The 2013 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in
August in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill., was ably hosted by
enthusiastic members of the Chicago Coin Club.
Organized in 1919, the Chicago Coin Club is today one of America’s
most active local numismatic organizations, with members from Chicago
and around the country.
Collectors of numismatic organization medals know that there was a
predecessor group, the Chicago Numismatic Society, which flourished
from 1903 to 1915.
CNS began with a meeting of six interested collectors late in 1903
at the Union League Club of Chicago. The group agreed to meet again on
Jan. 16, 1904, and formally organized under President William G.
Jerrems, Vice President William Forrester Dunham, Secretary-Librarian
Ben G. Green, Treasurer Enos C. Verkler and “Censor” Michael P. Carey.
Among later members of national reputation were Chicago beer baron
Virgil M. Brand, ANA founder George F. Heath, Frank Duffield, Fort
Worth’s B. Max Mehl, New York’s Lyman H. Low, Chicago dealer Theophile
Leon, Philadelphia’s S. Hudson Chapman, and Jacob Hirsch of Munich, Germany.
One other important member was J. Henri Ripstra, later ANA
president, Lincoln enthusiast, skilled medal designer and engraver.
Ripstra created the CNS seal adopted Aug. 5, 1905, featuring a high
relief Athenian tetradrachm with the familiar owl, society name and
CNS issued a series of 11 medals inscribed TO MEMBERS WHO HONORED
THE SOCIETY BY JOINING ITS RANKS followed by the date and year of the
society’s existence. The last appeared in 1914; the medal illustrated
is the 1908 issue, with designs on the obverse and reverse faces
oriented at right angles to each other. All were sharply struck and
frequently have prooflike surfaces. All are scarce.
Two CNS commemorative medals exist as well, one a rectangular
plaquette recording the arrival of the gunboat USS Nashville in
Chicago, June 1909. The other hails progress in aviation, presenting
the standing figure of mythological Icarus in 1910. The maker of the
medals is not known with certainty, although Ripstra apparently
designed most, if not all.
The society went into a steep decline after the death of Ben G.
Green in January 1914. Brand was distracted by the outbreak of World
War I and the beginnings of the anti-German hysteria that would peak
after April 1917.
The society’s sinking also sucked down the short-lived ANA Branch
Number 1 set up in 1912, one of three such branches designed to create
subordinate local clubs across the nation. Only Branch 2 in Rochester,
N.Y., survives today.
DAVID T. ALEXANDER is author of American Art Medals, 1909-1995 and
a fellow of the American Numismatic
Society. He is a
numismatist/researcher for Harlan J. Berk Ltd.