The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. For more information please see our web site at


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To join, print the application and return it with your check to the address printed on the application. Membership is only $15 to addresses in the U.S., $20 for First Class mail, and $25 elsewhere. For those without web access, write to:

David M. Sundman, Secretary/TreasurerNumismatic Bibliomania Society
P. O. Box 82 Littleton, NH 03561


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You won't regret it!

Volume 12, Number 16, April 19, 2009


Wayne Homren We now have 1,229 subscribers. No one new to report this week. Who's got a friend who would enjoy reading The E-Sylum?

Rich Mantia writes:
Thank you for the recent late issue of The E-Sylum. Having been in the hobby for so long and been a member of quite a few coin clubs and organizations over the years I have experienced a lot. More often than not there are a few members that participate actively in the hobby while the rest of the members sit back and enjoy the benefits of the labors of others. It's disappointing but true that this occurs, which is probably due to human nature that there are more followers than leaders.

The fact that an issue was late is not as important as recognizing that you work so hard for the benefit of us all. It's true that the subscribers volunteer stories and comments, but without your efforts nothing would be done. I appreciate ALL that you do and I hope that you desire to do it for a long time.

I think it's numismatist Jerry Kochel who often says, "The harder I work the behinder I get". I'm so busy and "behind" on things these days I figure that on sheer momentum alone I'll be dead for a week before I finally get around to falling over. But I always try to squeeze in some time for The E-Sylum. It is a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun as well.

It's my connection to the hobby and all of my great numismatic friends out there. I wouldn't feel like doing it if it weren't for the support of my readers. I expect I'll keep it up as long as I can find something interesting to write about, which never seems to be a problem with this great hobby of ours.

In all the confusion of wrestling with the mailing list I apparently messed up the issue numbering in the last two emails; thanks for Arthur Shippee for pointing it out. Bruce Perdue has corrected these in our web archive and hopefully, we're back on track this now. This is volume 12, number 16.

On another topic, I was helping my son Tyler with his homework after school one afternoon this week. One of his study questions was on the storytellers of Mali. He knew the answer - that the storytellers were responsible for handing history and stories down from generation to generation.

I told him that memory and storytelling were the only means the people had to do that, since they didn't have books. I pointed to a book on my shelf and asked him when it had been printed. Easy enough - on the spine of the bookbox of Barton's Life of Rittenhouse is printed the date 1813.

When I take that book off my shelf and read it, I told him, I'm hearing the story of a famous man's life told to me by the author who wrote the book nearly 200 years ago - an author who knew about him, read his letters, and talked to his friends and relatives. Without that book, we'd know a lot less about him today.

Then, referring to the book, Tyler said, "and you're going to pass it on to someone else, right?"

Indeed I will. We collectors know we are merely curators who, like the storytellers of Mali, will pass on their treasures to the next generation. I thought it was a remarkably mature insight for an eight-year-old who only last Sunday saw a light on at 4am and was beside himself with excitement thinking he'd spotted the Easter Bunny.

This week we open with information on the latest issue of our print journal, The Asylum, and the new "Guide Book of the Guide Book" from Whitman. Next up is a not-so-new-anymore book on the banknote printing industry and an old-but-soon-to-be-new-again book on the Morristown Mint.

Other topics include relic medals, the "Omaha Bank hoard", the motto "In God is Our Trust", and new e-books from Krause Publications. Quick, what's a "Brumagem", and how is the term used in numismatics? To learn what dental tools, Shrek and Michelangelo's David have to do with the U.S. Mint, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The editor of our print journal, David Yoon writes:
The next issue of The Asylum, vol. 27 no. 1, has gone to the printers. Here is the contents list:
  • Leonard Augsburger: The One Hundred Greatest Items of United States Numismatic Literature: A Survey of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, Part 1
  • Max B. Spiegel: A Visit to the Historic Mehl Building
  • John W. Adams: Observations on Two Recent Sales
  • RyAnne Scott: News from the ANA Library

Although The E-Sylum is free to all, only paid members of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society receive The Asylum. You're missing out if you're not a member! To join, see the membership information at the top right section of this and every E-Sylum issue.


Moulton 2009 Spring Numismatic literature dealer Karl Moulton of has published his latest fixed price list, the Spring / Summer 2009 issue. It features 47 pages of listings of numismatic auction catalogs, periodicals and books.


Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing forwarded this press release about the new "Guide Book of the Guide Book" by Frank Colletti (see his picture below). -Editor
GBGB_cover Whitman Publishing entered the field of numismatic publishing in 1934. In 2009 the company celebrates its 75th year with a book about the hobby’s leading annual reference—the Guide Book of United States Coins, popularly known as the “Red Book.”

Over time the Red Book, which has been a cornerstone of the hobby since it debuted in late 1946, has become a collectible itself. Many coin collectors save a copy each year, while striving to hunt down the elusive early editions and rare errors and varieties.

To assist other collectors, researcher and longtime hobbyist Frank J. Colletti has written the definitive guide to the scarlet tome: the Guide Book of the Official Red Book of United States Coins.

A reader needn’t be a confirmed “numismatic bibliophile” to love this book—just a fan of the world’s greatest pastime. It’s unlikely that any coin collector active today has not heard of the hobby’s beloved “Red Book.” Collectors have bought more than 22 million copies since 1946, making it one of the best-selling nonfiction books in the history of American publishing.

