Volume 16, Number 11, March 17, 2013
Happy St. Patrick's Day! New subscribers this week include Aaron Packard and Juli Steele. Welcome aboard! We have 1,629 email subscribers, plus 218 followers on Facebook.
This week we open with updates from literature dealers Fred Lake and David Fanning, word of a new book by Kevin Flynn and a review of Whitman's Almanac of United States Coins.
Other topics this week include the term tête-bêche, the Peter Max Peace Dollar print, post-1892 medals of the U.S. Mint, silver dollar book author Wayne Miller, the Mansion House counterstamps, and the Holy Grail of American Numismatic Literature.
To learn more about St. Patrick coppers, off-center and multi-denominational clashed dies, the medal made from milk, a mysterious Jai a Lai medal, the 1878 Quarter Eagle pattern, the periscopic spectacled tokens of Henry Higgins, and lunch with Groucho, Jack, Elliot and Marcel, read on. Have a great week, everyone!
Fred Lake forwarded this announcement of his upcoming numismatic literature sale, which closes April 23. -Editor
The catalog of Lake Books' 114th mail-bid sale of numismatic literature is now available for viewing on their web site at www.lakebooks.com/current.html .
The 471-lot auction features selections from the libraries of T. L. Shuck and Michael Kalpich and includes reference material that represent a full range of the numismatic experience. A complete set of the John J. Ford, Jr. auctions, Walter Breen's Encyclopedia, Elvira Clain-Stefanelli's nearly 2,000 item bibliography, Hawkins' work on British metallic tickets, a nice third edition "Redbook" are a few representative selections.
The sale closes on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM (EDT) and bids may be placed via regular US Mail, email, fax, or telephone until that time. Remember to place your bids early as tie bids are won by the earliest bid received.
Good Luck with your bidding, Fred
David Fanning forwarded this reminder of the upcoming closing date of the second Kolbe & Fanning numismatic ephemera sale. -Editor
Kolbe & Fanning wish to remind our customers that our second sale of numismatic ephemera closes on Thursday, March 21. 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.
A few of the highlights include:
—Rare Fixed Price Lists Issued by Rand Zander (lot 140)
The usual mail-bid terms of sale apply; no printed catalogue has been issued. The sale features 100 lots and has been posted on the firm’s website at www.numislit.com . 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.
Kevin Flynn forwarded this information on his new book on off-center and multi-denominational clashed dies. -Editor
The off-center and multi-denominational clashed dies are two of the rarest types of die varieties created at the United States Mint. There are only 6 verified off-center and only 6 verified multi-denominational clashed dies for all 19th century coinage. Of the 41 books the Flynn has written, this was one of the more difficult and time consuming, as it required the mind-boggling task of trying to figure out how they occurred.
The first part of the book explores clashed dies in general. This type of die variety is normally created when the working dies are in the coining presses. A clashed die normally occurs when the obverse and reverse dies in the coining press strike each other without a planchet between them. This was especially common on some series such as the Three cent nickel. It was originally accepted by most that the outline of the design elements were left on the opposing working dies from the edges of the design elements. This theory was proved invalid. The remnants of the clashing is a result of the fields being compressed. A complete analysis was done to prove this theory valid.
Off-center clashed dies required the working dies to be off-center in relationship to each other when they clashed together. In all U.S. coin series, there are only 6 validated off-center clashes known; 3 on Indian cents, 2 on Two cent coinage, and 1 on Morgan Dollars. The main question for this type of variety is whether they were created in the coining press or during some other period in the die making process. There are several coins that were believed to be off-center clashed dies, but do not have the physical diagnostics to classify them as such. For example, there have been over 40 Morgan Dollar die varieties classified as off-center denticle clashing. For the 19 Morgan Dollars examined for this book, all but one of these has been refuted as an off-center clashed die.
Multi-denominational clashed dies occur when working dies of two different denominations strike each other without a planchet between. In all U.S. coin series there are only 6 known off-denominational clashes known; four of which occurred in 1857. One of the primary questions for this type of variety is whether they were intentionally made or simply the result of an accident. Another issue is how they could have occurred.
Retail for the softcover is $29.95. To order, send a check or money order to Kevin Flynn, P.O. Box 396, Lumberton, NJ 08048. Please include $5 for media shipping or $10 for first class shipping.
Archives International Auctions, Part XIV
Auction Update - Archives International Live
Rare U.S. & Worldwide Banknotes, Scripophily and Security Printing Ephemera Including Additional Selections from the Hamtramck Collection, another offering from the American Bank Note Commemoratives Inventory as well as Properties of Banknotes, Coins and Scripophily from various consignors.
Included will be over 1000 lots of Rare Worldwide Banknotes, Coins and Scripophily. Please view our website for auction updates
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
In his March 12, 2013 Coin Collector's Blog, Scott Barman reviews the new Whitman Almanac of United States Coins. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to read the complete review online. -Editor
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines almanac as “a usually annual publication containing statistical, tabular, and general information.” Almanacs have been around for a while in various forms from the earliest times of writing to today. Early almanacs were simply calendars of coming events and records of past events. They included holidays, phases of the moon, and significant dates that related to the weather for the farming community.
Although there have been many almanacs that bridged into the modern era, none had been as famous as Poor Richard’s Almanack written by Benjamin Franklin under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. Franklin published Poor Richard’s Alamanck from 1733-1758. Amongst the surviving almanacs include The Old Farmer’s Almanac that has been published continuously since 1792, the Farmer’s Almanac that has been published continuously since 1818, and The World Almanac and Book of Facts published since 1868. These are the almanacs that all others are judged against.
Having grown up with The World Almanac, reading the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Fact Book, and being a begrudging fan of the Coin World Almanac, I was interested when Whitman Publishing sent out a notice that they just released the First Edition of the Almanac of United States Coins.
Although I read the description, I did not read it carefully because when I opened the package sent to me by Whitman, I found a skinny trade paperback-sized book. I reread the Whitman press release and it said the book was 192 pages. Initially, I felt disappointed in my hopes that there would be a competitor on the market to the Coin World Almanac since competition makes everyone better. So I can get over my initial reaction, I put the book down for a while to overcome my initial reaction to give the book a fair review.
