|Volume 67 No. 5
As I write this, the ANA is still planning on having its August convention in Rosemont – their current planning uses social distancing measures, so not everything will be as it usually is. The convention website has applications for dealers, club tables, club meetings, and more – but nothing yet for the Collector Exhibit Area.
They are still working on the details for the Collector Exhibit Area, but it most likely will not be as usual. With only 3½ months until the convention starts, my suggestion to those who are thinking of exhibiting is to think small to start:
Use the above ideas to start planning your exhibit. Keep watching the convention website for the official rules and application – they might be more generous than my small ideas. All is not lost if you were working on exhibits based upon the usual Classes – all should be back to normal for the 2022 convention back in Rosemont.
Looking at the White Sox schedule, I see they have home games on Thursday through Sunday of the ANA convention in Rosemont – they will be hosting the Yankees. But be careful when buying tickets to the Thursday night game, as it will be the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa. Which will be great for our club members from New York who now live in Iowa and are not coming to Rosemont on Thursday – for all others: the Saturday night game starts a few hours after the convention closes, and the Sunday game starts at 1pm.
Paul Hybert, editor
The 1227th meeting of the Chicago Coin Club was called to order by President Lyle Daly at 6:45 PM CDT, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Due to the pandemic shutdown, the meeting was online using Webex, starting with 37 members but rising to 47.
Club President Lyle Daly started the meeting asking for a motion to suspend the Order of Business giving the reason that our Order of Business as outlined in the by-laws conflicted with current practice, and it was the intent to soon revise the club by-laws for this section. The motion was moved and passed.
Club Meeting Minutes and Treasurer’s Report
The March 10, 2021 meeting minutes were approved. Club treasurer Elliott Krieter submitted three reports for review.
The year-end report for calendar year 2020 showed total income of $3,720 and expenses of $1,472.89, for an annual net gain of $2,247.11.
A revised February 2021 period report included an additional expense of $66.00 for “Printing & Postage – The Chatter” versus income of $300.00, revising the February 2021 period net Loss to $2,552.34.
The March 2021 period report showed income of $250.00 and expenses of $183.78, for a period net gain of $66.22. A motion to accept these reports was made, seconded, and passed.
Guests and New Members
No new membership applications were received. One guest of Deven Kane, Jerry Pate, was present and introduced.
Proposal to amend Article VIII – Order of Business of the Chicago Coin Club By-Laws by deleting the following:
- Call to Order
- Approval of the Minutes
- Introduction of Visitors
- Reports of Treasurer
- Reports of Officers and Committees
- Application and Election to Membership; Resignations
- Featured program
- Old Business
- New Business
- Other Business Announcements
and replacing it with the following:
- Call to Order
- Approval of the Minutes
- Secretary’s Report
- Introduction of Visitors
- Applications for Membership
- Treasurer’s Report
- Old Business
- Reports by Officers and Committees
- New Business
- Proposals, Questions, and/or Comments
- Featured program
- Other Business Announcements
There will be a Chicago Coin Club Board meeting on May 19, 2021.
The ANA will host a “Meet and Greet” on Zoom on April 29, 2021 5-7pm MDT for anyone wishing to meet the ANA board candidates.
ANA National Coin Week is April 18-24, 2021 and ANA will offer many activities and eLearning seminars.
First V.P. John Riley introduced the Featured Speaker, Bob Van Ryzin, who spoke on The Chicago Coin Club’s Connection to the 1913 Liberty Nickel. Following a question-and-answer period, John announced Bob would receive an ANA Educational Award and engraved Club medal.
Second V.P. Melissa Gumm announced there were 7 exhibitors for the evening.
The next meeting will be May 12, 2021.
Lyle Daly adjourned the meeting at 9:05pm CDT.
Scott A. McGowan, Secretary
by Bob Van Ryzin,
presented to our April 14, 2021 meeting.
On July 11, 1934, 63 members of the Chicago Coin Club gathered at the Atlantic Hotel for the club’s 185th meeting. President J. Henri Ripstra called the meeting to order.
