Volume 16, Number 16, April 21, 2013
New subscribers this week include Rodrigo de Oliveira Leite. Welcome aboard! We have 1,642 email subscribers, plus 224 followers on Facebook.
This issue's another whopper. We open with word about three numismatic literature sales followed by two new book announcements and two reviews. In the news, the original columns of the Second Philadelphia Mint have risen again, Bostonians deal with a terror attack, and coin dealer finds himself suddenly in charge of a $2K fundraising effort.
In place of our Featured Web Site this week, we have a feature article - an essay by Bob Evans, who was the Chief Scientist and Historian for the Columbus-America Discovery Group, the team that recovered the fabulous gold treasure from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. It's a must-read.
Other topics this week include Nobel prize medals, chopmarks, Spink's latest banknote sale, lawsuits over the ANA's stolen holey dollar, 1792 half dismes, and some out-of-this-world medals.
To learn more about anti-FDR items, capitals and abaci, a new mint exhibit at the Tower of London, fob loops, bob loops, fixed suspenders and some extremely angry but well-trained lions, read on. Have a great week, everyone!
Fred Lake forwarded this reminder of the upcoming closing date of his latest mail bid sale. -Editor
A reminder that Lake Books' 114th mail-bid sale of numismatic literature closes at 5:00 PM (EDT) on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The 471-lot sale may be viewed at www.lakebooks.com/current.html and your bids may be placed via email, fax, telephone or conventional mail prior to the closing time. Early bidding is encouraged since tie bids are awarded to the earliest bid received.
Good luck with your bidding !
David Fanning forwarded this reminder of Thursday's closing date for the second Kolbe & Fanning “Buy or Bid Sale”. -Editor
Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers wish to remind their clients that their second annual “Buy or Bid Sale” will close on Thursday, April 25. The sale is designed to sell hundreds of lots cheaply, giving collectors an opportunity to add to their libraries at inexpensive prices.
The sale is online only: there is no printed catalogue. The PDF catalogue is available for downloading from the Kolbe & Fanning website at www.numislit.com.
As the name of the sale suggests, customers may bid on items they wish to acquire or buy them outright at the published price. The Terms of Sale will give full instructions on how to participate: please read it carefully. Many books have already sold, but plenty remain available.
The sale includes over 500 works on ancient, medieval and modern coins, as well as general works, periodicals and sale catalogues. “Buy” prices have been kept low to promote sales. To further encourage participation, the firm is offering free postage to addresses in the U.S. for bidders spending at least $500; there will also be no packing and processing fee for this sale. Again, please read the Terms of Sale before participating.
If you have any questions about the sale, please write to David Fanning at email@example.com. He can also be reached at (614) 414-0855.
Thank you in advance for your participation. Download the sale today: www.numislit.com.
David Sklow forwarded this notice of the availability of the catalog for his upcoming Mail Bid Sale No. 19. Thanks! My hardcopy catalog arrived yesterday. -Editor
Featured Consignments include: Selections from the library of the late Harold Shaw Bareford, the Latin American working library of Art Garnett, some interesting items from the library of Q. David Bowers, Charles Moore’s library continues, great runs of auction catalogs both 19th & 20th century, some wonderful material concerning ancient numismatics, rare items concerning U.S. Large Cents, special items from the great library of Myron Xenos and a few surprises!
Bidders may enter bids by mail, telephone, email or fax. The sale closes at 8pm mountain time, June 1, 2013, however, any bids left on our answering machines or sent by email or fax on or before midnight on closing day will be accepted.
Catalogs have been mailed to all individuals on our mailing list
Catalogs are available upon request at no charge.
DAVID SKLOW – FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS
This week Krause Publications announced the newest edition of the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues. -Editor
A network of more than 80 international paper money collectors and dealers work with editor George S. Cuhaj to ensure that the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues, is the most comprehensive resource available for proper identification, description and valuation of circulating modern world bank notes from 1961 to the present.
Fully illustrated, the 19th edition of this catalog presents current and completely vetted pricing and 13,000 bank note images. Other features include:
For more information visit www.shopnumismaster.com/standard-catalog-world-paper-money-modern-issues-1961-present-u3138.
About the Author
For more information, or to order, see: www.shopnumismaster.com/standard-catalog-world-paper-money-modern-issues-1961-present-u3138
We covered this book before in The E-Sylum, but didn't have the ordering information. The publisher (Stack's Bowers Galleries) announced an early bird price and ordering deadline on their blog this week. -Editor
The second edition of the standard work on early dollars, The Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars 1794–1804, is now available. The first edition of the book was published 20 years ago in 1993 as part of Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia by Q. David Bowers. The 1993 edition is long out of print and used copies have sold for $400 and up. The new stand-alone, full-color edition covers early dollars separately on 343 pages of quality paper. The new volume includes:
This single-volume encyclopedia, which includes extensive research by R.W. Julian and Martin Logies, as well as contributions from longtime collector Warren Miller, is affordable, easy to use and essential for any numismatic library and every dealer and collector interested in early American coins.
List Price: $49.95
To order your Early Bird copy for only $39.95
Jim Neiswinter has written a great new book on the 1793 S-15 Large Cent. It will be released May 2, 2013 at the Early American Coppers convention in Columbus, OH. As E-Sylum readers know, I have a soft spot for one-coin books. It's hard to get more specialized, and the true numismatic devils are often in the details that only a highly specialized book such as this will uncover.
In his Foreword, Bob Hoge of the American Numismatic Society writes:
Few numismatic research projects focus on learning everything having to do with the coins emitted by a single pair of dies, and in this sense, Jim Neiswinter’s work is exceptional. It is also of particular interest in that appreciation of this issue extends far back in time, in terms of coin collecting as a popular American hobby, giving his study an agreeable historical perspective.
