Sunday, July 1, 2012

JR Newsletter: 1 July 2012 (95)

Harry Cabluck wrote, in response to Richard Meaney posting an 1832 LM-1 half dime:

That's a beautiful 1832...perhaps the high-water mark of any set.

Hope all is well with you.

Harry Cabluck
(editor's note:  Thanks, Harry.  Upgrades are infrequent, making them even more special.)
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Keith Davignon wrote:

Just back from the Whitman Baltimore regional coin show held June 28-30. There was a JRCS meeting held 4pm on Friday, June 30th in Room 301 where Dick Graham gave a talk about his upcoming new book on die varieties of reeded edge half dollars. Dick also had a proof copy of the book for those who attended to view. The show, and the meeting, were sparsely attended, but Dick is going to give this presentation again at the JRCS meeting at the ANA in Philadelphia, and I can tell you all right now -- do not miss this presentation! Dick has done a fabulous job which will result in another series of our beloved busties now being open to die variety collecting! The book should be printed by then and available for purchase at the ANA. Kudos to Dick for all of his obvious hard work in bringing this book to completion. For all of you who have become bored because you have completed your die variety collections of every other bust silver series, here is the reference you needed to start one more!!
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Jonathan Osborne wrote about his purchase of a bust dollar:

Hello, JRCS.  My name is Jonathan Osborne, and I have been a member of JRCS in the past but derelict for the last five or so years.  I just ‘fell out’ of the coin world for a few years and came back this weekend to go to the Baltimore convention.  I have a question for you about an 1800 dollar that I purchased at that convention.  I am not sure whether or not it will be interesting to you or your readers, but it has definitely been interesting to me.
I purchased an 1800 B-17 dollar from a dealer at the show.  It was the first ‘Daddy dollar’ I had ever purchased, and I never expected to buy one at that show… it was just very nicely detailed on  the obverse and reverse, and the price was right.  It was marked as ‘VF30+ cleaned’.  It obviously had been cleaned, but I have heard so much about problem early dollars that I was ok with that (I have several other cleaned coins, and they’re fine with me as long as I pay less because of that and they are nice looking).  I paid $1470, dealer came down from $1500. 
I showed the coin to another dealer a bit later on in the show, when one of the x-ray detection reps was showing him his product.  I wanted to see if the product worked, as I also collect elements, so I asked the rep to test my dollar.  The result came up 98% silver and 1% copper, along with 1% rhodium (?!).  It was strange.  I had no doubt that the coin was genuine, so I didn’t worry about it a lot… figured that the device only tested the surface and had other problems.  Later on, in my search for a 1916 PHILADELPHIA quarter in nice condition, I happened on another dealer’s table where another rep for the x-ray device was showing off the device.  He had a different and newer model than the other rep, so I asked him to test my dollar.  Again, it came up 98% silver with some other trace elements and I asked him why… the coin didn’t look fake, and it seemed strange to have it come up 8 or 9% more silver than regulation.  He held it on the coin for longer, and it changed to 90% silver and 3-4% SULFER, as well as trace amounts of several other elements.  While we were talking, the dealer at the table was inspecting my coin and said that something was ‘wrong with it’.  He didn’t know how to describe what he didn’t like, but he thought it was a counterfeit.  He told me to go and ask a well-known dealer (who I didn’t know) what he thought.
I went to the other dealer’s table, but he was not there and his wife was on the phone.  I waited for a few minutes, then went to see another dealer who I had previously bought two coins from.  He was a die aficionado, and I knew that he had an 1800 dollar that I could compare the edge of mine with.  The edge die, by the way, reads, ‘ONE**DOLLAR**OR**UNIT’BBCB’***HUNDRED ‘BCBCB**’CENTS’**’B’**, where ‘B’ stands for a symbol involving a box and a horizontal line through the middle (not touching the edges) and ‘C’ stands for a circle mark with a dot in the center.  There are no spaces throughout the edge design, though some of the characters are weak, and it was more-or-less consistent with the edge die I found on his coin… stars moved around, but general quality was the same (remember that I’ve never owned a daddy dollar before).  He had told me before that the coin was a B-17, after consulting the Bolender book (which I don’t have a copy of).  I told him what the other dealer had said, and asked if it was genuine.  He brought the book out again and told me that it had all of the genuine characteristics and that he believed it was genuine.  That made me feel better, and I knew that it had many die characteristics that I wouldn’t expect a fake to be able to replicate.  I also knew that I would soon be going home where I could quietly look up the type (not the variety… I don’t have that book!) and verify everything I needed to in peace.
