1876 $1 Sailor Head Dollar, Judd-1458, Pollock-1608, Likely Unique
On the obverse a head of Liberty faces left in a plain (starless) field, with only the date 1876 below. She wears a coronet inscribed LIBERTY in raised letters, and her hair is tied back with a ribbon. On the reverse a thick central laurel wreath frames ONE / DOLLAR, with the country reference above and Latin motto below. Struck in copper with a plain edge.
The William Barber Liberty Head is more popularly known as the Sailor Head, an appellation that appears more recent than monikers such as Washlady, Shield Earring, and Schoolgirl, all of which seem to date back to the 1891 sale of the Doughty Collection by Harlan P. Smith and David Proskey. Indeed, even in the 1981 ANA Sale conducted by Bowers and Ruddy, the catalogers omit the Sailor Head nickname from all of the 1875-1877 pattern issues of similar design. In any case, the Sailor Head design is a theme and variations that carries over from 1875 through 1877 through various denominations and metals, some of the pieces clearly "with pattern intent" and some of them almost certainly numismatic delicacies, to borrow the old term. The Judd reference points to Mint Director Henry R. Linderman as the source for many of the latter, clearly a man not averse to lining his own pockets.
Among the Sailor Head designs with pattern intent are the 1875 twenty cent pieces where the theme first appeared (Judd-1392 through Judd-1395). In contrast, the eagle patterns with a similar obverse (Judd-1443 through 1445) seem to be more fantasy pieces, as there was clearly no intent to change the long-running and successful Liberty Head motif on the ten dollar or other gold denominations. The 1875 Sailor Head ten dollar reverses, however, feature the perched eagle design that would end up on the regular-issue twenty cent piece and Trade dollars of 1875, while the twenty cent pieces mentioned above have an unusual reverse, with 20 incused in large numbers into a shield.
The Sailor Head motif would reappear in 1876 on the silver dollar patterns (Judd-1457 through 1466), struck in various metals and with minor design differences of other kinds. The pattern dollars of 1876 are an important specialty within pattern collecting. No silver dollars were produced for domestic circulation within the United States, of course, from 1873 until 1878, and the Centennial date makes the 1876 pattern dollars doubly important. All are extremely rare.
With regards to the present Judd-1458 1876 Sailor Head struck in copper, plain edge, USPatterns.com lists the present coin as unique, providing the provenance expanded below. The Bowers and Ruddy cataloging in the Sieck sale that claimed there were four pieces known was clearly referring to the reeded edge Judd-1458A, of which perhaps a half-dozen pieces exist. Similarly, the Judd-1458, Pollock-1608 specimen listed in Pollock from the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Research Foundation is in reality a Judd-1458a, Pollock-1607, clearly described in the Bass Collection Sale (Bowers and Merena, 5/1999, lot 1266) as "Copper. Reeded edge." As further evidence, the present coin is the only certified Judd-1458 at either NGC or PCGS, while there are eight examples of the Judd-1458A at both services combined.
PR66 Red and Brown $74,750.00 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
1876 $1 Sailor Head Dollar, Judd-1460, Pollock-1610, R.7
The obverse centers about a small head of Liberty facing left, wearing a coronet, with the date below and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST between the date and the bust. The coronet is inscribed LIBERTY and the hair is tied in a bow. The reverse features an olive wreath surrounding the denomination ONE DOLLAR. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is at the border above and E PLURIBUS UNUM below. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.
This is Barber's famous "Sailor Head" design, first used in 1875. The pattern dollar designs of 1876 were an attempt by the Mint to be proactive, as the silver faction in Congress was attempting to pass legislation reinstating the old standard silver dollar. Silver specimens of this design (Judd-1459) were struck on August 1, 1876, along with samples of two other designs (Judd-1457 and Judd-1462). Superintendent Pollock forwarded samples of all three patterns to Mint Director Linderman, writing, "Sir: I herewith send three impressions of the pattern dies prepared by Mr. Barber, for the proposed silver dollar. They were completed and handed to me this morning." The Mint's commendable foresight in preparing for the silver dollar coinage proved unnecessary in this case, as the Bland-Allison Act did not pass until 1878.
PR65 Red Cameo $57,500.00 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
1876 $1 Sailor Head Dollar, Judd-1465, Pollock-1616, High R.7
The obverse depicts William Barber's Sailor Head, here with beads on the coronet and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST centered across the upper border. The reverse displays a wreath that divides the statutory legends. Struck in copper with a reeded edge. This piece has been silver-plated in an attempt to pass it as a silver dollar, or more likely as a rare silver pattern of the same design.
Plated--NCS. Proof $5,462.50 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
1876 $1 Sailor Head Dollar, Judd-1466, Pollock-1617, Unique
Barber's Liberty Head is sometimes called the Sailor Head design in a field of 13 stars arranged with seven left and six right. The date is below the bust with IN GOD WE TRUST at the top border. LIBERTY appears on a coronet in Liberty's hair with beads or pearls along the top edge. The reverse has ONE DOLLAR within a wreath with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the top border and E PLURIBUS UNUM at the bottom border. Struck in copper with a plain edge.
The ninth edition of the Judd reference lists this plain edge pattern as unique. In addition to the Queller coin, Andrew Pollock lists an appearance in Sotheby's February 1954 sale of the King Farouk Collection. We believe those two records are for this single specimen. USPatterns.com conclusively lists this example as ex: Farouk and also unique.
For 1876 there are 24 different pattern silver dollar varieties, including all designs, compositions, and types, with a comprehensive total population of less than 100 coins, or about four per variety. A collection of all 24 varieties could take a lifetime to assemble.
PR65 Brown $86,250.00 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
1877 $1 Sailor Head Dollar, Judd-1542, Pollock-1715, R.7
On the obverse a head of Liberty faces left, with 13 stars around, IN GOD WE TRUST at top, date below. She wears a coronet inscribed LIBERTY in raised letters, and the hair is tied back with a ribbon. On the reverse a thick central wreath frames 1 / DOLLAR, with the country reference above and Latin motto below. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.
The Sailor Head obverse, however, made its debut in 1875, on pattern designs for the twenty cent piece, half eagle, and eagle. In 1877 this same obverse was combined with several different reverses, but not in the dollar size. The 1877 Sailor Head quarter in silver with regular reverse of the Seated Liberty quarter (Judd-1499) is a legendary rarity, unique and unconfirmed in modern times, while the copper specimens of the same pairing are rated Low R.7. Copper dimes (Judd-1498) with a similar obverse exist, also Low R.7, while silver specimens are unconfirmed. A somewhat similar, though not identical, design graces the Judd-1501 and 1502 half dollars in silver and copper, R.8 and Low R.7 respectively.
PR66 Red and Brown $25,300.00 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)