In 1899, the Lafayette Memorial Commission sought to use a
souvenir coin to raise money to gift France a statue of the Marquis de
Lafayette for the 1900 International Exposition in Paris. At first, the
Commission asked for 100,000 half dollars but when Congress passed the enabling
authorization on March 3, 1899, this was changed to 50,000 dollars to be sold
for $2 a coin. We are thrilled to present an exceptional and beautifully toned
MS-66+ (PCGS) 1900 Lafayette dollar as lot
4282 in the Rarities
Night session of our official auction for the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money.
Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber designed the Lafayette
dollar and the coins were all struck on December 14, 1899. These were produced
on an older low-speed press using handmade dies with the letters and numbers
individually punched, a situation unique among commemorative coins. A total of
50,000 coins for sale were struck with an additional 26 reserved for assay. The
first coin struck was given to William McKinley, who had it put into a
presentation case that was then presented to French President Émile Loubet in a
special ceremony in the Elysée Palace on March 3, 1900.
At the time, the $2 price tag seems to have been more than
what people wanted to pay for the coin, and only a fraction was actually sold
during the campaign. Some 14,000 remained unsold in Treasury vaults, where they
stayed until 1945 when they were melted down for bullion, even though by then
the coins were of numismatic interest. These coins were somewhat neglected
during production and were simply ejected into a hopper after striking like
regular circulation coins. Carefully preserved specimens are the exception and
are highly sought after by today’s collectors.
Both sides of the incredible example offered in our August
auction are undeniably original and display rich toning of olive-gold and
cobalt blue that is very intense at the borders. Surface preservation is
outstanding for this issue and very few reach the magnificence of the present
specimen. Just six coins have been graded finer by PCGS, making this an ideal
Registry Set candidate.
This Gem 1900 Lafayette dollar will be offered on Tuesday,
August 17th in lot
4282 of the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official Auction for the ANA World’s
Fair of Money. It is being presented from the Fort Lee Collection, a
cabinet of nearly 140 exceptional classic gold and silver commemorative coins. This
piece accompanies a vast selection of world-class rarities including the finest
known 1804 dollar, a newly discovered 1794 dollar, an original 1827/3 quarter,
a Mint State 1796 Stars quarter eagle, and many other treasures. The sale is available on our firm’s website www.StacksBowers.com for viewing and
bidding, featuring high-resolution images, Coins In Motion animations and our
user-friendly bidding platform. The Live portions of the August sale will be
held from August 16th through the 21st and broadcast in high definition across
several platforms including our website, Facebook and YouTube. The
Internet-Only sessions will take place the next week, August 23rd through 25th.
For questions about bidding or to request an in-hand inspection from one of our
specialists, please contact our auction services department at 800-458-4646 or
e-mail [email protected].