The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

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Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 5, Number 02, January 13, 2002:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2002, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


  We have two new subscribers this week: ANA Executive
  Director Ed Rochette (courtesy of John & Nancy Wilson),
  and Dr.Thomas Offermanns of Germany. Welcome aboard!
  Our subscriber count is now 428.


  Many thanks to subscriber Bruce Perdue, who came
  forward with an offer to assist with the NBS web site.
  Thanks to his efforts, the E-Sylum archive has been
  updated, and the navigation links have been improved.
  Great job!  The web site is at


  Jan Monroe writes: "In response to Geoff Bell's request, it
  depends on what exhibitions he is interested in.  I suggest the
  following book for a general overview of world exhibitions:

  "The Story of Exhibitions" by Kenneth W. Luckhurst,
  published by The Studio Publications, London & New York,
  1951.  It has a nice bibliography.

  I am currently writing a book on State Anniversary Medals
  which has an extensive bibliography for each state celebration.

  I can suggest one book that I recently acquired entitled "he
  History of the Trans-Missippi and International Exhibition of
  1898", by James B. Haynes, 1910.  This book describes the
  medals given to the executive committee and the president on
  pages 325 and 326.  Pages 154 and 155 describe the souvenir
  "coins" and award medals struck by the U.S. Mint, and page
  257 has a table showing the number of gold, silver, and bronze
  award medals issued by category (Manufacturing, Mining,
  Agriculture etc.)

  I can say that collecting these original source books is great


  How close is too close?  An article published on
  accuses popular author Stephen Ambrose of plagiarism.

  "Judging from his book sales, Stephen Ambrose must be
  America's favorite historian. But this week Ambrose finds
  himself enmeshed in controversy.  First, The Weekly Standard
  revealed that The Wild Blue, his current bestseller, contains
  words and phrases borrowed from another author, without
  quote marks.  Then identified three earlier
  Ambrose books that fit the same pattern."

  "After The Weekly Standard report appeared,
  identified Ambrose's Crazy Horse and Custer as lifting words
  and phrases from a source in a similar fashion. That report
  prompted several e-mails from readers nominating other
  Ambrose books for inspection.

  Among them was a note from military historian Joseph
  Balkoski, who said he was "very disappointed and somewhat
  depressed" when Citizen Soldiers came out in 1997, and he
  came across certain passages that relied heavily on his 1989
  book Beyond the Beachhead. "The writing seemed very
  familiar,  and much to my astonishment, it was my own," he
  said today in an interview. "

  So, numismatic authors, mind your manners and don't
  forget the quotes and attribution when using material from
  other sources.    You know, I've sometimes wondered if
  past articles in the numismatic press were recycled
  from the work of earlier writers.  It's that sense of deja vu
  when reading yet another article about a given subject.
  If the article doesn't include some recent discovery, then
  it could have been written ten or twenty years ago and
  no reader would be the wiser. It's so hard to check
  since the combination of an extensive back issue collection
  and decent index is rare if not nonexistent.


  John Kraljevich writes: "Granvyl Hulse's memories of Fred
  Pridmore made a real impression. This was one of the more
  interesting things I've read in the E-Sylum.

  Could you put something in asking other subscribers of an
  older generation to submit similar memories of famous collectors
  of a bygone era?  These would be great to read and actually
  getting them in print would be a lasting contribution. Thanks!"

  [Well, folks?  Got some interesting yarns to share with us?
   We'd love to hear them.  To kick things off, the following is
   a second-hand tale from John Ford that I've always found


  The following was a little something your editor posted to
  the USENET rec.coins.collecting newsgroup on July 21,
  1994.  [Yes, there was life before the World Wide Web
  and The E-Sylum came along...]

  This week's Numismatic News announced that John Ford's
  unique 1783 Nova Constellatio pattern set will be on
  display at Stack's table at the ANA Convention next week.
  Wow!  To me, this set is the ultimate U.S. numismatic treasure,
  far more important historically than the King of Siam set
  (of 1804 Dollar fame).

