Return to Alaska Coin Exchange homepage
Return to ACCent homepage
ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club
|Volume 6, Number 8||
|August Membership Meeting|
|Wed., August 4, 1993||Central Lutheran Church||
7:30 PM Meeting
A healthy turnout of twenty two odd members and guests showed up in the middle of the finest stretch of summer weather Anchorage has seen within this writer's memory. Some old faces seen all too seldom as well as some potential new members were in evidence: including long time advertiser Carl Mujagic and Kurtis Hawke who spends winters working Outside.
Since the real business of the day was the auction, regular old business was dispensed of quickly.
The club moved and passed a motion to allow a individual to join the club for life. The cost was set at $250 as is duly noted (for now and forever more) at left.
The summer picnic was discussed. It was resolved to hold a potluck in which members bring salads, desserts, snacks, and appetites. The club will contribute drinks, utensils, meat, and other picnic items. It will be held Saturday, August 21 at Valley of the Moon park beginning about 11 A.M.
THE USUAL PRIZES
The door prize (a 1975 Mint Set) was won by Bob Luetzow. The Raffle was won by Bill McGinnis. Raffle prize was ancient Roman Copper in what seemed like VF condition or better. The membership prize, a 1980 Mint Set was won by V.P. Mike McKinnon.
MEMBERSHIP INTEREST PRIZE
ACC member No. 3 was drawn for the second time this year. Unfortunately Rod Meade was not present to claim the prize. If only it were because he was out fishin' and not because of poor health. Get well soon, Rod, we miss your face around here.
Mike McKinnon bumped the kitty from fifteen to twenty dollars. Thanks, Mike.
Expect a phone call from one of two intrepid volunteers, Ben Guild and "Member #113" (sorry, but the name wasn't supplied). These two stepped up to help organize the potluck. Give them both a pat on the back when they call.
First Life Member
Mike Nourse has distinguished himself by being the first to join the club for life. That's a lot of Newsletters, Coin Shows, and Meetings for a dedicated collector to look forward to.
The efforts of the E-Board to market our medals are starting to pay off. Coin World published our announcement that our club has celebrated fifth year by coining a commemorative medal. Already, we have received an order for one of our bronzes. Let's hope for a bunch more. With even mild interest, the club will break even on this project. With strong interest the club will have yet another problem of the right kind: What to do with the surplus? Members are encouraged to think of ACC Philanthropy and especially to promote the medals. Think, for instance, of your friends and associates who buy Rondy memorabilia. Impress upon them how neat it would be to have a silver and bronze set of desirable medals with a truly limited mintage.
Yours truly was the auctioneer for the July club auction. While it started a bit slow at first, I picked up "steam" quickly. I had such a good time that I volunteer myself to be the auctioneer for the September club auction.
Our big event for August is our club picnic. We tried and were unsuccessful in getting the Moose Lodge picnic grounds for our August club picnic.
However.....we were successful in getting use of the Valley of the Moon Municipal Park for August 21st (Saturday).
Accordingly, our Anchorage Coin Club summer picnic will be held at the Park on August 21st from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The Valley of the Moon Park is located where Arctic Blvd turns into E Street.
The Municipal Parks and Recreation people say that there should be adequate parking, good picnic facilities, and a pavilion for our use.
As stated in our July newsletter, our club will pick up the cost of hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, sodas, chips, dips, utensils, plates, and ice. We ask that those attending bring salad and dessert dishes as a potluck.
In order that we have an idea of how much hamburgers and hotdogs to purchase, some of our club members will be calling each of you on a headcount on attendance.
Hope to see you at our summer picnic.........
I recently made acquaintance with Steve Levi when he signed on as Technical Writer where T work. Steve collects Alaskan. Tokens (especially "Singles") and Indian Cents. He is a seventeen-year resident of Alaska and has published a number of books. This summer his 14th book, a collection of humorous Alaskan stories, titled Alascattalo Tales, will be available to the public. According to Steve the book is mostly historical which figures since he has two degrees in history. Following is his piece on the Alaskan (pre-statehood) version of small cash Alaskan "wampum" if you will.
Did you ever wonder what Alaskans used before they had cash? To most Americans this is a ridiculous question. Of course Alaskans use American money. They used American money before statehood, probably all the way back to the Russian era, because Alaska was part of the United States. What else would they use? The answer to that question is actually not that simple.
Initially, of course, Native Alaskans had a subsistence lifestyle that did not require money. With the coming of the white man, that changed.
