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Coin Clinic: Who is Farran Zerbe?

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The American Numismatic Association has a Farran Zerbe Memorial Award. What can you tell me about Zerbe?

Farran Zerbe (1871-1949) was president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) between 1908 and 1910. One of his important contributions was to purchase the privately published The Numismatist from the estate of Dr. George F. Heath for the ANA. Zerbe is also remembered for promoting the concept for several coins including the Peace dollar.

What is a Zerbe dollar?

Farran Zerbe was given special treatment at the U.S. Mint facility in San Francisco, where he was presented with some proof-like 1921 Morgan silver dollars that bear his name today. Some of the better special Zerbe strikes are of sufficient quality and have been designated as Zerbe Proofs. These same high-quality proof-likes have been designated as Zerbe Special Strikes more recently.

Since Zerbe struck some special Morgan dollars at the U.S. Mint that now bear his name, what about Chapman dollars?

Somewhere between 10 and 15 proof-like 1921 Morgan silver dollars of superior quality to those designated as Zerbe dollars were reportedly struck and presented to the Philadelphia coin dealers of that name. More than that number have been certified as Chapman dollars.

How can I discern between a Chapman and a Zerbe dollar?

The Chapman 1921 Morgan dollars have deep mirror proof-like surfaces, sharper details and razor edges as would be expected to appear on a true proof coin. Die file marks appear up to the right and from the left tip of the “1,” and serif of the second “U” in “UNUM,” according to Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.

Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins was published in the 1980s. How much relevance does it have today?

One of the greatest contributions Breen’s book made was to make more people aware of just how many varieties of so many coins were being overlooked by collectors. Many specialized books have been written since this time, making much of Breen’s information incomplete or incorrect today; however, the book remains as a good reference on many numismatic subjects.

During the 19th century, was there supposed to be a branch U.S. Mint office in Oregon?

The Dalles Mint was proposed in 1864 to be a U.S. branch mint, the facility being situated near Portland, Ore. The structure was never completed and eventually sold. Today the building houses the Erin Glenn Winery.