Scott had the same confusion Steve Bishop and I did over the "Almanac" title. In an earlier E-Sylum article Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publications explained the intended purpose of the book. -Editor
To read the complete article, see: An almanac that isn’t (coinsblog.ws/2013/03/an-almanac-that-isnt.html)
To read an earlier E-Sylum article, see: BOOK REVIEW: ALMANAC OF UNITED STATES COINS, 1ST EDITION (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n06a04.html)
Last week I asked about the meaning of the term "Tete-Beche," which I had seen in an auction catalog description. -Editor
Francois Velde writes:
Tête-bêche is a French expression which describes the position of two people lying, one's feet facing the other's head. It's a corruption of bêchevet, which means "double bedhead" (a bed with bedhead at each end).
Martin Purdy writes:
Looks like it's a philatelic term. It would be pronounced like "tet besh".
Martin referenced this Wikipedia entry.
In philately, tête-bêche (French for "head-to-tail", lit. "head-to-head") is a joined pair of stamps in which one is upside-down in relation to the other, produced intentionally or accidentally. Like any pair of stamps, a pair of tête-bêches can be a vertical or a horizontal pair.
To read the complete article, see: Tête-bêche (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%AAte-b%C3%AAche)
David Gladfelter forwarded this definition from R. Scott Carlton, The International Encyclopædic Dictionary of Numismatics (Iola, Krause Publications, 1996), p280:
“Anti-counterfeiting device on paper money which consists of a design that appears twice, each occurrence being upside-down relative to each other. Its purpose is to make counterfeiting of that note more detectable, even to the average citizen not well-versed in determining the authenticity of paper money.”
An example is shown of the Brazilian 100 cruzeiros note, Pick 198. Literally, the term means “head-spade.”
The Stacks-Bowers cataloguer is using the term to apply to a pair of notes, one note printed upside-down relative to the other, rather than to the design of a single note.
With the diacriticals added, the term is tête-bêche.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: QUERY: WHAT DOES TETE-BECHE MEAN? (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a27.html)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Another Tom Thumb Medal
This is my Tom Thumb medalet dated 1846, without the "15 lbs. weight".
Thanks! I didn’t realize there were so many varieties of these. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: P.T. BARNUM'S TOM THUMB TOKENS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a15.html)
Bureaucracy and the Distinguished Warfare Medal
As a proud possessor of the Air Force Combat Readiness Medal (which means that I sat in a chair in a "hole in the ground" in central Missouri for a specified amount of time about 30 years ago), I would be among the first to be embarrassed to wear a medal that implied that I could have been shot at when I hadn't been.
Unfortunately, there's a solid bureaucratic reason for medals of this sort to exist: medals give an officer "points" toward promotion and the higher precedence the medal, the more points involved. I wouldn't be surprised if the Distinguished Warfare Medal was created in order to give drone pilots a better chance of becoming the squadron commander of a drone squardron at some point in their future; which, of course, could lead to eagles and/or stars on one's shoulders.
For that matter, you may recall a few years ago there was a bunfight about which awards "real" pilots would continue to be eligible for when assigned to a drone squadron.
While this may be the first time that such a medal has been given precedence over the Purple Heart, it isn't the first time a medal was awarded for bureaucratic reasons. I well recall the first time I was told that Army officers received Bronze Stars as campaign medals during the Vietnam War, that is, it was a routine award upon arrival in the country - without a "V" device, of course.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON THE DISTINGUISHED WARFARE MEDAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a17.html)
More on Frank Lapa's Replicas
Another thought on the Frank Lapa gold wire money coins: The 1973 ANA in Boston was the first that I attended and a local coin dealer in Denver had given me a gold wire piece to try to sell for him. I can't remember the price he wanted but the first person I showed it to was Ira Rezak who immediately told me, "it's a Lapa!". If I remember correctly, which is possible but perhaps not probable, Ira told me it was from a ruler who did not issue gold wire coins. Interestingly the guy who has the coin called me two or three weeks ago and the first thing he said, was "do you know of Frank Lapa"?
Jeffrey Zarit of Wylie, Texas writes:
There was mention of Frank Lapa passing away. Does anyone have any details? I knew him personally as well as his former partner, Ray Yablan, whom he killed while I was living in the Chicago area more than 35 years ago.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON FRANK LAPA'S REPLICAS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a12.html)
July 1994 Numismatic Circular Found
I have a complete run of NCIRC. I also have a spare copy of the July 1994 issue, which I could send to the ANS library. There are many photos in the article.
I put Bob in touch with Adrienne about copying the article. Many thanks to Bob for his assistance. He will also forward his duplicate issue to the ANS to fill their hole. Bravo! E-Sylum readers are the best. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: MARCH 10, 2013: Query: July 1994 Numismatic Circular (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a09.html)
Neils and Aage Bohr
It wasn't exactly clear in the article and some readers may be confused. The Nobel Prize medal auctioned by Rasmussen was awarded to Aage Bohr, the son of Neils Bohr who was also awarded the Nobel Prize but in 1922.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON NOBEL PRIZE MEDALS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a10.html)
Augustus Heaton's Bibliomaniac Father-in-Law
I found the following daguerreotype of Almon Whiting Griswold. Adelaide Griswold (his daughter) was married to the 3rd President of ANA : Augustus Goodyear Heaton (April 28, 1844 – October 11, 1930)
Here’s the eBay lot description:
Griswold, Almon Whiting (1833 -1890) Born in Johnstown, Vermont, and educated at Harvard, Almon Whiting Griswold was a lawyer by profession. His library of approximately 7000 volumes was rich in American history, bibliography, English literature, and the classics. There were numerous sales of his books, at Bangs, 14 May 1868, 28 February 1876, and 19 April 1876, while another series of sales were conducted by Leavitt, on 9 January 1878, 8 February 1878, 1 June 1880, and 6 December 1880. The catalogues of the Leavitt’s sales were entitled: “Gems from the library of a bibliomaniac”. There were also private sales of some of the choicer items from Griswold’s library.
