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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David M. Sundman, Secretary/TreasurerNumismatic Bibliomania Society
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Wayne Homren We now have 1,232 subscribers - no one new this week.

This week we open with some results of George Kolbe's latest sale, new information in the 2010 Redbook, and a review of Fred Holabird's new saloon token book.

Next we discuss, the 100 Greatest Items of Numismatic Literature survey results, and in the here-comes-the-other-shoe department, we have more news about Stack's.

Other topics include British Army Medals, coin denominations, baseball currency, a Nebraska 1907 Clearinghouse note, and some great flea market finds. To learn about what could be the largest counterfeiting scheme in history, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


George Kolbe forwarded the following press release on the results of his recent numismatic literature sale. -Editor
Some highlights from the June 11th, 2009, George Frederick Kolbe/Fine Numismatic Books auction follow.

  • The virtually unobtainable first two issues of Q. David Bowers Rare Coin Review, issued under the Hathaway and Bowers Galleries banner, were estimated at $750 and, after spirited bidding, each brought $3,450 [prices cited include the 15% buyer premium];
  • the very rare original Frankenhuis catalogue of World War I medals was hotly contested for, selling for $1,265 on a $350 estimate;
  • the first work on Civil War Tokens, published in 1863, sold well at $1,897;
  • an extremely rare and extensive illustrated guide to counterfeit and genuine world banknotes issued in the 1980s and 1990s by the National Bank of Yugoslavia brought $948;
  • a 1880s William von Bergen publication featuring contemporary information on the Adolph Weyl 1804 Dollar sold by the Chapman brothers, the first we have ever encountered and estimated at $100, ended up realizing $1,437;
  • Charles Chaplin’s delightful 1865 "Gointoem Strong" spoof on American coin sales of the day sold reasonably at $488 on a $500 estimate;
  • a complete set of Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles Volumes 1-59, 1958-2007, sold for $2,415;
  • the first 192 Stack’s auction sale catalogues, 1935-1964, lacking only three sales, brought an impressive $5,060;
  • a fine original edition of Hickcox’s 1858 Historical Account of American Coinage, the first substantial work on the topic was estimated at $850 and brought $1,840;
  • fine examples of the original, superbly illustrated, 1887 and 1896 classic Rollin & Feuardent catalogues of the Ponton d’Amécourt and H. Montagu collections of Roman gold coins each sold for $862;
  • a fine set of the five volume Mazzini work on Ancient Roman coins, from the library of the celebrated numismatist Dr. Pierre Bastien, brought $2,587.

Copies of the catalogue may still be obtained by sending $15.00 to George Frederick Kolbe, P. O. Drawer 3100, Crestline, CA 92325.


Dennis Tucker forwarded this release about the changes in the new 2010 edition of Whitman's Red Book. At my request he also included a closeup of the 1875 Dot Reverse cent. -Editor

Dennis adds:
I wanted to call it the "1875, Sticky Fingers Reverse," but nobody went along with me!
2010_Redbook The 2010 (63rd) edition of the Guide Book of United States Coins (known to collectors as the “Red Book”) includes many new features, plus dozens of additions to the book’s 1,800-plus color photographs.

“One of the most exciting sections is a new appendix on Significant U.S. Mint Errors,” said Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker. Its text and photographs were contributed by specialists Nicholas P. Brown, David J. Camire, and Fred Weinberg. The new appendix gives a history of mint errors, and illustrates rare and valuable misstrikes and errors including a 1943 steel cent struck over a Mercury dime; an 1863 capped-die Indian Head cent; a 1906 Indian Head cent struck on a $2.50 gold planchet; a 1904 Lewis and Clark gold dollar with a reverse brockage; a Peace dollar struck on a blank quarter planchet; a Bicentennial quarter double strike; a Lincoln cent struck off-center on a Roosevelt dime; the famous bronze 1943 cent; a 2000 Sacagawea dollar muled to a Washington quarter; and other rare oddities worth $2,500 to $150,000 or more.

In the book’s introduction, the “Coins From Treasures and Hoards” section includes a new essay on the SS New York, a passenger ship lost in September 1846 and recovered in 2007 along with thousands of gold and silver coins.

In the “Pre-Federal Issues” section, readers will find dozens of upgraded photographs of colonial and early American coins and tokens, as well as newly added variety photos. “The results are impressive,” said the book’s longtime editor, Kenneth Bressett. “Compare a 2009 edition to the new 2010 edition; it’s like seeing our colonial history with new eyes.”

More closeup photographs of varieties have also been added to the federal coinage sections, including half cents, Indian Head cents, Lincoln cents, and Buffalo nickels. In the back, more Civil War tokens are pictured.

1875 Indian Cent dot rev detail “The 1875, Dot Reverse, Indian Head cent is an interesting addition,” said research editor Q. David Bowers. “It’s believed to have been struck to help catch a Mint employee suspected of stealing coins.” Enlargements of Variety 1 and Variety 2 of the 1886 Indian Head cent are among several other varieties pictured for the first time.

New content has been added to cover the 2009 Lincoln cent designs, the Native American “Three Sisters” dollar, the DC/Territorial quarters, and the upcoming 2010 National Parks quarters. In the Bullion section, new information has been added about the “burnished” Uncirculated coinage, as well as the expanded American Buffalo gold program and the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold coin. The year’s new commemorative coins and sets are also studied.

Throughout the 2010 edition, record-setting auction results have been updated for significant coins, with many 2008 and 2009 records listed among early copper, silver, and gold.

In addition to the 2010 Red Book’s nearly 40,000 individual coin prices in up to nine grades per series, Appendix E showcases the Top 250 Auction Prices for U.S. coins. “We’ve tracked auctions through early 2009,” said valuations editor Jeff Garrett, who noted an increase of $35,000 compared to the 2009 edition’s list. “Last year’s 250-ranked coin sold for $310,000,” Garrett said. “To make it onto this year’s list, the 250-ranked coin (a 1776 Continental dollar) sold for $345,000.”

Appendix C, “Collectible Red and Blue Books,” has been expanded with more details, including how to precisely identify the Blue Book’s early editions of the 1940s and 1950s. Coverage of recent collectible Red Books includes the leather-bound Limited Editions, the 2009 Journal Edition, and the rare 2008 Numismatic Literary Guild variety (valued at $800, with only 135 made).

The Red Book’s numismatic bibliography continues to be updated with current literature. Its 125 listings include more than a dozen references published in 2008 and 2009.


