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ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club

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Volume 19, Number 7

July 2006

July Membership Meeting
Sat., July 22nd, 2006 Centennial Park Campgrounds

11:30 am - afternoon


 

FROM YOUR EDITORS

     As stated in the club’s June newsletter, our club’s official July meeting will be held at our Summer picnic scheduled for Saturday, July 22nd starting at 11:30 am. Location will be the same as last year….the Centennial Park Campground in the Muldoon/ Glenn Highway area. A map is provided with this newsletter on the location.

The club will provide the chips, dips, ice, soda pop, hamburgers, hotdogs, napkins, and plastic utensils (knives, forks, spoons). Bill Hamilton will provide the barbecue grill. We ask that our members bring small potluck dishes such as salads, desserts, and hors d’oeuvres to the event.

Roy Brown will be contacting each of you to verify attendance and see what potluck dishes will be brought. This will help us determine the quantities of food and items needed for the event.

There should be lots of good food with the highlight of the event being our YN Numismatic Auction. Looks like about 15 lots so far have been collected for the event. One of the lots is a nice U.S. 1908 $2 & ½ Gold Indian in XF40 condition. Your Board will be collecting more lots for the auction in the next few weeks. We are trying to get about 40 or so nice auction lots by the time of the July 22nd Summer picnic.

Winning ticket for our latest raffle coin will be drawn at the event. The raffle coin is a set of two U.S. Walker Half Dollars:

At our June 3rd meeting, Loren gave a presentation on “The Changes in the Jefferson Nickel”.  Loren has followed up with an article on this subject in this month’s newsletter.

Lets all have a good time on the afternoon of July 22nd.

See you there………Your Editors.

 

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

 

Schedule of Events for the Month of July

  1. Anchorage Coin Club’s Summer Picnic: July 22nd  (Saturday) starting at 11:30 am and going through the afternoon. Picnic will be at the Centennial Park Campground  (see map). The main event will be our club’s YN Numismatic Auction. Members, YNs, and general public welcomed.
  2. Anchorage Coin Club Board Meeting:  July 19th (Wednesday) at 7:00 PM at the “New Cauldron Restaurant”   located at the University Center.  Club members welcomed.   

 

Minutes of the June 21st  Board Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 7:20 pm.

Meeting was held at the New Cauldron Restaurant located at the University Center in Anchorage.

The entire meeting focused on preparations for the July 22nd Summer picnic. Stan Mead will be picking up the items needed for the picnic. For now, Stan will look at providing items for about 50 people. Depending upon Roy’s calls to the members, Stan will adjust the quantities accordingly.

Bill Hamilton will arrange for the barbecue grill to be delivered around 11 am that Saturday. That should provide enough time to have hot food ready by 12 noon.

Larry Nakata will get with the Centennial Park Campground supervisor to make arrangements for 3-4 tables at the picnic grounds. We will have use of the campground’s house which has toilet and kitchen facilities.

Larry brought up a concern that the number of numismatic donation lots still remains small for the YN Auction.  We are only up to about 15 lots for the auction. The Board members agreed to actively solicit more donation items with the intent of getting about 40 lots by the time of the Summer picnic.

As there was no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 8:00 pm.

 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  ANCHORAGE COIN CLUB’S 18TH ANNUAL SUMMER PICNIC

Date:  July 22nd Saturday

Time:  11:30 am through the afternoon

Location:  Centennial Park Campground

    Come have a great time at our club’s summer picnic. Lots of fun and food. We will conduct the YN Numismatic Auction as the key event of this picnic.

The winning ticket for our club’s latest raffle coin will be picked at this event.

See you there……

 

A WORD ABOUT NICKELS
by Loren Lucason (Member #97)

 
    The first 5 cent U.S. nickel was the Shield nickel introduced in 1866. Many people thought the design was ugly. It did not last long.
 
Nickel is a hard metal to refine. It is also a hard metal to strike. Copper is added to soften it. The country had taken to hoarding silver during the civil war so when nickel became available it was used in coinage. Nickel has since become the most popular coin metal in the world.
 