A Shakespeare First Folio purchased by Almon W. Griswold was lost with the New York-bound Collins liner Arctic after the steamship collided with the Vesta in fog off Cape Race, Newfoundland, on Sept. 28, 1854.
To view the complete eBay lot description, see:
HALF PLATE Daguerreotype Identified Harvard Almon Whiting Griswold Bibliomaniac
We received quite a few responses to last week's question about the original purpose of the Peter Max print based on the peace Dollar design. -Editor
Bill Hyder writes:
Peter Max poster was commissioned by Kagin's for an ANA auction catalog.
Bill Rosenblum agrees. He writes:
I believe the Peter Max drawing was on the cover of a Kagin's auction in the early to mid-1980's.
Barry Stallard of Healdsburg, CA was more specific. writes:
With the definitive word on the topic, David Alexander writes:
The Peter Max artwork illustrated in last week's E-Sylum was prepared for the cover for Kagin's 1983 San Diego American Numismatic Association catalogue. It attracted much comment at the time and deluxe prints were prepared, including the ANA example cited. Staff was divided in its opinion, one telling me, "You've heard the expression 'grody to the max?' Well, this is the Max!" I thought it was a powerful design, if not specific to the sale or its contents.
David T. Alexander (at that time Director of Cataloguing Services, Kagin's Numismatic Auctions)
Bill Hyder added the following, taken from a 2008 2008 Legendary Auctions catalog description:
This is a gorgeous pastel print of Anthony DeFrancisci's vision of "Lady Liberty", which first appeared on the U.S. Peace silver dollars from 1921 through 1935. This concept was conceived by the coin company of Kagin's in 1983 for the official American Numismatic Association auction. The image was placed on the front cover of the auction catalog. Kagin's commissioned Peter Max, the well known artist from the 1960's and 70's to create his version of DeFrancisci's rendition.
This red, white, and blue "Liberty" is among his most beautiful works of art and is highly sought after by art collectors and coin collectors alike. One would typically find a signed poster of the catalog cover that shows the Kagin's logo and ANA sale date, which sell for hundreds of dollars, however this is the rare limited edition signed print without the added text. It was limited to 300 copies of which this is #31. It is boldly signed by Peter Max across the bottom. This print is framed and ready for hanging. Excellent to Mint condition. Overall size is 33-1/2" x 27".
Fred Lake writes:
I have always loved the Peter Max Peace Dollar drawing that appears on the cover of Kagin's ANA 1983 sale. This was the Raymond S. Toy collection. Why was Peter Max commissioned to make this drawing? I have no idea !
Pete Smith writes:
It is hard to believe that I have been around such a long time and something from 30 years back may be forgotten to numismatic history. I am attaching a scan of the cover for the 1983 ANA sale conducted by Kagin's. I am also sending a smaller image of the explanation inside the front cover.
We already have the catalog cover image, but here's the scan of the inside front cover text. -Editor
John Dannreuther, Neil Berman and David Ganz also correctly identified the Kagin's catalog connection. Thanks, everyone. But we still don't know who Vincent Van Rottkamp was and what his association with the print was. Perhaps an ANA member who donated his copy to headquarters? -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: QUERY: PEACE DOLLAR DRAWING BY PETER MAX (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a20.html)
Bruce W. Smith writes:
There is a fabulous catalog by Bob Julian on medals made at the U.S. mint through 1892 -- both government issued medals and privately issued medals. I want to know if anyone is working on a catalog of medals made after 1892 -- especially the private medals. One would think that if the records are available for the 19th century, they would be available for the 20th century. However, in a letter some years ago, Julian told me that Eva Adams or her successor at the mint, had many of the 20th century records destroyed. So what is the status on a catalog of 20th century mint medals?
Great question - I've often wondered about this myself. Is anyone attempting to tackle this problem? Earlier E-Sylum discussions named Mint Director Stella Hackel as the culprit in mint record destruction. Others mentioned hoards of old records stored at the Denver Mint, and others held in Maryland but not open to researchers. So perhaps more information will come to light someday. Still, a catalog of medals known to exist and thought to be of mint origin would be useful, even without backing documentation -Editor
To read an earlier E-Sylum article, see: MINT RECORDS DESTROYED BY STELLA HACKEL, NOT MARY BROOKS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v12n08a16.html)
Ralph Langham writes:
I have attached three images of a rather interesting medal. In total it weighs in at exactly 1 ounce. It is stamped 18K but it is not gold and perhaps a silver copy of a gold medal. The game depicted is of Jai a Lai or Pok At Pok which is the Mayan game that had deadly consequences for the loser.
The readers of The E-Sylum are some of the most intelligent in numismatics and perhaps someone can this piece. Neither the American Numismatic Association museum nor David Alexander were able to identify this medal.
Interesting item. I can't quite make out the monogram; it could be IEX, IEK, IER, EX, EK, ER... Can anyone help? -Editor
Most E-Sylum topics trail off after a few weeks, but some take longer than others. Here are some more thoughts on the Carter specimen of the 1794 Dollar. -Editor
First, John Dannreuther adds:
This does not change my opinion that the 1794 dollar had both the plug and adjustment lines to illustrate the intention of the coiners to produce coins of accurate weight. It certainly has nothing to do with the classification of this coin as SP by PCGS.
Here's a note from Steve D'Ippolito: -Editor
In response to this from John Dannreuther:
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.
I can go along with the way Stack's phrased it. It is, indeed "perfectly conceivable" that this is the coin in question. But to make the stricter statement, that it is (without qualification) the first one ("I believe that this is the first United States silver dollar struck"), is to make an error.
I could certainly believe this is the earliest extant US Silver dollar--in fact that is very, very likely-- but that doesn't mean there weren't one or two others made before this that have since disappeared. (Hopefully not permanently.) "Earliest extant" does not mean "first made."
