The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 26, June 26, 2022, Article 12


Douglas Ward of Santa Ana, CA submitted this article on Farran Zerbe and the 1909 ANA election, rebutting a number of claims made over the years against Zerbe as addressed in David Alexander's 2016 CoinWeek article on the topic. -Editor

Zerbe $Billion Coin-The Pittsburg Press, 1903-3-11 Farran Zerbe's unceremonious removal from the ANA's highest award and its recent renaming both had a basis in Mr. David Alexander's CoinWeek article Farran Zerbe, Numismatist • Promoter • Hustler. Below are excerpts:

Zerbe developed remarkable skill in self promotion. The Pittsburgh Times of March 11, 1903, reported his gaudy proposal for the creation of a monstrous gold coin for the upcoming Louisiana Purchase Exposition (LPE) to be held in 1903-1904 in Saint Louis. This unique piece would have a diameter of 40 feet and a thickness of 30 inches. Its nominal face value would be $1,000,000,000. This proposal gagged the U.S. Mint, reinforced appraisal of Zerbe as a huckster and was never carried out.

By all accounts, Mr. Zerbe was a smart and motivated man. As such, this was undoubtedly an exercise of the imagination, rather than a serious proposal. Referring to the article appearing in The Pittsburg Press on March 11, 1903, the context of his proposal is quickly understood:

Mr. Zerbe is on his way to St. Louis where he goes to make arrangements for an exhibit of his curiosities at the World's Fair next year. One of the features of the show will be a fac-simile of what a billion-dollar gold piece would look like if such a coin were made. It will consist of metal representing gold and will be 40 feet in diameter and 30 inches thick.

It seems the fac-simile coin was never made, but it certainly wasn't to be made of gold. As an ‘imaginary' coin and marketing tool, the U.S. Mint would not have had a comment.

Here's another excerpt:

The notably modest Heath had shunned high office up to this point while personally maintaining The Numismatist.

Dr. Heath held an ANA office in most years before his death, including President in several. This statement makes the combination of Mr. Zerbe's ANA presidency and ownership of The Numismatist seem dangerous and without precedent – That was not the case.

Regarding the 1909 ANA elections:

The NYNC leadership could not access the ANA mailing list to distribute its skillfully compiled campaign booklet spelling out far-reaching improvement of the national organization.

The ANA membership list was mailed yearly to all members, beginning in October of 1908. The addresses of new members were printed in each edition of The Numismatist.

Here's another:

However reasonable the NYNC program may have been, Zerbe had control of the Official Organ and mailing list and used both ruthlessly to advance Henderson's candidacy and to misrepresent the Higgins platform. No pro- Higgins material was allowed to appear in The Numismatist but any opposing views by members of that club were trumpeted.

Membership list-The Numismatist-1908-10-sup As mentioned, the mailing list was sent to all members. The Numismatist policy was to only print letters advocating candidates… as advertising and letters opposing candidates [would] not be published. The little political material appearing in The Numismatist rightly called out Methods emanating from New York as entirely foreign to what has governed the A.N.A. in the past. No material was published that ‘ruthlessly advance[d] Henderson's candidacy,' or misrepresent[ed] the Higgins Platform. Only one letter advocating Dr. Henderson was printed as a paid advertisement. It's impossible to prove if any pro-Higgins material was ever sent as advertising to The Numismatist, let alone if its publication was not allowed. Given the adversarial relationships, it highly probably no letters from the Higgins campaign were ever sent. Rather, it seemed Mr. Higgins preferred Mehl's Numismatic Monthly for the publishing of his campaign statements.

And another:

Zerbe, the tokens' target, was now frantic with anger and used the Official Organ against his opponents by opening its pages to any messages hostile to Higgins and Elder to such a degree that a number of prominent collectors including Chicago's millionaire Virgil M. Brand resigned in protest of the corruption of The Numismatist.

Mr. Alexander miss-represents Mr. Brand's resignation. As stated in Mr. Q. David Bowers' book, The ANA Centennial History; Virgil M. Brand, America's leading private collector at the time, was so annoyed with ANA politics in 1909 that he resigned from the organization. The use of character assassination and mud slinging by the Higgins campaign was more likely responsible for Mr. Brand's resignation. Those tactics were widely unpopular and likely a cause of Mr. Higgins' defeat. He also fails to mention opposition to the Higgins campaign tactics from within the NYNC itself, including from Mr. Jules de Lagerberg and the resignation in protest of Mr. Niklewicz.

