The 1804 silver dollar has been a fabled rarity for more than a century. While dated 1804, the coin was actually struck years later, first in the 1830s to provide gifts to foreign dignitaries, and later in the 1850s to satisfy well-connected collectors.
One of the most intriguing 1804 dollars is known as the Dexter specimen. You can tell it from all other 1804 dollars because James V. Dexter stamped a tiny D into the cloud below the O in OF on the reverse.
The counterstamp, curiously, does not detract from the coin’s value, but in its own way makes it more desirable because it now comes with a story.
The coin was the subject of controversy and accusation in the late 1800s. Its existence unknown to collectors, the coin surfaced at an 1884 auction in Berlin, of all places, where American dealers Henry and Samuel Chapman bought it for 900.5 marks, or about $225 U.S.
The next year the Philadelphia brothers sold it at auction. Bidding started at $500 (easily a year’s wages for a working man) and topped out at $1,000, with Dexter’s agent placing the winning bid.
The Coin Collector's Journal said the purchase price was “the highest price ever actually paid for a single coin.”
David Stone, Zeke Wischer, and John Sculley reported last year in Coin World, “The huge profit the Chapmans realized and the mysterious origin of the coin caused Dexter to become suspicious of its authenticity. He filed suit against the Chapman brothers for fraudulently selling the coin, which he believed to be a recent restrike, and was only mollified after a prolonged legal scuffle, when affidavits of authenticity signed by various Mint officials convinced him the coin was genuine.”
Dexter, who died in 1899, counterstamped the coin sometime during the 14 years he owned it with a tiny D so he could identity it if it were stolen.
The coin, which is currently graded Proof 65 by PCGS, changed hands twice this spring over one weekend. The coin fetched $3.29 million at the Friday March 31 Stack’s Bowers sale of the D. Brent Pogue collection. The buyers, who bought the coin on speculation, sold it that Sunday for an undisclosed price to well-known collector Bruce Morelan.
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