The Russians had supplies the Natives needed and the Natives had furs the Russians wished to buy. But without some medium of exchange, bartering was the only way a transaction could be completed.
That led to problems. The Russians didn't always have what the Natives wanted when furs were available. Or the Natives wanted an item from the store at a time when they had no furs to trade. To resolve these problems, the Russians established a credit system to provide a primitive form of what economists today call "cash flow."
But the extension of credit quickly proved to be a nightmare. Although keeping track of large amounts of money was easy, recording very small sales kept the bookkeepers working late into the night. This led to errors in the records which eventually became so numerous that the Russian-American Company was losing money. To end the morass of paperwork, Russian Governor Baranov proposed a clever solution to his superiors in St. Petersburg. He suggested the printing of money for use in Russian America.
The board of the Russian-American Company liked the idea and issued Alaska's first script, called marki, which was made of parchment and later walrus or sea lion skin. In 1804, Baranov's superiors sent him 50,000 rubles on parchment, most of which was to be paid to the Russian-American company employees as wages.
It was a brilliant scheme. By paying for everything in marki, all the money eventually flowed back to the company store. This scheme worked until 1869 when Alaska was transferred to American hands. Then, as the Russian-American Company was disbanding, all marki were collected and destroyed. Today there are only about a dozen marki notes left, most of them in museums.
From the end of the Russian occupation to the beginning of the 19th century, a wide variety of objects were used as mediums of exchange. Gold nuggets and dust were most common, but fur, beads and skins were also negotiable. There is even some evidence that fish tails sometimes were used in lieu of cash.
The Klondike Strike and thereafter the Alaska Gold Rush didn't change things much.
Though thousands of men rushed north, the standard was still gold. Nuggets and dust were used for almost all transactions as the gold could be weighed out for both large and small purchases. But, when the boom played out, Alaskans were once again left with the problem of how to transact 'nickel-and-dime' business without coins.
Thus was born the bingle: a coin or token imprinted with the name of a business. The coin could come in any denomination but almost all of them were in values of a dollar or less. Singles were of wood, metal and paper. Most likely the paper script were produced at local print shops while the coupon books were printed by outside firms. The metal and wood tokens were stamped out at stamp and die companies in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco and perhaps a few more.
Oddly, Alaskan bingles were printed without dates. Why, no one is certain. There were also some bingles that were "mavericks," tokens with no store name attached. Needless to say, cashing a maverick was difficult. While bingles were supposedly only good at the store where they were purchased, many merchants offered reciprocity.
Kaye Dethridge of Sitka, the largest merchant of Alaskan bingles, is unsure where the name originated but has found the term used as early as 1916 in Petersburg. Other token collectors believe that the term originated with Reverend Bingle who was active in the development of the Alaskan Interior in the 1930s. Regardless of the origin of the name, the term was cemented in both Alaskan history and vocabulary when the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation 1ARRC) issued tokens to the Palmer colonists which were called "Alaskan Bingles."
The ARRC followed the same scheme as the Russian-American Company. If everyone had bingles and everyone spent them at the company store, there would be cash flow within the colony. Unfortunately it didn't happen that way. As soon as the merchants near the colony realized they were losing cash customers, they began accepting bingles at their establishments in lieu of hard cash. This created too many problems for the Palmer Colony and the bingles were phased out in 1938.
But the end of the bingles in the Palmer Colony did not mean an end to the tokens throughout Alaska. Bush communities still needed the metal discs because there were too few U.S. mint coins in circulation. In communities such as Shishmaref, Kotzebue, Noorvik, Gambell, Savoonga and Kivalina, a bingle was still the only reasonable way to handle small transactions.
Interestingly, Dethridge believes that the bingles for the Palmer Colony were issued and controlled by the Department of the Interior. But the bingles used in many of the Native stores were issued and controlled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is unusual because coinage is constitutionally handled by the United States Department of Treasury. Bills and coins not issued by the Treasury are known as "counterfeit."
While the United States government was well aware of the bingles, little was done to stop their use. But the government was not pleased with the practice. According to Howard Thew, who owns one of the largest collections of tokens in Alaska, the question of the legality of the bingles came to head in the early 1960s when Natives tried using the bingles "at the Post Office in Seattle. After that the government said 'no more bingles.'" The ensuing uproar effectively finished the widespread use of bingles in Alaska.
