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1921 and 1921-S Zerbe and 1921 Chapman Proof Morgan Dollars

MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited October 3, 2018 4:17PM in U.S. Coin Forum

Just wondering how much evidence exists to support the designations on these.

As far as I know, the only supporting evidence for the 1921 Chapmans is a 1921 invoice written from the Mint to Chapman for 10 Proof Morgan Dollars. (Does anyone have an image of this to share with us?) The coins are obvious proofs, so the documentation isn't really necessary to support the designation.

The only supporting evidence for the 1921-S is a contemporary report that Zerbe was given special coins (at a bungled first strike ceremony for 1921-S Peace Dollars) and distributed them at a coin club meeting. (Somebody please fill in the specifics if you have them.) The coins are (barely) distinctive enough and (definitely) rare enough that the story seems right.

As for the 1921 Zerbe, the only story I've heard is similar to what I've seen for the 1921-S, and I wonder if it's simply mistaken. The coins are not completely convincing, so evidence or documentation would be especially helpful.

Can anyone add to this?

Andy Lustig

Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.

Comments

  • joebb21joebb21 Posts: 4,733 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Regarding the chapman proofs, if there were 10 officially minted or identified as such, its interesting that the combined pcgs/ngc pop is 64

    may the fonz be with you...always...
  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 3, 2018 4:34PM

    Proofs made for Chapman are also mentioned in correspondence of the Mint collection curator, T. Louis Comparette. Some of this is in RAC 1916-1921. (Original documents are in the Connecticut State Archives.)

    "Zerbe Proofs," much like Farran Zerbe, are frauds and charlatans. Zerbe was on the Treasury's "S_it List" for screwing up the PPIE coin and medal sales, as well as previous problems with little things such as "trustworthiness," commitment to contract terms, and the like. There is practically ZERO likelihood that any US Mint officer at any Mint would do anything special for Zerbe. The coins that are claimed to be "Zerbe Proofs" are just proof-like coins from repaired and polished dies --- but maybe that's an appropriate misrepresentation....! (The Treasury letters are at NARA College Park in a file concerning the PPIE.)

    (Why the ANA continues to name it's highest award after this fraud, is not comprehensible to my simple mind.)

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @joebb21 said:
    Regarding the chapman proofs, if there were 10 officially minted or identified as such, its interesting that the combined pcgs/ngc pop is 64

    Sounds like a combination of resubmissions and misattributed "Zerbes".

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RogerB said:

    Zerbe was on the Treasury's "S_it List" for screwing up the PPIE coin and medal sales, as well as previous problems with little things such as "trustworthiness," commitment to contract terms, and the like. There is practically ZERO likelihood that any US Mint officer at any Mint would do anything special for Zerbe.

    Would you agree that he would be more likely to be treated well at SF than at Philly?

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Untouched originals of the "Chapman Proofs" remain in the Mitchelson Collection of the Connecticut State Library. I've seen the coin and the Chapman proofs on display at ANA a couple of years ago by NGC are the same as far as I could tell.

    No "Zerbe proof" I've been show looked anything like a proof coin.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    RE: "Would you agree that he would be more likely to be treated well at SF than at Philly?"

    No, not at all. He was despised by the SF Superintendent and Coiner. He failed to properly market and sell the commemorates made there, and returns for melting of the coins, plus daily melts of medals struck at the exhibition, were a constant theme of complaint. Again, this is all in the Treasury files. (My copies are on paper in a binder or two in a storage place.)

  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I love the Albrecht Kuner's son gave a talk about his father's use of wax impressions. I imagine these must have been cliches, and wonder whether any exist today.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    PS: At PPIE, Zerbe was under contract to the exhibition not the Treasury.

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Can anyone enlighten us as to the source of the story about the bungled first strike ceremony?

