King of Siam Set Numismatic history was turned on its ear in 1962 when David Spink and his brother Phillip Spink broke the news that they had personally purchased the nearly complete set of 1834 proof coins known as the King of Siam set. This set was known to have been produced, but was presumed lost. A similar 1834 set of coins was produced for the Muscat of Oman, pieces of that set had turned up in 1918. The King of Siam set and the Muscat of Oman set were ordered by John Forsyth, a close friend of President Jackson as follows:
Dept. of State, Washington, November 11, 1834
“Sir, The President has directed that a complete set of coins of the United States be sent to the King of Siam, and another the Sultan of Muscat. You are requested, therefore to the Department for that purpose, duplicate specimens of each kind now in use, whether of gold, silver or copper. As boxes, in which they are to be contained, may be more neatly and appropriately made at Philadelphia, under your direction, than they could be here, you are desired to procure them, if it will be not too much trouble, and have the coins suitably arranged in them before they are sent on. They should be as of small size as is consistent with the purpose in which they are intended; and should be of wood, covered with plain morocco. The color of one should be yellow, and the other crimson. You are authorized to draw upon the Department for the value of the coins, and the expense of the boxes.
I have the honor to be,
Sir, Very Respectfully, your Obedient Servant John Forsyth”
“To Dr. Samuel Moore Director of Mint”
Director Moore was tasked with figuring out what “a complete set of the coins of the United States” meant. Diplomacy called for the best of the best, so Moore quickly determined that presentation quality Proof coins would be necessary for these two sets. There was no problem in making proof coins from those denominations still in production, but what about the silver dollar and ten dollar gold piece? Neither of these large denomination coins was in production, and yet they seemed essential for a “complete” set of coins of the United States. Moore knew that leaving these two largest coin denominations out of the sets would make them incomplete, so they had to be included.
Moore researched the Mint records and determined that both the $10 gold eagle and the silver dollar were last struck in 1804. This is sort of correct, but silver dollars were delivered in 1804, but dated 1803 most likely. There were no 1804 silver dollars struck, the final year they were produced and dated was 1803, although deliveries continued in early 1804. No one around at the Mint actually knew what the final year on the coins was at the time, so it was determined to create an 1804 dollar and ten dollar gold eagle. A search of available dies turned up the appropriate punches but no dies for 1804 silver dollars (none had been made of course) so entirely new dies were created in order strike the 1804 silver dollars for the two sets. Better luck was had with the gold eagle dies, as a leftover obverse was found with the date missing the last digit only, so it read 180. The obverse die was rusty, but Mint Engraver William Kneass thought he could polish off the rust and reengraved any missing details. As luck would have it, no reverse dies were found for the Ten dollar gold coin, but an unused reverse die from a half dollar of 1805-1806 vintage was found. This would work perfectly as both the half dollar and $10 gold piece shared common reverse designs of the Heraldic Eagle and happened to be the same diameter. Die sharing between denominations did not occur on the half dollar and ten dollar coins, but certainly could have. Similarly die sharing was common between the dimes and quarter eagles which did share the same size and Heraldic Eagle designs, so the reverse dies were used interchangeably between denominations.
Director Moore was well on his way to getting these sets put together, the boxes were ordered and now it was a matter of getting the coins struck in the most handsome Proof condition possible. It seems the most difficult coin in production was getting the old rusty obverse die of the ten dollar gold piece into condition to strike a beautiful Proof coin. William Kneass produced a numismatic record of his challenge by striking a few of these Ten Dollar gold eagles in silver as trial pieces to check the progress of his work. The first known example shows much more rust in the cap and curls of Liberty, and each subsequent silver piece shows more rust being removed, areas reengraved and polished by Kneass. At last, he was ready to strike the gold coins for the sets, so new planchets were prepared. Apparently only four examples were struck of the 1804 Ten Dollar coin in gold in Proof format. One went into the Muscat of Oman set and is believed in the Robert Simpson Collection today having turned up in 1943. The second is the coin included in this set. The third is from the State Department that eventually found its way into the Parmelee Collection, passing into the Clapp/Eliasberg Collection, and finally in the Harry Bass Core Collection. A fourth is rumored but has not been seen in decades.
As to the silver dollar, the “King of American Coins”, the 1804 dollar, these were first struck in late 1834 from newly created dies as no leftover dies could be found. The original Draped Bust head punch, eagle punch and other devices were apparently available and used to create the new dies. Eight coins are known today, and it is not known why this number was created instead of the two or so authorized. After all its just as easy to make 2 coins as 8 once the dies are prepared and planchets could be made to order at the Mint. Perhaps some outside influence came to pass, and a few were made available to a few special American citizens or friends of the Mint.
The original King of Siam wooden box had spaces for 11 coins, but only 9 were included when the set was purchased by the Spink brothers in 1962. It was pretty obvious that the 1834 half dime was missing from the bottom row, it being the smallest of the coins and most likely to slip out over the past 128 years. The other hole was more mysterious, and there were two logical possibilities based on the size of the empty velvet hole. It could have been for the “With Motto” quarter eagle but these had been discontinued after June 28, 1834 and were no longer “current” in November of 1834. Furthermore, if the With Motto quarter eagle was included, why not also include the 1834 Half Eagle with Motto, that was also discontinued under the same Mint Act. That didn’t seem logical. Another possibility was raised, what about the small gold inaugural medal of Andrew Jackson from 1833? That would be diplomatic, having the President’s image, as he was presenting this set to the King of Siam, plus the medal was the exact size of the existing hole in the box. One last point, the top row is all gold coins save for the “missing” small hole where this gold medal would fit, it would seem to be the most likely possibility to have all gold at the top, then silver and copper mixed by sizes in the next two rows. This mystery will likely not be resolved but is part of the intrigue that keeps numismatics so fascinating.
