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


Those wishing to become new E-Sylum subscribers (or wishing to Unsubscribe) can go to the following web page link


There is a membership application available on the web site Membership Application

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


For Asylum mailing address changes and other membership questions, contact David at this email address:


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You won't regret it!

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Wayne Homren

New subscribers this week include Mark J. Wolff, courtesy of Bob Fritsch, Bob Coard, and Ben Z. Swanson, Jr. Welcome aboard! We have 1,508 email subscribers, plus 172 followers on Facebook.

This week we open with an NBS membership offer you can't refuse, notes from literature dealers Fred lake and Bryce Brown, and a new book announcement.

Other topics include the death of dealer Robert Hecht, the 60th anniversary of Numismatic News, coin designer Emily Damstra, author Eduard Kann, Matthew Boulton and J. P. Droz.

To learn more about a missing commemorative pitcher of Adam Eckfeldt, the Salvador Dali Easter Plate, the Museum of London numismatic collection, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren (
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


Stuffed in the latest catalog from Kolbe & Fanning is an envelope-format membership application for our organization, the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. Below is the text, which includes an offer to refund the dues of any new member who isn't happy. The offer is signed by NBS co-founder George Kolbe with the tag line, "How can you lose?" -Editor

Why should you join the Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)? Jack Collins once had a dream about forming an organization for numismatic book and catalogue collectors - literally. He called me excitedly, saying that the night before he had come up with the idea in his sleep, and convinced me of its merit. That was in 1979 - a year later, Jack and I had published the first issue of The Asylum. Shortly after, the NBS was formed. Find out more about the early years by reading Joel Orosz's excellent overview at: .

Neither Jack nor I could have imagined how much NBS would grow. Through the years, those who have followed us have kept type, ink, and paper still relevant and essential through The Asylum, all while bringing the NBS into the electronic age.

I invite you to join the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. If you are not happy with your membership, I will personally refund your dues. How can you lose?

George extends the offer to E-Sylum readers as well. Below is a link to the online copy of our membership application. Remember, only NBS members receive our print journal, The Asylum. So you've got nothing to lose and a lot of great numismatic literature reading to gain. Sign up today! -Editor

To access the NBS membership application, see:


Fred Lake forwarded this announcement about Lake Books' 110th mail-bid sale. -Editor

Lake Books announces that its 110th mail-bid sale of numismatic literature is now available for viewing on its web site at The 482-lot sale features selections from the library of J. R. Frankenfield who was a major luminary in the pursuit of Early Coppers. Many of the items contain J.R.'s personal notations such as opening and closing bids in an auction sale, a complete listing of bidders with their bidder numbers in a particular sale, extra photographs added to a catalog, etc. His library was especially noted for deluxe presentations.

A number of other consignors in the auction help to round out the selections to include Paper Money, Tokens and Medals, Exonumia, World and Ancient material and books from the 18th and 19th century.

The sale has a closing date of Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 5:00 PM (EST) and bids may be placed by email, telephone, fax or regular mail until the closing time. Good luck with your bidding.

Lake Books
6822 22nd Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33710
727-343-8055 Fax 727-345-3750


Bryce Brown logo

Numismatic literature dealer Bryce Brown writes:

My coin auction catalog inventory pricelist is freshly updated, and can be viewed here: .


A new book by National Geographic photographer Martin Gray was announced today: Sacred Life - Coins Of The Natural World. Thanks for Bill Rosenblum and Howard Daniel for passing this along. -Editor

Sacred Life We have living beings shown on our money, let's use that money to protect them. During the past twenty-five years thousands of species of animals, birds, fish and plants have been taken to the brink of extinction and beyond because of mankind's destruction of the natural world. The rate of extinction is increasing every day with more than one species currently becoming extinct every 20 minutes.

The nations of the world spend trillions of dollars on weapons and military expenditures, but only a fraction of that on the protection of the natural world. The living species we humans share the planet with have as much right to life as we do and it is only through the our actions that we can protect and save them.

Featuring hundreds of close-up photographs of beautiful coins from around the world and showing a large variety of animals, plants, birds and fish, Sacred Life is a visual feast and a plea for respect of the natural world. These are not valuable coins but they illustrate the greatest value of all, which is life. Money can cause harm or promote life. The choice is ours.

Martin Gray is a National Geographic photographer whose work focuses on the protection of art, sacred architecture and cultural diversity. He has traveled extensively in more than one-hundred and thirty five countries. His books include The Geography of Religion by National Geographic and Sacred Earth by Barnes & Noble. His web site, Places of Peace and Power is visited by millions of people each year.

For more information, see: Sacred Life COINS OF THE NATURAL WORLD (


This article from the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune discusses the 60th anniversary of the founding of Krause Publications. Congratulations! -Editor

Krause 60th anniversary When Chet Krause created the Numismatic News at his mother's kitchen table in 1952, he was an avid coin collector looking for ways to connect with fellow collectors.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of that first coin-collector publication, which eventually spawned Krause Publications and the numerous magazines, books, events and online products it currently produces. Krause was acquired by Cincinnati-based F+W Media in 2002.

After starting the Numismatic News, Krause expanded by buying a second magazine, Coin Press, in 1961, and then in 1964 started a book division with "Confederate and Southern States Currency." He then decided to branch out into other leisure-time periodicals, launching Old Cars Weekly magazine in 1971 and Baseball Cards magazine in 1981. The company now offers more than 40 periodicals and 750 reference and how-to books.

Dave Harper, editor of the Numismatic News, who has been with the company for almost 34 years, said the longevity of the company's first publication is simple.

"People who collect coins always want to know what's out there and what it is worth," Harper said.

Scott Tappa, publisher of Krause's numismatics group, which includes the Numismatic News, said he believes the future of the magazine, along with the other publications in the group, always will be a mix between print and online.

"I don't think we'll see our print product go away. There are people who still want that in their hands," Tappa said. "We have loyal customers, and what they are doing is giving us the chance to evolve and offer them some new products."

Tappa pointed out that the introduction of websites and, email, Facebook and Twitter along with its publications help the numismatics group reach some 370,000 people per month. The Numismatic News currently has a paid circulation of about 31,000.

To read the complete article, see: Coin-collector magazine that spawned Krause Publications celebrates 60th year (


Heritage Auctions is seeking a talented numismatist with broad expertise in U.S. Coins to join our award-winning staff. If you have an extensive knowledge base of U.S. Coins and have exceptional writing skills we have an opening as a remote cataloger. This is a contract position with periodic travel to Dallas required. An extensive numismatic library is highly recommended. If you are interested, please contact Benny Rodriguez at

ROBERT E. HECHT JR., 1919-2012

We've written in the past about Robert Hecht Jr. , a controversial dealer in ancient coins and antiquities. He passed away this week in Paris at the age of 92. -Editor

Robert Hecht When Robert E. Hecht Jr. arrived at the loading platform of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the fall of 1972, he was carrying a large wooden box and was escorted by an armed guard.

Inside the box was perhaps the finest Greek vase to survive antiquity, a masterpiece that would soon be making headlines around the world.

The Met had agreed to pay a record $1 million for the ancient work. Hecht said it had been in the private collection of a certain Lebanese gentleman.

But when Met director Thomas Hoving heard the story, he scoffed: "I bet he doesn't exist." Indeed, as Hecht later revealed in his unpublished memoir, he had just bought the vase from "loyal suppliers" who had dug it up from ancient tombs outside Rome and smuggled it out of Italy.

