Is there such a thing as a "Genuine Electrotype"?
Scott Purvis of CoinWeek forwarded this article. Thanks.
Mark Ferguson wrote it for CoinWeek about PCGS' slabbing of an interesting item pedigreed back to William Jenks and the U.S. Mint. Here are some excerpts.
A new type of the 1804 Dollar, which is often referred to as "The King of American Coins," was certified by PCGS at the 2011 American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money in Chicago on August 19. This is an historic electrotype copy of the unique "Class II" specimen of the 1804 Dollar which is part of the National Numismatic Collection now held by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The unique "1804″ dated silver dollar from which this electrotype has been made was originally struck over an 1857 Swiss Shooting Thaler. Several of the details of the Thaler are visible on the coin, such as the gun stock, parts of the wreath, rays protruding from the cross, border dentils, etc. Some of these details are also visible on the electrotype copy authenticated by PCGS, and the electrotype has a plain edge, just like the unique Class II 1804 Dollar struck over the Swiss Shooting Thaler.
The grading service is calling this piece "Genuine," meaning that it is a genuine electrotype made at the U.S. Mint, rather than a counterfeit made outside the Mint, intended to deceive collectors. This distinction is important! The PCGS label reads, "PCGS Genuine Electrotype said to be made at Mint circa 1860."
The U.S. Mint regularly made electrotype copies of coins between 1860 and 1880 for collectors, museums, and their own uses. The Mint sold electrotype copies of important coins, and it often traded coins or electrotype copies of coins for other coins the Mint did not have in its collection.
The significance of the electrotype 1804 Dollar just certified by PCGS is that it is considered an historic U.S. Mint product, one that represents a rare coin of the greatest numismatic importance. It is not a reproduction of just any coin used for daily commerce. But, it is nevertheless controversial.
The history of this piece is what makes it so important. It's conceivable that someone would be willing to pay in excess of a million dollars to own this electrotype because of its history. The current owner values this piece of history at par with the rare proof dollars of 1801, 1802 and 1803, at which the electrotypes of 1804 traded during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
This electrotype is now owned by ANA Past President H. Robert Campbell who purchased it about 15 years ago from another Past President of the ANA, Kenneth Bressett, who obtained it in 1993 from the Detroit Money Museum. The museum displayed this electrotype from 1960 to 1993 after acquiring it from Detroit collector Nate S. Shapero.
The piece has an elongated light area on its reverse from a display stand used to exhibit it at the Detroit museum. It was first sold at auction on July 25, 1883 by William Jenks, a well-known numismatist from Philadelphia, for which it was the first specimen to be photographed.
The certification of this electrotype reproduction of an 1804 Dollar is controversial to say the least. Before PCGS certified the piece, several noted experts met to examine it and make the determination whether to encapsulate it. It is doubtful that PCGS would certify just any electrotype. This one is important because it was undoubtedly made at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. It is an historic piece of monumental importance!
Hmmm. A Gen-U-Ine reproduction! What'll they slab next? Seriously, though - I don't think I have a problem with slabbing an interesting and important numismatic item, which I think these early electrotypes clearly are. But to promote a price on par with the genuine article is a huge stretch. If it actually brings that kind of money anytime soon I'd like to sell the buyer my gen-u-ine reprint of the first six volumes of The Numismatist.
To read the complete article, see:
New Type of 1804 Dollar Certified by PCGS at 2011 ANA Convention
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