1883 Hawaii Silver Dollar. 1883 Hawaii S$1 NGC MS63. KM-7. This Mint State, lightly toned, silver 1883 Kingdom of Hawaii dala coin is lustrous and well struck. Within the devices there is a mixture of russet and light tan, which attests to the coin’s originality. It is particularly important to note the originality of the coin because, as Breen points out, many specimens were poorly cleaned. The surfaces are well preserved with no individual abrasion marks of note or other distractions. There are full details on the King’s ear, hair, the two crowns and the arms.
The obverse shows a bust in profile of King Kalakaua facing right. The inscription is KALAKAUA I KING OF HAWAII with the date below. The reverse has the denomination DALA below the crowned arms. The legend is the royal motto UA MAU KE EA O KA AINA I KA PONO, The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness.
Charles Barber, the Mint Engraver, made five denominations for the Kingdom of Hawaii. Of them only the eighth dollar was not adopted for use because it was felt that the dime could substitute and the Hawaiian representatives agreed.
After the death of Captain James Cook in 1779, King Kamehameha forced the unification of Hawaii. This centralization led to the development of a monetary system for the country. In 1872, the king died. He was succeeded by William C. Lunalilo; however, he soon died too. In 1874 David Kalakaua announced his candidacy for the throne. He faced Queen Emma (the widow of the late King Kamehameha IV) and won the election. Her supporters rioted, and the new king asked for American and British warships to help reestablish peace. The king then traveled abroad to examine coinage manufacturing in other countries. He wanted to modernize Hawaiian life.
During his visit to the United State he met with Secretary of State James Blaine, who indicated that Hawaii was very important to the safety of the United States. His statement was the beginning of increased aid and ties between the two countries. When the king returned to Hawaii, it was proposed that the United States become the manufacturer of Hawaiian silver coinage. Claus Spreckels, the banker, sugar tycoon, and power behind the throne, made the proposal to the king. It was clearly in his financial interest to have the islands united under the king.
In 1900 Hawaii became a territory of the United States. The Hawaiian silver coinage was withdrawn from circulation and replaced with Federal coinage. As soon as Hawaiian coins were deposited in banks, they were to be shipped to the mainland for melting.
Charles E. Barber was the sixth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. He became Chief Engraver after the death of his father, William. He served from 1879 to 1917. He is best known for his designs of the “Barber” dime, quarter, and half dollar. In addition he designed the Liberty Head nickel, several commemoratives, and the Flowing Hair Stella pattern. Barber was born in London in 1840. He came to the United States in 1852 with his family. His father became an engraver at the Mint in Philadelphia. Following Longacre’s death, William Barber became the Chief Engraver and made his son, Charles, his assistant. In 1879, Charles Barber became the Chief Engraver despite the fact the George T. Morgan may have been more qualified or at least more talented. After William Barber’s death, George T. Morgan was also being considered to replace him. However, a few months later, Charles was named to the position.
During the time that he was Chief Engraver, he was responsible for the 1883 Hawaiian coinage: the silver dime, eighth dollar, quarter, half dollar, and dollar. He also designed coins for Cuba and Venezuela. Later he designed the obverse of the Columbian half dollar and both dies for the Isabella quarter. Barber also was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition gold dollars, the Lewis and Clark Exposition gold dollar, the obverse of the Panama-Pacific Exposition half dollar, and the quarter eagle, along with George T. Morgan. Barber also designed the obverse of the McKinley Memorial dollar. When President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to redesign the coinage of the United States, he felt that he was in a “private war” with Charles Barber. Because Roosevelt felt that Barber was not an imaginative engraver, he enlisted the help of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and later Bela Lyon Pratt to remake America’s coinage. Barber was critical of the new designs and pointed out their impracticality. Eventually his view prevailed, and he reduced the relief of the Saint-Gaudens’ works.
It is unusual to find such an attractive, original Hawaii dala. In its population report, NGC shows 13 1883 dalas in MS63 condition with 33 better.
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