Volume 16, Number 10, March 10, 2013
New subscribers this week include Christopher B. La Salle and Jim Van Horn. Welcome aboard! We have 1,629 email subscribers, plus 217 followers on Facebook.
This week we open with Kolbe & Fanning's second numismatic ephemera sale, Holabird-Kagin's offering of the Jack Totheroh library, and a review of the new book on collecting and investing in Confederate Currency.
Other topics this week include John Dannreuther's take on the first 1794 dollar, U.S. military medals, Frank Lapa's replicas, P.T. Barnum's Tom Thumb tokens, electronic benefit tokens and a new exhibit on money art.
To learn more about Charlie Chaplin’s cameraman, Crick's Nobel, L. W. Schnelling's book, Peter Max's numismatic art, the amazing Blue Titanium coin and Herb Hicks and the re-legalization of Gold Certificates, read on. Have a great week, everyone!
David Fanning forwarded this announcement of the second sale of numismatic ephemera from the collection of George Kolbe. -Editor
Kolbe & Fanning are pleased to announce the second in a series of occasional internet sales featuring numismatic ephemera acquired over several decades by the firm’s founder, George Kolbe. The sale includes a diverse offering of numismatic memorabilia, letters, circulars, photos, promotional materials and other miscellanea. The usual mail-bid terms of sale apply, but printed listings will not be issued. The sale features 100 lots and has been posted on the firm’s website at www.numislit.com.
A few of the highlights in the second sale, which closes on Thursday, March 21, follow:
—A Receipt for a Subscription to the Numismatist, 1906–07, Signed by Geo. F. Heath
Download the sale today and don’t delay in bidding! Bids will be accepted by phone at (614) 414-0855, by fax at (614) 414-0860, or by email at email@example.com. Thank you for your participation.
Paul Williams of Holabird-Kagin forwarded this announcement of the sale of Jack Totheroh's numismatic library. -Editor
Offered for Sale April 12 & 13, 2013
Atlantis Hotel & Casino, Reno, Nevada
Jack Totheroh researched California Fractional Gold for over 40 years and acquired an extensive numismatic library, which Holabird/Kagin Americana is proud to offer at auction April 12 & 13, 2013 in Reno, Nevada.
Hundreds of auction catalogs dating back into the 1850s will be offered, by the most famous coin auctioneers of the past 150 years. Mehl, Chapman’s, Stack’s Kreisberg, Thomas Elder, Bangs & Merwin and many other firms are represented. Numismatic books dating back to the 1870s are offered many with beautiful engravings of coins.
Many copies of the Breen/Gillio reference work “California Pioneer Fractional Gold” are offered, from new condition first edition hardback to well-used with Jack’s notes, auction histories and comments included.
The tenacious Totheroh traced auction sales from the earliest records, and in 2005, this founding member of the Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatics received its first Pioneer of the Year award. Manuscripts from his presentations are included in the sale, including 35mm slides.
Preview will be held at the Holabird/Kagin office April 11 or by appointment, (775)852-8822.
Bidding is available by mail, email, fax, phone or internet. The entire auction catalog can be viewed online at: Holabirdamericana.com .
An interesting piece of Totheroh trivia from Holabird-Kagin: "Jack’s father was Charlie Chaplin’s cameraman and as a baby, Jack starred in a Chaplin film. " -Editor
Fred Reed wrote a review of a new book on Confederate Currency by Jerry Wayne Hilton that was published in the March/April 2013 issue of Paper Money, the official monthly publication of the Society of Paper Money Collectors. With permission, we're republishing it here in its entirety. The article title is "Collector Hilton Shares Montgomery Insights". -Editor
Every writing course instructor stresses that authors should write about what they know best, so it should come as no surprise to Paper Money readers that South Carolina collector Wayne Hilton, who has assembled no fewer than 10 four-note condition census sets of high grade CSA Montgomery notes should have spun an amazing tome on this high-valued, historic series.
Any new book on Confederate currency is a cause for excitement. The appearance of a great new book on this topic is cause for joy. Collector-investor Jerry Wayne Hilton’s Collecting Confederate Currency Hobby or and Investment. Volume One: Criswell Types 1-4 “The Magnificent Montgomerys” is indeed such a book.
In it the author conveys his journey quantifying the investment return advantage (if any) enjoyed by a collector of high grade Montgomerys versus more traditional investments. To assess his position the author spent approximately 14 years attempting to record EVERY CSA Montgomery note sale at public auction since the Civil War.
Hilton then turned over his data to college professor and frequent Paper Money contributor Dr. Steve Feller, PhD to assess return rates over the last 150 years. According to Hilton’s data and Feller’s calculations, an investor in the marketplace over the entire last 150 years would have benefitted from purchases of CSA Montgomery notes compared to like investments in silver bullion, barrels of oil, or corporate stock (represented by the S&P Average).
The data and calculations reveal two distinct phases in investment growth over the last century and a half: (1) through World War II; and (2) since mid-20th century. Rates of return for investments considered (including CSA Montgomery Notes) accelerated in the more recent phase.
Having satisfied his desire to quantify and gauge his investment returns, investor Hilton proceeded to share his joy of collecting in the present volume, the first of several such books in which he plans to record the sales of the first 38 Criswell CSA types and the two so-called “essays.”
We are indebted to Wayne for importuning Chet Krause and Clarence Criswell to recall their own illustrious excursions into this field. By prevailing upon them to reveal hidden nuggets from personal experience, Wayne succeeded in coaxing them onto the historical record for readers not yet born to enjoy. Their essays are tiny gems.
Author Hilton also provides an interesting account of his own introduction to CSA currency collecting through his brother, and his background in media and advertising.
Following these very enjoyable preliminaries, Chapter 1 offers Hilton’s reasoned but highly selective, illustrated timeline of a century and a half of collecting CSA paper money that is very readable and his style pleasing. He includes many “firsts,” which the present reviewer also regards as hallmarks of this saga, but ignores – it must be admitted – other more important events during that time.
Chapter 2 provides a brief summary of numismatic auction history based on his first-hand, rigorous examination of thousands of auction catalogs. However the gem of this chapter is his quantifying rarity of various CSA type notes based on frequency of auction appearances.
Chapter 3, co-authored by respected researcher, dealer Crutch Williams provides a highly speculative account of Montgomery note printing in the North early in 1861. In Chapter 4 statistician Feller explains his method of return rate calculations presented in the volume.
The meat of the book is Chapters 5-8, which detail ALL Montgomery note auction appearances Mr. Hilton could discover in some 30,000 or so numismatic auctions in the last 150 years. The author’s research is to be commended. His detailed listings and illustrations of the four Montgomery note types provide eye candy and solid historical data much appreciated by collectors and researchers in this field.
Quality printing, binding, paper and jacket (art by John W. Jones) compliment the work. However, this book is not perfect, nor should one expect the brainchild of an auteur to be so as a self-published work. This book would have been much stronger for me if the author had skipped Chapter 3 altogether. The book could be improved by an editor. It also begs a condition census, running heads, and index.
However its most serious failing is the author’s disregard of the accomplishments of Confederate currency author Pierre Fricke in the last decade. His contributions to the history of CSA note collecting are entirely excluded from the discussion except obliquely referenced in a single instance as “contemporary author” or something of the kind with regard to a Stack’s inventory of the remnants of the John Browne collection in 1969.
Given its great strengths, however, I highly recommend this book and look forward to the additional tomes. It will be interesting to see what Mr. Hilton does for an encore. The subsidized cost is modest $49.95 (offset by ad revenue) plus $5.00 postage & handling. Mail checks to J. Wayne Hilton, PO Box 1, Graniteville, SC 29829-0001. Mention whether an autograph is desired; I did!
Editor Serge Pelletier writes:
The February issue of Moneta is now available at www.ons-sno.ca.
In this issue:
I passed the Siege of Mafeking article to our resident siege expert, Dr. Lawrence C. Korchnak, who writes:
In The Notes of the Siege of Mafeking, LaSalle and Woodland provide an excellent description of the conditions that Lord Baden-Powell and his troops endured as they defended Mafeking against the Boers. It is very well written...succinct yet comprehensive. The article is historically sound and presents a clear explanation of the extreme conditions under which the Mafeking siege notes were produced. There are fine illustrations including the rare One Pound Note as well as the spelling error variety of the 10 Shilling Note. Notably, the article also mentions Baden-Powell's Mafeking Cadet Corps, a volunteer group of boys between ages of 12-15 that laid the conceptual foundation for his creation of the organization that we know as the Boy Scouts. As a specialist in siege money, I hope that The Notes of the Siege of Mafeking inspires readers to acquire a copy of Paper Currency of the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, by John Ineson, Spink and Sons, 1999.
John Dannreuther submitted these thoughts in response to earlier discussions of the Carter specimen of the 1794 dollar. Thanks! -Editor
After reading the varied and interesting comments about the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar graded PCGS SP66 and its recent record sale for over ten million dollars, I thought your readers might be interested in hearing comments from the other camp. Yes, I believe that this is the first United States silver dollar struck and, no, there is no “proof” of this conclusion other than logic (pun intended!).
