THE ATTIC

1804 PARMELEE DOLLAR
Lorin Gilbert Parmelee 1827-1905
Jeremiah, Gilbert, Jeremiah, Lemuel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John


Lorin was noted for his baked-bean business in Boston, but he also amassed one of the most notable coin collections in the late 19th century. There still are rare coins today that carry Lorin's pedigree, such as the "1804 Parmelee Dollar."

Just 15 are known to exist; only eight -- including Lorin's -- are Class I specimens, one of which sold for
$2.64 million at a 2018 auction in Long Beach, Calif.

And now for the great story behind these coins:

Silver dollars actually struck in 1804 bear the date 1803. Die steel was prohibitively expensive, so the mint used its dies until they finally wore out. In fact, nearly every coin struck from 1793 to 1825 had some made in a year other that the date on them.

Flash forward to 1834, when the State Department decided to produce a complete set of U.S. coins as gifts to overseas dignitaries and leaders. A look at mint records showed that 1804 was the last year the dollar and the $10 Eagle were both struck, so officials decided the coins in the gift sets would all bear that date. Yet none of the mint officials knew that all 19,000-plus dollars recorded as struck in 1804 actually bore the date 1803 -- no "1804" dollar had ever been minted.

Unit they made these gift sets. Yes, all silver dollars stamped 1804 were produced in 1834 for these gift sets.

An unknown woman supposedly purchased Lorin's from the U.S. Mint for face value during the Polk administration, 1845-49. She sold it to E.H. Sanford for an unnamed sum in 1868. Six years later, Lorin paid $700 for it from the Sanford collection and held it until 1890 (a second source says 1892) when he sold it to Byron Reed of Omaha, Neb., for $570. The dollar remained in the Omaha Public Library collection until the 1980s when it was transferred to the Western Heritage Museum of Omaha, which is now the Durham Museum.

Another rare coin of Lorin's, the 1793 Flowing Hair Wreath Cent with a "strawberry leaf," recently was listed for sale.


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Updated Aug. 1, 2020

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