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Million-Dollar Piece of Baltimore History Set for March Inner Harbor Auction

Famous 1804 Dollar was once owned by Garrett Family and Johns Hopkins University

A rare 1804 silver dollar, the most famous prize in coin collecting, will be sold in Baltimore on March 20, at an auction conducted by Stack’s Bowers Galleries of Santa Ana, California. One of just 15 known to exist, the auction house expects the coin to bring between $1.2 and $1.5 million. When it was auctioned on behalf of Johns Hopkins University in 1980, it became the most valuable silver coin in the world. It was acquired by JHU by bequest from the Garrett Family, who first bought the coin in 1883.

Though dated 1804, the Garrett specimen of this renowned rarity was struck in secret at the Philadelphia Mint sometime between the 1850s and early 1870s, as coin collectors realized how rare 1804-dated silver dollars were and the U.S. Mint sought to cash in. The original 1804 dollars were struck in 1834, intended as diplomatic gifts to Asian monarchs, produced as part of special presentation sets of American coins. Due to a misunderstanding of mint records, which indicated that the last silver dollars were struck in 1804, American government officials produced new silver dollars with the 1804 date. The last silver dollars before 1834 were coined in 1804 but bore the date 1803.

As American coin collectors realized how rare 1804-dated silver dollars were, they became legendary trophies in the world of numismatics, setting new price records at each auction. T. Harrison Garrett, the Baltimore railroad magnate who was one of the leading coin collectors in America before his death in 1888, acquired the coin in a Philadelphia auction in 1883. The Garrett Collection was given to JHU in 1942, then sold in a series of auctions from 1976 to 1981 by the predecessor firms of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

"The 1804 dollar is known as the King of American Coins for good reason," said Brian Kendrella, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries. "We’ve been fortunate to sell nearly every privately-owned specimen since our firm’s founding in 1935. Every time one crosses the auction block it makes for a headline-grabbing event."

Stack’s Bowers Galleries has conducted auctions in Baltimore for more than a quarter of a century, most recently in conjunction with the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo. The firm’s upcoming Spring Expo auction is scheduled for the Baltimore Convention Center, March 18-20, 2020. The auction in its entirety can be found online at StacksBowers.com. For more information about the auction contact Christine Karstedt at CKarstedt@stacksbowers.com.

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