Alan V. Weinberg submitted these thoughts on the engraved 1859 dollar discussed in an earlier issue. Thanks! -Editor
The November 1, 2015 E-Sylum featured Classical Numismatic Group's auction of a Fine well-worn "pocket piece" 1859
Seated dollar hand-engraved in script from "Mack" to an Indiana Reg't. Major.
This piece sold for an astounding $4600 "all in" (15% buyers fee) to an East Coast dealer. I examined it in hand at the
Baltimore show, prior to the auction, as CNG's Victor England was kind enough to bring it for me to examine there in preparation for
The 1859 dollar coin was identical in wear to my 1859 "Jefferson Davis" seated dollar (pictured, ex John J. Ford Jr auction )
which I brought to the show for side by side comparison with the CNG coin. So here are my thoughts on it.
The CNG coin was not carried as a "pocket piece" but sustained this amount of wear in circulation from 1859 to 1865.
"Pocket piece" wear would have worn out the hand-engraved inscription and made it "mushy" and indistinct. Circulating
silver coinage during the Civil War was "hard" and such coins were particularly scarce in the South.
The inscription is mangled badly, either by the engraver who misunderstood the Major's instructions or by the Major himself who had
the coin engraved after he rec'd it from "Mack".
Jefferson Davis did not "capture" the coin at the New Orleans Mint in 1861 as the coin's engraving states. The coin was
taken from Jeff Davis' remaining Confederate Treasury (comprised almost exclusively of Mexican silver 8 reales and worn-out US silver
coinage ) at Confederate surrender sites to the Union forces at Greensboro, North Carolina in April 1865.
Some of this Treasury was used to pay off departing Confederate soldiers and some coins were selected to be presented to various Union
soldiers (or alternately were confiscated by Union soldiers) who shortly thereafter had them hand-engraved as Surrender souvenir pieces by
a local jeweler-engraver. I own several of these collected over the decades. The CNG piece is another one of these.
The "Mack" referred to on the CNG piece is most definitely General George McClellan who was known as "Little Mac"
due to his very short stature. Due to the status of the Indiana Major, it is possible that Gen'l McClellan may have selected this coin
out of the surrendered Treasury and given it to the Major as a souvenir, who had it so engraved afterward. Or, even more likely, that
McClellan invited or permitted Union high-ranking officers to select coins out of the Confederate Treasury as souvenirs, thus
"presenting" them to the officers, There are a sufficient number of these "Confederate" engraved coins extant to
indicate McClellan did in fact know of and approved of the selection and engraving practice.
Alan Weinberg's Engraved 1859 Seated Dollar
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
CIVIL WAR ERA ENGRAVED PRESENTATION SILVER DOLLAR
Wayne Homren, Editor
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