The ensuing controversy over the so-called Euphronios krater marked a turning point in the art world, opening the public's eyes to the shady side of museums. It also solidified Hecht's reputation as the preeminent dealer of classical antiquities, driving him underground - but not out of business.

He became a legendary but mysterious figure, one whose passion for ancient art overcame any questions about the destruction wrought by its illicit origins.

That career ended Wednesday, when Hecht died at his home in Paris at age 92.

His death comes less than three weeks after the ambiguous end of his criminal trial in Rome on charges of trafficking in looted antiquities. Since the 1990s, Hecht had been at the center of an Italian investigation that traced objects looted from tombs in Italy through a network of smugglers, dealers and private collectors to museums across the United States, Europe and beyond.

Hecht was born in Baltimore in 1919, heir to the Washington, D.C.-area department store chain that bore his family name. He served in the Navy Reserve in World War II, then accepted a scholarship to study classics and archaeology at the American Academy in Rome.

It was there that he began buying ancient art. At the time, ancient artifacts were sold openly to tourists in the city's piazzas. But Hecht soon learned that his passion carried risks.

In 1962, he was barred from re-entering Turkey after being accused of trying to smuggle out ancient coins. Not long after, he was accused in Italy of trafficking in looted antiquities. Italy's highest court eventually exonerated him for lack of evidence.

That case was still working through Italy's legal system when Hecht was offered the Euphronios krater by Medici, who had grown up near the Etruscan necropolis where the vase was illegally excavated.

The ensuing scandal forced Hecht to relocate to Paris and do business through a series of front men, one of whom was a precocious ancient coin dealer named Bruce McNall.

"He was like a father," said McNall, who first met Hecht in 1970 while buying ancient coins at an auction in Basel. "He was one of the most fascinating characters I've met in my life - a man of mystery, a genius, a family man."

Soon after meeting, McNall and Hecht became partners, and according to McNall began selling recently looted antiquities to museums and collectors out of McNall's Rodeo Drive storefront gallery. They also created an elaborate tax fraud scheme with former Getty antiquities curator Jiri Frel, arranging for Hollywood figures to donate looted antiquities to the Getty in exchange for inflated tax write-offs.

"I found him to be without question the most knowledgeable person I'd met in the business, much more of an academic than a dealer," said McNall, who went on to produce Hollywood films and buy the Los Angeles Kings hockey team before going to jail on unrelated bank fraud charges.

Among Hecht's top clients was the J. Paul Getty Museum, which was aggressively building its collection of ancient art in the 1980s and '90s. In a deposition, True said Hecht could be "charming, very, very intelligent, but he could also turn, be very hostile, very sarcastic, very sinister."

Ultimately, Italian prosecutors could not win a criminal conviction in the case before the allotted time elapsed.

"He was not able to be proven guilty, so he was innocent," Hecht's wife, Elizabeth, said Wednesday.

In addition to his wife, Hecht is survived by his daughters Daphne Hecht Howat of Paris, Andrea Hecht of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Donatella Hecht of Westchester, N.Y.

To read the complete article, see: Robert Hecht Jr., controversial dealer in classical antiquities, dies at 92 in Paris (


A descendant of Adam Eckfeldt helped Joel Orosz and Len Augsberger on their book about the first Philadelphia Mint. She found NBS though a web search hit on The E-Sylum, and has been a subscriber ever since. She could use our help to locate a missing family heirloom.

She writes:

Eckfeldt pitcher I continue to read The E-Sylum which is always interesting, even to someone who is not a collector. It amazes me that you put together such a classy publication every week with so many interesting articles, and it's not even your day job!! I also appreciate your having connected me with Joel and Len; I so much enjoyed their visit to my home two years ago (when we had almost three feet of snow on the ground!) and have enjoyed their friendship since then.

Whenever I read The E-Sylum this glass pitcher with a bust of Adam Eckfeldt comes to mind and I wonder if there might be a way of getting a message out to your readership about it. This commemorative pitcher went missing from the estate of one of his descendants about six years ago and has not yet been found.

I have taken some photos of it from a video we recorded at my mother's house a few years before she passed away in 2005. Unfortunately they are not sharp, but do give some idea of its shape and of the bust, which is identical to the Adam Eckfeldt Mint Retirement medal (Len Augsberger provided this image).

If anyone has seen this pitcher (or if there is another one out there), I'd love to know about it.

Eckfeldt medal obverse Eckfeldt pitcher.2jpg

So, has anyone seen this pitcher? Please keep a lookout in the numismatic and antique marketplaces.




Mail Bid Sale No. 16 Closes JUNE 2, 2012


Coin World Article Links Fixed
Tom Caldwell, Beth Deisher and others noticed that last week's links to two Coin World articles weren't working. Oops! I missed a quote mark and messed up the HTML code. We've fixed our archive, and thanks to Beth, here are the specific links to the articles referenced:

To read the Wilson dollar story:

To read the Lee Guest Commentary:

How The Internet Helps Auction Consignors
Martin Kaplan writes:

One of your readers in last week's issue lamented the demise of auction formats of years past where the presence of famous collectors bidding strategies and methods brought excitement to the room. As a seller at auction, the Internet has, in my opinion, been the greatest addition to the auction format. Knowledgeable buyers now do not have to travel, an expensive proposition, to have access to every significant auction anywhere in the world. Buyers have a hard, if not impossible, time "ripping" an item when buyers are now global. This is much fairer to sellers and I welcome the Internet and the continued advances we will enjoy because of technology.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE THOUGHTS ON OLD-TIME COIN AUCTIONS (

On Greek Paper Money
Joe Boling writes:

In response to Martin Purdy's observation of the excessive zeros on the listing for Greece P135 in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money: in the 13th edition the error is still there. Tarassouleas' book on Greek notes does not transliterate the denominations - it simply illustrates each note and expects the reader to read them. But the book on WWII Greek emissions published by the Mining Credit Corporation Scientific Section, without apparent byline, gives the denominations of P234 and P235 as 10,000,000,000 and 100,000,000,000 drachmai. The KP publication has an extra cluster of zeros for the second note (which we westerners would read as 100 trillion drachmai).

The latter of the Greek books, incidentally, is a bibliophile's delight - all the notes are illustrated with real notes tipped into the book (25 total). I don't know what the print run was, but apparently they ran out of the 10 July 1941 100 drachmai note - that one shows up in dealer junk boxes as a black and white halftone marked "facsimile" on the left face. I am told that some copies of the book have that reproduction inserted where the real note was supposed to appear.

One reader reached out to a Greek retired economics professor to confirm that a billion in the Greek system does equal a billion American. -Editor

Pinches and The Franklin Mint
On another topic Joe Boling writes:

John Pinches medal I adore the Pinches medal that has been written about the past two weeks. Someplace in my unaccessioned purchases, buried now since I moved from Seattle, is a Pinches reproduction of the Pistrucci Waterloo medal. I had thought it was fairly recent - later than 1969. Apparently not, unless the Franklin Mint continued to use the Pinches name for a while after acquiring the firm. What a shame that they declined to serve clients the way Pinches had. They could still be in the medal-making business.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: JOHN PINCHES, LTD, MEDALISTS (

Annie Oakley's Shot Coins
David Lange writes:

Rick Sage commented that the "shot" coins and tokens were all from the 19th Century, but the penny with an unreadable date is of George V, so it can't be any earlier than 1911. The first two numerals of the date are, in fact, readable as 19, though I couldn't make out the second two.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: WHERE DID ANNIE OAKLEY'S BULLETS COME DOWN? (

The Salvador Dali Easter Plate
I passed along this note to Joe Boling from web site visitor Cassandra Crownover, who writes:

I read a note that you wrote about the stand alone jewelry that was created from the Salvador Dali Easter Plate in the 1970s. You said you had bought your wife one. My grandfather bought two, one for my mom and one for my grandmother, and I was wondering where I might find more information about them.