That’s when it all got weird.  All of the die characteristics were the same as everything I saw online and in my extensive collection of auction catalogues, EXCEPT the clouds above the eagle’s head.  At first glance (well, my first glance… I am certain that some of the dollar aficionados would have picked it out immediately!), these clouds seem totally fine.  Even under 10X magnification, there is no obvious (to me) sign of any tampering.  At the same time, they are WRONG.  The clouds under ES O are all very different from that seen on the genuine.  The cloud under ES, for example, is a large rectangular box, quite different from the ellipse shape seen on a genuine example.  The right side of S is slightly left of the line between the clouds instead of over, as I’ve seen time and again on genuine specimens seen online and in reference books.  The shape of the cloud beneath the space between S and O is totally wrong (not circular, more rectangular and squished), as is that below the O (thinner and taller than the original; 0.5 mm from the O).  The cloud below S is also very close, constant at 0.5 mm.  The clash marks present on so many B-17 specimens are present on only PART of my coin; it shows in the interior of the O to the top left of F, then around through the cloud (which I don’t think was touched) to the scroll.  There is, however, absolutely no hint of a clash mark to the left of the O.  There is also a fairly obvious die crack running from the bottom part of the top right (facing) feather to between the dentils.  The details of this die made me call into question the claim of ‘counterfeit’.  I can see the die flaw under E in AMERICA, minor clashing through the left side of the leaves and through the claw to the right (facing) side of the shield.  The stars are all in the right position, and everything EXCEPT the clouds agrees with the coins I’ve seen in catalogues and online.
There was something that had bothered me about the obverse from almost the beginning: the 0’s.  They are a little more square-ish than those seen on the examples I’ve looked at in catalogues.  The die crack from the hair beneath the ribbon (this part of the crack is definitely visible) up through the ribbon (removed by wear) and into the field to lower half of inner point of S6 is mostly visible, and very fine.  There is one extremely fine crack from the hair at lower left to the center of a dentil, another from the inner point of S1 to the dentils, and another from the lower right of B to the lower left serif of E.  There is also a faint die line from the lowest curl out to the right parallel to the top of the 1.  All of this is completely consistent with a genuine die that could not have been reproduced in such detail by a counterfeiter.  I have since seen some excellent fakes online, and I am no longer secure in my certainty, but it really does seem that these characteristics could not have been manufactured… at least not ALL of them!  Some of these die cracks are REALLY fine, and I just don’t think they would be noticed by a counterfeiter.  The 0’s, on the other hand, are strange.  The first one shows a cut in the upper right half, as though it had been re-cut.  This does not show up on specimens I have investigated online.  Both 0’s have decidedly rectangular interiors, in opposition to the oval interiors seen on genuine pieces.  This didn’t bother me at first, as it looks real and this was the first Daddy dollar I had purchased… I just didn’t know what it was supposed to look like!  Don’t get me wrong: I DO know what bust dollars look like.. just haven’t owned one before, so never had a chance to inspect them fully. 
In my opinion, this piece was, at some time, holed.  Then, it was plugged and expertly re-engraved.  I cannot point to places where the coin is ‘depressed’ or ‘tooled’ around the area where I KNOW it was tooled.  The die showing on my coin simply isn’t the die showing on all of the examples I have been able to access (and there have been many… thanks, Heritage!).  It’s only different in the area surrounding the clouds below TES O (and, I must admit that the cloud below T hasn’t been completely changed; the die crack from inner lower left of T to cloud is still present), as well as the opposing area in the date.  That’s the reason why I believe it has been holed and plugged and refinished.
Ok.  Now, for the difficult part: what do I do with it?!  It’s a REALLY good job, and probably wouldn’t be noticed by anyone except experts in the field.  If you’re attributing, you’ll see the die flaw next to the one and the ‘collar’ clash mark at the bust and be done with it.  The 0’s aren’t really that obvious… they look good.  I know that a dealer will be able to sell this to another collector and it won’t be an issue, but I also know that the clouds do not accurately represent the die.  The die is, after all, what I bought the coin for in the first place, so I don’t want to see another collector being fooled into believing that they have the design used in the original American coinage.  At the same time, I really like the piece!  It looks like a really well-made piece of work, and I do think it’s genuine.  Just not the (price-)grade sold to me.  This has never happened to me before, and I just don’t know what to do.  I am planning to see a dealer a trust in a few days, but… it’s a really weird situation.  In my opinion, this coin would go without notice in the majority of conventions. 
Ehh… just thought it was interesting.  The weight and diameter are correct… 26.85 grams and 40 mm.  Going to ask Julian Leidman Monday to see what he thinks about the coin.  I’m really not sure whether I want to keep the coin, return it, or ask for a deal from the dealer.  It’s just weird.  I’ve never been in this position before, and I am asking for your help.  I have enjoyed your articles very much in the past, and I felt that JRCS was the one to go to with a question like this.Thanks for reading the whole thing, and please don’t hesitate to contact me (JAOsborne (at) fcps.edu).  I am very interested in what you think about this purchase.
Jon

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