Tuesday was the night of the monthly meeting of my numismatic social group, Nummis Nova. I made my way through rush hour Capitol Beltway traffic to Tyson's Corner and pulled into the parking lot of Clyde's restaurant. The upscale restaurant is perched atop one of the few hills in the area, a pleasant oasis from the surrounding hubbub of the metro Washington D.C. area.
The buzz isn't just to the north, south, east and west, it's overhead and underground, too. A communications tower around the bend beams messages to U.S. military operations around the world, and below the surface, snaking their way through a maze of highly classified "black" telecom cables are mega machines digging a tunnel for the expansion of the D.C. Metro train network toward Dulles airport.
I knew it would be a surreal evening - D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad was scheduled to be executed near Richmond at 9pm. It would also be the first meeting Julian Leidman would attend since his robbery last month. As noted in The E-Sylum and elsewhere, thieves had taken from his car a seven-figure inventory of rare coins and paper money.
Roger Burdette was our host, and I was looking forward to seeing everyone. A full house of twelve regulars and two guests had RSVP'd: me, Roger, Julie, Wayne Herndon, Traci Poole, Joe Levine, David Schenkman,
Tom Kays, Mike Packard, Jon Radel, Chris Neuzil and Bill Eckberg, plus Bill's wife Susan and Wayne's guest S. Stewart of Abacus Coins in Ruckersville, VA.
I brought with me a binder from my numismatic ephemera collection - #40, Prospectuses. I'd made an exhibit of the material at an ANA convention, and I stored my exhibit text cards together with the items, making it nice a self-explanatory item for "show and tell". I also brought a new purchase for my library, a nicely bound copy of John H. Hickcox's 1858 classic, An Historical Account of American Coinage. Only 200 copies were printed.
Another item I brought to show everyone was a set of plasters for the 2004 Pittsburgh American Numismatic Association convention medal. I was the General Chairman for the convention, and the medal's designer, John Mercanti of the U.S. Mint, had donated three sets to raise funds for local committee expenses. I bought one of the sets.
2004 happened to be the 250th anniversary of the 1754 building of the French Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio, site of modern-day Pittsburgh. The obverse shows a French soldier in front of a diagram of the five-sided fort. Mercanti signed and dated the plasters on the edge.
Tom Kays also passed around some numismatic items, including Lion Dollars and a two dollar bill.
Numismatic topics of conversation included the Switt family 1933 double eagles, and their recent slabbing by grading service NGC. I mentioned Tom DeLorey's article in the November, 2009 issue of COINage magazine, where Tom speculated that the buyer of the $7.3 million Steve Fenton specimen was the U.S. Treasury Department itself. The cost to the government would have been half that amount since the proceeds of the auction were to be shared, and buying it would ensure that the piece remained off the market.
Chris Neuzil and others at my table scoffed that the government would never be able to pull something like that off. I suggested that a Freedom of Information Act request might resolve the issue, although these can take many years to yield results. I, too, doubted that the government was the buyer, citing David Tripp's description of the buyer in his book, Illegal Tender. Chris Neuzil said that he had spoken to author Alison Frankel, and while she wouldn't reveal the name of the buyer she indicated that she has interviewed him for her book, Double Eagle. Neither of those sources hinted that the buyer was anything but a wealthy individual collector.
Maybe I had a premonition that the night would be bittersweet. At the end Traci Poole announced that it would be her last meeting - she's moving back to Idaho to be with her family. We'll sure miss her. I told her I'd hug her, "but my wife don't allow that..." She was a breath of fresh air in a group of crusty old guys (like me!) We wish her the best of luck and look forward to still seeing her at major coin shows.
There was a great deal more numismatic conversation at the table I'm sure, but it was difficult to hear beyond my immediate table. I didn't get to speak much to Julian, but it was good to see him and he was in good spirits. It was a great night and after packing up my stuff I headed out to my car and onto the roadways. My car radio brought word that John Allen Muhammad was dead. Me, I was just dead tired, but already looking forward to our next event.
THE BOOK BAZARRE
DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE
will be holding its next mail-bid auction on December 3. Featured Lot:
The Very Scarce 1917 ANA Sale, Signed by Cataloguer Wayte Raymond.
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