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The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 4, January 23, 2000, Article 9


An advertisement on p84 of the January 31, 2000 issue of COIN World reads:

"$25,000 REWARD for the location and legitimate recovery of my 1804 SILVER DOLLAR. The coin was stolen from my upstate New York home. Remarkably, this coin has extensive circulation wear and has (or had) three initials deeply cut into its surface. All replies confidential. FRANK A. BROWN, P.O. Box 924, Clearwater, Florida, 33757"

Among the rarest and most valuable U.S. coins, the 1804 silver dollar provides perennial fodder for pranksters, crooks, and the less-informed collecting public, who think they have a fortune on their hands when all they really have is a replica of the famous coin.

The new ad recalls the now-famous ads by Samuel Brown, beginning in the December 1919 issue of The Numismatist, offering to buy examples of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. Brown had worked at the Philadelphia Mint, and after running his series of ads he unveiled an example of the coin at the 1920 Chicago ANA convention.

Only five examples of the coin are known, and all originated with Mr. Brown. Eric Newman wrote in 1963: "I still have the special leather case made for these nickels and had the opportunity to study all five coins at one time.... Samuel Brown, original owner of all five nickels, was guilty of deceptive practices from which one could conclude that the coins were improperly or unlawfully acquired by him." (As quoted in Adventures with Rare Coins, Q. David Bowers, 1979, p13)

At the time of his ads, Samuel Brown lived in North Tonawanda, N.Y. Hmmm, same last name (Brown), and towns in upstate New York. Coincidence? There are at least four possibilities:

  • 1. some wag is setting up the hobby for an April fools' joke.
  • 2. someone is trying to legitimize a fake 1804 dollar.
  • 3. Frank Brown is for real and once had a fake 1804 dollar
  • 4. there really exists (or at least existed) a heretofore unknown specimen of the coin.

With the recent issue of reproduction 1804 dollars by The Gallery Mint, it was inevitable that they would fuel an new round of tomfoolery. The coins are all marked "COPY" on the reverse, in compliance with the Hobby Protection Act. I wonder if the three initials on the mystery coin will turn out to be "COP" or "OPY"…?

Wayne Homren, Editor

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