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Historic 1864 Seated Half Dollar, Struck from Melted Silver from the Boston Masonic Temple

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Historic 1864 Seated Half Dollar, Struck from Melted Silver from the Boston Masonic Temple

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Details

1864 Boston Masonic Temple Fire Relic half dollar. Struck at the Philadelphia Mint from melted Masonic silver. Brunk, page 221 (Brunk-26400). Extremely Fine. While most engraved coins are one-of-a-kind mementos, love tokens and the like, the engraved 1864 Boston Masonic Temple half dollars are a class apart. On April 6, 1864, the majestic home of Boston's Masons, known as Winthrop Hall or the Boston Masonic Temple, went up in flames. The fire burned hot and long, and news of it was a story nationwide. Though many priceless artifacts were lost forever, the Temple's leadership was able to salvage the ceremonial silver implements, which they then sent to the Philadelphia Mint and had turned into a specially-struck batch of half dollars. The half dollars were engraved appropriately, with the reverses inscribed "Taken from the ruins of Masonic Temple / April 6, 1864," and sold for $1 each as fundraisers. This, in and of itself, was noteworthy: due to the Civil War, specie payments were suspended, and new silver coins were simply not seen in circulation in the East. Money was scarce in general, and few of these commemorative relic half dollars were issued. By 1871, the specially struck commemorative half dollars for the Boston Masonic Temple were already well known enough to be covered in the American Journal of Numismatics. Years went by with the issue shrouded in mystery, until a February 1993 article in The Numismatist by Mark Hotz revealed the story behind these coins. They were included in the Brunk book on countermarks (though they are engraved, not stamped). When Hotz wrote, just two were identified. Since then, a few more have been published, with most estimates of those known focused around a half dozen total pieces.

A few different engraved phrases are seen on the obverses. This one reads "Presented to Sir KT R H Carleton / by / Sir KT D.W.W. / Boston." KT is an abbreviation for Knights Templar. RH Carleton appears to be Robert H. Carlton, who marched in the 1868 procession to mark the opening of the new Masonic Temple in Boston (he also played cornet). Among others who marched was William T.R. Marvin, a co-editor of the Betts medal book who published the still-standard monograph on Masonic medals. Carlton was listed as "Sir Robert H. Carlton," a mark of membership in the Knights Templar, which fits with the inscription here. While I haven't puzzled out D.W.W. yet, I'm sure it's possible. 

This example is the plate piece in the Brunk book, previously offered in the November 1984 Bowers and Merena sale of the Emery and Nichols collection, Lot 1564, later in World Exonumia's June 1999 sale as Lot 339 (where the knowledgeable cataloguer noted that it was "worth four figures"). Brunk delves deeply into this issue, terming these "half dollars the first US commemorative coins," a title adopted by others since. The surfaces are pleasing deep even gray with some colorful undertones, undamaged with just trifling wear and handling and a tiny rim nick over ST of STATES. For those who have ever wanted to own an example of this famous issue, occasions to purchase one are few and far between. This is the first I've owned in over 25 years of interest in this story. For those interested in commemorative coins, rare Seated Liberty half dollars, Masonic issues, relic medals, or rarities from the US Mint, this is a coins with a storied history, tiny surviving population, and an exciting paper trail.

Additional Information

Grading Service RAW
Grade RAW
Designation N/A
Mint Location No
Strike Type No
Circulated/Uncirc No
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 15003

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

Description

Details

1864 Boston Masonic Temple Fire Relic half dollar. Struck at the Philadelphia Mint from melted Masonic silver. Brunk, page 221 (Brunk-26400). Extremely Fine. While most engraved coins are one-of-a-kind mementos, love tokens and the like, the engraved 1864 Boston Masonic Temple half dollars are a class apart. On April 6, 1864, the majestic home of Boston's Masons, known as Winthrop Hall or the Boston Masonic Temple, went up in flames. The fire burned hot and long, and news of it was a story nationwide. Though many priceless artifacts were lost forever, the Temple's leadership was able to salvage the ceremonial silver implements, which they then sent to the Philadelphia Mint and had turned into a specially-struck batch of half dollars. The half dollars were engraved appropriately, with the reverses inscribed "Taken from the ruins of Masonic Temple / April 6, 1864," and sold for $1 each as fundraisers. This, in and of itself, was noteworthy: due to the Civil War, specie payments were suspended, and new silver coins were simply not seen in circulation in the East. Money was scarce in general, and few of these commemorative relic half dollars were issued. By 1871, the specially struck commemorative half dollars for the Boston Masonic Temple were already well known enough to be covered in the American Journal of Numismatics. Years went by with the issue shrouded in mystery, until a February 1993 article in The Numismatist by Mark Hotz revealed the story behind these coins. They were included in the Brunk book on countermarks (though they are engraved, not stamped). When Hotz wrote, just two were identified. Since then, a few more have been published, with most estimates of those known focused around a half dozen total pieces.

A few different engraved phrases are seen on the obverses. This one reads "Presented to Sir KT R H Carleton / by / Sir KT D.W.W. / Boston." KT is an abbreviation for Knights Templar. RH Carleton appears to be Robert H. Carlton, who marched in the 1868 procession to mark the opening of the new Masonic Temple in Boston (he also played cornet). Among others who marched was William T.R. Marvin, a co-editor of the Betts medal book who published the still-standard monograph on Masonic medals. Carlton was listed as "Sir Robert H. Carlton," a mark of membership in the Knights Templar, which fits with the inscription here. While I haven't puzzled out D.W.W. yet, I'm sure it's possible. 

This example is the plate piece in the Brunk book, previously offered in the November 1984 Bowers and Merena sale of the Emery and Nichols collection, Lot 1564, later in World Exonumia's June 1999 sale as Lot 339 (where the knowledgeable cataloguer noted that it was "worth four figures"). Brunk delves deeply into this issue, terming these "half dollars the first US commemorative coins," a title adopted by others since. The surfaces are pleasing deep even gray with some colorful undertones, undamaged with just trifling wear and handling and a tiny rim nick over ST of STATES. For those who have ever wanted to own an example of this famous issue, occasions to purchase one are few and far between. This is the first I've owned in over 25 years of interest in this story. For those interested in commemorative coins, rare Seated Liberty half dollars, Masonic issues, relic medals, or rarities from the US Mint, this is a coins with a storied history, tiny surviving population, and an exciting paper trail.

Additional

Additional Information

Grading Service RAW
Grade RAW
Designation N/A
Mint Location No
Strike Type No
Circulated/Uncirc No
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 15003

Related Blog Article(s)

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

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