The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 19, May 7, 2023, Article 28


Never had one of these in my counterstamp collection. Bonhams is selling an 1854 Penny shot by Annie Oakley. -Editor

  1854 Penny shot by Annie Oakley obverse 1854 Penny shot by Annie Oakley reverse

A Rare 'Oakley' 1854 Penny Coin

Annie Oakley's act included the shooting of coins thrown into the air which were then stamped 'OAKLEY' and handed out to members of the audience. For a related half-penny see Christie's London, Fine Modern Sporting Guns and Vintage Firearms including Annie Oakley's Winchester, 24 March 1993, lot 128

Annie Oakley Annie Oakley (1860-1926) was born Phoebe Ann Moses in Darke County, Ohio. She was born into a poor family and much of her early life was spent 'shooting for pot'. Her first gun was a Parker 16-gauge supplied with a hundred brass shells. Annie gradually achieved local fame for the cleanness of her kills and she excelled in local turkey shoots, her reputation leading eventually to the match against the man who was destined to be her husband. Frank Butler was one of a number of itinerant sharpshooters who travelled the United States, and the match took place in Ohio in 1881. The bet was $100, a sizeable sum at the time, and Frank was astonished by the appearance against him of a 'little slim girl in short dresses'. Annie won 23 to 21 and a romance developed between the two which was to last a lifetime. They married and Frank Butler became Annie's manager, their early married life being spent as travelling performers. It was at this time, in 1884, that Annie appeared before Sitting Bull, victor of the Battle of Little Big Horn, who was, in Annie's words, 'about as much taken by my shooting stunts as anyone else ever has been...he raved about me and would not be comforted.' Sitting Bull insisted upon adopting her and he named her 'Little Sure Shot' in tribute to her marvellous shooting abilities.

Her skills took her to performances with the Sells Brothers Circus and finally to the show that won her her greatest acclaim - Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. At the time, a female exhibition shooter must have been a remarkable sight in such a 'rough-and-tumble' world. Annie would open the shows, 'tripping in, waving, bowing and blowing kisses'. Standing out in her feminine but practical clothes, the diminutive Annie would break clays and glass balls in any number of combinations and with any type of firearm. She would fire pistols from each hand, fire rifles lying prone across chairs or held above her head; she shot from every conceivable position in a manner that, reported the Fall River (Mass.) Evening News, 'causes the men to marvel and the women to assume airs of contented superiority.' At one time she shattered a record 4,772 out of 5,000 glass balls and one of her favourite tricks was to fire a rifle backwards over her shoulder whilst sighting in a mirror. She was so good that some thought the glass balls filled with an explosive that would detonate when she fired.

In 1887, the Wild West Show sailed for London and Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Here she opened at Earl's Court, the show generating tremendous public enthusiasm with the English. Special performances were commanded by Prime Minister Gladstone, by Edward, Prince of Wales, and finally by Queen Victoria herself who, asking to meet Annie, called her 'a very, very clever little girl.' She also met Charles Lancaster from whom she ordered the first of a number of guns, including 12 and 20-bores.

Annie was soon known as 'the wonder of both continents...the greatest rifle and wing shot in the world' and in 1899 in the year of the Paris Universal Exposition, she appeared before the French President and assembled grandees. The Show moved on, for a three year tour of Europe, calling at Dresden, Venice, Rome, Vienna, Barcelona and Munich, where Annie saved Prince Luitpold of Bavaria from an enraged bronco called 'Dynamite' knocking him to the ground inches from disaster. A second tour of Europe opened in 1891 during which Annie shot the ashes off a cigarette placed in Crown Prince Wilhelm's (later Kaiser Wilhelm II) mouth, thereby, as some later said, missing her chance to prevent the First World War.

The later years of Annie's life were marked by a true stardom and the peace that comes from the final realization of one's goals in life. She was able to perform as an actress, to build herself a new home in Maryland and to escape some of the rigours of the travelling life; her life, however, was still full of shooting and gentle tuition. She died 3 November 1926, a remarkable and universally loved woman.

To read the complete lot description, see:
A Rare 'Oakley' 1854 Penny Coin (

To read the complete press release, see:
Rare Coin Shot by Annie Oakley at Bonhams Arms and Armour Sale in Knightsbridge (

  CNG E-Sylum Ad Auction 123

Wayne Homren, Editor

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