It’s described by auctioneers as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own the “world’s most famous coin.”
A 1787 “Brasher Doubloon,” the first U.S. gold coin, will cross the block later this week as part of the Donald Partrick Collection. The “EB on Wing” New York-style Brasher Doubloon will be offered as Lot 3934 of Heritage Auctions’ Jan. 20-24 U.S. Coins Signature Auction, which began taking bids last month. On Jan. 21, this latest installment of the Partrick Collection – one of several separate sales for the late collector’s colonial coins, tokens and medals – will include 74 lots.
The iconic 234-year-old U.S. rarity is graded Mint State-65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), which also added its trademarked “star” designation for “exceptional eye-appeal.” One of only seven surviving examples featuring the minter’s “EB” initials on the eagle’s right wing, the coin slated to sell this week has only been offered at auction twice before—in 1907 and 1979. On both occasions, it set a record price for a coin sold at auction.
“The coin represents both the proud starting point of a young nation’s coinage and the pinnacle of coin collecting today,” said NGC Chair Mark Salzberg, who’s also the Florida-based firm’s grading finalized.
FIRST U.S. GOLD COIN
The Brasher Doubloons were the first gold coins struck in the newly independent United States.
They’re named after the man who created them, Ephraim Brasher, who was a renowned New York City metalsmith. Brasher, who was also the next-door neighbour of soon-to-be President George Washington, struck the coins just 11 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the same year the Constitution was written and five years before the first federal mint opened in Philadelphia.
“Many private gold coin enthusiasts argue that the gold doubloons issued by Ephraim Brasher in 1787 were our country’s first private gold coins,” writes long-time U.S. numismatist Donald Kagin in his 1981 book, Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States. “Other authorities believe that they were only gold patterns for a proposed copper coinage. While there is little evidence to support either theory, it is certainly clear that these issues were struck prior to the birth of the United States of America. These coins, considered among the most valuable coins in the world, however, form an intriguing part of our country’s numismatic history.”
The Brasher Doubloon shows a heraldic eagle on one side, clutching an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other. It is reminiscent of the Great Seal of the United States, which was in use at the time. Brasher’s famous “EB” hallmark appears over the eagle’s right wing on seven surviving examples; however, another unique example includes his initials on the eagle’s breast.
The unique Brasher Doubloon with the “EB” initials on the eagle’s breast was offered last summer in a private sale but attracted no buyers.
The coin’s other side depicts a sun rising over a mountain, reflecting a theme from the New York coat of arms. The scene is surrounded by the words “COLUMBIA” (representing the United States), “NOVA EBORACA” (representing New York) and “EXCELSIOR” (the New York State motto, meaning “ever upwards”). In smaller letters, the name “BRASHER” appears under the mountain.
The Partrick example is the highest-graded Brasher Doubloon by two points.
As of Jan. 18 – two days before the sale was set to kick off – bidding has already topped $5 million US.
1786 LIMA-STYLE DOUBLOON
A year before he produced the first U.S. gold coin, Brasher struck another type of gold coin known today as the 1786 Lima-style doubloon.
The upcoming Heritage sale – initially slated to take place at the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention, which was cancelled due to COVID-19 – also includes the finest of two known Lima-style doubloons. It’s graded Mint State-61 by NGC and will cross the block as Lot 3935. As of Jan. 18, bidding has topped $900,000 US.
Brasher modelled this coin on Spanish gold coinage, specifically the 1742 eight-escudos piece. The obverse shows two pillars while the reverse is divided by a Jerusalem cross with the “EB” punchmark in the middle.
The first part of the Partrick Collection sold for nearly $26 million US at Heritage Auctions’ January 2015 FUN Show sale.
A sale of Connecticut coppers last November realized an additional $1.3 million US, and the following month, a sale of U.S. “Hard Times” tokens added almost $1 million US more. Other sales are also planned for the first half of this year.
“Donald Partrick’s collection of early American coins has generated intense interest and excellent results so far,” said Jim Halperin, Heritage Auctions co-chair.
NGC created a comprehensive online listing of more than 2,000 coins, tokens and medals in the Partrick Collection at NGCcoin.com/partrick.