By Alan Herbert
doubloons seem to be more fiction than fact, as
numerous correct - and incorrect - statements
have been made about them over the years. First
let's clear the air, as it were.
"Isn't the name of Ephraim Brasher usually
mispronounced?" A descendent of the goldsmith
points out the name is Huguenot, and is
correctly pronounced BRAY'-sher."
"How many genuine Brasher doubloons are known?"
At last count there are seven genuine, and as
many thousands of copies. Of the genuine
examples, one is in the Smithsonian, one in the
Yale University Collection, one belongs to the
American Numismatic Society, there was one in
the Johns Hopkins University collection and the
other three were in private hands.
"Supposedly Ephraim Brasher countermarked
several foreign coins besides the well-known
'doubloons' he made." Three of the pieces,
reputedly countermarked with the "EB" initials
as an indication that he had tested their gold
content, are a gold Portuguese four escudos
dated 1755, a similar-size Brazilian 6,400-reis
gold coin struck at Rio de Janeiro dated 1757
and an English Rose guinea dated 1779.
"There are Brasher doubloons copied in platinum?
Copies of the (gold) Brasher doubloon were made
in the early 1960s in platinum and silver by a
firm in Massachusetts. At the time, the platinum
version was offered at $500, but whether any
were sold is unknown.
"It's been a long time since the last Brasher
doubloon was discovered." The last of the seven
reportedly was found by a crew digging up a
sewer in Philadelphia in 1897. The others were
found in the period from 1838 to 1897."
"Ephraim Brasher had a direct connection with
George Washington and our first coinage." A
receipt exists showing that Brasher sold "sundry
articles of plate" valued at 283 pounds, three
shillings and seven pence to the Washington
household, which at the time was located at 3
Cherry St., next door to where Brasher lived in
New York. The plate was never found among
Washington's effects, and the possibility exists
that this was the silver furnished to strike the
first half dismes and dismes in 1792.
"There are brass replicas of the Brasher
doubloon." Replicas, copies, fakes, you name it,
and they are out there. There are literally
thousands of copies of just about every famous
or rare early American coin in public hands, and
with the minor exception of a handful of
contemporary copies they all are worthless.
The odds are overwhelming that your copy is one
of the hundreds of thousands of cast pot metal
or brass fakes that have flooded the hobby for
the past five decades. While there are some few
"genuine" copies (one group made in 1861 in
copper or brass) they are of a different style
than the original coins with larger letters.
"Brasher used at least five different
countermarks, the 'EB' perhaps being the most
famous." One of the others, "E.B. & Co.," is the
same as a countermark from a New York firm,
Erastus, Barton & Co., which also used E.B. &
"The pieces carry the motto 'Pluribus E Unum,'
but the motto didn't appear officially on U.S.
coins until the 1795 gold $5" The other Brasher
doubloon motto, "Nova Eborac Columbia Excelsior"
comes out "New York and America, Ever Upwards."
"Adam Eckfeldt, coiner of the U.S. Mint, spotted
the first one in a group of gold coins shipped
to Mint in 1830 for assay and melting." One
source indicates Brasher worked at the U.S. Mint
in 1792 as an assayer.
"The Brasher pieces were struck as patterns for
a New York state coinage but they were not
accepted for that purpose." They are properly
patterns and not coins, but it's difficult to
keep from referring to them as coins.
"Why is the so-called Brasher doubloon coin so
named?" Brasher gold pieces had the doubloon
name tacked on in 1838 when an assayer
determined that the pieces were the same weight
as the Spanish doubloon, between 409 and 412
The famed pieces issued by the New York
goldsmith were the same dimensions as the old
Spanish and Portuguese doubloons, which at the
time were worth about $16. The coin was also the
size of the later gold $10.
There is a Brasher "half" doubloon as well as
the well-known, full-size coins - a single
specimen, which was in the Lilly collection and
now is in the Smithsonian.