Before I give my explanation of why this coin has a silver plug AND adjustment lines, some details about this coin should help explain why this coin was called SP by PCGS. When David Hall called me about this coin and asked my opinion as to its designation status, I asked him if it was a Morgan dollar, what would he call it? His answer: “a Proof.” Those who have examined this coin outside of its plastic holder have been amazed by the depth of its mirrored fields. It is hard to see this reflectivity behind plastic, as most numismatists have either seen it in the large Capital plastic holder from the 1984 Carter sale or in a PCGS holder. It has been examined by numerous numismatists on several occasions at coin shows after cracking it out of its PCGS holder (see recent Coin World article by Donn Pearlman for more about these examinations).
PCGS uses the SP designation for early United States coins that were called master-coins at the time. At various times, the Mint called its specially struck coins master-coins, patterns, Specimens, and much later, Proofs. Generally, prior to 1873, they were called Specimens in the Coiner’s ledger, thereafter Proofs, although an entry in 1867 designated a delivery of “Proof Coin.” In earlier Mint correspondence, these special coins were called master-coins or patterns (this term did not obtain its current meaning until the latter part of the nineteenth century). The Coiner’s ledgers are not located today and we know of them from a 1939 letter to Wayte Raymond, who inquired into the Proof mintage figures. Even in 1939, the Mint officials could find no physical records of Proof coinage prior to 1865.
We know Mint Director David Rittenhouse received all of the 1794 silver dollars, as he supplied the silver used to strike them. Researchers Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger recently found the Rittenhouse signed delivery receipt in the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Thus, all 1794 dollars can be pedigreed to the good doctor. If he kept a coin, logic would say he would have kept the first coin struck.
What is another reason that some of us believe this is the first silver dollar struck? Die state. In studying coins, die states can tell us quite a lot. A die progressively wears from its use. Sometimes, dies also crack or clash. When a die clashes, it is often removed from the coining press and polished. This gives us evidence for striking order. This 1794 silver dollar is from the perfect die state prior to clashing. Currently, it is the only silver example from this die state (the 1794 copper impression also is from this perfect die state). No one debates that this is the finest known example from the earliest die state. It is the only one known, so there is no second finest.
Now, for the sticky question: Why would they use an adjusted planchet for the first silver dollar? As the person who wrote the appraisal for the Cardinal Education Foundation when it was purchased, I gave this a lot of thought. After pondering this question, the only explanation came from the era in which this example was struck. In the eighteenth century, coins traded by the tale. The merchants of the day were interested in the purity and weight of the coins they accepted for merchandise. Those responsible for our coinage were certainly aware of the regulated gold coins by Ephraim Brasher and others. To have an accepted coinage was paramount to our early leaders. In fact, no denominations were placed on our gold coins until 1807! They knew the rest of the world would judge our coins by their weight and purity.
I believe that the silver plug and adjustment lines found on this coin were intentional. It was more important to those who produced this coin that this silver dollar was the correct weight and purity than its aesthetic appearance would have been. This was the largest silver coin struck and it had to be right. They did not select this planchet, it was created. As the only known 1794 silver dollar with a silver plug, it has been compared to 1795 Flowing Hair silver dollars with silver plugs. However, the 1795 dollars were underweight planchets that had silver plugs added to increase their weight. Only the overweight planchets have adjustment lines.
If this 1794 dollar planchet was underweight and had to have a silver plug added, why does it have adjustment lines? None of the 1795 silver plug examples have adjustment lines. It would seem that the 1794 planchet had both a silver plug and adjustment lines to illustrate the intention of the United States to issue coins of correct weight. They could have used a correct weight planchet without adjustment lines, but they polished this planchet to augment the reflective surfaces. The polishing of this planchet was intentional and it would seem the silver plug and adjustment lines were also done for a purpose. It was a regulated silver coin.
As Stack’s noted in their 1984 Carter sale, “It is perfectly conceivable that this coin was the very first 1794 Silver dollar struck!” No one can be certain of this conclusion, as your respondents have noted on numerous occasions, however I usually end my discussions of this coin with a racing metaphor.
We have a horse race. Currently, only a single stallion is entered. Until another horse appears, we don’t have a race.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS 1794 DOLLAR RESEARCH EFFORTS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n07a12.html)
Les Rosenbaum forwarded this invitation to a Smithsonian talk on the origins and evolution of America's decorations for combat heroism. Thanks! -Editor
Hear fascinating stories behind these medals and the acts of courage they mark, including the widely followed Supreme Court’s ruling on the Stolen Valor Act case. Better understand why we take our military medals seriously from Borch, the regimental historian and archivist with the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General's Corps.
Honoring Valor: The History and Heritage of Military Medals
Resident Member*: $30 l Senior Member*: $28
For more information, or to purchase tickets, see: Honoring Valor: The History and Heritage of Military Medals (smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/reserve.aspx?performanceNumber=225872)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
In the Spring 2013 issue of his Coin Board News publication, David Lange mentions a newly discovered Whitman Commemorative Half Dollar board and a scarce publication by Leiser Schnelling of the Colonial Coin & Stamp Company of New York City. -Editor
There are several important developments this quarter, mostly involving Whitman boards. The most exciting is the discovery of a board long suspected to exist from a fuzzy photo in an old eBay listing that was little noticed at the time. This item is the first incarnation of Whitman’s board for COMMEMORATIVE HALF DOLLARS. It measures only 7 inches wide by 9 inches tall and is a bright blue with white printing. Like the previously known variety of this title, which is of conventional size and appearance to other Whitman boards, it has no backing so that both sides of the coins may be viewed, and the printing is identical on both sides. This new board is dated to the Second Edition by its Publisher Number, 364, which appears on all Second Edition boards and is different from that of the conventional variety, Number 388.
The newest list of Coin Boards for Sale #126 is another special edition, this time highlighting my inventory of boards published by Colonial Coin & Stamp Company of New York City. This business was established by German immigrant Leiser Wolf Schnelling around 1931. His first coin boards appeared in 1935, with only J. K. Post’s Kent Company boards predating them by a few months.
Colonial brand boards were a cut above Post’s simple 25-cent items, as they used transparent cellophane as a backing instead of opaque paper. Colonial boards also featured attractive, though not always accurate, illustrations and a handsome logo of a boy examining his coin collection at a table. The First Edition of Schnelling’s boards from 1935 showed this boy as a rather effeminate-appearing figure from the 1900 period, but this was quickly revised to a contemporary image that was more suitable. These Second Edition boards are effectively the only ones collectable, as I’ve never had a duplicate of a First Edition title.
I recently acquired a book for which I’ve been searching a long time. This is L. W. Schnelling’s Illustrated Catalogue of United States Gold, Silver and Copper Coins 1934 which was described on page 112 of my coin board book. Published in 1933 on the date of his naturalization as a United States citizen, it is really nothing more than one of many similar publications put out during the last century to entice new collectors. His book includes a list of dates, mints and retail values, with illustrations that were probably lifted from some earlier publication. This was also very common among coin dealers at the time. It is of no use in research, but it makes for a wonderful tie-in item with his coin boards. Someone else must have recognized its rarity and/or historic significance, as I had to place a very high bid to win this quite humble publication.
For more information, see: www.coincollectingboards.net
On Numismatic Social Groups
Enjoy Nummis Nova this month. We're having a good time with our little Florida EAC group. Our group as a whole is not as luminous as yours, but we do have a good time, and we've all become pretty good friends, though most of us already were. Our wives have been getting together some months, no doubt to say bad things about us. We should never have given women the vote!!! (Susan says I shouldn't say things like this, because not everyone understands my sense of humor. I think you do. I am a huge fan of Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal.)
Before retiring and moving South, Bill was a regular attendee at the monthly Nummis Nova dinners, my Northern Virginia numismatic social club. Our next dinner is Tuesday March 12th. Bill started a similar group in Florida with a number of Early American Copper collectors. -Editor
We now have available for sale copies of Eric Schena's book on Ingle Scrip titled The Ingle System Scrip of the Mid-Atlantic Region. The cost is $20.00 plus $1.00 sales tax and $3.00 media mail. Please contact George Merz, VNA Secretary, at : PO Box 2397, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "Order for Ingle System Scrip by Eric Schena" in the subject line of your Email.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NEW BOOK: THE INGLE SYSTEM SCRIP OF THE MID-ATLANTIC REGION (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n07a03.html)
Loren Gatch submitted these aromatic thoughts on a money-scented cologne and perfume. -Editor
I noticed you haven't published anything on cosmetics recently, so this may make up for it: Money-scented cologne...
