The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 23, June 6, 2010, Article 17


Kerry Rodgers writes:

I was writing up a story on the sale of the 1794 dollar and came across a reference to Hoagy Carmichael having once owned the coin. In turn this led me to a NY Times report of yesteryear. Editor Ed was most amused when I pointed out his by-line.

The December 8, 1985 article is by Ed Reiter. It's behind the Times paywall, but here's the opening paragraph. -Editor

The late Hoagy Carmichael, one of America's best known songwriters, also was a first-class coin collector. That fact will be dramatized next month when his fine collection is sold at auction in Los Angeles. Mr. Carmichael's coins figure to bring upwards of a half million dollars.

He was before my time but I became aware of Hoagy Carmichael as a kid, reading the Guinness Book of World Records. Carmichael held the record for writing (in 1945) the longest song title, and I can still recite it by heart today (ask me on a bar bet sometime): "I'm a Cranky Old Yank, in a Clanky Old Tank, on the Streets of Yokahama with My Honolulu Mama, Doing Those Beat-o, Beat-o, Flat on My Seat-o, Hirohito Blues" It's said that he later claimed the song's title ended with "Yank", and the rest was a joke that got out of hand. -Editor

To access the complete article, see: COINS; HOAGY CARMICHAEL'S COLLECTION (

Kerry adds:

Also related to the 1794 sale, the Handbook of Texas, produced by the Texas State Historical Association, refers to Amon G Carter Jr as having helped found the "International Paper Money Society." Have any E-Sylum readers ever heard of it? Or is the Handbook a little confused? See CARTER, AMON GARY, JR. (19191982) (

I wondered if they meant the International Bank Note Society (IBNS), but Kerry adds: "I asked Peter Symes, IBNS President and he had never heard of Amon Carter nor IPMS.". Can anyone tell us about Amon Carter's organization? -Editor

Alan V. Weinberg writes:

I had the pleasure of closely examining the Neil-Carter-Terranova -Milas/Browder-Lustig-Contursi 1794 dollar back when it was for sale at Ed Milas' ANA bourse table for $375,000 perhaps three decades ago. I understand it did sell at that show and that co-owner Marv Browder was unhappy it sold and wanted to buy it back he was so enamored of the coin. I don't blame him! But, I don't know where the tale started that this was the 1st silver dollar struck at the US Mint and was struck for presentation or specimen purposes.

Perhaps it started with B. Max Mehl's often overblown cataloguing descriptions. But the coin's planchet is heavily and prominently adjusted to the point where a significant amount of the reverse peripheral inscription is very weak and obscured. There are a number of high grade 1794 dollars (AU and better) that have considerably fewer adjustment marks and much stronger reverse legends although admittedly not the original toning and prooflike surfaces of this now-Logies /"Cardinal" specimen.

It's a matter of taste and aesthetics which 1794 dollar is "the best" . There are 3-4 Mint state contenders. But it is highly unlikely the Mintmaster would have intended to strike such a heavily file-adjusted coin as an example of the first dollar, much less one for diplomatic or Congressional presentation, as an example of the early Mint's "best work".

Dick Doty of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian writes:

Funny thing about that 1794 dollar. Contursi wanted me to state in writing that, in my opinion, it was the first dollar struck. I told him I didn't do theology, and there the matter stopped.

David Ganz' article on the history of the coin noted that the "finest" condition categorization is subjective. "Some earlier remarks by catalogers who handled it as well as the Lord St. Oswald specimen, acquired at the Philadelphia Mint in the fall of 1794, lean toward the other as superior." -Editor

1794 Dollar 1794 Dollar Price Chart

Bill Eckberg writes:

Every time I see a graph like the one by David Ganz describing the sales prices of the Neil-Carter-Contursi 1794 dollar in today's e-Sylum, the scientist in me goes ballistic. Everything about this graph is presented in a manner so misleading that it reminds me of the old book, "How to Lie with Statistics".

The spaces between the dates are equal, but the time intervals between them are very unequal, and the vertical axis is linear, but it should be logarithmic, since doubling the value from $1 to $2 over time period X gives the same rate of return as doubling from $1M to $2M over the same time period. When plotted that way, the data points plot as an amazingly straight line.

Eckberg 1794 Dollar Price Chart

This shows that since 1947, the rate of return on investment of this coin has been constant. The one sale where the price dropped slightly does not change that fact. This graph could easily be extrapolated to the future to predict when the coin will sell for $10M or even $100M or $1B, but I will leave such speculation to others!

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: FINEST 1794 DOLLAR SALE PUBLICITY (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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