Colletti Frank The Guide Book of the Official Red Book of United States Coins offers a history of earlier coin price guides. Colletti explores the foundation laid by hobby legend R.S. Yeoman with the “Blue Book” (which debuted in 1942, and compiled dealers’ buying prices).

He then studies each Red Book issued since 1946. Regular editions, special editions, authorized overprint editions, and amazing errors are all examined in detail, with market values given for various grades. Colletti tells what to look for and how to build and care for a collection of Red Books. He also discusses Red Book–related medals and other collectibles.

Along the way, the reader will enjoy a wealth of old advertisements, vintage photographs of the personalities involved in the book, and historical hobby memorabilia. Kenneth Bressett, Q. David Bowers, and other famous hobbyists offer their personal recollections. In pictures and words, it’s like sitting down with friends and learning all the behind-the-scenes stories, the legends, and the lore of more than 60 years of American numismatics.

GBGB_cover_Leather Everyone who collects or deals in rare coins, numismatic literature, or collectible books—or loves learning about the hobby’s famous dealers, collectors, and researchers—as well as those who want to add to their own collection of Red Books, or find out how much they’re worth—will be delighted with the Guide Book of the Official Red Book of United States Coins.

Available online, including at at; and in bookstores and hobby shops nationwide.

By Frank J. Colletti. Forewords by Kenneth Bressett and Q. David Bowers.
304 pages; full color; 6 x 9; softcover. Retail $19.95.
A leather-bound Limited Edition (250 copies, autographed by the author) is available for $49.95.


The April 2009 issue of The Whitman Review has an article by "Red Book" editor Ken Bressett excerpted from his Foreword to the new the Guide Book of the Official Red Book of United States Coins, by Frank J. Colletti. -Editor
When R.S. Yeoman published the first edition of his now-famous Guide Book of United States Coins in 1946, he could hardly have guessed that a day would come when another book would be written recounting the history of his effort. Nor could he have envisioned his book becoming a collectible in its own right.

Yet that is just what has happened to this unique coin reference. It is probably every author’s dream that their published work will pass the test of time, but few books have ever achieved the longevity of what has turned out to be the world’s most popular coin price guide.

Yeoman Bressett Yeoman RS 1970

It was my pleasure to have known R.S. Yeoman from my early days in numismatics, in 1948, to the time of his death 40 years later. My respect for him never wavered. He was a man of the highest integrity, gentle, thoughtful of others, and a keen businessman. His understanding of coin collectors kept him always in tune with their needs and wishes. It was his desire to provide collectors with products that were as precise as possible, sparing no effort to give unbiased pricing information and up-to-date numismatic information.

The story of A Guide Book of United States Coins as told by Frank Colletti in this fascinating account is not merely a story about those who produced it, but a tribute to the thousands of individual contributors who have honed its contents to the point that it has become a numismatic standard and a valuable collectible in its own right. It is a success story that remains unparalleled by any other similar book.

To read the complete article, see: The Most Admired Book in Numismatics (


Bender Moneymakers Banknote PrintingI don't think we've discussed this book before. Published in 2006, Moneymakers by Klaus Bender covers the secretive world of banknote printing. The author makes a number of strong claims. For example, the following is from the inside dust jacket flap (as found on

This book is the first in-depth view of the banknote industry and its modus operandi. The only known former attempt to reveal this story was by an American author. The edition of that book was bought up – straight from the printing presses – by two prominent representatives of the industry because the public was not supposed to get an inside view of the business.

Moneymakers has been researched over a five-year period in Europe, the USA and Latin America. The book is based exclusively on personal interviews and confidential material normally not accessible to outsiders. There were attempts to stop this research project. Many witnesses interviewed spoke under condition of strict confidentiality for fear of reprisals by their employers. As a rule therefore, the author refrained from verbatim quotes and, as far as possible, tried to confirm every piece of information by two independent sources.

Wondering which American author was being referred to, I asked Gene Hessler, who writes:
He's probably referring to Murray Teigh Bloom and the Brotherhood of Money. Murray was able to get close to salesmen and others connected with bank note companies and revealed or exposed some inside information.

You know, I thought I had all of Bloom's books in my library, but I checked, and I don't seem to have Brotherhood of Money. Is it scarce? Was the edition really bought up en mass? Who has one, and what's so juicy about it? -Editor


Members of the Colonial Newsletter Foundation (CNLF) are currently reviewing a draft of Michael J. Hodder's manuscript The History of the Morristown Mint 1786-1788: A Study of a Confederation Period Coinage.

James Spilman writes:
This publication has been a long time coming to see the light of day, but "the end of the tunnel" is now in sight. This current version has been through many reviews, the most helpful being a recent review by Ray Williams.

I asked Mike Hodder about the project. He writes:
This unfinished manuscript was originally written for the American Numismatic Society many years ago. It was inspired by the absence of the Morristown chapter in Damon Douglas' own manuscript on New Jersey coppers. I got a grant from the state of New Jersey, and the monks of St. Mary's Abbey in Morristown kindly put me up during my research.

I spent my days in the county archive reading through bundles of court papers that hadn't been opened since the late 1780's. I wrote a short summary for The Numismatist and submitted the first couple of chapters to the ANS, which turned out not to be interested. Remember, this came at a time when the institution's focus was on the numismatics of antiquity.

