So-Called Dollars


Purpose: To commemorate 100th anniversary of famed Pony Express operating between St. Joseph, MO, and Sacramento, CA, from April 3, 1860, to Oct. 24, 1861.

Organization: National Pony Express Centennial Association chartered 1957 in Utah as non-profit corporation; "only purpose" was to sponsor 1960 re-run and "to perpetuate history of the Pony Express." Board of Governors consisted of Governors of California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, eight states through which Express ran. Financed principally by sale of 1,000 letters carried by re-run riders, Official First Day Covers and U.S. Mint Medals.

Site, Dates: Full scale re-run in each direction from St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California July 19 to 28, 1960.

Comment: Operated as private venture, without subsidy, by W. H. Russell, Alex Majors and W. B. Waddell, Pony Express carried tissue paper mail at speeds previously unknown between Missouri River and California in effort to prove feasibility of central route to Pacific and to secure United States mail contracts. It played vital part in holding California to Union at time of Civil War. Performance was remarkable. Uninhabited, Indian-infested country comprised most of 1966-mile route of 190 stations yet 80 riders and 400 horses made 308 trips in 19 months with loss of only one mail and one rider killed. Completion of transcontinental telegraph brought end of service.

Centennial celebration featured 10-day Pony Express re-run requiring 960 riders and 960 horses, 480 in each direction. Concurrently, U.S. Air Force made Commemorative Flight, round trip, in 6 hours. All along route local festivities included parades, pageants, rodeos, costume balls, selection of Pony Express Queen in Salt Lake City and dedication of monuments and plaques (with more to follow) preserving location of old trail. Split-second timing found last pony arriving at each end within minutes of 9 P. M., July 28 as scheduled. Riders were presented with Bible, as they were 100 years ago, and Bronze medal struck at Philadelphia Mint. (See NOTE below).

Medals: Official Medals below authorized by Congress as "national medals"; designed by J. A. Links; struck at Philadelphia Mint. Reverse portrays famous Hansen Pony Express horse and rider, first painted by Herman Hansen in water color in 1900. Issue consisted of 500,000 Bronze (authorized; perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 struck) and 5,000 Silver; sold for $1.75 and $6, respectively.

NOTE: Mint also struck 2 1/4 in. "Founders" medal, similar in design but major differences in wording; 100 Bronze, not sold but presented to re-run riders; 3,000 Silver, boxed and sold for $40. Size precludes listing here.


Photos courtesy of Tom Hoffman

Obv. Three conjoined male heads part r., below • Founders • all within center circle; outside, above around * Russell-Majors-Waddell *; below United States Commemorative Medal
Rev. In center circle is Pony Express rider at gallop to l.; outside above, around National Pony Express Centennial Association; below 1860 • 1960

HK-582 Silver. 33mm. Turner 3.
HK-583 Bronze. Turner 3.


Designed and issued by Dr. Nolie Mumey, Denver as his "contribution to the Centenary of the Pony Express"; issue limited to 500 sterling Silver pieces, sold for $7.50 to $10. In November 1960, issuer advised that all medals had been sold and no more would be struck.

Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Pony Express Rider galloping r.--in inner circle; outside, above around Centenary of the Pony Express; below, around * 1860--1960 *
Rev. In oval Denver / Apr. 3 / 1960; outside, at lower edge, small Sterling

HK-584 Silver, antiqued. 39mm.


Issued privately "to commemorate centennial celebration in Colorado of Pony Express"; sold at "East Tincup," CO, replica of mining town of 1880's, opened 1960 as tourist attraction; located 12 miles west of Denver on route U.S. 40. Designed by W. M. Weber, Jr., operator of enterprise; 1,000 struck by Wendell-Northwestern; sold for $1. (See also Part II, East Tincup (Circa 1960)--Undated, for additional medals).

Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Horse and rider galloping l.; to r. 1860 / 1960; a star at l. and r. edge; above around The Pony Express; below Centennial
Rev. In center oval is a horse galloping l., above Pony Express, below horse is a line and below line Apr. 3 / St. Joseph; outside oval, above Winning the West; below 1860 * 1960

HK-585 Gilt Bronze. 33mm.

HK-579 to HK-581