  The coins were struck in April 1783 for Robert Morris,
  and were the first attempt to create a national coinage for
  the new government.  The denominations were based on a
  unit equal to 1/440th of a Spanish Milled Dollar.  The silver
  "mark" was 100 units, the "quint" 500, the "bit" 100.  The
  smallest was a copper "5".

  The following is the story of Ford's acquisition of the set,
  as near as I can remember it.  I have a tape recording of a talk
  he gave one time, and spoke to him in person about it once.
  He had a lot of explaining to do to his wife when he needed to
  liquidate other assets to come up with some cash after the
  Garrett sale.

  Ford bought the copper "five" in 1977.  It was found in a
  Paris collection and was sold to a U.S coin dealer who thought
  it was a pattern for the later Nova Constellatio copper coinage
  - he didn't realize it was the missing link in the Morris set (the
  other three silver pieces resided in the Garrett collection at
  Johns Hopkins University).  The dealer offered it to a wealthy
  collector who in turn asked John Ford for his advice.   The
  collector met Ford in midtown Manhattan while on the way
  to a fishing trip.   As the two shared a cab, the collector
  pulled the piece from his shirt pocket and showed it to Ford.

  "How much should I pay for it" he asked.  "Just buy it," Ford
  said, recognizing the significance of the piece.  "But how much
  is it worth?" "Just BUY it - whatever it takes - BUY it!"   The
  collector put the piece back in the pocket of his fishing shirt,
  and left for the woods.  When he later contacted the dealer,
  the asking price was $20,000, and the collector balked.  He
  sent the coin back to the dealer.

  Before long John Ford got a call himself from the dealer, and
  later bought the  piece for his own collection.  Two years later,
  Ford bought the remaining three pieces at the Garrett sale for
  $425,000.   The set of four coins that passed through the
  hands of Morris and Thomas Jefferson was united again
  after nearly 200 years.

  After holding the set for 15 years, Ford is apparently putting
  it up for sale. "The price is available on request."  Those of
  us who'd have to ask, can't afford it.  But this collector will
  make sure he takes the opportunity to see the coins before
  they disappear for another 15 years or more."

  [At the Detroit ANA , I spent nearly half an hour examining
   the set at Stack's table.  John Ford came by while I was
   there, and we talked more about the set.  It was in the largest
   Capitol Plastic holder I'd ever seen (making it difficult to
   shoplift).  I've seen plenty of rare coins in my time, but it's
   hard to imagine any coins more significant in U.S.
   numismatic history.  There is a photo of the prodigal "five"
   on the U.S. Patterns web site, and the Notre Dame site
   has more information on the patterns than I've ever seen
   gathered in one place.  The page notes that the dealer who
   sold the piece to Ford was Fred Werner.



  The Numismatic Bibliomania Society sponsored the creation
  of the Aaron Feldman Memorial Exhibit Award, given to the
  top exhibit in the numismatic literature category at American
  Numismatic Association conventions.  NBS members and all
  numismatic bibliophiles are encouraged to consider exhibiting
  at one of the upcoming conventions.  Please be aware of the
  following application deadlines:

  Applications must be received by February 11, 2002 for
  the Jacksonville, FL convention (March 7 - 9, 2002) and
  by June 3, 2002 for the New York, NY convention
  (July 31 - August 4, 2002).  Exhibit rules and applications
  are available on the ANA's web site:


  Sometimes a piece of ephemera turns out to be the missing
  link that solves an old mystery.  One numismatic debate
  that has raged for ages concerns the circulation (or lack
  thereof) of the small fractional California gold pieces.

  An article by Robert Chandler in the Winter 2001 issue
  of The Brasher Bulletin (Newsletter of the Society of
  Private and Pioneer Numismatics) has an illustration
  and transcription of an 1853 letter confirming that at
  least one of the pieces was sold as a souvenir.

  James G. Hughes, a Marine stationed aboard the
  fifty-gun frigate St. Lawrence at San Francisco, CA,
  wrote a letter dated September 5, 1853 to Abraham
  R. Springer of Kulpsville, PA (near Philadelphia).

  "The[re] is a coin heir is a cureoserty in the U.S. for
  the people are buying them up at 37 1/2 cents and
  sending them home so I thought I would send you one."