I gave the manuscript to Jim Spilman years ago, and he asked if he could publish it as a technical note and I gave my OK. Although it was unfinished and unpolished, there may be something in it that might be useful to some. My goal was to place Walter Mould's coinage operation into its social setting. He had his own powerful backers, particularly among the civil administrative officers in Morris County.

Jim's goal has been to turn the manuscript into an eBook for use of CNLF researchers. He writes:
The major problem has been technical. The original text was in 10 point dot matrix print, and the footnotes in much smaller type and well beyond the capability of OCR scanners of the period.

Stacks Ford I lot 198A Stacks Ford I lot 198B

Hodder cataloged examples of the coins Morristown Mint coins in the recent Stack's sales of the John J. Ford collection. With permission from Stack's, shown above are images of lot 198 from the Ford I sale, courtesy of Vicken Yegparian at Stack's.


DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS Sale #7 closes June 13th 2009. Consignments include: The Library of Myron Xenos U.S. Copper Literature {also} The Estate Library of a New England Bibliophile {also} The Personal Library of a Former Numismatic Literature Dealer. PH: (719) 302-5686, FAX: (719) 302-4933. Visit our web site:


Elizabeth Hahn According to the ANS E-NEWS for April 2009,
Elizabeth Hahn, Librarian of the American Numismatic Society, will be speaking about the ANS Library and highlights in the collections during the Chicago Coin Club Meeting on April 25, 2009, 1pm at the Chicago International Coin Fair (CICF), Crown Plaza Chicago O’Hare, 5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL.

The CICF web site provides this information about the talk:
Featured Speaker: Elizabeth Hahn, Librarian of the American Numismatic Society, on Homer’s Thrinakia: The ANS Library, Sicilian History and Early Numismatic Literature

This talk will use Homer’s mention of the island “thrinakia,” identified as the island of Sicily, as a starting point to discuss the attraction of Sicily and in particular the numerous ancient sites that are preserved throughout the island.

Like the three promontories of Sicily, this talk will have three points that discuss the ANS Library collections, Sicilian history, and early numismatic literature. Examples of early Sicilian numismatic literature will be drawn from the ANS Library in an effort to emphasize the rich and varied nature of the collections.


Orville, Jacques Philippe d'. Sicula quibus Siciliae veteris rudera... Amseterdam, 1764.

To visit the Chicago Coin Club web site, see:


The Spring 2009 (Volume 14, No. 1) issue of The "Conder" Token Collector's Journal will soon be on its way to members of the Conder Token Collector's Club. Editor Mike Grogan forwarded the table of contents for the issue. The primary articles are listed below. -Editor
CTCC v14n1

  • Token Tales by R.C. Bell
  • 2009 Seattle Congress by Bill McKivor
  • Lost and Found: One Scepter by Tony Fox
  • 2009 CTCC Elections
  • DNW Auction Report by Peter Preston-Morley
  • Suffolk 15 by Tony Fox
  • The Library, Part 4 by Richard Samuel
  • Six New Varieties of Camac Tokens by Gregg Silvis of Camac Tokens
  • Seventeenth Century Tokens by Fred Burgess


Last week Dan Owens submitted an item related to the famous counterstamps of druggist J. L. Polhemus. The following appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin on May 29th, 1859:

Polhemus Five Francs obv
Some months ago, it will be remembered, says the Sacramento Bee, considerable outcry was made because J.L. Polhemus, (a druggist in its city) stamped with his store-mark all pieces of foreign coin that came into his hands.

Since then the coin has greatly depreciated, and it is said that a cunning financier in Sacramento, is, and has been, engaged for some time in collecting all francs and forty-cent pieces containing the Polhemus stamp, intending to make him redeem them at the rate they were current at when he put his endorsement upon them;

Tom DeLorey writes:
I am curious about the "great depreciat(ion)" mentioned in the article. Could this be a reference to the Mint Act of 1857, which caused foreign coins to cease to be Legal Tender in the United States?

Good question, and a very reasonable answer. Thoughts, readers? -Editor


Don Cleveland writes:
Are there any books or catalogues on non-religious relic or "made-from" medals? I have tried web searches and get a few medals, but no references.

Hmmm. I'm not aware of any references on this topic, either. Can anyone help? Has there at least been a journal article on the subject? -Editor


Dave Bowers forwarded this query from a correspondent who writes:
I have used various search engines on obtaining the story behind the Omaha Bank Hoard of coins but all get is coins for sale on eBay and etc. Please provide a link or reference so I can learn more about these coins (who, what & when).

I've poked around a bit in the coin forums and see references to an "Omaha Bank Hoard" discovered around 2004, apparently consisting of uncirculated rolls of modern U.S. coins such as Washington quarters. Heritage is mentioned as a buyer or marketer of the hoard, and PCGS is said to have graded the coins and labeled the slabs as "Omaha Hoard". Can anyone tell us more? -Editor


At the suggestion of Joel Orosz, Bill Michal submitted the following query. -Editor
For 35 years or so, I have been an avid collector and student of the details and patterns that led to “In God We Trust” being placed on our coinage and eventually becoming our National Motto. It is well known that the phrase “In God Is Our Trust” was considered in the early phases. It even appeared on two different Compound Currency notes in the Civil War era.