The Liberty nickel went into circulation in 1883 and became one of our most used coins. Despite the hardness of the metal most Liberty nickels found today are quite worn. The infamous first variety of the design lacked the word “cents”. It was coated with a little gold by racketeers and passed off as a 5 dollar coin. The last Liberty nickel released was dated 1912 but a couple dated 1913 made it out of the mint. They became the rarest and most sought after coins in America. And they’re just nickels.
 
In 1913 the Buffalo nickel was issued. With an Indian chief on the front and a buffalo on the back it is considered the most American coin the mint has ever put out. They wanted the date to be indented but people thought germs wound get caught up in there. Thus the date sticking out of the coin is generally the first thing to wear off.
 
The Jefferson nickel was part of the transition to dead presidents on our coins. It is easy to put a set together.  An interesting and historic part of the set is the silver nickels issued during the second world war. Nickel was needed for the war effort. They are not rare but a BU set of war nickels is hard to put together. The hardest Jefferson to find in BU though is the ‘39D. The mark of a choice Jefferson nickel is the number of steps you can count on Monticello on the back.
 
If you are a numismatist you know about the new nickels. They commemorate the Louisiana purchase as well as Louis & Clark’s expedition across the continent. The “Westward Journey” nickels not only had new designs on the back they also had new renditions of Jefferson on the front. Jefferson went from a profile to a 3/4 profile facing the other way. And now Monticello is back and Jefferson is facing out of the coin. Check it out…..Loren.

 

THE GREAT ALASKA COPPER RUSH - Part I
 by Mike Nourse (Life Member #1)

 

McCarthy Alaska

McCarthy, Alaska

    Yes, I did say copper. And I didn't mean to say gold. We really did have a copper rush up here, and it was really getting going one century ago just about 150 air miles East of Anchorage in what is coincidentally known as the Copper River Valley.

It may seem hard to believe that such a fuss was made over lowly copper since we as coin collectors are so used to looking at copper as a base metal with no particular value to the metal itself. The reason for that disregard for this metal is because we are used to dealing with it in such small quantities that the metal value really is inconsequential. Even the huge cartwheels coins of Great Britain and Russia in the late 1700's to early 1800's had at most a few ounces, while copper prices are quoted in pounds or more often in tons. Quick, how much is an ounce of copper worth? Even if you are good at math, you still have to think about it for a second or two to divide the current price of over $3 per pound by 16 to get the price per ounce, or convert to troy pounds then divide by 12 to get the value per troy ounce so that you can compare it against silver and gold. Are you done yet?

Now you may think copper does not matter since you only collect silver and gold coins. Unless you are only collecting bullion silver and gold coins such as the American Eagle series, then the coins you have almost certainly have some copper in them. This is the case because pure silver and gold are too soft to be used in coinage without an alloy of some other metal. In the United States, the alloy metal of choice was copper. Even our nickel five cent piece is seventy five percent copper though it is hard to believe by looking at it. So, like it or not, you almost certainly have some copper in your collection. Darn those copper spots on my $20 gold piece!

Back to the great Alaska copper rush. Copper really is a base metal compared to silver and gold. Since it's price is often quoted in terms of dollars per ton, it is a safe bet that you are going to need a lot of tons of the stuff to make any kind of serious money. It just so happens that we had a lot of tons at the Bonanza mine near McCarthy, above the Kennicott Glacier. Copper was discovered in the area in 1885, and the Bonanza mine was finally claimed and surveyed in 1900.

There was virtually unlimited copper available at the Bonanza mine, but the real trick was to figure out how to get it to market. The mine was about 100 miles from the coast across the huge Chugach mountain range with its tall peaks and valleys completely filled in with ice. The area is infested with mosquitoes in the short summer and freezing cold in the winter. Of course there were no roads at that time, and few possible passages through the mountains.

