NGC Encapsulates King of Siam Proof Set
Posted on 12/15/2001
For a time exhibited at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, this set was recently purchased from its previous owner by Mike Bobb of Mike's Coin Chest in Torrance, California. Now that it has been certified by NGC, the set will be exhibited at NGC's table during the Fall 2001 Long Beach Expo in California.
When revealed to the numismatic community in 1962, this set was contained within a custom made case covered in yellow leather, that being the color of Siamese royalty. Inside, the coins were held by slots depressed into a lining of blue velvet. Two of the slots were empty, and it is assumed that these once held proof examples of the 1834 half dime and the 1834 Capped Head quarter eagle (the type with motto E PLURIBUS UNUM). All of the coins present are dated 1834, with the exception of the silver dollar and gold eagle. These two are dated 1804 and feature designs typical of that time.
Research by Eric Newman and Kenneth Bressett resulted in the publication in 1962 of a book in which the story behind this mismatching of dates was revealed. When commissioned by the State Department in 1834 to prepare two complete sets of the current coins, U. S. Mint Director Samuel Moore interpreted this to mean that such sets would include, in addition to the pieces then being coined, the silver dollar and the eagle, two denominations not minted since 1804. Rather than prepare hubs for these two denominations featuring designs then common to the other pieces, he had the Engraving Department prepare 1804-dated dies of the types last used for them. He was unaware, however, that the silver dollars struck in 1804 bore dates of earlier years. Thus, the first silver dollars dated 1804 were minted in 1834, these being the "original" or Class I dollars of which just eight are known.
A very thorough account of the history behind the coining of the King of Siam proof set and its presentation to King Ph'ra Nang Klao was written recently by Q. David Bowers. His book, The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventures of Edmund Roberts, goes into great detail. It recounts the long journey by which Roberts presented this set and other gifts to the king in April of 1836.
Well preserved within their velvet bed, the nine coins that comprise the King of Siam proof set received very impressive grades from NGC. Both the 1834 Classic Head quarter eagle and the 1804 eagle have been certified as Proof 64. The set's quarter dollar, half dollar and half eagle, all dated 1834, achieved gem status, grading Proof-65. Finer still are the collection's copper pieces of 1834, the half cent grading Proof-66 Red/Brown, while the lovely cent was certified as Proof-66 Brown. Easily the finest coins in this historic set are the 1834 dime and 1804 silver dollar, both of which received the lofty grade of Proof 67. The latter is the finer of just two 1804 Class I dollars certified by NGC.
Mark Salzberg, Chairman and CEO of NGC, was delighted to have this famed proof set reside within the company's holders. "It's terrific to see these coins again after ten years," Salzberg said. "It makes one reflect on the learning curve that results from examining so many rare and outstanding pieces since that time."