In both the correspondence between the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Mint in the early 1860s as well as everything I have read in numismatic publications, that phrase is always traced back (only) to 1814 and F. S. Key’s lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner. In the fourth and final verse Key used that exact phrase. I have never come across any references to its usage before 1814. I had therefore always assumed Key composed the phrase as he wrote the lyrics.

God Is Our Trust pitcher The Jan. 2009 Stack’s auction of Americana included a small group of Creamware pitchers from England. Lot 6125 pictures and describes a pitcher dated to 1800 (not circa 1800) that carries that exact phrase. This raises the obvious question of whether Key used a phrase already in usage in England or the pitcher dates to later than 1814 or whether by pure coincidence he happened to select those precise same words.

This is my basic point: If that five word phrase was already being used in England, the story of the derivation of our National Motto needs to be traced back to its roots rather than just to 1814.

Before sending this message to you, I have raised these points and questions with Dave Bowers, Joel Orosz, Leonard Augsburger, John Adams, and David Alexander who catalogued the pitcher for Stacks. In addition I attempted an Internet search, neither of which yielded anything appropriate. My hope is that you would present this matter to your readers to see if anyone can shed light on the origin and use of “In God Is Our Trust” in England, before 1814, or both.

Perhaps one of our U.K. readers is aware of the answer, or knows where to look or who to ask. Interesting puzzle.

The pattern coin pictured above is J285 / P340 from the web site. The pitcher image is from the Stack's web site. -Editor


Pete Smith collects and researches the personal medals and tokens of numismatists. He submitted this query - can anyone help? -Editor
I have found tokens from William P. Beck with groups of tokens issued by numismatists. However, I know nothing about his involvement with the hobby, if any. The following comes from an obituary I found.

William P. Beck was born in New Rochelle, New York, on December 2, 1939. He died on November 23, 2002. For 30 years he was employed by the Department of Public Works in New Rochelle.

Beck-Obv Beck-Rev

I would like to hear from anyone who remembers him. Even better, I would like a reference to his name appearing somewhere in print related to numismatics.


Last week's item on the inventor who detects counterfeit coins by the sound they make brought several comments from readers. -Editor

Tom DeLorey writes:
Considering the flood of counterfeit British round pound coins, anything that promotes "sound money" is a good thing.

Joe Boling writes:
In the article on detecting counterfeit coins by sound, one line ends "would allow computer analysis of each coin vended." That is the second time in a week that I have seen a coin inserted into a vending machine being referred to as a coin being vended. Not so - the product that the machine sells is vended, but the money used to buy it is not.

I found that a bit jarring, too. The coin may be "deposited" or "tendered", but it's not "vended". -Editor


Speaking of proper word usage, occasionally we feature an unusual numismatic vocabulary word. Dick Hanscom submitted the following discussion of an archaic 18th-century term for imitation copper coins. Has anyone encountered this before in their research? -Editor
I recently purchased Life of Lord Timothy Dexter by Samuel Knapp, 1848. Dexter was an eccentric from Newburyport, Mass, circa 1790. In a passage about Dexter's poet laureate (yes, Dexter had his own poet laureate), Jonathon Plummer, and describing his selling halibut before he ascended to that lofty position, Knapp says:

... and abandoning his former honest calling of selling halibut from a wheelbarrow, at fair weight and low prices; fat fin cut for two coppers a pound, the more solid parts for a copper; and when there was a more plentiful supply, even a Brumagem would buy enough to furnish a man a dinner.

Brumagem is italicized in the text. I looked in Nipper's In Yankee Doodle's Pocket book and the term is not in the index. A net search has the term spelled Brummagem. Apparently, this is a reference to imitation coppers in circulation circa 1790, the term appropriated from the British. See:

It's interesting to see the term was still in use in 1850. For more information on Lord Timothy Dexter, if only to amuse yourself, go to

Your own poet laureate? Now that's a cultured gentleman. As the nerd who always got beat up in school, my fantasy was to have my own goon, like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. You know, someone who would lean over and say, "You want I should whack him, boss?"

Anyway, the first web page Dick referenced includes this definition from Merriam-Webster: -Editor

"Brummagem" first appeared in the 17th century as an alteration of "Birmingham," the name of a city in England. At that time Birmingham was notorious for the counterfeit coins made there, and the word "brummagem" quickly became associated with things forged or inauthentic.

By the 19th century, Birmingham had become a chief manufacturer of cheap trinkets and gilt jewelry, and again the word "brummagem" followed suit--it came to describe that which is showy on the outside but essentially of low quality.

Perhaps the term was something of an annoyance to the people of Birmingham way back when, but nowadays "brummagem" is usually used without any conscious reference to the British city.


Nick graver submitted the following thoughts inspired by last week's item on the Maundy Money Ceremony. -Editor
2009 Maundy Money ceremony A number of years ago, we heard an interesting story while staying in a Bed & Breakfast in a private home in the South East of Great Britain. The son of our host family had been selected (along with a girl) to serve with Queen Elizabeth II as the ancient Maundy Money ceremony had been celebrated in their town that year.

Of course they were so proud of his selection, and they mentioned all the categories that had been considered: His scholarship, citizenship, patriotism, letters from sponsors, as they went on about how particular the committee was, ensuring that the queen had only the choicest of children in England. "Of course, no Tall Children were eligible, for they dare not have anyone in the ceremony who was over 5'4", (the queen's height."

Having gone through those childhood years as a tall boy, somewhat self-conscious about being clumsy, etc, I felt so sorry that the tall British children were not even considered for the honor! Perhaps, things are handled differently these days?



