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Image of Brasher Doubloon, 1787
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Materials: Gold
Measurement: Dia. 31.0 mm; Wt. 26.351 g
Source: Transfer from U.S. Mint
Note: Breen 981

Brasher Doubloon, 1787

The Brasher Doubloon is one of the most enigmatic coins in American numismatic history. We know when it was minted, who minted it, and approximately how many pieces were minted. But why was the coin minted? What were the intentions of its creator, Ephraim Brasher? Did he seek to render a public service, providing a new gold coin based on an old model: the onza, or doubloon of Spanish America?

Or was Brasher, an assayer and goldsmith, after a contract to provide copper coinage — minting and distributing these gold pieces to influence state legislators? We don’t know. What we do know is that only seven of these doubloons are recorded. And if Brasher were angling for a contract to strike copper, he was singularly unsuccessful.

Why were states issuing coining contracts anyhow? State-sponsored coinage was a natural outgrowth of the extreme federalism of the United States’ first constitution, the Articles of Confederation. Under its statutes, individual states were sovereign entities, enjoying the right to issue coinage and "bills of credit," or currency.

A number of states (and Vermont, which was a separate country at the time) did both. New York was indecisive. The adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789 put an end to state coinages, and to the aspirations of people like Ephraim Brasher.

Soon there would be a new, national coinage in copper, silver, and gold, and private issues would no longer be needed — or so it was assumed.
Related Events
1776: Americans issue their Declaration of Independence.
1781: The Articles of Confederation are adopted by all States.
1783: The United States and Great Britain sign a treaty granting independence to the United States.
1789: The United States Constitution is adopted, creating a strong federal government.
1792: The U.S. Mint is established in Philadelphia, with David Rittenhouse as its first director.
Legendary Firsts The following objects are in this section.
Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling, "1652" (struck 1667-1674)First United States Silver Dollar, 1794Great Britain, Sovereign, 1838
Massachusetts, "twenty shillings," 1690Brasher Doubloon, 1787United States, 5 Dollars, 1838
Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776United States, 20 Dollars, 1854United States, 10 Dollars, 1838
Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817 
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