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HomeMedals and TokensNew So-Called Dollar Commemorates Panama Canal Centennial

New So-Called Dollar Commemorates Panama Canal Centennial

By William D. Hyder …..

so-called dollar collectors, Dayton, NV
Group portrait of so-called dollar collectors in Dayton, Nevada. The Author is the one standing at far right with the exceptional beard.

Legend of the Seas, an appropriate name for the ship to carry Jeff Shevlin’s 2014 medal commemorating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. Jeff, better known to collectors as the “So-Called Guy”, first thought about such a trip more than 10 years ago while examining the well-known 1914 Panama Canal Completion so-called dollar, HK-398. Recreating the passage while carrying a new batch of commemorative medals seemed feasible.

Plans began to take shape when Jeff commissioned a commemorative medal for a gathering of dedicated so-called dollar collectors in April 3-6, 2014. Daniel Carr produced the dies using the obverse of the 1914 medal as a model. 131 medals were struck at his Moonlight Mint and distributed to the 15 participants.

The group met at the Dayton, Nevada home of Jeff and Cecilia Shevlin. Participants included John Dean and Jonathan Brecher, two editors of the revised edition of Hibler and Kappen’s classic So-Called Dollars; John Raymond, researcher and creator of the SoCalled Dollars website (www.socalleddollar.com); researcher and writer, Bill Hyder; Western Americana dealer Fred Holabird; and advanced collectors Mike Johnson, Robert Jesinger, Phil Iverson, Dave Jensen, Terry Carver, Bill Walter, Ken Cobena, and Howard Hornreich. Medal designer and owner of the Moonlight Mint, Daniel Carr, rounded out the group and delivered the commemorative medals in person.

Activities included visits to the Carson City Mint and area restaurants, but the main activities focused on formal presentations from the participants, organized sharing of key items from personal collections, and lively trading sessions. Jeff announced plans for striking 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal medals–including carrying them through the canal, as was done for the 1914 medals.

Gatun Locks
Author holding a copper medal with the Gatun Locks in the background.

Mike Johnson, Bill Hyder, and their wives joined Jeff and Cil Shevlin on the Panama Canal cruise to accompany the medals and provide proof of passage. The voyage almost started on a rough note as customs inspectors puzzled over Jeff’s medals. Mike and I carried our own through with no problems, but Jeff’s 500-plus medals packed in plastic rolls invited closer inspection. Once the inspectors realized so-called dollars were medals and not actual currency, they were satisfied; but Royal Caribbean staff insisted on accompanying Jeff and the medals on board to ensure they were safely stored in the ship’s safe for the voyage. Customs also agreed to call the Ft. Lauderdale port of entry to ease Jeff’s exit from the ship.

The medal was a modified version of the dies used for the so-called collector gathering. The reverse was a modified version of the reverse of HK-432 struck for the Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Diego, California in 1915. An appropriate choice give that our voyage departed from San Diego.

The Moonlight Mint struck 609 copies of the medal, of which 578 were carried through the canal for collectors who had purchased the medals in advance of our sailing date. Two medals were struck in special finishes and numbered on the edge for the six passengers on the cruise.

The final mintage figures for the medals and finishes sold and available to collectors include:

Silver version, centennial so-called dollar
Silver version of the 100th anniversary medal carried through the canal in December 2014.
  • Silver – 170
  • Copper – 280
  • Copper, reeded-edge coin orientation – 10
  • Gold-Plate – 98
  • Select Gold-Plate – 6 (edge numbered and given to the cruise attendees)
  • Brass – 6 (edge numbered and given to the cruise attendees)
  • Gold – 8 (edge numbered)

Legend of the Seas passed through the Panama Canal on December 10, 2014. We gathered at various stages of the passage to photograph our medals as proof of their passage through the canal as promised.

Medals have since been distributed to those who ordered them and have started to appear on eBay since they were shipped to collectors at the end of December.

Plans are underway for the second annual gathering of advanced collectors and so-called dollar specialists in San Francisco to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Panama Pacific International Exposition. Another commemorative medal is already in the planning stages.

Hyder Shevlin Johnson
Passing through the Gatun Locks while holding copper medals on December 10, 2014; L-R: Bill Hyder, Jeff Shevlin, Mike Johnson.

For more information, contact Jeff Shevlin at [email protected].


Want more about so-called dollars? Then check out these award-winning classics from CoinWeek!

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  4. Spotlight on So-Called Dollars 2, by Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
  5. Spotlight on So-Called Dollars 3: America’s Forgotten History, by Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker
  6. New Book on Charbneau So-Called Dollars, by David Lisot


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