US Coins

Last of Virgil Brand numismatic items in crates

A hoard of more than 1,300 tokens and medals from the estate of numismatist Virgil M. Brand that were originally destined for the melting pot as part of a divorce settlement has been acquired by the Chicago Coin Company.

The tokens and medals, some of which are unlisted in numismatic references, are considered to be the final vestiges of the numismatic holdings of the Chicago beer baron and prominent numismatist, who died in 1926. The tokens and medals have been stored away in the same wooden crates in which they were put into storage more than 80 years ago, according to Chicago Coin Company President William Burd.

Burd purchased in the fall of 2015 a wooden crate containing 1,230 medals and tokens and two crates containing 125 rectangular bronze USS Nashville medals still in their individual felt-lined boxes. The USS Nashville medals and their storage boxes suffered damage from their long-term storage in a moisture-laden environment, Burd said.

The 1,230 crated medals and tokens were laid out on multiple layers of tissue paper and then stacked inside one of the three crates.

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Burd said he is in the process of individually cataloging each piece before deciding how to market the exonumic items to collectors.

Among the items so far identified, Burd lists these:

??A 25-piece paper-wrapped roll of 50-millimeter aluminum tokens commemorating the building of the Masonic Fraternity Temple in Chicago in 1892. Written on the roll, presumably in Brand’s own handwriting, is ledger number 30801, an indication Brand purchased them in October 1905 among items totaling $84.63.

On the side of the crate is handwritten in four lines in capital letters MASONIC / TEMPLE / MEDALS / NO VALUE.

“Contrary to the wording on the crate there were very few Masonic related tokens included with the other items,” Burd said.

??Rare shell card. Unlisted in Q. David Bowers’ reference The Token and Medal Society Guide to U.S. Shell Cards 1867-1880. The obverse design resembles that for an 1867 Seated Liberty silver half dollar, with the reverse featuring an orange insert on which is printed R.B. WHITZELL, / JOBBER AND DEALER / IN / BOOTS & SHOES, / NO. 165 / S. HIGH STREET, / COLUMBUS, OHIO.

??Circa 1750 Frederick, Prince of Wales, struck medal, issued in gilt copper.

??Sharply struck April 23, 1661, silver coronation medal of Charles II. Burd said the medal is one of only a few silver medals in the hoard.

??Rare Winfield Scott 1852 presidential campaign medal in copper, 33 millimeters.

??Jefferson Guard medal in white metal, 40 millimeters. The medal is inscribed around on the obverse COMPANY F. JEFFERSON GUARD ? CAPT. F. HEPPENHEIMER  ?. Inscribed within an inner circle is 25TH REGIMENT ? AUG. 11, 1859 ?.  A bullseye is in the center of the obverse. A wreath is on the reverse of the unsigned medal.

Friedrich Ludwig Heppenheimer was commissioned a lieutenant in the Jefferson Grenadiers of the New York State Militia in 1850 and promoted in rank to captain six years later. The antecedent to the Jefferson Grenadiers was the Jefferson Guard, originally formed in 1834 as the first German military organization of its kind in the United States.

Capt. Heppenheimer commanded Company F for three months of the Civil War beginning April 19, 1861. He is listed in the Masonic Directory of 1860 and New York City directories as a printer-lithographer of cigar boxes.

One example of the medal was sold by Samuel H. Chapman and Henry Chapman’s June 20 to 24, 1882, sale of the Charles I Bushnell Collection.

Two other examples were sold Jan. 18, 2005, by Stack’s as Part VII of the John J. Ford Jr. Collection. One of the two Ford pieces was pedigreed to having once been owned by Brand, which, with the piece Burd acquired, suggests Brand owned at least two examples.

The medals are said to have been unawarded sharpshooter medals.

Among the remaining medals and tokens Burd purchased that were once part of Virgil Brand’s estate are more than 200 Hard Times and merchant tokens in well-preserved condition; a large group of German States medals; U.S. political tokens; and medals of Great Britain, France, Netherlands and several South American countries. Burd said there are also medals reflecting the 1892 World’s Columbian Exposition, the 1876 U.S. Centennial and various U.S. Mint medals.

USS Nashville medals

Brand was serving as president of the Chicago Numismatic Society — the forerunner of the present-day Chicago Coin Club — when the society issued 3-inch by 1.25-inch oblong rectangular medals commemorating the USS Nashville’s arrival in the Chicago harbor on June 5, 1909.

Examples were produced in silver and bronze versions.

The USS Nashville, the largest gunboat that could pass through the route from the St. Lawrence River to Chicago, is credited with firing the first shot during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The obverse of the medal features a rendition of the gunboat on water. The reverse is inscribed with details of the vessel’s 1909 Chicago visit and the medal being an issue of the Chicago Numismatic Society.

Medals were distributed to club members at the January 1910 meeting, and remaining medals were offered at 75 cents for the bronze and $2.50 for the silver. 

"No doubt Brand ordered a quantity of the medals and received them at this meeting," Burd said. "Records do show that at the April 1910 meeting Brand agreed to buy an additional 100 bronze and 50 silver medals at the issue price as long as the dies were cancelled."

The crates in which the 125 USS Nashville medals were stored sustained moisture damage destroying the individual felt-lined presentation boxes and corroding most of the medals, Burd said.

Marked on the side of one of the wooden boxes is C.N. SOCY / COMMEM — / MEDALS / BRONZE / 9-2-32.

The side of the other box with the USS Nashville bronze medals is marked CHICAGO / COIN / CLUB.

Burd said he took 25 of the best examples and distributed to them to Chicago Coin Club members who were in attendance at their Jan. 13, 2016, meeting.

A journey of crates

Brand’s massive estate, including his numismatic holdings, were inherited by his brothers Horace and Armon upon his death in 1926.

At the time, Virgil Brand’s numismatic collection was estimated at a staggering $5 million.

The brothers spent years sorting and inventorying and attempting to split the collection equally, according to Burd.

Q. David Bowers, in his book Virgil Brand: The Man and His Era, writes that by 1934 everything in Brand’s estate was finally appraised except 16 boxes of Masonic Chapter pennies, 12 boxes of Civil War tokens, two boxes of Hard Times tokens and some items worthy only for melting.

"It seems the three crates purchased by Chicago Coin fell into the ‘melting’ category and were simply put aside for over 80 years,” Burd said. “Except for a few silver pieces, all of the medals and tokens are of base medals — white metal, copper, copper nickel, brass and aluminum." 

Burd provided the following synopsis involving the crates he acquired:

"In 1939, Horace’s wife Erna, filed for divorce, after 15 years of marriage. Finalized in 1940, she received 1/5th of his coin collection plus their 35-room mansion on East Cedar Street in Chicago.

"During the 1940s and 1950s she gradually sold off her portion of the coins," according to Burd. In 1960 she moved to Wisconsin taking with her a large group of crates consisting of books and magazines plus the three crates of medals and tokens. 

"When she died in 1985 she left all the crates to her friend and neighbor who eventually moved to Illinois and in 2015 decided to liquidate her possessions."

The friend and neighbor contacted a book dealer, who contacted a coin dealer who notified Burd of the availability of the crates of tokens and medals.

"Being able to pedigree these items to Virgil Brand and have them return to Chicago was wonderful," Burd stated. "And now being able to supply this new material to the numismatic community is very exciting and satisfying."

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