Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.
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The hot dollar
In 1913 famed dealer B. Max Mehl placed a well-worn 1804 dollar in the H.O. Granberg Collection sale. The phony dollar was featured on the cover of the sale catalog. Objections were immediate and the coin, actually an altered 1800 dollar, remained in the Granberg family for decades.
Contemporary newspapers report:
■ In 1897, Chateau, Mont., bartender Billy Seymour received one in change.
■ In 1912, a Defiance, Ohio, widow faced a comfortable old age because her late husband had bought one from a passing tramp years before.
■ In 1914, a laborer excavating a site for the Yale hockey rink found one in a buried jar of coins.
Nothing more has been heard about these fantastic finds, but in 1913 famed dealer B. Max Mehl placed a well-worn 1804 dollar in the H.O. Granberg Collection sale.
Auction commentary reported the coin was found in Maine and was owned by a Pinkerton Detective Agency employee when Granberg bought it in 1906.
But there was a problem with the piece. It was unlike any 1804 dollar ever seen before. The 4 was too far to the right.
But Mehl claimed the coin had passed the “heat test” with flying colors, proving “beyond a doubt” that it was not only a genuine 1804 dollar but that it was a genuine 1804 dollar struck in 1804.
Granberg, he said, had prevailed upon the Mint to test the coin. A 1906 report by Pinkerton operative Charles F. Dahlen was included in the auction description, where he is quoted as saying the Mint’s curator “took me to the Chief Engraver, who gave the dollar what he termed ‘a severe heat test,’ by heating the ‘4’ and endeavored to pick and knock it off, BUT IT REMAINED FAST.”
Heat test or no, critics abounded, and Mehl withdrew the coin from the sale.
That coin, actually an altered 1800 dollar, remained in the Granberg family for decades and was exhibited at the 2011 ANA Word’s Fair of Money.
Granberg also owned a genuine 1804 dollar, the Idler specimen, which was donated to the ANA museum in 1991 by Aubrey and Adeline Bebee.
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