ZanzibarCoins's Blog

07 Apr 2019

The Wild West and Its Inspired Coinage, Part 1 (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Belle Starr)

Young Numismatists Exchange | ZanzibarCoins

The Wild West has long fascinated many Americans. (I don't know if anyone on here has noticed, but I it interests and fascinates me a lot too) :) It has been the scene for many a movie. The setting for many a dime novel, novel, or Western movie that thrilled audiences both fifty + years ago and now. For some it's the wide open country side and the beauty of the sky or the mountain or the vistas and bluffs that the characters find themselves traveling on. For others it's the intrigue, the suspense, and the knowledge that the "good guy" will win, it's only a question of "How?". For others it's the bravery, the sacrifice, and the courage of the "good guy" or the good heart behind the cold exterior of the outlaw that's going to eventually surface and save the day. For some it's all of those combined. And yet there are still many, many other reasons why people enjoy Westerns, and the Wild West, and the whole idea of it all in general.

And, of course, when there is something that the public deeply enjoys, lots of times there are coins made for it (ex. the Winnie the Pooh coins). There is a set of 23 JFK half dollars, the obverse of each featuring a beautiful, colorized image of a famous outlaw of the West. (Colorizing coins involves a unique application of special inks directly to the surface of a coin using a unique and painstaking process, that achieves a level of detail, color saturation, and durability that is #1 in the industry) I'm going to touch briefly on each coin, and the outlaw it features (more famous, "popular" outlaws may have longer sections) throughout a series of blog posts. I do apologize ahead of time if they are a little spaced apart, since school is my top priority. :)I'm going to start with the first coin in the picture (since Icannotfor the life of me figure out how to get photos to load onto here, here is the order that the coins are in in the photo: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Belle Starr, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Ben Thompson,Wyatt Earp, The Apache Kid, Butch Cassidy, Pearl Hart, John Wesley Hardin, Clay Allison, Jim "Killer" Miller, Geronimo, Fred Waite, Jesse James, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, Bonnie and Clyde, Wild BillHickok, Tom Horn,StagecoachMary, and last but not least, The Sundance Kid. That was a lot oftyping :), and I'm sure y'all recognize a lot of those names.) which is the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a very famous shootout, and it is veryoftenin Western movies. (My Darling Clementine and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral ((what anoriginalname!)) being a few) The Gunfight atthe O.K. Corralis generally regarded as the most famous shootout in Wild West history.The Gunfight at the O.K. Corralwas a 30-secondshootoutbetweenmembers of a loosely organized group ofoutlawscalled theCowboys, and the lawmen of Tombstonethat took place at around 3:00p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, inTombstone, Arizona Territory. The gunfight was the result of a long feudbetweentheoutlawand the lawmen, with the Cowboys(Billy Claiborne,Ike and Billy Clanton, Wes Fuller, andTomandFrank McLaury)againstthe Town Marshal Virgil Earp,Special Policeman Morgan Earp, Special PolicemanWyatt Earp (cough, cough), and temporary policemanDoc Holliday (again, cough, cough). Both McLaury brothers were killed, and so was Billy Clanton. Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and Wes Fuller ran from the fight. Virgil, Morgan, and Doc Holliday were wounded, but Wyatt Earp was unharmed. Wyatt is often (wrongly) thought of as the central figure in the shootout. But in reality, it was his brotherVirgil, since Virgilwas Tombstone's city marshal and the deputy U.S. marshal that day, plus he had a lot more experience as a sheriff, constable, marshal, and soldier in combat.

Next is Belle Starr. Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr was better known as Belle Starr, and she was one of the most notorious female outlaws there was. She was a part of the James-Younger Gang, the most well-known members of which are Jesse James and his brother Frank James. She also has been the subject of several Western Movies, although none of them have managed to portray her as she really was, instead they romanticize her quite a bit. She started out as a well-raised lady (although her father was considered the black sheep of the town), with a classical education and skill at the piano. She fell in with the James boys and the Younger brothers when her family moved to escape the Civil War, although she had grown up with the boys in Missouri. It was her first husband, Jim Reed, that started her on the road to crime. She always had a strong sense of style, which fed into her later legend. She was quite a crack shot, and she used to ride sidesaddle while dressed in a black velvet riding habit and a plumed hat, carrying two pistols, with cartridge belts slung across her hips. After Jim Reed was killed, she married a Cherokee man named Sam Starr and settled in with the Starr family (notorious for their dealings in whiskey, and their cattle and horse thievery) in the Indian Territory. It was there that she learned the ways of organizing, planning and fencing for the rustlers, bootleggers, and horse thieves, as well as how to harbor them all from the law. It was here that her life of crime truly began. Her illegal enterprises proved to be enough for her to bribe officials to free her cohorts and family from the law whenever they were caught. In 1883, both she and her husband, Sam, were arrested, charged with horse theft, and tried before "The Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They were both found guilty, and she served nine months in prison. She proved to be a model prisoner and earned the respect of the prison matron while in jail.(Sam, however, was not a model prisoner, and was assigned to hard labor) In 1886, she managed to dodge conviction on another theft charge, but Sam was killed on December 17, 1886, in a gunfight with Officer Frank West, ending Belle's life as an outlaw queen. She was killed onFebruary 3, 1889, two days before her forty-first birthday.

Amazon.com (for photos of the 23 coins all together)
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wikipedia
Hollywoods Greatest Westerns, by Ted Sennett (for more info on the gunfight, and for info on the movies for the two coin subjects)
Belle Starr, Wikipedia



Level 4

Thank you for sharing! I love the part in the Old Spaghetti Westerns when they go into the saloon and toss a Silver Dollar on the Bar for a drink. I never see the Bar Tender give them change, but I would love to be there at that time in history to grab some of those Barber Dimes, Barber Quarters, and Shield Nickels.


Level 4

Thank you for an interesting history lesson.


Level 6

The West has fascinated many people throughout the world. You are in good company. II'm glad you found a niche for your passion. Good luck. Thanks.

Mike B

Level 6

I loved the History of our west. I figured if I lived back then I would work for stage coach company. Transporting people and gold. Lots of speed and the wife open spaces.I haven't seen many coins. But I love your research and the bibliography. Now I know were to go instead of following a dusty trail thanks enjoyed it.

Most of our coins came from a time when heroes and villains could still roam the mostly uninhabited Wild West. those days are over, but these coins sure bring back the times when they could. Great research.


Level 6

Great history lesson! I'll have to check this set out. Gotta love the Old West! ; )


Level 4

Most people in coin collecting find their passion, or should make a diligent effort toward it. ... I believe you have found yours. Happy Collecting and blessings. Thank you for the Wild West history. Sometime, you might research the Morgan Dollars relationship to the "Wild West." ................. "HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU." Pastor Greg

Just Mokie

Level 5

Saw them on Amazon, Not For Me, but as Mr. Barnum once said ,,........,,.......

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