The Research Desk column from the Oct. 10, 2016, weekly issue of
Collecting of U.S. medals prior to the 1970s suffered from the lack
of comprehensive and reliable catalogs.
A key volume was issued by Coin & Currency Institute of New
York. The 156-page hard cover So-Called Dollars by Californians
Harold E. Hibler and Charles V. Kappen was released in 1963.
The term “so-called dollars” was used in the 1950s by Richard D.
Kenney to describe medals of the approximate size of a U.S. silver
dollar. Hibler and Kappen vastly extended his listing and boosted a
distinct collecting area.
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Neither author had the depth of knowledge really needed for this
ambitious book, but it became important simply because it existed and
filled an enormous gap. It presented whatever information was at hand,
publicizing hundreds of medals that gained importance simply because
Hibler and Kappen included them. Many obscure events and mysteries
were brought to light that called for in-depth research.
Among these was HK-509, the 1953 Louisiana Purchase Sesquicentennial
medal, a 41.5-millimeter plain-edge piece struck by the Adams Company
for old-time St. Louis coin dealer Otto Oddehon.
St. Louis was host to the 1903 to 1904 Louisiana Purchase Centennial
Exposition, whose many medal issues were cataloged by the late Nathan
Eglit. As the 150th anniversary approached, many hoped for a
sesquicentennial exposition, but federal nor local business support
could be had.
Oddehon, a dealer of the 1930s and 1940s, went forward with a
private issue medal presenting a medieval armored knight riding left
over inscription MFGD. FOR & DISTD. BY/ ODDEHON/ ST. LOUIS, MO.
The reverse bore a very stylized North American map, the upper portion
fading away sans Alaska. The Louisiana Purchase territory was
highlighted at center with a bold dot marking St. Louis, all within a
The semi-satirical catalog listing noted a 1953 gathering of five
history-minded citizens amid the urban renewal rubble of the 1903 fair
site. They drank a champagne toast “to the westward course of empire”
and set off six bombs and rockets, of which half misfired.
We now know that the Oddehon medals were also struck in bronze,
silverplate and brass. They really, if unknowingly, commemorated the
death of the world’s fair movement.