British numismatic historian, Justin Robinson, takes us on a fascinating journey spanning 2000 years as he examines how the powerful symbol of Britannia changed and evolved over the centuries.
The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair offered its ten million visitors many exciting sights. Astronaut John Glenn brought his Friendship 7 space capsule, Elvis Presley even filmed a movie there, and Seattle’s famous Space Needle was built as the fair’s futuristic symbol. However, if you had purchased your ticket and walked on the fairgrounds in the spring of 1962, you would have been treated to a spectacular display which has never been re-created: a wire corn crib holding 1 MILLION gleaming US Silver Dollars!
This incredible display was the result of an unlikely partnership between the Philadelphia Mint and three Washington numismatists. The three convinced a Columbus, Nebraska manufacturing company to build a steel building on the fair site, while two large semi trucks each carried 500,000 silver dollars in mint-sealed bags from Philadelphia all the way across country to Seattle. (Of course, the trucks also carried armed Pinkerton guards, while state troopers and local police provided additional escort.)
To construct the Million Silver Dollars exhibit, 800,000 Morgan silver dollars in mint bags dated 1910-1915 were carefully stacked in the center of the aforementioned corn crib. Then, once the mountain of bags was completed, the final 200,000 Peace dollars were poured in to completely cover the bags. Fair visitors were allowed to pass within just a few feet of this amazing display from the Fair’s opening day, April 21, 1962, until it closed in October. Anywhere from 25,000 – 40,000 visitors passed through the steel building every day to gaze upon this once-in-a-lifetime sight. While most visitors considered themselves lucky to even be close to this treasure, one unsuspecting lady was the luckiest of them all! In June, as the one millionth fair visitor passed through the gates, she was presented with 100 of the silver dollars from the exhibit.
In the fall of 1962, just after the World’s Fair has closed, an ad appeared in a national coin magazine offering actual dollars from this exhibit, in commemorative holders, for $1.95 each. Or, you could purchase up to 5 bags per person for $1500 per bag of 1000.
Oh for a time machine to travel back 59 years, eh?!!
Steve Wolff is an American numismatist, writer, and video producer who has spent over 20 years sharing the fascinating stories behind coins and the historical events and personalities that inspired and shaped them.