In his Introduction, author Neiswinter writes:
I was interested in this S15 not so much because of its rarity, or even that it was the discovery cent for the variety, but because it was pictured on the first photo-graphic plate of coins ever taken in the United States. This plate appeared in the April 1869 number of the American Journal of Numismatics (AJN). I had first read about it in the John Adams Monograph on Varieties of United States Large Cents 1793-1794. He wrote: “the Levick-Crosby opus can be considered one of the great milestones in the evolution of the hobby.”
In doing this book I have reviewed all the literature on the S15 starting in 1869. I believe I have found every auction appearance (29) of this variety, and thanks to Bill Noyes, I have pictures of the twelve known examples in the Condition Census chapter. I have made timelines and educated guesses to come up with certain suppositions as to how and when things occurred. You may or may not agree, but I hope you appreciate the effort.
The first chapter is appropriately titled, "The Beginning", where Neiswinter traces the study of large cent varieties to 1857 and an article on the front page of the Boston Evening Transcript. Signed "A.S., Brookline, Mass", it was written by Augustine Shurtleff, a founding member of the Boston Numismatic Society.
Chapter Two briefly addresses the Chicken-and-Egg problem of which came first - the S-15 variety or the closely related S-16. Page 10 has a great color photo of eight owners of the S-15 variety taken at the 2009 Early American Coppers convention in Cincinnati.
Chapter Three is a Review of Principal Literature of the 1793 S-15 cent, with appropriate excerpts from the principal books and articles by Crosby, Frossard, Sheldon, Breen, Noyes and others. This is a nice one-stop-shop for nearly 150 years of writing on the topic.
Chapter Four showcases auction appearances of the coins. Another bibliophile's delight, the chapter includes several color images of the covers of ordinary and famous sales alike, from the likes of Elliot Woodward, John Haseltine, Henry Chapman, Lyman Low and B. Max Mehl. The specimens are matched up with the condition census in Chapter Five where possible. Neiswinter writes:
There have been twenty-nine appearances of this variety in the 133 years since its first auction in 1880. This averages out to one appearance every four and a half years. However, since 1960 there have been seventeen auctions, and the frequency of appearance has increased to once every three years. (p27)
In Chapter Five the author presents a condition census of 1793 S-15 specimens. The finest known once resided in two great Pittsburgh collections, those of A.C. Gies and George Clapp. It now belong to the American Numismatic Society collection, part of Clapp's 1946 gift. Jim Neiswinter's coin is the discovery piece for the variety, once owned by Sylvester Crosby (and the Levick plate specimen). This coin also passed through the hands of George Clapp (and his brother Charles).
At the end of the chapter (on p60) is a very useful full-page treatment of the diagnostics of the S15 variety, with notes pointing to the appropriate areas of large images of both sides of the coin.
E-Sylum readers may also recall that I have a peculiar habit of diving into the back of a book before I start reading. As a researcher and bibliophile, I like to know that the author has done their homework, and Neiswinter passed this test in spades. While the book's bibliography is comprehensive and up-to-date (including century-old periodical articles as well as the 2011 Secret History of the First U.S. Mint by Orosz and Augsburger), the appendices were a delight, including complete copies of correspondence among the giants of large cent collecting.
Appendix A ("The Beginning") includes full images of various early references to 1793 cents including periodical articles and auction appearances.
Appendix B stores copies of several Large Cent collection inventories, including those of Dr. Thomas Hall, Carl Wurtzbach and George Clapp.
Appendix C holds complete copies of multiple provenance documents, including letters from Henry Grunthal, Philip Van Cleave, Dorothy Paschal, Roger Cohen, Pete Smith, John Adams and others.
Appendix D contains letters and notes from George H. Clapp and two great photos of him, plus a table of his famous MENDACIOUS cost code, believed to be a disparaging reference to dealer B. Max Mehl.
As a reviewer I feel compelled to include at least one deficiency. For this book I would say that one thing I would have liked to see included would be a photo of the third side of the coin - the edge. I know that's asking a lot since edges are quite tricky to photograph. But it would have been icing on the cake for this great one-coin book.
In summary, I highly recommend the Neiswinter book to bibliophiles, researchers and Early American Copper collectors alike. There's something here of interest to everyone
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NEW BOOK: THE ARISTOCRAT: THE STORY OF THE 1793 SHELDON 15 (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n14a04.html)
Eric Vanhove pointed out this article from the April 11, 2013 CoinsWeekly about a new book on the coinage of Venice. Sorry I missed this one - thanks! -Editor
For more than 1,000 years the Lagoon City of Venice has struck coins. The Serenissima’s coins for long distance trade dominated mediaeval coinage and led to numerous imitations. Now, Eupremio Montenegro has published an enormous catalogue comprising all Venetian issues with their respective market value.
Not many cities have issued coins so regularly, in such quantities and since so long as Venice. This makes the edition of a corpus of the Venetian coinage truly a Herculean task. Eupremio Montenegro had published so many corpora before and has now accepted, in addition, this challenge. The result is an impressive book that will doubtlessly open this interesting field of numismatics to many new collectors.
The period dealt with in this catalogue spans more than 1,000 years. It starts with Louis the Pious and ends with the Venetian issues of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph who ruled over the Lagoon City until 1866. The major portion of the coinage was issued, naturally, under the dogi who gave the catalogue its name.
Each single doge is presented with an overview of his life, career, and his achievement in history. Then follow his coins categorised into gold and silver giving always the approximate fineness. The silver coins, in particular, reveal very quickly how low the small change’s fineness actually was. After the coins the oselle are presented. For every type are given the complete legend of obverse and reverse, a detailed description, as well as its size and average weight. There are no bibliographical references, though. However, the collector is offered the rarity and prices according to four different gradings: Fine – Very Fine – Extremly Fine – FDC. Now and then the collector will find some hints at the rarity and numismatic relevance of the pieces. The catalogue is lavishly illustrated, although, naturally, it was impossible to illustrate all 3,458 records with a photo.