We have a horse race. Currently, only a single stallion is entered. Until another horse appears, we don’t have a race.
Even the metaphor doesn't say what John seems to think it says, in fact it more closely parallels what I think about this. Not having a race doesn't prove that stallion is the fastest horse on the planet, it just means he was the fastest (and only) one to show up for the race. It doesn't even matter if a couple of other horses show up.
Similarly, not having a plausible other candidate for "first US coin" just means this coin is the best candidate we've got, but you can't jump from that and say that therefore this is the first coin that was actually made, as he is inviting us to do with this conclusion to his piece.
To extend the metaphor, what we are trying to prove is that this stallion is the fastest stallion that ever existed--a superlative, an absolute, just as "first US dollar ever made" is. And having him win a race by default just doesn't do that.
Next to chime in is Bill Eckberg: -Editor
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.
Logic says that if they all went to Rittenhouse and he kept just one as a souvenir, he'd probably have kept the NICEST one. At least that's what I would have done, and it wouldn't have mattered to me if it was the first or 500th. It's not at all hard to imagine that the nicest one would have been among the earlier strikes before die clashing. Rittenhouse wouldn't even have known which was struck first unless the workmen involved told him.
But, the guys who struck these things were paid by the hour to do heavy manual labor and produce as many coins as they could. Would they have bothered to sort them out into which was made first, second, third, etc.? That's hard to believe. A check of my library resources indicates no evidence of a special event in honor of the striking of the first silver dollar(s), so it seems likely that the event passed without significant notice or ceremony, attended only by the workmen in the coining department. Halves were struck the same day, apparently.
As to JD's argument that precisely BECAUSE it has adjustment marks and a plug it must be special, it is completely circular and fails the null hypothesis test. As I understand it, his logic says they chose a planchet that was plugged and filed - and so imperfect in two ways - for a special strike precisely because they only had one of them, and it would make it look like they took their planchet weights very seriously. Wow. All this extra effort for a coin that nobody was ever going to spend, so the weight wouldn't matter!
JD knows vastly more about early silver and gold than I ever will, but any comment about a "first-struck" status for this coin is pure speculation. Any argument in favor has at least as many equal counterarguments. This is no horse race; it is an intellectual argument about whether or not this coin was the first struck. There is no evidence that it was other than a certain logic, some of it rather twisted, and there is just as much logical evidence otherwise. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and none has been forthcoming.
That said, the coin is undoubtedly special. Spectacular hype and a huge jump bid went into this sale; the buyer desired that this be a $10M coin, and the buyer is a dealer who can be presumed to have known what she was doing. Of course, she wants it to be the first struck (ditto Cardinal and Stacks/Bowers, all of whom have vested interests in the coin's "special" status), but as Dick Doty said, these discussions have entered the realm of theology (or at least philosophy), not numismatic history. I'm sure Legend will, at some point, find someone who will pay enough that they make a profit on it. In the end, that's probably all that matters.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: JOHN DANNREUTHER ON THE FIRST 1794 DOLLAR (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a06.html)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Greg Reynolds has another article in CoinWeek (published March 13) 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
Among Newman’s patterns, there are many pieces that feature proposed designs that were never adopted for regular U.S. coinage. These tend to be attractive, interesting or otherwise entertaining. Before putting forth my definition of patterns and discussing the meaning and certification of individual pieces, I mention a few of these alternate concepts to provide an impression of one major reason as to why many collectors find that U.S. patterns constitute an exciting realm apart from the domain of regular issue U.S. coins.
In this auction consignment, there is a copper 1863 Two Cent piece and 1866 five cent nickels that feature portraits of George Washington. Furthermore, Newman has an 1870 Three Cent Silver pattern featuring William Barber’s Liberty Seated design, which is much different from the adopted ‘regular’ Three Cent Silver designs and considerably different from the Liberty Seated design on regular issue half dimes and dimes of 1870. This consignment also contains patterns dated 1870 of other denominations, including dimes and a half dollar, which feature this same elegant, Liberty Seated design of William Barber. Newman also has an 1879 Washlady Dime pattern, which exhibits one of the most famous of all proposed designs for U.S. coins.
Newman’s 1878 Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold denomination) pattern in this auction represents an idea for a new design, one that was never adopted. This design is attributed to George Morgan, who designed the Morgan Silver Dollar that was introduced as a regular issue in this same year, 1878. Morgan also designed or co-designed a few U.S. commemorative coins and some U.S. Mint medals.
Another Morgan design for a Goloid Metric Dollar features a head of Miss Liberty with Coiled Hair. The “Goloid Metric Dollar” proposal embodied by this pattern called for a much higher percentage of gold, more than ten times as high, 5.43% and for a lower silver percentage, 84.57%.
To read the complete article, see:
Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fabulous Eric Newman Collection, Part 2 — Patterns
In his latest Stack's Bowers blog Harvey Stack recalls travelling with numismatist John J. Ford, Jr. in the 1950s. Here's an excerpt. Harvey is shown on the left of the illustration, that's John Ford at top right, and at bottom right I believe is Charles Wormser. -Editor
John J. Ford, Jr. was a legend in his own time. He worked for Stack’s in our shop on 46th Street in the early 1940s before he was drafted into the Army in World War II. He was a good numismatist, sharp and a fine teacher to those who would listen and pay attention to what he was saying. My cousin Norman Stack (three weeks younger than I) and I learned a lot about the hobby from John and the three of us became fast friends.
In the early 1950s, several groups got together and formed the New England Numismatic Association, which met annually in a New England city. It was the trip to one such meeting, this one in Hartford, Connecticut, that this story is about. John asked Norman and I if we were going to Hartford. When we said we were he asked if he could get a lift and we said “Sure.”
John suggested that we get on the road to miss the traffic up toward Connecticut. He added, “I know a great diner, right off the road in New Haven, so we could rest, get something to eat, and then continue.”
Of course, Norman and I decided to take John’s advice and off we went. When we got to New Haven just off the road, as John said, was The Three Judges diner. We stopped, parked the car where we could watch from the diner’s window and went in to order breakfast. Then the adventure began.
