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All Posts Tagged With: "Commemorative coins"

Finding Numismatic History in Unlikely Places

By Dan Duncan – Pinnacle-Rarities

Ezra Meeker – Champion of the Oregon Trail

Over the summer months our numismatic travels took us to great historical cities like Boston and Philadelphia. And this week we travel to Baltimore, another city rich in early Americana. Of course, across the nation there are local historical sites and, more specifically, sites of numismatic interest. Over the last 200 plus years, our mints have aided the extraction from a number of precious metal lodes. Now many of the once thriving businesses are gone, with a few remaining as mint and mining museums or historical landmarks.

Each place chronicles a rich history founded in capturing natural resources and refining them into tangible representations of our history. Living in the Northwest, we are thousands of miles from any of these sites. While some old mines exist in the state, the real history of Washington State lies in the old growth forests. The “American” history of the region is for all intent and purpose quite young. But, sometimes you don’t have to look far to find a piece of numismatic lore right in your own back yard.

Recently we took the family to a large state fair located in the city of Puyallup (pyoo-al-uh p). One of the town’s principal founders was a pioneer who travelled to the Oregon Territory in the mid-nineteenth century. He eventually settled in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. This man was Ezra Meeker. His contributions to the northwest are many, but he is best remembered nationally for his extensive work on having the Oregon Trail marked.

According to the Meeker Mansion website, “Ezra Meeker became the self-appointed champion of the Oregon Trail in 1906, when at the age of 76, accompanied by two oxen, a wagon, a driver and a dog, he made his way from his front yard to Washington D.C., by way of New York City.”

Meeker first took the Oregon Trail as a young man in 1852. A true pioneer, Ezra was lured by the promise of the new territories. Finally settling in a valley below Mt. Rainier, Meeker cleared his own land and eventually became an internationally successful hops farmer. His travels included a stint in Europe and a couple forays into the Alaskan territories.

Meeker was obviously impacted by his early trip out west. He had a connection to the Oregon Trail. He recognized it as a part of American history and felt it should be cherished and preserved. In his mid-seventies, he harnessed his oxen and retraced his steps from some 50 odd years ago in a Conestoga wagon. He deemed this trip the Oregon Trail Monument Expedition Trip. During this trip he promoted the trail awareness, lectured, handed out pamphlets and eventually gained a lot of publicity. Meeker met with Teddy Roosevelt, who agreed in principle to in some way recognize the Oregon Trail, but the bill died in Congress.

After returning to his home, Meeker wrote an acclaimed book on the subject entitled The Lost Trail, Meeker again braved the 2,000 mile trail with an ox drawn wagon in 1910. He was again to promote its preservation, but this time he intended to map the route. He was in favor of a transcontinental railroad along a similiar course, which he also intended to lobby for. Despite completing the trail, and the map, his second trip was somewhat of a failure. When he arrived out East he was contacted by the Senate and told not to come to D.C. After some other tribulations, he found his way back to Washington State. He continued to campaign, worked on a movie, lectured and published another book – Ox Team Days. Eventually he’s instrumental in the formation of the Oregon Trail Memorial Association. Through that organization he petitioned Congress getting final approval for the Oregon Trail Commemorative in 1926. The proceeds from the distrubution were used to mark the trail. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Collection of Carson City Half Eagles, WPE Classic Commemoratives & Summer Coin Shows

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #9

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Summer Topics

Today’s main discussions are about Carson City Half Eagles and commemorative silver coins. I admit that I am not a specialist in either area. I will not, however, limit my writings to my favorite topics, as other coins ‘make news’ and are important in a variety of ways. I aim to write for a wide audience. Plus, I have a fondness for most all rare coins and I learn when I prepare to write. I enjoy researching rare coins of almost every kind.

Typically, the coin business is relatively slow between the Spring Long Beach Expo and the Summer ANA Convention. Collectors and dealers often vacation, or are just less active, during this period.

The relatively new, Summer FUN Convention is moderately successful, though it makes far more sense to hold it in West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale. It was in West Palm Beach for three years and I attended all three events, which seemed successful. The Summer FUN Convention was developing a following in Southern Florida. Was it a good idea to move it to Orlando?

Many wealthy coin collectors live in Southern Florida, which is much more densely populated in general than Central Florida. As people are not eager to travel to Florida in the middle of the summer, a Southern Florida location, for a coin show, makes more sense in the summer than does Orlando, which is a city that has evolved into a destination for travelers. Besides, people elsewhere are more likely to have relatives, friends or business ties in Southern Florida than in Orlando. Consider the populations, wealth and business activities in the metropolitan areas of Fort Lauderdale and Miami!

Boston seems to be a good choice for a Summer ANA Convention. Many (though not all) rare coin sales are exempt from sales tax in Massachusetts. There are thousands of serious coin collectors within driving distance of Boston and hundreds more who may fly to Boston. Certainly, it is a city with attractions for girlfriends, spouses or kids. Besides, in relation to the founding of the United States, and the pre-revolutionary period, Boston is of tremendous historical importance.

It has been a very long time since an ANA Convention has been held in New England. Further, there are no longer any regularly held, first tier coin conventions in Massachusetts or the State of New York. CoinFest is held, annually each autumn, in Stamford (CT). In my view, CoinFest has been very successful and may eventually become a first tier event. It would be better if the fourth CoinFest, in October, were not scheduled within a week of the Fall Baltimore Expo. Could its time frame be moved a week or two earlier?

In August, both pre-convention shows will attract collectors. While the “Boston 2010” show at the Park Plaza Hotel has received some recent attention, the Bay State Coin Show has been a tradition in Boston for decades. The special summer Bay State Coin Show will be at the Radisson Hotel, at Park Square, from Friday, Aug 6th to Sunday, Aug 8th.

