The 1836 Gobrecht dollar with C. GOBRECHT F. incuse on base. Although listed as a pattern in all major reference works, these were deliberately released into circulation for commercial use and thus should not be considered patterns. In fact, Snowden in his 1860 "A
Description of Ancient and Modern Coins" lists the 1836s with the regular issues.
There is much controversy surrounding the striking of these pieces which has resulted in 2 competing theories. The first, originally espoused by Walter Breen and still championed by Robert W. Julian, states that the original issue of 1836 was struck in die alignment I on 416 grain planchets containing 89.24% silver and that the second original issue of March 1837 was struck in die alignment II on 412.5 grain planchets containing 90% silver. Any other alignment is a circa 1850s or later restrike. We recommend reading their article in the July 31, 2007 edition of Numismatic News for more on this.
Many numismatists saw problems with this original theory. The 3 major issues are enumerated below.
1) The majority of alignment II and IVs are more often than not found on planchets weighing nearer to the 416 grain standard than the 412.5 grain standard. This stock should have been no longer in use by mid-January 1837.
2) The percentage of alignment IVs known in circulated condition is much higher than is found for the other circa 1850s restrikes which were sold to collectors. In fact, worn pieces are virtually non-existent for any other restrike.
3) There are many intermediate die alignments between II and IV known to exist.
Because of this, a second theory which seemed to explain these anomalies was authored by James Gray and Mike Carboneau, and published in various editions of the Gobrecht Journal. It states that any alignment II and alignment IV pieces struck from uncracked dies are originals, ie, part of the March 1837 striking run. Their theory explains the existence of both die alignment IV pieces and the intermediate alignments as being caused by one of the dies, probably the reverse die, rotating during the striking run(s) and that only the alignment III restrikes struck from the cracked state of the reverse die are 1850s or later restrikes.
The July 31, 2007 article by Robert W. Julian and Craig Sholley in Numismatic News noted that this theory was not mechanically possible and thus the controversy. Eventually Julian found evidence that the March 1837 striking of 600 pieces were all destroyed causing him to revise the original Breen theory as well. To learn about all this, click here to read the many related articles.
There are various reverse dentil and rim die markers noted on the Gobrecht dollars which are illustrated below, courtesy of John Dannreuther and PCGS.
It is important to note that most of these markers will wear away if the piece is heavily circulated and thus they are really only of use for choice AU or better examples.
Using the initially 60 examples from the Dr. Julius Korein collection (26 in alignment I, 12 in alignment II, 5 in alignment III and 17 in alignment IV) which were donated to the ANS, Craig Sholley, John Dannreuther and Saul Teichman have come up with an emission sequence of I to IV to II to IV to I to IV as shown below.
They have also come up with a new theory, first presented at the 2012 ANA, which uses all of the previous writings on the topic. It states that all alignment I, II and IV strikings are originals from the December 1836 striking, the various alignments created by the Mint as it was trying to determine why the feeder mechanism, which was probably designed for planchets no larger than half dollar in size, was slamming into the reverse die. This reverse die with the 12 markers is ultimately destroyed along with the 600 coins struck in March of 1837 as Julian notes by their lack in the 1837 Mint Report and the 1840 Niles Register notation. It also explains why all of the later restrikes used the cracked reverse die.
To view all of these articles, click here.
As the majority of these coins were struck using the feeder mechanism, they are not proofs although the many grading services grade all of them as such. They should probably be called specimens instead. There is one unquestioned proof, in the Dr. Korein collection now in the ANS, known as K47. It is in the earliest state of the dies with no markers and is illustrated at the top of this page courtesy of Heritage. No other original striking seen thus far can hold a candle to this piece with regard to the depth of its mirror field. Other true proofs are likely, including one given to the American Philosophical Society on Dec 16, 1836 and a few from President Jackson’s estate but these are not confirmed today.
Its first auction appearance was in the 1851 Roper sale where a lot of 2 realized $1 and 5 bits (ie 1 dollar, 62 and 1/2 cents) each.
Only a single possibly original example from perfect dies is known struck in die alignment III. This coin, a heavily circulated VG-8 example, was recently discovered and purchased by Gobrecht dollar expert Mike Carboneau. Because of its well worn state, it is difficult to determine if it is truly an original or a well worn restrike. For more on this, click here. It is important to note that Julian and Sholley also mention a perfect die alignment III coin in one of their early articles so there could be another out there.
Unquestioned restrikes are known in die alignment III utilizing a new reverse die. This reverse also has various die markers which are noted in the illustration below with the little pit on the foot of the E and the die line through the U among the later ones.
These were struck on at least two occasions. On the latter, possibly as late as the mid-1870s, the obverse die shows rust in front of Liberty's face
The die rust in front of Liberty's face is also visible on the copper examples of J62/P67 although it has been removed from one example. For additional information on this and all copper Gobrecht dollars, click here.
At least one reeded edge example J61/P66 was struck in die alignment IV. This example, illustrated below is ex Dewitt Smith, Granberg, Newcomer, Col Green, Boyd (B.G. Johnson 4/29/43 invoice), Farouk, Schulman, Baldenhofer, H. Englehardt (see November 1975 Numismatist), Auction 89, Bowers and Merena 5/94, Stacks 5/03, Dr. Korein, ANS and weighs 414.36 grains.
It is believed to have been struck some time between the December 1836 and the rejected March 1837 striking or is the latter's only surviving example. This is based on a Jan 8, 1837 internal memorandum to Mint Director Robert Patterson by Franklin Peale regarding the design being too medallic looking due to their "smooth edge" and the fact that the piece was struck using the "marked" reverse die with all 12 of the die markers. It also used a collar with 182 reeds.
For the latest information on J60 from Craig Sholley, John Dannreuther and Saul Teichman, click here. For the latest information on J61 from Craig Sholley, John Dannreuther and Saul Teichman, click here. For the latest on all Gobrecht dollars, click here courtesy of our friends at Heritage.
Photos used are courtesy of Heritage, PCGS, John Dannreuther, Saul Teichman and the American Numismatic Society.