Joe hasn't found another. Have any E-Sylum readers seen one? Here's the original note from Joe, published May 16, 2004:

"In response to Dick Johnson's report on Salvador Dail as a medallist, he also designed a sterling silver Easter plate for the Lincoln Mint, in the mid-'70s if memory serves. It had an abstract crucifix and an egg near the bottom edge. The crucifix design was also struck as a stand-alone piece of jewelry, one of which I gave to my wife. She left it in a motel room about 1984, and I have been searching for a replacement ever since. Anyone know where one is?"

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: SALVADOR DALI, MEDALIST (

Notes from Dave Hirt
Dave Hirt writes:

I'm spending the winter in Europe, and the last two weeks have been REAL winter - cold and snow. While at an antique gallery I noticed two chairs that would look great if they were in my library.

Dave Hirt library chair Dave Hirt library settee

I saw my name mentioned in last week's issue in connection with Frank Van Zandt. I did replace him as an officer in the Bibliomania Society. During the transition I had to call him several times. As we talked about numismatic literature, I think he was surprised at my knowledge of dealers, auction sales and auction catalogs.

After that he started to call me every now and then. While an interesting person to talk to, these calls were never short, lasting between an hour to an hour and a half. He often mentioned what seemed to be almost daily calls to George Kolbe. I thought to myself that if those calls were as lengthy as the ones to me, I don't know how George got any work done.

But Is it a Real Copy?
Regarding the item on itinerant coin buyers touting obvious copies as genuine coins, Ken Berger writes:

I think the most tell-tale sign of the coins being fakes (besides their obvious appearance) is that the article never states that the traveling coin buyers actually bought the coins!

Alan Luedeking writes:

On the subject of fake coins posing as real, thought readers would get a kick out of this one, in an NGC holder certifying it as authentic, despite being clearly marked "COPY" at the top. This coin sold on 2/6/2012 in eBay listing as item number 200707578059. Caveat emptor!! I guess that for the folks at NGC stamping a coin "COPY" constitutes "environmental damage"!

COPY in NGC holder COPY in NGC holder closeup

COPY in NGC holder closeup

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: A TALE OF TRAVELING COIN BUYERS (

Who Picked Up The Super Bowl Coin Toss Medal?

Superbowl 2012 coin toss
On still another topic Joe Boling writes:

About the Super Bowl coin toss medal, I noticed that after the referee flipped the piece he did not pick it up. I didn't keep watching to see who did. That's the one that's supposed to go to the Hall of Fame.

Hmmm. SOMEONE must have picked it up, but probably not on camera. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: THE HIGHLAND MINT'S SUPER BOWL COIN TOSS COIN (


Canada polar bear 20 dollars Last week I commented on this Canadian 20 dollar silver bullion piece, asking who the designer "ED" was. Kerry Rodgers of Auckland, New Zealand had the answer: Emily S. Damstra.

As it turns out, the whole story of the $20 for $20 series is listed on page 58 of this week's Coin World. Damstra, also designed the Sasquatch (and a few other Mythical Creatures) 25-cent coin for the Royal Canadian Mint.

To read the complete article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: FEBRUARY 5, 2012 / Swimming Polar Bear (


Dick Johnson submitted these notes on the other professions of coin and medal artists. -Editor

I wrote the entry on sculptor Jamie Franki this week for my artist databank. He designed the 2005 Buffalo nickel reverse and the Jefferson portrait for the nickels that followed for the U.S. Mint. That plus five medals for ANA conventions. He pretty much followed the mold of a typical American coin and medal artist. It is not his main profession.

Like so many other artists of our coins and medals he has a full-time profession other than coin and medal design. So many are teachers, professors, instructors -- I call all these educators -- Jamie is a tenured associate professor in art and art history at the University of North Carolina. Perhaps jewelers rank second as adjunct profession. In the 19th century stencil cutting was a popular full-time profession for engravers.

It seems less than two dozen artists each century -- and that includes full-time engravers at mints national and private! -- that earn their full-time living with coin and medal creation alone. All others have a primary profession, coin and medal creation is a happy diversion.

What I found interesting among the 3,588 artists I have listed in my databank, are those other professions. Obviously most of these are art oriented: sculptor, painter, illustrator, wax modeler, portraitist, miniaturist, graphic artist, cartoonist, seal engraver, banknote (or steel) engraver, wood-carver, ceramicist, industrial designer, and such.

Two early American engravers -- Abel Buell and John Reich -- made a living as typefounders. Frank Donnelly saved his money as an youthful hand engraver to buy a saloon, but later in life wanted a little more respect and gentility than 'saloonkeeper' offered; he demanded to be listed in city directories as a "wine merchant."

Californian Roger Nobel Burnham was an actor in the film industry. James M. Murdock Junior made branding irons. Theodore J. Harbach made candy and Christmas tree ornaments. Thomas Welland was a calico printer. William Rosenthal was a corset manufacturer.

Benjamin C. True was a justice of the peace. One sculptor I knew personally, Ralph J. Menconi was a police commissioner. We have schoolmasters, Samuel Higley, and schoolmistresses, Clara Hill. We find physicians, dentists, philanthropists, Catholic priests and missionaries in my databank file.

Plus a couple of clockmakers, Edward Dudfield and Henry Voigt. George Seymour Godard was a librarian. Samuel Higley was a metallurgist. And Helmut K. Wimmer was a museum official who managed a planetarium.

I've told the story in The E-Sylum before of Hiram Washington Hayden who was a teenage engraver for Scovill who went on in life to be an inventor, joined forces with his brother and two other entrepreneurs to start their own factories. He became a 19th century millionaire.

Robert Latou Dickinson was a gynecologist who created a medal in the shape of a female vagina. [He collaborated with sculptor Abram Belskie to make models illustrated in their book Birth Atlas and later the pair made three-dimensional models that were anatomically correct for medical students in accurate color and textural feel.]

Gotfried Mass was a straw hat manufacturer and Henry Biggins was a wellsinker. But I've just scratched the surface. ... Wait! ... I can't say that! I have just uncovered a small portion of coin and medal artists' other professions. Interesting?


Speaking of coin designers, Coin Update featured this article about the Dolley Madison Silver Dollar, noting that the design of the coin was done by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, beneficiary of funds raised by the sales of the coin. Via the Mint's Artistic Infusion program a number of outside designers have worked on coins, but these are worked under contract to the U.S. Mint. Have there been any other instances where the U.S. Mint has allowed an outside firm to contribute a design? -Editor

dolley madison silver dollar

The Dolley Madison Commemorative Coin Program was authorized under Public Law 104-329 to celebrate the life and achievements of the First Lady, as well as to commemorate the 150th anniversary of her death. Representing an unusual departure from tradition, the obverse and reverse designs for the silver dollars were created by a well known for-profit private sector firm, namely Tiffany & Co.

