1878-P trade dollar (yeah, right...)?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by -jeffB, May 11, 2013.

  1. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    I posted last week about my latest eBay "pig in a poke", advertised as a lot of problem coins, and featuring a holed and engraved trade dollar. It was listed as an 1878, but I thought from the picture that it was probably an 1873, since the 1878 Philadelphia issue was proof-only. When it arrived, it did, in fact, show a date of 1878 and no mint mark.

    The obvious conclusion: it's a fake, perhaps contemporary, but a fake nonetheless. But when I tried to prove it, I was stuck -- it weighs exactly what a trade dollar minus a hole's worth of silver should weigh, its obverse and reverse are both clearly Type II, the edge looks reasonable (although the rim is damaged in what looks to me like an odd way).

    So, I hauled it to the local coin show today, took it to the guy with the big black book of fakes (including a dozen or more fake trade dollars), and asked him how to tell this was a fake. He studied it for a good five or ten minutes, looked at me with a puzzled expression, and said, "I don't see anything to make me think this is a fake."


    I explained that I didn't think proof-only issues typically got holed, engraved, and tossed into junk lots. He reminded me that proof issues in those days usually sold for not much over face value, and that it wouldn't be unheard of to engrave one and/or hole it as a jewelry gift. He said the rim oddness on the front looked to him like the remnants of a wire rim (!), and that he saw no sign of pimples or pits in the fields. His recommendation: send it in, because it's got a reasonable chance of authenticating.

    I showed it to another guy I've dealt with before, who collects counterstamped coins. He was quite interested in it because of the inscription, but said he doesn't collect holed coins. He agreed that it seemed genuine, and recommended that I either put it up for auction as-is or send it in for authentication.

    So, here it is, in all its mistreated glory:

    1878-trade-obv.jpg 1878-trade-rev.jpg

    What do you think? Have I rescued one more of the 900 proofs minted that year? Is it worth a further $30 (give or take) gamble to attempt authentication? If so, does it much matter whether I send it to ANACS, NGC or PCGS, given that it's (ahem) unlikely to earn an actual grade? What value class would this go into for grading, given that it may be a rarity, but it is definitely badly maimed?
    rzage and dwhiz like this.
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  3. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    I like it, but I wouldn't bother with a slab. It is what it is.
  4. wood_ster

    wood_ster Active Member

    Do Genuine Holed Impaired Scratched Proof trade dollar trade a premium?

    If they Trade a nice premium, slab it.

    If they sell for ~ melt...then...you have your answer.

    I would pay...some amount over melt for that neat old dollar. Just not sure where. My initial lowball would be melt +20 - - - that is where my head it, this is not an offer, but an exercise. Thanks!
  5. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    I see common-date holed trade dollars going for $60-90 and up; a cleaned, holed 1877-CC, not as rare as this one, brought $299. I'm sure there are a lot more that don't sell, of course, but I'm hoping this single coin might cover the cost of the whole lot.

    For fake holed engraved trade dollars, even struck from actual silver, I'd hope the market is considerably thinner.
  6. chip

    chip Novice collector

    Here is what I am thinking, if someone is interested in a holed trade dollar, they would probably have the same concerns that you had, it MUST be fake, mintage 900? naw, who would drill a hole through that? But if it was in a slab that authenticates it, then it would help answer that question. The same question you had.

    You might even want to keep the paperwork from the slabbing company, just so the potential buyer would have less concern about a fake slab.
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  7. lonegunlawyer

    lonegunlawyer Numismatist Esq.

    Send it in for authentication. If it authenticates, then you got one of 900 - even if its not the best example.
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  8. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    It looks good to me. And I would say it is worth significantly more than melt.
    rzage likes this.
  9. kaosleeroy108

    kaosleeroy108 The Mahayana Tea Shop & hobby center

    nice .. you could use the water of kings..
  10. jloring

    jloring Senior Citizen

    I would think (if genuine and slabbed) that this coin is probably worth in the low four figure range as a circulated and damaged proof. My biggest concern is that it's a genuine '78-S with the mintmark removed. Interesting to see how the TPGs would handle this one.
  11. Collector1966

    Collector1966 Senior Member

    I would think that if the coin really is an impaired proof, that it would have traces of proof luster, given that it doesn't show much actual wear.

  12. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    Probably not four figures, unless I find a collector whose particular obsession is holed AND engraved coins. :)

    A quick eBay sold-items check turns up four that have sold in the last two months:

    An NGC proof-details coin with beautiful cameo devices, but terrible liquid damage, went for $1869.

