Forgotten Colorado Silver: Joseph Lesher’s Defiant Coins
At the turn of the last century, miner Joseph Lesher attempted to raise the price of silver by privately minting octagonal “Referendum souvenir medal” coins with values of $1.25 or $1. They were common in Victor, Cripple Creek, Denver and other places in Colorado in the days after William Jennings Bryan fought unsuccessfully for free silver. Surviving an initial dust-up with the Secret Service, Lesher found a loophole to place them in circulation in 1900 and 1901. Today, coin collectors pay more than $1,000 for one. This is the story of Joseph Lesher and his audacious private mint, along with the merchants in the mining towns and elsewhere who supported him.
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