The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 9, February 27, 2022, Article 19


Doug Ward submitted this piece on the 1909 American Numismatic Association election Blank Proxy allegation. Thanks! -Editor

  Concerning the Blank Proxy Allegation from the 1909 ANA Election

The recent removal of Farran Zerbe's name from the ANA's service award was based on a number of accusations. One of these, that he committed fraud during the 1909 ANA election, has made the rounds in various forms, including his intended use of blank proxies. Although no evidence for any of the allegations has ever been provided, it's possible that a misconstrued term used in subsequent backbiting could explain the ‘blank proxies' charge.

In February of 1908, ANA Local Secretary Mr. Frank G. Duffield's article Shall Our Proxy System Be Abolished? was published in The Numismatist[1]. His question is more provocative than accurate, possibly to elicit a more energetic response from ANA membership. He actually questioned the proxy system, rather than the use of proxies. Specifically, he argues against the use of blank proxies, or those where votes for officers were left blank.

  1904 ANA proxy postcard address side
1904 ANA Proxy Ballot Postcard

1904 ANA proxy postcard Curiously, it's not the specific changes he suggests that are intriguing. It's the definition of the term blank proxy that is important. Without proper context the term suggests a proxy left blank – devoid of a member's name as well as any votes for officers. If filled in with a member's name and votes, the use of such a ballot and proxy would constitute fraud.

However, it seems a blank proxy could also be a ‘ballot' from a member who simply left their vote for all officers blank. This was Mr. Duffield's definition and likely the understanding of the general ANA membership at that time. The intent may have been to withhold their vote for officers and confer their vote on other matters that arose at the convention to the proxy's holder. In this context a blank proxy or ballot was legitimate. Illegitimacy might be implied if any votes for officers were later filled in by the proxy's holder. However, in 1909 the ANA Constitution and By-Laws did not prohibit this during the convention.

A blank proxy-ballot used in 1909 could not be found. However, one from 1904 is shown as an example. It's presumed they were similar, since no relevant changes were made to voting requirements in the ANA Constitution revision of 1907. In 1909, the proxy-ballot could be mailed to the Secretary General or given to a designated member attending the convention. As a result of the 1909 election controversy, the ANA Constitution was changed to require the listing of nominees and subsequent mailing of the ballot and proxy to the Secretary General. The ballot and proxy used in 1916 are shown as an example.

According to David T. Alexander, Q. David Bowers related that Farran Zerbe had printed and carried 200 blank proxies with him to Montreal, just in case.[2] It was asserted that this ‘accusation' was made more than a decade later during the reminiscing of ‘old-timers.' On it's face, it's unclear how completely blank proxies would be used at a convention. An extrapolation of this accusation defies logic and common sense, and would have been a fool's errand with a high likelihood of resulting in documented corruption... Is there any?

Moreover, those remarks might not have been an accusation of wrong doing so much as an indication of fact – only later becoming a misrepresented, indolent allegation repeated ad nauseam. Perhaps they were made in lamentation or anger; that the use of blank proxies had cost them or their candidate the election in 1909. In any case, the convention record indicates that Mr. Zerbe possessed 75 proxies, but does not indicate if any of them were blank. Everything else is conjecture, opinion or sour grapes.

  1916 ANA Ballot 1916 ANA proxy
1916 ANA Ballot and Proxy Forms

Special thanks to Akio Liss, Librarian at the ANA's Dwight N. Manley Library, for his help in obtaining copies of the proxy-ballot documents.

[1] Shall Our Proxy System Be Abolished?, by F. G. Duffield, The Numismatist, 1908, Vol. XXI, No. 2, pages 45 – 48.

[2] Farran Zerbe: Numismatist – Promoter – Hustler, by David Alexander, Coin Week, September 27, 2016.

See also Doug's article in the Spring 2022 issue of our print journal, The Asylum: "The American Numismatic Association Election of 1909 as Viewed through Its Membership Applications from 1907 to 1910". -Editor

To read the complete article, see:

To read David Alexander's CoinWeek article, see:
Farran Zerbe: Numismatist – Promoter – Hustler (

WBNA E-Sylum ad Sale 22

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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