Besides the proper Venetian issues, additionally there is much more, although, we have to say, with a numbering system which confuses from time to time: a catalogue of the imitative coins and siege coins, of the doges’ official seals, of the Terra Ferma coins, the issues of the Venetian colonies and of countermarks; in short: this book covers everything you might connect with Venice from a numismatic point of view.
To read the complete article, see: Comprehensive catalogue of Venetian coinage (www.coinsweekly.com/en/News/4?&id=1928)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Michael Peplinski of Heritage Auctions submitted the following responses to some reader questions about the hoard of Karl Goetz dies and hubs. Thanks! -Editor
The reason that the dies have not been cancelled is because they were never used to strike legal tender coins. Government mints cancel dies to prevent illicit counterfeiting of money but these dies were held by Goetz for his personal and commercial use. The very modern idea of limited editions to increase the collectability and, therefore, the value of a series of medals or coins wasn’t commonplace in the mid-20th century. In fact, several of the hubs for award medals, weddings, and patterns for coins have been purposely left blank in areas so that Mr. Goetz could customize part of the legend prior to striking a run of them. As a private medalist and engraver, Mr. Goetz would have wanted as many prepared dies as possible to choose from for new commissions, which is why there is some bleed-over of obverse or reverse types between several of the Opus numbers in the Kienast catalog (the standard reference for the medals of Goetz).
The dies and hubs were purchased recently from the Goetz family by an anonymous consignor who wished for Heritage Auctions to present them over the course of the next year. Most of the dies and hubs have been used. For those of your readers unfamiliar with the die production process, hubs are the “positive” image produced for use as a master to impress the “negative” image into a die to ensure uniformity as dies wear out and need to be replaced. We have noted in our descriptions those dies with large cracks or excessive corrosion but strongly encourage potential bidders to carefully examine our high-resolution photographs prior to bidding as these lots are being offered “as-is” due to their weight and the large numbers of them that we are trying to sell. We are selling the dies in order as they are presented in Kienast and so will be presenting the history of Germany in the form of dies either commemorating or criticizing current events from the turn of the 20th century through World War II.
There is an ongoing discussion of the topic in a forum on the Secessionist Medals web site - see the link below. -Editor
To view an ongoing discussion of the Goetz dies topic, see: Topic: What's going on with the Heritage 4/13 Goetz Auction? (secessionistmedals.com/index.php?topic=2.0)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: QUESTIONS ABOUT THE KARL GOETZ ORIGINAL DIES AND HUBS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a07.html)
Anti-FDR Numismatic items
This unintended ”controversy” has opened up some fascinating discussions and has really added a new perspective to our larger hobby and our mission. I would say that is has been well worth the tumult. It was all quite accidental but has been very interesting and informative.
I loved this line from Paul Bosco: “It’s so much better for The E-Sylum to be comprehensive than for it to be polite.”
I was also very interested in the mention of Missouri tax tokens with anti-FDR messages. People tend to think of FDR as universally beloved but it was a fact that he faced a sincere opponent in each of four elections, and a significant minority of the populace opposed his policies throughout his Presidency. Some years ago in a relative’s estate I came across some buttons that said “NO THIRD TERM” and ephemera condemning FDR’s audacity in running a third time (I can only imagine how they felt about election #4, although that was during wartime so perhaps the opposition was muted). I have also seen early Roosevelt dimes stamped or engraved with SOB and LIAR. These sentiments are all but forgotten in the modern era, but are well worth documenting as they give a more complete picture of FDR’s presidency.
The same idea applies to the Obama dollar. That message will either turn out to a prophetic statement about the impact of his presidency, or a reminder of a grumbling undercurrent that proved to be misplaced. Either way, it deserves to be preserved for posterity, and we numismatists are the ones to do it.
I have known for some time that coin collectors are a diverse and often strongly opinionated bunch , whether it is regarding politics or opinions about which coins/designs/grading standards/etc. are best. Yet, I consistently do not sense any bias in The E-Sylum, so congratulations really are in order. It cannot be an easy task!
While submissions with an overly liberal or conservative bent give this editor heartburn, I have to admit the world would be a boring place without the contributions of diehards from the left or right. I read this great description once of “the Revolution of the Moderates” (cue the angry mob):
(Leader) What do we want?!
(Leader) When do we want it?!
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ODIUM NUMISMATICA: CONTEMPORARY POLITICS IN NUMISMATICS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a14.html)
Alan Weinberg on Paul Bosco
I've read few writers as talented or as amusing as Paul Bosco. I know him personally and he is as delightful to talk with and listen to as he is to read. Pure genius...and quirky. He was quite a close friend of the late Steve Tanenbaum.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ODIUM NUMISMATICA: CONTEMPORARY POLITICS IN NUMISMATICS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a14.html)
The New Bedford Whaling Museum
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: THE NEW BEDFORD HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY WHALE MEDAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a11.html)
John Work Garrett's Opponent Joseph I. France
Joseph I. France was the successful candidate against John W. Garrett for the Republican nomination to become their candidate for the U. S. Senate from Maryland in 1922. France, although the incumbent, lost to the Democratic candidate in November.
But he also had a numismatic connection, although somewhat of a “stretch.” On June 24, 1903 he had married Evalyn (Nesbitt) Tome, the widow of Jacob Tome who had died in 1898. She had succeeded her late husband as president of two national banks in Maryland, The Cecil National Bank of Port Deposit and The National Bank of Elkton. In this role, she signed the national bank notes issued by these banks until she relinquished the presidencies in 1906.
