All About the 1804 Silver Dollar

It’s one of the rarest coins in the world: the U.S. issued very few 1804 silver dollars. And they were minted long after their face date of 1804. Only fifteen 1804 silver dollars are known to exist.

How did this all start? The records of the United States Mint show that 19,750 of the coins were struck in 1804, but used dies dated 1803. Paradoxically, dollars dated 1804 didn’t appear until 1834. These were created because the U.S. wanted to create sets of the coins to present to some rulers in Asia.

 

 

The King of Siam coin.

The King of Siam coin.

This included the King of Siam at the time, sparking the rumor that King Rama IV of Siam gave Anna Leonowens of The King and I fame the same silver dollar. According to legend, Anna passed the coin down to her children, and them to their children’s children, and so on through the generations. In the 1950’s two British women claiming to be descended from Anna sold the coin. The Smithsonian Institution displayed the coin as part of the “King of Siam” collection in 1983. They nicknamed it the “King of Coins”. In 2001, an anonymous collector bought the whole King of Siam set of coins for more than $4 million.

Class I of these silver dollars was minted in 1834. Class II of these coins was minted from 1858-1860 illegally by a man named Theodore Eckfeldt, who sold them to coin collectors from his shop in Philadelphia. The U.S. Mint tracked down and destroyed all but one of these coins. Class III was also minted from 1858-1860 by Theodore Eckfeldt, their distinguishing features including a reverse design and a lettered edge as found in Class I. Many Class III silver dollars found their way to collectors before the Mint seized the rest of them.

The Treskilling Yellow Stamp

It holds the record as the highest selling stamp in the world (though the auction for the British Guiana 1c stamp may pass it soon).

The three skilling banco error of color, of which only one exists, comes from Sweden. The stamp got its cancel at Nya Kopparberget on July 13, 1857.

It all started when Sweden issued its first postage stamps in 1855. The stamps displayed the Swedish coat of arms in denominations of three skillings in a blue-green color and eight skillings in yellow.

But one special three skilling stamp printed in yellow instead of blue-green.

The mistake went unnoticed for a number of years. The official Swedish currency even changed to ore as time passed.

But in 1886, a young philatelist named Georg Wilhelm Backman sorted through covers in his grandmother’s attic and found the rare stamp. Not realizing the true value of the stamp, he sold it to a stamp dealer for seven kronor, about the equivalent of a dollar today. The stamp collector reportedly sold it for the worth of $500.

After extensive searching, collectors realized that this stamp was the only of its kind.

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The stamp changed hands many times throughout the years. Philipp von Ferrary, who had the largest known stamp collection in the world, bought it for 4,000 Austro-Hungarian gulden. Ferrary also owned the 1856 British Guiana 1c Magenta, the 1851 2c Hawaii Missionary cover, and the only cover with both Mauritius Post Office stamps.

Ferrary’s collection was auctioned off in the 1920s and the treskilling changed hands many times again. Even King Carol II of Romania bought it in 1950.

A number of questions arose about the legitimacy of the stamp throughout the years – was it all a forgery?

In the 1970s, the Swedish Postal Museum said the stamp was a forgery, but twice after that declared it to be a legitimate misprint.

Even if it was a forgery, the value placed upon it was immense thanks to the significance placed on it in the philately world.

In 2010, the treskilling sold in private auction for at least $2.3 million (the exact amount was not specified), a record amount for a single stamp.

Currently a Swedish nobleman named Count Gustaf Douglas owns the stamp.

The Coin Immersed in Legend: The 1913 V Nickel

The 1913 V Nickel is one of the rarest coins in the world.

We’ve written about the top five most expensive coins in the world. But other coins that didn’t make the list deserve recognition too.

One such coin is the 1913 V Nickel, which some have referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of coins.

It’s a beautiful coin, to be sure. But what makes it so valuable is not just the fact that only five are known to exist. It also has a rich, mysterious history.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Liberty Head Nickel was minted from 1883 to 1913. The nickel had a large V on the back, leading to its nickname of the “V Nickel.”

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Somehow, the Mint forgot to place the word “cents” on the nickel, and some took advantage of the misprint as well as the newness of the coin, using it as a $5 gold piece. The cleverest among them bought an item below five cents, paid with the gold-plated nickel, and waited to see whether they got change for 5 cents or 5 dollars. No one could convict the scammers because no one could say they claimed that the nickel was $5!

That whole debacle fueled the public’s interest in the coin, although the Mint added the word “cents” halfway through the coin’s run. Even from its beginning, this nickel had hype built in.1913-v-liberty-head-nickel

Only five of these (albeit the ones with “cents” on the obverse) have a 1913 strike. They were made before the production of the Indian Head design, and some suggest that a Philadelphia Mint employee made the 1913 coins right before the Indian Head coins began to be produced, even though the Liberty Heads were supposed to stop production in 1912.

One particular 1913 V Nickel surpasses all the others in legend. King Farouk of Egypt once owned this coin, along with his favored coin collection and other fine items.

Not quite a king, but the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, Dr. Jerry Buss, also owned the coin at one point.

The person most to blame for the fame of this nickel is B. Max Mehl, a Texas millionaire who created an advertising campaign during the Depression that offered a huge monetary prize for any of the V Nickels.

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The coin’s obverse side.

This led to a frenzy of treasure hunters as well as the rise in popularity of the coin. While none of the coins reached Mehl, he did greatly increase sales of his coin-collecting book. What a marketing ploy.

One of the five Liberty Head nickels known to exist was thought to be lost in a 1962 car accident that killed a coin dealer. But years later, the American Numismatic Association offered a million-dollar reward for the fifth nickel. The family of the coin dealer killed in the accident brought a nickel that they had previously been told was fake: to their shock, six members of the American Numismatic Association confirmed that it was the genuine article.

The ANA was able to show all five of the 1913 Liberty Head coins at their Baltimore convention as a result.

One of the coins sold for $3.1 million in auction in 2013.

Owned by famous names, fought for by coin collectors, and sold for millions of dollars: the “Mona Lisa” of coins has really made an impact.

Sources:

A good long history of the coin

More history