Back in December 2007 we published an item about the million silver dollar exhibit at the 1963 Seattle World's Fair. A newspaper article published Thursday provides more background information. Here are some excerpts.
One of the many committees working on the 1962, six-month-long, Seattle World's Fair, which would live on in the Space Needle and Monorail, was responsible for producing, promoting and selling souvenir medals for the exposition. The committee, with Northwest Historic Medals, was also charged with producing a venue for medal sales and was thus attracted to an advertisement for Behlen buildings. The committee also conceived of the display of a million silver dollars to attract medal purchasers and thus contacted Gerry Joseph, Behlen's sales manager, to see if they might be interested in a package promotion.
The downside for the promoter was the loss of the interest on half a year's earnings on the million dollars, then about 6% a year. This would however also amount to a plus for the U. S. Treasury who figured to gain an estimated $167 a day in earned interest.
Behlen calculated that silver dollars could be obtained at either the Denver or Philadelphia mint with their total cost of building the structure, displays and transporting the dollars, would be about $50,000 but could easily be worth that much in advertising alone, particularly if they could sell some of the display.
With the fair's April 21 opening fast approaching, the decision to proceed was made and arrangements initiated to purchase the silver dollars from the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia and take delivery at the U. S. Mint there rather than Denver making the transportation across the country part of the promotion of the fair as well as the Behlen Company. Hartford Insurance Company's bid of only $300 to insure the transportation beat Lloyd's of London, clearing the way for the physical move.
At first it was planned to use their own trucks but General Motors, also seeing the advertising potential, donated two Chevrolet diesel trucks and two Cadillac escort vehicles while Trailmobile Co. loaned them two cargo truck bodies. On April 2, 1962 the trucks backed up to the mint to load the nearly 30 ton cargo. $500,000 of canvas bags, each with 1,000 silver dollars were loaded into steel boxes bolted to the floor of each truck in three hours.
The convoy then set out with police escorts through towns and state patrol cars on highways while Pinkerton agents were scattered through the various vehicles. All expenses during the 13 day trip were paid for with silver dollars, often under the watchful eyes of the local press which, along with the billboard-like trucks, generated publicity in their wake.
As soon as they reached Seattle, silver dollars were purchased from local banks to replenish those paid out along the way. Meanwhile the building had been completed with a seven foot diameter, five foot high Behlen corn crib inside. The crib was then covered with mesh and 800,000 Morgan silver dollars, which had been sealed in $1,000 bags at the mint between 1910 and 1915, were stacked inside the crib. Then 200,000 1922 Peace dollars were poured loose over the bags and into a three inch gap between the crib and the bags. The mesh screen was then removed allowing some of the loose dollars to spill out giving the effect of a loose pile of 1,000,000 silver dollars.
Ten different medals were sold at the display including one which depicted two pyramids of silver dollars and the space needle. Three medals were also minted in 14-kt gold, two at the U. S. Mint and one by Medal Arts Co. In June a young lady from California was awarded $100 silver dollars for being the millionth visitor to the display. In addition to selling official medals, visitors were offered bags of silver dollars for $1,500 with delivery after the fair closed.
Can anyone send us images or tell us more about the medals depicting the silver dollar display? Thanks.
To read the complete article, see:
Jim McKee: Walt Behlen's other million dollar idea
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
1962 SEATTLE WORLD'S FAIR MILLION SILVER DOLLAR EXHIBIT
Wayne Homren, Editor
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