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think the story was that Zerbe was involved in the adoption of Peace Dollar design, expected Peace Dollar dies when they began striking dollars again, but the dies delivered were Morgan dies, he was upset and they made the specially struck Morgans to appease him. I'm reasonably certain it was made up by Walter Breen, although I recall hearing that he claimed the story was per B. Max Mehl.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • Timbuk3Timbuk3 Posts: 11,658 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting story that I've almost long forgotten about. Good to hear it again !!! :)

    Timbuk3
  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 4, 2018 9:02AM

    The only involvement of Zerbe in the Peace dollar is described in RAC 1916-1921. The story mentioned by Regulated is a complete lie. A lie invented by someone trying to sell PL 1921 Morgans as "Zerbe proofs" or other such frauds. I don't know who created this lie, but look back to the earliest promotions of "Zerbe proofs," then follow the money trail. :)

    Also see this thread:
    https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/1006309/1920-morgan-dollars#latest

  • tyler267tyler267 Posts: 1,233 ✭✭✭✭

    Interesting thread, Zerbe was quite a character.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Zerbe wasn't all bad -- he was a dedicated self-promoter first, and also promoted interest in numismatics through his road-show and related activities. He was also outspoken and not afraid to offer some new or at least interesting ideas. Treasury people who interacted with him did not feel he was trustworthy, but others have left few private impressions.

    However, I feel the ANA should set and maintain higher standards for those honored by special organization awards than those Zerbe represents.

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RogerB said:
    I feel the ANA should set and maintain higher standards for those honored by special organization awards than those Zerbe represents.

    How about replacing it with a Roger Burdette award?

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • messydeskmessydesk Posts: 19,679 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Discredited as the "Zerbe Proof" term is, there is still a handful of PL 1921 Morgans that look much nicer than the typical 1921 Morgan, all from the same die pair. There would seem to be some sort of provenance traceable to whomever noticed and selected these coins for promotion. I took a quick peek at an NNP search for "Zerbe proof" and came up with a handful of auction catalogs, but no long provenances for coins contained therein. The names of Walton, Norweb, and Hoffecker came up, but simply as one-time owners of such a coin.

  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The story in the club notes section of The Numismatist suggests (very, very strongly) that the Philadelphia issues had nothing to do with Zerbe, and that the S-Mint pieces could very well be the "specially selected specimens" referred to in the article.

    "Specially selected" is certainly a far cry from proof. That being said, the two 1921-S Morgans that I have seen raw that are now in SP holders had edges with immaculate, sharp reeding, suggesting that the selection may have happened before the coins were bagged.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MrEureka said:

    @RogerB said:
    I feel the ANA should set and maintain higher standards for those honored by special organization awards than those Zerbe represents.

    How about replacing it with a Roger Burdette award?

    It should be called the "Don Quixote Award." Eric Newman explained I was like the Spaniard concerning "Technical Grading" before I even knew the story of the windmill. LOL. I'd be very honored to share mine with Roger. :wink:

    Concerning the two types of "Proofs," they have different diagnostics so as long as the TPGS stick to the diagnostics that were established decades ago, I hope nothing will change. The "real story" of each issue is interesting to know.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MrEureka said:

    @RogerB said:
    I feel the ANA should set and maintain higher standards for those honored by special organization awards than those Zerbe represents.

    How about replacing it with a Roger Burdette award?

    No. It should be named for someone who has made significant contributions to ANA and it's original goals and charter. Several names come to mind - all qualified and all likely in the thoughts of anyone considering a name change for the ANA's top award.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    RE: "Concerning the two types of "Proofs," they have different diagnostics so as long as the TPGS stick to the diagnostics that were established decades ago, I hope nothing will change. The "real story" of each issue is interesting to know."

    There is only kind of 1921 Morgan dollar that is very close to a standard proof - the reservation comes from Comparette who said it was not a traditional proof but the old proofs were not "one wit better" when he sent coins to Mitchelson.

    As for perpetuating a lie --- really? Why would anyone want to keep lying to collectors and inflating the "value " of a nothing-coin? That is simply basic dishonesty: to know the truth and continue to promote lies.

    The real story is usually more interesting and nuanced than any Breen fabrication or greedy seller's falsehoods.

  • Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Perhaps they can be renamed as Zerbe PL's. :)

  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 4, 2018 2:48PM

    The desire to hold onto the "traditional" version of events in the hobby at the expense of empirical evidence is appalling. I've always believed that the point behind numismatics is to learn something about the history of the world, not to tell fairy tales.

