“North to Alaska, We’re Going North, the Rush Is On!”

Well, perhaps not all the way “North to Alaska” like the old Johnny Horton song suggests, but a stop in Seattle in 1909 is in order for this installment of the Exonumia Corner. Some readers may recall that I attended the March 2015 ANA mid-winter convention in Portland, Oregon. While there I combed the bourse floor for items for my collections. Two days of searching yielded nothing I couldn’t live without, but on the last day I struck pay dirt. A folder at a dealer’s table was marked “exonumia” and the hunt was on. I saw nothing at first, but toward the back of the folder I saw an item I knew was going home to New Hampshire with me.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries yet another Gold Rush was on, this time in Alaska’s Klondike Region, a harsh and unforgiving clime compared to California’s gold fields some 50 years earlier. In 1909 the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition was held in Seattle, Washington. This early World’s Fair – only Japan and Canada actually participated along with the USA – opened its gates to 80,000 visitors on the first day of the event, June 1st. President Taft opened the fair at 12 noon (3 PM EST) from the White House by pressing a gold telegraph key studded with nuggets from the Klondike. By closing day in October, some 3.7 million people had attended. The oddest occurrence at the fair surely must have been the raffle with a first prize of a month-old orphaned boy named Ernest! It is reported that there was a winning number but that no one ever claimed their prize. Numismatically the fair produced a wealth of medals, gold tokens, and other ephemera.

Speaking of prizes, the reward for my diligence came in the form of a small 2” sword with a neat and intricate brass hilt and handle design. A small heart of what appears to be gold dangles from the hilt and is marked “SEATTLE / A.Y.P.E / 1909” on three lines. The website Google provided numerous leads to pages of A.Y.P.E. souvenirs, but among the hundreds of items listed I could not find an illustration of my little sword. Evidently this little survivor from 1909 is rare, but all things considered, I’m probably the only collector who cares! And that’s the fun of numismatics.

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