1897 “I’m All Right” Political Mechanical Coin

Value (2004) | $2,000 Retail$3,000 Retail

APPRAISER:
How did you come to acquire this fake gold coin?

GUEST:
Handed down from my grandfather on my father's side.

APPRAISER:
Well, it's called the "I'm All Right" coin, and it says it's patented in 1897. The front is rather mundane. When you turn it over, you see that the top says "gold standard," and this relates to the very famous "Cross of Gold" speech by William Jennings Bryan that he made in the '90s at the Democratic Convention. The gold standard, he felt, was crippling the American farmer and the poorer people in the country, gold standard removed. And to this day, when there's a political convention and a dark horse is going to make his speech, it's called a "Cross of Gold" speech. Bryan stampeded the convention with this magnificent speech. He was one of the great orators of all political time. This speech changed American politics. Even though he ran many times for president and never won, he had a tremendous influence, and one of the things he had influence on was monetary policy. Opposing him in this campaign, uh, in the late 1890s was McKinley and Roosevelt, pro-gold standard. And this coin is an early example of very negative political advertising, something we're very used to today. So the coin here says "gold standard." It says it makes a dollar worth 100 cents, and gives the name "Mack," the nickname for McKinley. But this is a mechanical device, and you move it, and a new sentiment is revealed. It says "free silver" -- which was what Bryan was advocating to replace gold-- makes a dollar worth 50 cents.

And then there's some derogatory comments about Bryan and his running mate, Stevenson. This piece is so important because the movement was so important. It eventually did have an influence on the way gold was used and the way silver was promoted in the monetary system, that this piece is quite desirable, and very few examples exist. First of all, very few were created to begin with. It was a complicated piece to make.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
And what happened at this period, the celluloid political pin-back button was invented. It was patented by Whitehead & Hogue in 1894, So political buttons were just absolutely flooding the market. There are huge numbers of McKinley and Bryan political buttons. Have you ever had a value placed on this?

GUEST:
Never.

APPRAISER:
It doesn't even appear in most of the price guides. Right now this piece is selling between $2,000 and $3,000. I would think $2,500 would be a fair retail value.

GUEST:
Unbelievable.

APPRAISER:
This is sort of like a Holy Grail piece. In the nine years on ROADSHOW, I've never seen one.

GUEST:
Amazing, amazing, that's for sure.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Heritage Auctions
Los Angeles, California
Appraised value (2004)
$2,000 Retail$3,000 Retail
Event
St Paul, MN (June 26, 2004)
Period
19th Century
Material
Metal

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.