John and Nancy Wilson submitted this review of a recent book by Fred Holabird. -Editor
Holabird Saloon Collecting Guide to the Pioneer Coinage of American Saloons, 2008, Editor - Fred N. Holabird
Reviewed by: John and Nancy Wilson, NLG

A Collecting Guide to the Pioneer Minor Coinage of American Saloons by Fred N. Holabird is a 144 page soft cover reference with all illustrations in color which was released in 2009. Fred stated the idea for this reference came from his two decades of Holabird Americana Pioneer Minor Coinage Auctions to which he added dozens of city directories from all over the country as sources of information. We have several of these Holabird Sale Catalogs in our library.

The guide explains what a saloon is and the use of these tokens and the history of saloons. Fred says, "Saloon tokens are some of the most sought-after tokens or coins by collectors today." The book covers The Western Saloon, The Western Mining Camp Whisky and Saloon Business, The Western Saloon Illustrated, Tokens as Money, Pioneer Minor Coinage.; Saloons as a Percentage of American Business, Saloon Tokens, The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co, What is a Saloon Token, The End of the Saloon, Saloon Names and Saloon “Good-for Pocket Mirrors.

Saloon coins (tokens) from every state in the union are shown by state with the number of towns with saloon tokens along with the total of saloon tokens known. As an example, CA is listed as having 363 towns having issued saloon tokens with 1558 examples in the census. Three states, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Vermont are listed as having no towns known for issuing these tokens and of course none in the census. The information on each state gives many interesting facts about the saloons and what problems they encountered in operation. Many states and towns outlawed the sale of alcohol and this provided some novel ways the saloon owners handled this law.

Fred says it all in this statement regarding his reference:
"This work is intended as an introduction to the business of the American Saloon and a guide for saloon token collecting."
It goes well beyond this and would make a great addition for any numismatists (collector or dealer), historian, or token and medal collector. This book will show you just how rare saloon tokens are and give you pictures of many known examples. This excellent reference will be a good companion piece to Saloon Tokens of the United States, which was published in 2008 by Al Erickson, which is a 656 page reference on the subject. Information for that book can be found at: .

A copy of a Collecting Guide to the Pioneer Coinage of American Saloons, by Fred Holabird lists for $24.95 and you have several options for purchasing it. You can call (775) 852-8822 or email Fred at: You may also write: Holabird-Kagin Americana, A division of Kagin’s, Incorporated, 3555 Airway Drive Suite #308, Reno, NV 89511.

The link to the page with the books for sale at Holabird / Kagin is:


Krause Publications issued a press release this week marking a new milestone for their NumisMaster web site. -Editor
NumisMaster, Krause Publications' online coin pricing and information source, recently hit an editorial milestone. The Web site now boasts more than 3,000 archived articles, all of which are readily available to the public

"Everything you need to know about coins and coin news, you can find on NumisMaster," said online editor Lisa Bellavin. "It's the perfect site for anyone interested in numismatics."

NumisMaster users will find useful information and the latest news stories on U.S. and world coins, bank notes, medals and exonumia. Stories for the Web site generally come from magazines published by Krause Publications, such as Bank Note Reporter, Numismatic News, World Coin News and Coins.

Many of the articles seen on NumisMaster are written by numismatic authorities David Ganz, Kerry Rodgers, Richard Giedroyc, Patrick Heller, Allen Mincho, Fred Reed and R.W. Julian. KP numismatic experts David Harper, Tom Michael and George Cuhaj maintain blogs on the site.

To visit NumisMaster, see:

Congratulations to the Krause team for building a great web resource. Keep up the good work!

Bit by bit more and more great numismatic information is becoming available on the web. When I started what is now The E-Sylum over ten years ago, I held a vision of what the online world would be like someday - electronic newsletters like mine from all the major clubs, online versions of numismatic periodicals, and digitized copies of a great deal of numismatic literature. That future has now come to pass. Even COIN World is available by electronic subscription.

We still have a long way to go to that Numismatic Infomaniac Nirvana where everything ever published on numismatics is both available and easily accessible, but step by step we're getting there. The E-Sylum archive alone has over 10,000 articles.

So what will the NEXT ten years will bring? Send us your thoughts. -Editor


The latest issue of our print journal, The E-Sylum features the final installment of The One Hundred Greatest Items of United States Numismatic Literature: A Survey of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society

At the 2007 American Numismatic Association Convention, NBS President John Adams proposed a NBS survey of the greatest United States numismatic literature. A candidate list of approximately four hundred items was published in the Fall, 2007 Asylum. Readers were invited to suggest additional candidates, these were added and a final ballot was distributed to the membership. Sixty ballots were returned by NBS members, numbering the top one hundred items from one (highest) to one hundred.

The survey was organized and tabulated by Len Augsburger, who also wrote excellent descriptions of each of the 100 works. The result is an incredibly interesting and useful article. Together with Dick Johnson's companion article discussing the survey and offering suggestions and alternatives, the issue (and the one before it with the first part of the survey) are easily among the best of the journal's 25+ year run.

The survey and its outcome will likely be a topic of discussion for some time. One thing the survey disproved however, is the stereotype of NBS members as being interested only in dusty old classic books - a good number of the selected works were published only in the last twenty years or so, including the top vote-getter, which may be a surprise to many.

Here are some excerpts from the article for the top two vote-getters.

1. Breen, Walter (1988) Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins

Breen Encyclopedia Revered and reviled, Breen’s magnum opus remains the first reference of choice for American numismatists. Although justifiably maligned for technical faults and lack of supporting documentation, Breen’s breadth is staggering. Nowhere else is so much information packed into a single volume. Pre-federal, federal, territorial, commemorative, it is all here. Allowed only one book in an American numismatic library, this would be the expected choice. With copies on the secondary market selling for hundreds of dollars and no competitors in sight, this reference will endure as the standard comprehensive guide for the foreseeable future.

2. Crosby, Sylvester S. (1875) The Early Coins of America

Crosby Early Coins of America If Breen is one bookend of American numismatics, Crosby is surely the other. In 1875, Crosby had not even the use of a telephone to aid his research. On the other hand, he had access to the great collectors and collections of yore, among them Bushnell, Stickney, Parmelee, Appleton, Maris and others, all giants on the 19th century American numismatic scene. Crosby’s dive into the primary source documentation surrounding colonial issues is beyond remarkable, particularly in light of the lack of modern bibliographic resources. Coupled with his observant technical eye and capable cataloguing, this work is properly described by Davis as “the masterpiece of nineteenth century numismatic literature.”

Among the recent works named to the Top 100 is one of my favorites, and I'm glad to see it placed highly in the ranking.