As such, she was not only an early woman national bank president, but also one of only two women that I have found to be the president of two national banks during the national bank note issuing period.
In The E-Sylum, all roads lead to numismatics. Thanks, everyone - this has been an interesting and surprising topic. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: APRIL 14, 2013: On John Work Garrett's Senate Race (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a12.html)
Correction: Writer-Themed Coins
Of the two coins, attributed as my contribution, first one is from Lithuania and second one only is from Latvia. My apologies.
In my rush to complete the issue I didn't catch that error, either. We'll correct the E-Sylum archive.
Lithuania (Left)                   Latvia (right)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: SOME WRITER-THEMED COIN DESIGNS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a25.html)
Here's a World Mint news Blog article with more on the Latvian coin: New Coin Releases from Latvia (world.mintnewsblog.com/2013/04/new-coin-releases-from-latvia/)
Canadian Coin Copyrights
The video Dick Johnson recommended about eliminating the Canadian nickel has been removed from YouTube.
And I wonder if "The Fundamental Units" creator Martin John Callanan is aware that he can't make one of those oversized photos of the Canadian cent without getting a copyright clearance for it?
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
VIDEO DISCUSSES ELIMINATION OF THE CANADIAN NICKEL
The Isle of Man's Laxey Wheel Coin
To read the Laxey wheel Wikipedia entry, see: Laxey Wheel (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laxey_Wheel)
History of Roman Coins Video Georges Depeyrot forwarded this link to a new English-language video on the history of Roman coins. Thanks!
To view the video, see: Roman coins (English version) (www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEFksaqdrjg&feature=youtu.be)
T. Scott Kreilick, President, CEO, and Principal Conservator of Kreilick Conservation, LLC submitted this note Thursday in response to an earlier E-Sylum request. -Editor
I see in two 2010 issues of The E-Sylum a discussion regarding the undetermined location of the six Ionic columns from the 2nd U.S. Mint, now owned by the Albert Einstein Medical Center (AEMC) on Old York Road in Philadelphia.
The columns were de-installed in from in front of AEMC in 2000. They sat in storage, first in South Philadelphia and then in Swedesboro, NJ, until last week. The bases were re-installed in front of AEMC last Thursday (11 April). The columns were re-set earlier this week, and the capitals and abaci were re-set today. I have attached a photo from this afternoon.
Our company, Kreilick Conservation LLC, conserved the columns. George Young Co. were the riggers. Dupuy Construction Services was the General Contractor.
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
THE COLUMNS OF THE THIRD PHILADELPHIA MINT
Are some Nobel prize medals so special that they're worth orders of magnitude more than other identical medals? The medal discussed in an earlier E-Sylum article was sold by Heritage Auctions for over $2 million.
Alan V. Weinberg writes:
The latest online Coin World edition dated April 29 page 40 contains a half page ad from Copenhagen's Bruun Rasmussen , the same firm that auctioned a gold Nobel Prize medal last November 2012 for approximately. $30,000 Euros.
This Danish numismatic firm advertises now that they will be offering two separate gold Nobel Prize medals, awarded in 1975 and 1982 in their May 1 & 2, 2013 auction, each estimated at 27-32,500 Euros. These medals now being offered for auction were doubtless brought on by the high auction record another medal realized in November and before the Crick medal was sold.
So one wonders about the $2.275 million sale price of the DNA gold Nobel Prize Crick medal just sold at auction. Was this just a fluke that resulted from two determined enormously wealthy bidders engaged in a bidding battle? Or was the medal's DNA award subject such a distinguishing factor? The gold Nobel Prize medal is not a rare medal and one can virtually guarantee that 100% of those awarded over the decades still exist and were not melted down.
I confirmed the obvious - Alan doesn't own one of the medals he's questioning the market value and rarity of. I think both factors he cites were involved: two deep-pocketed bidders, and the medal's pedigree. Crick’s discovery was the Unified Field Theory of biology – hugely important. Never woulda guessed $2M though. How about the medals for Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein? Or some deserving scientist most people have never heard of? For better or worse, I think there is a celebrity factor involved. It will be interesting to see future sale prices for Nobel medals in the post-Crick-sale world. -Editor
The $2.275 M price was silly and the medal itself is not at all rare with three others, aside from the Crick medal, on the block within a few months. No, I do not own one & would not want to own one as it's too modern (post 1900), too common and rather bland aesthetically. I would in fact expect to see many more coming on the market in Europe (where most were issued) as word spreads of the Crick price... indeed as word spreads of the European auction with much lower prices which are still way in excess of gold value.
Silly or not, the new record now stands. Time will tell. Because of the celebrity factor I expect the next Nobels to sell for far less than the Crick, but still far above the mere gold value (which itself is considerable). Any rich idiot can buy gold. Few can earn a Nobel in science. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON NOBEL PRIZE MEDALS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a10.html)
Dick Johnson submitted this follow-up to his earlier piece on the numismatic essence of watchfobs. Thanks! -Editor
After I wrote the article on watchfobs two weeks ago, I ran across a photograph of the founders of Medallic Art Company. Henri Weil, older of the two Weil Brothers, was wearing a watchfob. See attached photo. Sorry it is so grainy (the complete version of this photo will appear in the book on the history of the firm I am currently writing).
If you owned a medal company, and were a master medallist as Henri was, wouldn't you have an exceptional watchfob if you were among the millions of American men who wore these?