The authorizing legislation for the program provided only basic guidance on the designs for the Dolley Madison Silver Dollar, stating: "The design of the coins minted under this paragraph shall be emblematic of the 150th anniversary of the death of Dolley Madison and the life and achievements of the wife of the fourth President of the United States."

The motivation for the eventual design selection of the coin came from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Under the legislation, surcharges from the sale of the silver dollars were to be paid to the National Trust to support and fund restoration projects at Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison. The National Trust commissioned Tiffany & Co. to prepare designs for the commemorative silver dollar. These designs were prepared by Tiffany & Co. and donated to the National Trust, which provided them to the United States Mint for production.

The artists who created the designs at Tiffany & Co. remained uncredited. However, the certificate of authenticity and other promotional materials for the coins did provide credit to United States Mint Sculptor/Engravers T. James Ferrell and Thomas D. Rogers who were responsible for translating the design art into three dimensional sculpture from which the dies were created.

Another question: why was this article just published this week, when the coin has been around since 1999? Regardless, it was an opportunity to ask an interesting question. Does anyone know? -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Dolley Madison Silver Dollar Featured Designs by Tiffany & Co. (


Numismatourist Howard Berlin submitted these thoughts on the cutbacks at Holland's Geldmuseum. -Editor

Geldmuseum front I had read Christel Schollaardt's article when it first appeared in CoinsWeekly. In fact, I had met Ms. Schollaardt in August 2011 at the Geldmuseum on a day trip from Amsterdam. Acting as my tour guide, she took me on a tour around the building. The left side of the building acts as the museum, primarily concentrating on explaining how the central bank works. The right side of the building still functions as the Dutch Royal Mint, stamping out euro coins with The Netherlands reverse and coins for a number of other countries.

To my knowledge, the Geldmuseum is one of Holland's two museums that have significant numismatic collections open to the public; the other being the Tylers Museum in Haarlem, which I also visited during my stay in Amsterdam. Of the nine people who were unfortunately laid off, I met two of them: Christel Schollaardt, as head of the department, and Jan Pelsdonk, the database manager, who was also the numismatics curator at the Tylers Museum.

Geldmuseum coins The Geldmuseum is located at the end of Leidseweg. A number of years ago, the city imbedded 43 large-scale coin replicas, from 1 cent to 2½ guilder in the sidewalk of virtually the entire length of the Leidseweg to the museum.

It is a shame that a prominent institution should be allowed to decay to this point. About a year ago, the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint Museum), located directly across from the Louvre on the Seine closed. Who will be next?

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: CUTBACKS AT THE UTRECHT GELDMUSEUM (


Numismatourist Howard Berlin also has this information on the numismatic collection at the Museum of London. -Editor

In Volume 15, Number 03, January 15, 2012 of The E-Sylum, Wayne indicated that he was "stymied trying to locate the numismatic collections" of the Museum of London. I admit that I had not heard of their collection before either, traveling through London some 10 or so times a year.

I contacted the MOL and heard back from a Roz Sherris on behalf of Ed Johnson, who was mentioned in the original CoinsWeekly article. She said that the Museum of London tells the story of London, from prehistory to the present day, so they use highlights of our numismatic collections to illustrate various themes throughout their galleries, but they do not have a dedicated numismatic display. Currently they have over 650 coins on display, including three hoards (potins from Shepperton; the group of 42 from Plantation House, and a medieval hoard (mostly low denomination) from Beulah Hill) and various individual coins and tokens. There are also 3 Roman coins and a small group of slavery-related tokens on display at the Museum of London Docklands.

The rest of the numismatics collection, mostly found in the Greater London area, are in storage at London Wall or, for the more recent excavated objects, at Mortimer Wheeler House. They are happy to arrange appointments for researchers to see objects from storage, though they may limit the number of items that can be seen at one time. Coins are normally the responsibility of the relevant period curators, and they do not have a numismatic specialist on their staff.

I will be next in London in March and will stop by the MOL to see the 'collection" at the Docklands site. Also, I was told at the August ANA by the people at the British Royal Mint booth, that there is a display of coins on the top floor of the White Tower in the Tower of London complex. The Royal Mint used to be located on Tower Hill. I've been to the Tower of London before but never noticed any coins there, but will make a special effort to stop by this time.

I haven't actually visited the Museum of London, but was trying to find the numismatic collection online so I could provide a link for E-Sylum readers. If there is no dedicated numismatic department, that may explain why I couldn't find a starting point online for their coin images. I have been to the Tower of London, but was very disappointed with the coin display on the top floor of the White Tower. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MUSEUM OF LONDON PUTTING COIN IMAGES ONLINE (


In some other good news for collectors, Yale University in planning to install a numismatic exhibit in their newly renovated University Art Gallery. -Editor

The Yale University Art Gallery, in New Haven, Connecticut, the oldest and one of the most important university art museums in America, is in the final phase of a renovation and expansion that will transform the visitor experience of both the museum and its esteemed collections. The project will enable the Gallery not only to enhance its role as one of the nation's most prominent teaching institutions but also to join the ranks of the country's leading public art museums. The expanded Gallery will open in December 2012.

When complete, the expanded gallery will contain 69,975 square feet of exhibition space (enlarged from 40,266 square feet prior to the expansion) and will occupy the length of one-and-a-half city blocks. With new areas for exhibitions and object study, combined with a comprehensive plan for public and educational programming, the project will vastly increase access to the Gallery's encyclopedic collections.

On completion of the expansion, the Gallery will be able to install a vastly larger portion of its collections than heretofore possible. The current installation of European art displayed some 135 works; the new galleries will feature about 350. Moreover, visitors will also see numerous objects that have never before been shown at the Gallery. This will include a new installation of Indo-Pacific art, comprising ethnographic sculptures from Southeast Asia, medieval Javanese gold, and textiles from Indonesia, which will establish the Gallery as one of the country's leaders in this field.

An extensive new installation of coins and medals has been enabled by the transfer of the University's Numismatics Collection to the Gallery from Yale's Sterling Memorial Library. A rare group of late 19th-century lunettes and ceiling murals- donated to the Gallery after they were removed from the Collis Huntington mansion on Fifth Avenue when it was demolished in 1926-have been restored and will be on view for the first time. In addition to new displays, recently acquired objects from all collection areas-including Japanese screens, African antiquities, Roman portraits, 19th-century American painting, and contemporary sculptures, among many other examples-will be on view throughout the Gallery.

To read the complete article, see: Transformed Yale University Art Gallery to open in December 2012 (

Kolbe-fanning website ad


American Numismatic Society Archivist David Hill writes:

Regarding Dick Johnson's question on Clifford Hewitt's dates of birth and death, the matter of Hewitt's death date (October 11, 1942) was addressed by Marc C. Ricard in a previous E-Sylum (v14#20, 5/15/2011).

I did want to point out that there has been some confusion about his birth date in the past. The Clifford Hewitt collection in the ANS archives contains records relating to an exhibit and an article in COINage magazine by Edwin P. Janzen (1971), both of which give his birth date as September 10, 1869. However, in the ANS collection there is a two-page, first-person account of Hewitt's life in which he gives his date of birth as August 10, 1869.