28. Burdette, Roger (2006–07) Renaissance of American Coinage (vols. 1–3)

Burdette Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 Burdette’s three volume masterpiece, exploring coinage designs introduced between 1905 and 1921, is instantly the standard reference on the subject. Here is the definitive word on experimental St. Gaudens’ pieces, proof Peace dollars, and the exposed breast on the Standing Liberty 1916 quarter, to name only a few. Meticulously researched from archival records and thoroughly documented, Burdette’s legacy may actually exceed the work itself if even a few new writers aspire to his methodology. Burdette utilizes to great advantage both traditional and electronic resources and is completely transparent in his presentation. The present writer recently uncovered what was surely new and interesting information, only to find the subject already well treated in Burdette – an experience we expect to occur repeatedly in the future.

Congratulations to Len and the Numismatic Bibliomania Society for producing the survey and "stirring the pot" on the topic of the best numismatic literature. New literature is added to the canon every month, and future updates to the survey will provide a window into the evolving nature of U.S. numismatic literature.


DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE sells rare, antiquarian and out-of-print works from all times and places. For more information, see the firm's Web site at .


In a press release circulated this week Harvey G. Stack announces his retirement from Stack’s as of June 30, 2009. Here are some excerpts. -Editor
After decades of unparalleled service, to the numismatic community, Harvey Stack has announced his retirement. Harvey will, as always, be accessible to major collectors, many of whose collections he has helped to build, for advice, historical perspective, or just a good story. However, Harvey will no longer be available at Stack’s.

Harvey celebrated his 81st birthday on June 3, 2009 in the same month as his 62nd anniversary as a full time member of Stack’s. Prior to his full time status, Harvey did many years of apprentice work, helping his family in their offices whenever it didn’t interfere with a holiday or his schooling.

Harvey was the son of Morton M. Stack and nephew of Joseph B Stack, the early pioneers of Stack’s when it formed a rare coin business in 1933. In 1947, the company included five members of the Stack family – Morton, Joseph, Harvey and two of Harvey’s cousins (Joseph’s sons), Benjamin Stack (who was 1 ½ years older) and Norman C. Stack (who was three weeks younger than Harvey).

Harvey always considered himself lucky that his son, Lawrence (Larry), joined Stack’s in 1973, following in the very footsteps left by his relatives. On his own, as those before him, Larry learned the business from study, dealing, meeting and knowing the many specialists he encountered from the Stack family meetings. He is personally responsible for the development of many important and noteworthy collections and was responsible for bringing many important collections to Stack’s.

Harvey and Larry have donated significant numismatic materials to the ANS, the ANA and the National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institution, where Harvey serves as a lifetime member of the prestigious Smithsonian Society. Harvey served as President of the Professional Numismatists Guild in 1990-1991. During his tenure as President, Harvey effectively defended the PNG and the industry from proposed Federal Trade Commission regulations that he felt were inappropriate and unfair for responsible professional numismatists. He was honored by his peers with the coveted PNG Founders Award in 1993 and again in 1998 for an unprecedented second time. He is a Fellow of the ANS and an active member of the International Association of Professional Numismatists and Royal Numismatic Society.

Starting in September 2006, Harvey started contributing articles to the Stack website under “Harvey Stack Remembers”. This is a collection of stories Harvey enjoyed telling…welcoming all who are interested to share some of his experiences of yesteryear - the period that Harvey always called “The time when collecting was fun”.

Although he is retiring, Harvey will always remain available to chat about numismatics. To Harvey, numismatics and their collection…the real hobby of collecting…are of paramount importance. It is what has shaped his business life and the lives of his family’s business. For those who are interested in staying in touch with Harvey, he can be reached by email at or by mail at Harvey G. Stack, P.O. Box 0401, Greenvale, New York 11548-0401.


A new blog appeared recently, covering British Army Medals. -Editor

British Army Medals G-Welch---Delhi-Durbar

This is going to be an occasional blog; a vehicle to showcase the few medals in my collection and a means of opening up the names of the medal holders to a wider audience. I will also use the blog to feature British Army Medals from specific British military campaigns in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

To read the blog, see: British Army Medals (


Dave Hirt writes:
I am away from home right now, but saw thru the Internet that I had successful bids in all four recent numismatic literature sales. I will have some treasures awaiting me when I return home.

Here is another story of cutting up numismatic literature. This one could well be called a tragedy. I first started collecting coins in the late 1940's when on my paper route, people would sometimes pay me with Barber coins and Liberty Head nickels. My first numismatic book, purchased a few years later, was the Red Book, 5th edition.

About 1953 or 54 in my high school English class, I had to write a paper. I decided to write on coin collecting. By that time I had purchased a 6th edition Red Book, so I cut plates from my 5th edition to illustrate my paper. At the time the cut up edition was only one that had been replaced with an updated one.

Years later when I started collecting numismatic literature, I realized what a terrible thing I had done. I had picked just about the scarcest Red Book. After all these years I still have that mutilated book.

Ouch! That hurts! (or should we say it Hirts?) The 2010 Red Book values copies of the 5th edition from $130 (VG) to $600 (VF), with higher conditions unpriced and noted as commanding a substantial premium. -Editor

Bob Knepper writes:
The E-Sylum, June 14, Vol 12, #24 had comments by you and Bruce Smith about cutting up numismatic literature. I agree concerning books, but what does one do with wonderful auction catalogs, mostly ancient and foreign, when eventually there are too many to store? It's difficult to even remember where to look for specific info when needed.

I offered some of the catalogs of ancients to the head of the ancient history department at the local university and he was not interested, either for his department or for the school library.

A few years ago I visited the local coin clubs and they were polite but not much interested in non-US coins.

A friend-curator of a European museum collection said he would like to have them but the postage is prohibitive and the weight would exceed our baggage allowance on our intermittent trips.

Considered auctioning them, eBay or other, but again the postage is apparently more than people are willing to pay.

My solution, so far, is to keep certain auction series that cover my old German specialty with a computer index of where to look, plus cutting and filing pictures of coins not pictured in my reference books. One advantage is that I learn about the many variations which aren't shown, often not even mentioned, in the reference books. Also I sometimes see the same coin (same flaw or ?) in multiple auctions.

Any other/better solutions?

Well, it certainly is a problem - the market is thin for most recent catalogs. That may change a bit as fewer copies are printed and distributed, narrowing the supply.

