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So-Called Dollars: A South Carolina Primer

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Each month there is a special South Carolina token or medal that is highlighted as the Token or Medal of the Month. But this month we will examine the South Carolina issues that have been included as part of the series of "So-Called Dollars" as cataloged by Hibler & Kappen.

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A popular hobby focus in recent years has been an eclectic grouping of commemorative medals collectively known as “so-called dollars.” Originally cataloged by Harold Hibler and Charles Kappen in their 1963 work entitled So-Called Dollars, An Illustrated Standard Catalog, this group of medals has gained a widespread collector base over time. The moniker “so-called dollar” comes from the fact that all items cataloged therein are approximately the size of a standard U.S. dollar coin (either gold or silver), or were meant to circulate as or approximate the value of a standard U.S. dollar coin. There are other criteria for inclusion, however, the most notable being that the medal must commemorate a person or historical event deemed to be of national significance.

The popularity of the original catalog has spurred many collectors to concentrate on forming a set or subset of these commemorative medals. The online auction site eBay has assisted by enabling buyers and sellers to come together in an online marketplace, even going so far as establishing a special category for their sale. A second edition of the Hibler & Kappen catalog, complete with an updated rarity system and pricing guide, was made available to collectors in 2008. The publication of this current pricing information has allowed new collectors to share in specialized knowledge which had previously taken many years to accumulate, and has resulted in an increase in the number of collectors chasing after increasingly elusive specimens. This has added upside pressure to prices on the scarcer pieces and many have reached levels that are multiples of those seen only a few years ago.

Collectors of South Carolina exonumia have been blessed (or cursed, if one looks at it from the level of cost) by having several different medals cataloged in the Hibler & Kappen reference work. Eight medals, struck in a total of twenty different compositional varieties, have been placed in the catalog and it is my intention to enumerate each entry in this article and make applicable comments.

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HK-11 The Bombardment of Fort Sumter Dollar, Type I (White Metal)

This piece is one of the earliest so-called dollars and is thought to have been struck shortly after the Civil War began in 1861. Certain to have originated in the Northern tier of states, the dies for this medal are ascribed to George H. Lovett, a prominent New York diesinker. The method of distribution of HK-11 and its associated pieces is unknown. White metal composition, 33.5mm, 11.6gm. Rated R7 (11-20 known) in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen and valued at $250-$2000.

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HK-11b The Bombardment of Fort Sumter Dollar, Type I (Brass)

The new edition of Hibler and Kappen list a brass strike as HK-11b. I have unable to personally encounter a brass specimen in over 20 years of searching. If anyone has one in their collection, I would certainly be pleased to receive a photograph of it and post it on this website, if possible. Brass composition, 33.5mm. Rated R7 (11-20 known) in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen and valued at $250-$2000.

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HK-11c The Bombardment of Fort Sumter Dollar, Type I (Copper)

The aforementioned brass striking may be a case of mistaken identity. It is possible that one of the known copper pieces (see photo above) has been mistaken for a brass strike was incorporated into the catalog as such. The copper strike, although unlisted in the original 1963 catalog, seems to be encountered more often than the white metal variety. Copper composition, 33.5mm, 19.3gm. Rated R7 (11-20 known) in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen and valued at $250-$2000.

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HK-11a The Bombardment of Fort Sumter Dollar, Type II (Brass), (photo courtesy of Bill Gribble)

The original Hibler & Kappen catalog and the second edition both list HK-11a as Type II, a brass striking with a different reverse die. The new reverse shows a heraldic eagle in the center, surrounded by an oak wreath and a legend sympathetic to the Union cause. This reverse also comes paired with other obverses, most notably a McClellan campaign medal of 1864. Brass composition, 33.5mm. Rated R7 (11-20 known) in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen and valued at $250-$2000.

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HK-11d The Bombardment of Fort Sumter Dollar, Type II (White Metal)

New to the second edition is HK-11d, struck with the same dies as HK-11a, but in white metal. This striking seems to be encountered more often than brass (HK-11a) or copper (HK-11e) specimens. White metal composition, 33.5mm, 11.5gm. Rated R7 (11-20 known) in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen and valued at $250-$2000.

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HK-11e The Bombardment of Fort Sumter Dollar, Type II (Copper)

Also new to the second edition is HK-11e, another Fort Sumter Type II strike, this one in copper. Perhaps another case of mistaken identity? If anyone can supply a photograph, again I would appreciate it. Copper composition, 33.5mm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $250-$2000.

