The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

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Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 18, April 30, 2000: 
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. 
Copyright (c) 2000, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society. 


   We have two new subscribers this week:  NBS member Gerard 
   Anaszewicz, and Dr. A. A. Boaz of India.  Welcome aboard! 
   This brings our subscriber count to 299. 


   This year's general meeting of the Numismatic Bibliomania 
   Society will be held at the convention of the American 
   Numismatic Association in Philadelphia.  The meeting will 
   take place at 11:30 AM in Room 201C of the Convention 

   NBS will also host a Numismatic Literature Symposium. 
   Moderated by NBS Board member Dr. Joel Orosz, the 
   symposium will be held on Friday, August 11, from 2 pm to 
   3:30 in Room 201C of the Convention Center (the same room 
   as the general meeting earlier that day).  Tentative participants 
   include NBS Board member Pete Smith, who will be speaking 
   on the books published about the Philadelphia Mint, and Eric 
   Newman, who will be discussing one of the earliest authors on 
   a numismatic topic in the United States, Beale Bordley. A 
   question-and-answer session will follow the presentations. 


   Board member Larry Mitchell writes: "Among the best resources 
   for ancillary coverage of 19th century American numismatic 
   topics are the monographs and journals currently being digitized 
   as part of Cornell University's MAKING OF AMERICA project. 
   The almost 1,000,000 pages digitized to date are a treasure trove 
   of information for numismatists. 

   To give you hint of what's available, a very simple search -- 
   using the keyword "coin"--returns the following: 

   >Search "coin" returned 29269 matches in 13479 works. 
   >View the 5809 matches in 243 books. 
   >View the 23460 matches in 13236 journal articles. 
   >View the 29269 matches in 13479 works." 

   The site's address is: 

   Bill Malkmus notes: "This is a fantastic site (I tried it) and it is 
   every bit as great as Larry Mitchell describes." 

   This site is a fine place to begin a numismatic treasure hunt. 
   American numismatic researchers are encouraged to search 
   it for their favorite subjects;  please report back to us if you 
   find any interesting heretofore-unkown nuggets of information. 

   One random example I came across is an article on "An Alloy 
   of Gold and Aluminum" in "The Manufacturer and Builder", 
   Volume XXVI, 1894. 

   "In the course of experiments made for the Royal Society's 
   committee on researches upon alloys, Prof. Austen-Roberts 
   made a discovery that will probably be utilized in the 
   coinage of money.  His alloy consists of 78 parts of gold to 
   22 parts of aluminum. 

   These proportions, moreover, are the only ones in which 
   the two metals alloy perfectly.  The product, it is said, is of 
   a beautiful purple color, with ruby reflections, and cannot be 
   imitated.  Besides, as gold is 7.7 times heavier than aluminum, 
   the same weight of the latter will be 7.7 times greater in bulk 
   than the former." 

   Has anyone heard of a coin or pattern ever being stuck on 
   such an alloy? 


   Mike Jones writes: First, let me mention that I started collecting 
   oriental coins (mostly pre-Meiji Japanese coins) in the mid to 
   late '70s.  I learned quickly that books in the english language 
   about oriental coins were really hard to come by. 

   I want to ask readers of The E-Sylum whether they own, or 
   know of, or have any knowledge of, the scarcity of the 
   following titles: 

   1. Anything written by Ramsden in Yokohama earlier 
       this century on Oriental coins 
   2. The true rarity of  Munro's "Coins of Japan", 1904 edition 
   3. Schjoth on Chinese Currency, original edition 
   4. Polder on pre-historical Japan 
   5. Original "Kann" on Chinese 
   6. Toda on Annamese 

   I have never seen Polder original...had half a dozen Ramsden... 
   also same number of Munro...three original Schjoth...a few 
   Kann... Toda never had...  Feedback,  please." 


   Dan Demeo writes: "The obvious retronym dealing with 
   numismatics is "ancient numismatics", since much of the early 
   study was on ancient coinage, whereas ancient numismatics is 
   only a fraction of the field today. Perhaps a better term is 
   "classical numismatics". 