From the website description:
"Liquid Money is encompassed with real shredded U.S. dollar bills, straight from the Mint [sic].The fragrance combines the clean essence of cotton, linen and silk; the formula used to make actual money. At Liquid Money, we want to surround you with success. The concept behind it was created to inspire you, to help bring out your dreams and inner desires".
Good to know we have a new source of liquidity in case the Fed fails us!
To visit the web site, see: www.liquidmoney.com
Some time ago there was discussion about the $1,000,000 display of $10,000 bills at the Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. Attached is a photo of me from the 70's standing next to it.
Thanks! I think I had a shirt like that in the 70s. Didn't everyone? -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
ARTICLE TRACES HISTORY OF LAS VEGAS' MILLION-DOLLAR MONEY DISPLAY
Query: July 1994 Numismatic Circular
Does anyone have access to the Numismatic Circular of July 1994, and the article therein by James Brindley titled "A Note on the Amazon Coins of Soloi"? The American Numismatic Society's copy has gone missing.
OK, so two requests - first, can anyone spare a copy of the July 1994 issue for the ANS Library? Second, can anyone forward a scan of the requested article? Thanks. -Editor
Bill Eckberg writes:
Crick's Nobel. Amazing. This was for the most important discovery that is even theoretically possible in biology. I'd probably give my left nut for it. Alas, my left nut isn't worth a quarter million dollars.
Actually, the opening bid is now $500,000, so Bill would come up short regardless.
Alan V. Weinberg writes:
Brunn Rasmussen, a Danish numismatic auction house, sold a 68 mm 23k (.992 fineness) 200 grams Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to Danish nuclear physicist Aage Niels Bohr awarded 1975 in their auction sale 835 on Nov 13, 2012 lot 5382 in Copenhagen. I easily brought this information to the fore using Google.
The massive gold medal was in its original morocco leather box of issue along with the accompanying original Nobel documents and other articles relating to his Nobel-awarded discoveries.
The medal and case and documents in one lot were estimated at 400,000 to 600,000 kroner (53.5 - 80.5K British pounds) and sold for only 280,000 kroner ( or 37,500 pounds).
In the same auction were numerous other Niels Bohr gold award medals including the Philadelphia Franklin Institute gold award medal, a similarly large impressive high grade gold cased medal.
This auction sale was advertised in Coin World in late October with images of the Nobel gold medal in the ad which is how I became aware of the sale.
To my recollection over the years, there have been other private and auction sales of the Nobel gold prize medal. One standing out is the 1970-80's offering of a gold Nobel prize medal by Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles coin dealer Clem Wodjak at a then- astonishing $25,000 price (undoubtedly bought for a tad over scrap, knowing Clem) - it was on the market many years before Clem apparently finally sold it. I had considered it at that time but felt it was then worth closer to 10 grand.
Thanks for the information. These are fantastic medals. Although the Heritage sale publicity states that this is "the first time that a Nobel Prize has been sold at public auction", the Brunn Rasmussen auction Alan cites is a counterexample. But it's a fabulously historic medal no matter what. Personally, I’d rank Crick above Bohr in the pecking order of science. Crick’s discovery is to biology what the unified field theory is to physics, and that’s been an unmet goal since Einstein’s time. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: FRANCIS CRICK'S 1962 GOLD NOBEL PRIZE MEDAL TO BE AUCTIONED (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n09a34.html)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Alan Roy in his column RoyAl Writings in the March, 2013 issue of The Canadian Numismatic Journal (a publication of The Royal Canadian Numismatic Association) wrote about The Victoria Numismatic Society Exhibition of 1956. With permission, here is a full reprint of the article. Thanks to CNJ Editor Dan Gosling for assistance. -Editor
In 1956, the Victoria Numismatic Society held its first public exhibition. For two weeks, hundreds of coins, tokens, and paper notes were displayed at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Although it included world coins, the display focused primarily on the numismatics of British Columbia.
It was billed as the most complete collection of the province's numismatic material ever displayed. The British Columbia Archives and several of the province's most prominent collectors provided many of their rarest items for exhibition.
Highlights of the exhibition were examples of the Province of British Colombia ten- and twenty-dollar coins. These were patterns issued in 1862 that never actually circulated. Also on display were notes from the bank of British Columbia and the bank of British North America, two early banks that operated in Victoria. Rare notes from the MacDonald and Company Bank were also displayed. This bank operated in Victoria for only five years. It was forced to close in 1864 after a bank robbery.
A 12-page brochure was published in conjunction with the exhibit. It provides brief historical information about the 1862 British Columbia gold coins, the Bank of British Columbia, and the Bank of British North America.
Just as with the exhibition, the pamphlet was not limited to Canadian coins. Photographs and brief historical backgrounds of such scarce pieces as the 1907 U.S. 20-dollar gold coin and the 1828 Russian three-roubles piece in platinum are included.
A rare Adelaide, South Australia one-pound coin was also mentioned in the exhibit booklet. It looked much like the British Columbia gold coins of 1862, and even had a similar history. It was issued by a community rich in gold but short of currency, and later withdrawn by the British government.
The purpose of the display was to encourage public interest in numismatics and to increase membership in collecting organizations. By all accounts it was successful. About 3,000 people toured the exhibit and the Canadian Numismatic Association acquired seven new members.
For more information about The Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, see: www.rcna.ca
In response to Michael Brockhouse's question, Ira Rezak writes:
I used to collect Russian wire money as far back as 1960's but have in recent years sold the collection. In the early 70's at a New York show Frank Lapa had a table and had a hoard of silver wire coins. My now faint recollection is that they were of Aleksei Michailovich, but it's possible that they were of Feodor Mikhailovich.
At the time I had the pamphlet but was unaware of Lapa's later well-known bad reputation. His pitch was that the hoard had been brought to the show to be shown to an unnamed specific collector, but if I really wanted them he'd sell them to me. There were maybe 20 pieces, all of a single type but not identically struck, and on planchets that in retrospect were outrageously uniformly thick...ie not characteristic of genuine wire money. But I was young and innocent back then, so I fell for the deal.
Over the years I gave a few away to friends and fellow collectors such as Ran Zander and Gleb Budzilovich, but they sat in a box for many years and are now part of my remote past. Lapa, of course, proved to be a forger and murderer and has now passed away.
None of this answers Mr Brockhouse's question definitively, though it adds a bit to the Lapa tale.
I'd say one more thing though about gold wire coins. They were not circulating issues but were specially struck from regular coin dies to be used as military awards, early decorations as we'd now call them. Consequently many, probably most genuine gold wire coins were holed for wearing.
Joe Boling writes:
Has Brockhouse done a specific gravity test on his piece? If Lapa did not use gold, we'll know immediately whether it could be a Lapa piece.
Leon Saryan writes:
Several years ago I became interested in the 1920 fantasy coins allegedly issued by independent governments in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. These were reported in The Numismatist as early as 1960. In an article I wrote in 1987, I believe that I was able to dissuade numismatists from the idea that the Armenian piece was an authentic 1920 issue.
The late George Beach informed me that these three coins were possibly or probably fantasies manufactured by Frank Lapa, who ended up in prison for murder. I was interested in contacting Lapa, but George cautioned me against this: "These guys play hardball; don't mess with them." He added that he thought there was a private collection of Lapa fantasy dies in existence. I'll be interested to see what others have to say.
Interesting topic. Thanks, everyone. Other reader comments and questions are welcome. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: QUERY: INFORMATION ON FRANK LAPA'S RUSSIAN WIRE MONEY REPLICAS SOUGHT (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n09a25.html)
An article on the New Yorke In America token by Frank Van Valen (based on the lot description by John Kraljevich) appears in the March 7, 2013 Stack's Bowers blog. -Editor
One of the largely unsung prizes in early American numismatics is the circa 1670 NEW YORKE IN AMERICA token. This enigmatic token, known in brass and in pewter, is thought to have been issued by Francis Lovelace, who served as governor of New York from 1668 to 1673. The obverse design features a copse of trees at the center with a young Cupid to the viewer’s left of the trees and a butterfly-winged Psyche to the right of the trees, supposedly a rebus for Lovelace’s name. The reverse features an eagle on a crenellated bar with a star and flourish above and NEW YORKE IN AMERICA around.
Beginning with our November 2012 Baltimore sale, we have been pleased and honored to offer the Ted L. Craige Collection in several parts – the holdings are large enough and important enough to be spread out over several sales. By now, in early 2013, the collection of Ted Craige has yielded many rare prizes, most of which were purchased and obtained by the late Ted Craige several decades ago, indeed, in the infancy of what is now an enormous “club” of aficionados who specialize in the issues of early America and the pre-federal era.
