I know what you're thinking - what the heck are seal presses and what do they have to do with numismatics? Well, when I heard about this book from Dave Bowers, I knew there was a neat connection lurking somewhere. First, here's a definition of a seal press:
These devices would impress a raised seal on a piece of paper, serving as an official mark of authenticity, difficult to reproduce without access to the original equipment. Notary Publics used these, although today most use a smaller hand-held version.
Seal embossing presses consist of two major types: percussion (struck with fist or palm) or lever (much more efficient). Although these were most widely used from the 1850's through the 1950's, there are few serious collectors of these neat historical items.
The seal would include text and/or images chosen by the owner of the seal. Typically the buyer would commission an engraver to create an appropriate custom design for their seal. As you've probably guessed by now, this is where the numismatic connection comes in - many seal engravers were also engravers of coins, medals and tokens. There are also tokens which picture seal presses.
One such token is the Merriam toad press token. Dave provided the image for the book, and you will find it prominently displayed on the back cover.
Dave put me in touch with Don Grampp, who writes:
This is the first book available for the collector of American seal presses. This 113-page book describes over 160 different body styles. Information is included about presses from several Civil War era die sinkers such as Merriam and Childs.
The coil bound volume is printed on heavy weight glossy paper.
The book is available for $50.00 plus $4.00 postage and shipping by contacting
Here are a few images of the internal pages. Click on the image to access larger versions on our Flickr archive.
S. D. Childs was one of the best known die sink-ers and token manufacturers of the great era of merchant's tokens and Civil War tokens. One of his personal merchant's tokens is illustrated below. Child's business encompassed tokens, medals, rubber stamps, engraving, business supplies, and publishing.
Katie Jaeger, numismatic researcher, refers to this as an Evens No. 2 seal press, but the press on the token is dissimilar from the Evens press. The Lovett family is well known amongst collectors of tokens and medals. Robert Lovett was famous in his time for the manufacture of Hard Times tokens. Robert Lovett Jr. produced the famous "Confederate Cent". George H. Lovett had a prodigious production of seals.
Joseph H. Merriam offered "The Toad Press" in the 1860's. It is a whimsical style with a toad (not a frog) sitting on a lily pad leaf and wearing a mushroom cap. This portrayal is biologically incorrect as one would generally expect a frog on such a leaf, but the warty skin definitely classifies this as a toad. It also appears as "The Toad Press" in Merriam's advertising of the period. (Refer to "Joseph H. Merriam, Die Sinker" by David Schenkman in the April, 1980 edition of The Numismatist.) There are at least three varieties of the Toad.
For more information, see:
Many thanks to Dave for passing on word of this book.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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