    If we refuse to acknowledge reality - and by that, I mean throwing out old stories that have no basis in reality - what are we doing? We need to look at the evidence, and report what we see to the best of our ability.

    In the case of the 1921 Morgans, we have some interesting looking coins, coupled with reliable first person testimony about "specially selected specimens" from the San Francisco Mint. In 1921, the person reporting the PCNS meeting (I. Leland Steinman) didn't say the coins were proofs, but reported that they were specially selected and handled, ostensibly as per Zerbe himself. Presenting the coins with the best available information will allow the market to decide how to value them.

    Assuming that the coins identified as 1921-S Zerbe Special Strikes (PCGS identifies them as SP, not PR) are, in fact, these pieces, I would gladly pay a substantial premium for one. I wouldn't buy it as a proof, but I don't see the method of manufacture as being the only variable in determining value here.

    As far as the Philadelphia coins go, I've never bought one, as I don't see the appeal. The story reported (I believe) by Breen is clearly a fabrication, as Zerbe was in SF, not Philadelphia. The fact that it has been associated with a fairly common group of prooflike coins doesn't excite me.

    This is all merely my personal opinion, and should not be confused with objective truth - which, from an epistemological perspective, is more problematic than a 1921-P Morgan in a Zerbe Proof holder.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Regulated said: "The desire to hold onto the "traditional" version of events in the hobby at the expense of empirical evidence is appalling. I've always believed that the point behind numismatics is to learn something about the history of the world, not to tell fairy tales. If we refuse to acknowledge reality - and by that, I mean throwing out old stories that have no basis in reality - what are we doing? We need to look at the evidence, and report what we see to the best of our ability."

    I agree. That's possibly why all those circulating Morgan dollar counterfeits are still considered coveted VAMS! >:)

  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I can see a valid reason why someone would knowingly collect the counterfeit Morgans. In fact, I'd prefer one of those over the real thing. The story is MUCH more interesting.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Regulated said: "I can see a valid reason why someone would knowingly collect the counterfeit Morgans. In fact, I'd prefer one of those over the real thing. The story is MUCH more interesting.

    Where is the story published?

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 4, 2018 4:27PM

    @Regulated said:

    .

    .....1921-S Zerbe Special Strikes (PCGS identifies them as SP, not PR) ...

    The Philly Zerbes are also designated SP, not PR. "Zerbe Proof" is just what we call them, because that's what we used to call them.

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Insider2 said:
    @Regulated said: "I can see a valid reason why someone would knowingly collect the counterfeit Morgans. In fact, I'd prefer one of those over the real thing. The story is MUCH more interesting.

    Where is the story published?

    Many interesting stories are unpublished. For that, we should all be grateful.

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • CascadeChrisCascadeChris Posts: 2,516 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RogerB said:
    RE: "Would you agree that he would be more likely to be treated well at SF than at Philly?"

    No, not at all. He was despised by the SF Superintendent and Coiner. He failed to properly market and sell the commemorates made there, and returns for melting of the coins, plus daily melts of medals struck at the exhibition, were a constant theme of complaint. Again, this is all in the Treasury files. (My copies are on paper in a binder or two in a storage place.)

    Perhaps a trip to storage is forthcoming? :)

    The more you VAM..
  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Insider2 said:
    @Regulated said: "I can see a valid reason why someone would knowingly collect the counterfeit Morgans. In fact, I'd prefer one of those over the real thing. The story is MUCH more interesting.

    Where is the story published?

    The story of contemporary circulating counterfeits being collected for a time as genuine coins is interesting to me. A little short of the specifics that we'd all love to have, but still fascinating.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • RegulatedRegulated Posts: 2,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The Philly Zerbes are also designated SP, not PR. "Zerbe Proof" is just what we call them, because that's what we used to call them.

    They are designated SP, but I wasn't discussing them in that paragraph.


    What is now proved was once only imagined. - William Blake
  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    They are not "SP" "STP" or "STOP" or any other special critter -- just proof like dollars with a thick layer of greed and ignorance on them.....Maybe "SP" stands for "Silly Putty?"