Norman and I ordered the customary juice, eggs with bacon, toast, a piece of Danish pastry, and coffee. Then John ordered. He asked for a large glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice (no pits), half a grapefruit, a bowl of hot oatmeal (“and I mean hot,” he said), skimmed milk, pancakes (“Burnt, and I mean burnt!), coffee and a Danish. The waitress wrote down the order carefully, read it back to John who made some corrections, and off she went into the kitchen.
John took out a series of envelopes, each of which contained various pills. They were all colors and he started to explain each one -- you would swear you were in a dietary lecture. He took them in a special order, leaving one packet on the table. When his juice arrived, he found one or two small pits in it, called the waitress back and asked her for a new one. She removed the glass, got another one, gave it to John who examined it carefully, shook his head and drank it reluctantly. Next came his cereal. He opened the next packet on the table and shook something that looked like wheat germ on the cereal, boasting, “this will keep my heart in good shape.”
Next came his pancakes, which appeared to be black as coal. Not black enough for John, however, as he sent them back to be cooked more. After the waitress went back to the kitchen, John continued: “When I say burnt, I mean burnt!” A few minutes later the waitress returned with pancakes as black as could be. John tried one and was still disappointed, as he saw some white dough.
Meanwhile Norman and I were trying to slide under the table, so no one would notice us, especially the waitress who decided to steer clear of our table as much as she could.
It goes to show that you never know a guy until you have breakfast with him. John was very eccentric about food (and other things as well). The many times I ate with him I found him to be informative, entertaining, and wild as a tiger. I also always found that I was left with the check to pay for whatever we had to eat.
But it was worth it as every meal was an adventure and a source of special information, not easily available from anyone else. To be a friend to John J. Ford, Jr. didn’t mean you had to be crazy, but it sure helped!
To read the complete article, see: Remember When: Traveling With John J. Ford, Jr. In The 1950s (stacksbowers.com/Blogs/remember-when-traveling-with-john-j.html)
It was a busy numismatic week for me, starting with the Tuesday night dinner of Nummis Nova, my Northern Virginia numismatic social group. Tom Kays was our host, and we had what may have been a record attendance at El Paso, a Mexican restaurant in Springfield. VA.
I was about the sixth to arrive, and plopped down next to Ron Abler, who had been unable to join us
for several months. When not dealing with family matters he's been steadily working on research
for his book on U.S. centennial medals, and told me about his recent visit to the American
Numismatic Society in New York. Curator Bob Hoge was very patient and helpful while Ron reviewed
tray after tray of medals.
Ron's “shrunken die variety”
I have attached photos of the “shrunken die variety” (aka electrotype copy) of the 57.7 mm National Commemorative Centennial medal (Julian CM 11) that I brought for show and tell to the Nummis Nova comida de Mexico Tuesday evening. It is 36.2 mm in diameter, 2.62 mm thick, and weighs 22.4 g. There is an obvious seam around the edge where it was assembled from two halves. The consensus opinion of the dinner guests was that it appeared to be a copper plated lead electrotype copy of the larger Mint medal. There was no similarly dominant theory as to a reason for the copy.
Anxious as always to be the discoverer of a true rarity, I floated the theory that it was struck from actual Mint dies that had shrunk a mere 37% through some as yet unexplained phenomenon. For some reason, no one took my hypothesis seriously, and I Dave Schenkman told me later that were it not for his intercession I would have been ridden out of town on a rail for being a crackpot exonumist wannabe. And yes, the art work and the condition of the medal are every bit as bad as they appear in the photos.
For a minute I almost fell for Ron's "shrunken die variety” claim. And I wasn't even drinking Dos Equis.
Also on hand after a long absence was Howard Daniel, who returned recently from a six-month trip to Viet Nam.
Across from me were Gene Brandenburg and Dave Schenkman, who couldn't resist commenting on the restaurant's boast of winning a vote for "Virginia's Largest Burrito". He said "How come I didn’t get a ballot for this vote?" Eric Schena reminded Dave that he doesn't even live in Virginia (he treks down from Maryland).
Well, I couldn't refrain from ordering the super burrito, and it was indeed quite large. But nothing I couldn't handle. I ate chips hand over fist (my favorite snack food) and nearly everyone had a beer. The dishes looked good, and Gene declared the place a "keeper".
In the meeting invitation Tom declared:
If we must have a theme, then bring something from "South of the Border." I don't care which border, so this should be easy. Whether you have "centavos" from South Carolina, “pesos duro” from southern Manitoba, "escudos" from South Africa, or hacienda coinage from way down under, South Australia way, bring ‘em. Show me money from the antipodes, from the “deep south.” Vaya con queso, Amigos.
Tom himself passed around a nice display box of Mexican coins. David Schenkman bought a number of goodies including these great Mansion House counterstamps, attributed to Alexandria VA, and a rare 1626 coronation medal of Charles I. It was the last one he needed to complete his set. Wow!
My Virginia token catalog notes that "James Green opened the Mansion House Hotel in 1849. He died in 1880, and shortly thereafter the hotel's name was changed to Braddock House."
Dave also brought a guest, Aaron Packard (no relation to Mike Packard). Turns out I'd met Aaron at the last Annandale Coin Show. He maintains a great web site with original articles on tokens, and he'd been corresponding with Dave. Aaron is now an E-Sylum subscriber, and an excerpt from one of his articles appears elsewhere in this issue.
I had to leave early to pick up my son Christopher from basketball practice (so no beer for me). I missed part of the event, but it was a fun evening for all.
Friday afternoon brought an opportunity to duck out of work a little early and go to the Whitman show in Baltimore. When I walked into the bourse floor I saw Julian Leidman at his table. He'd been unable to come Tuesday night, but he was busy with customers and I walked on.
