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Was ANA President Farran Zerbe A N Ass


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Thomas Elder was one of the distinguished dealers of the first half of the 20th Century (he refered to himself as the Dean of American Dealers). Along the way, he had numerous points of disagreement with another dealer, Farran Zerbe. The two ran against one another for president of the ANA in 1908. Some attribute this satirical medal to that battle, although cataloger DeLory suspects it was not issued before 1914. So to what could it refer? The ANA would not settle in Colorado Springs in the shadow of Pike's Peak until 1961. Zerbe, however, promoted the Lesher Pike's Peak dollars as a collectors item and published a catalog of the pieces in 1917. Zerbe also promoted the fractional gold dollars and the US gold dollars at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 and the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905. Elder issued satirical pieces criticizing the fractional gold pieces that Zerbe promoted. In 1914, Zerbe was busy promoting the forthcoming gold commemoratives for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

 

Why tie Zerbe to the ANA? As noted they ran against one another for president. Zerbe won. Zerbe also purchased the Numismatist from the Heath family and took over editorship until he sold the magazine to another collector who had agreed to donate ownership to the ANA.

 

Look closely at the base of Pikes Pike for the A N ASS! Presumably, Zerbe is the ass promoting his pieces.

 

Elder wrote in 1941 on the occasion of the ANA's 50th anniversary:

 

True we have many more coin collectors today, but I do not favor the decided trend among them to date collecting and the overemphasizing of the importance of small coins, or coins of small value and denomination. If this helps numismatics, well and good. only I do not believe such collecting marks the Alpha and Omega of coin collecting, because it does not and never will. Nor will its intellectual rewards be great, though it furnish recreation and relaxation. A coin of Brutus points to history and notable events. The issuance of a small cent in 1941 does not. Nor does it contribute one iota to mental improvement or aesthetic beauty.

 

He goes on to recommend considering the neglected field of tokens and medals and US colonials. I wonder how he would greet the fact that his many satirical and historical tokens and medals are avidly collected today.

 

A Zerbe advertising token of 1904 (listing the prices he pays for US coin denominations and dates).

 

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  • 5 months later...

I acquired another of Elder's satirical pieces mentioned above at the ANA Money Show (another unplanned but very satisfying purchase):

 

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Zerbe had the concession to sell the US commemorative dollars at the exposition (they were not that popular even though they are today) and he sold his own fractional gold pieces. According to Elder, they were half nerve and half brass (they came as a pair in a quarter and a half denomination). I don't have one in my own collection as yet, but I will post one here when it is acquired (its on my list after acquiring this medal). Note the LOUISI A.N.A. dig at Zerbe. I didn't realize when I wrote the earlier piece in this thread that the ass above is a Ze®bra(e).

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  • 3 months later...

Elder issued a good number of medals and store cards and I recently acquired a 1906 store card in a trade with one of our members.

 

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The store card is listed as Delory 4. It is struck in white metal. In all, the mintage records for this piece include:

 

Silver - 6

Copper - 100 (57 in the ANA museum)

Copper over struck on various coins - 13

Brass - 100

Aluminum - 500

White Metal - 5

Lead - 7

Fiber - 5

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  • 2 months later...

I added another Elder medal, this one a restrike using a Robert Lovett, Jr. die:

 

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The medal looks better in hand since the lighting I used emphasizes the surface discoloration of the brass. I'll have to reshoot it soon. Thomas Elder struck this medal in 1917 as part of his campaign for better US coin designs.The medal is listed as Baker 621A and is noted to be a civil war dog tag. It does not appear that it was ever struck as a legitimate dog tag (Baker 620 appears to be a legitimate dog tag). Examples were struck in sterling silver, German silver, silver-plated bronze, bronze, brass, and aluminum.

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How did he use these as part of his campaign for better designs? Did he circulate them? Did he pass them off to congressmen?

 

I think he just sold them in his auctions and pointed to them as examples of great American diesinkers at work. The East coast collectors of the period had good access to the mint and other relevant government officials and were bending their ears about coin designs. Farran Zerbe, for example, was active in these efforts as well and the Peace dollar is often associated with Zerbe (much more to this story) and Zerbe marketed the Panama-Pacific commemoratives.