Henri did His personal fob was in four segments, each element was highly detailed, connected to each other by loops and links. Perhaps (hopefully) the Weil descendants still has grandfather's watchfob.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ARE WATCHFOBS NUMISMATIC? (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n14a17.html)
Dick Johnson also submitted these comments relating to last week's great illustrated response by to Dick's earlier item by Bill Hyder. -Editor
A few comments about that die that Bill Hyder wrote about last week. He took this photo of the die at Medallic Art two years ago when he and Jeff Shevlin visited Medallic Art's Dayton Nevada plant. Note it has both the old die number (2127) -- now useless -- and the new die number (30-15-2) on the face of the die outside the image.
I assigned this die number when I cataloged all Medallic Art medals prior to 1977. The same number was applied to every item of that medal design, all tooling, patterns, dieshells and such. We even stamped that number on archive medals and all shop paper files. This single number system replaced five other number systems used previously throughout the firm.
You see the loop at the top of the medal image. When it is in the die like this it is called INTEGRAL LOOP, attached to the medal when it is struck. It is very easy to add or remove a loop to a medal. It is possible to strike medals without the loop even with this die. Also there are numerous terms to describe a loop.
There are eight types of loops of which Integral loop is the most common. When it is attached latter the loop can be soldered on, called SOLDERED LOOP. Also DRILLED AND TAPPED creating a threaded hole where a screw eye loop is attached. There are two types of swivel loops in which the medal can be turned over to show either side (prominent among English decorations). A loop that does not permit this is called a FIXED SUSPENDER.
Sometimes a medal is struck with a LUG at the top, the loop is shaped from that, usually drilling a hole parallel with the medal.
A wide loop -- to accommodate a leather strap as for a watchfob or ribbon -- is called a FOB LOOP. In contrast to the narrow loop shown on the die, called a BOB LOOP. The open space in the loop is called the EYE.
A loop can also be called a BAIL Instead of an attached loop a round coin or medal can be placed inside a BEZEL a large ring completely enclosing the item. These are jewelry terms that have been brought over to the medallic field.
Most loops are placed at the top of the medal. However, there are some ceremonial medals where the loop is placed at the bottom -- upside down to the viewer. These are used in a ceremony where the recipient holds up the medal so it is correct orientation for his viewing. Some Masonic medals are so designed.
Some medals have two loops at the top, they are connected by links or chains, one link of which is a JUMP RING which opens and the adjacent link is inserted, then closed. This is often how a medal is attached to a HEADER. In such a hanging situation the medal is called a DROP.
All this for the little rings of metal to suspend a medal so it may be worn.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: WATCH FOBS AS NUMISMATIC ITEMS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n15a15.html)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Stuart and Maureen Levine submitted this article about the 1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollars in the Newman sale. Thanks! Beautiful coins. -Editor
We experienced a little nostalgia upon learning that San Francisco's Exploratorium, one of our favorite places, had moved to Pier 15 from the Marina district. Since its inception in 1969, this hands-on science museum had been situated on the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, in the recreated Exhibit Hall of the Palace of Fine Arts. After delving into the world of science with our young son, we would leave the cavernous building and stroll around the grounds. Intended to evoke an ancient ruin, Bernard Maybeck's original wood and plaster structures, created for the fair, decayed and were reconstructed in the 1960s. Although the recreated structures may not be true to the artist's vision, they impart a sense of the enormity and grandeur of the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
This fair was intended both to commemorate the completion of the Panama Canal and to showcase the American spirit demonstrated in the rebuilding and resurgence of San Francisco after the devastating earthquake of 1906. Cornelius Vermeule wrote: "The exposition held at San Francisco in 1915 was the only occasion in the history of the United States where a group of coins were issued in one year in different denominations designed by artists of the Mint and by outside sculptors of established reputation."
Barber's Phrygian capped figure of Liberty, clad in ancient Greek dress and strewing flowers, graces the obverse of the half dollar coin. She is accompanied by a child or putto. Morgan's eagle appears atop a shield on the reverse. Two of these pattern coins, without the S mint mark, one in silver and one in copper, are among the Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection being offered for sale by Heritage Auctions. The catalog descriptions follow.
1915 No S Panama Pacific Half Dollar, PR65 Judd-1961, Finest Known Silver Specimen 1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1791/1961, Pollock-2029, High R.7, PR65 NGC. CAC.
Design. Both obverse and reverse were coined from the same dies as the regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollars, but without the S mintmark. Struck in silver, with a reeded edge.
Commentary. The famous 1915 No S Panama-Pacific half dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint before the S mintmark was added to the dies, which were then shipped to San Francisco for the production run. Examples are known in copper, silver, and gold. These experimental issues were probably struck as fantasy pieces. Farran Zerbe, who was in charge of the ambitious program to produce sets of five different coins from various denominations to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal, attributed the rare No S patterns to W.G. McAdoo, the contemporary Secretary of the Treasury. Only a handful of examples were struck in silver. Anthony Swiatek reports six examples were struck, and the envelope accompanying the present coin notes five specimens were known when the coin was purchased. However, we can account for only four specimens today. The present coin is the finest known example in silver.
To read the complete lot description, see: Lot 4047: 1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1791/1961, Pollock-2029 (coins.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=1184&lotNo=4047)
1915 No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar PR66+ Red and Brown Judd-1962, Finest Known Copper Example 1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1792/1962, Pollock-2030, R.8, PR66+ Red and Brown NGC. CAC.
Design. Both obverse and reverse were coined from the same dies as the regular-issue Panama-Pacific half dollars, but without the S mintmark. Struck in copper with a reeded edge.