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HK-93 The Battle of Sullivan's Island Dollar (Silver)

In 1876, in commemoration of the Centennial of the United States, diesinker George H. Lovett of New York designed a series of medals honoring eight early battles of the Revolutionary War. Number 2 in this series, which is called Lovett's "Eight Battles" Dollars, is a medal commemorating the Battle of Sullivan's Island. Sold by Lovett by subscription, three strikings are noted. HK-93 was struck in silver and originally sold for $14 in 1876. One recently was sold by Presidential Coin & Antique Company in their sale Number 78 (June 7, 2008) where a choice uncirculated example fetched $2400. The silver strike is by far the scarcest of the three different metallic compositions in which this medal was sold. Silver composition, 33.5mm. Rated R8 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (5-10 known) and valued at $400-$1200. Also listed as Baker 441.

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HK-94 The Battle of Sullivan's Island Dollar (Bronze)

Lovett also sold this medal in bronze, with a $4 price tag in 1876. Many of these can still be found in top condition today, a testament to the collectors who purchased them at the time. Bronze composition, 33.5mm, 21.3gm. Rated R6 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (21-75 known) and valued at $200-$800. Also listed as Baker 441A.

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HK-95 The Battle of Sullivan's Island Dollar (White Metal)

Hibler & Kappen list the white metal striking of this medal as HK-95. Originally sold by Lovett for $2, it is probably the most common one of the three stikings today. White metal composition, 33.5mm, 16.9gm. Rated R5 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (76-200 known) and valued at $50-$600. Also listed as Baker 441B.

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HK-unlisted The Battle of Sullivan's Island Dollar, Type II (Bronze)

George Lovett also executed a set of medals very similar to his "Eight Battles" Dollars, which in fact utilized the same reverse dies as that series. Only the obverse was changed, the new one having a different bust of George Washington while also commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. But these pieces are not listed by Hibler & Kappen in either edition of their catalog. For some unknown reason, the authors decided to leave this series out of their catalog. I find it hard to believe that they were unaware of it, as they did catalog a similar series of medals with the exact same obverse (Children of America Dollars, HK-115 to 117). Battle Dollars of this unlisted series are much more elusive than the listed series. Copper composition, 33.5mm, 22.1gm. Unrated and unvalued in Hibler & Kappen.

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HK-292 The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Fort Sumter Dollar (Silver-Plated Brass)

Three different so-called dollars were issued as souvenirs for the South Carolina Interstate & West Indian Exposition, also known simply as the Charleston Exposition. The most common of the three pieces is the Fort Sumter Dollar. Struck by an unnamed Syracuse, NY die-sinking firm, contemporary newspaper accounts mention planned specimens in gold, sterling, and silver-plated brass. Only the silver-plated brass strikings (HK-292) are listed in Hibler & Kappen. I have not seen any in gold, but do have an untrimmed die trial in brass (see below). Specimens in my own collection that I had previously believed were sterling were weighed recently and I now believe them all to be silver-plated brass. Silver-plated brass composition, 32.5mm, 12.2-12.6gm. Rated R6 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (21-75 known) and valued at $50-$350.

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HK-unlisted The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Fort Sumter Dollar (Brass Die Trial)

As mentioned above, HK-292 also was struck as a brass die trial. Possibly unique, it is the only one known to exist at present. If anyone else owns one, I would appreciate knowing about it. Brass composition, 36.0mm, 13.4gm. Unrated and unvalued in Hibler & Kappen.

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HK-293 The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Liberty Bell Dollar (Bronze)

A little known fact about the Charleston Exposition is that the Liberty Bell was transported by train to Charleston in January 1902 and was on display there for 5 months. A special medallic commemorative piece was struck to sell as a souvenir, most likely in the Philadelphia Building where the national icon was exhibited. Two different compositions exist. HK-293 appears above. Both bronze (HK-293) and white metal (HK-293a) strikes exist. Bronze composition, 35.0mm, 20.6gm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $100-$600.

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HK-293a The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Liberty Bell Dollar (White Metal)

White Metal strikes of the Liberty Bell Dollar also exist. Most (perhaps all) were pierced at 12 o'clock and suspended from a ribbon for use as a hanging badge. White Metal composition, 35.0mm, 13.2-14.5gm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $100-$600.

