The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 1, January 4, 2021, Article 20


There are many great coins coming up in the Partrick Platinum segment of the Heritage Auctions January FUN sale. Cataloguer David Stone kindly sent a reminder when two important highlights went online. Thanks! -Editor

Dave writes:

"The first is the finest-known 1787 New York-style Brasher doubloon, MS65 Star NGC, CAC, in lot 3934 of the catalog. The lot description includes the previously unpublished account of Matthew Stickney's acquisition of this spectacular rarity from a New York bullion broker in 1848.

"The second coin is the closely related, finest-known 1786 Lima doubloon, MS61 NGC, CAC in lot 3935. Only two examples of Brasher's Lima doubloon are known to collectors today and the lot description includes an enhanced image of this coin, with the mysterious missing numerals and letters in the legend illustrated.

"These are among the rarest and most valuable issues in the Colonial series and both coins have been off the market for about 40 years. We just posted the enhanced lot descriptions for these coins, with extra images and hyperlinks to the important introductory section of the catalog on Ephraim Brasher's life, accomplishments, and other private coinage. We think readers would be interested to read about these important early rarities."

Absolutely! Below are short excerpts; see the complete lot descriptions online. I really like the artwork. That treatment isn't practical for lesser-valued coins, but it's very nice to see here. -Editor

1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon, EB on Wing

1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon EB on Wing obverse 1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon EB on Wing reverse

1787 New York-Style Brasher Doubloon, EB on Wing, MS65? NGC. CAC. W-5840. The New York-style Brasher doubloon is arguably the world's most famous numismatic rarity, and the Stickney-Ellsworth-Garrett-Partrick example is the finest of the mere seven known specimens. It is a coin any collector would love to own, but only one will be able to possess. Acquired by pioneer numismatist Matthew Stickney in 1848, the present coin has been offered publicly only twice in all the intervening years since its discovery. On both occasions it set a world-record price for any coin ever offered at auction.

In its first appearance, in Henry Chapman's sale of the Stickney collection in 1907, it realized $6,200, shattering the record of $2,165 set by the redoubtable 1822 half eagle in the S.H. & H. Chapman sale of the H.P. Smith Collection the year before. It also far-outdistanced the Stickney 1804 dollar, which sold for $3,600. This amazing record stood for 22 years. In its second offering, from the fabled Garrett Collection in 1979, it realized an equally spectacular total of $725,000, a record price that was not surpassed for a decade. Thus, for longer than any other coin, the Stickney Brasher doubloon held the title of "the world's most valuable coin." Heritage Auctions is indeed privileged to offer the finest-known example of the celebrated 1787 New York-style Brasher doubloon in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Obverse: The obverse was adapted from the state coat of arms of New York. The sun is rising over the peak of a mountain with a body of water in the foreground. Brasher's name is spelled out below the waves, in small letters. This central device is enclosed within a circle of beads. The legend, around: NOVA EBORACA COLUMBIA EXCELSIOR with each word separated by a rosette. This legend translates to New York, America, Ever Higher. Excelsior remains the state motto to this day.

Reverse: An eagle with wings displayed, and a shield covering its breast, has a bundle of arrows in its sinister claw (to the observer's right) and an olive branch in its dexter claw. Thirteen stars surround the eagle's head. This central device is enclosed in a continuous wreath. Around, the legend: UNUM E PLURIBUS with the words separated by stars. This legend translates to One of Many. Below, the date 1787 is flanked by rosettes. These devices are similarly used on the Great Seal of the United States. As on most coins of this era, the denomination was not specifically expressed.

On one example of the New York style doubloon, Brasher impressed his counterstamp on the shield on the eagle's breast. On the other six known coins, the counterstamp was placed at slightly varying locations on the eagle's left (facing) wing.

The New York-style Brasher doubloon in this sale combines beauty, history, eminence, and rarity. This is the finest example of the world's most famous coin. Once ensconced in the prestigious cabinets of Stickney, Ellsworth, Garrett, and Partrick, it is now being made available at auction for only the third time since Ephraim Brasher minted it in 1787. Many will vie for this incomparable prize, but it will elevate the cabinet of only one fortunate collector.