Dick Hanscom's question about an Alaska statehood medal prompted these reader responses. -Editor

Dave Lange writes:
I don't believe there's any connection between Adams and Alaska, aside from the fact that both designs are the work of Medallic Art Company. The Adams obverse is from its popular presidential series; I have the Whitman Bookshelf album produced in the early 1960s to house those medals.

The Adams medal has a plain border, while the Alaska medal has a beaded border, and that tells me that this is most likely a mule - whether an authorized muling or a clandestine product is anyone's guess. I'll be interested to read what Dick Johnson has to say about it.

John Adams Alaska Statehood silver medal

Anne E. Bentley of the Massachusetts Historical Society writes:
Your recent request for information linking John Adams to Alaska piqued my interest and, having the Adams Family Papers staff literally down the hall, I forwarded it to them. They are an amazing group of researchers and editors and I knew that if there were a reasonable answer, they'd find it.

So here it is: if you go online to Google Scholar and locate the Boston Alaskan, vol. 1 August 1906-June 1907, edited by L.M. Norton (Boston-Alaskan Society: Boston, 1907) on page 11 you can find a quotation by John Adams that Senator Charles Sumner used during his speech to advocate the acquisition of Alaska…

"Thirteen governments founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind." John Adams, "Defense of American Constitutions," January 1, 1787. [my italics, AEB]

Sounds reasonable to me. Thanks Adams Papers staff!

Sure what sounds like a good explanation to me, too. E-Sylum readers (and their extended network of contacts) never cease to amaze me in what they can manage to locate. Thanks to both Anne and the Adams Family Papers editors! -Editor


At my request Mike and Mary Kindred forwarded a picture of their racehorse Numismatist taken at Santa Anita in California. I didn't ask soon enough to publish this in last week's issue, but here it is. Place your bets! -Editor
Horse Named Numismatist


Last week I quoted a newspaper article about the pictured medal, "Mr Dalton was unaware of the medal's significance - or of its value - until a collector dated it back to 1888", and clucked "Hmmm - what do you think was the first clue that the medal may have been issued in 1888?" -Editor

1888 Cardiff Rugby medal Martin Purdy writes:
Poor reporting, methinks. The actual revelation was probably the significance of 1888 as shown in the sentences below. Mind you, people - even collectors - do have an appalling inability to read what is in front of them sometimes!

But it wasn't until I showed it to a local rugby historian in Cardiff that we realised what a rare object it was and how it fitted into the history of the very beginnings of Welsh rugby.

Gwyn Prescott, who has researched the history of rugby in Cardiff in the 19th century, identified it as a medal marking the victory of Penarth in the 1888 Cardiff Football Union Cup final.

It was too hard not to make fun of the reporter's statement, but I'm sure Martin's right. -Editor

To read the previous E-Sylum article, see: ARTICLE AND WEB SITE HIGHLIGHT 1888 RUGBY MEDAL (


Ginger Rapsus writes:
Regarding the bank tellers accepting $20 gold coins, this just shows how people who deal with money are unfamiliar with real U.S. coins. I once drafted a brochure to be given to bank employees and others who handle a great amount of change. The brochure was a general overview of U.S. coins.

I heard of someone who tried to deposit some Eisenhower dollars at his bank, and the teller called the police, thinking the coins were phony. I myself had words with a bus driver who would not accept dollar coins.

Those who handle a lot of money should have some kind of reference, so this kind of thing doesn't happen. Paper money may be included, too. People who get silver certificates or National Currency with the different colored seals think the money is phony.

Fractional Currency Shield
Numismatic education is an age-old problem made worse in times when there are a plethora of new coin types. Perhaps a National Coin Week project could be to develop and distribute posters (not unlike the old Fractional Currency Shields) depicting the many varieties of U.S. coins and paper money one might encounter in circulation or over the counter at a bank. -Editor

Ginger adds:
A poster is an excellent idea! I have a copy of a Fractional Currency shield hanging in my home office. I wonder how this could be developed? It's more visual, and more user-friendly, than some brochure that could just be stuffed in a drawer. Customers could check out the photos on the poster too.

Here's another idea (here I go again making suggestions for someone else's budget and business plan) - perhaps a numismatic publisher could strike a deal with the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve or some group of large banks to commission, publish and distribute useful little booklets and/or posters depicting and describing coins and paper money. -Editor

Bob Neale writes:
As counter to the story to which Gar refers, here's one that probably shows up with some frequency, but perhaps rarely turns out like this. As a result of a longer and very interesting background story, a gentleman stepped up to a teller at a Bank of America branch where I live and offered two $1000 1928 Federal Reserve Notes on behalf of his mother for deposit - at face value. The teller suggested that the customer wait a bit and she would contact someone (me) who might be willing to pay more than face for the notes, as she obviously was aware of their semi-rarity.

Well, I met with the customer at a nearby coffeehouse, did indeed pay him well over face, and he returned home to a very pleased mother. The teller refused a small thank you I offered for the reference, saying it would be inappropriate.

Now that's honesty and character that I hope is found many places besides here in the southeast. If the double eagle teller should be prosecuted, then mine ought to get positive recognition. But among people like that, doing the right thing appears to be sufficient reward.


DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE will be conducting its second mail-bid auction, closing June 4. Highlights include a 1709 Act of Queen Anne, regulating the value of coins in America. For more information, go to .