Bob's point about the lack of a universal lot index is right on the money. I'm sure that a handful of top catalogers do compile their own indexes to better material in recent sales, but these are their trade secrets, not to be shared with others. It would be a worthwhile project for a numismatic institution library to take on, but where would the funding come from? It would be a huge (but hugely valuable) undertaking. -Editor


Last week, Bruce W. Smith wrote:
Prior to the 1700's, most coins did not carry a denomination."

David Gladfelter writes:
Of course, the United States' earliest “real coins” (silver and gold) did not carry a denomination either. The first half dime to do so was in 1829, first dime was in 1809, first quarter in 1815, first half dollar in 1807 (unless you count the 1/2 on the 1796 – half what?), first silver dollar in 1836, first quarter eagle in 1808, first half eagle in 1813 and first eagle in 1838. But our copper coins did carry denominations, in words and in fractions, from day one.


George Fitzgerald writes:
Regarding the item about Google digitizing books, Microsoft was staring to do many libraries on the Internet. One of these libraries was Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN. Microsoft decided to pull out of this and gave ten state of the art scanners to which is located in the Allen County Public Library and several other libraries all over the country.

They are putting many books on line, the most books are from our Genealogy Library. They are also scanning books from other libraries. I am a Volunteer at the Library in Genealogy.

As mentioned in a previous newsletter, the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, closed last year and it was decided to give all of the documents to the Allen County Public Library (the artifacts are going the State Museum in Indianapolis). One of the reasons our Library got he collection is that they are going to scan the collection and put it on line. Another paper money collector, Bill Haines, has volunteered to scan some of the Collection. Bill is also a subscriber The E-Sylum.

I know I would like to put some numismatic items on this web site as I have many of thousands of books, catalogs and other items on coins and paper money.

Ben Keele writes:
I think the idea of digitizing the holdings of the ANS and ANA libraries' (public domain) holdings is a great idea, but Google may not be the best way to go. Some scholars have pointed out that Google has not been the best at quality control.

The Internet Archive ( also has a digitization program and, from what I've heard, tends to have higher, more consistent results. However the ANS or ANA go, they should be careful to ensure that strict quality controls are used.

Ben included a link to an article about the failings of Google books. The article is no longer available, but this blog post about it is. Here are some excerpts. -Editor

In its frenzy to digitize the holdings of its partner collections, in this case those of the Stanford University Libraries, Google Books has pursued a “good enough” scanning strategy. The books’ pages were hurriedly reproduced: No apparent quality control was employed, either during or after scanning. The result is that 29 percent of the pages in Volume 1 and 38 percent of the pages in Volume 2 are either skewed, blurred, swooshed, folded back, misplaced, or just plain missing. A few images even contain the fingers of the human page-turner. (Like a medieval scribe, he left his own pointing hand on the page!) Not bad, one might argue, for no charge and on your desktop. But now I’m dealing with a mutilated edition of a mutilated selection of a mutilated archive of a mutilated history of a mutilated kingdom — hardly the stuff of the positivist, empirical method I was trained in a generation ago.

A random spot-check of other Google-scanned books has yielded some better results, but the general drift is clear: good enough for our mutilated view of the past, rushed through the scanning process so that Google could lay claim to as many artifacts of our cultural past in as short a time and with as small a budget as possible.

To read the complete article, see: Google Books Mutilates the Printed Past (


Arthur Shippee writes:
Here's an article about, a document posting site. As a source of texts, it may be of interest to one of you. I searched for Patristics, and found an essay on web-based resources for translating Patristic Greek.
In another sign that book publishers are looking to embrace alternatives to’s Kindle e-book store, Simon & Schuster has agreed to sell digital copies of its books on, a popular document-sharing Web site.

Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS, plans to announce Friday that it will make digital editions of about 5,000 titles available for purchase on the site, including books from best-selling authors like Stephen King, Dan Brown and Mary Higgins Clark. It will also add thousands of other titles to Scribd’s search engine, allowing readers to sample 10 percent of the content of the books on the site and providing links to buy the print editions.

“We are interested in getting our books in front of consumers in as many formats and distribution platforms as possible,” said Ellie Hirschhorn, chief digital officer of Simon & Schuster.

Unlike Amazon, which sets the retail price for its e-books and sells them in its own proprietary Kindle format, Scribd is offering publishers considerably more control over how their digital titles are sold.

Simon & Schuster will sell its books on Scribd for 20 percent off the list price of the most recent print edition. Amazon sets a price of $9.99 for many popular e-books, meaning titles there might be less expensive. But Scribd will allow publishers to see what is selling and change their prices accordingly.

Scribd, a start-up based in San Francisco, also says it is working on a reading application for the iPhone, which should be ready in a few weeks.

The Scribd Web site is the most popular of several document-sharing sites that take a YouTube-like approach to text, letting people upload sample chapters of books, research reports, homework and recipes. About 60 million users a month read documents on the site, embed them in blogs and share links to texts over social networks and e-mail messages.

To read the complete article, see: Simon & Schuster to Sell Digital Books on (


Regarding the Colorado Springs Gazette article about the District Attorney's investigation of the former executive director of the American Numismatic Association, George Kolbe writes:
Perhaps the below sentence is a quote, but surely it cannot be accurate. If it is, the charges should be dropped.

"Cipoletti refuted the claims Friday."

Arthur Shippee writes:
I think you mean he denied them. Could he in fact disprove them?

Those words were in the article published by the Gazette of Colorado Springs. They didn't seem right to me either, but I was too lazy to be a smart aleck and comment. Usually, I can count on my readers for that (ta-da!).

I was all set to agree that the reporter should have chosen the words more carefully, thinking that Cipoletti merely denied the charges. To refute them would be to disprove them, and that's for the court to decide.

However, as an Editor I felt compelled to check the dictionary, and found the following definitions in Merriam-Webster. -Editor

1 : to prove wrong by argument or evidence : show to be false or erroneous
2 : to deny the truth or accuracy of refuted the allegations

So, I guess the reporter was technically correct, although I'm still on the side of George and Arthur in preferring the more narrow primary definition of the word. -Editor



DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS Sale #7 closed Saturday June 13th 2009. I would like to extend a hearty thank you to all bidders and consignors! Prices realized have been posted on my web site. Next Sale #8 is scheduled for October 3rd 2009. PH: (719) 302-5686, FAX: (719) 302-4933. EMAIL:


The Daily Advance of North Carolina published an article about how the discovery of a 1786 Connecticut Copper coin led to the excavation and study of an old area homestead. -Editor
Edenton artifacts It all started with a coin.

When Town of Edenton employee Bobby Williams noticed a coin on the ground where an old home had once stood, he picked it up.

“I was amazed at how good a condition it was in,” he said.

