Lafayette Dollar--A Numismatic Treasure

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Lehigh96, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    I have decided to honor the Lafayette Dollar and it's historical pedigree in this thread. In my opinion this is one of the most important and valuable coins in United States history. The Lafayette Dollar was created in a campaign to help fund the creation of a monument of the Revolutionary War hero that would be displayed at the Paris Exposition of 1900. The following photograph courtesy of Heritage Auctions shows the Lafayette Dollar in MS66:

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    On March 3rd, 1899, Congress authorized the mintage of 50,000 Lafayette Commemorative Dollars which would be sold for $2 each to raise money for the Lafayette Monument Fund. The mint's chief engraver, Charles Barber was responsible for the creating the design.

    The obverse of the coin was designed to honor both Lafayette and serve as a memorial for the Centennial of George Washington's death. The obverse design shows conjoined busts of Washington and Lafayette. It is widely believed that Barber copied the design from Peter L Krider's 1881 Yorktown Surrender Centennial Medal (photo courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctions).

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    The origin of Washington's design are from an earlier bust created by Jean Antoine Houdon. Coincidentally, this same bust was used by by John Flanagan who is responsible for the design of the Washington Quarter. The following photo of Houdon's bust is courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

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    The reverse design is of the Lafayette Monument created by Paul Wayland Bartlett. The statue depicts General Lafayette on horseback and was placed at the Place du Carrousel adjacent to the Louvre in 1908.

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    In 1989, the Lafayette Monument was moved to make way for I.M. Pei's Pyramid du Louvre (photo courtesy of GreatBuildings.com). The Lafayette Monument now resides at Cours Albert 1er, between the Pont de l'Alma and the Pont des Invalids

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    The Lafayette Dollar was minted all in one day, December 14th, 1899 which was exactly 100 years after George Washington's death. Here is one of the most interesting facts about the Lafayette Dollar. The mint is not authorized to use a different date other than the date the coin was minted. As a result, the year 1900 on the obverse of the coin is considered part of the legend and technically the coin is undated. The coins were minted using 3 obverse and 4 reverse dies resulting in 5 different die varieties. After the coins were struck using an old press, they fell into a hopper with the rest of the coins. As a result, many of the coins suffered contact marks, severely reducing the number of gem examples before the coins even left the mint.

    After production, the Lafayette Dollars did not fair well in the market place and only 36 thousand were sold. The unsold coins were returned to the mint and were melted in 1945. Many of the original buyers of the coins were not regular collectors and as a result many of the coins ended up circulated, polished, and cleaned.

    Finding mint state examples of this coin is tough and gem state coins are very rare. The population of an MS65 Lafayette Dollar is 429/159 and carries a hefty price tag of about $8,500. Even in MS63 this coin breaks the $1,000 barrier.

    Here is a simple list of why I think the Lafayette Dollar is one of the most important coins in United States history and a must have for the astute collector with the means to afford this rarity.


    1. It was the first US coin to bear the likeness of a United States President
    2. It was the only classic commemorative coin of it's denomination (Silver Dollar)
    3. It is a mintage rarity with only 36,026 struck pieces surviving.
    4. It is a conditional rarity in gem state (MS65+)
    5. The coin is often found with fantastic original toning.
    6. It commemorates two of the most important men in US history.
    7. The coin is technically undated.
    8. It is available in just about every grade including circulated grades.
    9. There are die varieties for those that like them.
    10. It was minted on the 100 year anniversary of George Washington's death.
    This is one of those coins that falls into the key date category for me. I will wait until the right one hits that market that I absolutely love before I make a purchase. I do not want to spend $3,000 on an MS64 and not love the coin. I hope you enjoyed the post and welcome your comments.

    The information in this thread was compiled from the following sources: Coinsite.com, Heritage Auctions, Flickr.com, The RED BOOK, and the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of US Coins.
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  3. Mr. Coin Lover

    Mr. Coin Lover Supporter**

    Great thread, very informative. I read up on this about four years ago and wanted to get one, I sure wish I had done it. Once in awhile I check them out at various places on the net to have something to drool about. They appear to have definitely gotten more expensive since the time I initially checked them out.
  4. Luis

    Luis Senior Member

    It's funny. I was thinking about asking if Washington ever appeared in coins other than the quarters, and here it is.

    I usually try not to buy any coin that has a lower grade than VF-XF. How much would this one cost at those grades?
  5. Collect89

    Collect89 Coin Collector

    Of course, we'll let you know if we see a pleasantly colorful Lafayette Dollar in our travels. Thanks for the post.

    Very best regards,
    collect89
  6. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    I will take this one please! A little out of my price range at $16K when it sold 2 years ago.

    http://coins.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=434&Lot_No=2444

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    There is a nice MS64 in auction right now, but I am going to pass and wait for a more vibrantly toned piece.
  7. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    The problem with the Lafayette Dollars in the VF and XF grades is that almost all are problem coins. I think there is definite value in obtaining an eye appealing AU example for a discount price compared to the mint state counterparts. I almost bid on this one a few months ago until I remembered that I like toning.;)

    http://coins.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=1121&Lot_No=10988#photo

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    :D
  8. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Has any member of Cointalk ever seen the Lafayette Monument in Paris? Is it as impressive as it looks in the photo?
  9. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I've always admired the Lafayette commemorative Paul. Thanks for the terrific presentation.
  10. Leadfoot

    Leadfoot there is no spoon

    Very nice post! Now you need to update it with the (four?) varieties of this coin. ;)
  11. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    That is a great idea for a collection, all four with fantastic toning.
  12. Tdubb

    Tdubb Member

    :yawn: Wow, great post and cool coin. I'm new to collecting, so I don't know about all the really cool US coins that are out there, but from what I've just read it seems to me that it would be pretty hard to top that, and man its a cool looking coin too.