Among the topics of discussion was the mysterious 1913 Liberty Head nickel – a coin that shouldn’t exist. Nineteen thirteen was the year of the change to the Indian head/bison motif, by James Earle Fraser. Therefore, no 1913-dated coins with the prior Liberty head design, by Charles Barber, likely should have been minted. Yet five examples are known. Each of which would bring millions now in 2021, if offered at auction.
The August 1934 issue of the American Numismatic Association’s journal, The Numismatist, recorded of the July 11, 1934 meeting on pp. 522-523:
“The 1913 Liberty-head nickel was discussed and the story of its first exhibition at a meeting of the Chicago Coin Club was told by several of the older members.”
The reference was with little doubt to the visit of former U.S. Mint worker Samuel W. Brown, who by most is considered responsible for the rare nickel’s existence, to the CCC’s Dec. 3, 1919 meeting at the Hotel Sherman. Reported by CCC secretary R. Edward Davis on pp. 61-62 of The Numismatist is the following:
“The tenth monthly meeting of the Chicago Coin Club was held at the Hotel Sherman, Chicago, Wednesday, December 3. The following members were present: Miss Naerup, Mrs. Ripstra, Messrs. Boyer, Geo. Brown, S[amuel] W. Brown, Carey, Davis, Gunderson, Hoffer, Johnston, Lawless, Leon, Kelly, Rackus, Ripstra, Van der Berghen and Wilson. Mrs. Leon and Mrs. Boyer were present as visitors.
“The meeting was called to order by Vice-President Boyer.…
“Ten new members were elected to membership. These were all secured by Mr. Leon. They were Frank A. Johnston, G.W. Tracey, D.A. French, Frank Hansen, Virgil Brand, and Roger Graham of Chicago; H.O. Granberg, Oshkosh, Wis.; Samuel W. Brown, North Tonawanda, N.Y.; J.G. Gunderson, Aneta, N.D., and E.D. Bushnell, New York.”
One new member, Samuel W. Brown, joined seven other CCC members in displaying coins and paper money for view that evening. Tucked away, rather matter-of-factly, in the secretary-treasurer’s report, just after Mr. Boyer’s gold rush $50 slugs and ahead of an “interesting exhibit” of obsolete paper money by Mr. Leon, is this reference to Samuel W. Brown’s exhibit:
“By Mr. S.W. Brown: Proof nickel of 1913, of the old type. Proof nickels are not supposed to have been struck during that year.”
The coin, which most writers to this day believe was first revealed to numismatists more than eight months later, at the August 1920 ANA convention in Chicago, was in fact shown that December evening to 18 CCC members and guests. Several of these were experienced numismatists who would have recognized the nickel’s import and long remembered their first brush with this mega rarity.
At the July 11, 1934 meeting, nearly 15 years later, this was put to the test, as at least three members were able to reaffirm what happened at that memorable 1919 gathering. By matching the names between the two club reports in The Numismatist, those who can be identified as having attended both meetings are: J. Henri Ripstra, Alden Scott Boyer, and (likely R. Edward) Davis. (There were probably others, as “several of the older members” recounted the famed nickel’s first exhibit, but without a complete list of the 63 members at the 1934 meeting, there is no way to tell.)
Initially, all five of the 1913 Liberty Head nickels were thought to be proofs. Today numismatists argue over some of the coins’ status as such. Brown believed or was pitching his as a proof, as can be surmised from the description at the 1919 meeting and from that at the 1920 ANA convention. At the 1920 ANA convention, it was noted, on a label accompanying his nickel, that five 1913 Liberty Head nickels were believed to have been minted, none were believed to have reached circulation, and all of them were proofs.
When they were or could have been minted has long been in contention, as is how and when they escaped the U.S. Mint. Some writers have argued that the coining was likely nearer the date of the 1920 ANA convention, where Brown left his example on display. Others have said the dies for making such coins would have been destroyed well prior to that – necessitating that coins were minted circa late 1912 or early 1913 as test pieces or surreptitiously. Also, even if Brown was culpable for their highly questionable coining, some contend he wouldn’t have had access to the dies or the presses, which meant he would have had an accomplice.