The Craige NEW YORKE IN AMERICA token is readily among the finest examples extant of this rare prize, and is one of about 20 examples known in all grades. The present specimen of this enigmatic rarity was cataloged as follows in our upcoming March sale: “Most are downright ugly. This piece is a remarkable exception. Its surfaces are hard, nearly smooth, and somewhat glossy, with the obverse showing deep brassy tan fields and more golden devices, while the NEW YORKE IN AMERICA reverse is closer to honey brown with some traces of brassy gold. A bit of harmless encrustation is present around the legend; a few tiny specks on the obverse, none of which does anything more than suggest old originality. The sharpness surpasses every other example your cataloger has seen, either imaged or in hand, notably including the very nice Roper and Picker coins. A natural mint clip is present over OR of YORKE, and an old curved scratch is noted with the aid of magnification under N of NEW.”
The present brass NEW YORKE INAMERICA token, a decidedly Condition Census specimen, is from an unknown earlier provenance, though we have reason to believe it was one of two in the Virgil Brand holdings. As noted above, it is among the finest known, even with its rim clip and other small blemishes. Though the Craige Collection is filled with numerous colonial-era treasures -- some great, some small, but all important – we suspect the present rarity will be long remembered as one of the highlights of this important collection, perhaps the finest all-around offering of early American issues since our sales of the John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, 2003 to 2007. It will take bidding fortitude and strategy to win this rarity when it crosses the auction block on March 13, 2013 in Baltimore. Ted Craige valued this specimen at $3,000 in 1970, a lordly price then, but now only a small monetary starting point on the march to the ultimate hammer price of this rarity.
To read the complete article, see: United States Coin Of The Week: Rare And Enigmatic Brass New Yorke In America Token To Be Offered In Our March 2013 Baltimore Auction (stacksbowers.com/Blogs/united-states-coin-of-week-rare-and.html)
Here are some larger images and a link to the auction lot. -Editor
Lot #196. Undated (Circa 1670) New Yorke In America Token. W-1705. Brass. (stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=452250)
Greg Reynolds has a lengthy article in CoinWeek (published March 6) about Eric Newman's collection and the sale of Newman's patterns in the upcoming Heritage auction. Be sure to read the complete article online. Here’s an excerpt. -Editor
it has not been revealed just how much of the Newman Collection will be auctioned and future consignments have not been finalized. My present purpose, here in part 1, is to discuss an 1845 Proof set, an 1852 territorial gold piece, and U.S. Mint errors that will be sold by Heritage in April, and to provide some general background regarding Newman and his collection.
In part 2, I will discuss U.S. patterns that will also be sold by Heritage in April. This group of patterns from the Newman Collection is excellent, especially in terms of quality.
So far, I have been unable to determine how sales of items from Eric Newman’s collection will impact the Newman Money Museum. Beyond the upcoming Heritage auction in April, not much has been revealed regarding plans for releases of items from Newman’s collection.
Many of Eric Newman’s rarer items were acquired from the estate of Col. E. H. R. Green, who had one of the all-time best collections of U.S. coins. Actually, Newman had met Green while Newman was a student at MIT in the 1930s, then and now, one of the best educational institutions in the world for the study of science. Newman and other MIT students were permitted to use Green’s radio station at Green’s facility in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. I am not aware of any evidence that Green and Newman ever discussed coins or that Green knew of Newman’s interest in numismatics.
After Col. E. H. R. Green died in 1936, Newman contacted someone associated with Green’s properties in an effort to acquire paper money relating to the State of Missouri that was in Green’s collection. There is much information regarding Newman’s efforts in a book that was published in 2003, Million Dollar Nickels, by Paul Montgomery, Mark Borckardt and Ray Knight.
While Newman’s inquiries were rebuffed at first, he was persistent. Not long afterwards, he was able to purchase important pieces of paper money from the Green Estate. Regarding his efforts to obtain items from the Green estate, Newman confided in Burdette Johnson.
When Johnson was told by Newman that Eric had successfully obtained numismatic items from the Col. Green Collection, Johnson offered to invest funds and proposed that he and Eric become partners in a project to acquire numismatic items from the Green estate. By the early 1940s, Newman and Johnson had succeeded in obtaining a large part of Col. Green’s numismatic collection, including all five 1913 Liberty Nickels!
To read the complete article, see:
Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fabulous Eric Newman Collection, part 1
Regarding the Tom Thumb item mentioned last week, an E-Sylum reader forwarded this Heritage auction lot. Thanks!
To read the complete lot description, see: (circa 1852) P.T. Barnum - Tom Thumb, New York, NY (coins.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=1139&lotNo=10929)
Ron Haller-Williams writes:
You ask if anybody has an image of the Tom Thumb medal described in the Maine Reader: "Wednesday, September 22 : Father and Mother were down this P.M. to see Tom Thumb for principal object. They, particularly Mother, were in raptures. They had his Lilliputian visiting card, given at the door, "Gen. Tom Thumb," and they bought a gilt medal, on the obverse Victoria's head and bust with the words, "Victoria Regina," and on the reverse Tom Thumb's likeness with the words, "General Tom Thumb, Weight 15 pounds." For this they paid 9d. Also a pamphlet, with his description, his song, his travels. This was 4d."
I don't have one, but ... try doing a Google IMAGE search on "Tom Thumb" medal. The referred medal can be found e.g. at
There is also a USA-coin equivalent (typo in description) at
Thanks, everyone! This last one looks like the type Heritage has. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NUMISMATIC REFERENCES IN THE MAINE READER, 1614 TO PRESENT (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n09a09.html)
David Klinger submitted these notes and images about Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) tokens. Thanks! -Editor
I recently came across a type of token I had never seen before. I saw them at a local farmers market, and found out they were called EBT tokens. They were in the form of "wooden nickels" which we all have seen, but were only used to buy goods using the EBT or food stamp card.
At the farmers market, people could go to a central booth, and swipe their EBT card in exchange for tokens in whatever amount the cardholder wanted. Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) is an electronic system that allows state welfare departments to issue "food stamp" benefits via a magnetically encoded payment card. They are used across all the United States. More than 46 million Americans now have EBT cards, so the use of these tokens must be large also.
Other states use EBT tokens also. Some are made of colored plastic, and some are a metallic colored material. There is even a paper scrip type. It is impossible to say how many different types there may be, since it seems that each market, or at least each city, uses a different type
I don't think that this will catch on as a major area of collector interest for numismatists, but I found them interesting. I do know that there are collectors of the original food stamps, (actually called food coupons). Those were authorized in 1964, and were printed by the BEP, with very nice vignettes. The EBT card was introduced in 2004.
Gar Travis forwarded this new article about ‘The Nintendo Medal’. Thanks. -Editor
The Pentagon’s newest military honor, symbolized by a two-inch bronze medallion, has sparked fierce debate over the nation’s growing corps of drone pilots and cyberwarriors and how to commend their service, which happens far from an actual battlefield.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month, is the military’s first new combat-related medal in nearly 70 years. It is intended to recognize extraordinary contributions to combat operations by a service member from afar and will rank as the eighth highest individual award behind the Medal of Honor.
But placement of the new medal in ahead of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which are given for valor in the line of fire, has created significant stir.
Critics have panned it as the “Chair-borne Medal,” “the Nintendo Medal,” “Distant Warfare Medal” and “the Purple Buttocks,” alluding to fact that computer-based warriors do their work from a chair, among other names.
Top veterans groups and a rare bipartisan alliance on Capitol Hill are intensely lobbying the Pentagon and President Obama to downgrade the award.
“We are supportive of recognizing and rewarding such extraordinary service, but in the absence of the service member exposing him or herself to imminent mortal danger, we cannot support the DWM taking precedence above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart,” a bipartisan group of 48 lawmakers wrote new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday.
“Possibility of death or grievous bodily harm” are key factors that should elevate recipients of those awards above others who didn’t face those risks, the group wrote.
To read the complete article, see:
‘The Nintendo Medal’? New Military Award for Drone Pilots Draws Hill Protest
Herb Friedman writes:
Just a brief comment on the discussion about special awards for the pilots of the drones. If you follow military news closely you will know that not too long ago there was an attempt on the part of the DOD to award those pilots with real combat medals like Air Medals, Silver Stars, etc. It was the thought of those medals going to people in front of computer screens that caused an uproar from the military personnel on the front lines. It was only after that trial balloon was shot down that we saw this new medal created. It seems like a good idea and does separate them from the front-line troops and their awards.
Military historians will note that we have seen the same thing in the past when combat soldiers in artillery, armor and other fields wanted a badge similar to the Combat Infantry Badge, only to be told that they were not eligible by regulation. They stewed for decades and just a few years ago this problem was partially rectified by the creating of a close combat badge that could be awarded to non-11B (infantry) types.
Howard A. Daniel III writes:
Gar and I have met a long time ago at an ANA Convention but we do not know each other, so I do not know what service he was in or if he was ever in combat. If he knew me he would know that I blame ALL administrations for their screw-ups with the military. I am a retired Army Master Sergeant who while on active duty was always in trouble for standing up for our men on the pointed end of the spear.
It is really amazing to know there are many people who think a bomber crew is in no danger. Every bomber can be shot down in today's and yesterday's "modern" warfare. I was also greatly upset and yelling at politicians and high ranking officers when they sent our special ops out on unnecessary missions in Laos and Cambodia and many of the them were killed and many are still MIAs. These men are and were my comrades and brothers-in-arms, and I am "offended" when their missions are ranked below those sitting in a building far from danger.
