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Dr. Benton Wood’s ‘The Game’s Afoot’ Elongated Coins

Dr. Benton Wood’s ‘The Game’s Afoot’ Elongated Coins

” It might be his portrait.”

– The Hound of the Baskervilles (HOUN)

In a recent post, we talked about The Philatelic & Numismatic Holmes by Benton Wood. In this post, we will talk about the elongated coin that Wood had designed in 1992.

Frank Brazzell
Frank Brazzell – at his work bench, engraving an hobo nickel

From the late 1970’s until his death in 1996, Frank E. Brazzell was the most prolific manufacturer of dies used to roll elongated coins. He engraved the dies for the 1991 MD TAMS elongated cent that we discussed in an earlier post. With the advent of interest in hobo nickels, he started engraving them as well. It was natural that Dr. Wood would reach out to Brazzell to design and roll his elongated coins.

Brazzell’s obituary in the April 16, 1996 Terre Haute Tribune read as follows:

Frank E. Brazzell, 60, of Terre Haute died at 6:04 p.m. Sunday, April 14, 1996, in Terre Haute Regional Hospital. He was a self-employed engraver and roller of manufactured coins. He was born June 25, 1935, in Riley to William Richard Brazzel and Helen McCullum Brazzell. Survivors include his wife, Jane VanUlzen Brazzell; his mother, Helen McCullum Brazzell of Terre Haute; one foster son and daughter-in-law, Bernard and Onalee Myles of Terre Haute; two nieces and one nephew. He was preceded in death by his father, and one sister, Juanita Jesse. He was a member of the Air National Guard, and served in Germany during the Berlin Wall Crisis. He was also a member of St. Mark United Church of Christ, the Elongated Collector’s Club and American Numismatic Association. He was well known nationally as an engraver, roller and manufacturer of elongated coins and machines. He had a unique style of engraving work in the Hobo nickel field and has been written about in many publications. He was a previous owner of two businesses in the Wabash Valley area. He studied engraving at the University of Arkansas and Memphis State University.

Brazzell maintained a listing of all the elongated coin dies he created. He published Elongated Coins by Frank Brazzell in a three ring binder and would send photocopied sheets of his latest works to those that subscribed to receive updates. It is through this book that we learned of the Sherlock Holmes elongated ordered by Dr. Benton Wood.

On page 245, we learn that Dr. Wood ordered a Sherlock Holmes die. Each die could hold four designs, and Dr. Wood’s design was the fourth design on Roll #1092. The other three designs on the roll are not Holmes related. We can estimate that these were ordered in the summer of 1992, as designs before and after the Sherlock Holmes design make reference to the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and the 1992 American Numismatic Association convention in Orlando.

OBVERSE: “THE GAME’S AFOOT” / (profile of Holmes, facing right, in deerstalker hat and with pipe)

Unfortunately, we don’t know how many of these coins were rolled and what denominations were used. On the title page of Brazzell’s work, he states that:

Elongated coins shown in this booklet are available on the following coins. Rolled on Cents, $.50 ea.; Rolled on Nickels, $.75 ea.; Rolled on Dimes, $1.00 ea.; Rolled on Quarters, $1.50 ea.; Rolled on Halves, $2.00 ea.; Rolled on S.B.A. $, $3.00 ea.

So the question is, what coins exactly were these rolled upon? It seems natural that cents were used. But what about the other denominations? Did collectors who got the updated sheets from Brazzell take it upon themselves to order other coins rolled?

And where did the good Dr. Wood distribute his elongates? Were they handed out at the January 1993 BSI Weekend festivities?

Your editor would be very glad to hear from those who have one of these elongates, in order to determine what coins they were rolled upon.

Thanks to David Sklow, Library Manager of the American Numismatic Association, for his assistance with this post.

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