The March 2020 Erie Canal SC$1 Highlight
Though our March Baltimore 2020 Auction is
three months away, consignments have been rolling in for this popular and
exciting event. One of the highlights received thus far is an exceptionally
rare so-called dollar, the famous Erie Canal Completion medal struck in gold.
There are only three known examples of this
phenomenal rarity, two of which are in private hands. The medal was struck to
commemorate the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, an engineering feat that
ushered in an era of economic, cultural and political prosperity in New York, specifically
New York City, whose increasing importance as a port city outpaced competing
ports along the Eastern Seaboard. The Canal was directly responsible for
bringing the agricultural products of the western interior to markets in the
East, and bringing finished goods from the port of New York City to the
interior, all the while slashing the cost of transportation by 95% from the
usual overland routes.
To commemorate the Canal’s completion, the
Common Council of New York City authorized a medal and put its execution in the
able hands of Archibald Robertson, a contemporary American artist. Robertson
designed the medal. Iron and steel worker William Williams made the dies upon
which famed medalist Charles Cushing Wright engraved the designs and Richard
Trested punched the legends. The medals themselves were struck by Maltby
Pelletreau of Pelletreau, Bennett and Cooke, Pelletreau being from a family of
New York silversmiths dating back to colonial times.
The medals were struck in white metal,
silver and gold. White metal impressions were presented to invited guests of
the Corporation of New York, while silver impressions were given to select
dignitaries and government officials. Gold specimens were reserved for persons
of the highest order including the surviving signers of the Declaration of
Independence, the family of George Washington, the current and past (living)
Presidents, Marquis de Lafayette, and other very select individuals. A total of
twelve gold examples were distributed to named persons, based on contemporary
newspaper accounts. Today, we know of three that have survived.
The piece to be presented in our March
Baltimore auction is certified by NGC as EF-45 and features Pan and Neptune on
the obverse with a distant view of the ocean and a lighthouse. The reverse
shows the New York coat of arms with a representation of the canal and the city
of New York. The surfaces are medium gold and retain a satin to modestly
semi-prooflike finish. The detail is sharp throughout the obverse, and bold on
the reverse apart from a touch of softness to the high points. The provenance
is largely unknown apart from it coming out of a European estate.
President John Quincy Adams’ example,
certified by NGC as Proof-62, last sold at auction in 2014. President Andrew
Jackson’s example described as “Extremely Fine” was donated to the New York
Historical Society in 1832. This example could very well be Washington’s,
Lafayette’s, James Madison’s or perhaps one of the signers of the Declaration
of Independence. Speculation? Of course, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine.
Definitively concluding to whom this
piece was originally presented is probably impossible, but in time, perhaps
clues will surface that will give additional direction. In any case, this is a
historic and exceedingly rare medal commemorating one of the most important
engineering achievements of the early United States. We anticipate strong bids
and heavy competition.
If you would like to
consign your items to be sold alongside this and other rarities at our March
2020 Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Spring Expo in
Baltimore, there is still time! Contact us
now to speak with a numismatic representative to feature your coins in this
exciting event! Call 800-566-2580 or email [email protected]. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate
in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.