I spotted bookshelves in the far corner and walked down to John Burns' table, where I found another fellow member of the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society, Paul Schultz. Soon we were joined by Dave and Emi Hirt, who I hadn't seen in a long time either. We had a good time catching up. Dave told me he'd just stopped by Pierre Fricke's table to tell him how much he enjoyed the book he coauthored with Fred Reed on the history of collecting Confederate currency. Dave showed me a recent acquisition, George Massamore's 1889 Descriptive Catalogue of Confederate Currency.
It is completely annotated with each No. given a price, and many sub varieties listed. As such it is unique.
Dave and I moved on to Charlie Davis' nearby table. Charlie told us a story about a bookbinder and the Franklin Mint that he'll share with us in The E-Sylum sometime. At Charlie's table we saw Neil Musante, author of the book on John Adams Bolen. We talked about numismatic literature and Neil asked us what our "Holy Grail" would be.
I was having trouble deciding, but I think mine would be a subscription copy of Crosby's Early Coins of America. For Charlie, it would be a copy of the book inscribed by Crosby - apparently none are known to exist. Neil would want to have a copy inscribed to a famous early numismatist like Isaac Wood. I suggested William Sumner Appleton. Then I thought it would be great to have a snarky inscription from Crosby to one of the colonial book committee members who abandoned the task and left Crosby to complete it on his own.
Dave and I moved on to John Kraljevich's table, where we found - guess who - Paul Schultz! In time Len Augsburger, Dave Perkins and Brad Karoleff wandered by. John showed us a medal made, of all things, milk. Len found it a little creepy. No creepier than Bois Durci, I said - that's a mixture of sawdust and blood.
Next to John's table was Tony Terranova. The show was very busy and crowded, but John managed to snap a photo of Tony appearing to snooze in a quiet moment.
After getting something to drink I headed back to John Burns' table and sat down for a while. As we chatted someone came by asking for a copy of the Lusitania medal book. "Someone told me they read about it in The E-Sylum", he said. John didn't have one, but promised to get one in stock.
I'd come to the show partly to discuss some NBS business with our Treasurer David Sundman. We'd never really had a chance to get acquainted. We sat down at a table in the lobby for a while. Next we sat in on the John Reich Collectors Society meeting upstairs. Dave Perkins was giving a presentation on numismatic ephemera and its use in research.
Afterwards Dave Perkins, David Sundman, Len Augsburger and Brad Karoleff stuck around while I discussed some web site ideas of mine. Later John Kraljevich, me, Len and the two Daves had a nice dinner at Sullivan's Steakhouse. It was a great evening. One of the topics was my earlier "Holy Grail" discussion with Neil and Charlie.
Len Augsburger (author of Treasure in the Cellar on the Baltimore gold hoard of 1934) said:
My holy grail was the bid book for the Perry Fuller May, 1935 auction sale of the Baltimore gold hoard. I think I missed it by about one year. It was most likely in an attorney's papers which had been discarded after he passed way. The family supplied as much as they could, but I think the "good stuff" had all escaped to the recyclers.
Dave Perkins (W. David Perkins as many of you know him), said:
John W. Haseltine noted in his the introduction to his November 1881 Catalogue of John W. Haseltine’s Type Table of U.S. Dollars, Half Dollars & Quarter Dollars, “At a future time, if I should decide to issue a work upon this subject, each variety will be given a name to more easily distinguish it, and plates be given of those pieces that have but slight differences, in order that collectors could more readily determine them.”
My holy grail for numismatic literature would be to find the notes and / or manuscript for this work along with the photos of the early silver dollars in the 1881 Haseltine Type Table. Without photos it is impossible to link the pedigree of any early silver dollar die marriages to Haseltine’s 1881 Type Table Collection.
That would be a Rosetta Stone as well!
After saying our goodbyes I made my way back to the parking garage and headed home to Virginia. What a fun week! Of course, I'd only barely started working on The E-Sylum and had a ton of email filling my inbox. That would be my numismatic fun for the weekend when my kids didn’t have me outside playing basketball. As you can see, I managed to pull it all together somehow. That's all 'til next time. Thanks for riding along on my numismatic adventure.
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Another great article in CoinWeek (published March 11) is an interview by Al Doyle with Wayne Miller, author of the classic book on Morgan and Peace dollars. Here's an excerpt. Be sure to check out the web page, which also includes a video. -Editor
How does a person become fascinated with silver dollars? Growing up in a place such as Helena, Montana where Morgan and Peace dollars were a part of daily life meant that Wayne Miller was constantly exposed to the hefty coins at an early age.
“Montana was one of five states where silver dollars were used regularly,” he said. “You were considered a sissy if you used paper $1s.”
Miller set collecting aside while pursuing a BA in social work, but he returned to coins while still in school.
“I went to Washington, D.C. to get my master’s degree,” Miller said “I visited a coin shop in Washington and started getting the bug again, and I began taking orders for customers. Silver certificates couldn’t be redeemed for silver after June 24, 1968, so I spent a year buying them.” Even though he was a small fish in the coin business at that time, Miller made a bold and historic decision in 1968.
“I decided build the finest Morgan dollar set possible,” he recalls. “It took 12 years, then I decided to go for all the proofs. The set had all four of the recognized branch proofs – 1879-O, 1883-O, 1893-CC and 1921-S. The ’93-CC was blazing.”
Most of the coin photos in Miller’s first book on silver dollars came from his collection. Information from the Redfield hoard was included.
“I knew I was going to write a book someday when I was 6 years old,” Miller said. “I didn’t know it was going to be a coin book.” With more than 20,000 soft and hardcover copies sold, An Analysis of Morgan and Peace Dollars was a blockbuster by numismatic publishing standards. Issued in 1983, The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook was also a strong seller.
The surging rare coin and bullion markets of the late 1970s helped provide Miller with the funds to build his collection. The numbers from 35 years ago are staggering even by current standards.
“We sold $198,000 worth of coins in one day at the 1978 ANA convention, and prices were a quarter of what they are today,” he said. “You could make $30,000 in a day at a show. It was a wild time. Prices dropped to nothing in 1982.”