   Similarly, all the serious sciences are -ologies, and their 
   practitioners are -ologists.  There is a perfectly good word for 
   the science of numismatics, numismatology, with the scientist 
   being a numismatologist.  Does anyone know why/when these 
   words fell into disuse?   I, for one, would like to again use them, 
   in this case to handle an area where retronyms have failed to 
   keep pace with rapid changes in numismatics. 

   As our life becomes more complex through new technology, a 
   rise in the number of retronyms is perhaps inevitable.  Looking 
   back only a few years, many growing up today would be 
   surprised that the Watergate files were not on a computer, but 
   in file drawers or boxes. 

   Should the term photograph or photo be reserved for things 
   which are photographed, with a camera and film?  Or are coin 
   images created by scanning a coin with a scanner acceptably 
   called photos?   How about digital cameras with CCD arrays 
   and no film?  I can see the term "photographic photo" coming 
   into use to distinguish from a digital photo. 

   I also recently had an e-mail discussion with Fred Lake about 
   whether or not I needed a hard copy (like paper, not stone 
   tablets) of his next catalog, or if an electronic (soft?) copy was 


   Dan also had something to say about the never-ending "catalog" 
   vs. "catalogue" debate.  "It seems perfectly obvious that a 
   catalogue should be a more elaborate and comprehensive item 
   than a mere ordinary catalog, but at what point should one draw 
   the line?   Is the basis the number of pages, printing quality, 
   illustrations or the lack thereof, or what?  Is one committing a 
   serious breach of etiquette if one orders a catalog from George 
   Kolbe, or is it serious only if one fails to enclose payment for it?" 


   Michael E. Marotta has a nice article on dealer B. Max Mehl 
   in the May 1st issue, citing, among other sources, an article in 
   the Summer 1994 issue of The Asylum.  (May 1, 2000, p20) 

   Q. David Bowers "would be delighted to hear from anyone with 
   access to The Boston Evening Transcript, for the period 1855 
   to 1860.  It is likely that some of the first authoritative information 
   concerning U.S. coins appeared in that venue..."    "to share your 
   finds, please write to me at Box 1224, Wolfeboro, NH 03894." 
   (May 8, 2000 issue, p68) 


   The recent surveys indicating that many Americans believe that 
   the new "Golden Dollar" actually contains gold is reminiscent of 
   the "Racketeer Nickel", the 1883 five-cent piece without the 
   word "cents", which was sometimes gold-plated and passed off 
   as a five-dollar gold piece. 

   An ANA "Money Talks" transcript by Mark Van Winkle features 
   the best-known of the "racketeers":  "In one famous court case, 
   a deaf-mute named Josh Tatum was accused of passing off 
   many of these gold-plated or "Racketeer" nickels.  But he was 
   able to go free, since no one could ever successfully testify 
   against him.  As a deaf-mute, he never actually called the coins 
   anything . . . he merely gave them to clerks, and politely took 
   whatever change they gave him." 

   Some numismatic references state that the story of Josh Tatum 
   is the origin of the English word "josh", as in "You're joshing 
   me."    But my favorite online dictionary, Merriam-Webster 
   (  has this entry for the word: 

      Josh:  Etymology: origin unknown.  Date: 1852 
      transitive senses : to tease good-naturedly : KID 
      intransitive senses : to engage in banter : JOKE 

   Given that this citation predates the 1883 coin by over 30 years, 
   it seems unlikely that Mr. Tatum is actually the original source of 
   the  word. 

   In none of the references I've come across in my library is 
   there a citation for the Boston trial of Mr. Tatum.   How can 
   we verify any of this without consulting original source 
   materials?   Does anyone know of any contemporary 
   newspaper articles discussing the trial? 


   This week's featured web site is MikeWallace's "Numismatic 
   Americana", which includes a nice illustrated page on the 
   1883 "Racketeer Nickel": 

 Wayne Homren 
  Numismatic Bibliomania Society 

  The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a 
  non-profit organization promoting numismatic 
  literature.   For more information please see 
  our web site at 
  There is a membership application available on 
  the web site.  To join, print the application and 
  return it with your check to the address printed 
  on the application.   For those without web access, 
  contact Dave Hirt, NBS Secretary-Treasurer, 
  5911 Quinn Orchard Road, Frederick, MD 21704 

  (To be removed from this mailing list 
   write to me at 

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