    An NGC PF62 CAMEO went for $2283.

    A PCGS PR61 went for $2300 (BIN, not sure how long it took to sell).

    And, finally, a PCGS PR64CAM went for $6250 BIN -- but it had been up for almost a year!

    It would be great if this were an unimpaired example, but if someone were granting me those sorts of wishes, I'd be concentrating on other coins in my collection. :) I don't think mine would do as well as that first impaired proof in the list. But after seeing these numbers, I'm even more convinced that this thing is worth sending in -- it'll be an expensive disappointment if it comes back "not genuine", "questionable", "unverifiable", or even "not suitable", but a big value boost if it does slab.

    Too bad ANACS isn't running their "dollars and cents" special any more; as of this lot, I'm sure I've got at least ten dollars and cents that would be worth a $10 risk...
    Hookman likes this.
  13. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    I honestly don't know. I don't have any proofs older than 1956 or so, and most of my impaired proofs are lightly-circulated Kennedy halves, so I don't have a good comparison target.

    I'd kind of expect, though, that this coin would have seen some kind of cleaning over its life, probably more than once. By the time someone finished pawing over it to do that engraving, never mind the hole, I'm sure there would've been fingerprints to take off -- and I don't picture it getting a gentle swirl in an acetone bath.
  14. d.t.menace

    d.t.menace Member

    If it were mine and I was planning on selling i would spend the extra money on the gamble that it would get a genuine.
  15. Mainebill

    Mainebill Bethany Danielle

    I believe it genuine and a proof just one that's had a wicked hard life still a cool survivor tho!!
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  16. Slider

    Slider Member

    Perhaps I'm just being naive, but if it's true that the proof trade dollars didn't sell for much over face value back then, then I think it's entirely plausible that someone with more money than brains picked one up, liked the luster found on a proof, and immediately turned it into jewelry. Mintage numbers wouldn't have been nearly as accessible in 1878 (or 1978, for that matter) as they are now and it's easy to see how a non-collector (and the recipient of the jewelry, assuming it was given away) would be oblivious to the scarcity of the coin.

    Is it unrealistic to think that some wealthy individual buys one while in the city and then returns to smalltown, USA and asks their local jeweler to dress it up nice, at which point it gets worn and beaten around for a few generations before somebody tosses it in a drawer?

    If it were me, I'd gamble the money to send it in and see if it were legit, regardless of what the value might be after it was authenticated. I've certainly pi$$ed away a lot more money on a lot less interesting endeavors.
    Hookman likes this.
  17. quarter-back

    quarter-back Active Member

    Looks like the engraving says "Buffington Thanksgiving". It could be an old family heirloom. In addition to being genuine, it might have an interesting provenance. Where in the country did it come from? It might be interesting to find out when that font (especially the lower case "f" and the upper case "T") was popular.
  18. Numismat

    Numismat World coin enthusiast

    Looking at the Eagle side, there are minute gaps on either side of the neck and to the right of the right leg, which matches the high profile from the proof version. Also, the wider than normal space between the dentils, as well as the straightness of the dentils, also match the proof. I would say you got a great find here.
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  19. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    Heh. It's nice to see some more info popping up on this thread. Thanks, guys!

    I spent a good bit of time searching for "Buffington Thanksgiving" in various permutations, but without success. The seller was located in Fremont, California, but I have no idea how far the coin might have traveled before reaching him.

    I intend to submit the coin to either PCGS or NGC -- someday. I'd send it to ANACS, figuring they're as good as anyone for authentication/attribution, but they inexplicably turn up their noses at holed coins. "Plugged" ones are apparently fine, so I suppose I could stuff some chewing gum in the hole and send it off, but I can't quite bring myself to do that. I guess that free NGC membership that came around last year is about to expire; maybe I should check on that, and see whether I can muster enough similarly-categorized coins to justify a submission.

    Again, this came in the oddest yet of odd lots -- a bunch of cull IHCs and Lincolns that included an impaired 1931-S, a bunch of cull nickels that included an impaired 1912-S, and loads of other "goodies". I spend a great deal of time searching for another lot that might turn out to be as much fun.
  20. JPeace$

    JPeace$ Coinaholic

    I'd send it to either NGC or PCGS if you intend to sell it. I know it will get a details grade, but I think you'll get a better return on your money with either of the top 2 TPG's.
  21. Morgandude11

    Morgandude11 As long as it's Silver, I'm listening

    I doubt very seriously that it is a genuine impaired proof. Most of the 900 are accounted for, and it is most likely a fake.
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