Commentary. The very rare Panama-Pacific half dollar experimental pieces were struck at the Philadelphia Mint before the mintmark was added to the dies. Examples are known in gold, silver, and copper. It is possible that the copper pieces were die trials, but most numismatists believe they were all struck clandestinely as fantasy pieces. Walter Breen reported a quote from Farran Zerbe stating the coins "may have been struck as trial pieces at the Philadelphia Mint by the instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury (W.G. McAdoo), who was a coin collector." Only three specimens of Judd-1962 are confirmed today, and it has been nearly a decade since any example was offered at public auction. The present coin is the finest known specimen by a wide margin.
Note: A specimen was exhibited by F.C.C. Boyd at the June 11, 1943 meeting of the New York Numismatic Club, per the July 1943 issue of The Numismatist, Page 559. This citation could refer to any of the three coins mentioned above, or might represent a fourth coin. Many of the patterns in the 1979 ANA sale were from the Dr. James Sloss Collection, which David Akers reported as sold privately in 1974. The three Pan-Pac half dollars may have come from this source, but conclusive evidence is not available at this time.
To read the complete lot description, see: 1915 P50C No S Panama-Pacific Half Dollar, Judd-1792/1962, Pollock-2030 (coins.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=1184&lotNo=4048)
From Australia here's an article about the legal battle over who-owes-what-to-whom following the debacle of the Australian "Holey Dollar" stolen from the American Numismatic Association museum and later consigned by the thief to auction in that country. -Editor
The Supreme Court battle centres on the provenance of a rare 1813 five shilling Australian "Holey Dollar" -- the first coin struck in Australia.
The coins were restamped from Spanish silver dollars and the centres punched out: those plugs, or dumps, were then used as coins worth 15 pence.
Coinworks Pty Ltd is suing Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd for refusing a refund once the theft of the coin was revealed.
Coinworks says it bid $186,000, on behalf of an unnamed customer, at an auction conducted by Noble at Dallas Brooks Hall in July 2007.
It says a 15 per cent buyers' premium, GST and a 4 per cent commission for Coinworks took the total cost of the coin to $225,375.60.
Coinworks says that in January last year an employee discovered the coin had been stolen from the Money Museum of the American Numismatic Association in early 2007.
Coinworks says the US attorney in the district of Delaware had confirmed a man named Wyatt Yeager had pleaded guilty to theft and had provided $200,000 in restitution.
After giving its customer a refund for the coin, which was returned to the ANA, the company then sought reimbursement of $216,690 from Noble. But Coinworks says Noble has failed, or refused, to refund the sale price less $US50,000 received from ANA as restitution.
To read the complete article, see: 'Holey' war over rare coin (www.news.com.au/breaking-news/holey-war-over-rare-coin/story-e6frfkp9-1226621148621)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: STOLEN HOLEY DOLLAR RECOVERED BY ANA (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v15n46a14.html)
It can be interesting to read the mainstream press' take on the numismatic hobby. Here's an excerpt from article from The New York Times about the upcoming sale of the Walton specimen of the 1913 Liberty Nickel. -Editor
On the rainy night of March 9, 1962, a head-on car crash scattered a quarter-million dollars’ worth of coins across a North Carolina highway, and the life story of a solitary collector named George O. Walton came to an end. But another story began — one of expert blunders, abiding family loyalty and long-awaited redemption.
Lying on the wet asphalt that night, in a custom holder that Mr. Walton had had made for it, was the object that connected those two stories: a 1913 Liberty head nickel, a coin that was never meant to be, with its own enduring tale as one of America’s greatest rarities.
The year after Mr. Walton died, his heirs were given shocking news: experts in New York had decreed the nickel a worthless fake. Mr. Walton’s sister put it away in her closet, but the family never lost faith in their Uncle George’s legacy.
On April 25, at an auction in Chicago, that loyalty is expected to be rewarded. Now recognized as authentic, Mr. Walton’s nickel is expected to fetch $2 million to $5 million.
Mr. Walton’s nephew, Ryan Givens, of Roanoke, Va., described his uncle as a bluntly forthright Southerner who was largely self-educated.
“He was not a bragger, but he enjoyed talking to people about his coins. He liked matching wits with others and trading,” said Mr. Givens, who last saw his uncle at a family gathering a few weeks before the car crash. Though intensely private, Mr. Walton was “good at finding things,” learned quickly from mistakes and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow collectors.
Mr. Walton had an odd knack for collecting coins.
His grandfather had encouraged him to collect the nickels he earned tending horses. As a teenager, Mr. Walton bet a group of schoolmates a coonskin against their gold dollar that he could beat them in wrestling. He won, and his appetite for gold was whetted.
Later on, his prized possessions included a set of early gold coins minted in the Carolinas by the Bechtlers, a family of 19th century metallurgists.
According to Mr. Givens, his uncle was also an astute trader. In the mid-1940s, he swapped another collector $3,750 worth of collectible gold coins for the 1913 Liberty head nickel, which was already legendary.
Mr. Walton was never a rich man, but his work as an estate appraiser often allowed him to get first crack at collectibles. His collecting passion extended to stamps, books, jewelry, Civil War memorabilia and guns. He accumulated so many vintage firearms that he had to buy another house just to store them, Mr. Givens said, and would often use his collections as collateral for bank loans to acquire more.
Though he owned several houses, Mr. Walton lacked a fixed abode. “Nobody knew where he was at any given time,” Mr. Givens said.
Instead, Mr. Walton kept his coins in safe deposit boxes, lived mostly in hotels, and traveled about in his 1956 Ford station wagon, visiting favorite dealers and showing up at coin exhibits and weekend bourses. He was on his way to a collector event in Wilson, N.C., to show his famous nickel on the night he died.
The article goes on to discuss the origin of the nickels and their passing through the hands of our good friend Eric Newman. -Editor
Though he was evasive about their provenance, Mr. Brown sold all five nickels and they wound up together in the hands of Col. Edward H. R. Green, a famous collector with an insatiable appetite for all things unusual.