Kudos to Dave Stone for discovering a relevant 1848-Dated letter to Matthew Stickney in Stickney's papers at the Peabody Essex Museum. See the complete lot description for much, much more. -Editor

To read the complete lot description, see:
1787 DBLN New York-Style Brasher Doubloon, EB on Wing, MS65? NGC. CAC. W-5840.... (

1786 Brasher Lima Doubloon

1786 Brasher Lima Doubloon obverse 1786 Brasher Lima Doubloon reverse

1786 Brasher Lima Doubloon MS61 NGC. CAC. W-5820. Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima style doubloon is one of the most elusive and enigmatic issues of early American coinage. First discovered in the 1890s, only two examples of this mysterious issue are known to numismatists today. The Partrick coin is by far the finer of these and the only one with enough detail to decipher the all-important peripheral date and legends. Struck by famous New York silversmith Ephraim Brasher in 1786, the Lima style doubloons have always been overshadowed by their more famous New York style counterparts. However, the Lima doubloons are even rarer and may be of equal or greater historical importance. Heritage Auctions is pleased to offer the finest-known example of this iconic rarity in just its second auction appearance.

Composition of the Lima Style Doubloons Confirms Authenticity
Although the Lima doubloons were intended to closely resemble their Spanish counterparts of the 1740s, specifically the Philip V eight escudos of 1742, Brasher included their true date of manufacture (1786) in the peripheral obverse legend. Unfortunately, the legend overlaps the edge of the coin on one example of the Lima doubloon and is almost completely off the flan on the other. Only the bottom portion of the date was actually impressed into the surface of the present coin, leaving later numismatists to guess at the identity of the four digits partially displayed. The first two numerals were easily recognized as 1 and 7, but the bottom of the third figure was variously interpreted as 0 or 8; the final symbol was thought to represent either a 0 or a 3. The 1914 ANS committee of Wayte Raymond, Edgar Adams, and William Woodin conjectured either 1700 or 1780 for the date, and B. Max Mehl in his 1922 James Ten Eyck catalog thought 1703. It was only in 1991, when Michael Hodder carefully measured and analyzed the features of the coin offered here, that the correct date of 1786 was established.

In his detailed 1991 study entitled "Ephraim Brasher's 1786 Lima Style Doubloon," which was published in the 1992 ANS anthology Money of Pre-Federal America for the Coinage of the Americas Conference, Hodder reported the findings of several scientific tests conducted on the Lima style doubloons and their New York and Spanish counterparts. Elemental analysis determined that the compositions of the New York and Lima doubloons were virtually identical, but differed measurably from the earlier Spanish coins. Brasher's coins contained about the same percentage of gold as their Hispanic prototypes, but varied in the amounts of silver and copper in their alloy.

Hodder's painstaking efforts revealed the date on the obverse:

1786 Brasher Lima Doubloon obverse legends "The obverse date of 1786 on the Lima style doubloon has not been noticed before. The authors of the 1914 ANS committee report believed that the date was either 1700 or 1780, while Mehl ventured a reading of 1703. The identity of the first two numerals is agreed upon by all previous writers, given the vectors of the strokes of those numbers. The third numeral shows a closed loop composed of two parts, each equally wide, whose vectors describe a circle of evenly decreasing circumference. The fourth numeral's closed loop is wider on the right than the left, but is wider in diameter than the third's. The only possible candidate for the third is a numeral half of whose shape includes a closed loop with design elements of the required vector and thickness, eliminating all but 8 as possible choices. It may be remembered that this reading was one of the two suggested by the ANS in 1914. The fourth numeral, similarly, can only have been 6, given the varying thickness and apparent vector of the visible stroke. The thickness of the strokes with which it was drawn are too narrow on the left to accommodate the shape of a "0," and a reading of "2," "3" or "5" is ruled out by the loop's obvious closure on the left. All numerals composed of straight line elements, such as "1," "4," "7" and '9," are clearly impossible as candidates. Of the remaining two numerical choices, "8" is eliminated by the width of the visible loop and comparison with the vectors of the strokes in the third number of the date, leaving "6" as the only logical choice."

Again, see the lot description for much more on this important coin. -Editor

To read the complete lot description, see:
1786 DBLN Brasher Lima Doubloon MS61 NGC. CAC. W-5820... (

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