Finding out that it was a 1786 Connecticut Copper coin, and wondering how it got to Edenton, made him want to learn more about the site on Macedonia Road.

As time went on, he picked up other things around the site where a home that had belonged to Penelope Barker had once stood.

There were bits of pottery, buttons, nails and even the remains of what appeared to be a pocketknife.

Following a recommendation from the University of Notre Dame, which had identified the coin for him, Williams shared boxes of items he had found with East Carolina University in Greenville.

Two weeks ago, in response to Williams’ gesture, Dr. Charles Ewen and a team of grad students from ECU visited the site where Williams had turned up his 18th century artifacts.

The home that once stood at the Macedonia Road site has been known by at least two names over the years — the Blenheim Manor House, and the Pagett Plantation.

According to a history of the site compiled by Bobby Williams, the original owner was Dr. Samuel Pagett who received what was possibly already known as Blenheim Manor House with 2,000 in Proprietary Land Grants between 1714-1722.

To read the complete article, see: History beneath the dirt (


Two weeks ago I excerpted a review of the new book by Jason Kersten, The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter. An E-Sylum reader forwarded this story, a TIME magazine interview with the author. -Editor
Kersten Art of Making Money But the U.S. Treasury Department was no match for Art Williams, one of the most inventive and prolific counterfeiters of recent decades. After learning the craft at 16 from his mother's boyfriend, Williams, the product of a tough neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, went on to print an estimated $10 million in fake money by outmaneuvering the government's ever-tightening security measures. Color-changing ink was replicated by automotive paint; watermarks were painstakingly sketched by hand; a close copy of the secret paper came from leftover newsprint rolls made at local mills. Williams had a successful 10-year run before he was finally caught by the U.S. Secret Service and sentenced in 2002 to three years in prison.

You say that, unlike other criminals, counterfeiters are craftsmen. Is there a part of you that admires the work that they do?

Well, sure. I've seen one of Art's bills. It's just astonishing how similar it is to the genuine article. I tend to be fascinated by any master criminal, anyone who's such a diabolical genius that they take a crime beyond the financial gain.

One striking detail of the story is how Art and his wife would travel around the country and unload their fake bills by buying random supplies and souvenirs, getting real money in change. Then they donated those supplies to charity.

They'd have all this extra stuff, and they'd drop it off at Salvation Armies and churches. That became as important to them as the money itself, that feeling of charity. He wasn't a greedy counterfeiter.

Why do you think he agreed to talk to you? Was part of him proud, and wanted to boast?

Absolutely. You can see in the earlier part of the book that he's a good kid, and he's a smart kid. He skips two grades, he's a straight-A student. That all gets subverted once he goes into the projects in Chicago. I think that 12-year-old kid is still in there wanting to come out, and I think it did with his counterfeit bills.

What was it like to spend time together?

Our core interviews for the book took place over 10 days in a basement apartment on the South Side of Chicago. I was just pulling these stories from his childhood out of him. It was a very emotional process - he would break down crying, telling me about his mother going crazy and his dad abandoning him. That's when the book sort of took a different direction. Yes, it's a book about counterfeiting, but then I started seeing it as the story of a man and his life, and how those things were interwoven.

To read the complete article, see: Q&A: The Art of Counterfeiting Money (


The reader also included a link to this short, but informative article on how to detect a counterfeit U.S. note. Nothing most numismatists don't already know, but a good fresher.

How to Spot Counterfeit Money (


In response to last week's quiz question, Pete Smith writes:
"According to the centennial history of the American Numismatic Society, the first Librarian was James D. Foskett."

That's correct! Foskett served from 1858 to 1864. But can anyone tell us anything about him? The ANS centennial history says little about him. He was one of the signers of the invitation to the first meeting of the organization. The ANS web site has a page devoted to the one-page letter dated March 8, 1858.

1858 ANS Sage invitation

New York
March 8, 1858

Dear Sir,

An informal meeting will be held at the house of Aug. B. Sage, at 121 Essex St. for the purpose of taking the preliminary steps toward the organization of an Antiquarian Society in this city. You are earnestly requested to be present on the occasion.

Aug. B. Sage
Henry O. Hart
James D. Foskett
Edward Groh
James Oliver

Meeting Monday
evening, March 15
7 o'clock

To view the original web page, see: Invitation to the first meeting of the American Numismatic Society (


Ilse Hoffmann, Secretary of the National Council of the Steuben Society of America submitted the following query for E-Sylum readers. -Editor
I find several references to the work of Alphonse Kolb, of Rochester, NY, in your newsletter (e.g., Vol 11, No. 45). Coincidentally I came across Kolb's name in the pages of history of the Steuben Society of America. He was a member of the Ellwanger Unit No. 53 in Rochester, and was a member of the Society for more than 50 years.

The Steuben Society archives contain medals with Steuben likenesses that were customarily given as part of scholastic awards for proficiency in the study of American history or German language. I suspect but cannot be sure that these are from the hand of Kolb. Does anyone out there know this for a fact? Thank you for any information regarding this topic. My email address is

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON SCULPTOR ALPHONSE ANTON KOLB (

The Steuben Society of America was founded in May of 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War, by patriotic Americans of German descent. Our mission from the inception of our organization to the present day has remained essentially unchanged. Our goals are to foster good citizenship in the German-American community, to educate the public as to the positive role our ethnic group has always played in American society, and to preserve a sense of ethnic pride amongst German-Americans.

By no means was it an accident that our founders chose to name our organization after one of the greatest German-Americans. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben epitomizes all the virtues our society holds most dear. The baron dedicated his life to public service. Von Steuben was recruited to the cause of American Liberty by Benjamin Franklin who persuaded the baron to offer his services, without compensation, to the Continental Congress. The baron, a Prussian officer by training, was given the rank of Major General in the Continental Army and distinguished himself as our country’s first effective Inspector General. He trained the troops through the brutal winter at Valley Forge where he converted a loosely assembled hodgepodge of untrained militia into a fighting force capable of standing toe to toe with the mighty British Army.

For more information on the Steuben Society of America, see:


Last week in my review of the latest issue of ANS Magazine I published a photo taken at the first meeting of the New York Numismatic Club. Jerry Fochtman writes:
That's a real nice and clear picture of the NYNC meeting at the Chop House! I've been looking for one of the first dinner they had on January 24, 1913, and possibly a list of who's who in the picture.

I asked John Kleeberg, who writes:
Mr. Fochtman is asking about the photograph of the first Club dinner, held at the Hotel McAlpin, on January 24, 1913, which is reproduced in the Numismatist for March 1913 (page 146) and the New York Numismatic Club Year Book for 1913 (page 8). That's a different event from the one in the photograph in the ANS Magazine.