This week National Public Radio's All Things Considered program included a great feature on Chief Engraver John Mercanti and the new technology for creating coins at the U.S. Mint. Be sure to listen to the segment online at the link below. Featured in the interview are Joe Menna, Phebe Hemphill and Chief Engraver John Mercanti.

See why Mercanti says the switch from traditional sculpting techniques to digital tools was a big leap for his artists. "We jumped a hundred years, literally, with this new technology. And it's so exciting now." -Editor
John Mercanti John Mercanti's title at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia is chief engraver, but it's a little inaccurate. For one thing, no human at the Mint has actually engraved anything for years.

This is a time of transition for the design and sculpture department at the Mint, where centuries-old techniques are slowly — and not always easily — giving way to incredibly sophisticated computer technology.

So think of Mercanti as an artistic director — one whose standards are so high that the very first thing you see when you get off the elevator by his office is the giant head of Michelangelo's David.

"It's an amazing piece," Mercanti says. "Sometimes my sculptors will come out and they'll just stand in awe of the thing."

Got a quarter in your hand? Look to see if there's a P on it, right there behind Washington's ponytail. That's the Mint mark for Philadelphia. Once upon a time, Mercanti actually stamped those on by hand.

But the steel punches that made their mark on U.S. coins have long ago been replaced by computers. Mercanti's not nostalgic for the old days; he's open to inspiration from the most unlikely sources, like ... Shrek.

That's right: Shrek. It was a DVD special feature that convinced Mercanti to call in a Hollywood special effects expert to come teach the Mint's artists how to sculpt in virtual reality. Don't worry about ogres on your coins, though. Remember that head of Michelangelo's David in the hallway? It's not just an inspiration; it's a test.

"Every new apprentice or young sculptor that comes in," Mercanti says, "that statue will be taken from the hallway, will be set in the office next door, and that person will sit at the computer and sculpt it. And until they sculpt it, they cannot move to the next level."

Phebe Hemphill's cubicle is decorated with action figures, some of which she sculpted herself. Like a lot of artists here, she used to work in the toy industry. On her easel sits a fat plaster disc, about the size of a dinner plate. It's the sculptural model of the congressional gold medal for the Tuskegee Airmen.

The figures on the model are swathed in texture. Feathers, leather, facial hair — even a lamb-skin collar. Hemphill uses a variety of tools she's collected over the years to create the different effects.

"I have all these weird dental things that you probably don't want to go near," she laughs as she digs through a drawer full of pointy tools. "You can do anything if you just get a pattern down."

A couple of computer monitors lurk at the other end of her desk, but Hemphill prefers to sculpt with traditional tools before converting her work to digital.

Medallic artist Joe Menna prefers sculpting with a stylus rather than menacing dental tools. He demonstrates by scraping virtual ridges into a portrait of William Henry Harrison on his monitor.

"You can see that I'm removing material, just as if I were carving it in clay," he explains. His boss calls Menna the "Yoda" of this technology.

Menna says the technology, with its ability to zoom in on tiny detail or create any texture, gives him ultimate aesthetic control. And it's actually changing him as an artist.

"The cool thing about working digitally is I can just 'control-Z' — I can just hit the undo button, and it all goes away." He taps his keyboard.

Joseph Menna

He's so used to sculpting digitally he's found himself reaching for phantom control-Z buttons even when actually working in clay. "Somewhere the wires are connecting upstairs, and I guess I'm evolving with this technology — or devolving, I don't know." He laughs.

Menna's enthusiasm for the technology has been gaining converts at the Mint. And there may come a day when there is no more clay and plaster here. But Mercanti knows the important things will endure.

"I'm committed to using classical techniques," he says. "Even though we're moving into the digital era, we still maintain the classical psychology."

And if Mercanti's artists are ever tempted to stray, there's that imposing enforcer in the hallway — Michelangelo's David.

To read the complete article (and listen to the segment), see: Sculpting The Digital Dollar (

Check out the photos here!


Coin World editor Beth Deisher wrote a nice article on the electronic publication of numismatic literature in the April 14th issue of the Coin World Newsletter. With permission, we're publishing the following excerpts.

If you are among the Coin World subscribers who have cut the umbilical cord and are now totally digital, you are among the vanguard in the numismatic realm. Unlike a daily newspaper that has stopped home delivery of its newsprint edition, Amos Hobby Publishing (Coin World's parent company) is providing a bridge to the future and is inviting subscribers to travel at their own pace.

Coin World's subscribers can remain totally in the paper-print dimension or they can tip-toe into the digital world gradually. Or, they can take the big leap and go totally digital. To each his own.

For numismatic bibliophiles, the future is likely to encompass electronic book devices, also known as e-readers.

Amazon says that already more than 250,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers and magazines can be downloaded. We're not aware of any numismatic titles currently available on Kindle 2. However, as e-readers evolve (as color becomes available and costs decrease - Kindle 2 currently retails for $339), we predict a stampede.

Imagine having your entire numismatic library on an e-reader, being able to take it with you anywhere, and being able to key-word search any of your books within seconds. Such is not wishful thinking. The technology exists. It's only a matter of time before numismatic books and periodicals migrate to e-readers.

