In 1838, the Philadelphia Olympic Ball Club published their constitution. The club was the first baseball team to ever form and this 1838 Gobrecht dollar recalls the earliest known relic of the pioneering team.
Gobrecht Dollars are among the most interesting, yet most challenging coins to study in all of U.S. numismatics. The origins of this short-lived series date to 1831, when President Andrew Jackson lifted the ban on Silver Dollar coinage that his predecessor Thomas Jefferson imposed at the end of 1804. Although its hands were now free to strike coins of this denomination, the Mint was not prepared to do so until 1836. By that time, Mint Director Robert Maskell Patterson had already hired a successful banknote engraver by the name of Christian Gobrecht to join the staff at the Philadelphia Mint. Patterson had two goals in hiring Gobrecht: he hoped to improve the nation's circulating coinage and he needed a replacement for Chief Engraver William Kneass, who had suffered a debilitating stroke on August 27, 1835.
In early 1836, Gobrecht prepared dies for the new Silver Dollar using sketches provided by noted American artists Thomas Sully and Titian Peale. The obverse of Gobrecht's Dollar, based on the seated figure of Britannia, represents the first use of the now-familiar Seated Liberty motif on a United States coin. The reverse, which was created with considerable input form Mint Director Patterson, depicts an eagle flying "onward and upward" as an expression of the unbounded optimism with which the nation viewed its future. Using this basic design, the Mint struck its first 400 Gobrecht Dollars in December of 1836. It was the first time in more than 20 years that the United States produced Silver Dollars in quantity. The Mint made only two more sizeable deliveries of Gobrecht Dollars before the type yielded to the Seated Dollar in 1840. Six hundred 1836-dated examples were struck in March of 1837, and 300 pieces dated 1839 were delivered at the end of that year. The final issue differs from those of 1836 and 1837 in that the stars had been moved from the reverse field to the obverse periphery. On the other hand, all three issues were prepared in proof format, the coins being struck more than once on specially prepared planchets.
For decades, researchers and collectors debated whether Gobrecht Dollars are patterns or regular issues. The classification of many individual examples as originals or restrikes had also proved problematic. Recent research by Mike Carboneau (the country's leading expert on this series) and Jim Gray, however, has gone a long way toward unraveling the mystery of the Gobrecht Dollar. We are now able to properly classify and appreciate these rare, beautiful and historically significant coins, the design of which has long served as the primary numismatic embodiment of 19th century Americana.