The photograph reproduced in the ANS Magazine is a photograph of the Club meeting of November 12, 1909 (not the inaugural meeting - the inaugural meeting of the Club was December 11, 1908). This photograph also appears in Mehl's Numismatic Monthly, December 1909, page 194, and in The Elder Magazine, January 1910, page 14. The same photograph also appears in Adelson's 1958 history of the ANS (facing page 157), with many of the persons identified, although with an incorrect date and with many faces retouched. The reproduction in the ANS Magazine is the best one I've seen so far.

The photographs of the November 12, 1909 meeting and of the January 24, 1913 dinner also appear in the New York Numismatic Club History of 1961 (pages 6 and 19) and the 1992 edition of the New York Numismatic Club history (pages 8 and 21), which was largely a reprint of the 1961 edition.

The date of the photograph can be determined from the dates given in Mehl's and Elder's magazines; and also from the fact that John H. Clapp appears, since he did not attend many meetings (he lived in Washington, DC).

NYNC 05-00063

The individuals depicted in the photograph are: Head table, left to right: Bearded man at extreme left, unfortunately unidentified, possibly Charles Leopold Podhaiski or J. A. Clarke; Joseph C. Mitchelson, Elliott Smith (goatee), Daniel R. Kennedy, Albert R. Frey (mustache), Frank C. Higgins (mustache), Edgar H. Adams (mustache), D. Macon Webster (goatee), Thomas L. Elder.

Seated at the left of the front table, left to right: Wayte Raymond (glasses and cigar), Victor D. Brenner (bearded), Elmer Sears, Stephen K. Nagy, Bauman L. Belden (bearded, appears to have a water jug on his head)

Seated at the right of the front table, right to left: George H. Blake, William H. Woodin (mustache, holding cigar), John H. Clapp, and on the extreme right, partly cropped off, William R. Weeks.

Everyone who appears in this picture is important - Brenner, of course, and William H. Woodin, who worked himself to death in 1933-34 saving the U.S. financial system, but it is also the only photograph I know of that shows Stephen K. Nagy (the son-in-law of John Haseltine) whom David Tripp describes in his book on the 1933 double eagle as "the top crook of them all" (Tripp, page 101).

John H. Clapp was one of the prior owners of the Clapp collection, the nearly complete collection of U.S. coins that Louis Eliasberg bought. D. Macon Webster, the attorney of the Club, was a pioneering African-American civil rights attorney. William R. Weeks, another attorney, had a rather uneven career: he served as historiographer and librarian of the ANS, but he also looted his clients' monies and got thrown into Ludlow Street Jail.

While we're correcting things, the Chicago Coin Club was founded in 1919, not 1933, the Brooklyn Coin Club in 1932, not 1933, and the Bronx Coin Club in 1933, not 1934.

The ANS Magazine also has a photo of the 1910 ANA Convention (although the person that is identified as Zerbe I think is actually John Henderson). That's noteworthy because there is no official photograph of the 1910 convention - Mr. "Charles F. Allen," who took the official photograph, collected money from everyone for it and then disappeared.

The photograph in the ANS Magazine (which also appears in Adelson, facing page 160) is probably a snapshot made by Edgar H. Adams, an enthusiastic photographer who also did the plates for Elder's coin auctions.

What a Who's Who of American numismatics! Many thanks to John for providing the information. -Editor

BASEBALL CURRENCY ADVERTISING NOTES's June 18th auction includes a couple interesting currency-related items. Lots 153 and 154 are "Baseball currency". They're not ACTUAL currency of course, but advertising notes. I didn't find these listed in Vlack's Illustrated Catalogue of Early North American Advertising Notes, although I did find a similar note issued by a merchant in Wilmington, DE.

These are scarce items, probably no more scarce than a typical advertising note of the day. But because of the subject area they are always in demand and sell for over $1,000 today. I recall seeing an exhibit of these at an ANA convention several years ago. -Editor

This 1889 Baseball Currency reads on the front: "National Base Ball League Season of 1889 G.E. Jarvis & Co. Clothiers and Furnishers." Another part of the currency reads "Members of the Chicago Baseball Club." Albert Spalding, president, is pictured on the left. On the back, it reads: "This bill is good for 5 per cent. in payment for all cash purchases made of us. But one bill will be redeemed on any one purchase." 12 players are pictured, including Anson, Williamson, Pettit, Burns, Ryan, among others.

Baseball Note front Baseball Note back

To view the lot description, see: Lot #153: 1889 Baseball Currency featuring Cap Anson and Cubs (Joliet, IL) (


Another online item that caught my eye this week was an image of a piece of 1907 Clearing House currency I hadn't seen before. It was used to illustrate this article on the Panic of 1907 with comparison's to today's economic situation. -Editor
Perhaps in part because of its agriculture-based economy, Nebraska did not seem to suffer greatly in the 1906 recession. Nevertheless, beginning in the summer of 1907 it became increasingly “impossible to obtain money at any rate of interest” and the hoarding of currency began.

As the shortage of circulating money began, some economists felt the gold standard was partially to blame, which resulted in the order for the Denver mint to begin striking $80,000 in silver dollars a day. Many banks agreed, on their own initiative, to pay out no more than $100 a week per account to ward off possible bank runs.

A clearing house cartel was formed to aid one of New York City’s biggest banks, but other banks began to totter, prompting J. Pierpont Morgan to bail out the Trust Company of America, the most solid of the firms in question. All this did was to bring all the other banks’ health into question.

1907 Clearinghouse Scrip Lincoln NE

Closer to home, the Lincoln Clearing House was formed by local bankers at the Columbia National Bank, then on the northeast corner of 12th and O streets. From this meeting came preprinted notes on the First National Bank in $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 denominations to ease the apparent lack of circulating currency available in the city. Five dollar notes on the First National Bank of Bradshaw carried the imprint that they “will be accepted by any bank in York County.” The First Farmers State Bank of Amherst “issued scrip and continued operation as usual,” while the Commercial Bank of Wausa quietly printed and distributed $5 and $10 “notes.”

Nebraska banks issued these notes from October through November, and some had public burning ceremonies when they were redeemed.

Scrip was used by hundreds of banks in 41 states. It also was used by businesses for payrolls, retail firms and even cities, almost always in preprinted standard denominations so they could be recirculated for a stated period of time or until the panic subsided.