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The great thing about these medals when thinking about the ANA is realising that even a hundred some odd years ago there were people going around referring to others as @$$es etc. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Too bad that today we don't have cool medals that commemorate downfalls like Chris Cipoletti's etc though.

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I'm old enough and been through enough to realize how true it is. We only think the world has degenerated. In researching my family history, I found one ancestor in the 1700s who left a penny to his wife, a penny to his mistress, and the rest of the estate to his other true love than neither the wife nor the mistress knew about! Times haven't really changed that much. We are still human with all our strengths and failings. I find great humor and am reassured by the study of history in comparison to today.

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I'm old enough and been through enough to realize how true it is. We only think the world has degenerated. In researching my family history, I found one ancestor in the 1700s who left a penny to his wife, a penny to his mistress, and the rest of the estate to his other true love than neither the wife nor the mistress knew about! Times haven't really changed that much. We are still human with all our strengths and failings. I find great humor and am reassured by the study of history in comparison to today.

 

I have found out in doing genealogy that nothing has changed, people are just a lot more open about what they do now than they were then. Then they tended to cover stuff like children born out of wedlock, or shotgun weddings with stories - or in one case move out of state - and change the whole story of what side they served in during the Civil War etc.

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  • 2 years later...

Just in case someone comes across this post and suspects I might think poorly of Farran Zerbe, I am currently secretary/treasurer of the Pacific Coast Numismatic Society. Zerbe is credited as founder of the organization, although the honors should rightly be shared with others. I do collect broadly around the topics of Elder and Zerbe and Zerbe remains a favored topic. One of my recent purchases for which I paid quite dearly:

 

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The slug-type medal was struck in silver by Patrick Moise & Klinkner in San Francisco. Only 60 were struck and they already commanded a premium within a couple of years when they appeared at auction. My example was previously owned by Bill Weber. He paid $130 many years ago. The obverse die continues to be used for society medals.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fascinating! Thanks to all.

 

I am not sure that people back then versus now were more or less open or more or less satirical. On the one hand, I accept a certain continuity to human nature and on the other I see that we become more sophisticated in our understandings and our ignorances both alike.

 

I now think that fractional California gold is mostly a sham. I think that the dies making it are not controlled - not known or identified or locked down.

 

Investgating the origin of the Peace Dollar, I came to see Farran Zerbe at once an Olympian of numismatics and an idol with feet of clay. But I never respected Thomas Elder. Nothing about Elder was never nice. That said, I have to agree with him that American numismatics long ago devolved into trivia about minutiae. A Brutus coin, now that is something... but VAM varieties prove that nothing is as common as an error.

 

Nonetheless, a fascinating glimpse at a page of our history.

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I now think that fractional California gold is mostly a sham. I think that the dies making it are not controlled - not known or identified or locked down.

 

 

You have to make a distinction between fractional gold that was made in the 1850s and the "Gold Charms" made after the fractional gold was deemed illegal. The charms are available having been made in the time period and readily available as modern fantasies. The charms were also outlawed circa 1919 and the Secret Service raided the makers and siezed a number of dies. Zerbe published an interesting article in the Numismatist at the time praising the Secret Service for cracking down on the worthless charms. He devoted about half of his article to praising his own fractional gold pieces and the set he sold in 1915 (Coins of the Golden West) as being different from what the Secret Service went after and how they were truly collectible pieces unlike the worthless charms. Always the promoter.

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Zerbe published an interesting article in the Numismatist at the time praising the Secret Service for cracking down on the worthless charms. He devoted about half of his article to praising his own fractional gold pieces and the set he sold in 1915 (Coins of the Golden West) as being different from what the Secret Service went after and how they were truly collectible pieces unlike the worthless charms.

Was he right?

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Was he right? Not an easy answer. Elder felt Zerbe was creating collectibles to sell the US commemoratives in 1904 and 1905. He was having "gold" pieces struck with less gold than their implied value and then marketing them as a bargain to sell the commemorative gold dollars. The action was not that much different than the marketing of the gold charms. The Coins of the Golden West were a bit different since they carried their "denomination" in gold (one pennyweight, half penny weight, quarter penny weight). Zerbe implied that his "half" had 50 cents worth of gold, it didn't. Today, the Coins of the Golden West sell for a lot more than the gold charms of the period, so I would say that time was on Zerbe's side.

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