Valor and bravery in armed combat is not something that changes in "modern" warfare. Civilians, politicians and the military in this and any other administration who value those men on the pointed end of the spear less than those in a building guiding a drone need some serious briefings, much of which should be in a combat zone so they can "feel" the difference between actual combat and using a joystick back in a rear area or even another country. That is the last from me on this subject.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: MARCH 3, 2013: Who Created the Distinguished Warfare Medal? (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n09a12.html)
New list available free!
Civil War Store Cards
from the estate of
Stephen L. Tanenbaum
Do you collect counterstamped coins and/or Civil War store cards, or would you be interested in doing so? I invite you to e-mail me for my latest list of pieces from the Stephen L. Tanenbaum Estate Collection. These pieces have been off the market for a long time—some of them since the 1960s!
For more than 40 years Steve gathered these, continually improving and upgrading. His counterstamps include many pieces listed and or even illustrated in the Gregory Brunk and Russell Rulau catalogs plus many that are unique or unlisted! The vast majority of the Civil War store cards Mint State, many certified by NGC (which Steve was in the midst of doing) and others still in his 2x2 cardboard holders. Rarity-9 (2 to 4 known) tokens abound as do, believe it or not, R-10 (unique) tokens and unlisted varieties. Among Civil War tokens are strikes in copper-nickel, overstrikes on Indian Head cents, rarities with various Stanton reverses (1042 and 1047 gems in abundance), mint errors, “rare towns,” brockages, and more await your consideration.
The majority of the counterstamps and Civil War tokens are highly affordable. And, of course, all are interesting! Nearly all are one-of-a-kind in the estate and are available on a first-come, first served basis. If you will send me an e-mail request I will send you my latest list by return e-mail.
Thank you for your interest!
Wolfeboro Falls, NH 03896
Request by e-mail: email@example.com
An exhibit in Bellevue, WA features a number of money art works from modern artists such as Banksy and J.S.G. Boggs. -Editor
J.S.G. Boggs note
This spring, Bellevue Arts Museum explores cultural history and current affairs through one of the most fetishized mediums in the world—money. Love Me Tender brings together the work of more than 24 contemporary artists from five countries using currency as an artistic form of expression to address complex social issues. The exhibition is on view at Bellevue Arts Museum through May 26, 2013.
Passing through billions of hands around the world on a daily basis, bills and coins not only represent monetary value and the hopes and dreams of their bearers, but are in themselves complex works of art fraught with socio‐political implications and propaganda. The artists featured in Love Me Tender exploit the physical beauty and imagery of currencies from around the world to delve into themes such as social injustice, corporate greed and the American dream, offering commentary through their transformation. The 90+ pieces on exhibition tap into money’s seductive allure—to which even the artists fall victim—as they are transformed into tapestries, paintings, photographs and sculptures. Featured artists include Banksy, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Yasumasa Morimura, Mark Wagner and many others.
Although many of the works are approachable and playful in nature, artists in the exhibition are activists in their own right, addressing questions of ‘value’ and ‘values’ in modern society and reflecting upon a world ruled by its monetary system.
Artists: Banksy, Barton Lidice Benes, JSG Boggs, Kathy Buszkiewicz, Scott Campbell, Daniel Carr, Jake & Dinos Chapman, James Charles, Robin Clark, Sebastian Errazuriz & Thomas McDonell, Maximo Gonzalez, Yasumasa Morimura, Tim O’Neill, Tahiti Pehrson, Justine Smith, Oriane Stender, Susan Stockwell, Johnny Swing, Dan Tague, Rodrigo Torres, Mark Wagner, Stacey Lee Webber, and Christopher Wilde. Love Me Tender is organized by Bellevue Arts Museum, curated by Nora Atkinson.
To read the complete article, see: "Currency as Art: Love Me Tender" at the Bellevue Arts Museum explores humankind's obsession (artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=61104#.UTdzlRyNq5U)
For more information on the exhibit, see: Love Me Tender (www.bellevuearts.org/exhibitions/current/love_me_tender/index.html)
Speaking of J.S.G. Boggs, the Discovery Channel will air an episode on "The Secret Life of Money" with Boggs as a co-host. -Editor
We all want more of it. "Secret Life of Money", airing Saturday, March 30 on Discovery, will take viewers behind the scenes of the systems that design, produce, protect, distribute and manage America's money.
But what is cash? And what if it suddenly disappeared?
Discovery Channel Looks into the Secret Life of Money, Saturday, March 30, The event will look at the systems that design, produce, protect, distribute and manage America's money.
The one-hour special features insight from NPR’s Planet Money team, author David Wolman and artist J.S.G. Boggs who each explore the mysteries of money – something we use nearly every day but rarely stop to think about.
“We are all wired to love this stuff from a very young age,” said David Wolman, author of the book The End of Money. “That first gift from granny, or the tooth fairy, all of it. You know cash has its hooks in us. It’s cast a spell over us. Who doesn’t want a big pile of Benjamins?”
Behind each note is a complex world of process and design -- from minting and printing to distribution to protecting its value in the world market to meeting the demands of our nation’s banks. Discovery Channel goes behind the scenes to places few ever see such as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing where bills are born; the US Mint, which turns giant coils of metal into the coins we use every day; the Secret Service, where the nation’s top counterfeit experts try to put an end to bogus bills; The Federal Reserve, the heart of the American monetary system; and Dunbar armored cars, whose rolling fortresses help make sure that flow of currency never stops despite the dangers involved.
"Secret Life of Money" will take viewers through the lifecycle of currency and looks to answer the ultimate question -- What is money all about, anyway?
To learn more, go to www.discovery.com.
To read the complete article, see:
Discovery Channel Looks into the Secret Life of Money, Saturday, March 30
Artist Peter Max made a drawing in 1983 based on the obverse of the Peace Dollar. Does anyone know why? Scott Barman asks the question on the March 2, 2013 issue of his Coin Collector's Blog. Here's an excerpt. -Editor
Those of us that are a certain age remember growing up to with the artwork of Peter Max. His paintings and neo-expressionism posters are iconic representations of the pop culture of the 1960s. His vibrant colors made complex designs look simple as they some seemed to pop off the page. While times have changed and Max has worked on contemporary scenes, his style remains unique with an appeal that still brings a smile to my face.
Did you know that the American Numismatic Association owns a Peter Max original? While I was in Colorado Springs the week of February 19, I met briefly with Executive Director Jeff Shevlin in his office. Hanging on the wall across from his desk is a drawing of Liberty based on the design from Anthony de Francisci’s Peace dollar.
The picture looks like it was done in charcoal on paper. It is hand signed by Max and dated 1983. The picture is mounted on a fame that would have been contemporary to 1983 and has a plaque under the glass that reads:
American Numismatic Association
VINCENT VAN ROTTKAMP
August 20th, 1983
As a fan of the Peace Dollar and Peter Max, this is a fantastic picture.
Does anyone know why Max did this drawing? Who Vincent Van Rottkamp was and what was his association with this picture?
I have a vague recollection that the drawing was used as cover art for a coin auction catalog, perhaps one of the American Numismatic Association official convention auctions. Or maybe I'm thinking of something else. Can anyone set us straight on this? Thanks. -Editor
To read the complete article, see: Image of Peace at the ANA (coinsblog.ws/2013/03/image-of-peace-at-the-ana.html)
It's been a while since we covered a U.S. Mint coin launch ceremony. I've seen fewer accounts popping up in the popular press. With so many new coins and so many ceremonies, the novelty factor wore off years ago. But they remain an important part of American numismatic history, happening only once in a coin's history. In an article in the March 18, 2013 Coin World, Dave Bowers documented the recent launch ceremony for New Hampshire’s 2013 White Mountain National Forest quarter. Be sure to read the whole article online - here's an excerpt. -Editor
The launch ceremony was held at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H., in the heart of the White Mountains, eight miles from Campton, a small town where the White Mountain National Forest headquarters is located. The venue was Hanaway Hall.
As is Mint policy, the staff of the national forest was called upon to make arrangements with local and regional people to attend, including schoolchildren. It was more of a White Mountain National Forest event than a U.S. Mint event. It, like other launches, was truly “down home.”
Mint staffers conducted a coin forum in Campton the previous evening, with general discussions. Eighteen people were on hand. I was not able to attend.
I left Wolfeboro, N.H., at 8:45 on Thursday morning, Feb. 21, taking David Owen, our town manager, along for the ride. In about an hour we arrived at the university and went to Hanaway Hall, where most of the seats were already filled — with hundreds of eager elementary schoolchildren from the area.
The Mint had reserved seats for us in the front row, and we sat with David Sundman, who was on hand to represent Littleton Coin Co. Dave Owen was glad to meet Dave Sundman (lots of Daves here!) as he has been a Littleton client for many years.