  • tyler267tyler267 Posts: 1,233 ✭✭✭✭

    I'm enjoying this thread thanks

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,930 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Found this thread while Googling something else. Worth a ttt.

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • WinLoseWinWinLoseWin Posts: 1,476 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @messydesk said:
    Discredited as the "Zerbe Proof" term is, there is still a handful of PL 1921 Morgans that look much nicer than the typical 1921 Morgan, all from the same die pair. There would seem to be some sort of provenance traceable to whomever noticed and selected these coins for promotion. I took a quick peek at an NNP search for "Zerbe proof" and came up with a handful of auction catalogs, but no long provenances for coins contained therein. The names of Walton, Norweb, and Hoffecker came up, but simply as one-time owners of such a coin.

    .
    .
    The intro to the Norweb 1921 Philadelphia so-called "Zerbe" Morgans had some interesting info in the Norweb Collection November 1988 Part III catalog. Don't recall if the catalogs were on the NNP in 2018 when the original post was made. They are now online which makes it easier to post info from them.

    It indicates at least five are traced to Mint Engraver George T. Morgan with no originating connection to Zerbe.

    From here:

    https://archive.org/details/norwebcollection1988bowe/page/368/mode/2up
    .
    .

    Also, this Hertitage auction listing from February 2021 of a PCGS Zerbe Special Strike makes mention of two different die pairs being recognized by PCGS; the traditional VAM-47 and states "...research by Ash Harrison suggests most certified examples are from the VAM-1AG dies" along with noting "More research is needed in this area".

    https://coins.ha.com/itm/morgan-dollars/silver-and-related-dollars/1921-1-zerbe-special-strike-sp66-pcgs-cac-pcgs-7341-/a/1327-3080.s?ic4=ListView-ShortDescription-071515

    .
    .
    .

    Norweb intro "The "Zerbe Proof" Morgan Dollars of 1921 by Andrew W. Pollock III

    Followed by the lot sold with the note mentioning George T. Morgan and the die diagnostics for the three Norweb 1921 Morgans offered.

    .
    .
    .

    "To Be Esteemed Be Useful" - 1792 Birch Cent --- "I personally think we developed language because of our deep need to complain." - Lily Tomlin

  • WinLoseWinWinLoseWin Posts: 1,476 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 11, 2024 5:54PM

    @MrEureka said:

    @Regulated said:

    .

    .....1921-S Zerbe Special Strikes (PCGS identifies them as SP, not PR) ...

    The Philly Zerbes are also designated SP, not PR. "Zerbe Proof" is just what we call them, because that's what we used to call them.

    PCGS did originally label the Philly as Proof with the Zerbe designation. I recall getting a so-called Zerbe graded as Proof-62 in the late 1980's. Not sure when they changed over to SP.

    Just found one in a Heritage May 2003 auction as Proof Zerbe. I notice the PCGS category number, 7431, is the same as now used for Zerbe Special Strike so there are probably a number still sitting in holders labeled PR though counted in Zerbe Special Strike population.

    The holder in this auction is the Generation 4.0 used from October 1998 to Feb 2002. So at least some "Zerbe's" were still being called Proof as late as 1998 which is later than I thought.

    https://coins.ha.com/itm/proof-morgan-dollars/1921-1-zerbe-pr64-pcgs-an-interesting-proof-representation-from-this-important-transitional-year-in-silver-dollar-coinag/a/324-6497.s?ic4=ListView-ShortDescription-071515

    .
    .
    edited to add link

    "To Be Esteemed Be Useful" - 1792 Birch Cent --- "I personally think we developed language because of our deep need to complain." - Lily Tomlin

  • LukeMarshallLukeMarshall Posts: 1,904 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for bumping this thread to the top and for the recent posting of the writeup by Andrew Pollock III

    I didn't realize George Morgan was making special strikes for collectors and even stating 'this is a private matter' in a letter

    and Andrews comments

    It is interesting to note that George T. Morgan's interest in privately and unofficially supplying collectors with rarities was not limited to Morgan and Peace dollars of 1921 and 1922. Between 1908 and 1920 he said to have provided collectors with restrikes of the MCMVII - dated Extremely High Relief double eagle.

    Makes you think...

    It's all about what the people want...

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