Bruce W. Smith writes:

I see Clifford Hewitt's name came up again in Esylum. The question is whether he was an engraver or designer, in addition to being a mint technician. The E-Sylum issue Vol. 14 #20 (15 May 2011) provided most of the biographical information. Clifford Hewitt (1869-1942) doesn't seem to have had another name or initial. He was certainly not the chief engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.

Without evidence to the contrary, it is possible Hewitt designed the so-called Wilson Dollar commemorating the opening of the Manila Mint, but it would have been engraved by someone at the Philadelphia Mint, most likely Morgan. I believe the initial "M" appears on the reverse of the medal.

During 1920-1933, Hewitt was Chief Technical Advisor for the Shanghai Mint. This project had no funding from the beginning, so Hewitt's position only existed on paper until 1928 when work actually began on the mint. The mint was opened in 1930 but didn't get into production until 1932, when it struck the ill-fated "Birds Over Junk" Dollar. Hewitt may have designed those coins, as there are models and drawings of them in his papers at the ANS.

He certainly designed the 1930 medal commemorating the opening of the Shanghai Mint -- his CH monogram appears at Sun Yat Sen's shoulder on the obverse. He may also have designed a series of 1932 nickel coins, but the dies were engraved at Philadelphia by John Sinnock. In 1933, when the Shanghai Mint was up and running, Hewitt was replaced by another Technical Advisor from the U.S. Mint, Robert J. Grant. Hewitt retired and settled in San Diego, CA, where he died in 1942.

Thanks, everyone. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see: MORE ON CLIFFORD HEWITT (


Bruce W. Smith writes:

I would like to ask for information on Eduard Kann, the authority on Chinese silver and gold coins. I have a fairly thick file on him already, including letters and copies of letters he wrote. I would like copies of any correspondence from Kann which might provide biographical information or information on his collections.

Kann's collection of Chinese coins was bought in the 1950's by a doctor, but in 40 years of asking, I have been unable to learn his name. If anyone knows who this mysterious doctor was, I would certainly like to know. It was he or his heirs who consigned Kann's collection for sale in 1971.

Most collectors are unaware that Kann wrote a long manuscript catalog of Chinese paper money in the 1950's but was unable to get it published. He gave the manuscript to Dwight Musser shortly before his death, but it has disappeared. Kann wrote an historical survey of Chinese paper money in 46 installments in the Far Eastern Economic Review in the 1950's, but that was not a catalog.

There is nothing so sad in numismatic literature as an unpublished manuscript. Has anyone ever come across this? Can anyone provide other information on Kann? -Editor


A couple items caught my eye in the upcoming Kolbe & Fanning auction, and David Fanning sent me images and lot descriptions. -Editor

Mason & Co Numismatic Headquarters

1046 Mason & Co. LARGE BUSINESS CARD. Philadelphia, circa 1881. 78 by 13.6 mm. Printed in black ink on cream card stock. Fine. [with] Mason & Co. STAMPED & POSTMARKED DECORATIVELY PRINTED MAILING ENVELOPE, ADDRESSED IN INK TO HENRY W. HOLLAND. Philadelphia, circa 1870. 77 by 139 mm. Printed in dark blue ink on cream stock. Green 3¢ Washington stamp. Very good. (50.00)

Two delightful bits of Masoniana. The first, designating No. 32 North Street, Philadelphia as "numismatic headquarters" is indicative of Ebenezer's brashness (or verve?). It is attractively printed, incorporating a handsome cut of both sides of a chain cent, and a summary of the firm's focus, relatively routine for the time: "Dealers in Coins, Medals, Stamps, Minerals, Indian Relics, Early American Imprints, &c."

The firm's premium catalogue is also offered for sale at 25¢ and the final line notes: 'Coin Collectors' Herald, $1.00 per annum, Vol. III, 1881, Now Ready." The return address ("Removed to 139 North Ninth Street, Above Arch") on the front of the mailing envelope is quite decoratively printed in a quasi-numismatic motif with flourishes, incorporating information on the firms activities as "Publishers of Masons Monthly Magazine" and both coin and stamp priced catalogues. Alas, the enclosure to the noted Boston numismatist, Henry W. Holland, is no longer present.

Mickley: Dates of U.S. Coins 612 Mickley, Joseph J. DATES OF UNITED STATES COINS AND THEIR DEGREE OF RARITY. Philadelphia: Auner, printer, July 1858. 8vo, original pink-orange printed wraps. (4) pages. Fine. (125.00)

Mickley's only published numismatic work, its slight size and fragile wrappers has made this a very scarce item. Although obviously brief, it summarized in convenient form important information that was largely lacking from the numismatic community. Attinelli 111. Davis 695.

I have one of these and won't be bidding, but this is an important item from a pivotal year in U.S. numismatic history. -Editor


A nice article in the latest Coins Weekly describes a computer-vision system being developed to help with the cataloguing and processing of ancient coins. -Editor

ILAC coin image comparison

ILAC (Image-based classification of Ancient Coins) is an Austrian research project in the interdisciplinary field of computer vision together with numismatics. Numismatics can benefit greatly from the application of computer vision methods and in turn provides a large number of new, challenging and interesting conceptual problems and data for computer vision.

The broad use of digital cameras has led to an exploding number of digitally recorded coins. While computers are extensively used for storing and working on numismatic data, no image based computer aided classification system for ancient coins has been developed so far. Since specialists are usually able to classify coins from 2D image information only, computer vision methods can be applied to coin images to support numismatists on the examination of coinages as well as to speed up the overall processes significantly. The classification system of ILAC will initially focus on gold and silver issues of the Roman Republican period, but its groundwork is applicable to every other period and can be filled with different sets of coin images, allowing further scientific challenges to be tackled in the future.

Recent research for the image-based recognition of ancient coins was conducted during the EU funded predecessor project COINS, which lasted from February 2007 to January 2009. In COINS eight European partners aimed at developing effective measures to the fight against the illegal trade and theft of ancient coins. Besides the image-based recognition of coins, the project provided standardized inventories by defining a domain ontology, a multilingual thesaurus, data management tools and a specialized web search tool.

The recognition of coins focused on the identification of their individual features that permit to classify it among the known features of the database. For this goal an identification method combing shape and die information of the coin was developed. It exploits the discriminative power of the boundary of ancient coins by applying shape matching algorithms as a pre-selection step. Afterwards, the dies of the remaining set are compared to the input image using local image features. The method achieved an identification rate of 98.83 % on a challenging dataset of 2400 coin images.

In contrast to the COINS project, the ILAC project tries to answer a more interesting research question: Given an image showing an unknown coin, the goal is to develop a method that is able to automatically determine the coin type, based on different types in a database. This classificatory approach requires essentially different technologies: Identification (COINS) relies on individual, unique features, which make a specimen different from all other individuals in the same class, whereas classification (ILAC) emphasizes general class-specific features to assign an individual coin to a general category.

It's taken decades for the science and technology of computer vision and artificial intelligence to catch up to the promises dreamed up long ago. It's nice to see progress being made in the numismatic realm. With computers able to recognize faces and auto-tag uploaded photos of people, it may not be long before commercial systems can make initial attempts to attribute or grade coins based on an image alone. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: ILAC - new computer applications for numismatics (


Another great piece in the latest Coins Weekly is by Bill McKivor, about a medal of Matthew Boulton's. Be sure to read the complete piece - below is only a short excerpt. -Editor

Boulton coining medal obverse Boulton coining medal reverse

The piece pictured is one that was owned by Matthew Boulton, and put aside by him.

