Collecting America: Sarah Sophia Banks and the 'continental dollar of 1776

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Sarah Sophia Banks (1744-1818) was not only an avid coin collector, assembling a numismatic collection of some 9,000 objects, but she also recorded information about where she obtained them, as well as details of their manufacture and uses. This article briefly considers the American coins she collected, now in the British Museum and Royal Mint Museum, which include some of the finest known examples of early US coins. It discusses her as a collector, how her collection was organised, and the information she recorded about one of the most well known of early American coins: The 'Continental Dollar' dated 1776. On the basis of information recorded by Sarah Sophia Banks, it is argued that the piece may never have been intended as a coin at all, not struck in America, or even made in 1776. As well as prompting discussion about this important and highly collectible coin, this article therefore underlines the importance of historic collections as sources of information about the objects they contain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-301
Number of pages9
JournalNumismatic Chronicle
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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