Because the federal government stepped in to aid the largest banks, it is tempting to compare the 1907 panic to the current economic recession. Some are also quick to point out the similarities between J.P. Morgan and Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway is one of the largest investors in Wells Fargo Bank and the infusion of a reported $8 billion in Goldman Sachs and General Electric. One major difference, however, is that the current downturn will obviously not end in a mere two months.

To read the complete article, see: Jim McKee: Morgan, Buffett and The Panic of 1907 (


An E-Sylum reader writes:
A town in the U.K. is introducing residents and visitors to numismatics in honoring Samuel Johnson (presumably the author/lexicographer). People are being asked to think about how coins of the era were used, whether Johnson himself used any of the coins in the local collection, and what the coins could have purchased. It's a nice approach to get people interested in the hobby, though that is surely not their purpose.
Samuel Johnson impersonator A historic coin competition has been launched in Lichfield to celebrate Samuel Johnson’s birthday.

The council owns a wonderful collection of historic coins and medals. The star of the collection is a Half Crown dating back to Johnson’s time, which is on display in the Lichfield Heritage Centre. A great selection of the coins is also on display in the bookshop at the The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum. Joanne Wilson, Museums and Heritage Officer at The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, said:

“We want to know what you think Dr Johnson might have spent the coin on. It could be anything from a quill and ink to a new wig! So if you are aged from four to fourteen, put your thinking caps on and come up with Dr Johnson’s shopping list and you could win a golden ticket to all of the Summer Fun at Sam’s House arts and crafts workshops. The sessions, at The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, will be great fun and are running every Wednesday from July 29 to August 26.”

Not a bad way to get the public thinking about the past and how coins provide a physical connection to days and lives of long ago. The coins and medals in the collection are from many eras, not just Johnson's. Here's a link to images of the coins: . -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Lichfield historic coin competition to celebrate Samuel Johnson’s birthday (


E-Sylum reader Johnny "Red" Walker forwarded this article about some interesting WWII souvenir coins that decorate a pub in Huthwaite, near Sheffield, England. -Editor
Pub Soldier Coins1 The Peacock pub in Huthwaite boasts an unusual feature which over the years has become a talking point for visitors. For when landlady Jo Edwards took over the Main Street pub in September last year, she was intrigued to discover around 38 coins nailed to the mantelpiece and the story surrounding them.

Said Jo: "I only know a bit about them, but various people have come in and mentioned them so I asked around.

"Apparently, they were put there by soldiers from Huthwaite during the Second World War.

Pub Soldier Coins2

"They had come in for some final drinks and before they went off again, they engraved their names on the coins and nailed them to the mantelpiece."

Added Jo: "People often come in and mention them — one lady came in last week and said that her uncle is on there. It is a very interesting thing for the village."

To read the complete article, see: Pub coins honour Huthwaite heroes (


This story from Carroll County, Arkansas tells how a flea market purchase yielded an unexpected bonus. -Editor
National Bank Note found in book Bob Coggins, who does handyman work and other odd jobs for Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey, was browsing through the used books at Macdoo's flea market on Green Forest's Main Street in early May when he saw an old book that caught his interest. He bought it, but put it aside.

Last week, he sat back in his easy chair, opened the book and a piece of paper fell out.

It was an over-sized $2 bill with a battleship on the back. Bob looked it over, noticed that it had two different dates--1914 and 1918--and thought maybe he had something.

Kerby kept researching on the Internet and found that in the last month, bills similar to the one held by Coggins had sold for $1,500 and more at a couple of Internet coin shops. Furthermore, a pristine, uncirculated bill identical to Coggins' was currently being offered for $4,750 by a dealer in California.

In collectors' language, the bill is known as a "1918 $2 Battleship FRBN Minneapolis."

It is the only large-sized, $2 bill issued as a Federal Reserve Bank Note. Each note has the issuing Federal Reserve Bank's name, such as Denver or San Francisco or New York, and could only be redeemed at that bank. The front of the note features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson to the left and wording in the entire center. The reverse features a World War I battleship, the only U.S. currency ever to do so.

It would look nice in a frame on the wall of Coggins' apartment, he admits, but he'd rather have the cash.

We've discussed the topic before, but it's been a while. Has anyone made an interesting find within the pages of a newly purchased old book? They're typical resting places for valuables, and it's not uncommon for things to be forgotten. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Surprise windfall found in pages of used book (


It's not numismatic, but bibliophiles will appreciate this tale of another fortunate flea market book purchase. Thanks to David Gladfelter for forwarding the link. -Editor
A soldier's rare leather-bound first edition copy of volume one of "The Federalist" sold for $80,000 at auction Tuesday, bringing him an unexpectedly large profit before his upcoming second deployment to Iraq.

Indiana National Guard Capt. Nathan Harlan was 16 when he paid $7 for the 1788 book that's the first part of a two-volume book of essays calling for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

Nineteen years later, his purchase at a South Bend flea market netted the divorced father of three a more than 11,000-fold return.

Harlan, 35, of Granger, said he finished his training at Camp Atterbury on Tuesday in time to log onto Heritage Auction Galleries' Web site and watch final bidding on the book that until recently he had kept in a shadowbox.

"I was yelling as the bids were coming in — it was like watching the Super Bowl for me," Harlan said. "The outcome was way beyond my expectations."

Harlan will leave this summer for up to a year in Iraq with the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade. He said he likely won't receive the money from the auction until he is on his way overseas.

The two-volume set of "The Federalist" — also known as "The Federalist Papers" — was published months after the Constitution was drafted in September 1787 in Philadelphia.

Its collected essays helped rally support for ratifying the document that provided the federal government's framework, said Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division at The Library of Congress.

The essays were penned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, all of whom used the same pseudonym to focus attention on their pro-ratification arguments.

"It turned out in retrospect to be a very important summation of the political thought of that period, and one of the great political documents that's come out of America," Dimunation said.

To read the complete article, see: Indiana soldier's rare `Federalist' copy nets $80K (


In another interesting non-numismatic item, Arthur Shippee forwarded this story about a long-lost rare stamp that recently surfaced, in a tale similar to the DuPont robbery coins that have been slowly turning up after decades in hiding. -Editor
Ice House cover 15stamp_190 An envelope from an 1873 letter bearing a scarce 90-cent stamp with Abraham Lincoln fetched more than $431,000 at an auction in New York City on Saturday.

The envelope, or cover, as collectors call used envelopes, was sold by Siegel Auction Galleries.

Known to collectors as the Ice House Cover, the envelope, which traveled by ship from New York to India, is the only one collectors have found still bearing the red and black stamp with Lincoln on it. Last traded publicly in 1943, then stolen and long thought to have been lost to philately, the cover was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2006 and returned, after a court battle, to the heirs of J. David Baker, its last owner.

