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Numismatic Treasures #4: 1776 Continental Dollar

In 1776, the Continental Congress approved the development of a design for a dollar coin for the new independent colonies. The Continental Currency "dollar" was the original proposed coinage of the United Colonies (soon to become the United States) early in the course of the Revolutionary War, but the rebels had no source of precious metals for minting, and the British shortly captured the two cities where the minting would probably have had to have taken place --New York and Philadelphia.

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Continental Congress

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PCGS Pewter MS62. Crosby Pl. VIII, 16, Newman 2-C, Breen-1092, R.3. Sold for $60, 375 on 05/28/08

Benjamin Franklin designed the "Continental" coinage, and the contemporary Continental Currency paper money, as well. Franklin's designs typify his thinking. The sun-dial and sun with the word FUGIO ("I'm flying") meant that time passes quickly, so everyone should MIND YOUR BUSINESS. The reverse chain of thirteen links represents the United Colonies, each named on one of the links.

The E.G.FECIT ("E. G. made it") found on some specimens of the coinage is believed to refer to Elisha Gallaudet, who also made the plates for the Continental Currency fractional notes of 1776 (contemporary to the coinage issue). Gallaudet evidently signed only the one die for the coinage.

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Newman 1-B. Rarity-7-. Brass, 236.1 grains. 37.4 mm. Choice About Uncirculated-55. Sold for $207,000 on 01/16/07. This piece has been previously classed as second finest known of all brass Continental dollars.

Researchers now believe that the Continental dollars were struck as patterns, intended to replace lower denominations of Continental Currency. Evidence for this comes from the designs themselves, which are similar to those on the February 17, 1776 notes. Eric Newman also noted that the dollar denomination was absent from issues of Continental Currency between July 1776 and September 1778. Although most Continental dollars are struck in pewter or tin, some are struck in silver, which is presumably the intended alloy had the series lasted beyond the pattern stage. Of course, the shortage of specie was the root cause of the issuance of Continental Currency to begin with. Had Continental dollars been issued in silver in quantity, they would have soon traded at a significant premium to their equivalent in unbacked Continental Currency.

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Comments

  • BillyKingsleyBillyKingsley Posts: 2,661 ✭✭✭✭
    I really love the design on these-one of my favorite early American in fact. I actually bought a reproduction-copy of one of these, as I will never be able to spend that kind of money on a coin, unless I win the lottery or something. It's the only reproduction that I own, in fact. It only set me back $2.98!
    Billy Kingsley ANA R-3146356 Cardboard History // Numismatic History
  • tychojoetychojoe Posts: 1,335 ✭✭✭
    Thanks, LeeG! You certainly succeed in putting the story in hiSTORY!
  • MidLifeCrisisMidLifeCrisis Posts: 10,518 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Another great post and history lesson Lee. image

    Continental Dollars are interesting and cool, but they are not my favorite colonial era coins. Of course, I wouldn't mind owning one, but...

    One or two varieties may be extremely rare, but I don't believe Continental Dollars are exceptionally rare as a type. I would estimate that they are R-3 to R-4 as a type and this, to me, does not justify their going price.

    The ones I recall seeing most frequently on the market are conserved and terrible looking, usually in NCS slabs it seems.

    The 1776 date is cool. But, as the OP indicates, I don't think they ever actually circulated as legal tender - at least not much. I think that if they did, they would have taken over as the coin of choice to replace the 8 reales. Of course, most people could barely afford low denomination copper pieces, much less something as valuable as full 8 real coins or their equivalents.

    While their design is cool - as is the fact that they were designed by Franklin - I like the later adaptation of this design and the more prominent use of the "Mind Your Business" motto as used on Fugio coppers much better.

    In fact, Lee, I think Fugio coppers would be a great topic for a future Numismatic Treasures thread. image
  • rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Anothere great trip down the lane of numismatic history Lee... Thanks, RickO
  • StellaStella Posts: 689 ✭✭✭✭
    Great post, LeeG! Thanks once again.

    Also, the top photograph appears to depict Lot #8 of Stack's upcoming 73rd Anniversary Sale. Both coins have the same obverse planchet flaws (?) and spots near the 'R' of CURRENCY and 'O' of CONTINENTAL.
    Coin collector since childhood and New York Numismatist at Heritage Auctions.
  • PistareenPistareen Posts: 1,505 ✭✭✭
    The Continental Congress had essentially no silver or gold in 1776 -- Benedict Arnold begged for some specie to assist in his invasion of Canada and it failed largely because he had no funds to resupply.