To read the complete article, see: The dinosaur on your coffee table (


Another great example of the migration to e-books is this week's announcement from Krause Publications that it would begin selling electronic World Coin Micro-Catalogs. Titles include Canada, Germany, China, Russia, Great Britain, Mexico, North Africa, Southern Africa, Central America and North Eastern Europe. Below are excerpts from the company's Market Update email and web site. -Editor

Krause North Africa The Coins of North Africa 1901-2000
by Colin R. Bruce II and Thomas Michael
Coinage from six countries, more than 900 photos and updated pricing in up to five grades of preservation are featured in the easy-to-use and simple-to-search The Coins of North Africa download. Based on the Standard Catalog of World Coins, this download provides updated pricing, photos and facts for coins from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

However you go about your coin collecting, you'll find key identifying details including mintage, metal composition, weight and obverse and reverse image descriptions, to accurately identify and assess your North African coinage in The Coins of North Africa. Pages are both searchable and enlargeable up to 400% for close-up inspection.

To order, see:

Krause Russia The Coins of Russia 1901-2000
by Colin R. Bruce II and Thomas Michael
Along with the radical evolution of its political structure during the 20th century, Russia's monetary system also changed. Explore variety, expansion and historical details of 20th century Russian coinage in The Coins of Russia. Within this easy-to-use and simple-to-search download you have access to updated pricing in five grades of condition for nearly every Kopek and Rouble struck during the 20th century.

To order, see:


The paper vs. electronic dilemma is a popular topic among E-Sylumites. Here are the latest comments from readers. -Editor

Nancy Green (former ANA Librarian) writes:
In reference to the "Digital Dilemma": Long Live Libraries!

Tim L. Shuck of Ames, IA writes:
Regarding the comment that a book "can live on a shelf for a hundred to a thousand years and be immediately retrievable and readable by a user": surely there is a caveat to that statement. Paper documents might last that long if properly preserved and cared for. I don't really believe it's possible to store and ignore paper (or film) for 100 years and expect no problems (is all that paper acid-free?). If it's not water or fire that causes damage, it's bugs and fungi. I've seen maps, historical record books, and photographic imagery compromised by mold/ mildew, even though those items were stored on open shelves similar to what most of us probably use for our numismatic references.

Mr. Waterson notes that digital archiving requires periodic data migration and software/ hardware maintenance to keep the data usable. That's certainly true though I'm not sure if he regards that as a problem or is simply providing information. But preservation of paper materials also requires constant vigilance and expenditures of effort, time, and money. Is there a substantive difference between digital and paper archiving in this regard? The benefits of digital information are obvious; after all, the E-Sylum comes to my inbox, not my mailbox.

I think the 'debate' of paper vs. digital, if one exists, is ultimately fruitless. Each has advantages and disadvantages and neither is likely to replace the other anytime soon, though I think the trend is obvious. I happen to like the new digital version of Coin World, one of the most full-featured and capable digital implementations I've seen and used. And, I can save it as a pdf file if I choose to do so (83.5 Mb for the April 13 issue, in case you wondered). My paper copy gets passed along to others, and I have a digital copy on my computer for active or archival use - seems like a win-win to me, not a dilemma.


In December 2007 we discussed the Lawrence, Kansas gentleman who set up a web site soliciting 1968 for his single-date collection. This week American Profile magazine published an article about him. -Editor
1968 Cent Man Gregor Brune needed cheering up when he found a 1968 penny during a walk 10 years ago in Lawrence, Kan. (pop. 80,098). He pocketed the lucky penny-and has had the good fortune of collecting nearly 13,000 more with help from donors across the country.

"I'd like to see how many I can get and keep the collection going indefinitely," says Brune, 42, a librarian and history buff who became fascinated with the year 1968 while growing up and hearing stories from his mother, Caroljean Brune, about the 1960s counterculture movement and listening to her music.

"I'd go through my mom's record collection, and I noticed that many of my favorite albums were produced in 1968," Brune says of music by the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. "I thought there was something special about that year."

1968D Lincoln Cent Brune's appreciation for 1968 as a pivotal year in history grew as he learned more about the year's events: anti-war protests, political upheavals, the Apollo 8 moon mission, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Naturally, his favorite year came to mind in 1999 when he stumbled upon a penny while walking on a downtown sidewalk and mulling over some personal problems. "I thought, 'If that penny is a 1968, it'll be a confirmation that everything will be OK.'"

Good fortune found Brune that day! He dropped the lucky penny in a jar and thereafter checked the date on every penny that came his way. In two years, he had collected about a hundred 1968 pennies, and friends began adding to his coin collection. To thank them, Brune created a website in 2004 with names of contributors, a current tally of pennies and a 1968 history lesson, which he gleaned by reading the entire year of 1968 Time magazines, week by week in chronological order.

"It gave me a hobby," he says.

Brune's happenstance hobby has turned into a passion-some might say an obsession-for 1968 pennies. Every Wednesday, he buys 50 rolls of pennies at Lawrence Bank and spends three hours checking them for 1968s. He usually finds 15 to 20. Each day, he opens his Post Office Box 1968 and retrieves five or six cents sent from contributors like Astrid McMullen-Baker, 27, of Madison, Wis., one of Brune's former co-workers.

