik writes in his July article “the pieces were first produced in Europe around 1783 as inexpensive commemorative medals.” What this latest research means to the pieces’ collectibility is unknown, but if Goldstein and McCarthy and their collaborators are correct, the “Continental Dollars” are more curiosities than an important artifact of official American numismatic history.

Case in point #2: I finally obtained a copy of the 2017 book 1792: Birth of a Nation’s Coinage by Pete Smith, Joel J. Orosz, and Leonard Augsburger. I have not yet had time to read it in-depth, but I am already using it to fact-check articles on pieces that the book describes in detail. I should have had a copy earlier this year for fact-checking when I wrote an article about a 1792 Washington “cent” that had been altered and recently submitted to Professional Coin Grading Service for authentication as a new example of the rare piece. PCGS said it was “drastically but deceptively altered” in announcing the attempt by an unnamed party to have the coin authenticated. In adding historical background to my article, I used as a source a 2009 book to identify the engraver of the dies of the coin. As Pete pointed out after publication of the article, that 2009 reference was based on even earlier misinterpretation of the history of the coin. His 2017 book now occupies a place on my desk as a much needed reference.

Case in point #3: A reader called me earlier this week to discuss at length his theories on what he believes to be forgotten/ignored knowledge about Vermont numismatic history. He cited his research into a piece he had purchased years ago that he believes others have misidentified. I am in no position to comment authoritatively on his findings, but I suggested that he consult with experts in early American coinage to present his theory. 

Will our references have to be rewritten again?

Connect with Coin World:  

Sign up for our free eNewsletter
Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter

Community Comments