  Chandler notes: "In a small packet fixed to the letter, a
  bit of red sealing wax held a 50 cent piece by Pierre
  Frontier & Eugene Deviercy - either BG 401 and 407,
  or BG 409, from 1853.  The wax retained the imprint
  of the box on the reverse, while the paper shows the
  impression of the coin."

  ["BG" stands for Breen-Gillio, the standard reference
  for Pioneer Fractional Gold. -Editor]


  Steve Pellegrini writes: "Being something of a newbie I have
  not read enough issues of The Asylum to really get a clear
  understanding of which subjects are appropriate and which
  are not. Personally, I buy books for my library for my
  numismatic education and as research and attribution
  resources for my  medal collection.   I collect mostly by
  maker, that is, the sculptor, designer, engraver etc.
  Collecting rare books is a bit beyond my means and all
  things being equal a third edition used with a coffee ring
  on the cover at $50 is preferable to a signed first edition
  of vellum and buckram at $1,000. Having said all that,
  what could I contribute which would be useful and of
  interest? Perhaps you could make a statement in
  E-Sylum explaining what you feel is the type of material,
  topics, focus the journal is looking for. I'm really good at
  making work for other people, no?"

  Well, yes, but two can play that game.  I'll give a quick
  response and leave the floor open to NBS members.

  First, I should remind our readers that the weekly electronic
  newsletter you're reading now is called The E-Sylum.  Our
  quarterly print journal is The Asylum.  The print journal is
  sent only to paid-up members of NBS, but The E-Sylum
  is free to all.

  Second, as Steve and John Kraljevich's questions point
  out, there are always newcomers entering our hobby and
  organization, and thus there will always be a ready audience
  for interesting stories and research, even if the subject has
  been visited before in the past.   So authors needn't be too
  concerned about avoiding topics that have been written
  about before. Each author brings a new perspective, which
  is always welcome.

  So what kind of articles are our readers looking for?
  Well, if you look at the winners of the yearly "Best Asylum
  Article" voting, I think you'd find that they fall into three
  main categories:

  1. New research into early numismatic books and periodicals,
      with a focus on the lives of the people responsible.
      Joel Orosz is the undisputed master of the genre, and has
      the awards to prove it.

  2. Reminiscences of collectors.  Randolph Zander's memoir
      comes to mind as a very warmly received member of this

  3. Lists.  A number of important articles revolve around the
      simple compilation of lists, such as:  known copies of a
      certain important book;  past owners of a certain important
      copy of a book;  important references for a given topic,
      such as a bibliography of a specialized topics, such as
      large cents, Washingtonia, or (as mentioned above)
      medals.  Several authors have contributed articles of this

  Well, that's an initial list.  What do our readers have to say?


  Bill Rosenblum writes: "As usual, the E-Sylum is a jewel
  sitting amongst the junk mail and the unsolicited questions
  asking me how much a roll of 1804 dollars is worth.

  As for Definitive Catalogs in my area, Judaic Numismatics,
  I would like to recommend a few.  For ancient coins The
  Abraham Bromberg Collection of Jewish Coins Parts I and
  II come to mind as the among most important ever and at
  least the most important of the last part of the 20th century.
  The sales were conducted in December of 1991 and 1992
  by Superior in collaboration with Leu Numismatics of Zurich.
  They were primarily written by Paul Rynearson with perhaps
  some input from Leo Mildenburg. The material offered was
  incredible and the sale would be important if it just listed the
  coin and the grade. But of course it didn't. Wonderful
  photographs (many enlargements), precise weights and
  alignments, wonderful research and pedigrees where known
  are all included. And of course the sale was attended by
  virtually ever dealer and collector who specializes in this field

  On a more pedestrian note, our Spring mail bid sale of May
  2001 was highlighted by the Harry Flower collection of
  Albert Einstein coins and medals. We offered 140 lots of
  Einstein material with photographs of the obverse and reverse
  of most every lot. While certainly not as "important" as some
  fields of numismatics, I would doubt that a more important
  numismatic collection of Einstein material will come on the
  market in the near future."