Members of the Nashua (N.H.) Coin Club were also in attendance — the “numismatic delegation,” so to speak.
Everyone was set to witness a historic event. Children are, of course, the building blocks of the future and Mint ceremonies typically include them. However, unlike the 2000 State quarter launch in New Hampshire in which the number of children participating was rather modest, now they nearly filled an entire auditorium.
On the stage at one side was the Plymouth Elementary School Band, which began the program with a selection of music. On the other side of the stage were the fourth graders from the Campton Elementary School, who led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the National Anthem.
Local politicians and Acting Mint Director Richard Peterson spoke to the crowd. Rolls of the new coins were offered for sale by a local bank. Here's Dave's description of the coins themselves. -Editor
Selected for depiction by designer Phebe Hemphill was Mount Chocorua, located in the town of Tamworth, rising above Lake Chocorua in a picturesque setting. With its rocky outcrop on top and distinct appearance, the mountain has been a favorite for artists, photographers and hikers for a long time. It is well memorialized in White Mountain art — a genre somewhat related to the Hudson River School — nice depictions of landscapes with luminescent aspects. In the early 20th century, a two-story Peak House hotel rested on the slopes of Mount Chocorua, but it blew down in a terrific windstorm in 1917 and was never replaced.
Hemphill and the other artists who submitted designs were not given a direction but were shown many examples of White Mountain art from which they could select favorites. Everyone agrees that Chocorua was a great choice.
So when will Congress get around to approving a new Director of the Mint? It's been two years since Ed Moy resigned. Since the last Congress didn't act on the President's nomination of Bibiana Boerio, I think the ball is actually back in the White House's court. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
New Hampshire quarter launch kicks off 2013 coin program
Speaking of launch ceremonies, Charles Morgan published a nice article in Coin Week March 7, 2013 about a possible presentation Eisenhower dollar that may have been distributed at a U.S. Mint launch ceremony. -Editor
After going unnoticed for more than forty years, a rare early Eisenhower dollar variety has emerged. As of right now, we’re calling it the Nixon Presentation Dollar. In this column, we’ll retrace our steps, tell you what we know about the coin, and speculate about what it could potentially tell us.
Discovered by numismatist Andy Oskam, the Nixon Presentation Dollar was found housed in a cardboard wood grain box similar to the standard “Brown Pack” silver proof box used from 1971 through 1974. Unlike those boxes, however, this one has a large metallic Presidential Seal on it and a golden facsimile of President Nixon’s signature.
Intrigued by the unusual box, Oskam placed a strong bid for the coin on eBay and won it for a sum well in excess of the typical brown pack Ike’s market price. The coin was advertised as a DDO (doubled die obverse), which isn’t uncommon for the date since there are many known doubled dies. Most carry no discernible premium.
The coin’s consigner also claimed that the piece was distributed at a presentation ceremony, with President Nixon and Mamie Eisenhower, President Eisenhower’s widow, in attendance. The design of the box, with its metal-stamped seal and golden signature, seems to support this claim, but as of yet neither the U.S. Mint, the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, Coin World, nor any other source we’ve talked to (including multiple experts in the field of Eisenhower dollars), could speak with any degree of certainty about the box or the coin.
The one date that comes to mind in regards to the public unveiling of the coin and associated memorabilia with both the President and Ms. Eisenhower in attendance is January 15, 1971. That day, there was an event at the Dwight David Eisenhower Republican National Center in Washington, D.C.
Provenance and alleged backstory aside, the piece is significant because it is the third instance of a 1971-S Ike dollar proof discovered with the low relief reverse typically found in 1971-S silver-clad and Cu-Ni clad business strikes and some 1972 Cu-Ni clad business strike coins. The first two were discovered in 2007 and authenticated by ICG. At the time, no reference was made to any unusual packaging, and since then no other pieces have been found. It’s still unknown whether the Nixon Presentation Dollar and the two prior coins were struck from the same die pairing.
One possible sign that they weren’t comes from the Ike Group’s determination that this new specimen doesn’t share the same DDO as the first two, but instead reveals the diagnostics of the collectible doubled die variety referred to in the Cherrypicker’s Guide as FS-103.
The great thing about a coin like this is that it poses a multitude of questions. Even the most expert numismatists operate under the assumption that they haven’t seen it all. The study of any coin is, in some respects, an exercise in forensics. In this instance, the only concrete facts we have to go on are an unusual case and an unusual coin. To figure out exactly what this coin is and when it was distributed gets to the core of what numismatics is all about. It’s a process that will occupy the Ike Group for the next several months.
Neat item! Be sure to read the complete article online. -Editor
To read the complete article, see: Nixon Presentation Ike Dollar Discovered (www.coinweek.com/featured-news/nixon-presentation-ike-dollar-discovered/)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
A Wall Street Journal blog reports that investors in Tommy Thompson's Columbus Exploration LLC company are trying to force it into bankruptcy. The company discovered and recovered some $100 million of gold and artifacts from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. -Editor
The long, strange odyssey of treasure hunter Tommy Thompson has taken yet another twist, with a group of creditors trying to force his Columbus Exploration LLC into bankruptcy in Delaware.
Some background: Thompson is engineer and undersea explorer who in the 1980s found the wreck of the SS Central America, a U.S. mail steamer that went down off the North Carolina coast in 1857 with 18 tons of gold.
By 1990, Thompson, who raised millions of dollars from wealthy Ohioans—including $1 million from the owner of the Columbus Dispatch newspaper—to finance his venture, had recovered more than three tons of gold, silver and other treasures, estimated to be worth at least $100 million. Thompson later sold some of the gold to a Californian mint for $52 million.
He’s been fighting with investors and former employees ever since. The Dispatch has a rundown of the saga here.
And now he’s disappeared. An Ohio judge has issued an order for his arrest.
Attempts to contact Thompson last week were unsuccessful.
Michael R. Szolosi is a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer for a group of seamen who worked for Thompson to recover the treasure and are suing him. In seven years, he said, the explorer has never appeared in court.
“I’ve never seen him personally,” said Szolosi. “We believe he’s in Florida and that the marshals will eventually locate him.”
To read the complete article, see: Creditors Seek Bankruptcy for Treasure Hunter’s Company (blogs.wsj.com/bankruptcy/2013/03/04/creditors-seek-bankruptcy-for-treasure-hunters-company/)
Here's an excerpt from the Dispatch's outline of the story. -Editor
The proposal seemed preposterous: Tommy Thompson, an engineer and shipwreck-enthusiast, said he could find a steamer that had sunk in 1857 off the Carolina coast with 21 tons of gold in its hold.
Wealthy central Ohio men and women listened, and one by one anteed up money so Thompson's expedition could move forward. The chance that Thompson would find the ship was one in a million, they knew. On the other hand, he was so confident, so persuasive, so sure he could find it.
Still, perhaps no one was more surprised than those 161 investors when Thompson actually found the SS Central America in 1988 - 8,000 feet down - and eventually brought up a treasure-trove of gold coins and bars worth up to $400 million.
But as difficult as the search-and-recovery expedition was, unraveling who is entitled to the riches has been even more difficult. Twenty-three years later, investors have not seen a cent of profit, and crew members who claim they are owed part of the proceeds haven't received that, either.
A trial is scheduled in federal court late next month that could untangle some of the secrecy that has always surrounded the "gold ship."
Nine people hired by Thompson to help find the wreck say that, under their contract, they're entitled to about 2 percent of the sale proceeds of the treasure because they helped to pinpoint the wreck with sonar and other devices.
Thompson argues in court documents that they have been paid what they're due - a fee for their work. He says their work did not pinpoint the wreck site, so they're not entitled to the additional amount, estimated at $2million to $5million.
That's just one of a flurry of lawsuits that have been filed over the years since the gold's discovery.
To read the complete article, see:
Even recovered, ship's gold remains mystery
Here are a few new coin designs that caught my eye this week. -Editor
The Government of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands have issued (1st March) an unusual new coin which celebrates the largest known animal ever to exist – the Blue Whale. This stunning new coin is being issued as an amazing Blue Titanium coin in honor of this wondrous animal and features an image of a Blue Whale with her calf swimming in the sea with the sun’s rays penetrating the water.
To read the complete article, see: Alluring Blue Titanium Coin Features Blue Whale (news.coinupdate.com/alluring-blue-titanium-coin-features-blue-whale-1881/)
Official 2013 Vatican Sede Vacante Coin Designs
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: VATICAN RELEASES PLANS FOR 2013 SEDE VACANTE COINS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n09a24.html)
CoinWeek had another great article this week (March 6, 2013) - this one by Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker on Herb Hicks and the re-legalization of Gold Certificates. Who's Herb Hicks? I didn't know until I read this article, but thank goodness for this efforts. -Editor
In 1963, Coin World columnist and former ANA librarian Ted Hammer wrote about a coin dealer in Texas arrested for trying to sell a gold certificate. The dealer had run afoul of federal authorities who acted to enforce a thirty-year-old Executive Order outlawing private ownership of gold coins, bullion, and Gold Certificates. At the time of publication, few in the numismatic community were aware that no crime had actually been committed. One reader did know, however, and he began a letter writing campaign that made the Treasury Department change its stance on collectors owning and trading Gold Certificates. That reader’s name was Herbert P. “Herb” Hicks.
