Q. David Bowers
"Cardboard boxes had been prepared for the reception of the coins, much like those in which pills are sold. No finger touched the first of the souvenirs, but the pliers gently clutched it by the rim and conveyed the $10,000 lump to the box which was immediately sealed and handed to the World's Fair commissioner. After the delivery of the first coin the foreman and his assistant continued coining by hand until they had struck 100 Proof pieces, occupying about an hour in the task. Power was then applied, and the actual work of making 5,000,000 half dollars went rapidly ahead .... " (The Swiatek-Breen book, pp. 69-73, presents the possibility that the defective No.1 coin, struck before the first approved souvenir coin was made, was not destroyed but was given the designation No.2 and later came into the possession of J.K. Robinson, a man who had earlier sought to buy the first 100 pieces struck for $1 each. Actually, before any coins were struck in the ceremony just described, from one to several pieces were made, per usual procedure, to adjust the die spacing on the press. Usually such set-up pieces (as they are called) are destroyed. )
What Happened to the First Coins Minted
To capitalize on the intense nationwide interest in the Columbian half dollars, Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, makers of the Remington typewriter, garnered much publicity by purchasing the first specimen struck, paying the incredible sum of $10,000! At the time when the transaction was made, a week's wages for a typical factory worker amounted to $5 to $7, and the sum of $10,000 represented the earning power of someone for nearly a lifetime! The sparkling $10,000 beauty was given by the Remington typewriter interests to the new Columbian Museum (later known as the Field Museum of Natural History) in Chicago. In the meantime the Remington Standard Typewriter was endorsed as the official mechanical writing device of the Exposition.
The 400th, 1492nd and 1892nd half dollars, considered to be of special numerical consequence, were also sold at premiums, whereas the remaining coins were offered to the public for $1 each.
On December 16th the following newspaper notice appeared:
"The first 60,000 of the new Columbian souvenir half dollars were shipped this morning from the United States Mint in this city [Philadelphia]. The first delivery of 10,000 coins left on the 9:50 express for New York City, in possession of John F. Shriver, representing Colonel Elliott F. Shepard. The remaining 50,000, including the '$10,000 beauty' [the one purchased by the Remington Typewriter interests] and three other valuable pieces, were placed in the hands of the United States Express Company consigned to the subtreasury at Chicago and left on the Columbian Express over the Pennsylvania Railroad at 4:25 p.m.
"The 50,000 coins destined for Chicago occupied five kegs in sealed bags, marked $5,000 each. On the head of each keg was nailed a label marked 'Columbian Coins, 10,000 Half Dollars. Assistant Treasurer of the United States, Chicago, Ill.' Each keg was sealed in such a manner that the seal must be broken in removing the head.
"Particular attention was devoted by Mint Superintendent Bosbyshell and his assistant to the packing of one keg, which was distinguished from the others by the word 'Special' marked in blue pencil on the head. There were five bags of coins placed in this keg as in the others, but one of them was marked $4,998 instead of $5,000. This indicated the omission from contents of four half dollars, one of which is now the most valuable piece in its denomination ever produced. These four were the first, or '$10,000 beauty,' the 400th, 1492nd, and the 1892nd coins of the new issue. These pieces, on account of their extraordinary value, which was estimated at not less than $15,000, were placed in a separate package. Each of them was first inserted in a small circular pasteboard box which, after being wrapped in stout paper, was marked as follows:
"'No.1, 400, 1492, 1892, Columbian half dollars. Sealed by C.O. Bosbyshell, Superintendent United States Mint.' This package was sealed and packed in the keg marked 'Special,' after being placed in a wooden cigar box, which was used to prevent the heavy bags of coins from crushing the package. These extraordinary precautions in sealing and packing were taken at the request of the president of World's Fair Commission, who in a letter to the Treasury Department asked that the coins be so arranged that they need not be disturbed by the subtreasurer at Chicago. 'One of the pieces,' he wrote, 'has already been sold for $10,000, and it is very important that we should be able to show the purchaser that they are the identical coins called for on the separate certificates.'"
Subsequently a Chicago newspaper reported the arrival of the first shipment:
"Barrels of money were opened yesterday. This money was all of one denomination-silver half dollars with the glitter of the Mint in their milled edges. The face of Columbus was on one side; on the other side the caravel and two hemispheres, with the price marked in plain figures. A plain little man with iron-grey whiskers, chinchilla overcoat, and black derby hat went over to the Government Building yesterday afternoon accompanied by a dray and some hired help. He and his men loaded up five kegs of silver money and drove away to the offices of the World's Columbian Exposition.
"It was a little after 12 o'clock when a big wagon from Marshall Field's wholesale store pulled up on Quincy Street to await orders. It was drawn by a team of heavy bays and the driver was 'Elzie' Roe. Up in the fourth floor of the Rand-McNally building President Higinbotham was waiting for Vice-President Fred W. Peck and Treasurer Seeberger to get on their coats. The three dropped down the elevator, pursued by a curious crowd. Mr. Higinbotham went out to Quincy Street and waved his hand at 'Elzie' on the high seat. Then he and Mr. Peck and Mr. Seeberger made a shortcut toward the Government Building with the dray close behind. The three Swedes with yam mittens and comforters were waiting on Jackson Street when Mr. Higinbotham showed the dray where to back up. Their names were Charley Knutson, Otto Johnson, and Emil Olson. Charley went upstairs with the president to load the kegs in the elevator.
"About 20 people were waiting outside the Subtreasury railing when Mr. Higinbotham came in and shook hands with Cashier Whittemore through a square hole. The cashier pulled a string unlatching a side door, and a crowd went in to look at the kegs. President Higinbotham produced five large and fancy drafts upon the subtreasurer, each calling for $5,000 in Columbian half dollars. He sat at a table and wrote on the back of each: 'World's Columbian Exposition, H. N. Higinbotham, President.