Some might say Miller unloaded his famed collection too soon, as many of the coins soared in value after the set was dispersed. Aside from the natural tendency to sell a collection once the goal has been achieved, there was an important reason to promptly convert the coins to cash.
Half the proceeds of the sale went to build and fund the God’s Love homeless shelter in Helena. The charity is run by Miller’s wife Ann along with qualified staffers. God’s Love is in its 28th year of operation, and it was the subject of a Religion & Ethics segment on PBS-TV. That program is available for viewing on the internet.
To read the complete article, see:
Silver Dollars and Charity – An Interview with Wayne Miller
Here is an excerpt from a nice article (one of many) on Aaron Packard's Nova Numismatics web site. -Editor
Henry D. Higgins was one of the earliest settlers of Mishawaka Indiana. Born on his father’s farm near Syracuse New York in 1822, Higgins was a grandchild of a Revolutionary War veteran who emigrated to America from England.
Higgins, like many other industrious Americans, decided to try his luck at prospecting and moved to California in 1850.
Unsuccessful with his mining efforts, Higgins returned back to Mishawaka a year later, and opened a jewelry business.
In mid-19th century America, jewelers didn’t just specialize in precious metals, rings, and gemstones. Oftentimes these craftsmen also practiced clocksmithing and optometry. Much of the same expertise and materials needed to make jewelry, were also the same skill-sets necessary to build clocks and fabricate eye-wear. Higgins’ new jewelry venture was no different.
For the next decade Higgins’ proprietorship prospered. As the town of Mishawaka grew, so did Higgins’ business.
H.D. Higgens issued 19 different varieties of Civil War tokens during the early and mid-1860s. Like other Civil War storecards of the time, the tokens were issued as change to customers, and had a face value of one-cent.
Below is a H.D. Higgens’ Civil War token. Listed as Fuld IN630A-2a, the token is Choice EF, and has a rarity rating of R-4 on the Fuld Rarity Scale. It is plain edged and struck in copper.
To read the complete article, see:
Henry D. Higgins & His Periscopic Spectacled Tokens
Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on Chinese medal counterfeiting and copyright laws. -Editor
I received an email this week from the widow of a sculptor who died recently. She forwarded an email from China she did not know how to answer, wanted my advice.
The writer from China was so knowledgeable about the sculptor and his medals I assumed he was one of the sculptor's former students.
He wanted a medal the sculptor had created of Chinese interest. He said he even wanted 300 to sell to American tourists who came to China. If he could get at least one medal he could have it cast in China. Cast in China? Read that he wanted to counterfeit it to sell to naive tourists.
The widow called me after I sent a long email explaining that her husband's medal was an issue that had sold out. Further that it was copyrighted. Also that American medal collectors had feared that this very situation would happen.
The Chinese had copied U.S. coin rarities so closely it was nearly impossible to detect them from the originals. Now that some 20th century American medals are reaching the $1,000 price range these become attractive to the Chinese counterfeiters.
I pleaded with the widow to refuse to supply him with the medal and note the issue was sold out and that it was a copyrighted design. Instead of copying an American medal, Chinese artists should create their own medal to sell to tourists. She informed me she had no idea how he learned of her, or of her husband's creation. And he certainly was not one of his students.
It does point out the Chinese have no respect for American copyright. They have a mindset that they can copy anything they wish.
For American collectors it means vigilance in what you acquire and who you acquire it from. Overseas sellers are suspect. Prices far below current market value is also a red flag.
Medal collecting had generally been free of counterfeits in the past. Olympic and U.S Presidential Inaugural medals are the only ones that come to mind. Now it is evident any numismatic item more than $100 must be examined closely and guaranteed genuine by the seller. Protect yourself!
Dick Hanscom and Arthur Shippee passed along this story about a Chinese coin found in Kenya. Thanks! -Editor
Scientists have found a rare, 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda that rewrites the history books on international trading. Researchers say the copper coin, which has a square hole in the center so it could be worn on a belt, proves trade existed between China and eastern Africa decades before European explorers set sail.
Scientists say it was issued by Emperor Yongle of China who reigned from 1403-1425 during the Ming Dynasty, and his name is written on the coin.
A joint expedition of scientists led by Chapurukha Kusimba of The Field Museum and Sloan Williams of the University of Illinois at Chicago found the 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda.
Scientists from Kenya, Pennsylvania and Ohio also participated in the expedition. They also found human remains and other artifacts predating the coin.
Emperor Yongle, who started construction of China’s Forbidden City, was interested in political and trade missions to the lands that ring the Indian Ocean and sent Admiral Zheng He, also known as Cheng Ho, to explore those shores.
'Zheng He was, in many ways, the Christopher Columbus of China,' said Dr. Kusimba, Curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum.
'It’s wonderful to have a coin that may ultimately prove he came to Kenya,' he added.
To read the complete article, see:
The 600-year-old coin that proves China was trading with East Africa BEFORE Europeans arrived
On March 14, 2013 CoinWeek published an article by Michael Alexander about the launch of a new five euro note. Here's an excerpt from the article, which also includes an interview with the Director of Banknotes at the European Central Bank. -Editor
Amid the historical and fascinating surroundings of Frankfurt’s Archaeological Museum, officials from the European Central Bank unveiled their new €5 banknote to an international audience of dignitaries and the world’s media. This is the European Central Bank’s second series of banknotes authorised for issue to the EURO-zone’s more than 330 million users and the occasion was an opportunity for the ECB to reiterate their commitment to the world of both the stability & longevity of the €URO as well as the safety and overall security of the continent’s premier currency notes.
Attending the ceremony was the current ECB president, Mario Draghi as well as the designer of the new note series - Reinhold Gerstetter among other invited guests. After the note’s unveiling, Mr. Draghi approached a large facsimile of the €5 note and applied his signature to a deluge of photos and applause from the audience.