This medal was struck at the Soho Mint in 1803, during an argument conducted in three countries in three languages on two medals!! Matthew Boulton, depicted on the obverse of the medal above, was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. He and his partner, James Watt the engineer, had worked for many years perfecting the steam engine. By 1785, they had examples of their engines at work in mines from Cornwall to Scotland, and were beginning to get them into other commerce. Hooked up to knitting machines, milling machinery, and even a coin press, they were beginning to see the fruits of their labors.

Boulton hired a engineer from France, one J. P. Droz, who showed him a multi-step press and coin ejecting collar that, well, was not quite perfected - but when it was, Droz assured him, Boulton would have his automatic coin ejecting collar. Droz also held that he was the premier engraver and die sinker in the world, and his new press and new collar would change the way money was struck. Boulton hired him.

Promises are about all that Boulton ever got from him. The special press and collar was always "close to ready" but never completed, his die work was fine, if you could get him to do it - and finally Boulton simply called an end to the association, paying him off for work never done and letting him go.

Droz found a home at the Paris mint, gaining as good a reputation there as the bad one he had earned in England.

In 1803, Droz made a pattern coin for Spain, in an attempt to gain a coinage contract from Spain for the Paris mint. On it, he listed a lot of things that Boulton had done, and called them his own, the self ejecting collar among them. He said that anyone else claiming these things was a fraud. All of this was on a French pattern medal or coin, and in Spanish. Boulton found out about it.

Boulton immediately answered, in French, on a medal made at the Soho Mint. Pictured above, the photo has information on the machinery used, the speeds involved, and the number of coins that could be produced. In French, with Boulton planning to send copies there to refute the claims of J. P Droz, translation of the reverse reads "In 1788 M. Boulton, Soho, England, made a steam machine for coining money, and in 1798 a superior one. Both machines can be worked by children with ease, and the speed increased to the degree required. The circles mark the diameter of the pieces, and the figures the number which can be struck per minute" This establishes a time line for the beginnings of steam powered coining.

To read the complete article, see: The Powers of the Soho Mint (


Numismatic researchers rely on the availability of research material at libraries, archives and other institutions. Barry Landau violated that trust. He was caught, but not before looting multiple institutions. -Editor

Presidential Artifacts Theft
One of the historical documents stolen from the Maryland Historical Society by historian Barry Landau

A memorabilia collector and self-styled expert on presidential history pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to steal thousands of documents signed by leaders throughout U.S. history.

Barry Landau, whose knowledge of the White House earned him network morning show appearances, acknowledged in the plea to taking documents from the Maryland Historical Society and conspiring with his assistant to steal historical documents from several institutions with the intent of selling them.

Thousands of documents were seized from Landau's artifact-filled Manhattan apartment. Prosecutors say he schemed for years, if not decades, to steal valuable documents signed by historical figures from both sides of the Atlantic including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Marie Antoinette, and Charles Dickens. The oldest document listed in the plea was dated 1479.

The assistant pleaded guilty in October to the same charges: theft of major artwork and conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork. The pleas capped a case that was a wake-up call for archives and historical institutions nationwide to strengthen their security, prompting checks for visits by the pair and whether anything from historical collections was missing.

Landau, 63, and Jason Savedoff, 24, were arrested last July in Baltimore after alert Maryland Historical Society staffers realized something was off about the pair who plied staffers with cookies and portrayed themselves as uncle and nephew.

"They were too schmooze-y to be regular people," David Angerhofer, a library archivist working that day. The collections the pair requested — coupled with Landau's attempts to block their view of Savedoff during repeated chats with staffers - made them suspicious and Angerhofer hid in the balcony for a better view.

After spotting Savedoff slip a document into a portfolio with personal papers, Angerhofer confronted Savedoff, saying he'd need to check the portfolio and that police were on their way. "I think they saw we were a small operation and they thought they had a golden opportunity to rob us blind," Angerhofer said.

The pair had 79 documents hidden in a computer bag when they were arrested, according to Landau's plea. About 60 of those belonged to the Maryland society, including a land grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln worth $300,000 and presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000

To read the complete article, see: History expert Barry Landau pleads guilty to stealing documents; faces up to 10 years in prison (


Dave Bowers forwarded a copy of our last issue to folks at RM Auctions, to let them know about our story on their upcoming auction of the Milhous collection. It's true - Dave knows everyone. In fact, the musical part of this sale was cataloged by Dave and Arthur Reblitz of Colorado Springs.

Anyway, Kat McFadden wrote back providing some more information on the sale. No coins or direct numismatic items, but lots of great musical instruments, antiques and collectibles. -Editor

Dave Bowers adds:

This is a huge, unprecedented event! More than just a few numismatists over the years have built important collections of automatic musical instruments-in our own era Ken Goldman's and Mark Yaffe's interest is well known, the late Jerry Cohen had a marvelous collection, and, among others, Alden Scott Boyer, ANA president in the early 1930s, built a museum showcasing them.

Katherine McFadden of RM Auctions writes:

Mills Dewey Musical Nickel Slot Machine Many thanks for your support of the Milhous Collection so far, it is very much appreciated. With the sale quickly approaching, only 2 weeks away, I thought your readers might be interested in a few highlights of the slot machines.

With more than 15 slot machines, from 25 cent, dime and nickel slots to cigaroller pack dispensers, there are many rare and highly collectible items to be found within the offering. A highlight of the selection includes a rare and desirable Bally Reliance Five-Cent Dice Machine featuring a dual set of coin-activated dice with payouts equivalent to Craps and the original directions mounted to the inside (Est. $10,000 - $14,000). With a number of items from the Mills Corporation, highlights include two stand alone models, a Mills "Dewey" Musical Nickel Slot Machine (Est. $16,000 - $24,000) and a Mills "Dewey" Nickel Slot Machine (Est. $10,000 - $17,000) both in excellent condition.

Additional highlights include:

  • Rol-a-Top "Bird of Paradise" Penny Slot Machine in very good overall condition (Est. $5,000 - $7,500);
  • A very rare and highly original Jennings Cigaroller Pack Dispenser (Est. $7,000 - $10,000);
  • Walting Rol-a-Top Dime Slot Machine and Base with original cabinet featuring authentic Walting stickers (Est. $2,800 - $3,200); and
  • A c. 1931 Mills "War Bird" Nickle Slot Machine representing highly prized example finished in classic yellow, red and black color theme (Est. $1,500 - $1,800).

Additional information about the Milhous Collection is available at the following link:

A copy of the digital catalogue is also available online:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: THE MILHOUS COLLECTION OF BOCA RATON (


I actually do read more than just numismatic literature. One of my other interests in the history of business, science and technology. One book I dipped into this week was Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World by Jill Jonnes (Random House, 2003). On p29 I learned that following Benjamin Franklin's famous May 10, 1752 experiment where he flew a kite in a thunderstorm to capture electricity in the Leyden jar

"The Royal Society in London conferred the Sir Godfrey Copley gold medal and inducted the Philadelphian and fellow British subject into its exalted ranks."

So naturally I wondered, what does this medal look like? With a quick web search I found an image and some background information at

Mendeleev Copley medal

But here's another question: does Franklin's gold Copley medal still exist? If so, where can it be found today?