The coins included are as follows:
Half Cent, 1834 PCGS PR-66 Red and Brown. Cohen-1. The entire coin is bathed in a lovely copper brown color with tinges of lemon undertones in the fields beneath an earthy red ocher. The color is that of classic faded copper, as one would expect from a coin housed in a velvet and leather wooden box for 130 years.
Large Cent, 1834 PCGS PR-66 Red and Brown. Newcomb-3. Rather perfect surfaces with classic faded original red that today appears as burgundy steel colors with lavender remnants. A highly appealing example in its own right. This lovely proof was produced using a brand new set of dies, which were then used for regular production coins after a few Proof were struck for these sets and a few others.
Half Dime, 1834 PCGS PR-66. Logan-McCloskey-4. This coin was not with the original King of Siam set but was missing and a different specimen has been collected to be included with the set to replace the coin that was lost long ago. This one has deep gold toning with tinges of blue around the rims. The strike is perfectly bold and the surfaces are outstanding.
Dime, 1834 PCGS PR-67. John Reich-1. A fantastic superb gem Proof of this early issue. The surfaces are pristine and the toning is elegant with deeper gold and russet at the rims, reddish to crimson in the dentils with the centers bright with silver frost.
Quarter Dollar, 1834. PCGS PR-65. Browning-2. The classic gem proof strike with all devices bold and the fields fully mirrored. Toned with a dash of deep forest green (matching the toning colors of the 1804 dollar in this set), with the centers white and frosty.
Half Dollar, 1834 PCGS PR-65. Overton-104. Classic gem proof quality, with well mirrored fields, satiny frost on the devices, and lovely smoky and earthy fields with tinges of rose silver on the face with deeper reds in the dentils.
Silver Dollar, 1804 PCGS PR-67. Class 1. This coin was among the first group of 1804 silver dollars created as novodels at the Mint. No dies were available so new dies had to be engraved, backdated to 1804, and silver planchets prepared and then struck. The surfaces are amazing, perfectly clean and toned with gorgeous antique hues of rose gold and silver with aquamarine fields with silver gray and various warm undertones bathing the entire surface. This date is of course, the “King of American Coins” and has been sought after since these first became numismatically known in the early 1840s. Only eight are known today of the Class 1, an additional group of seven more 1804 dollars (Class 2 and 3) were struck in the late 1850s or early 1860s to satisfy insatiable collector demand. One of the finest known.
Quarter Eagle, 1834. PCGS PR-65 Cameo. John Dannreuther-1. Splendid classic golden yellow hues with traces of russet gold around the devices. The strike is precise and full. The surfaces are an amazing gem quality with delicate patina earned over the generations. This is one of the finest of seven Proofs known today. For the obverse the curl is above the right side of the 3, on the reverse the arrow touches the right foot of the final A of AMERICA.
Half Eagle, 1834. PCGS PR-65 Cameo. John Dannreuther-2. Gorgeous contrast between the mirror fields and boldly frosted devices. As the original 1834 half eagle Proofs were already struck and distributed (all two of them!) long before the order came in for these sets for additional Proof coins, new dies were prepared and proof coins struck, a total of six are known from this second die pairing, one of which is included in this set. The other coin from the Sultan of Muscat set has not been seen to this day and feared lost, while most of the silver and copper coins have turned up about a century ago along with the eagle of 1804. On this variety, the curl is two thirds of the way over the 4 in the date, and the bottom arrowhead just touches the final A of AMERICA. This coin presented here is the finest of those known of the second variety.
Eagle, 1804. PCGS Proof-64 Cameo. Plain 4. Here is the coin that is as historic as the 1804 silver dollar. Mint Engraver William Kneass was tasked by Mint Director Moore to create a proof set of all the coins authorized by the United States. The last record of silver dollars and gold $10 eagles being struck was 1804 for each. An old leftover half dollar reverse die was found with just a bit of rust on it and could be polished up for the new 1804 eagle strike, but the obverse die found needed the final digit 4 punched in and had considerable die rust after 30 years of Philadelphia summers and winters. Kneass got out his finest engraving tools and repaired the obverse die, removing the rust, engraving missing details and polishing it up. He took impressions in silver as he worked to check on the outcome. Eventually he was pleased and gold planchets were prepared and these fantastic 1804 $10 gold restrikes were struck in Proof. It is noteworthy that original 1804 eagles struck for circulation have a crosslet 4 in the date, but Kneass didn’t have any examples of these older coins available and thus used the so called Plain 4 (from the 1834 half dollar punch set) to finish the date of this leftover die. Today there are just three examples known of this incredible coin, made from original dies some 30 years after the dies were originally engraved. A fourth example is rumored but not seen in many years.
Medal. 1833 PCGS PR-63 Cameo. Andrew Jackson. Second Inaugural medal. The obverse is the cameo head of Jackson with dentils around, the reverse gives the date of his inauguration. This medal is a strong possibility to have been included in the set with the King of Siam presentation coins, as it fits perfectly in the empty space in the King of Siam box and would have been appropriate at the time for international protocol. A more historic set of coins simply cannot be imagined.
King of Siam.