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HK-293a The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Liberty Bell Dollar (White Metal, in hanging badge)

White Metal specimen of HK-293a as part of an original hanging badge sold at the Exposition. All white metal strikes I have seen have been holed at 12 o'clock for use with such hanging badges.

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HK-294 The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Official Medal (Brass)

The U.S. Mint had an exhibit at the Charleston Exposition, complete with a working press set up to strike medals. Even though it is not mentioned in Hibler & Kappen, research has indicated that the above medal was designated as the "official medal" of the Exposition and was struck in the US Mint Exhibit. The dies for this medal are thought to have been executed by noted mint engraver George Morgan. Hibler & Kappen list a brass strike as HK-294, but this piece is most probably gilt bronze. Gilt Bronze composition, 34.0mm, 16.2gm. Rated R5 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (76-200 known) and valued at $100-$600.

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HK-294a The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Official Medal (Silver)

The new edition of Hibler & Kappen lists this medal as also being struck in silver (HK-294a). I have not seen a specimen struck in silver as of yet. Any collector possessing one is asked to contact the author with photographs and weight in grams. Silver composition, 34.0mm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $100-$600.

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HK-295 The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Official Medal (White Metal)

The original edition of Hibler & Kappen listed a white metal strike of the official medal as HK-295. I have not seen a specimen struck in a true white metal alloy (similar to the Liberty Bell Dollar above). Any collector possessing one is asked to contact the author with photographs and weight in grams. White Metal composition, 34.0mm. Rated R6 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (21-75 known) and valued at $100-$600.

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HK-295a The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, Official Medal (Nickel)

Newly listed in the second edition of Hibler & Kappen is the official medal struck in nickel alloy (HK-295a). This metallic composition does exist and one is pictured above. Note the weakness of strike as compared to the gilt bronze specimen due to the harder metal. It is truly made of nickel as the piece is strongly magnetic. Nickel composition, 34.0mm, 21.8gm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $100-$600.

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HK-412 The Panama-Pacific International Exposition, South Carolina Exposition Fund Dollar (Bronze)

The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco, California in 1915. The state of South Carolina sponsored an exhibit in this exposition and special commemorative medals were sold to the general public in South Carolina to fund the cost of the exhibit. Bronze composition, 38.0mm, 25.2gm. Rated R6 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (21-75 known) and valued at $100-$800.

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HK-412a The Panama-Pacific International Exposition, South Carolina Exposition Fund Dollar (Silver-Plated Bronze)

The second edition of Hibler & Kappen lists HK-412a as having been struck in silver-plated bronze. I haven't examined a piece struck in this alloy, so if anyone out there would like to send a photograph and cataloging information, please do so. Silver-Plated Bronze composition, 38.0mm. Rated R6 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (21-75 known) and valued at $100-$800.

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HK-621 The South Carolina General Assembly Centennial Dollar (Copper)

The South Carolina Legislature celebrated its first 100 years of meeting in Columbia during 1891. Special commemorative medallions were issued to mark the event. The method of distribution is unknown, but they were likely to have been distributed only locally. Copper composition, 37.5mm, 21.5gm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $200-$1000.

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HK-622 The South Carolina General Assembly Centennial Dollar (White Metal)

Specimens of this medal were also struck in a white metal composition. Most (perhaps all) were holed at 12 o'clock for suspension from a ribbon as part of a hanging badge. White metal composition, 37.5mm, 17.6gm. Rated R7 in the new edition of Hibler & Kappen (11-20 known) and valued at $200-$1000.

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Copyright 2008 by Tony Chibbaro.

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Sources

So-Called Dollars: An Illustrated Standard Catalog Second Edition, by Harold E. Hibler and Charles V. Kappen, The Coin & Currency Institute, 2008.

Price Supplement, So-Called Dollars: An Illustrated Standard Catalog by Harold E. Hibler and Charles V. Kappen, The Coin & Currency Institute, 2008.

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If you collect or have a casual interest in South Carolina tokens or tokens issued by cotton mills, lumber companies, or other types of businesses, you may want to purchase my book, South Carolina Tokens and its three supplements. To read a description of these standard references, please click on this link: Books.

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Home
Token or Medal of the Month Main Page
A Short History of Token Use in South Carolina
South Carolina Trade Tokens for Sale - Page 1
South Carolina Trade Tokens for Sale - Page 2
Other South Carolina Exonumia for Sale
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The Charleston Exposition
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