Lesher Dollar Hoard Waiting To Be Found?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Hobo, Dec 18, 2008.

  1. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater

    Lesher Dollars fall under the category of tokens and were minted in 1900 and 1901 in Victor, Colorado. (Victor and Cripple Creek were the center of gold mining activity in the Pikes Peak region a century ago.)

    Joseph Lesher came to Colorado after the Civil War to work as a miner. Lesher ended up owning a silver mine in Central City (west of Denver). In the early 1890s Colorado was producing 60% of the country's silver.

    The Sherman Silver Purchase Act, signed into law in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison, stated the US government would purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver each month at prevailing prices. Instead of helping western silver mines the Act actually caused a collapse in the price of silver and led to the Panic of 1893. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed in 1893. With the US government no longer buying 4.5 million ounces of silver every month many silver mines across Colorado shut down (including Lesher's mine).

    Lesher moved to Victor (gold had been discovered in Cripple Creek in 1890) and made a fortune in real estate. Silver coins were in short supply in the West during this era. Hoping to create a demand for silver coins (and thereby help his silver mine) Lesher decided to mint his own silver coins to be used in lieu of US coins. After a visit by agents from the government Lesher changed his plans somewhat. Instead of making coins he would make "Referendum Souvenir Medals" that would be octagonal in shape and could not be confused with a US coin. These became known as 'Lesher Dollars'.

    In all there were 6 types and 21 different varieties of Lesher Dollars. These octagonal tokens were similar in the size a silver dollar (35 mm vs. 38.1 mm) and contained 1 troy ounce of .950 silver. Silver at the time was selling for 65 cents an ounce and Lesher's minting costs were around 15 cents per token for a total cost to him of 80 cents. Lesher assigned a value of $1.25 to his tokens and sold the tokens for that price to merchants in the region. Each token was made with a participating merchant's name and a serial number. Lesher hoped his tokens would become popular and spark a demand for more silver coins - but this never happened. Lesher reported that, before suspending production in 1901, he produced a total of 3,500 tokens. Only a few hundred Lesher Dollars are known today. Today well-circulated Lesher Dollars sell for over $1,000 and mint state examples command prices of several tens of thousands of dollars.

    In November The Colorado Springs Gazette ran a very interesting article that raises the possibility that a hoard (or hoards) of Lesher Dollars exists awaiting discovery. The article quotes Adna Wilde - ANA Hall of Fame member, former ANA President and long-time ANA Treasurer until his death last month - who lived in Colorado Springs and was an expert on Lesher Dollars.

    You can read the article at the link below:

    Mystery of the Lesher dollars

    Below is an excerpt from the article:

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  3. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Buh bye

    This period is so fascinating in Colorado history - I would suggest reading "Men To Match My Mountains" sometime.

    I have always wanted one of these Dollar coins, they are fascinating. Especially that one made for the merchant in Nebraska.
  4. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    The Sherman Silver Purchase Act did not cause the fall in the price of silver, that was already occuring and had been for some time. The collapse was being caused by ove production at the mines. The Act was an attempt to provide a market for the excess silver and to try and support the price. The Act DID however lead to the panic of 1893. Not because of the purchase of silver, but because it was purchased with notes that were redeemable in gold, and the gold was worth more than the silver that had been brought in. So the notes were immediately redeemed and in the process depleted the nations gold reserves to the point where the government was in serious danger of having to default on its obligations. (The obligations had to be paid in gold and the government no longer had enough gold to pay them.)
  5. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Buh bye

    See any parallels to today? But at least now the government can wantonly create more funny money as long as the presses keep running.
  6. der_meister77

    der_meister77 Senior Member

    Very interesting. Thanks for the "nomination worthy" post, Hobo!

    Are there any known illustrations of what the Lesher Dollar designs looked like?
  7. coinnewbie01

    coinnewbie01 collector of things**

  8. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater

    I figured someone would correct me if my conclusions were wrong. I appreciate the clarification. I made the assumption that production increased due to the demand created by the Act. My bad.
  9. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater

    Below is a photo of a Lesher Dollar:

    Attached Files:

  10. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Buh bye

    It is intriguing to think of the possibilities if such a hoard does really exist and is located - think of the new discoveries that might await.
  11. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    The fact that only a few of the pieces that were struck are known today does not indicate the existence of a hoard, nor does it mean there isn't one. But since these were more of a "souvenir" issue probably few people ever acquired more than one or two. And there are probably still individual pieces out here that haven't been discovered. (How's this for a nightmare, were any caught up in the great melt down of 1980?) The only people who would be likely to have multiple specimens would be the merchants they were made for. If I was going to look for a hoard, I would trace the descendants of those merchants.
  12. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    Was Lesher involved in the violent union strikes of that period in Cripple Creek. It was one of the ugliest chapter of American History ... the stuff of Communist Propaganda.

