Farran Zerbe

Joseph Farran Zerbe (April 16, 1871 – December 25, 1949) was the President of the American Numismatic Association from 1908 to 1910. In 1969, he was posthumously inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame. An award is named in his honour and awarded by the ANA on an annual basis. His contributions to numismatics include the founding of the Pacific Coast Numismatic Society in San Francisco in 1915.

Farran Zerbe
Farran Zerbe (ca. 1908).jpg
Zerbe c. 1908
Joseph Farran Zerbe

(1871-04-16)April 16, 1871
Tyrone, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedDecember 25, 1949(1949-12-25) (aged 78)
New York City, United States

Early lifeEdit

He was born in Tyrone, Pennsylvania.[1]

Louisiana Purchase Exposition gold dollarEdit

To commemorate the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, and the subsequent Lewis and Clark expedition, two World's Fairs were held: the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis Missouri in 1904, and the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland Oregon in 1905.[2] Part of the souvenirs included numismatic items, and the ANA's proponent Farran Zerbe was at the center of promoting it. Zerbe avidly sought to popularize coin collecting through his travelling exhibit, “Money of the World.” He publicized the United States first commemorative coins – the Isabella Quarter and Columbus Half Dollar – issued for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.[2]

He backed the gold dollars for the 1904 St. Louis Fair, with two versions being produced: Jefferson and McKinley. He was also placed in charge of distributing the entire mintage of Louisiana Purchase Exposition gold coins.[3] Zerbe spearheaded the initiative to have US gold $1 coins struck to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Exposition. He supported a commemorative with Lewis’ bust on one side, and Clark's on the other.[3] The appropriations bill for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Celebration was passed by Congress on April 13, 1904. It provided the mintage of 250,000 gold dollars that would bear likenesses of the two explorers.[3] All dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

Zerbe was placed in charge of the distribution of the coins at the exposition. He enthusiastically trumpeted the coins when sales were sluggish for the Louisiana Purchase pieces at $3 each.[3] The Lewis and Clark dollars sold for $2 each when the fair opened on June 1, 1905. Zerbe soon raised the price to $2.50 by claiming that the 1904 issue was almost sold out.[3]

Not satisfied with the US gold dollar as the sole numismatic commemorative of the occasion, Zerbe had private quarter and half dollar tokens struck in gold.[4] These pieces depict Mt. Hood, and very little is known about them. It is believed that they were manufactured in Chicago and are akin to the quarter and half dollar tokens that were distributed at the St. Louis fair.[4]

Purchase of the NumismatistEdit

On June 16, 1908, Dr. George F. Heath, founder of the American Numismatic Association suddenly died. Farran Zerbe, then president, assumed the task of editing and publishing The Numismatist, and soon purchased the publication from Heath's heirs.[5] In 1911, through the generosity of W.C.C. Wilson of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, THE NUMISMATIST was purchased from Zerbe and presented to the ANA and since that period, the magazine has been owned and published monthly by the ANA.[5]

1915 Panama-Pacific International ExpositionEdit

In 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal along with San Francisco's emergence from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.[6] Zerbe oversaw the Exposition's official Coin and Medal department.

The United States Congress authorized the San Francisco Mint (also known as "The Granite Lady") to issue a series of five commemorative coins. Said coins were the 1915S silver Panama-Pacific half dollar and four gold coins. The denominations of the gold coins were 1 dollar, 2½ dollars (quarter eagle), a 50 dollar round coin, and an unusual 50 dollar octagonal coin. Zerbe also supervised the creation of a series of commemorative medals, an award medal, a souvenir medal, and diplomas. The Pan-Pac coins have the distinction of being the first commemorative coins to bear the motto "In God We Trust", and were also the first commemoratives to be struck at a branch mint.[6]

In the same year, Zerbe founded the Pacific Coast Numismatic Society in San Francisco in 1915. It is the oldest numismatic organization in the Western United States, and fosters a strong tradition of research and literary publication.[7]

The Peace DollarEdit

Zerbe (right) with his successor as head of the Chase Manhattan Bank Money Museum, Vernon Brown, c. 1939

Frank G. Duffield, editor of The Numismatist, prepared a paper for the 1918 Philadelphia convention of the American Numismatic Association. The paper called for a general circulation coin to commemorate America's inevitable victory in World War I.

The ANA convention was not held that summer because of the 1918 flu pandemic, which took 100,000 lives along the East Coast and tens of millions worldwide.[8] On August 25, 1920, at the ANA convention in Chicago, Waldo C. Moore, President, called on Moritz Wormser, Chairman of the Board, to read a paper from Farran Zerbe of California.[8] Zerbe's proposal asked for a general circulation commemorative coin and the object of the coin was to be America's influence for peace. Zerbe's letter said: "Our example as a democracy... was a mighty moral force that won battles without number in the hearts and in the minds of those who ultimately proved that they had the power to topple thrones..." [8]

Zerbe reminded the convention that "liberty and rule by will of the majority gave equal opportunity for energy and thrift, time and talent, bringing contentment, prosperity and honour as merited." [8] Farran Zerbe's proposal also included a call for a popular competition in which he asked for either a half dollar or a dollar, to allow for a maximum field for the artist. Zerbe's intent was clearly an allegorical or symbolic design although it would be a point of contention when the coin finally came out.[8] Zerbe's original proposal that the designer come from outside the United States Mint presented obstacles. The Congressional resolution of May 9 said nothing about a design competition. Despite objections, a contest was held and the announcement was made on November 23, 1921.

The first Peace Dollar was presented to President Warren G. Harding on January 3, 1922. The Numismatist for February included words of criticism. Disappointment and thin consolation was expressed came from Anthony de Francisci, Farran Zerbe, and Judson Brenner (chairman of the ANA Peace Coin Committee), and ANA president, Moritz Wormser. Among the faults was the fact that the coin was not symbolic or allegorical. The sunrise could be interpreted as heralding a new day of peace, and, of course, there was the word itself carved on a rock. The olive branch adorns most American money. It is likely that the ANA was hoping for something more like the Panama- Pacific issues. [8]

He died in 1949 in New York City.

See alsoEdit

Zerbe in his final years


  1. ^ The New International Year Book. Dodd, Mead and Company. 1950. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  2. ^ a b “Numismatics of the Lewis and Clark Expedition”, Jim Hunt and Jim Wells, p. 41, The Numismatist, March 2004,
  3. ^ a b c d e “Numismatics of the Lewis and Clark Expedition”, Jim Hunt and Jim Wells, p. 42, The Numismatist, March 2004,
  4. ^ a b “Numismatics of the Lewis and Clark Expedition”, Jim Hunt and Jim Wells, p. 43, The Numismatist, March 2004,
  5. ^ a b Money.org | ANA History Archived 2007-08-16 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b "1915 Panama Pacific Exposition Coinage". pdxcoinclub.org. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  7. ^ "Pacific Coast Numismatic Society (PCNS official homepage)". pcns.org. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "The Peace Dollar | Coin Gallery". coin-gallery.com. Retrieved 2015-08-25.