Fourteen Bryan Dollars pedigreed to the collection of early 20th
century American Numismatic Association President Farran Zerbe have
been certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
Bryan Dollars are satirical medals struck by opponents of William
Jennings Bryan, who ran unsuccessfully for president against William
McKinley in 1896 and 1900.
The medals are among the approximately 16 different varieties
cataloged by Fred Schornstein in Bryan Money and in So-Called Dollars
by Harold E. Hibler and Charles V. Kappen. The NGC grading inserts
encapsulated with each of the 14 Bryan Dollars in the auction bear the
attribution numbers assigned in both references.
The 14 medals that have been certified were once in the collection
of Zerbe, a major numismatic promoter in the early 20th century who
was involved with the sale of the 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition
commemorative gold dollars, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International
Exposition commemorative coins and medals, and the creation of the
Zerbe is also known for a handful of specially struck 1921 Morgan
dollars, called “Zerbe Proofs.”
He was ANA president from 1908 to 1910.
After Zerbe, the 14 Bryan Dollars became part of the collection of
Mr. and Mrs. Alfred J. Ostheimer. Although the Ostheimers are best
known in numismatic circles for their impressive silver dollar
collection, they also had a significant collection of so-called
dollars, the series of commemorative medals that includes Bryan Dollars.
The Ostheimer So-Called Dollar Collection consisted of slightly
more than 1,000 pieces, including the 14 examples recently certified
Collector W. David Perkins acquired the collection intact over a
decade ago from Mrs. Ostheimer.
All of the 14 Bryan Dollars Perkins recently submitted to NGC have
achieved grades making them either the single finest graded or tied
for that distinction, according to the grading service.
Several rare varieties are in the group, including the 1900 Bryan
Dollar cataloged as Schornstein 12 and Hibler-Kappen 783A; it is
graded NGC Mint State 65. The 1900 S-10, HK-782 variety is graded NGC MS-66.
The medals are linked to an economic collapse in the United States
in 1893 that hit farmers particularly hard. They became ardent
advocates for an increase in the money supply through the free coinage
of silver. At the time, the United States adhered to the gold
standard, which meant that gold had to be held in reserve for paper
money to be printed.
The value of silver, however, continued to decline with increased
mining in the West, and as a result the silver content of coins was
worth far less than their denomination.
Farmers aligned with Western miners to propose that the U.S. Mint
buy unlimited quantities of silver from the public to strike into
coins. This would give the miners an outlet for their silver, and the
inflation that would result from a significant increase in the money
supply would allow the farmers to repay their debts for a fraction of
their former value.
The Democratic, Silver and Populist parties rallied behind Bryan,
but he lost to McKinley in the 1896 and 1900 elections.
Bryan’s opponents produced medals with designs and legends
critical of his free silver policy — the Bryan Dollars. The medals
were often of a satirical nature.
For more information, visit the NGC website at www.ngccoin.com. ■