  Bob Cochran writes: "I concur with the comments of Fred
  Lake that the seven Bluestone catalogs of the Albert Grinnell
  collection of U.S. paper money are magnificent.  However,
  in my mind the "set" of Grinnell catalogs isn't complete without
  a copy of the Max Mehl catalog of  "The Albert A. Grinnell
  Collection" sale of June 15, 1943.  Supposedly Mr. Grinnell
  was disappointed in the results of the Mehl auction, and that
  was the reason he consigned the remainder of his collection to
  Barney Bluestone.

  Among the "bargains" in the Mehl auction was a set of the
  Confederate Montgomery issues of the $1000, $500, $100
  and $50 notes, graded "practically uncirculated," "Uncirculated"
  (and Uncancelled), "Beautiful uncirculated" (and Uncancelled),
  and "Uncirculated and uncancelled" respectively, which fetched
  $55, $65, $21, and $15.

  Nolan Mims proposed the CAA Sale catalog containing the
  Dr. Walter B. Jones Collection of Alabama Obsolete Notes
  and Scrip as his choice for a definitive work.  I would certainly

  I talked with Walt Rosene about his book a few times, and
  he said he'd been given complete access to Dr. Jones'
  collection.  Some years ago, the late Paul Garland did me a
  great favor.  I was seeking an illustration of the $20 note
  (Rosene 134-7) issued by the Northern Bank of Huntsville
  (my home town).  Rosene's description of the vignette in the
  center of the note is "Two females seated, view of Huntsville."

  I mentioned my quest to Paul, since he had lived in Huntsville
  for some time.  Paul gave me the name and phone number
  of a man in Huntsville and said to ask him about the note.
  The man was Warren P. Jones, and he turned out to be Dr.
  Jones' son.  Warren kindly provided me with a photocopy
  of his father's note, and I used it in an article for Paper Money,
  published by SPMC.  The vignette was adapted from a painting
  of the famous "Big Spring" in Huntsville, and it includes a portion
  of the rear of the building of the Northern Bank of Alabama!

  I'm pretty sure I met Dr. Jones at least once.  I was a
  12-year-old Charter Member of the Rocket City Coin Club
  in 1958, and I'm certain Dr. Jones attended a few of the club's
  early meetings."


  George Kolbe writes: "Yet another interesting and informative
  "E". Regarding "The Death of Print?"  I must say that I have
  never seen a period when printed numismatic books have
  flourished more than at the present time.  Spink in London -
  along with whole raft of academic and institutional publishers
  in Europe and Asia - and here in the U. S, . a wide range of
  numismatic specialists (either through their respective clubs
  or on their own), along with the ubiquitous Q. David Bowers,
  have made the last decade surely the most prolific ever for
  important published numismatic research. Even your humble
  writer realized a few days ago that he had published no less
  than three books in the past year: "Illustrium Imagines" (though
  dated 2000  did not come out until 2001) + Adams 1 reprint
  + Bassoli translation). This, after deciding several years ago,
  not to publish anything further.

  Truth be told, I too believe that printed books will eventually
  fade into obscurity. But, for now, it seems to me that the
  numismatic publishing community is on steroids! We are


  George Fuld writes: "As a matter of interest, my wife Doris
  and I have chaired the Brandeis used book sales in northwest
  Baltimore.  We had 40,000 to 50,000 for sale, all donated.
  It is interesting that coin books have always been donated.
  Over the years some twenty-five or more Redbooks were
  donated, the earliest being 1962!   Most books are the cheap
  investor-oriented ones, with only one exception.

  Perhaps you are familiar with the large format Civil War Store
  Card book published in  1972 in the red cloth binding.  We
  were given some 50 copies of the book as our "fee".  These
  were presented or sometimes sold with a rubber stamp inside
  reading "Limited Edition" and a number.  Copy 1 and 2 were
  for my father, Melvin, and myself.  Somehow copy number 1
  disappeared.  One fine morning I went to the depot where
  books were sorted and on the desk with no note or anything
  was copy number 1 of the Civil War book!!  To this day we
  have no idea who "borrowed" it or why it was donated to
  Brandeis as our names were not associated directly with the

  This year nothing notable was donated, but two early city
  directories.  One was sold, but we put aside a copy of the
  1851 Worcester, Ma. Directory which is still available for
  benefit of the Brandeis Libraries.  If anyone is interested,
  contact me.