The letter was sent from a New England ice merchant to one of his ice warehouses in Calcutta, then part of Britain’s East Indies colony. It was franked with a total of $1.12, a large sum of money in those days, which paid the two-ounce foreign letter rate.

Markings on the envelope reveal that it traveled across the Atlantic, by train through Germany and Italy, by ship to Egypt and again from Suez to Bombay, and then by train across India. Before the advent of the Universal Postal Union the next year, the sum reflected rates negotiated between the United States and Britain to encourage growing international trade. Indeed, the commercial success of sending ice from winter ponds in Massachusetts to the sweltering cities of India was part of this progress.

In 1914, a New York collector traveling in India did come across one. He sold it to a dealer in New York for $50 or $100 — accounts vary — and by the 1960s it had been sold to Mr. Baker, a steel executive and prominent collector in Indianapolis, for $6,500.

One night in 1967, a prized group of about 250 rare covers, including the Ice House Cover, was stolen from his home. The F.B.I. found most of those covers a decade later, and Mr. Baker was able to buy them back from his insurance company. But the Ice House Cover was missing.

In early 2006, however, an elderly couple walked into a stamp shop in Chicago to ask about the value of some old envelopes they had found while cleaning the home of a deceased friend. The store owner recognized the Ice House Cover and alerted the police. After an investigation by the F.B.I. cleared the couple, the cover was returned by court order to Mr. Baker’s widow and daughter. In May, the Philatelic Foundation, a nonprofit organization in New York, examined the cover and declared it genuine.

To read the complete article, see: $431,000 Paid for Envelope and Its Stamp (


Last week we discussed the world's first vending machine. Tim L. Shuck forwarded this story about the latest one - it dispenses not holy water, but something equally worshiped: gold. Tim also supplied the image of the machine, which he found on the company website ( Thanks! -Editor
Gold vending machine Shoppers in Germany will soon be able to buy gold as easily as bars of chocolate after a firm announced plans to install vending machines selling the precious metal across the country.

TG-Gold-Super-Markt aims to introduce the machines at 500 locations including train stations and airports in Germany.

The company, based near Stuttgart, hopes to tap into the increasing interest in buying gold following disillusionment in other investments due to the economic downturn.

Gold prices from the machines – about 30 per cent higher than market prices for the cheapest product – will be updated every few minutes.

Customers using a prototype "Gold to go" machine at Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday had the choice of purchasing a 1g wafer of gold for €30, a 10g bar for €245, or gold coins.

A camera on the machine monitors transactions for money laundering controls.

Jens Willenbockel, an investment banker who saw the machine while passing through the airport, told the Financial Times that he believed there could be a market for the venture.

"Because of the crisis there is a lot of awareness of gold," he said. "It is also a great gift for children – for them getting gold is like a fairytale."

Calling these items gold "bars" is a bit of a fairytale, too. They look to be about the size and weight of a lotus blossom... -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Gold Sold Like Chocolate from German Vending Machines (


If you're going to counterfeit something, why think small? This article discusses the counterfeiting of billion dollar bearer bonds. -Editor
smuggledbonds Italy's financial police, Guardia Italiana di Finanza, have arrested two Japanese citizens as they attempted to smuggle $134 billion worth of U.S. bonds in the false bottom of a suitcase by train into Switzerland, Jerome Corsi's Red Alert reports.

The bonds appeared to include 249 certificates U.S. Federal Reserve bonds worth $500 million each plus various other U.S. government securities worth a billion dollars each, including what are known as "Kennedy Bonds" bearing a portrait of President John Kennedy on the front and a shuttle launch on the reverse.

"Italian authorities have not yet determined whether the bonds are real or fake," Asia News reported in breaking the story, "but if they are real the attempt to take them into Switzerland would be the largest financial smuggling operation in history."

"If they are fake," Asia News continued, "the matter would be even more mind-boggling because the quality of the counterfeit work is such that the fake bonds are undistinguishable from the real ones."

The Guardia di Finanzia indicated Italian authorities were working to determine whether the bonds and the documentation accompanying them were authentic.

No determination had yet been made whether the bonds were counterfeit, nor was any other information released about the identity or background of the two Japanese men apprehended in the incident.

To read the complete article, see: Smuggled: $134 billion in U.S. bonds (

The Financial Times published a followup on the story Friday. -Editor
Whether the men are really Japanese, as their passports declare, is not entirely clear, but Italian and US secret services working together soon concluded that the bills and accompanying bank documents were most probably counterfeit, representing the latest handiwork of the Italian Mafia.

Few details have been revealed beyond a June 4 statement by the Italian finance police announcing the seizure of 249 US Treasury bills, each of $500m, and 10 "Kennedy" bonds, used as inter-government payments, of $1bn each. The men were apparently being tailed by the Italian authorities.

Yesterday the mystery deepened as an Italian blog quoted Colonel Rodolfo Mecarelli of the Como provincial finance police as saying the two men had been released. The colonel and police headquarters in Rome both declined to respond to questions from the Financial Times.

"They are all fraudulent, it's obvious. We don't even have paper securities outstanding for that value,'' said Mckayla Braden, senior adviser for public affairs at the Bureau of Public Debt at the US Treasury department. "This type of scam has been going on for years.''

The Treasury has not issued physical Treasury bonds since the 1980s - they are handled electronically - though it still issues savings bonds in paper format.

To read the complete article, see: Trail of fake Treasury bills leads to Mafia (


Dick Johnson couldn't resist submitting the following. -Editor
David Rumpeltin of Ramsey, NJ, got a funny anecdote published in the July 2009 Readers Digest that arrived this week. Made me laugh.

"My sister-in-law," he wrote "a professional storyteller, was in Europe speaking at various libraries. Later, she called her mother and told her that she'd just given a speech for 250 librarians.

"Great," said her mother. "How much is that in American money?"


This week's Featured Web Page is recommended by Ron Guth. Instead up cutting up literature, Mark Wagner’s Currency Collages are made of cut-up U.S. currency. These artworks are very imaginative and cleverly done. Check them out!

“The one dollar bill is the most ubiquitous piece of paper in America. Collage asks the question: what might be done to make it something else? It is a ripe material: intaglio printed on sturdy linen stock, covered in decorative filigree, and steeped in symbolism and concept. Blade and glue transform it-reproducing the effects of tapestries, paints, engravings, mosaics, and computers-striving for something bizarre, beautiful, or unbelievable… the foreign in the familiar.”


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