After Colonel Green died, a young collector named Eric P. Newman teamed up with a dealer in 1941 to buy many of Colonel Green’s coins, including the five 1913 Liberty head nickels. In an e-mail, Mr. Newman said that later that same year, he resold the coin that would eventually come into Mr. Walton’s collection.
Besides Mr. Walton’s heirs, “I believe that I am the only survivor of its various owners,” wrote Mr. Newman, now 101. “I am so lucky to have lived so long.”
It was Mr. Newman’s research that led to the discovery that Mr. Brown had been a mint employee in 1913, and might have illicitly produced the instant rarities himself. Mint records show no such coin was ever officially made.
To read the complete article, see: Once-Maligned Coin Nears Its Big Payday (www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/us/1913-liberty-head-nickel-is-expected-to-fetch-millions.html)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Pete Smith writes:
As part of my compilation of pedigrees for 1792 half dismes, I am trying to identify coins owned by the Ohio Rare Coin Fund and its various subsidiaries. I understand there was something called an auction conducted out of a police evidence room in 2006. Was there a published catalog for this auction?
I am looking for help from any E-Sylum reader who can provide information on any 1792 half disme included in the auction or otherwise sold privately to liquidate the assets. I would also like to know who bought the coins and where they are today.
A very worthy project. Can anyone help? -Editor
Rich Hartzog writes:
I get the emailed Chopmark News, for the Chopmark Collectors Club. Issued by Colin Gullberg of Taiwan, the issues are well researched and quite educational. It is available on-line (in color) and in print. Donations appreciated.
About a dozen past issues are available on-line (although slow to load). They have 207 members. Please mention The E-Sylum when subscribing.
I'm a subscriber and have excerpted some articles in the past. It's a high-quality publication and I also encourage readers to subscribe. The latest issue is dated March 2013. Below is the issue's table of contents. -Editor
For more information, see: chopmarks.org
Last week's diary was cut short because I ran out of time to work on the issue. One thing I didn't get to mention was finally spotting my first 2013-dated coins. I'm sure they've been around and available for a while in other parts of the country. I'd been checking my shiny new coins off and on since February, but it wasn’t until last week that I saw some new 2013 dimes and several 2013 nickels.
At my numismatic social club Nummis Nova David Schenkman displayed a new purchase - an obsolete note from the Potomac and Alleghany Coal & Iron Manufacturing Company. He'd purchased it in a recent auction because of his interest in coal-mining notes and tokens, but it turned out to be special in another way - it's the only obsolete note of that denomination known from the state of Virginia.
The vertical blotches seen on the front of the note are from the ink of endorsement signatures bleeding through from the back. Here are the signatures. This note really got around!
This week was different. A decidedly non-numismatic event occurred, the explosion of bombs at the Boston Marathon. I heard the news before leaving work Monday. In this 24/7 media age, the events and subsequent hunt for the perpetrators were seen worldwide, in real time. Our thoughts are with all of the victims and their families. E-Sylum contributor Len Augsburger is a runner, but wasn't in Boston. I'm not aware of any numismatists directly affected by the events.
Sections of the city surrounding the crime scene were closed off, and security was heightened nationally. In the Washington D.C. area some government workers passed SWAT vans and guards with automatic weapons on their way into the office. On Friday evening as police were closing in on the second suspect, I reached out to some E-Sylum regulars from the Boston area.
John W. Adams writes:
Life is normal in the Western suburbs. It is all a very sad story, one that makes little sense based on what we know. The high point was 18,000 hockey fans singing the national anthem that same night. The low point, in retrospect, may be shutting down an entire city, causing needless fear to those therein.
I heard the singing of the anthem on the radio this week and it was indeed very moving. The singer started the song normally, but turned off his mike when he heard the crowd singing along. They finished it for him, perfectly. I didn’t think anyone knew the words anymore…
Anne Bentley of the Massachusetts Historical Society writes:
We've been in lock down all day. I live in Melrose, seven miles north of Boston. Without the T I was stranded, then the MHS was closed when Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino shut down the city. Those who came to our building a couple years ago know that we are six blocks down from the library, where the initial bombings took place.
We've been on the same emotional ride as everyone else in the city: virtual staff roll call on Patriot's Day (we close due to congestion in city) so wanted to make sure no one was caught up in that. Then trying to get back to living normally on Tuesday, avoiding the crime scene that started two blocks away at Mass. Ave and Boylston.
At work we were relieved to watch the uplifting service at the cathedral and to have that day pass peacefully without incident. Then with the ten o'clock news last night, all hell broke loose. And today has been absolutely surreal. I was living in Athens in 1967 when the coup occurred on April 21 and this has brought back so many memories of the three day house arrest with tanks and armed soldiers in the city streets. Now the suspect appears to be cornered in Watertown and the tension is almost unbearable.
This has been an absolutely surreal day. I have never seen so many members of law enforcement -- all conceivable branches-- concentrated in one area in my lifetime. It was definitely the largest manhunt in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, if not the U.S.
At 9:06pm Anne Bentley reported:
They're reporting he's been captured alive and taken to Mt Auburn hospital. I hope we'll find out why -- the families of the dead and those whose lives have been irrevocably changed deserve to know, why?
Why, indeed. Yet many thanks are owed to the first responders, hospital staffs, emergency and security personnel and the officers who lost their lives in the massive manhunt. Perhaps in time there will be numismatic tributes to their bravery and service.
We numismatists have an appreciation for history, and it's important to note that from an historical perspective, public attacks on innocent people are not something new in the 21st century. While it's easy for adults of all ages today to think terrorism is something new, it's not - the word is. People who committed these heinous acts weren't always called terrorists - they were once called anarchists.