In light of the Texas dealer’s dire straits, Herb Hicks considered Gold Certificates legal status after the passage of the Old Series Currency Adjustment Act. Hicks believed that, since Congress had removed the gold backing of all Gold Certificates issued before 1934, the matter of the certificates’ connection to deposited gold was moot. The government recused itself from honoring the certificates in any way besides redeeming them at face value in currently-circulating Silver Certificates or Federal Reserve Notes. Because of this, the Treasury could allow legal ownership without any consequences to the Nation’s gold supply.
He tried to reach out to the dealer but never heard back. He also wrote letters to Charles M. Johnson, Head of the American Numismatic Association, and to U.S. Representative Philip Philbin (D), who represented Hicks’ home district in Massachusetts.
As far as Hicks knew, the whole thing was going nowhere. His letter writing campaign resulted in some confusing but altogether typical responses from the Federal Government, which gave him little hope that they’d change their minds. Imagine his surprise when he learned that someone within the halls of government had finally seen the light.
A Treasury Department memo dated April 24, 1964 took a position suspiciously similar to the letters he thought were dismissed out of hand. In this memo, the Department removed all restrictions on the holding and acquisition of Gold Certificates issued by the United States Government prior to January 30, 1934. As of this point forward, collectors were allowed to legally hold Gold Certificates. The Texas dealer was now off the hook, and other dealers and collectors clandestinely holding these notes could openly buy and sell them. The Treasury agreed with Hicks’ argument, that the law was no longer necessary because the notes were no longer redeemable in gold but could, if so desired, be exchanged at face value for any other currency of the United States.
America’s only illegal currency was legal again.
Representative Philbin told him the good news. Mr. Philbin felt that the action was “prompted in some measure by [Hicks’] persistent efforts and persuasive arguments to get the regulations changed for the benefit of collectors”. Although Mr. Hicks didn’t get any public credit for his efforts, the power of his ideas still carried the day. He doesn’t recall what happened to the dealer in Texas, or if the normalization of Gold Certificates had any effect on the gentleman’s legal situation. What he does know is that the Treasury Department’s easement of restrictions on Gold Certificates meant that a generation of currency collectors could now lawfully pursue the study and collection of an important historical issue. If you’ve seen one of these notes in person, it’s because of Herb Hicks.
Be sure to read the complete article online. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
From the Herb Hicks Files: The Illegal Ban on Gold Certificates
Three Stack's-Bowers auction catalogs landed on my desk with a thump this week. Leafing thru hardcopy catalogs is still the easiest way to peruse a sale. Here are a few lots that caught my eye in their March 13-15 and April 2013 sales. -Editor
Lot 414: Undated (Circa 1797) Theatre At New York Token
Theatre at New York Token, c. 1798
The Theatre at New York token has been popular in American circles for a long time. The American Journal of Numismatics, April 1868, noted "This rare and interesting token represents the Park Theatre, destroyed by fire May 25, 1820, but afterwards rebuilt in a style somewhat different from that of the building exhibited on the coin."
The cornerstone was laid on May 5, 1795, on Chatham Row, New York City. At first called the New Theatre, the facility officially opened on Monday, January 29, 1798. Featured was Shakespeare's As You Like It, preceded by an address by Mr. Hodgkinson and a prelude by Mr. Milne, and followed by "Purse, or American Tar," a musical entertainment. Up to about 2,300 people could be seated. In 1806 the building was sold to John Jacob Astor and John K. Beekman for $50,000. They were the owners at the time of the fire.
It is presumed that this token was issued about 1798, when the popular passion in England for collecting Conder tokens was fading rapidly. The dies by Benjamin Jacob, a Birmingham engraver, auctioneer, and ironmonger, were used to create these pieces. Coining was accomplished at a factory operated by Peter Skidmore, in partnership with his father John, at 15 Coppice Row, Clerkenwell, London, from 1797 to 1809. For years the elder Skidmore operated an iron smithy, grate shop, and furniture store at 123 High Holborn Street, London.
The penny size is unusual in the context of Conder-style tokens and was part of a series of Skidmore issues of this format, illustrating various buildings. All known examples are struck in copper and have Proof finish. These were made for collectors, not for use as advertising. Today, examples are scarce. About 20 are known.
For more information, or to bid, see: stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=452468
Lot 2161: 1834 Classic Half Eagle
A reduction in the weight of the half eagle from 8.75 grams to 8.36 grams occurred in the Act of June 28, 1834, and was done to discourage hoarding and to allow the half eagle denomination to circulate once again. The weight change corresponded with a change in design and the introduction of the Classic Head type, which would remain current only through 1838. The type is fairly scarce in all high Mint State grade due to the brevity of the series. Those that do exist are usually dated 1834 with Plain 4, as here. There was little numismatic interest at the time and few if any were saved by collectors. The formation of the Mint Cabinet was still several years away in 1838.;
The Classic Head type by Chief Engraver William Kneass was hardly original and was simply a modification of that created by John Reich and used on half cents beginning in 1809 and large copper cents beginning in 1808. The new type did not last long, and by 1840 all three gold denominations then being produced were of Gobrecht's new Liberty Head type. A reduction in the weight of the half eagle from 8.75 grams to 8.36 grams in the Act of June 28, 1834 was done to discourage hoarding and allow this denomination to circulate once again. The weight change corresponded with a change in design and the introduction of the Classic type, which would remain current only through 1838. Scarce in all Mint State grades due to the brevity of the series, most Classic half eagles obtained for high grade type purposes are examples of the first year 1834 issue of the Plain 4 date logotype.
For more information, or to bid, see: stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=447686
Lot 5355: American Bank Note Company Vignette Book
Beautifully rebound into deep olive green half-morocco. Green marbled covers with matching inside covers. Five raised bands on spine. Gilt titled ENGRAVINGS/AMERICAN/BANK NOTE/COMPANY. 3 Sample Proof Pages, 84 India paper intaglio engraved proof plates, on gilt edged cards, not interleaved with tissue guards. High quality, mostly all titled and/or numbered ABN vignette impressions.
Title page: THE AMERICAN BANK-NOTE COMPANY, 142 BROADWAY, CITY OF NEW YORK with view of headquarters; verso with three language advertising text. ‘’Atlantic & Pacific United’’ Advertising Card. Important Lincoln, Bolivar and Grant proof ABNCo.sample card, bottom corners first U.S. stamp vignettes by Toppan, Carpenter & Co. The 84 other plates follow were mainly used on earlier obsolete notes, but some Latin American included. Two glossy-stock plates, the first with micro-lettered Declaration of Independence and the other medallion obverse and reverse of Washington and Mount Vernon. An impressive volume. Book plate for James Conway, Chicago inside.
For more information, or to bid, see: stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=450716
Lot 9009: Colonial Notes. GA-104a. Georgia. June 8, 1777 $2
For more information, or to bid, see: stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=451671
Lot 22198: CHINA Peiyang Tientsin Bank. 5 Taels, ND (1910)
One of the most attractive designs available within all of collectible currency with this Bradbury Wilkinson & Company design being seen with incredible color. A fully under-printed face design shows with dark green borders and facing dragons in ruby red at upper center with blue pearl of wisdom between. Multicolored character under-prints also add nice effect and a detailed portrait of Li Hung Chan is at upper center. Harbor vignette at lower center in black and branch name below. Back observed with heavy geometric lathe work and bold red and green color. The originality is unquestionable with deeply embossed serial numbers and the face and back impressions are both seen terrifically centered on the paper. Certainly the finest of the catalog number we have handled and worthy of a premium bid.
I like the vertical orientation of this one - very unusual. -Editor
For more information, or to bid, see: stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=460167
THE BOOK BAZARRE
OK, I need someone smarter than me to tell me what "Tete-Beche" means in a numismatic context. And how does one pronounce it? I noticed it while flipping through the catalog for the Stack's-Bowers March 2013 Baltimore Paper Money auction. From the illustration it seems to mean "conjoined twins"... -Editor
There are only seven known tete-beche pairs which all trace their origins to a sheet discovered in 1985. That sheet as then cut up to satisfy some of the major collectors of the day. These notes are true proofs as the ink is laid on so heavily you can feel the design elements with your fingers (that’s if it wasn’t in a plastic holder of course).This tete-beche arrangements was created so that the localized anti-counterfeiting stain could be produced in the center of the sheet and still appear at the proper end of each note when they were separated.