  The Numismatist, 1908-8-p241-excerpt

And another:

Inserted with the August issue was a 56-inch scroll, The ANA Campaign and its Questions, the Association Defiled and Defied, identified by its sometimes casual grammar as the work of Zerbe himself. ANA by-laws of the time allowed all members to submit a written proxy vote if they were unable to attend the convention.

This scroll would be the last thing ANA members would see before filling out their proxies.

By stating it was identified by its sometimes casual grammar as the work of Zerbe himself, Mr. Alexander infers that the scroll's authorship was anonymous and it therefore lacks some validity and resolve. However, Mr. Zerbe's name appears in the by-line, By Farran Zerbe, Publisher of The Numismatist.9 The double height, doubled sided, double folded insert is a well written, pure defense and rebuttal to the character assassination mounted by Mr. Elder and Mr. Higgins during the campaign. Contrary to Mr. Alexander's statement, its inclusion in the August issue meant it would not be seen by members prior mailing their ballot or proxy, since the convention began on August 9th. As Mr. Zerbe stated in the first and then last paragraphs:

The A. N. A. has had a political campaign to be remembered for its methods. We state this as of the past for the reason that we believe the campaign is over and the mail ballots, which will have been executed before this reaches our members, will govern the results. So that anything we may now say will not be received in time to be an influence for or against the election chances of any candidate.

This is written August 3d and would not be published had we not received from numerous sources the question, How can you keep silent? The Convention may take action, but by the time it is published the subject will be old and your silence may lead to unjust conclusions.

And then there's the infamous ‘blank proxies' allegation:

In preparing his massive two-volume ANA Centennial History in 1991, researcher Q. David Bowers revealed that Zerbe printed and carried 200 blank proxies with him to Montreal, just in case.

There is no such statement in Mr. Bowers' book. This patently falsified claim has been since repeated a number of times, including most recently in a YouTube video history of Mr. Zerbe where the number has increased to ‘400 blank proxies.' This accusation appears to originate from Mr. Higgins' political booklet that predated the convention; Having exhausted the resources of buncombe and invective to make a showing of fitness for office, they are in the last throes of distress setting about monkeying with the ballots of the voters. Mr. Zerbe decries this accusation in his editorial of August, 3rd. It has since grown by exaggeration and gained an infamous life of its own.

  1908 Campaign insert-Zerbe-excerpt

These are the primary examples of Mr. Alexander's misrepresentations, although there are others. Taken together, the disparaging of a previously well respected and pioneering numismatist is regretful. The removal of Mr. Zerbe's name from the ANA's highest award was based on these accounts and related accusations, as recounted in the ANA press release and infamous ‘16 to 1' letter. One only needed to read the last statements in Mr. Alexander's article to understand his true motivation:

Time passed, and Zerbe's role in the early years of the ANA gradually faded from public view. During 2016, Chester L. Krause died. Chet was widely admired as the founder of Numismatic News and Krause Publications with its extensive roster of books. Proposals were received for the renaming of ANA's top service recognition as the Chet Krause Award.


Farran Zerbe, Numismatist • Promoter • Hustler, by David T. Alexander, Coin Week, September 27, 2016.

Collection of Ancient Coins The Pittsburg Press, March 11, 1903, page 6. Note: The Pittsburg Times ceased publication in 1906 and the referenced article could not be found. Its presumed The Pittsburg Press article of the same date contained the same content.

Membership List, American Numismatic Association, Supplement to the Numismatist, October, 1908.

Editor's statement, Farran Zerbe, Managing Editor and Publisher, The Numismatist, June, 1909, page 176.

A. N. A. Campaign Methods Deprecated. Editorial, Farran Zerbe Managing Editor and Publisher, The Numismatist, July, 1909, page 208.

Things to be Considered in the A. N. A. Campaign by F. G. Duffield, The Numismatist, July, 1909, page 221.

The American Numismatic Association Centennial History, Volume 1, by Q. David Bowers, Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1991, pages 209 - 212..

Mr. Niklewicz, Secretary of the New York Numismatic Club, Withdraws From Its Campaign Committee. Letter to the Editor from Herbert Niklewicz, The Numismatist, August, 1909, page 241.

Concerning the Blank Proxy Allegation form the 1909 ANA Election. By Douglas Ward, The E-Sylum, Vol. 25, No. 9, February 27, 2022, Article 19.

The A. N. A. Campaign and Its Question. The Association Defiled and Defied. By Farran Zerbe, A ‘loose leaf ‘ addition in The Numismatist, August, 1908, page 4. Note; Thanks to David Hill of The American Numismatic Society for providing a copy of this document.

  Farran Zerbe ANA Farran Zerbe Award medal

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

To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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