Earlier this year, the Class I Dexter/Pogue specimen 1804 Draped Bust U.S. Silver Dollar (the “Dexter/Pogue 1804 Dollar” for short) was purchased at auction for $3,290,000 — a price tag that may seem steep for other coins, but this isn’t other coins. The purchase price was such a steal, the brand-new owners, coin dealers Kevin Lipton and John Albanese, were able to flip the coin in a private sale not even two days later. It now belongs to prolific collector Bruce Morelan.
PCGS even announced recently that they would display the coin exclusively at their Members Only coin show, July 12-15, 2017. But why was that $3.3 million price a steal? What makes 1804 Dollars so special? Why would you be remiss to miss a viewing opportunity? How rare are these coins?
To answer these questions, we’ll have to look back at the history of these fascinating coins and that of the Dexter/Pogue 1804 Dollar.
Class I Coins, A Misleading Date, Limited Numbers and High Demand
It’s important to note that 1804 Dollars were not struck in 1804. It is believed that the coins were struck years later, around 1834, and meant as diplomatic gifts. The 1804 Dollars struck around this period are considered “Class I,” or original. Decades later, the coins garnered so much favor, they were produced again around 1857 and beyond — hence the “Class II” and later “Class III” examples.
Today, only 15 1804-dated Silver Dollars are known to exist. More importantly, only eight Class I examples are known, and only two Class I examples have graded higher than the PCGS PR65 Dexter/Pogue 1804 Dollar. According to collectibles math, that equates to a rare and valuable prize. The highest-graded Class I 1804 Dollar, PCGS PR68, nearly set the world record for most expensive coin to sell at auction, totaling approximately $10.5 million after the buyer’s fee, but that sum failed to meet the reserve price set. That should give you an idea of how coveted these extremely rare coins are, and how valuable they are in high grades. (Fun fact: the current world record-setting coin, the $10 million 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, also belongs to Morelan.)
A Colorful Past
First offered up for sale by celebrated German coin dealer Adolph Weyl, the coin eventually found its way into the collection of wealthy numismatist James V. Dexter in 1885, thus the name “Dexter specimen.” It is believed that Dexter branded the reverse of the coin with a “D, ” though that remains subject to some debate; William Forrester Dunham owned the coin after Dexter, and longer than anyone else in its history.
Anyways, during the first year of Dexter’s 14 years of ownership, the coin was entrenched in legal battles, stemming from a smear campaign from Dexter contemporary Ed. Frossard, who alleged the coin was a fake. A lawsuit involving S.H. and H. Chapman, the brothers who originally procured the coin from Weyl; the U.S. Mint and Dexter would follow. After only one year of legal headaches, explanations from the Chapmans and numerous interviews of numismatists, the lawsuit was dropped. The coin was authentic, and the Mint would provide documents to ensure such was the case.
So, what we have here is a coin of which only 15 exist, in a category that only eight exist, with a truly unique engraving on the reverse, a coin that was once fought over and recently sold then sold again, not two days later. What we have here is a coin as impressive as its full title is long, the Class I Dexter/Pogue specimen 1804 Draped Bust U.S. Silver Dollar.