Brown worked at the Philadelphia Mint at the time of the switch to the Indian Head nickel. He left in 1913, having served as an assistant curator of the mint’s coin cabinet (coin collection) and as a storekeeper during his tenure. Whether he obtained his coin or coins then or later is open to question. Some speculate he took all five with him upon his departure in 1913. Yet all that can be documented is that he had a single specimen at the 1919 CCC meeting and a single specimen at the 1920 convention.
Perhaps of great significance to the 1913 Liberty Head nickel’s arrival on the numismatic marketplace, and largely overlooked, was Brown’s visit to the 1919 Philadelphia ANA convention, where he took part in an American Numismatic Association-arranged tour of the Philadelphia Mint on Monday, Oct. 6, 1919. He is pictured in the official convention photo, taken on the mint steps following the tour.
The November 1919 The Numismatist wrote of that Philadelphia Mint tour on pp. 441-442:
“Monday afternoon a visit was made to the Mint, where the party met at 12:30 o’clock. They were courteously received by Dr. [T. Louis] Comparette [curator of the mint cabinet], who accompanied them on the tour of inspection of the mechanical departments of the institution, the various processes of coinage being explained by the Mint guides… After the tour of inspection the party was conducted to the Cabinet, where Dr. Comparette was almost overwhelmed with questions regarding the specimens under his care as curator. After all had been answered the party was asked by the committee to step outside, where, in a slight drizzle of rain, the official photograph of the convention was taken.”
How long after the mint visit Brown remained in Philadelphia, before returning to his home in New York, is unknown. The convention closed on Oct. 8.
What is clear is that, on or before Nov. 20, 1919, Brown submitted the following, which was printed on p. 513 of the December 1919 issue of The Numismatist:
“WANTED • 1913 LIBERTY HEAD • NICKEL • In Proof condition, if possible. • Will pay $500 cash for one. • SAMUEL W. BROWN • North Tonawanda, N.Y.”
If Brown adhered to the publisher’s advertising deadline, his ad copy for that issue of The Numismatist was due by Nov. 20. Likely, it was submitted at least a couple of days prior. This was a little more than a month after his trip to Philadelphia and roughly two weeks before the Dec. 3, 1919 CCC meeting.
The quick turnaround begs the currently unanswerable question: Was the placement of his buy ad so soon after his Philadelphia convention/mint visit a coincidence or an outcome of it?
Consider the following possibilities. While in Philadelphia, Brown could have: 1.) learned of the coins during the mint tour from a former associate who had them; 2.) spirited one or more of the coins out at that time or shortly thereafter; 3.) devised a plan on how to bring the coins he or a cohort already had to market; or 4.) came to believe that at least one of the coins was available outside of the mint and an advertisement could bring it to light.
The Numismatist was printed on the first of each month and was dropped in the mail in Federalsburg, Md., most often on the fifth. It would then take from five days to several weeks for most members to receive their copies via second-class mail. Given that timeline, the December issue of The Numismatist went to press on Dec. 1, 1919 and was placed in the mail on Dec. 5 – two days after Brown attended the Dec. 3, 1919 CCC meeting. Thus, CCC members saw the 1913 Liberty Head nickel before most, if not all, of the readers of The Numismatist had a chance to view Brown’s advertisement and learn of the possible existence of this rarity.
Brown conceivably had one of the coins at least by Nov. 20, if not earlier, and the visit to the CCC meeting was more than just a social call. The trip to Chicago required him to travel from his home in North Tonawanda, N.Y. and likely stay overnight, as CCC meetings began at 8 p.m.
The most plausible reason for this wintertime trek halfway across the country was in regard to the upcoming ANA convention in Chicago. At the Philadelphia convention, in October 1919, it was announced that Chicago had been awarded the 1920 ANA convention. For the CCC (formed earlier in 1919), the selection was a distinct honor. For Brown, it represented an opportunity.
The CCC meeting in Chicago shortly thereafter meant more to him than a chance to become a coin club member. From what is known today, Brown was not much for attending coin club meetings or ANA conventions. He became an ANA member in 1906, but prior to his visit to the 1919 ANA convention, his only recorded ANA convention attendance was in Philadelphia in 1908. This was while he was working for the mint in that city.
