Robert M. Patterson was named the 6th Director
of the Mint in May, 1835. One of his first decisions was to hire
Christian Gobrecht as
Second Engraver. Patterson also brought aboard artists Thomas Sully and
Titian Peale to prepare sketches for a new silver dollar coin.
Gobrecht took the ideas supplied to him by Sully and Peale, combined
them with a few of his own, and transformed the resultant design into
metal. In October, the new dollar proposal was shown to Treasury
Secretary Levi Woodbury and President Andrew Jackson. Both men
approved, advancing the project forward.
Many months passed before the full design was
was pictured seated upon a boulder, gazing over her right shoulder,
while holding a Union shield in her right hand.
Her left hand supports
a pole with a liberty cap stuck on the end, a
American freedom. An ascending eagle in flight dominates the reverse,
meant to symbolize optimism in the nation's future.
In November 1836, the first pattern Gobrecht
Dollars were coined, thought to number 18 or so, and these were
distributed to certain locations in Philadelphia to gauge public
reaction. Director Patterson had instructed Gobrecht to place his
signature conspicuously below the base on these first examples, but
this quickly drew harsh criticism from a local newspaper. Gobrecht then
relocated his name in tiny letters to the base of Liberty, as seen in
the specimen above. Other than the signature flap, the Gobrecht Dollar
was generally well received.
Gobrecht Dollar Name on Base
The first Gobrecht Dollars are properly called pattern coins,
and numbered 18 or so. These coins were characterized by the engraver's
name, "Christian Gobrecht F." (F. is Latin for FECIT, meaning "he made
it"), quite noticeably between the base of Liberty and the date (see
top photo). When a newspaper rebuked this as the work of a "conceited
German", Gobrecht quickly relocated his name to the bottom of the base,
where it drew less attention (bottom photo).
A total of 1000 Gobrecht Dollars were minted for
general circulation in
December 1836. Another 600 were produced in 1837 of .900 fineness, but
were dated 1836. In 1838, a couple dozen more Gobrecht Dollars were
coined, considered as patterns, having 13 stars around the obverse
outer edge and no stars on the reverse. Just 300 of the Gobrecht
Dollars were struck in 1839, all of them targeted for circulation.
Interestingly, all Gobrecht Dollars were struck with a proof finish,
including those intentionally released into circulation. These are the
only proof U.S. coins ever minted for use in everyday commerce.
There are many varieties of the Gobrecht Dollar because of the presence
or not of stars and/or the designer's name, and edge type.
Mintage figures for all are difficult to estimate precisely, because of
a limited number of Mint restrikes in the 1850's and 1860's.
In 1837, the Gobrecht seated Liberty design was introduced on the dime
dime, giving rise to the "Seated Liberty" coinage theme. The quarter
adopted Seated Liberty in 1838, the half
dollar the year after, and the silver dollar in 1840. Even though
Gobrecht's flying eagle reverse was widely endorsed, it did not appear
on Seated Liberty coinage. Instead, the heraldic eagle and shield,
first seen in 1807 and once ridiculed by Director Patterson as an
absurdity, was chosen for the reverse.
All Gobrecht Dollars are extremely rare. Collectors of average means
typically do not have a prayer of ever owning one. Proof-65 examples
sell for about $100,000 or more, sometimes much more. From an
affordability standpoint, the least expensive is the 1836 variety with
"C. GOBRECHT F." on the base, eagle flying left amid stars on reverse,
plain edge. Although quite scarce, this is the most frequently found
Gobrecht Dollar, as it was minted for general circulation.
The above mentioned 1836 variety has a decent record of value increases
over a period of many years. We list it here as a key date because of
its combination of rarity, proven demand, historical significance, and
It could be a serious mistake to buy a Gobrecht
Dollar that has not been certified by one of the four most respected
grading service companies: PCGS, NGC, IGC, or ANACS. Some of the lesser
known services *might* be fine, but these draw much less respect from
dedicated numismatists, usually for good reason. If you set out to
become a Gobrecht Dollar owner, sooner or later you'll be rubbing
elbows with this class of collector, so you might as well become one
yourself, if not already.
The left hand side of the "Sales Box" below is value trend data over a
very long period of time for an 1836 Gobrecht Dollar in XF-40
condition. The percent annual increase is computed for comparative
purposes. The right side of the box is a link to eBay US coin auctions,
that pulls all 1836 Gobrecht Dollars, if any, that are currently for
sale. Most likely, no genuine examples can be found on eBay coin
auctions at any given time, so keep checking back.
|% Annual Increase Since