 

Chitna Alaska

Chitna, Alaska

 

The obvious solution at the time was to build a railroad, as the automobile was still in it's infancy and incapable of hauling the substantial amounts of material necessary. Railroads had been considered since 1898 though their goal was to go from the coast to the gold fields several hundred miles north on the Yukon River. River boats would then be able to carry miners up and down the river to the various gold fields.

Surveys found that there were three promising points along the coast from which to build rail lines: Valdez in the West, Cordova in the middle, and Katalla a bit further East. All three locations had both positive and negative attributes, and therefore different companies started building rail lines from each of the three places. Katalla seemed to be the most promising, since it was located on a huge high grade coal field, and coal was needed for running locomotives and for smelting copper from the ore. There was even oil in Katalla. The downside was that Katalla was very exposed to the storms of the Gulf of Alaska and suffered from persistent winds and high seas. Cordova had a reasonably well protected port and was only 75 miles from the Katalla coal fields. Valdez had the best deep water port because both Cordova and Katalla were located near the mouths of rivers which dump a lot of silt, but building from Valdez meant going through the very narrow and dangerous Keystone Canyon and no access to the Katalla coal field.

Things got started in summer 1906. That summer there were three railroad construction projects underway in Alaska; the Copper River Railroad Co. began a line from the newly created townsite of Cordova to head up the Copper River, and the Alaska Syndicate, run by the Guggenheim Brothers and J. Pierpont Morgan, was building up from Valdez through Keystone Canyon. Unrelated to the copper mines was a railroad being built by the Alaska Central Railroad from Seward to the Susitna Valley. The obvious result of all this construction was a severe labor shortage, during which the railroads made a sport of attracting workers from the competing lines.

Things got shaken up a bit in late 1906 when the Alaska Syndicate bought the rights to Abercrombie Canyon from the Copper River Railroad company. This canyon was the key to building a railway up the Copper River as it is a narrow area with only room for one set of rails to fit through. Shortly thereafter, the Alaska Syndicate purchased the remaining assets of the Copper River Railway and renamed their venture the Copper River and Northwestern (CR & NW) Railroad. After this purchase, the construction was stopped on the line from Valdez, which was only built to a few miles out of town, approaching Keystone Canyon. For the moment, work would be concentrated in Cordova, though they quickly abandoned that idea and concentrated on building from coal rich Katalla.

By 1907 there were 5,000 to 10,000 people jamming Katalla looking for work, and the place was a real boom town. The Alaska Syndicate was working on two lines from Katalla at once: the main line up the Copper River going to Kennicott and a short spur to the nearby heart of the coal and oil fields.

 

Kuskulana Bridge

Kuskulana Bridge

 

With the Alaska Syndicate seemingly having abandoned the idea of building a railroad from Valdez, the newly formed Alaska Home Railway, run by Henry Reynolds, decided to try building from that town. The stumbling block for the Alaska Home Railroad was that the Alaska Syndicate still held the right of way to Keystone Canyon and there is no other way out from Valdez. The Alaska Home Railway tried to purchase the rights to Keystone Canyon, but the Syndicate would not sell, as building from Valdez was their backup plan if Katalla did not work out. Alaska Home Railway tried to take the canyon by force, and the Alaska Syndicate guards that were keeping an eye on the canyon opened fire on the group, killing one person.

The Alaska Syndicate still would not let go of Keystone Canyon, and it actually did not really matter any more since Henry Reynolds had run out of money and could not pay the Alaska Home Railway workers any more. The workers ended up having to go to Katalla to work for their former competition, the Alaska Syndicate.

Things weren't going much better in Katalla that summer of 1907, where persistent gales and stormy weather made it dangerous or impossible for supply ships to land. Success in Katalla depended upon construction of a 2000 foot breakwater to protect their harbor. Workers labored on the breakwater all summer, but a big storm came up in November of that year and destroyed all of their work along with the town dock and part of a railroad trestle which was under construction. After that, it was decided that the Alaska Syndicate would cease work in Katalla for the winter and return in spring of 1908. The winter would be spent on building the line from Cordova, up the Copper River to Abercrombie Canyon, through the narrow gap between the Childs and Miles Glaciers, then East to Kennicott.