  We retired this year from running the sales, but one would
  be amazed at what has turned up.  We do put aside books
  valued at $50 or more and put them in the Baltimore Book
  Auction sales.  This year the special books realized over
  $3,400.  The sale itself at a suburban mall grossed of $35,000
  including the auction results.  We raised well over $100,000
  in the past few years for the benefit of the Brandeis University


  NBS Board Member Joel Orosz writes: "Here is another
  case of literature vandalism that might merit mention in the
  E-Sylum."   The article relates to our earlier discussion of
  the book "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper"
  by Nicholson Baker. (see The E-Sylum v4#17, April 22,
  2001).  It was published in The New York Times
  December 30, 2001.

  Ingenuity's Blueprints, Into History's Dustbin

  ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 27 - On these frigid winter nights,
  Randy Rabin can be found combing through trash bins
  outside the United States Patent and Trademark Office, trying
  to rescue from destruction yellowed copies of patents from
  America's golden age of invention.

  The patent office, home to nearly 6.5 million patents dating to
  1790, is converting to an electronic database and discarding
  a significant portion of its paper files after they have been
  scanned and digitized.

  Tonight, at least 30 large recycling bins are sitting in a driveway
  near the patent office's public search room, crammed with
  documents ready for destruction.

  A few random swoops into the bins produce aged prints of
  patent documents dated from the 1880's and 90's, with
  spidery intricate sketches of inventions.

  Four of the reproductions have the name T. A. Edison at the
  top of the page. That's Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of
  the light bulb and the holder of more than 1,000 United
  States patents. One of the sketches retrieved from the dust
  bin of bureaucracy is of Mr. Edison's "dynamo electric
  machine or motor," patented March 15, 1892."

  [A number of patents have numismatic connections, including
   minting equipment, counting machines, and scales.  One of
   my personal favorite numismatic items, encased postage
   stamps, was patented by its inventor, John Gault.  This
   paticular patent drawing found its way into the National
   Archives many years ago, and I was thrilled to be able to
   examine it in person during a visit to Washington, DC.


  This week's featured web site is devoted to Emperor Norton
  (1819-1880), the famous San Francisco resident who issued
  the first of his proclamations on September 17, 1859,
  declaring himself the Emperor of the United States.  Joshua
  Norton, a failed businessman, having lost his fortune, appeared
  to have lost his mind as well.  Living in a cheap rooming house
  and scrounging meals, he donned an old uniform and walked
  around like, well, an Emperor.  The townsfolk humored him,
  and after the local papers published his proclamation as a
  humorous filler, he gained a local following.  Joining in the fun,
  shopkeepers treated him royally, and theater companies
  reserved a seat for him on opening night.

  "He continued to make proclamations throughout his reign.
  These included commanding that the Golden Gate bridge be
  built and one about the name of the city,  "Whoever after due
  and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abdominal
  word 'Frisco,' which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall
  be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor." Penalty for
  noncompliance was $25.  Newspapers of the day printed
  his proclamations (and even made some up which were not
  from Norton!)"

  It being only fitting that an Emperor should have his
  face on money, Norton had a printer produce certificates
  for bonds of  "The Imperial Government of Norton I"
  Most are in the denomination of fifty cents.  Upon
  accepting said sum from passers by or tourists, Norton
  wound sign the bonds with great ceremony and hand them
  over.  While payable at some date on the future, it is not
  known if any were ever actually redeemed.   The notes today
  are rare.  The web site has a page illustrating Norton notes
  from the Wells Fargo History Museum collection.

 Wayne Homren
 Numismatic Bibliomania Society

Content presented in The E-Sylum is not necessarily researched or independently fact-checked, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the 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.  Visit the Membership page. Those wishing to become new E-Sylum subscribers (or wishing to Unsubscribe) can go to the following web page link.

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