HomeCoinsAmericanaSo-Called Dollars Debut in Whitman Mega Red Book

So-Called Dollars Debut in Whitman Mega Red Book


Deluxe Edition of The Guide Book of U.S. Coins will showcase So-Called Dollars

By Jeff Shevlin ……

According to Kenneth Bressett, editor for the Red Book, “The growing interest in medal collecting has prompted the publishers of Whitman’s Guide Book of United States Coins to acknowledge the important role medals have for today’s collector community, and to include examples of these important historical documents as part of the total story of American numismatics and its many facets. It is hoped that this introduction to the world of medal collecting may be an inspiration to any who have overlooked them in the past.”

So-Called Dollars are U.S. medals approximately the size of a silver dollar that were struck to commemorate a historical event.

A collection of So-Called Dollars is strikingly different from a typical U.S. coin collection organized by date and mintmark because each type piece in the collection has a uniquely different design. There are over 750 different design types, and, when different metal compositions are considered, there are over 1500 varieties to consider collecting. So-Called Dollars were struck in virtually every metal composition conceivable, including gold, silver, copper, bronze, brass, aluminum, nickel, white metal, German silver, gutta-percha, gold-plated and silver-plated.

“It is always refreshing” said Kenneth Bressett “to observe the enthusiasm shown by medal collectors for their favorite segment of numismatics. They view the artistry, history and significance of each piece as its prime importance in a way that is too often overlooked by those who simply collect coins with the objective of completeness or concern for condition.”

So-Called Dollars were struck by the United States Mint as well as private mints. Many of the most famous engravers of U.S. coins also engraved So-Called Dollars, such as William and Charles Barber, George T. Morgan, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and others. Some of the designs and artwork on these pieces are second to none in coin and medal design.

Historical medals come in all sizes. To be classified as a So-Called Dollar they must be approximately the size of a silver dollar, between 33 and 45 mm (a silver dollar is 38mm).

From national events and celebrations to local anniversaries, from great successes to major disasters, bits and pieces of the history of the U.S. are chronologically depicted on these fascinating historical medals.

Dennis Tucker, publisher for Whitman and the Red Book said:

This year’s MEGA RED includes a brand-new 18-page appendix on So-Called Dollars. This is richly illustrated with more than 120 full-color images, with text by specialist Jeff Shevlin. It provides a history of So-Called Dollars, advice on collecting them, a study of rarity, and discussion of today’s market. This is followed by a detailed catalog of 60 different varieties dating from the 1800s and 1900s. Many of these medals can be found for $10 to $50 apiece, making an attractive collection very affordable. Others are worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars each and present a fascinating challenge for collectors.”

1826 U.S. Semicentennial 50th anniversary So-Called Dollar

1826 U.S. Semicentennial

50th anniversary

Struck to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. An eagle perched on a shield on the obverse, the reverse legend referring to the Declaration of Independence dramatically states:

“For the support of this we pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

HK 23 obv 38mm

1876 Centennial Exposition Liberty Bell / Independence Hall

Engraved by William H. Key

The Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia had the Liberty Bell on display, as depicted on the obverse. The reverse displays Independence Hall. It was engraved by William H. Key, assistant engraver to William Barber, 1864-1885.

1876 Centennial Exposition Liberty Seated / Colonial Soldiers So-Called Dollar

1876 Centennial Exposition Liberty Seated / Colonial Soldiers

Engraved by George B. Soley

A seated female representing America, very similar to Longacre’s one dollar patterns, legend above states; “FREE AND UNITED STATES.” The reverse has an interesting scene which depicts colonial soldiers preparing for battle. This is one of many So-Called Dollars engraved by George B. Soley who was an engraver for the U.S. Mint from 1859 until his death in 1908.

1902 Wells Fargo Centennial So-Called Dollar

1902 Wells Fargo Centennial

Sold by Farran Zerbe at the exposition

Struck in silver in 1902, the medal was given to each employee who had worked for Wells Fargo for one year or more. Obverse displays a fascinating design of a stagecoach with guns firing at robbers above and a pony express rider being attacked by Indians below. Reverse depicts ships, trains and various symbols of industry and progress.

Dennis Tucker, publisher for Whitman and the Red Book said “Medal collecting today is a popular and robust segment of the numismatic hobby. These coin-like pieces are similar to tokens but typically are not issued as substitutes for money; instead they are “to be held and enjoyed, commemorating an accomplishment or individual, or perhaps promoting a cause,” as Q. David Bowers relates in The Expert’s Guide to Collecting and Investing in Rare Coins. They have been called “a mirror of history.”

“Medals are a longtime pursuit of mine” said Dennis Tucker, “I’ve studied them almost as long as I’ve been interested in coins. They make up a good portion of my overall collection, and these days they’re the main focus of my active collecting.”

So-Called Dollars Currently Available on eBay


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