Veteran numismatists are familiar with the proof sets of United States coins produced in 1834 for diplomatic presentations, the most famous of these being the still-intact set pedigreed to the King of Siam. These proof sets were distributed in 1835-36 to the Sultan of Muscat and the King of Siam, respectively, by special diplomatic agent Edmund Roberts. In addition to proof strikings of the current 1834 coinage—half cent, cent, half dime, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar, quarter eagle and half eagle—these sets included two coins whose production had ceased 30 years earlier at the order of President Thomas Jefferson—the silver dollar and the gold eagle, or ten-dollar piece.
The fact that no dollars or eagles had been minted later than 1804 presented a problem to the U. S. Mint. It didn’t want to update these denominations to the current designs, so it chose instead to create new dies of the old types dated 1804, the last recorded year of minting. The mint director and his staff failed to realize, however, that the dollars struck in 1804 were from dies dated 1803. Thus it was that the very first silver dollars dated 1804 were coined in 1834.
The gold eagle had indeed been struck from 1804-dated dies in that year, but the dies no longer existed, so new ones were prepared featuring Robert Scot’s Draped Bust Liberty. In a concession to the current minting technology, these dies included beaded borders in place of the toothlike denticles associated with the original issue, and the number of edge reeds was different. Also distinctive was the numeral 4’s plain cross member, the original issue of 1804 having had a vertical crosslet. In all other respects the dies were nearly identical to the originals, though no proofs were coined of the earlier issue.
These two coins form the centerpiece of NGC's exhibit at the 2010 ANA World's Fair of Money. The opportunity to examine these two extremely rare coins side by side is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and the presence of either one at a numismatic convention is a must-see occasion for any collector of United States coins. Such are the riches of the unparalleled Simpson Collection, which presents this rare pair for your viewing pleasure.