1897 "I'm All Right" Political Mechanical Coin

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

How did you come to acquire this fake gold coin?

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

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.


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?


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.


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

Amazing, amazing, that's for sure.

Appraisal Details

Heritage Auctions
Los Angeles, CA
Appraised value (2004)
$2,000 Retail$3,000 Retail
St Paul, MN (June 26, 2004)

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