“Big Money for a big show” reads the title of an article in the September 1962 issue of Coins magazine. What was the big money? It was $ 1 million in cash. What was the big show? It was the Seattle World’s Fair, which was held the same year in Washington. To get there, a semi-finals convoy, accompanied by enhanced security, transported the shiny new cart wheels from Philadelphia to Seattle where they would be on display for vigilantes to marvel.
“This summer, three Washington State numismatists take the stage on America’s biggest show. And they do it on a large scale, ” Coins reported.
Century 21, the fair’s planning committee, was looking to produce a medal for the event.
“Together with government officials, the committee ordered the minting of 500,000 commemorative bronze medals by the US Mint.
“But the Fair Committee had neither the desire nor the means to market the medals. They needed someone to handle this end of the operation.
So they turned to three Washington State numismatists, Barnard (Barney) Tomlinson, Lawrence McBride and Vernon Bosley, who operated Northwest Historical Medals Inc. They had formed Northwest to strike a series of medals commemorating the great hydraulic dams in the Pacific Northwest. .
“But when they got wind of the Century 21 opportunity, the series of roadblocks vanished and they approached the fair committee with a quickly but carefully crafted plan.
They went to work on creating additional medals for each of the exhibits planned at the fair to team up with the Mint and came up with another bolder idea.
“The [Century 21] The committee was impressed, but when the three members from the Northwest deposited their ace, the committee became enthusiastic.
“If numismatics is going to participate in this Fair, thought the three, it should take part in it on a large scale. The more money the better.
“Almost everyone dreams and talks about a million dollars, but how many people have ever seen that amount of money in one place at a time?
“Why not have a screen with a million dollars in cash?”
The problem was knowing where to get the parts, how to transport them and how to display them at the fair.
“One day Barney Tomlinson, president of Northwest and dairy farmer, noticed an advertisement in a trade magazine for steel buildings from Behlen Manufacturing Company in Columbus, Nebraska.
“Your steel building looks like it could hold a million dollars in silver,” Barney told Walter D. Behlen, president of the company. “How would you like to furnish the building – and the silver dollars?” “
Behlen was interested and got to work, securing the cooperation of the director of the Mint, Eva Adams, to plan the transport of the 30 tons of coins from Philadelphia to Seattle.
“In order to meet the fair’s opening date of April 21, Behlen also had to work fast,” Coins wrote. “Seattle’s corrugated steel building nearing completion, two large Chevrolet diesels have pulled away from the Philadelphia Mint, each carrying $ 500,000 in cash in sealed mint bags.
Collectors are always cautioned to beware of advertising they have coins, but that does not appear to have been of great concern for those fair silver dollars. Blasted in letters worthy of a poster board on the side of the semi-finals, properly affixed next to a representation of the Fair’s Space Needle, was the text: “ON TO THE SEATTLE WORLD’S FAIR!” / ONE MILLION / SILVER DOLLARS / presented by Behlen Mfg. Columbus, nebr, provided by The Hartford. “
One of the reasons for not being too concerned with such blatant publicity of the movable treasure was the number of guards for the trip.
“The Pinkerton guards got on with the trucks, state soldiers and local police led the guard as the semi-finals roared west,” Coins insured.
Once at the fair, 800,000 dollars in bags, “all mint-sealed between 1910 and 1915”, were stacked in the center of a glass-enclosed Behlen corn crib. “Then on several occasions the bags were poured a cascade of $ 200,000 of peace: $ 1,000,000 in silver, just for appearance, just sitting there collecting 167 dollars a day in interest.”
It is estimated that 25,000 to 40,000 people visited the exhibition each day. “One day in early June, the millionth visitor walked into the steel building to see the million dollars. Anne Marbury, 21, Baldwin Park, Calif., Received 100 of the shiny cart wheels on display under surveillance. “
After the fair, Northwest offered the corn nursery dollars for sale to the public. According to Tomlinson, “Anyone interested in picking up a sealed mint bag of dollars minted before 1910 can deposit $ 200 and pay the balance by October 5.” We will deliver by 22.
In November 1962 Coins, they offered a single dollar in silver from the exhibit at $ 1.95, with a limit of two per person. They were probably the peace dollars. The $ 1,000 in silver in original mint-sealed bags, probably all Morgans, with date labels ranging from 1909 to 1914, were available for purchase at $ 1,500. There was a limit of five bags.
Northwest also sold a set of nine medals, which included a medal honoring the Silver Dollar exhibit. The set was housed in a special Whitman Bookshelf album for $ 28.50 in bronze or $ 112.50 in silver. (From the December 1962 issue of Coins, the firm’s selling price on the set of nine silver medals was expected to climb to $ 135 due to the increase in the price of silver.) The Philadelphia Mint medal was also sold separately at 1 , $ 95 in bronze.
Other collectibles were available at discounted prices, including “Official Bronze Space Age Mint Medals, Rolled Cents, Space Age Dollars, Charms, bracelets, key chains, necklaces, plastic holders, million dollar souvenir banknotes and many other valuables ”. A $ 5 bundle of the same, “containing at least $ 7.50 of merchandise”, and a $ 10 bundle, “containing at least $ 15 of merchandise of our choice” were offered.