    Thanks Lehigh96 for all the effort you put into your research. I look forward to reading more.
  13. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    There are five varieties not four, but currently one of the varieties only has two specimens known.
  14. Thender

    Thender Senior Member

    Saw it in 1990, I believe, when touring Paris through the Military. I probably have video of it. And yes It was impressive, but problem is, in Paris, there was all sorts of impressive statues and art forms all around.

    Made me mad that we could only spend 3 hours in the Louvre...
  15. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    In my original post I indicated that there are five varieties but the 4E variety has a current population of two so I decided it could not be reasonable to make a collection that included it. The 1A and 3D varieties are hard enough to find.

    Mike, I will try and accomodate your request by giving a presentation of the different varieties and diagnostics. Please remember that I am a novice in this area of numismatics, I will probably mess something up.
  16. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Just for you Mike:

    There are four known obverse dies (1-4) and 5 known reverse dies (A-E). Heritage provides the following reference about the discovery of the different dies in their auction listing for the only DuVall 4-E example known at the time. This is the excerpt from that auction listing and a link to that auction.

    In his 1993 reference "Commemorative Coins of the United States," Anthony Swiatek discussed the discovery of the Lafayette dollar varieties: "In 1925, George H. Clapp discovered a Lafayette dollar which differed from the piece described by Howland Wood. ... After a discussion with Mr. Clapp, Howland Wood examined several hundred Lafayette dollars. ... He concluded that three obverse and four reverse dies exist." Frank DuVall, Life Member #1 of the Society for U.S. Commemorative Coins, discovered an additional variety, and published his find in the Fall 1988 issue of The Commemorative Trail.

    http://coins.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=444&Lot_No=2090

    For purposes of Lafayette Dollar die variety discussions all varieties will be called DuVall varieties. As stated earlier in this thread there are 5 different known die varieties: 1A, 1B, 2C, 3D, & 4E. In the following posts I will list the diagnostics of each die and provide photos of the diagnostics. We will start with the obverse dies first.
  17. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD Insert Cool Title Supporter

    Excellent post about one of my all time favorite coins Lehigh!!!
  18. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Lafayette Dollar Obverse Die Varieties

    Obverse 1: The diagnostic for the DuVall 1 is the base of the "A" in DOLLAR is lowered and leaning left. Shown below is a photo of the 1 die and a closeup photo of the lowered "A".

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    Obverse 2: The second obverse die is most easily identified by the re-punched second "S" in STATES. Shown below is a photo of the 2 die and a closeup of the re-punched "S" Please note the position of the "A" in DOLLAR as compared to the first die.

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    Obverse 3: The third obverse die has several diagnostics with the most prominent being the re-punching of the "AT" in STATES. Other diagnostics include the stop between OF & AMERICA positioned closely to the "A" in AMERICA. There is also evidence of re-punching of the "T" in UNITED & "E" in AMERICA. Shown below is a beautifully toned example of this 3rd known obverse die including closeups of the recut "AT" and position of the stop between OF & AMERICA.


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    Obverse 4: As described in the Heritage listing for one of the only two known examples of the Duvall 4-E die pair, the diagnostics of the 4th obverse die are: Numerous obverse letters are repunched, including the U in UNITED, the E in STATES, and the C in AMERICA. The CA in AMERICA is widely spaced. Shown below is the 4th obverse die and a close up photo of the recut "E" in STATES.

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    This concludes the presentation for the obverse dies and I will continue with the reverse dies in the next post.
  19. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Lafayette Dollar Reverse Die Varieties

    The reverse dies are all distinguished by examining the position of the leaves and stem of the branch over the date.

    Reverse Die A: The tip of the first lower leaf will be over the "1" in 1900. There are 14 leaves and on the branch and the stem points downward towards the last digit of the date. Shown below is the A reverse die and a closeup of the branch and date.

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    Reverse Die B: The tip of the first lower leaf is between the "1" & "9" of 1900 and there are still 14 leaves on the branch with a straighter stem curved slightly downward. Shown below is the B reverse die and a closeup of the branch and date.

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    Reverse Die C: The tip of the first lower leaf is over the "9" in 1900 and the lower of the 14 leaves lie flat against the stem which is shorter and curved down. Shown below is the C reverse die and a closeup of the branch and date.

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    Reverse Die D: The tip of the first lower leaf is over the "9" in 1900 and there are 15 total leaves with the lower leaves being spread away from the stem. This is the only variety that the stem is pointed up. Shown below is the D reverse die and a closeup of the branch and date.

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    Reverse Die E: The tip of the first lower leaf is far to the left between the star & "1" in 1900. Shown below is the E reverse die and a closeup of the branch and date.

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    That concludes my presentation of the reverse dies of the Lafayette Dollar. All photos are courtesy of Heritage Rare Coins.
  20. FreakyGarrettC

    FreakyGarrettC Wise young snail

    I love this coin. The local shop has one in a nice VG for $150. It was a problem free example though.
  21. FreakyGarrettC

    FreakyGarrettC Wise young snail

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