The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 12, March 22, 2015, Article 20


Len Augsburger published a great article in the Spring 2015 issue of The Gobrecht Journal, a publication of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club. Titled A Gobrecht Dollar Returns Home, it describes the history and provenance of a rare coin, and how Len was able to reunite the coin with its original owner and documentation. With permission, here's an excerpt. Thanks to both Len and Gobrecht Journal editor Bill Bugert for their assistance. -Editor

Sevier Gobrecht dollar material

In August 2010, a Carlisle, PA resident discovered an 1836 Gobrecht dollar in her mother’s safety deposit box. The coin was unknown to anyone in the family, and the mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s, was unable to provide further information. The daughter and her husband researched the coin and placed it with the Hershey, PA dealer Rich Uhrich for sale. Uhrich advised having the coin certified, and the newly-slabbed PCGS PR62 coin was sold in October 2010 with the proceeds allocated to the aged mother’s nursing care.

That was seemingly the end of the story but no one could explain why a 91 year-old woman was in possession of a Gobrecht dollar. The fairer sex are not generally known as numismatists, and, even more, this was no mere accumulation of pocket change. This was a scarce, five-figure coin, a coin that marked the Mint’s transition from Bust to Liberty Seated coinage. All that could be said at this point was that the family had successfully concluded a fair deal and put the money to good use.

Fast forward to September 2011. The daughter continued to work through her mother’s affairs and completely cleaned out the safety deposit box. An old bible, inscribed by the daughter’s great-great-grandmother, hid a long-forgotten letter, and this is the beginning of our story. The great-great-grandmother, Sarah Knox Sevier (1812-1891), had left a message to future generations. An old Chinese proverb states that the palest ink is better than the best memory, and Sarah K. Sevier’s written account of this Gobrecht dollar is a reminder that it is not hard for documentation to outlast recollection.

Port Gibson, Mississippi. March 21, 1888.

My Dear Grandson,
Your letter of the 17th was received two days since and I write this morning to tell you all I know about the silver dollar owned by your mother at the time of her death. The dollar was given to your mother on one of my visits to the Hermitage, the home of General Jackson. The coin was given to your mother by Major R. E. W. Earl who was a friend of General Jackson and member of his household. I believe the dollar was given to Major Earl by General Jackson as the first impression of the silver dollars made or coined when General Andrew Jackson was president.

I have understood there were only a few made perhaps only one dozen, indeed I have been told the Coin Book says there were only six made but I never saw a coin book and I don’t know but whether there were few or many made. The dollar you have is one of the number and was given to your mother in 1837 when she was an infant, by Major Earl, who was a beloved member of General Jackson’s family and my dear uncle by marriage. He was a celebrated artist.

The coin was given to your mother, my darling first born child, at The Hermitage. It was put in her hands by Major Earl & I have one given to me by Mrs. Jackson, wife of General Jackson’s adopted son. I gave mine to your Aunt Eliza. Your mother told me she had been offered $100 for her dollar but friends advised her not to take that. They said the coin would be worth $1000 in a few years. I wish you or Nannie Bell could keep it as a precious “heirloom” but know there are debts owing which ought to be paid, especially the debt to the undertaker in Ashville and the doctor’s bill. These are sacred debts, dear Robbie, and ought to be paid if possible. I hope Mr. Kanning will help you pay them. I suppose Nannie Bell got most of her mother’s furniture too.

If ever you can spare the time and money to come and see us dear Rob, you will be welcomed warmly by us all. You can send this letter to Mr. Christian as it may help him to sell your dollar…Write me when you can and tell me what the prospects are for disposing of the dollar. May God bless and take care of you my dear grandson always.

Your Loving Grandmother,
Sarah K. Sevier

The discovery of this letter resolved one mystery – it explained why the Gobrecht dollar had been carefully preserved in the bank box. But now there was a second mystery – the coin had been sold, and its whereabouts were unknown. Uhrich checked with his buyer, a high-volume dealer who had quickly flipped the coin after acquiring it. There was no contact information for the next owner in line, and so the trail went cold. The original seller made inquiries with a number of industry insiders, including Jim Halperin and Dave Bowers. Both dealers were responsive and helpful, but still, a connection could not be made. In the meantime, Uhrich connected the present writer with the original seller, who furnished the documentation, including a scan of the coin and the 1888 letter. The author now had the provenance, but where was the coin?

There's much more to Len's great article, but I'll fast forward to the "returns home" part. -Editor

Sevier Gobrecht dollar obverse Sevier Gobrecht dollar reverse

Three years later, at the Whitman fall Baltimore show, the author walked past dealer Kevin Lipton’s table and spied something that looked familiar – an 1836 Gobrecht dollar, graded PR62 by PCGS. Could it possibly be the same coin? I walked to a nearby, empty table (it was a Saturday, and a number of dealers had packed up) and pulled out my cell phone. I dialed up the Heritage Auction Archives website, just to be doubly sure. There was no mistaking it, the PCGS certification number matched, and the marks on the coin were the same. There was a spot at Liberty’s right (facing) knee, a tiny pit in the left obverse field, and a minor rim defect at the top of the reverse.

I quickly walked back to Lipton’s table. He was packing up himself, so I asked the price on the Gobrecht dollar and told him I would give him a call on Monday. Over the weekend, I contacted the original seller – was she still interested in the coin? If she wasn’t, I was most interested in purchasing the documentation. She still wanted the coin, and I was pleased to see it go back into the family. I brokered the deal, and it was in her hands within a few days. She has explained the situation clearly to her own children, and it is certain they will not find a forgotten Gobrecht dollar in her safety deposit box!

For more information on the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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