From the catalog:
Holograph letter to Jeremiah Colburn, on Mint stationery, pertaining to "Washington National Medals." Philadelphia, February 27, 1861.
An evocative, most interesting document. Several weeks before standing down as Mint Director, Snowden writes,: "I have received your letter of the 25th inst with the enclosures stated. The book 'Washington and National Medals" will be sent to you by express according to your directions. I will, as requested, put your name on the list of those who desire copies a set of the National Medals, to be struck from the dies in the Mint. I thank you for the copper coins of Ferdinand II (King Bomba) and will place them in the Cabinet. As an honorarium for your gift I send you the "golden wedding" medal. See page 115, no. 47 in my book of medals."
Reflecting the ethos of the day, Snowden clearly had no reservations about restriking medals from Mint dies. In the closing portion of the chapter entitled "A Workshop for Their Gain" (pages 177-192 in The U. S. Mint and Coinage , New York, Arco Publishing Company, 1966), Don Taxay observes:
"The 'retirement' of Franklin Peale closed a chapter in the history of scandals which distinguish the second Philadelphia Mint. But that was all it did. Director Snowden, for example, was so intrigued by Peale's collection of coin and medal dies that he soon hatched a scheme of his own. Snowden wished to complete the collection of Washington medals in the Mint cabinet, and to augment the modest appropriation set aside for this purpose, he ordered the restriking of rare coins and patterns which had trade value."
While nowadays such practices are viewed with disdain in many numismatic quarters, one may ponder if the current striking of a plethora of United States coins for profit or pet fundraising efforts differs in any meaningful degree. At least in the old days no new dies need be engraved!
Snowden served as Director of the Mint from June 1863 until April 1861, and claimed authorship for two major 1861 American numismatic works: the one cited in the letter and his even more popular Mint Manual.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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