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Perhaps a dozen or so of these were coined, of which apparently just four are known today dated 1802. Obviously the dies were stretched to their limits to coin these proofs. It is believed that these Novodels were struck prior to or just after the Civil War. The dies were prepared using the original letter and date punches, although the 2 punch had to be created as the original punch was either lost of broken. Whoever engraved these created a 2 with a fancy curl on the top similar to those used on the 1820s Capped Bust half dollars. As to weight, this coin is reported to weigh 420.0 grains, slightly heavy from the 416 grains standard, and the weight matches the other examples reported. As the current planchets for silver dollars coined after 1840 was 412.5 grains, it would appear that special planchets were made to strike these coins. Q. David Bowers and Mark Borckardt believe that these were coined after 1873 using Trade dollar planchets, which weighed 420.0 grains, thus eliminating the need to create special planchets. The edge lettering matches the edge dies used for regular issue Bust Dollars, but reportedly appears flattened. If this is the case, then the edge lettering was applied prior to striking, then the collar slightly crushed the edge as the coin expanded into the limits of the collar during the striking process.
These early Proofs were first reported by John W. Haseltine in 1876 and offered for sale, and Haseltine was known to have obtained a number of delicacies from the Philadelphia Mint. Borckardt and Bowers discussed these Proof Novodels in their Encyclopedia and came to the conclusion that these were all struck after the Class I 1804 silver dollars, used the same reverse die (with the die crack at the top of NITED). The 1804 Class I silver dollars do not show the reverse crack, and were therefore struck before the 1801, 1802 and 1803 Proof dollars, each of which shows the reverse die crack. Die rust is also found below the arrows on the reverse for the 1801, 1802 and 1803 Novodels.
It is remarkable that the original die punches were still around in the 1830s or even later to create these dies, the bust of Liberty, the stars and most of the date punches were employed for the obverse, and the reverse die had the original eagle punch and letters except for the letter T, which may have been replaced as the T punch used on the Novodel die has a shorter left upper serif and a longer right serif, and this letter punch was not used on earlier bust dollars. If proof Bust dollars had been made during the 1794-1803 period, these Novodels would certainly be a very close match. Without question, these early Proof Bust dollars are extremely rare with just four pieces known to exist of the 1802 issue, all of which are well pedigreed back to John Haseltine in the 1870s.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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