To read the complete article, see: The Pennies of 1968 (

To visit the web site:

To read the earlier E-Sylum item, see: A VERY SMALL WANT LIST - 1968 LINCOLN CENTS (


Dick Johnson forwarded this USA Today article about the new Lincoln cent designs. I'm still waiting to see one in circulation myself. -Editor
Lincoln Cent cabin design The penny, often picked on for its piddly value, has found some self worth in 2009. The 2009 Lincoln cent — slow to spread into consumers' pockets — is being sold for big bucks. Single coins have fetched more than $1 each. Fifty-cent rolls have frequently ranged from $2 to more than $50 at online auction websites.

The first of four new penny designs officially launched on Feb. 12 — Abraham Lincoln's birthday — but the 634.8 million coins produced by the U.S. Mint have barely made it into circulation.

The penny distribution "is slow-going," says Mint spokesman Greg Hernandez. "Because of the downturn and the lower demand for coins (for business transactions), banks are not demanding as many coins," he says. "As a result, the Federal Reserve has a pretty large inventory."

The sense of rarity has made the coin seem much more valuable, says Dave Harper, editor of Numismatic News.

To read the complete article, see: New penny's slow start in circulation increases value (


Dick Johnson also forwarded these thoughts on an article form Australia advocating the elimination of their 5-cent coin. -Editor
There is a movement among shopkeepers in Australia to do away with the 5-cent coin. The elimination of the one-cent and two-cent coins in 1992 has been so successful that they now see the merit to abolish the 5-cent coin for commercial transactions. All sales would be rounded off to the nearest 10-cent multiple.

Nearby New Zealand has already abolished the 5-cent coin -- in 2006 -- so it is not that Australia would be the first, but would be the largest country to effect the economies of realistic value of their lowest coin in circulation. Citizens have called the 5-cent coin "shrapnel" as it fills their pockets and is tossed aside at the end of the day.

There is an optimum number of coin denominations in circulation for any country. As economies advance the need for very low value coins diminishes -- 10c, 50c, $1, $2 and $5 coins would be the optimum denominations to fill five-compartment cash registers around the world. We wonder how long it will be before Americans come to this realization.

To read the complete article, see: Shopkeepers and retailers say five cent coins should be scrapped (,27753,25354376-462,00.html)


Here's a fun video worth checking out:
On July 20, 1958, Mrs. Rae V. Biester, Superintendent of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia was a contestant on the CBS game show What’s My Line. Watch as Mrs. Biester stumps the panel. -Editor

Beister Rae V Some of us (cough) are old enough to remember What’s My Line, if only in reruns. It was a TV game show where a panel would ask questions of a mystery guest attempting to guess their occupation. Over the years the composition of the panel changed, but this episode includes regulars Kitty Carlisle and Tom Poston.

To read the complete article, see: What Was Her Line in 1958 (


Inspired by our recent discussion on medals depicting solar eclipses, Dick Hanscom forwarded these photos of a related medal. He writes:
This medal is neat, with the sun, the day/night demarcation line, the orbit of a satellite, the Van Allen Belt and the aurora.

Polar year medal ak03m2 Polar Year medal ak03m1

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON COINS AND MEDALS DEPICTING SOLAR ECLIPSES (


The Washington Post had an interesting article about a wayward library book. The story was published across the country this week - Bruce Perdue sent a link to a shorter article in the Chicago Tribune. Non-numismatic, but of interest to bibliophiles. -Editor
Napier History of War Soon after the end of the Civil War, a thousand or so books looted from Washington College library during a raid by Union soldiers were returned.

Another has shown up almost 145 years later, the school, now known as Washington and Lee University, announced yesterday, brought in by a book-loving college coach from Illinois, who inherited it from the soldier's descendants and tracked down the library where it belonged.

"We were astounded to get something back with the history that it has," said Laura Turner, technical services librarian at the Lexington, Va., school. "It's invaluable to us because of the historical connection to the university. We're just so grateful that he decided to return it."

The leather-bound book, Volume 1 of a four-volume history of a Napoleonic military campaign, probably was stashed in a saddlebag, perhaps to save it from the blaze Union soldiers set to destroy the neighboring Virginia Military Institute on June 12, 1864, according to a book dealer who helped the coach, Mike Dau, unravel its story.

In June 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Maj. Gen. David Hunter led troops assigned to cut the Virginia Central Railroad. On June 11, they swept into Lexington and occupied the town. They burned the Virginia Military Institute, which trained Confederate troops, and looted the neighboring Washington College campus.

Goodheart contacted Turner, and they exchanged photocopies of the title pages of the two volumes. "They matched exactly," Turner said. There was also a small label, added by the library in the 1800s, when books were numbered instead of catalogued to keep track of them. Volume 1, in Dau's possession, was 139. Volume 2, the copy in the library, was 140.

"Volumes three and four are out there somewhere," Turner said with a laugh. "We'd love to have them back!"

To read the complete article, see: Long-Wayward History Volume Has Quite a History Itself (


This week's Featured Web site is the Reference Site for Islamic Banknotes.

Welcome to the Reference Site for Islamic Banknotes. The aim of this site is to promote interest, research and communication about the banknotes issued in Islamic countries. The charts linked to this page are the result of collaboration between a number of collectors. It is hoped that visitors to this site will provide information in an ongoing manner, that will expand the available knowledge on Islamic banknotes.

This site was initially developed by Armen Hovsepian and Peter Symes, but we are interested in expanding the content and detail of the pages.

As long as there is support from the collecting public, we expect that we will go a long way towards achieving this.

Egypt EG-07-100ar

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