Get money: A rare coin visits the Money Museum


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  • Courtesy American Numismatic Association's Edward C. Rochette Money Museum
  • The 1787 Brasher Doubloon
Now through July, the ANA Edward C. Rochette Money Museum will display the finest example of one of the first cold coins created for circulation in the early United States: the Brasher Doubloon, which was minted in 1787.

This Brasher Doubloon, one of only seven worldwide, is also the finest of its breed. It's here on loan from the Monaco Rare Coins of Newport Beach, Calif., which has insured it for $10 million. It contains 26.4 grams of .890 fine gold.

The Money Museum will have it on display with three historic coins from its own collection, the Bebee/McDermott 1913 Liberty Head nickel, and both the Cohen/DuPont Class I and Idler/Bebee Class III 1804 Draped Bust dollars.

Monaco's website has an 18-minute video (and transcript below it) all about the 1787 Brasher Doubloon. Of note:
It's an incredible picture of the era of coins dating back to the 1780's. You would not find gold coins circulating readily. The economy of the United States of America at this time was third world at best. ... The majority of gold coinage circulating in the colonies in the 1780's was Spanish, some of it South American, Central American, but primarily Spanish. Doubloons would circulate and the value of those Doubloons was widely regarded as the standard coinage of the United States colonies for gold, however, 95% of the population of our colonies in these years would never have even touched a gold coin. They would have been handling business on a much, much lower level using pence and half pence, and copper coinage, trading goods and services with each other, rather than trading gold coins. Gold coins were very, very difficult to come by.

So naturally, when a gold coin was made it would have been used. It would have gone directly into circulation and was needed to fuel whichever business transactions that were taking place at that high dollar value. For a gold coin, such as the 1787 Brasher Doubloon, to have survived over 230 years practically and still exist today in mint condition is something of a complete mystery and in my opinion a total miracle that this coin exists in the condition that it's in today.
"Brasher," in the name comes from the gold- and silversmith of New York who struck it: Ephraim Brasher. Though new at the time, the coin's design has all the hallmarks of U.S. branding, as it were: stars, eagles, arrows and an olive branch. Per the Money Museum's release:
The obverse design of the Brasher Doubloon shows an eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in another to symbolize that the United States wanted peace but was ready for war. Thirteen stars surround the eagle's head (representing the original 13 colonies), with the E PLURIBUS UNUM ("Out of Many, One") above.

The reverse design depicts the sun rising over a mountain in front of a sea, a symbolic of a new beginning. Around the design is another Latin legend, NOVA EBORACA COLUMBIA EXCELSIOR. Columbia was a nickname for the United States, where as "Nova Eboraca" translates to New York and "Excelsior" is Latin for "ever higher."

In addition to his punchmarked initials on the obverse, Brasher's full last name is on the reverse. Brasher served in various political and government offices in New York and later was a neighbor of George Washington on Cherry Street in lower Manhattan. 
Money museum curator Douglas Mudd says, "Not only is it a genuine rarity with high monetary value, it also is a historical treasure-trove because of what it represents as the first gold coin struck for the nascent United States. It is beautiful and historically important as a record of the early design concepts discussed in Congress for U.S. coinage."


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