ANA Museum Showcase to Feature Amazing Rarities

Exhibits explore Lesher Dollars, 1792 Half Disme and more

The American Numismatic Association's signature Museum Showcase, featuring rare and historically significant numismatic treasures, will be on display at the 2012 Spring National Money ShowSM, May 10-12 in Denver.

The showcase includes rarities from the ANA's Edward C. Rochette Money Museum and exclusive private collections. Located on the bourse floor at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, the showcase will feature informative, museum-quality exhibits with audio tours. Several rarities will make their Showcase debut in Denver, including the 1792 Half Disme.

"The Museum Showcase is an unparalleled feature of ANA shows and provides visitors with an educational and entertaining view of spectacular numismatic objects," ANA President Tom Hallenbeck said. "We are able to present these treasures because of our wonderful collection and the generosity of our members."

Most exhibits will be accompanied by Money Talks, the ANA's cell phone-guided audio tours, which are written and narrated by some of the country's most knowledgeable authors and experts. Go to to listen to podcasts of these tours as they are released.

Following is a list of Museum Showcase exhibits to be displayed in Denver. The ANA is also completing arrangements for exhibits on Indian Peace Medals, Colorado territorial gold and Colorado gold nuggets.

The 1792 Half Disme

An estimated 1,500 half disme silver coins were struck in the basement of a saw-maker's shop in Philadelphia in 1792 because the U.S. Mint was not yet operational. The coins - slightly smaller than a modern dime and weighing half as much - were first authorized by President Washington under the Mint Act of 1792. Thomas Jefferson, who was then serving as secretary of state, personally received the coins on Washington's behalf.

Modern researchers estimate that about 275 of the 1,500 originally struck survive today. The coin on display in the showcase was donated to the Money Museum in January by Steven L. Contursi, president of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, Calif.

Lesher Referendum Dollars

Seldom-seen, oddly shaped Lesher Dollars are interesting, rare pieces of money in Colorado's history. These octagonal silver "coins" were privately issued by Joseph Lesher in Victor, Colo., in 1900 and 1901 to boost local commerce and support silver mining. Various merchants punched their names into the coins, which was a form of advertisement and a message that Lesher dollars could be used to trade for goods and services at said business.

It's not clear how many Lesher dollars were actually struck - Lesher himself said in a 1914 interview that between 3,000-3,500 were minted, but noted Lesher Dollar researcher Adna Wilde believed only about 1,870 were made, of which only 550 were documented at the time.

The Idler/Bebee Class III Specimen 1804 Dollar

Known as "The King of U.S. Coins," the 1804 dollar is extremely rare, with only 15 known examples. No U.S. dollars dated 1804 actually were struck in that year; Class I specimens were struck in 1834-5 as diplomatic gifts (8 known), while Class II (unique) and III specimens (6 known) were struck during the 1850s for collectors. The Idler/Bebee specimen was donated to the ANA by Aubrey and Adeline Bebee in 1991.

Money Talks audio tour: Kenneth E. Bressett, who co-authored "The Fantastic 1804 Dollar" with Eric Newman, discusses the lore, origins and history behind the 1804 Dollar. Call 719-325-7608 and press 1#.

The McDermott/Bebee Specimen 1913 Liberty Head "V" Nickel

Five Liberty Head nickels were made in 1913 under mysterious circumstances. The existence of the nickels was unknown until 1919, when an advertisement in The Numismatist offered to purchase any example for $500. The ad was placed by Samuel W. Brown, a former Mint employee. In 1920 Brown exhibited all five nickels at the ANA convention in Chicago. The McDermott/Bebee specimen was donated to the ANA by Aubrey and Adeline Bebee in 1989.

Money Talks audio tour: NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg has authenticated all five 1913 Liberty Head Nickels and has many insights on these coins. Call 719-325-7608 and press 2#.

The National Bank Notes of Colorado

A wide range of rare National Bank notes from Colorado, as a territory and state, will be on display.

Money Talks audio tour: ANA Governor and paper money expert Wendell Wolka leads this tour of National Bank Notes. Call 719-325-7608 and press 3#.

The BEP Billion Dollar Display

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is also participating in the Money Talks tours. Paper money expert and ANA Governor Wendell Wolka narrated a five-stop tour of the BEP's Billion Dollar Display. Call 719-325-7608, press 7#, 8#, 9#, 10# and 11#.

The National Money Show features more than 500 dealers with an exhaustive numismatic inventory, great educational programming, and a variety of special events, family events and children's activities. Show hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. May 10-11 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 12. Admission is $6 for adults and free for ANA members and children 12 and under.  For more information or to download a $2-off admission coupon, go to

For high-resolution photos of items in the Museum Showcase, email

The American Numismatic Association is a congressionally chartered nonprofit educational organization dedicated to encouraging people to study and collect money and related items. The ANA helps its 28,000 members and the public discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of education and outreach programs, as well as its museum, library, publications, conventions and seminars. For more information, call 719-632-2646 or go to