No one knows for sure how many bingles were coined, primarily because new ones are always turning up. "Today those bingles are collectors items," Dethridge notes. "There were about 75 businesses across the state that issued the bingles and there are at least a few samples for all of them. Some are wooden. Others are colored. There are those that are intricate and others that are plain. The value of those tokens today depends on supply and demand. Some you can buy for a few dollars."
Then there are others which are rare and therefore quite valuable. The rarest of all bingles is known as the Priesner dollar. Only one is known to be in existence — owned by Kaye Dethridge -- and it has a story that is as unusual as the coin.
The bingle itself is an ordinary-looking, well-worn coin except that it has a gold nugget imbedded in its back. Issued by Gustave Priesner for his McCarthy drug store about 1910, it became a piece of treasured Alaskana when it was connected with the paperwork which has made it famous.
Priesner. who had the status of an enemy alien during the First World War, was well-known around McCarthy as much for his girlfriend as for his pharmaceutical enterprise. His femme was Rose Silberg who ran a "resort" which catered to the booming population of men who were working in the Kennecott copper mine. Silberg was saving her money and keeping the horde in Priesner's safe. All went well until Silberg found herself a new boyfriend.
With a new beau, Silberg wanted her money, about $20,000, from Priesner's safe. The druggist refused to relinquish the money and harsh words were exchanged. The next time Silberg was seen it was in a mutilated state on the floor of her resort, the Chili Con Carne Parlor. The room had been ransacked and an empty pocketbook was found on the table.
The murder must have created quite a stir in the small town. The McCarthy Weekly News, whose specialty heretofore had been grocery specials, political announcements, local fillers and business shorts, dedicated the center of the front page to the crime. "Literally Hacked to Pieces," one of the sub heads screamed, and the paragraph below provided grisly details of the stabs, gashes and cuts on the "body in a nude condition." The only detail left out, which was provided to the readers by the Cordova Daily Alaskan two weeks later, was the presence of "many bloody finger marks" on the floor.
The last man known to have seen the victim alive was Gustave Priesner. He had been seen by Joe Petrie, owner of the Golden Saloon. Petrie told a few people what he had seen but when the Marshal went to take a deposition. Petrie could make no comment. He was found dead in his room at the Golden Hotel. Murder was suspected and an autopsy ordered. Priesner was an obvious suspect since Petrie's death could have been by poison, a substance a druggist could easily obtain.
From here the record gets sketchy. In 1963, a woman searching for bottles in the McCarthy jail happened to come across a bundle of papers. In them was a telegram dated April 12, 1918, ordering the arrest of Priesner for murder. Another document in the bundle was a letter dated October 28,1918, from the United States Marshal in Valdez to the Deputy U. S. Marshal in Cordova regarding the sending of "eight jars containing the stomach of Petrie, who died at McCarthy last spring under suspicious circumstances."
While these documents made interesting reading, they were still just historical tidbits. Ten years later, in 1973, when the same woman returned to McCarthy to look for bottles, she accidentally uncovered a purse with three Priesner coins; five, 10 and 25 cent pieces.
She sold the coins to a Juneau token dealer who tracked down the famed $1 coin. Today that coin is worth $10,000.
And what of Priesner? Unfortunately, the historical record is thin. The last newspaper reference to the druggist was in the April 15, 1918, Cordova paper. Priesner, the Cordova paper recorded, had been arrested in Fairbanks with $20,000 on his person. But he had not been detained for murder. He was being held because he had failed to register as an enemy alien. He was taken into custody as he was heading for the Chandelar district where it was his intention to open a trading company. Then, "under telegraphic instructions," Priesner was "taken back to Chitna."
The charges against Priesner must have been dropped for there is no record of a murder trial.
There is also no further mention of Priesner in the Cordova or Fairbanks papers though many of the issues are missing or unreadable on microfilm. Priesner apparently spent the years of the First World War in a detention facility for enemy aliens in Salt Lake City. What happened to him after the war is not known. The last mention of Priesner in historical documents is a civil suit filed against O. W. Brehmer of McCarthy in 1920. Thus, at least in 1920, Priesner was still free in McCarthy. [Howard Thew believes that Priesner eventually went to Siberia but there is no documentary proof to support that contention.]
While Priesner's fate remains unknown, the place of the bingles in Alaska's history is secure. They are more than pieces of metal, paper or wood. They are part of the rich heritage of the northland.
