The 1920 Wilson “So-Called Dollar” in Gold—An Ultimate Rarity

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The 1920 Wilson "So-Called Dollar" in Gold—An Ultimate Rarity​

After initially aiding Filipino rebels in their attempt to break free from colonial Spain, American forces remained on the islands, eventually engaging their former Filipino allies and challenging their newly found freedom. What ensued was more than four decades of American involvement in Filipino affairs, with the first three under fairly direct control of the United States government. Accordingly, the U.S. supplied the island nation with a new coinage struck at mints located on the American mainland. In 1920, however, a mint was established at the Filipino capital of Manila—an event that caused a great deal of numismatic fanfare, as it represented the first and only U.S. mint established outside of her continental borders.

In commemoration of this momentous occasion, the mint produced a medal—designed by Clifford Hewitt and engraved by George T. Morgan—recognizing then-U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, whose left-facing bust appears on its obverse. The reverse features an allusion to the Roman pantheon, with Juno Moneta (one of the many epithets Juno hailing her as protectress of funds) kneeling left, balancing a scale and instructing a putto (the nascent Philippines) how to use a coining press. Indeed, it was Hewitt himself who helped to install the minting equipment in Manila and instruct employees on its use. 3,700 examples of this medal were struck in copper (sold at a price of 50¢ each), while 2,200 examples in silver were produced (offered at $1 each). Virtually unavailable to the collecting public, however, was an incredibly rare version struck in gold. Mint records revealed that five of these gold examples were produced, with one being presented to American President Woodrow Wilson, one being presented to American Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, and the remaining three presumably left in the Philippines, possibly for domestic dignitaries or on display at the mint.

During the ravages of World War II, Manila faced imminent attack and occupation by Japanese forces, resulting in the dumping of much of the mint’s stock of coins and medals into Manila Bay in order to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. As a result, a good number of the copper and silver strikings have been lost to the depths, with those that have been recovered showing the effects of sea-salvaging. It is difficult to know if any of the gold medals were among those remaining at the mint on display and subsequently submerged, though an analysis of auction archives and third party grading census records points toward a gold mintage that is likely a bit higher than the five recorded. We have been able to trace seven gold examples, with potentially nine in total. The overall census report follows:

            • PCGS MS-62
            • NGC MS-62
            • NGC MS-61 (two cited in census, though only one traced through auction)
            • NGC MS-60 (though not in census)
            • NCS UNC Details (Mount Removed, though not in census)
            • ANACS UNC Details
            • NGC AU-58  (though not traced through auction)
            • PCGS AU-55

Our upcoming official auction of the N.Y.I.N.C. in January 2020 will feature the example that leads the above census report, graded PCGS MS-62. The best comparison for the forthcoming specimen would be the NGC MS-62 piece, which sold in July 2008 at a hammer of $65,000 ($74,750 after the buyer’s premium). It should be noted that the latter, though attaining a nearly choice designation, exhibits some noticeable striking weakness to areas of finer detail, such as Juno’s hair, Wilson’s hair, and the minting equipment. Our upcoming specimen features a stronger, bolder strike, all the while maintaining a great degree of brilliance and a charming golden-orange tone. Regardless of the actual mintage figure, this piece is clearly the finest known and undoubtedly headed for the very best of Filipino cabinets.

Our entire 2020 N.Y.I.N.C. auction will be available on our website:,  where you may register and participate in this upcoming sale. We are always seeking coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our Official Auction of the N.Y.I.N.C. in January 2020. Following that, our next Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auction will be in February 2020. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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