The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 42, October 17, 2010, Article 11


As many of you have noticed in the recent ad for the upcoming Kolbe & Fanning sale, I'm selling much of my collection of newspapers containing articles relating to numismatics. I'll miss having them, but I'm sure they'll go to good homes. Dave Fanning did a great job of cataloging them, and at my request he provided a few examples for The E-Sylum.

I collected most of these over about a twelve-year period beginning around 1985. Those were the pre-Internet days, and I had gotten onto the mailing lists of multiple dealers who handled these. In those days libraries were on a deacquisition binge, selling off tons of newspaper holdings that had been converted to microfilm.

Bad idea in my opinion, but their loss was the collector's gain. The dealers combed the papers for interesting articles on topics of interest to public. I was an eager buyer for newspaper issues containing one or more articles on numismatic topics. I didn't buy everything that came my way, or my house would have filled to the rafters. But I chose what I thought were particularly interesting or significant numismatic topics. Here are a few representative examples.

Lot 324: A 1794 Account of the 1794 Dollars

COLUMBIAN CENTINEL. Vol. XXII, No. 23 (Wednesday, Nov. 26, 1794). Boston: Published by Benjamin Russell. Tabloid. 4 pages. Very good. (400.00)

A remarkable newspaper with an important article giving a first-hand account of the 1794 dollar in the year it was minted: “Some of the Dollars now coining at the mint of the United States, have found their way to this town. A correspondent put one into the Editor’s hands yesterday. Its weight is equal to that of a Spanish dollar, but the metal appears finer. ... The tout ensemble has a pleasing effect to a connoiseur [sic]; but the touches of the graver are too delicate, and there is a want of that boldness of execution which is necessary to durability, and currency. They will be improved upon.” Very important.

Everybody's a critic. But who wouldn't want to be handed a brand-spanking new 1794 Dollar today?

Lot 345: Foundation Stone of the Mint

WESTERN ANNOTATOR. Vol. III, No. 13 (Aug. 1, 1829). Salem, Indian: Published by J. Allen & W. Tannehill. Tabloid. 4 pages. Leaves neatly separated at spine. Some tape repairs at fold. Hand-written address. Very good. (75.00)

A scarce early Indiana newspaper with a brief article on counterfeits on page 2 and a longer, more substantive article on page 3 about the construction of the new Mint building and the contents deposited in its foundation stone (including “species of the national coins, including one of the few executed in the year 1792 the first of the new emission of that coin, of which denomination none have been issued since 1805”).

OK, raise your hands - who would like to get their mitts on THAT Time Capsule? I asked Len Augsburger (co-author with Joel Orosz of the upcoming book on Frank Stewart and the First Philadelphia Mint), who writes: "We had the following in our book (below). Looks like the Indiana newspaper picked up the account from the Philadelphia papers. So far as I know, none of the O'Brien coins are attributed today. A search of the Chapman catalogs c. 1903-1904 might reveal something."

Equally prized might be the cornerstone of the second United States Mint, laid July 4th, 1829. The three hundred pound stone protecting a candy jar with its contents was unearthed circa 1903 and reported in the The Numismatist that year.[i] The find reportedly included an 1829 dime, an 1829 half-dime, said to be the very first struck in that year, and an unidentified coin of the first year of the Mint, “one of the very few executed in the year 1792,”[ii] probably a half disme. Another account mentioned an 1828 cent and half cent, and a “valuable penny,” possibly a 1792 Birch or silver center cent.[iii]

Curiously, one of the workers put his hand in the candy jar and quietly made off with the precious jug during the excavation. Later reported to authorities, one Thomas O’Brien escaped prosecution on the grounds that the government could not produce a definitive inventory of the cornerstone contents, and to this day none has been located outside of inconsistent press accounts. O’Brien in fact returned some of the loot, but no one could prove what did or did not remain from the original cache.[iv]

[i] The Numismatist, Vol. 16, No. 5, May, 1903, 148.

[ii] The Register of Philadelphia, 7/11/1829, 28. Also see Coin World, 4/20/2008, 20, and Niles’ Register, 7/18/1829.

[iii] Nancy Oliver and Richard Kelly, “What was Stolen from Former Mint Cornerstone?,” Coin World, 4/27/2009, 1, 5.

[iv] Ibid.

Lot 361: A Coin Lunatic

GOLD HILL DAILY NEWS. Vol. XIX, No. 2834 (Thursday, Jan. 9, 1873). Gold Hill, Nevada: Published by Alf. Doten. Large tabloid. 4 pages. Hand-addressed. Very good. (100.00)

An early Nevada newspaper, containing an article on Dr. Charles Spier (with the charming title given above), described within as “the oldest living and most successful numismatist in the world.” The article gives an account of some of his treasures. Very rare.

I'm hoping that the winner of this lot will write the article on Dr. Spier that I always wanted to pen for The Asylum but never quite got around to doing. Somewhere in my library I've got a catalog of his collection. He was an interesting early California collector who's fairly unknown today but was known far and wide in his day.

To view the complete Kolbe & Fanning catalog online, see: Auction Sale One Hundred Nineteen (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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