To read the complete article, see:
Interview with Ton Roos, Director of Banknotes at the European Central Bank
From the be-careful-what-you-ask-for-department: This is non-numismatic but any true bibliophile can associate with this story of the saving of important artifacts from the dumpster. It's written by the grandson of Groucho Marx, and I just couldn't resist passing along the story of lunch at Groucho's house with (get this...) Jack Nicholson, Elliott Gould and Marcel Marceau. -Editor
I was the last to arrive that day and as I entered the dining room, Nicholson, Gould and Marceau were already seated.
As I took my seat next to Nicholson, he immediately raised his wine glass and offered a toast to my grandfather. As everyone lifted their glasses, Marcel Marceau turned to my grandfather and asked, “Groucho, if you don’t mind, is it okay if I mime the wine?
My grandfather nodded in approval and sure enough, Marceau, probably the greatest mime since Charlie Chaplin, proceeded to open a non-existent bottle of wine with a non-existent corkscrew, then pour the non-existent wine into a non-existent glass. Next, he lifted the glass to toast and then took an imaginary sip. I must admit, it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen, proving once more that lunch at my grandfather’s was always full of suprises.
As Nicholson began telling everyone about his latest movie, “The Last Detail,” which would be released in a few months, the phone rang and my grandfather, never one to have his lunch or a good story interrupted, asked me to answer it.
I walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
“Is Mr. Marx in?”, the voice at the other end said.
“Who’s calling?” I asked.
“I work at the NBC storage warehouse in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey,” the man said. “We’ve got several boxes of 16mm reels of film from ‘You Bet Your Life’ and we were wondering if Mr. Marx wants any of it. If not, we’re going to destroy all of it tomorrow.”
“Destroy it?” I asked incredulously. “Why would you do that?”
“We’re trying to clear space for the newer shows. There’s a lot of stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s that we’re getting rid of. If Mr. Marx would like it, we’ll be happy to send all of the reels to him.”
“Tell him to burn them for all I care,” my grandfather said, eliciting laughs from his guests. These days it was hard to tell if he was just doing his grouchy act for his invited audience or truly didn’t care.
“Grandpa, you don’t really want them doing the same thing they did to Oscar Levant’s show,” I said, referring to what had happened to all the copies of his good friend, Oscar Levant’s classic show from the ‘50s, “Information, Please,” when all of the kinescopes that existed were destroyed.
“He’s right,” Nicholson chimed in. “Groucho, that stuff is classic. Listen to your grandson. Let them send the reels to you.”
“Alright,” my grandfather said. “Maybe it’ll be fun to watch them again.”
Excited, I ran back and told the man to send the boxes to my grandfather’s house.
As it turned out, it would take more than an afternoon to watch the episodes. Two weeks later, I got a call from my grandfather, who sounded more than a little angry.
“Get over here right now,” he growled. “There are five UPS trucks in front of my house. Each one of them is filled with boxes of 16mm reels of “You Bet Your Life.”
I rushed over to my grandfather’s house and sure enough, there were five UPS trucks parked in front. Each driver was wheeling dozens of boxes of film into the house.
“Where would you like us to put all of this?” one of the drivers asked me. “There are over 500 boxes and each box contains ten reels of film.”
5,000 reels of film, I thought to myself, as I watched the small army of UPS drivers putting boxes in any empty space they could find, including a now-vacated bedroom that once belonged to Groucho’s last wife from whom he was now divorced. I couldn’t help thinking this was beginning to resemble a scene from a Marx Brothers film, as boxes of film were stacked to the ceiling, literally taking up entire rooms. I also thought back to the man from NBC, who told me there were “a few boxes of film,” an understatement if ever there was one.
By the time the UPS drivers left later that day, my grandfather’s house – which was quite large – was filled from end to end with boxes of “You Bet Your Life” reels. And even though I knew my grandfather was angry, I was grateful that we had managed to save “You Bet Your Life” from extinction by NBC.
To read the complete article, see: The Day My Grandfather Groucho and I Saved ‘You Bet Your Life’ (boingboing.net/2013/03/12/the-day-my-grandfather-groucho.html)
It's been a while since we had a money-eating story, so here goes. It's an account of a pooch that swallowed over 100 pennies and nearly died. -Editor
The beloved pet pooch inhaled a mini-mint of 111 pennies behind its Manhattan owner’s back, and veterinarians had to rescue the ailing dog after its sudden change in diet.
Doctors at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, working methodically on 13-year-old Jack, removed all the coins from the penny-popping pooch’s insides during a two-hour operation.
The dog grew progressively worse over 24 hours after ingesting the coin collection while licking up crumbs from a leftover bagel.
To read the complete article, see:
Manhattan dog Jack saved after eating $1.11 in pennies
Originally minted for use in Ireland, St. Patrick coppers had a long and varied history. An English Quaker merchant in Dublin named Mark Newby (or Newbie) acquired a large supply of these coins which he took with him in 1681 when he emigrated to West New Jersey (New Jersey was divided into separate Eastern and Western colonies from 1676-1702). On May 18, 1682 the General Free Assembly of West New Jersey granted Newby's coppers legal tender status and allowed them to circulate as small change at the rate of a halfpenny, replacing wampum.
The only restrictions were that Newby had to put up surety (300 acres of land) that he would exchange the coppers for "pay equivalent" on demand and that one was not required to accept more than five shillings in coppers at one time. When Newby died about a year later, in the fall of 1682, his estate included £30 in coppers, estimated at roughly 10,800 coins. Newby's St. Patrick coppers filled an important need in local commerce and remained in circulation throughout the colonial period. In fact, in 1881 the eminent New Jersey copper specialist Edward Maris stated that St. Patrick coppers continued to be found in change in western New Jersey into the early 19th century.
Several theories have been put forth on the origins of the Saint Patrick coppers. The most plausible is that the tokens were minted in Dublin around the period 1674-1675. A single smaller size or "farthing" coin was found in a hoard of 273 coins recovered from the yacht Mary which sank on March 24, 1675, on its way from Dublin to Chester. From this it is certain the production of these coins date to at least 1675. Although there is no evidence as to how much earlier the coins were minted, it is suspected they were part of a coinage sanctioned by Arthur, Earl of Essex, who was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1672 to 1677.