The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 6, February 6, 2005, Article 19


Now we move from squishing coins to hammering them.
For numismatists, we're a pretty cruel bunch.

Granvyl Hulse writes: "Of late I have noticed a number
of men's rings made from silver dollars, but my favorite
was something I picked up in Africa years ago. I sent
one to each of my female cousins with the comment that
the small scoop at the end of the object was for spreading
salt, and that they were made from Maria Theresa Talers.
When I got home so that I could see their expression
I informed them that they were Ethiopean ear wax pickers."

Alan V. Weinberg of Woodland Hills, CA writes:
"Regarding Carl Honore's observation and comments on
the "common practice" of making "Old West" Sheriff's and
Marshal's badges out of silver dollars and his accountant's
presumably large collection of them:

I'm 61 years old and have seriously attended many hundreds
of major "Gun" and Western ephemera shows across the
U.S. over the past 4+ decades, including last week's major
Beinfeld show at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. In addition,
I received many related auction catalogues over this multi-
decade period.

I can tell you that the vast preponderance of such handmade
and hammered -out / cut-out law enforcement badges (be
they Western or any other part of the country) made from
coins are modern fantasies, made since the 1960's. I can
count on the fingers of one hand the number of legitimately
old law enforcement badges made out of silver dollars or
Mexican 8 reales (the latter much more likely). And most
of those 5 or less were "mavericks" with no location on
them...just "City Sheriff" or "U.S. Marshal".

With T-bar pins on the reverse and more often than not,
pin broken off. Inscriptions were almost always hand-
engraved on the effaced obverse with coin details still
visible on the pin side.

The existence of genuine old coin-made law enforcement
badges came up in a very recent (FUN) conversation
with specialized and advanced collector Richard Burdick,
well -known as a connoisseur of such "made from coins"
collectibles. Richard asked me if there were any such
genuine badges from which I inferred he'd not seen any.
They are just that rare.

Carl Honore's accountant has been fooled."

Hal V. Dunn adds:
"In response to the hammering dollars into badges
question posed by Carl Honore’, the practice has existed
for over 150 years and continues to this day, although
they are not actually “hammered.” I believe it originated
in Texas, perhaps during the republic, or shortly after
statehood. Originally they were a matter of necessity,
conventional badges not being readily available on the
western frontier, and orders to the east coast taking
months to fulfill. Popular in Texas and New Mexico,
some are known from other western states. If memory
serves me correctly there are at least three early badges
known from Nevada. Most of these badges are made
from U.S. silver dollars, although some are on Mexican
silver pesos. Three basic styles are known: round dollar
size, circle star dollar size (five pieces being cutout to
create a suspended five point star the center), and a five
pointed star cut from the coin. Circle stars are the most
common. Host coins are ground off on one surface and
a jeweler hand engraves the inscription. I have probably
seen two or three dozen in museums throughout the west.

Back in the early 1980s I met a Texas sheriff on an
extradition to Nevada. He had a silver dollar circle star
badge. I was surprised that such badges were still being
made. Later the sheriff graciously sent me a four page
catalog from a firm in Texas still creating handmade silver
dollar badges. Unfortunately I do not remember the firm
name and probably no longer have the catalog (at least I
am unable to locate it now). George Virgines in “Police
Relics” (1982), illustrates a relatively modern silver dollar
circle star for a deputy sheriff of Lincoln County, New
Mexico (page 14)."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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