The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 29, July 21, 2019, Article 25


A July 18, 2019 Stack's Bowers blog article by James McCartney discusses an interesting regulated gold coin in the firm's upcoming ANA sale. -Editor

Regulated Gold 6400 Reis

We are thrilled to offer a historic Brazilian 6400 reis regulated by New York City goldsmith John Burger in Rarities Night of our August 2019 ANA Auction. Any piece of Regulated Gold is a rare prize, but a connection to John Burger and the economy of America's first capital city makes this piece particularly historic. It is the quintessential survivor from this exclusive series, balancing expert production and exceptional preservation. It is sure to serve as a crowning jewel in an advanced cabinet of early American issues.

Though originally struck in Brazil in the name of a Portuguese king, this piece is effectively an American $8 gold coin created to meet the demand for coinage that arose between the colonial period and the establishment of the U.S. Mint. It is remarkably attractive, pairing rich olive-gold surfaces with hints of darker patina in the peripheries. The 6400 reis host coin, sometimes called a half Joe, shows a uniformly sharp strike and ideal centering. Minor laminations in the planchet show in the upper left and lower right fields on the reverse, though these are as-struck and not obvious to the naked eye.

A shallow clip trims the denticles from 6 to 9 o'clock relative to the obverse, and the edge is plain and unornamented. A narrow central plug is well hidden in the portrait's curls and the corresponding shield motifs, remaining completely flat and even with the surrounding surfaces. Regulated Gold scholar Ralph Gordon considered this style of plug an assay plug, meant only to assess the fineness of the coin but not to modify the weight. Burgers B hallmark, sometimes called JB due to the elaborate script, is sharply stamped in its usual location at the eye of the portrait. The mark is crisp and features the small interior break at the lower left edge that is usually seen. Just the upper loop of the B remains flat where the punch was positioned over the field without any metal to strike up. There is minor distortion on the reverse beneath Burger's mark, but this has nicely blended into the overall aesthetic.

At a modern weight of 215.3 grains (8 dwt 23 grains), the present piece is masterfully aligned to the 216 grains (9 dwt) standard valuing a "half Joe" at $8 that rose to prominence around the time of the American Revolution. We first encounter this standard proposed by the New York Chamber of Commerce on August 17, 1770, and it later went on to be adopted by the Second Continental Congress in April 1776. However, it would not be until it was officially recognized by the Bank of New York in May of 1784 that it was institutionalized as the governing standard throughout the Colonies.

This valuation would continue to be the accepted rate up through the establishment of the U.S. Mint, with the Congressional Act of February 9, 1793, calling for "the gold coins of France, Spain and the dominions of Spain [to be valued] at the rate of one hundred cents for every twenty seven grains and two-fifths of a grain." When calculated out, we see that this is virtually the same standard of 216 grains at $8 introduced two decades prior. However, the U.S. Mint would not strike its own gold coinage for circulation until 1795 and the acceptance of foreign gold coins like the 6400 reis was a crucial element of the growth in the early American economy. Regulators like Burger were essential in the maintenance of this haphazard monetary system, and the present piece is a significant relic of this foundational era.

John Burger worked in New York City after the British Evacuation in November 1783, and was advertising his services as a coin regulator as early as January 1784. A close colleague of Ephraim Brasher (who produced the legendary doubloons), John Burger was a similarly influential figure, notable for declaring Alexander Hamilton's 1804 death a murder in his capacity as city coroner. Both Burger and Brasher belonged to the New York Gold and Silversmiths Society, and they worked within a few blocks of each other in the Lower East Side of Manhattan adjacent to the East River. These men appear to have worked at the same time and to the same standard, but for different parties, as their marks often appear on the same coin, like two different stamps on a passport. Burger marks on half Joes are also known alongside the marks of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other islands.

While the current countermark has long been familiar to scholars of the Regulated Gold series, the exact identity of the regulator was unclear until relatively recently. It was first attributed to the territory of Berbice (British Guiana) by Howland Wood in his pioneering Coins of the West Indies and Sou Marque (1915). Ralph Gordon recognized a connection to Brasher and correctly attributed the "Script B" mark to North America in his seminal West Indies Countermarked Gold Coins (1987). However, it wasn't until several years later that this mark would be confirmed as John Burger by William Swoger in a 1992 Coin World article, and then in a privately published 1999 monograph titled Burger's Doubloons.

To read the complete article, see:
John Burger Regulated 6400 Reis to be Featured in Rarities Night of our August 2019 ANA Auction (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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