If, in late 1919, he had simply wanted to join the CCC, he could have done that from home, as did many of the other nine members admitted to membership that December evening. It was the 1913 Liberty Head nickel and the impending Chicago convention that were most likely his inspiration. The meeting provided a chance to show his rare nickel to the host club and perhaps discuss his bringing it to the CCC’s first ANA convention.
Following the nickel exhibit at the CCC meeting in December, Brown ran additional advertisements in the January through March 1920 issues of The Numismatist offering to buy specimens of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, but with an increase in the price he was willing to pay to $600 per coin.
Many writers have come to believe that Brown’s ads were simply a ruse, meant to create a market for the coin, or only to legitimize his owning it. They were apparently unaware of the Dec. 3, 1919 meeting and its significance in this regard. It proves that Brown had at least one of the nickels prior to his first advertisement offering to buy specimens appeared in print (and long before he brought the coin to the August 1920 ANA convention).
If, as has been argued, he was just trying to build a market for the coin, why didn’t he continue the advertisements leading up to the convention? They disappear after the March issue of The Numismatist, but could have run conceivably through the July issue, if that was his true motive.
Also, if his buy offers were merely to provide an explanation of how he came by the coins (by purchase, not theft) prior to the 1920 ANA convention where he would make the big reveal, he certainly wouldn’t have exhibited the coin to 18 members and guests at the CCC meeting held before even the first of his ads made it into print. He could have waited to do that until the January or a later CCC meeting, by which time his advertising smokescreen would have been in place.
Brown may have also attended a meeting of the Rochester Numismatic Association with the coin or coins in advance of the convention, as has long been rumored. Failing that, he next surfaces with the coin at the August 1920 ANA convention in Chicago.
The October 1920 issue of The Numismatist reported on p. 466:
“Samuel W. Brown of North Tonawanda, N.Y., was present for a short time on Monday [Aug. 23]. He had with him a specimen of the latest great rarity in U.S. coinage – the nickel of 1913 of the Liberty Head type. It was among the exhibits the remainder of the Convention, with a label announcing that it was valued at $600, which amount Mr. Brown announced he is ready to pay for all proof specimens offered to him. An explanation of its rarity is that at the close of 1912, the mint authorities, not having received orders to use the dies of the buffalo type nickel at the beginning of 1913, prepared a master die of the Liberty Head type dated 1913, and from this master die a few pieces – believed to be five – in proof were struck. None of these are believed to have been placed in circulation.”
The convention closed on Aug. 26, and Brown’s nickel, which he left behind on exhibit, fell into the care of CCC president Boyer. Sometime before the end of 1920, as evidenced by the January 1921 issue of The Numismatist, Brown wrote to Boyer asking for the nickel’s return, as he had a sale pending. It can be assumed that Boyer complied.
On p. 17 of the January 1921 issue of The Numismatist, under heading, “The Rare 1913 Nickel.,” is shown:
“The value of $600 placed some months ago on the 1913 Liberty head type nickel, in proof condition, seems to have advanced, as the following letter from Mr. S.W. Brown of North Tonawanda, N.Y., to Mr. Alden S. Boyer of Chicago, Ill., will show:
“Dear Mr. Boyer – I would appreciate it very much if you would return the 1913 Liberty head nickel you have with your coins in the Masonic Temple vault in your city. I have a deal pending for the sale of this coin, and it is necessary that I have it within the next ten days. If you will, kindly send it by express, charges collect, and estimate the value at $750. Thanking you for your courtesy in this matter.”
Besides the references to Brown, there was another contemporary reference to a CCC member and this rarity that needs further exploration. Famed collector William F. Dunham was linked to owning one the rarities at the time of the 1920 convention, which apparently led to the flooding of newspaper question-and-answer columns with queries from those who owned 1913 Indian Head nickels and thought they had struck it rich.
The following news item ran in the Aug. 25, 1920 issue of The Englewood Economist, Chicago, the day after the ANA’s annual banquet, at the Hotel Sherman. It noted, under the headline, “Watch for 1913 Nickels: Some Are Worth $600”:
“A 1913 nickel without a buffalo’s head on it is worth $600. I was offered that for mine today,’ said W.F. Dunham, 724 Oakley Blvd., at the annual dinner of the American Numismatic Association in the Hotel Sherman last night.”
