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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 52, December 18, 2011, Article 22

BRASHER DOUBLOON SELLS TO HEDGE FUND

And here's another counterstamped coin in the news - a Brasher Doubloon has changed hands. There was a nice article in the San Francisco Chronicle about it. Here are some excerpts. -Editor

Brasher Doubloon It seems the 1 percent isn't content with merely controlling 40 percent of the nation's wealth. It also now has the nation's most famous coin.

At least that's how it looked this week when a San Francisco coin dealer revealed that the 1787 gold Brasher Doubloon, probably the rarest of all American coins, has been sold to - you guessed it - a Wall Street investment firm.

The coin was worth $15 when George Washington's neighbor Ephraim Brasher minted it. The firm that bought it this month paid $7.4 million.

That's just under the record $7.6 million paid in 2002 at auction for a 1933 $20 gold Double Eagle.

"Who else could afford this but someone in the 1 percent?" said Don Kagin, the rare-coin dealer who sold the Brasher Doubloon to an intermediary at the beginning of December for more than $6 million in cash and other rare coins. That intermediary quickly sold it to a broker in New Orleans, who then sold it to the Wall Street firm.

Nobody involved is revealing the identity of the firm.

The front features a mountain with a sun shining over it, and on the back is an eagle with a shield on its breast. This was the first coin made by Brasher, who stamped his initials, "EB," in the middle of the shield.

Subsequent Brasher Doubloons bore his initials on the eagle's wing, and there are six of those in museums and private collections. Their success in the field prompted Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to hire Brasher as official currency assayer.

"The Brasher Doubloon," a 1947 film starring George Montgomery and based on a Raymond Chandler novel, propelled the coin's reputation into popular lore. In it, private eye Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich widow to find the piece after it is stolen.

Kagin hopes to entice the new owner to lend the doubloon to a coin museum he and others want to establish in the next few years at the old San Francisco Mint building at Fifth and Mission streets.

He has actually owned the Brasher piece twice - buying it first in the late 1980s for less than $1 million, selling it and then buying it again with a partner in 2005 for $2.9 million. Both times he took it on tours to show off to adoring fans at coin shows all over the country.

Rather than display an image of the coin in question, the newspaper oddly chose to display an image of the holder. While studies of holders can be interesting, it's the Mona Lisa most people want to see, not the frame the painting happens to be in.

I'm getting old enough to have seen this movie before - coins go up in value, beating Wall Street; Wall Street firms jump on the bandwagon; Wall street firms (and their clients) get royally screwed. Is this a sign of the top of the market for high-end coins? When investors are buying and selling to one another while real collectors sit on their hands at the auction, something's gotta give sooner or later. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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