WheresGeorge stamp on $1 Youth of America graffiti on $5 On Monday I noticed a couple bills in my wallet with some extras added. One was a dollar bill with a "Where's George?" stamp. The other was a $5 bill where someone had written "The Youth of America is lazy". Someone else, perhaps an enterprising youth, added "And whose fault is that?"

Tuesday was the highlight of my numismatic week - the monthly meeting of my numismatic social group, Nummis Nova. But my numismatic adventures began on the drive there. While stuck in traffic I got an email notification that I'd been outbid on an item. I noticed that the auction was closing in ten minutes or so, and tapped out an increased bid. Long story short, I won the item before I was out of the traffic jam. Described by the seller as a " Andrew Carnegie Hero Fund Table Medal", I thought it might be a die trial or splasher.

Carnegie Hero table medal

Eventually I arrived at Panache, a restaurant in McLean, VA. Our host was Joe Levine. Attending were myself, Joe, Dave Schenkman, Mike Packard, Gene Brandenburg, Ron Abler, Jon Radel, Howard Daniel, Eric Schena and Chris Neuzil. We were all delighted and relieved to see Eric, who relayed details of his hospital ordeal following our last dinner. He's still not 100%, but recovering well.

Dave Schenkman took me to task for not bringing in my recent purchase, a copy of a book by John "Colonial Jack" Krohn. I promised to bring it next month. Dave had actually inspired me to make the purchase when he gave me an example of one of Krohn's tokens last year. Dave had with him examples of all three types of Krohn's tokens, and forwarded images for The E-Sylum after the meeting. Krohn's story was highlighted in a January 2008 Numismatist article by Bill Hyder.

To read the complete article, see: In His Shoes: The True Story of Sailor Jean and Colonial jack (

Hyder's article missed one of the three types of Krohn's tokens. Here are all three.

Sailor Jean token Sailor Jean token reverse
The Sailor Jean token

Colonial Jack token Type 1 Colonial Jack token Type 1 reverse
Colonial Jack Type 1

Colonial Jack token Type 2 Colonial Jack token Type 2 reverse
Colonial Jack Type 2

The evening was a great deal of fun. Before leaving I passed around my phone to show off the picture of the Carnegie hero medal I'd purchased. Dave and Joe thought it was a neat item - they'd never seen one like this.

Later in the week at lunchtime I caught up on Coin World, reading Fred Reed's superb article, "The Real Lincoln: New Research Pinpoints Original 1864 Photograph" from the February 6, 2012 issue. I saw an image I recognized on p36 - a bronze portrait plaque of Lincoln by Brenner from the Pittsburgh City-County building. I'd provided the image to Fred a while back, and I was glad to see it in print.

The rest of my numismatic activities were confined to working on this newsletter. It was a fun week all around. Til next time...


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Bill Eckberg writes:

The following link appeared on the National Science Foundation's Science 360 News Service daily email today. It is apparently not difficult to put together a date set of Lincoln Memorial cents. .

Science 360 is available free to anyone. Tuesday's entire page is available at . Coin-related material appears occasionally.

Thanks - I had seen this item from Wired magazine, too. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

pennies Ever find a wheat penny, one of those pennies with pieces of wheat on the back instead of the Lincoln Memorial? When I was little, I can remember finding them periodically, and always thinking that this was some sort of special occasion. But how special is it to find a coin of a certain vintage? More generally, many coin collectors start out trying to collect pennies from every year within a given range, just like how many people try to collect quarters from every US state. Can we predict how long this will take to be successful?

Back in 1999, Shiyong Lu, now at Wayne State University, and Steven Skiena, at SUNY Stonybrook, set out to calculate this. They began by recognizing that the probabilities of finding different coins are not equal. The probability of finding a coin from a given year is dependent on its mintage—how many coins of that type were issued that year—how long the coin has been in circulation, and something called collector pressure.

The higher the mintage, the higher the probability of finding a coin. However, the higher the age, the lower the chances, because coins get taken out of circulation due to getting lost, whether behind furniture or otherwise. Collector pressure, the final factor, refers to how much collectors try to find a given coin. The higher the collector pressure, the lower the chance of finding that coin, because other collectors are trying to also obtain it and are taking it out of circulation.

For pennies, if you look at coins only from 1959 or newer, the year when wheat pennies were replaced with pennies with the Lincoln Memorial that most of us are familiar with, we can eliminate the difficulty of dealing with collector pressure. So Lu and Skiena set out to calculate the number of pennies needed to collect before they received a complete set of pennies from 1959 to 1997.

Running the numbers, Lu and Skiena found that 684 pennies must be collected in order to get one from every year. When they tried this, they got all years from 1959 to 1997 in only 630 coins, not too far from what was expected!

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


So what's the probability of a 1909 VDB Lincoln cent being found on Mars? Higher than you might think. -Editor

Dick Johnson writes:

Here's a great news story! This 1909 Cent is going to be called a "penny" wherever the story is republished.

Everywhere but The E-Sylum, of course. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

Mars Rover with Cent A penny in today's economy does not go very far, but that has not stopped NASA from making one 1¢ piece stretch all the way to another planet: Mars.

The copper coin is attached to a smartphone-size plaque at the end of the robotic arm on Curiosity, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory car-size rover. The plaque, which was added to the vehicle as a calibration target, looks like an eye chart supplemented with color chips and the attached penny.

Launched last November, Curiosity is scheduled to touch down on Mars this August.

Targeted for a landing inside the Red Planet's Gale Crater, Curiosity will then begin its two-year mission to determine whether the area's environment has ever been favorable to support microbial life.

Researchers will use Curiosity's calibration plaque to test one of the six-wheeled rover's five science cameras, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

"When a geologist takes pictures of rock outcrops she is studying, she wants an object of [a] known scale in the photographs," said principal investigator Ken Edgett with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, Calif. "If it is a whole cliff face, she'll ask a person to stand in the shot. If it is a view from a meter or so away, she might use a rock hammer."

"If it is a close-up, as the MAHLI can take, she might pull something small out of her pocket. Like a penny," Edgett said.

Curiosity's 1¢ piece is not just any old penny.

Mars 1909 VDB Cent Edgett picked out and purchased the penny with his own funds. A 1909 "VDB" cent, the coin is from the first year Lincoln pennies were minted, the centennial of President Abraham Lincoln's birth. The initials ("VDB") of the coin's designer — Victor David Brenner — are etched onto the coin's reverse.

"Everyone in the United States can recognize the penny and immediately know how big it is, and can compare that with the rover hardware and Mars materials in the same image," Edgett said. "The public can watch for changes in the penny over the long term on Mars."

"Will it change color? Will it corrode? Will it get pitted by windblown sand?" Edgett said.

Looks like it's already been whizzed here on Earth. Did somebody scrub this for Lincoln's close-up? The Martian environment may seem tame in comparison. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Penny payload: NASA Mars rover Curiosity carries coin for camera checkup (

Here's the original NASA version: Mars-Bound NASA Rover Carries Coin for Camera Checkup (


In the "Hello Kitty" department comes this item from China Daily about a design people say is hidden in a Chinese banknote. -Editor

Hidden Kitten in Chinese Banknote

A leading banknote and coin expert has denied a figure of a group of kittens appears in the new 100 yuan bill after a number of people claimed to have spotted the furry pets hidden in the banknote.

