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Superb Gem Specimen-66 1795 Dollar, Draped Bust Left BB-51

​By Q. David Bower, Founder

The D. Brent Pogue Collection, formed over a period of four decades beginning in 1975, has the rarest of the rare, the finest of the fine. A great highlight is the incredible Specimen-66 1795 Draped Bust dollar, prooflike and beautiful. This die, with the portrait of Liberty placed slightly left of center, is the very first Draped Bust coin of any series. Later, the motif was used for cents, half dimes, dimes, quarters, and half dollars in 1796 and in 1800 for the first time on half cents. The design is from a sketch by noted artist Gilbert Stuart and is thought to be of a Philadelphia society lady.

The appreciation of this coin dates back into the 19th century, featured as lot 12 in W. Elliot Woodward’s sale of the J. Colvin Randall Collection, June 29 to July 1, 1885, where it was described as follows:

1795 Fillet head, head to the left of the center, brilliant Proof. This beautiful dollar, so far as condition is concerned, Mr. Randall declares is unique. I certainly have never seen one approaching it in perfection and beauty.

Woodward was the leading and most scholarly auction cataloger of the time, described as "the lion of the day" in the American Journal of Numismatics. Randall was the leading student of die varieties of silver and gold coins at the time, and had devised a numbering system for half eagles. Unfortunately, only hints of this system survive in catalogs. Years later, William H. Woodin classified half eagles, a manuscript that was taken over by Edgar H. Adams and published by Wayte Raymond.

As to where Randall obtained the coin, this is unknown. However, in his introduction to the catalog Woodward stated: "Many of the choice things in the collection Mr. Randall obtained from private collections in Europe, having made several voyages across the Atlantic for the sole purpose of adding to his stock and private collection, for which a long and extensive European acquaintance gave him facilities such as are afforded to few Americans abroad."

The buyer of the Randall coin was Harold P. Newlin, acting as agent for T. Harrison Garrett, who at the time was building the greatest private collection in America, acquiring, studying, and enjoying coins in his Evergreen House mansion on North Charles Street, Baltimore (where the writer, QDB, later in 1979 onward spent many happy hours). It later passed to the Johns Hopkins University, later appearing in our sale of the Garrett Collection Part II in March 1980, then to Dr. Herbert Ketterman, then to Jimmy Hayes. All the while this coin has been carefully preserved, retaining a quality possessed by few others of its era.

This coin will be among the treasures in our D. Brent Pogue Collection Part IV Sale to take place in partnership with Sotheby’s at their international headquarters in May. It will be followed by our Rarities Sale the next day. You are invited to attend in person as a bidder, buyer, or interested observer – and become a part of numismatic history as it is made. There has never been a collection equal to that of D. Brent Pogue in terms of combined rarity and quality, and there will never be again.

A Special Invitation

For more information on the Pogue Collection:

Limited-edition catalogs for the May 24, 2016, D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part IV are in print and are available for purchase while supplies last. Limit: one per person. To order, call 800-458-4646.

Also available are two deluxe hardbound books about the Pogue Collection.

Treasures from the D. Brent Pogue Rare Coin Cabinet, by Q. David Bowers. 208 pages, color illustrated, quality hardbound. This tells the stories of 100 special coins from the collection. $39.95 plus shipping. Personally autographed by Dave on request.

The 1822 Gold Half Eagle: Story of a Rarity, by Q. David Bowers.  128 pages, color illustrated, quality hardbound. $39.95 plus shipping. This also contains a wealth of information about other coins, people, places, and things—a "you are there" experience. Personally autographed by Dave on request.

For more information or to order visit  http://media.stacksbowers.com/poguecollection/pogue-the-books.html

Notes Concerning the Motif

There have been a number of theories as to the model and artist for the Draped Bust design. Decades later Mint Director James Ross Snowden became deeply interested in the history of the Philadelphia Mint and interviewed many persons in order to learn as much as possible. One of the individuals with whom he discussed Mint affairs was a descendant of Gilbert Stuart, the famed early American portrait painter. The Stuart family member told Snowden that his ancestor had designed the Liberty head introduced to the silver coinage in 1795. This is the sole known basis on which the Stuart name is attributed. On the positive side, President Washington knew Stuart very well and may have facilitated a commission to him. In 1795 the capital of the United State was in Philadelphia.

R.W. Julian has suggested that once the drawings had been approved, probably toward the middle of August, they were sent to John Eckstein, who was called by one of his fellow artists a "thorough-going drudge" in his field. Eckstein, who was paid $30 on September 9 for his work, executed a pair of plaster models, not of the whole coin, but just of the Liberty head and reverse eagle-wreath combination. The plaster models were delivered to Chief Engraver Robert Scot for the necessary die work. He first carefully cut a head punch for Liberty, as it was by far the most important part of the design, and then worked on the reverse hub for the eagle. The steel hubs were finished rather quickly, as it is believed that coinage of the Draped Bust dollar began about the end of September 1795.

In October, Washington persuaded Elias Boudinot to take the office of Mint director. A former congressman, he had been in charge of an investigation of the Mint in the winter of 1794-1795. Pressures against the Mint continued to be strong and would last into the early 19th century. Allegations included not providing enough coinage for commerce and inefficient, costly operations. Some suggested that coinage be done by contract.

Considering the time needed to prepare hubs from Eckstein’s models, the most likely date for such an order was October 1, which would mean that most if not all of the 78,238 silver dollars that were struck in the remaining days of 1795 were of the new Draped Bust design. However, this is mere supposition and the number may well be above or below that, depending upon the exact date that Draped Bust coinage commenced. Some estimates suggest a production of fewer than 50,000 pieces.

Two obverse dies were made. The first, BB-51, as here, had the bust left of the center, and the second, BB-52, had the portrait centered.

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