Disclosures and disclaimers:
Grades are determined the same way as always for Anchorage Coin Club auctions: the coins are passed around at E-Board, the attenders grade them, and when alt have been examined the cataloger calls out each coin and the attenders call out their opinion of the grade. Grades are an average of the opinions called.
Bidders are reminded that errors do occur and that you own any coin you buy "seen" as is.
Lots purchased through the mail may be returned within seven days of receipt.
Comments on condition and appearance are solely those of the Cataloger. This month's Cataloger is Larry Nakata who has provided descriptions of major varieties as listed inCoin Prices magazine. Consignors may submit descriptions along with coins which will be published if the Grading Committee agrees the coin merits the description and that it is accurate. Decisions regarding questions and disputes will be made by a three-member Auction Committee whose decisions will be FINAL.
|14||1986-D||Statue of Liberty Half||BU|
|15||1986||Statue of Liberty Half and Dollar||Proof|
|17||1991||Mt. Rushmore Half and Dollar||Proof|
|18||1966||Ireland Ten Shilling||Proof Commemorative|
|19||1978||Captain Cook Medal|
|20||Alaska 25th Anniversary Bronze Medal|
|21||1841||Liberty Seated Dollar||VF|
|22||1845||Liberty Seated Dollar||VF|
|23||1846||Liberty Seated Dollar||ANACS AU-50|
|24||1846-O||Liberty Seated Dollar||XF|
|25||Various||10 Morgan and 10 Peace Dollars||Circulated|
|26||1846, Lg. Date||Large Cent, Repunched 1||XF|
|32||1928-D||Lincoln Cent||MS-64 RB|
|33||1840-O||Half Dime||F, No Drapery|
|36||1863||Civil War Token||Circulated|
|38||1858||Flying Eagle Cent||G|
|40||1909||Lincoln Cent||XF, Damaged|
|41||1909 VDB||Lincoln Cent||XF, Damaged|
|42||1910||Lincoln Cent||VF, Damaged|
|43||1864||Two Cent, Large Motto||VG|
|44||1853||Silver Three Cent||F|
|45||1874||Nickel Three Cent||VG|
|46||1867||Shield Nickel, No Rays||F|
|47||1910||Liberty Head Nickel||F|
|49||1885||Seated Liberty Dime||F|
|51||1830||Capped Bust Half||VF|
|52||1855-O||Seated Liberty Half||VG|
|53||1925||Stone Mountain Half||XF|
|56||1923-S||Monroe Doctrine Half||VF|
|57||"1780" Restrike||Thaler Maria Theresa Trade Dollar||Proof|
|58||Peace and Morgan Dollar Albums||No Coins|
|59||1946-64 PDS||Roosevelt Dime Set||Circulated|
|60||1932-64 PDS||Washington Quarter Set||Circulated|
|61||1858||Canada 20 cents||XF|
|62||1859||Canada 1 Cent||AU|
|63||1896||Canada 1 Cent||AU|
|64||1903||Canada 1 Cent||AU|
|65||1905||Canada 1 Cent||AU|
|68||India 1/4 Rupee||Circulated|
|73||1896||Liberty Head Nickel||MS-63|
|76||1930||Standing Liberty Quarter||AU|
|78||1915-S||Panama Pacific Half||XF|
|79||1917-S||Walking Liberty Half||VG|
|80||1921||Walking Liberty Half||VG|
|82||1919||Walking Liberty Half||VG|
|83||1920||Walking Liberty Half||F|
|86||1873||Dime, (C13, Breen 3363)||ANACS AU-50|
|87||1870||Two Cent, ACC Graded XF||ANACS Cleaned|
|88||1800's||Indian Cents (13 pieces)||Circulated|
|89||1900 - 1912||"V" Nickels (13 pieces)||Circulated|
|90||1802||Large Cents (3 pieces)||Poor/Fair|
|91||1866, 1867, 1868||Two Cents (3 pieces)||AG/G|
|92||1824 - 1853||Large Cents (9 pieces)||AG/G|
|94||1833 ?||Bust Dime||AG|
|96||1837||Seated Liberty Dime||Fair|
|97||1839 - 1854||Large Cents (5 pieces)||Fair|
|100||1929||Standing Liberty Quarter||VG|
The Anchorage Coin Club is a non-profit organization formed to provide information, education, and a meeting place for individuals having an interest in numismatics.
Correspondence Address: Anchorage Coin Club, P.O. Box 230169, Anchorage,