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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 45, November 4, 2007, Article 16

1847 HAWAIIAN CENTS AND THE VOLCANO

Commenting on an article on "Hawaii and It's Coinage"
appearing in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of
Antiques and Collectibles, Dick Johnson writes: "This
is the first I have heard that Hawaiian cents were
tossed down a volcano!"

[Below are excerpts from the article by James C. Johnston Jr.
It's a great story of a junk-box find.  The last paragraph
has the passage Dick picked up on. -Editor]

Then one day, a fellow came in with a box of loose junk
coins some dead relative had collected over the years. He
offered me the lot for $100. I was very busy, but I looked
it over. I almost said, “No thanks,” then I felt inner
voice saying, “why not?”

I think that the inner voice belonged to the 12 year old
kid in all of us that comes out in our personalities
sometimes. So I said, “What the hell. O.K.”

I gave him the $100 and stuck the box in my desk drawer.
There it remained for ten years. One cold winter day,
when we were all snowbound in Massachusetts, I came
upon the box of junk in the desk. I put a terry cloth
towel down on the desk top and began separating the
coins onto it.

Some World War II Philippines material was there as
were coins from Australia, New Zealand, and the whole
Pacific rim. It was starting to look like some World
War II gathering of what was around in that time period.
The coins were mostly minors (small silver, nickel, and
copper coins), and there were odd British and Australian
pennies and half pennies, as well as tokens. But all of
a sudden at the bottom of the box was a thick old type
British half penny size coin.

It was covered with varnish which had picked up a lot
of dirt and odd bits of paper while drying. Under a strong
glass in a good light I could tell it was a Hawaiian 1847
cent. The varnish turned out to be yellowing shellac. I
thought to myself, “If the gods are good, this could turn
out to be a good thing, but how shall I get this garbage
off the coin?”

I couldn’t really tell much about it. It might be a fine
to very fine coin. After a bit of cogitation, I decided
to break out the Q-tips and rubbing alcohol and see what
I could do. After an hour of working, I saw that nothing
much was happening.

I went wildly outside the box. I went all the way to
acetone (C3H6O)! Acetone tends not to alter the color
of the coin or its surface. In the old days, a lot of
collectors varnished or shellacked their coins to protect
them. Even German museums did it.

My efforts were crowned with success. A nice reddish brown
A.U. Hawaiian cent emerged from more than a century of a
varnish-like coating.  Only 100,000 of these 1847 cents
were minted. Rumor had it that 50,000 of them had been
tossed down a volcano Pele. Who knows?

[So... has anyone else heard this tale?  Is there any
known documentation of the event?  -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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