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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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What Became of the Brasher Doubloon?

NEWTON, N.J. (CN) - An appraiser gave a woman conflicting stories about her 1787 "Brasher doubloon," claiming it had "no value," then that had it been lost, then sent her a substitute coin, then that it was lost again, the woman claims in court.

Helen Swingle sued D&Y Trading, Colavita Coins and Jewelry, and D&Y employee George Funkhouser III, in Sussex County Court.

A gold Brasher doubloon sold for more than $7 million in 2011, the California coin dealer who sold it said in a statement on a public relations news site.

But numismatic websites warn that fake replicas of Brasher doubloon abound.

Ephraim Brasher, a neighbor of George Washington, struck several varieties of his doubloon, in gold and copper. A Brasher doubloon is featured in Raymond Chandler's mystery "The High Window," and in Lawrence Block's more recent mystery, "The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza."

Swingle claims she brought a Brasher doubloon to D&Y to be appraised in August 2008. Her 9-page complaint does not state whether the coin was gold, copper, or some other metal. She calls it an e. pluribus unum token.

The complaint states: "On or about August 5, 2008, plaintiff brought her coin, later described as a '1787 e. pluribus unum token attributed to E. Brasher' (hereinafter 'Brasher Doubloon') to defendant D&Y for appraisal. Defendant Funkhouser told plaintiff, in sum and substance, that he would contact experts to determine the Brasher Doubloon's value and that this could take a month or more."

Nearly a year later, on July 28, 2009, Swingle says, she "e-mailed defendant Funkhouser to determine the Brasher Doubloon's value and whereabouts."

The complaint continues: "On or about September 18, 2009, defendant Funkhouser called plaintiff, leaving her a message saying, in sum and substance, that the Brasher Doubloon had no value and that the man he had given it to for appraisal had tossed it into a drum of scrap items and temporarily misplaced it. Defendant Funkhouser further alleged that the Brasher Doubloon had been found and that he would return it to plaintiff.

"On or about August 31, 2010, plaintiff received a coin that plaintiff did not recognize as her Brasher Doubloon. Plaintiff called defendant D&Y and informed defendants that she had received the wrong coin.

"On or about January 31, 2011, defendant Funkhouser spoke with plaintiff alleging, in sum and substance, that the Brasher Doubloon had been given to defendant John Doe 1, an employee of defendant Colavita Coins and Jewelry in Ewing, New Jersey. Defendant Colavita sent the Brasher Doubloon to ABC Corporation 1, a coin grading company whose identity is currently unknown, and it was misplaced upon its return to defendant Colavita."

Swingle seeks punitive damages for breach of bailment, conversion, fraud, deceit, negligence and fraudulent concealment. She also wants the coin back, and court costs.

She is represented by Chris Colabella with Gruber, Colabella & Liuzza of Hamburg, N.J.

Ephraim Brasher, a respected goldsmith who was George Washington's neighbor in New York, often was brought coins to verify their content, according to numismatic websites. His e. pluribus unum stamp, or pluribus e. unum, was understood as a mark of a coin's authenticity. He minted coins from 1776 to 1792.

According to the coinquest.com website: "The few genuine specimens [of Brasher doubloons] known to exist are worth tens (or hundreds) of thousands of U.S. dollars. Virtually every specimen you see today is a replica. If you have a gold replica, it is worth several thousand dollars. Most replicas are not gold."

Rare coin dealer Steven Contursi, of Irvine, Calif., sold a gold Brasher doubloon for $7.4 million in 2011, a record price for a historic coin.

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