The Original Commemorative Quarter

1893 Isabella QuarterContent Partner: Pinnacle-Rarities

We’ve entered the last year of the popular modern commemorative quarter program. For better or worse, all fifty states have created designs and the final mintages will hit the nation’s cash registers during the remainder of the year. While I find these final five designs attractive, they (like their modern predecessors) lack the historical depth and symbolisms many of their classic commemorative cousins encompassed. And, as I look over the 2008 proof set that just crossed my desk, my mind goes back to the original commemorative quarter.

The 1893 Isabella Quarter, was created for the Columbian Exposition. $10,000 of the funds intended for the Board of Lady Mangers at the Expo was delivered in the form of forty thousand of these commemorative quarters. The board had been formed at the urging of woman’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony, who felt both genders should be represented in the managerial makeup of this great national project the expo had become. The inclusion of a coin to commemorate female contributions to industry seems almost trifling by today’s standards. But the Woman’s Suffrage movement was full steam ahead at the time. In fact, women didn’t legally win the right to vote until Colorado adapted an amendment to allow them to do so, during this year, 1893. A cause Anthony had championed over the previous two and a half decades. What seems like just a novel idea now, was a veritable coup at the time. The quarter served not only to raise money for the cause, but as a sort of name recognition ad for the woman’s rights movement. And it fueled the growing fires of suffrage. The coins were to be sold at the fair for $1 each. A premium over face that was obscene to some. For this and a variety of other reasons, thousands went unsold during the fair. The balance was slowly sold off to dealers during the coming decade.

The dies were prepared by Charles Barber, presumably from sketches done by Kenyon Cox. Later research has brought this into question. But regardless of where the original ideas came from, the coin is wrought with symbolism – especially the reverse. The use of a monarch on the obverse is somewhat controversial, but considering what event the coin was supposed to commemorate, it was a natural choice. Queen Isabella was the backing Christopher Columbus needed to fund his adventure. The reverse is simply described in most numismatic literature as a kneeling woman holding a distaff, the spool used to hold unspun cotton. This image is now reported to represent “woman in industry.” This may be the case but, Barber’s image would have meant a lot more to the people in his time. (more…)

Thematic Collecting of US Silver Commemorative Coins

By Kathleen Duncan – Pinnacle Rarities

The silver commemoratives produced between 1892 and 1954 are remarkably adaptable in terms of collectibility. Most collectors assemble a standard fifty piece type set which includes a single example of each basic half dollar type plus the Isabella quarter and the Lafayette dollar. This set can then be expanded to fifty-three coins with the addition of the basic major varieties: 1921 Alabama 2×2, 1922 Grant With Star and the 1921 Missouri 2×4. Taking this a step further, the collector can assemble a complete 144 piece set which contains an example of the branch mint and multiple year issues, where applicable.

What about the more casual collector who likes silver commemoratives but who doesn’t have the resources (or perhaps level of interest) to delve this deeply into these issues? We recommend thematic (or topical collecting) which is very popular in the field of stamps and which can be very well adapted to silver commemoratives.

In a nutshell, a thematic collecting of silver commemoratives takes a group of approximately four to six coins which are tied together by a basic theme. Four examples which we find appealing are as follows:

(NOTE: Because of the relative availability of these coins in lower grades, we suggest the collector stick to PCGS or NGC graded examples in the Mint State-66 to Mint State-67 range. The values listed below are for attractive, nice quality coins.)

I. Civil War Issues

There are a number of commemorative half dollars that are related to battles or great leaders of the Civil War. Listed alphabetically (along with the year in which they were issues), these are as follows:

* Antietam (1937). This issue was produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this epic Maryland battle. It is a very affordable coin with nice MS-66 examples currently valued around $750-1,000 and MS-67’s at $1,350-1,650. (more…)

An Introduction to Commemoratives Coins

By Kathleen Duncan of Pinnacle-Rarities

Texas Commemorative Half DollarThis is the place to start learning if you’re unfamiliar with US Commemorative Coins.

What are commemorative coins, you ask?

Commemorative coins are coins issued by the US Mints to recognize the achievements of the Nation. The are coins, and not medals or medallions, because they are monetized, they have a face value and can be used as money, for example a half dollar coin. They differ from regular issue US Coin because they are are struck primarily for collectors, rather than to circulate as money although they are legal tender. Most commemorative coins were struck in conjunction with a large exhibition and festival where they were sold for collectors. The legislation allowing for the issuance of these coins normally also assigned an agency to oversee the distribution or sale. These coins were sold to collectors at a premium to their face value, say $1.00 for a half dollar coin. The two main uses of the proceeds of sale were to raise money for a monument to be built or to defray the costs of the celebration.

How to collect commemoratives.

Between 1892 and 1954, there were just 50 different silver commemoratives and nine different gold issues authorized by Congress and produced. Because many of these coins were issued for multiple years, were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints, and were issued with subtle design variations, there are a total of 144 different silver coins and 13 gold commemoratives.

When collectors buy one coin of each design, they are assembling a Type Set. This is the most popular way to collect silver commemorative coins, the 50-coin set. Most collectors of gold commemoratives will purchase the nine gold dollars and two quarter eagles ($2.50 gold coins) and build a set of 11 coins. Excluded are the two scarce Panama-Pacific $50 issues – visit the Panama-Pacific Gold Commemoratives page by using the scroll-list above to learn why. With that said, there is no one way or best way to collect US commemorative coins. Collectors owe it to themselves to take ownership of their own collections. They should buy what they like and what is interesting to them. Many advanced collectors choose to buy only the five issue related to the Civil War, to buy the ten coins with ships on them, etc. There are nine issues that relate to the western United States, and this has always been a particularly interesting yet overlooked subset. (more…)