For more information, or to bid, see: Lot #5454. Fractional Currency. Tete-Beche Proof Pair. 10C. Fifth Issue. PMG Gem Uncirculated 65. (stacksbowers.com/Auctions/AuctionLot.aspx?LotID=450815)
According to this BBC news article, a hoard of Roman coins uncovered by a metal detectorist is to go on display at a new museum. -Editor
The hoard of more than 9,000 coins was discovered by a metal detectorist in a field near Shrewsbury in August 2009.
The coins, found in cloth bags within a clay pot, are believed to have been buried almost 1,700 years ago.
Shropshire Council said the collection was being photographed and catalogued before it is put on display later in the year.
They are expected to be exhibited in Shrewsbury's new Museum and Art Gallery at the former Music Hall.
The coins were officially declared treasure in 2011.
To read the complete article, see: Shrewsbury hoard of Roman coins to go on display (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-21663398)
An army of coin-geek hating non-numismatists is heading to your town. How will you save your numismatic library? Take some tips from the town of Timbuktu, whose private bibliophiles have been protecting their ancient manuscripts for centuries. Here are a couple articles found via The Explorator newsletter. -Editor
Though armed Islamists have left their town, the grand old families of Timbuktu are still wary of revealing the secret of how they safeguarded thousands of ancient manuscripts from destruction by extremists.
Before they fled the fabled desert town in northern Mali at the end of January, the Islamists sacked part of the public Ahmed Baba Centre library, burning some 3,000 documents they considered sacrilegious.
It was their second attempt to harm Timbuktu's rich cultural heritage, after destroying the mausoleums of 11 saints there in April last year.
In mid-February, the UN cultural body UNESCO announced an action plan worth 10 million dollars (7.5 million euros) to restore the cultural heritage of northern Mali and preserve manuscripts that attest to the intellectual and spiritual flourishing of Timbuktu -- listed a world heritage site -- in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Unlike the Ahmed Baba Centre, about 30 private libraries in the ancient town were spared by the Islamists. For several months, their owners had dispersed their collections to put them in safe places, as their ancestors did in the past.
When the Islamists entered Timbuktu last April, Ismael Diadie Haidara al-Quti, a descendant of Mali's imperial Askia family and of Ali al-Quti, a Visigoth from Toledo in Spain who converted to Islam, fled with his family and took a dozen manuscripts with him.
"We hid them among clothes and embarked on a boat to head down the river towards the south," said his wife Hawa Toure, manager of the Mahmud Kati (al-Quti) Fund, the main private library in Timbuktu, which keeps almost 13,000 recorded manuscripts.
"Afterwards, we looked for people who could help us, ordinary people who were not being watched. They bought caskets and keys. Some of them fled with the caskets by boat, others buried them in the sand."
To read the complete article, see: Old families keep secret of Timbuktu's manuscripts (www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=57274)
Time Magazine has a photo spread about the saving of the libraries. -Editor
Beyond the reports of beatings, hand-choppings and other grim Shari’a punishments carried out in the ten months Islamists held the historic Malian city of Timbuktu, the fear that gripped many observers in the outside world was of what would happen to the contents of the city’s ancient libraries. As it was, an extremist, al-Qaeda-linked militia had already set about demolishing and desecrating many of Timbuktu’s UNESCO-recognized tombs of medieval saints—the puritanical brand of their faith was at odds with the syncretic, Sufi Islam that flourished in the Sahara at the apex of the Malian empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. The treasured libraries, whose manuscripts encompassed a vast eclectic realm of jurisprudence, astrology and other medieval African scholarship, were reportedly also in the line of fire.
But after a French-led offensive drove the Islamist militias out of Timbuktu and other northern Malian cities in January, it emerged that the vast bulk of Timbutku’s manuscripts—95% of them—were known to be intact. How? A clandestine operation, backed by the Netherlands’ Prince Claus Fund, had begun in October the stealthy ferreting away of folios and other precious volumes. The exact location of the archives is hidden, in case lingering extremist elements still seek their destruction. The following are undated images of what remains, to our knowledge, thankfully safe.
To read the complete article, see: Inside the Secret Operation to Rescue Timbuktu’s Manuscripts (world.time.com/2013/02/21/inside-the-secret-operation-to-rescue-timbuktus-manuscripts/)
Here's an article about an anthropologist on a quest to uncover the origins of a group of coins found in a remote part of Australia. -Editor
Like a detective working a cold case, an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis anthropologist hopes to unravel the mystery of how a handful of coins, some dating back more than 1,000 years, wound up on a remote beach along Australia’s northern coastline.
Armed with a grant from the Australian Geographic Society, Ian McIntosh will lead an expedition in July to the long-abandoned Wessel Islands where the coins were found.
The ancient copper coins have little monetary value, but in archaeological terms they are priceless, McIntosh said. The coins may even touch upon the arrival of Europeans in Australia, as British explorer James Cook is credited with being the first European to have encountered the country’s eastern coastline in 1770. The coins raise the possibility of shipwrecks that may have occurred along an early maritime trading route and bring to mind the ancient trading network that linked East Africa, Arabia, India and the Spice Islands over 1,000 years ago.
Aboriginal folklore also speaks of a hidden cave near where the coins were found that is filled with doubloons and weaponry of an ancient era, McIntosh said. In any case, McIntosh begins his quest for answers with a nearly 70-year-old map where X marks the spot but few other clues about the coins that now reside in a box in the back of a museum in Sydney, because people don’t know what to make of them, he said.
The coins were found in 1944. Maurie Isenberg, an Australian soldier assigned to a forward radar station at Jensen Bay on the Wessel Islands, spotted several coins in the sand while fishing in his spare time one day. Having little interest in coins at the time, he placed them in an airtight tin, where they remained until 1979, when he sent the coins off to have them identified.
Shortly after finding the coins, Isenberg drew an X on a map of the area that had been drawn by another soldier. McIntosh now possesses that map.
Four of the coins were identified as Dutch East India Company coins, with one dating back to 1690. The other five coins, dating from the 900s to 1300s, were African coins from the once flourishing Kilwa Sultanate, now a World Heritage ruin south of Zanzibar in Tanzania. The copper coins, the first to be produced in sub-Saharan Africa, were never in use beyond the immediate locality of East Africa, and only one has ever been found elsewhere, in Oman.
How and why do five Kilwa coins find their way to the Australian Outback? McIntosh said he believes an archaeological site survey, which has never been done, and an excavation will begin to answer those questions.
To read the complete article, see:
IUPUI led expedition seeks source of thousand-year-old coins in Aboriginal Australia
Here's a story of a lost shilling from the Good Clean Funnies list, -Editor
A Scotchman with the romantic name of Bruce Wallace made history at London's famous Scotland Yard shortly before the war. He actually demanded an interview with the head of the Yard to report that he had lost a shilling on Old Bond Street and that he had been unable to find it.
The Scotland Yard official fell into the spirit of the occasion and assured him that the entire London Police Force would be put on the job.
That night, as fate would have it, something went wrong with one of the gas pipes under Old Bond Street and fifty workmen were dispatched to locate the source of the trouble. They dug a ditch six feet wide straight across Old Bond Street, stopping traffic completely, of course, and exposing all the underground pipes to the open air.
Early in the morning, the bereaved Scotchman appeared on the scene, took one look at the repair work in progress, and shook his head with reluctant approval. "I must say one thing for the rascals," he admitted. "They're thorough."
From Laughing Stock, Edited by Bennett Cerf, Grosset and Dunlap, NY, 1945.
To read the complete article, see: A Complete Search (www.gcfl.net/archive.php?funny=6775)
The New Yorke in America token has long been a numismatic enigma. It first came to public attention in an article by Fisk Parsons Brewer, "The Earliest New York Token" published in the Historical Magazine of May 1861. Until recently there was little consensus on the origin, purpose, dating or even the identification of the imagery on this undated token. There was not even a consensus on which side was the obverse and which was the reverse!
Some considered this token to date from the Seventeenth Century based on the spelling of Yorke, while others thought it to be a Nineteenth Century fantasy creation. Further, very few examples of the token exist. Crosby only knew of four examples, three made of lead and one of brass. Today we know of four lead examples and twenty in brass.
The landmark article on this token was published in 1992 by John Kleeberg, Curator of Modern Coins and Currency at the American Numismatic Society. By tracing the provenance of known examples Kleeberg was able to determine that many examples could be definitively traced back to Europe. Kleeberg also noted several unusual features on this token: the lack of a date, the use of English for the legend rather than Latin, the existence of both brass and lead examples, significant weight variation between examples (from 1.35 to 3.56 grams for this farthing size token, which is below the regal farthing weight of 4.72 grams) and an irregular die axis (that is, the alignment of the obverse and reverse, in this case between varying between 11:00 and 12:00 o'clock).
All of these clues led Kleeberg to consider examining the New Yorke token in relation to the merchant farthings and halfpence tokens produced in England during the Seventeenth Century until 1673, when private tokens were demonetized in favor of regal copper coinage.