  13. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder Supporter

    Great thread, Hobo! Interesting coinage and history lesson, thank you- and everyone else!
  14. coloradotokens

    coloradotokens Junior Member

    I would like to comment on the number of varieties known of Lesher Dollars, because it’s a debated topic. Most coin dealers, collectors, Lesher enthusiasts, and the late Anda Wilde believe that there are 18 different varieties.
    I was the one who did the interview for the Gazette article and I explained to the reporter that I believe there to be 21 possibly 22 different varieties. I have the 18 medals attributed but would like to add that some medals are not numbered, thus a new variety. There are three Lesher dollars that not only have examples with numbers, but also examples without numbers. Those medals were issued to George Mullen of Victor, Boyd Park of Denver, and the Imprint type which had a blank space where the merchants’ names were punched. With the previous 18 and the new three makes 21 varieties, as stated in the Gazette Lesher story. There is also one known example of the W.F. White Merc. Co. of Grand Junction that is unnumbered, this token is owned by the American Numismatic Society in New York City. Including the example of the W.F White Lesher it would make a total of 22 different varieties of Lesher Dollars in my opinion. As I stated above this issue is a much debated one, the number of varieties known will differ depending who you talk to. If you refer to the “redbook” be aware that three medals are not listed, being the H.H Rosser, H. Stein, and the Trade Mark Applied For medal. All three medals are unique as the only known, similar to the A.W Clark Lesher, which IS listed in the “redbook.”
    One other note regarding the story written in the Gazette that states, “New type of lesher dollar was discovered in 1998 in a shoe box.” This quote is not entirely correct; a new variety, not type was discovered being the A.W Clark medal. It was a new discovery but it was not found in a shoe box, the reporter confused my words when I said I knew of a story where a Lesher Dollar was found in a shoe box.
    As to the hidden coffee can full of Lesher Dollars accumulated by Zach Hutton, I can not find any information to support this theory. I believe if there was such a can that it would have been found by now. I do however believe that there is a possibility that some medals could be found in Florence because there is evidence that C.W Thomas of Florence was agent for Lesher. This information is attributed to Sam Cohen, exclusive agent of Lesher Dollars who wrote a book about his experiences in Victor and the Cripple Creek mining district. No such Lesher Dollar has ever been found.
  15. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater

    Welcome to CoinTalk.

    That's very interesting. Sounds like you have a great deal of knowledge of Lesher Dollars. Adna Wilde may have been the leading Lesher Dollar expert. What a loss when he died.

    I'm trying to learn more about Lesher Dollar. At the moment I am reading a couple of books on the medals I got from ANA Library. (Adna wrote one of them.)

    Feel free to share with us whatever you know about these facinating pieces. I, for one, would be very interested.
  16. HandsomeToad

    HandsomeToad Urinist

    Now I have another expensive coin to add to my want list! :headbang:

    Will it ever end? :goofer:

    Love the story Hobo & thanks for the addem, Colorado and welcome to CoinTalk! :thumb:

    Ribbit :)
  17. coloradotokens

    coloradotokens Junior Member

    There are several publications about Lesher Dollars out there, Adna did write an article in the Feb. 1978 Numismatist which I find very helpful. The same article is on the ANA's website, I believe this is the story you are talking about. I was also very sad to hear about Adna but I was very happy to have seen and spoke with Adna only day’s before his passing.
    There are two Lesher articles that I think you would enjoy being a story that Farren Zerbe wrote in the American Journal of Numismatics in 1914, and a short story written by Dr. Philip W. Whitely entitled The Lesher Story.
    One interesting point to look for while reading and learning about Lesher is the issue about the patent numbers for his medals. I can not find out the accurate story regarding these numbers, because records have been a skewed. There are four different patent numbers issued for the Lesher Dollars and the patent number on the copy document from the US patent office differs from the actual number stuck in the medals themselves. I spoke with Adna about this issue and we both are confused, I think I remember Adna saying that one of the numbers is registered as an old vacuum.
    The story of Lesher is a very interesting one; I have been doing research on this issue for the last 2+ years, trying to find information that is not easily found. Good luck, if you have any questions please let me know also if you happen to find any new information or have theory’s of your own.
  18. HandsomeToad

    HandsomeToad Urinist

    The pic you posted was just one side, so are Lesher Dollars uniface? :kewl:

    Ribbit :)
  19. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater

    No. I'll try to find a pic of a reverse and post it.
  20. coloradotokens

    coloradotokens Junior Member

    Attached are some pictures of both sides of two different dies pairs, please excuse the silicone and other adhesives on the reverse of type 1. Acid tone will take it off, but I have not done it yet.
    Several different dies were used to make the Lesher Dollars, they were made by Frank Hurd of Denver and Herman Otto. But to answer Rabbits question further the first type (left medal) was used only in 1900 and was the initial lesher dollar. The next types (Bumstead first reverse and Bumstead second reverse) are different from the type one lesher most commonly called “type 1.” The next type or “bank type” was the medal that got Lesher in trouble with the federal treasury/ government. This coin said on the obverse that “a commodity will be given in merchandise at any bank,” and needless to say the FED was not happy with that. The reverse of the bank type lesher dollar is the same as the Bumstead second reverse. The two Bumsteads reverses differ only by small scrolls in the field. The fifth type is the very rare Trade Mark Applied For lesher Dollar, this is the medal that Lesher made to send to the US patent office, the patent was approved and the trade mark medal was returned. Only one of these medals was stuck, this medal is the highlight piece of the Lesher Collection. The sixth type Lesher Dollar is the Imprint type, which is the obverse and reverse for the remaining 16 varieties , with the exception that the obverse had merchants names punched.
    I hope this helped, it’s kind of confusing. In the very near future coloradotokens.com will have a lot of information and pictures of the lesher dollars and the story.
    The medal on the left is the obverse and reverse of type 1, the right medal is an imprint type, unnumbered, obverse and reverse.

    Attached Files:

  21. HandsomeToad

    HandsomeToad Urinist

    Since so many coins seem to be found in Grandma's sewing drawer, I'm off to Grandma's to check her sewing drawer for one of these. :D

    I want one! :thumb:

    Ribbit :)

    Ps: Stainless is the Rabbit on here, I'm the Toad. :cool:
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