Another nice article available online at Numismaster.com provides a great overview of stories in the popular press over the year about the rare 1804 dollar. It's by Tom LaMarre, and was originally published in Coins Magazine. Be sure to read the full version online.
From comic book ads to encyclopedia articles and reference books, the 1804 dollar has generated more written material than any other U.S. coin. Much of the factual information about this rarity has come to light in the past 50 years. But bits and pieces of the true story appeared in print as far back as the 1800s, waiting to be sifted from the myths and legends.
Fiction writers loved to work the 1804 dollar into their stories. Zion Rhodes' “The Great Stone God” appeared in Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly in 1891. One of the characters in the story quotes a newspaper article about 1804 dollars:
“Many stories are told to explain the disappearance of these coins, the most plausible being the entire issue was sent to Africa, to pay our soldiers in the war with Tripoli, and that the savage natives conceived such a violent fancy for the bright new coins that they offered very advantageous trades for them, converting them into ornaments.”
In 1893, Current Opinion published a variation of the 1804 Tripoli dollar legend:
“It is said that the dollars coined that year were sent out to pay off our seamen. As the coins were new and bright, the natives ashore took a great fancy to them when ‘Jack' would ring them down in payment for some jimcrack for his ‘Nancy' at home.
“The chiefs of the tribes, as soon as they heard about these gleaming white dollars, coveted them for ornaments and tokens and took measures to get possession of all they could. It appears from the scarcity of the dollars in this country that they were unusually successful, and must have either robbed or tricked away the pay of about every man in the American fleet.”
Time has disproved most of the tales. But they are still interesting to revisit and possibly no more of a fabrication than the 1804 dollar “restrikes” themselves. Long live the “king.”
To read the complete article, see:
The Storied 1804 Silver Dollar
Wayne Homren, Editor
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