The 1787 Brasher Doubloon

One of the rarest coins in the world was made when a goldsmith and silversmith was denied a petition to mint his own coins.

A man named Ephraim Brasher wanted to mint his own copper coins, but ran into a roadblock: the State of New York did not want to mint copper coinage.

But Brasher already had skills applicable to creating his own coins, so he set out to making his own. At the time he was already well known for his skills and his hallmark (his initials ‘EB’), which was stamped on his own coins and any coins that he proofed. Brasher had already established his name, to the point that he was nationally recognized.

So, against the wishes of New York, Brasher made his own coins. Perhaps his high status in the numismatic industry made him a little too confident.

So why are Brasher doubloons the rarest in the world? Few were made, and very few survived, and the rarest of the doubloons are the few that were made in 22-carat gold. The coins made in copper were more common, so they don’t sell for as much.

What do these rare coins sell for? In 2005, Heritage Auction sold all three varieties of the doubloons, where the most valuable, the New York Style EB Punch on Wing, sold for $2,990,000. That wasn’t the highest price paid for a Brasher Doubloon, however. A Wall Street investment firm bought a Brasher Doubloon for the whopping price of almost $7.4 million. Now that’s a valuable coin!

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 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