    The Continental dollars were absolutely intended to circulate as dollars. They use an edge device that imitated that of a Spanish 8 reales -- a clear connection with that coin and that denomination. The absence of a dollar note in the last two 1776 issues of paper Continental Currency (and the size of the coin) is further proof. The reference that some folks mention, the comment about the Continental "penny," came from a Loyalist newspaper and was satirical in intent, riffing on the rife inflation that left the buying power of Continental Currency reduced even as early as '76.

    The Continental dollars failed to circulate for a few reasons:

    1. The region in which they were produced (northern NJ) was largely Loyalist, and the military events of '76 had the Patriots in that area running like hell. The Brits blew through NYC and most of New Jersey that year, ending with the turnabout at Trenton on Christmas 1776.
    2. The metallic composition -- pewter was for counterfeits and plates for poor people, not dollar-denominated coins, even in wartime.
    3. The Congress had no easy way to distribute coins. Paper was much easier to pass in large quantities in payment of small debts like "borrowing" foodstuffs and materiel or paying troops.

    The most common grade of a Continental dollar is Mint State or close to it. Stated simply, they just plain didn't circulate. Paper, however, is usually totally worn out.

    Though no paper trail on the Continental dollar coins exist (I don't mean scant -- I mean zippo, nada, positively nothing in writing from the Congressional journals), I have no doubt whatsoever they were made in large quantities (not as patterns) and were intended to circulate as a base-metal susbtitute for the hoarded silver Spanish milled dollars.

    The brass ones are rare enough that they can be called patterns. Since the silver ones are REALLY rare, and since their die states place their production both before and after the normal pewter ones, they were likely specially struck for presentation/souvenir status. Again, the Congress had zero specie in stock, so someone else would have had to provide the silver for the planchets -- which just happened to be Spanish milled dollars that were filed flat for undertype use.
  • Beautiful examples!!!!
  • mrearlygoldmrearlygold Posts: 17,858 ✭✭✭
  • RaufusRaufus Posts: 6,784 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I so wish that I could afford one....
    Land of the Free because of the Brave!
  • MidLifeCrisisMidLifeCrisis Posts: 10,518 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Well, Raufus, since you brought this thread back up...I have to say that Newman 1-B. Rarity-7-. Brass is super sweet!
  • FletcherFletcher Posts: 3,294
    If you dig for them, there are great threads to be read image
  • northcoinnorthcoin Posts: 4,987 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>If you dig for them, there are great threads to be read image >>



    Yeah, it is too bad that the quality of threads has eroded over the years in favor of quantity. It is hard for a serious contributor to put the effort into a post when it will be on page 5 before the day is over.
  • FletcherFletcher Posts: 3,294


    << <i>Yeah, it is too bad that the quality of threads has eroded over the years in favor of quantity. It is hard for a serious contributor to put the effort into a post when it will be on page 5 before the day is over. >>



    Exactly why we need a separate "Moderns and Bullion" forum image


  • Ed62Ed62 Posts: 857 ✭✭
    Great post John !!!
    Ed
  • what is size and weight on a pewter, have one with a slash on it, probably fake, but if passes weight and mm size, got from a fla. pawn shop in the 70's.

  • PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 45,400 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @goldguy24k said:
    what is size and weight on a pewter, have one with a slash on it, probably fake, but if passes weight and mm size, got from a fla. pawn shop in the 70's.

    Can we see a good pic?

    Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you may not owe.

  • rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @goldguy24k.... Welcome aboard....Please provide some good pictures to enable us to assist you...also post how much your coin weighs. Cheers, RickO

  • please check, i posted pictures

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,938 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Waiting for @Regulated....

    3...2...1.............

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • MarkMark Posts: 3,522 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It is fun to see a post from LeeG and realize just how valuable he was. I miss him...

    Of course, it's also interesting to think of how new discoveries (Sarah Sophia Banks' ledgers) now strongly suggest that these coins were struck in England well after 1776 as a souvenir commemorative medal. I wonder what LeeG would think of this evidence...

    Mark


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