Piece is very un­likely an au­then­tic Brasher Dou­bloon

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - HOMES -

Dear Helaine and Joe:

Please re­view at­tached pho­to­graphs of a 1787 Brasher Dou­bloon and give us your opin­ion of the value. Any in­for­ma­tion you can pro­vide would be ap­pre­ci­ated. Thank you, N.L.A.

Dear N. L. A.:

Just like the lit­er­ary Peter and his prover­bial prin­ci­pal, this let­ter raises us to our level of in­com­pe­tence. But we do have a few thoughts on this sub­ject.

Our first piece of ad­vice is: Get thee to an ex­pert.

N. L. A. needs a coin spe­cial­ist of im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials, rep­u­ta­tion and ethics. Avoid most coin deal­ers — ex­cept the most ex­pe­ri­enced, knowl­edge­able and rep­utable — and con­cen­trate on the in­ter­na­tional auc­tion houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Heritage and such.

Our re­search sug­gests to us there are fewer than 10 gen­uine 1787 Brasher Dou­bloons known (we could find seven). The odds of this one be­ing real, of the pe­riod and by the maker are about the same as the odds of walk­ing down Fifth Av­enue in New York City and si­mul­ta­ne­ously get­ting hit by light­ning and run over by a fly­ing saucer. But stranger things have hap­pened.

There is some de­bate as to which side of the coin is the ob­verse and which the re­verse, so we will just re­fer to the two sides. One side has the seal of the state of New York, a land­scape with a sun­rise over a mountain peak and the ocean in the fore­ground sur­rounded by the words “Nova Eb­o­raca” (Latin for “New York”), “Columbia” and “Ex­cel­sior.”

The other side has a spread winged ea­gle fac­ing right with its head sur­rounded by 13 pointed stars. There is a shield at the ea­gle’s breast, the motto “E Pluribus Unum” (“one from many” or “out of many, one”), and the date 1887. The ini­tials “EB” for maker Ephraim Brasher (1744-1828) are lo­cated ei­ther over the ea­gle’s wing just above the shield, or on the ea­gle’s ch­est (there is just one known ex­am­ple of this type).

The first thing that N. L. A. should check is her coin is made from gold (about 22 karat), and should weigh in the neigh­bor­hood of 409 to 412 grains. We should men­tion that the last gen­uine Brasher Dou­bloon to turn up was in 1897 when a crew dis­cov­ered one while dig­ging up a sewer in Philadel­phia.

Re­pro­duc­tions of the coin — tech­ni­cally, we dis­cov­ered that it was not so much a coin as a pat­tern for a pro­posed coin — far out­num­ber the orig­i­nals and have been made for a very long time. Ex­am­in­ing the pho­to­graphs sup­plied by N.L.A., we doubt the piece is made from gold, and we no­tice the stars are es­sen­tially raised hobs and do not have points.

The work­man­ship seems to be crude (at least to our eyes), but this may have some­thing to do with what ap­pears to be sig­nif­i­cant wear. Again, get thee to an ex­pert. Yale Univer­sity and the American Nu­mis­matic So­ci­ety all have ex­am­ples of gen­uine pieces. Value if gen­uine? Prob­a­bly north of half a mil­lion dol­lars.

Helaine Fen­del­man and Joe Ros­son have writ­ten a num­ber of books on an­tiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Con­tact them at Joe Ros­son, 2504 Sey­mour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at trea­sures­knol­ogy.net. If you’d like your ques­tion to be con­sid­ered for their col­umn, please in­clude a high-res­o­lu­tion photo of the sub­ject, which must be in fo­cus, with your in­quiry.


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