The same mention was printed in another Chicago paper, the Aug. 31, 1920 Suburbanite Economist.
The recorded statement from Dunham can be read two ways: Either he was offered $600 for his nickel at the ANA banquet, or he was offered $600 some time that day (Tuesday, Aug. 24). The Chicago street address given for Dunham, 724 Oakley Blvd., is correct. Yet Dunham is not known to have ever owned one of the nickels. So the quote is puzzling.
He is known to have attended the ANA banquet in question. By contrast, Brown, who said he was willing to pay $600 for proof 1913 Liberty Head nickels, was at the convention “for a short time” on Monday, the day before the banquet. Brown is not listed among those at the dinner and may well have left for home on Aug. 23.
Dunham, who was very active in the ANA and the CCC, was one of the nation’s leading collectors. His collection was rightly deemed one of the finest. Among other delectable U.S. coinage rarities, he owned the Class I 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar on display at the convention, where it was dubbed the “Chicago dollar.”
Dunham died in 1936. In 1941, B. Max Mehl sold Dunham’s collection. There was no 1913 Liberty Head nickel.
Important to this story, no matter the origin or veracity of the two Dunham-related news pieces, is that their printing lit the fire. Soon, everyone was rooting through their change – most thinking they had discovered a rarity with each 1913 Indian Head nickel culled from pockets, purses, or old-coin stashes.
Within a week after the Dunham references, news was being broadcast by newspapers throughout the nation, in big towns and in small, that a low-denomination coin – one that could, in theory, pass through anyone’s hands – was worth $600.
Most of the news blurbs were similar to the following quip from the Aug. 29, 1920 News-Democrat, Paducah, Ky., “A 1913 nickel without the buffalo’s head on it is worth $600; all the rest are worth about a cent and a half.”
These continued to spread into at least February of the next year (all quoting the $600 premium). Floods of inquiries were also recorded by the Chicago Daily News.
By the mid-1920s, offers and queries concerning the rare nickel could be found in many newspapers, with offers ranging from $50 or less to trade offers – one of which tendered two Giant Flemish rabbits for a 1913 Liberty Head nickel.
Though not the first to proclaim the 1913 Liberty Head nickel’s rarity, Fort Worth, Texas dealer B. Max Mehl was undoubtedly the one who spent the most advertising dollars in that direction. By 1922, he was announcing, through small classified ads, that he was willing to pay $50 for this coin. These classified ads ran first with an address to “Numismatic Bank” and later “The Rare Coin Company of Texas.”
Just about every week, somewhere in the United States, you could pick up a newspaper and glimpse one of Mehl’s offers. Not all were for the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, but most were.
The April 15, 1923 Buffalo Courier, Buffalo, N.Y., for example, ran: “COINS – $50 paid for 1913 liberty nickels (not Buffalo); cash premiums paid for all rare coins; send 4c for circular; may mean your profit. Numismatic Bank. Dept. 2, Fort Worth, Texas.”
With a tremendous advertising budget, in the 1930s Mehl moved to larger newspaper display ads. During that period his ads could be found in the comics sections of newspapers. Most often these were at the bottom of the comics page, but sometimes as part of the comics or made to look like cartoons.
So what of the 1913 Liberty Head nickels after the ANA convention in 1920? In 1923, all five specimens were offered by August Wagner, who in the December 1923 issue of The Numismatist advised:
“FOR SALE. • Five (5) Five-Cent Liberty • Head 1913 Coins. Proof. • The only Five-Cent Liberty Head • Coins of this design and year in • Existence. • August Wagner, • 31st and York Sts., • Philadelphia, Pa.”
The coins have since passed through the hands of many prominent dealers and collectors, with two of the five coins ensconced in museums. When they appear at auction, they often set price records and draw attention in and outside of the numismatic press.
As for Mehl, he featured one in his 1944 sale of the Fred E. Olsen collection. “To the collector of today, this coin is better known and of greater fame than our 1804 Silver Dollar,” he wrote in the lot description on p. 84. “It is, of course, considered as one of our greatest rarities from every point of view, and rightly so.”
Mehl boasted, “I plead guilty to being responsible for making this coin so famous, having used it in all of my national advertising for a period of about a quarter of a century…” The cost of the promotions, according to Mehl, was in excess of $1 million.