 

Million Dollar Bridge Cordova

Million Dollar Bridge, Cordova

The Alaska Syndicate never did return to Katalla. Thousands of people lived there waiting for the Spring construction season, but it never came. Hope was kept alive though, as there were still definite plans to build a spur off the Copper River and Northwestern to the coal fields in Katalla, but that never happened either. There were other attempts to build railroads from Katalla or really get a significant coal mining operation going, but none ever lasted very long. The population of Katalla, which had been as high as 10,000, steadily dwindled throughout the 1910's as hope was given up.

Meanwhile in Cordova, railroad engineer Michael J. Heney was brought out of retirement in late 1907 by the Guggenheims to build the Copper River and Northwestern railroad from Cordova. There were 450 people working on the railroad in winter of 1907 - 08, a number which grew to 3,000 during the summer of 1908. The goal was to reach the crossing of the Copper River near the Miles Glacier at mile 51 by that October. At this point, it became fairly obvious that the main railroad line would be built from Cordova to the copper mines at Kennicott and on from there to the Yukon river. Cordova had won out based on having a well protected deep water harbor along with the possibility of tapping into Katalla's coal and oil. However, the entire enterprise depended upon the construction of a bridge across the Copper River between the Miles and Childs glaciers.

Due to the conditions in the area, the Miles Glacier bridge would have to be the strongest bridge ever built. It would be pounded year round by building sized icebergs along with huge waves created by ice collapsing off the front of the glacier. Then there is the persistent rapids of the Copper River, the extreme winds that can plague the area, and the weight of the ice that will build up on the bridge each winter. And there was always the danger that the Miles Glacier, located a mile away, would surge forward and wipe the bridge off the face of the earth without even hesitating. The Miles Glacier alone is larger than all of the glaciers in Switzerland combined, so no structure of any kind can withstand it's advance. Many engineers thought it would be impossible to build a lasting bridge here, but bridge engineer A. C. O'Neel would prove them wrong…..END OF PART I……Mike Nourse.

 

Kennicott Mine Alaska

Kennicott Mine Alaska

 


 

LOTS FOR JULY 22ND YN NUMISMATIC DONATION AUCTION

 

LOT #                    DESCRIPTION

 

1                                             1909-S Lincoln Cent. Net Good (Reverse scratch).

2                                             1955 S/.S/S Lincoln Cent (RPM #1)  MS64 Red.

3                                             1953P Franklin Half Dollar in MS63 condition.

4                                             1886P Morgan Dollar MS64.

5                                             1964 Austria 50 Schilling Silver Commemorative in Proof Condition. Commemorating the 1964 Olympics.

6                                             1970 10 Riyal Silver Commemorative Proof Coin. Honoring Dwight Eisenhower. Government of Ras Al Khaima.

7                                             1980 Isle of Man 1 Crown Commemorative in BU condition. Commemorating the Moscow Olympics.

8                                             Series 1928-B $1 Silver Certificate. Fine.

9                                             Series 1953 $2 Red Seal U.S. Note. Very Fine.

10                                          Series 1934-C  $5 Silver Certificate. Very Fine.

11                                          1980 U.S. Liberty Commemorative Half Dollar in BU condition.

12                                          Siberian 5 Kopek coin in VG condition. Minted somewhere between 1761 and 1799.

13                                          1974-D BU Roll of Lincoln Cents.

14                                          1970-S BU Roll of Lincoln Cents.

15                                          1908 U.S. $2 & ½ Gold Indian in XF40 condition.

 

The final lot of the auction will be a mystery grab bag of various numismatic items.

More lots to follow.

Thanks go to Bill Fivaz, Carl, John Larson, Jim Hill, and Larry Nakata for donation of numismatic items.

 


The Anchorage Coin Club

Club Officers

Board of Directors

Editors

Club Archivist/ Photographer

DUES

To save costs, members not responding to renewal notices within 3 months will be considered inactive.

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, Alaska 99523