Internet users claim they found the figure of three kittens in the new fifth series of the banknote after close inspection under a magnifying glass, The Beijing News reported. They claim two kittens appear opposite each other kneeling down with another in the center gazing with its mouth open

But Yuan Yinlong, a banknote and coin expert in Central China's Henan province, said the figures are just the work of the imagination of Internet users. "Internet users purposely highlighted the lines to form the animal-like figure," he said. Yuan also said the design of Chinese currency banknotes adopt advanced anti-forgery technology that is a state secret. The figures in the banknote seem to combine traditional elements and modern cartoon patterns.

To read the complete article, see: Expert denies hidden kitten in yuan banknote (


Stephen Pradier writes:

Here's an interesting article on Money/Cash from the writer of upcoming book. David Wolman is the author of "The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers?And the Coming Cashless Society," out this week from Da Capo Press.

The End of Money There are no atheists in the modern economy. You may not have God or Buddha in your life, but you very much have faith—in money. I don't mean that you worship money in the greed-is-good sense. No, you have faith in its value. Your trust in it depends on everyone else's, which means that our faith in money's value is really about trust in each other—a belief in shared purpose, or at least a shared hallucination.

Cash, as in banknotes and coins, helps us to maintain that magical thinking. It's real in the way that you can hold it, smell it, and want to wash your hands after handling it. Paper notes and metal coins are the treasures of our childhoods, tucked under pillows by tooth fairies, delivered in secret by doting grannies. Despite the dull textbook definition of money—a medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value—it is by way of using it in the form of cash that we first come to understand the civilization-powering technology that is money.

But do we still need cash? In an era when books, movies and music are transmuting from atoms to bits, the greenback and those increasingly costly metal rounds are looking more analog by the minute. Lately it seems like the only people who carry cash are aspiring terrorists, corrupt government officials, drug traffickers, bank robbers, tax evaders, counterfeiters and rich college kids buying little bags of marijuana.

The writer goes on to explore the pitfalls of hard cash and the possibilities of various next technologies. -Editor

Could we completely trash cash tomorrow, or even in five years? No. Too much economic activity and too many livelihoods still depend on it. Cash is useful if your baby sitter doesn't accept PayPal or if you want to eat at a cash-only Chinese restaurant. And as long as we still use cash and not Facebook Credits to tip waiters and bellhops, we can't get rid of paper money.

The idea isn't to make life harder for those whose lives depend on modest transactions; it is to scrutinize cash because it has skated by for ages with barely a whisper of criticism. A closer look at the long history of cash, its present-day costs and the flood of emerging technologies suggests that we may very well be on the brink of a monetary revolution.

To read the complete article (subscription required), see: Time for Cash to Cash Out? (

As it happens, I came across an interview with the author this week in an Australian publication. -Editor

Cash is an antiquated concept. It originated thousands of years ago as a banking receipt that bearers could exchange for stored grain or gold. Today it's little more than an abstract concept, its value tied to perception instead of goods.

Yet we still exchange these slips of paper, and redeem them for goods and services, just as the ancient Sumerians and Chinese did. David Wolman thinks it's time to end all that. His new book, The End of Money, looks at — and longs for — the emerging post-cash world.

To read the complete article, see: Let's Kill Cash: Q&A With Author David Wolman On Our Moneyless Future (


In the "cash-is-not-dead-yet" department, comes this article about banknote designs submitted by various designers and protest movements. Included is a curious comment - that Britain had for a time abandoned the concept of money. What is the basis for this comment? -Editor


But John Lancester's entry was the only one to non-ironically engage with the aesthetics of currency, as well as its innovative utility. "Money is, by general consent, one of humanity's most remarkable inventions," he writes. "Because it makes all goods interchangeable... it makes all human goods soluble and fungible and interchangeable. That's what is wonderful about money, and what is terrible too- Britain is the only country in the world that had money for a long period, under the Romans--and then stopped using it, for many centuries. It's as if we said, 'Money? Well, it's alright, but it's not really worth the faff, is it?' When we did go back to using it, it was in the form of the Anglo-Saxon coins which are still, to me, the most physically appealing money this country has ever had." After all, if you're encountering money every single day of your life, it might as well be appealing.

To read the complete article, see: Jonathan Franzen Thinks The $10 Bill Should Look Like This (


I came across this interesting item in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Usually life imitates art in banknote design, but in this case it's the other way around. -Editor

Euro Bridge from Nowhere

Those bridges on the back of euro notes were conceptual-until a rebellious Dutch designer got to work.

in the fall of 2009, Robin Stam was waiting to pay for his dinner at Angelo Betti, a busy pizzeria close to his house in Rotterdam. Sitting at his table, he noticed for the first time the series of small bridges that appeared on the back of his euro notes. A young graphic designer with a jagged mop of brown hair, Stam began to research how the drawings ended up on the back of the euro.

The bridges were designed by Robert Kalina, an employee of the National Bank of Austria in the mid-'90s, as a tribute to European engineering. When Stam, who has a rebellious streak, learned that the structures didn't exist, he decided to change that. He would build the bridges for the first time in his hometown, the humdrum Rotterdam suburb of Spijkenisse. "They chose bridges on the euro notes to symbolize communication between the countries," Stam explained in December, sitting in studio space he rents with two friends in Hoogvliet, another suburb on the edge of Rotterdam. "Well, that didn't work out."

Kalina's bridges beat out more than 40 other designs in 1996 because, among other factors, they were totally uncontroversial. Each euro note's bridge represents a different European architectural epoch: classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo, industrial, and 20th century modern. The higher the denomination, the more recent the style. When the euro crisis started brewing, Stam set to work bringing the bridges, those woebegone symbols of European cooperation, to life. "I thought it was funny that me, just a regular designer, could take something that big and just claim it," says Stam, who is 30.

His plan was to build the bridges exactly as they appear on the back of the bills, down to the pastel colors, which would enliven his drab portside suburb. Partly for a laugh, Stam mentioned the idea of building the bank-note bridges to Spijkenisse Alderman Gert-Jan't Hart, who manages new construction projects on the city council. "I thought that was a brilliant idea," Hart says. "Every European citizen and every member of the European community who has the biljet in their hands will have a link to Spijkenisse."

The town happened to be in need of a set of bridges to support car, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic over a creek surrounding a new middle-class housing development, Het Land (the Countryside). "We already reserved the money in our budget for six bridges," Hart says. Because the development needs six and not seven bridges, two of the seven bank-note bridges,the €5 classical and €20 Gothic bridges, are being built as a split-personality 20-meter-wide dam. The entire project will cost Spijkenisse roughly €1 million ($1.29 million). "The euro bridges are, let's say 25 percent more expensive, but all the attention is more than worth it," says Hart.

To read the complete article, see: The Euro Zone's Bridges from Nowhere (


This week's Featured Web Page is about Spink's Numismatic Circular during World War II.

The 1940s were difficult times, with the United Kingdom facing a turning point in its history as the Battle of Britain commenced. London was bombed regularly, and as sirens wailed and Londoners took to underground shelters, Spink not only survived but kept business moving, supplying hundreds of coins to collectors every month. Mr. Marshall was one of these many collectors who was happy to give his custom to Spink during the dramatic years of WWII.

Numismatic Circular march1940

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