Presented as lot No. 1551, the 1913 Liberty Head nickel (for which Mehl claimed Olsen had paid at least $900) brought $3,750 – far above the $50 price tag Mehl used to promote his business, but well below the $3.29 million the same coin was auctioned off for in 2014.
Roy Grundy, age 90, passed away November 20 in Seattle, Washington. He joined the club December 19, 1980 as member #917. His son William joined the club at age 11 and for many years Roy drove Bill to meetings. Roy served as a club Director 1983-84. He is survived by Priscilla, his wife of 53 years, son William Grundy Noble, a club life member, and sons Russell and Christopher.
Roy was a marketing and management professor and a longtime volunteer and community leader in Naperville, Illinois where he lived for 53 years, before retiring to Seattle in 2016. His civic involvement included serving on the boards of Naperville School District 203 and the Naperville Zoning Board of Appeals.
Roy earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1952, then served two years in the U.S. Navy as a radar officer on the USS Baltimore. When he returned to Chicago he earned an MBA from Roosevelt University in 1956 and a doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University.
Roy was employed in marketing and advertising and in 1970 changed careers to become a professor of business, sales, and marketing at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellen, Illinois. Many students knew him as “Professor Sunshine” owing to his longstanding interest in solar energy. Roy often lobbied in Springfield for solar power and gave lectures at local schools.
A more complete biography is available online.
Chicago Coin Club
Daniel Freeland, 71, resident of Mayville, Michigan passed away April 17, 2021. He joined the Chicago Coin Club March 2003 and became member number 1113.
He collected Michigan National Bank Notes, national commemorative medals along with numerous other collectibles. Dan shared his knowledge of numismatics and received numerous exhibit awards at local coin shows, and the conventions at Central States Numismatic Society and the American Numismatic Association. He introduced his wife Kathy to the hobby after they married in 1993. She joined the Club in 2019 becoming member number 1296.
Dan served as an officer in many local clubs, secretary/treasurer of the Paper Money Collectors of Michigan and a board member of the Michigan State Numismatic Society.
After graduating from Central Michigan University, Dan taught geometry at Millington High School for 30 years.
He is survived by Kathy Freeland, his wife of 27 years, two brothers several nieces and nephews as well as great-nieces and nephews. Funeral service was held at Mayville United Methodist Church and burial took place at Watertown Township Cemetery. Contributions can be made to Michigan Parkinson’s Foundation.
Chicago Coin Club
|Chicago Coin Company
|Harlan J. Berk, Ltd.
|Kedzie Koins Inc.
Items shown at our April 14, 2021 meeting,
reported by Melissa Gumm.
|May 12, 2021
|6:45 PM CDT (UTC-05:00)
Visit our Online Meeting webpage, at www.chicagocoinclub.org/meetings/online_meeting.html, for all the details on participating in an online club meeting. Participation in an online meeting requires some advance work by both our meeting coordinator and attendees, especially first-time participants. Please plan ahead; read the latest instructions on the day before the meeting!
|Madeline Rodriguez —
Observations Around the Composition and Changes to the U.S. 10- and 25-cent coins, 1794 to Present
Join us as CCC member Madeline Rodriguez speaks on changes, over the course of 227 years, to the United States 10- and 25-cent coins. Her original research commentary will include findings from recent studies examining the cost of production versus coin value, as well as interesting U.S. Mint proposals regarding substitution of coinage materials.
Unless stated otherwise, our regular monthly CCC Meeting is online during the Covid-19 isolation era on the second Wednesday of the month; the starting time is 6:45PM CT.
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Madeline Rodriguez on Observations Around the Composition and Changes to the U.S. 10- and 25-cent Coins, 1793 to Present
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Winston Zack on Bad Metal
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Steve Zitkowsky on Coins of the DOA – German East Africa
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Mark Wieclaw on Irish Gun Money
|ANA in Rosemont, at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Admission is free for ANA members — for details, see http://www.worldsfairofmoney.com.
|CCC Meeting - Noon at the ANA Convention,
which is held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 North River Road, Rosemont, IL.
No admission charge for our meeting.
Featured Speaker - to be announced
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced
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