There was the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in 1866, a bombing at the Los Angeles Times in 1910, and a bombing at a parade in San Francisco in 1916. And until Oklahoma City the largest bomb attack in the U.S. took place right in the heart of Wall Street in New York City in 1920, which killed 38 people and injured hundreds. So here's a question for our readers - are there any numismatic items related to these earlier events? Hero or Lifesaving medals? Commemorative medals? Political buttons or tokens?
Here's a link to a picture gallery from coverage of the Boston events.
To read the complete article, see:
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS: A TIMELINE OF THIS WEEK’S EVENTS
Stu and Maureen Levine passed along an email from coin dealer David Finkelstein recounting his recent actions taken in honor of the late Dr. Henry Hilgard. Stu and Maureen called it a "touching and useful tribute to our dear departed friend," and I think E-Sylum readers will agree. -Editor
It is now 3:00 PM on Sunday, April 21, 2013. The last 29 hours has been interesting, to say the least. This email contains a recap of what has happened. I have been promised $2,000.00 in donations for my cause, so it looks like in addition to being a full time coin dealer, I am about to form a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit will initially provide basic medical and fire fighter supplies to Detroit fire fighters and EMS personnel.
The Michigan State Numismatic Society annual spring 4 day coin show started Thursday, April 18th. It was a really good coin show for me, considering that less than a week earlier, two events occurred that left me wondering whether it would be a mediocre show at best. First, gold and silver took significant nose dives on Friday, April 12th and Monday, April 15th. The precious metals market had not recovered, and therefore lower precious metal prices sometimes has an adverse affect on the rare coin market. Second, my long time friend and mentor, Dr. Henry Hilgard passed away. Henry was one of the most knowledgeable people on the processes and technology involved in creating the dies and striking the coins at the first United States Mint in Philadelphia from 1793 to 1836. Henry was a gentleman's gentleman.
On Saturday, April 20th, entry for dealers was at 8:00 AM. Thursday and Friday were long days for me, so I slept in. I arrived at the coin show around 9:30 AM. Had I made it to the coin show at 8:00 AM, what you are about to read would not have happened.
As I pulled into the hotel parking lot, I heard a local news report on the radio – 950 AM WWJ Detroit. Here is the link to the written WWJ news report. I have been unable to locate a link to the actual broadcast.
The first 3 paragraphs of the report are as follows:
DETROIT (WWJ) - It’s an urgent plea to the community from Detroit Firefighters who say they’re subjected to unsanitary working conditions.
A 27-year veteran of the force, who did not want to be named, said conditions at Engine Company 53 on Greenfield and Fenkell are deplorable. He said their supply room is empty and they can no longer do their job safely. Shockingly, he said there are no gloves in stock, a safety staple they’re desperately in need of.
“There are gloves for EMS, and they told us they don’t have any to give us. So we don’t have any,” he said.
Greenfield and Fenkell was less than 10 miles from the coin show, so I thought about stopping off at the fire station after the coin show. Saturday turned out be even better than Thursday and Friday, so I left the coin show early and drove to Engine Company 53. I had no idea what fire fighters needed, or how many they needed, so I was hoping to give them cash, get a donation receipt, and leave. This is where things got interesting.
After arriving at the fire station at around 1:30 PM, I parked and walked into the building. The fire station doors were open, exposing the fire trucks for all to see. I yelled out “Hello” a few times, and someone came out of a back room. He escorted me to the dispatch room / office / TV room, and I explained that I heard the radio news report, and that I wanted to donate cash. Detroit Fire Stations cannot take cash donations. If the cash ends up missing, it’s a major scandal. They only accept goods. I asked them what type of goods, how many, and was it for just their fire station or did other fire stations need help too.
When they realized I was serious, they called Brian Clayborn. He is a Detroit fire fighter and first responder, and is the person behind the WWJ radio news report. He drove down to the station and we spoke for about 15 minutes. I gave him my business card, and he told me that he would send me an email with what they needed.
Detroit has significant financial issues. Although EMS has supplies, they are limited. Detroit fire fighters buy basic medical supplies out their own pockets. When a fire truck responds to a call, the EMS truck may not always go. If there is an injured person on the scene, there are fire fighters that are also EMTs. I live in Canton, Michigan. All of Canton’s fire fighters are EMTs. That is not a requirement for Detroit. On Friday night, Engine Company 53 responded to a call. Brian Clayborn, the person I met with, was the a first responder. There was an injured person. There were no basic medical supplies in the fire truck.
At 2:38 PM, I received an email from Brian. He wanted basic medical supplies for 6 fire stations; various gauze pads, bandages, ointments, tape, sterile gloves, etc., and gym bags to put the supplies in. I was not at home to receive the email. I was at Walmart, explaining the situation to the store manager. She heard the news report on WWJ radio earlier. When she asked me what supplies I needed, I responded I didn’t know yet, but when I get the list, it will be all that Walmart has on the shelves and in the store rooms. Not only did she agree to allow me to empty the store, she told me that Walmart will give me a discount.
Not knowing that Brian already responded to me, I drove to my local Canton fire station. After explaining what I was doing, I was given a tour of their store room, then I was shown what was in their medical supply bags on their fire trucks. I was then given a printout of everything that Canton Fire and Rescue orders for their EMTs, including how much they pay and who their supplier is. The medical supply company is local (Wixom, Michigan), but they are not open on Saturday. On my way home from the Canton fire station, I called my daughter Abby and her boyfriend Adam. They were drafted into helping me out.
At 4:30 PM, Adam, Abby and I drove to Walmart. The store manager was paged, and she assigned someone to help us out. He had a scanner. We emptied Walmart’s shelves. He scanned the barcodes, and we emptied the store room. We got a lot of the items on Brian Clayborn’s list. Walmart didn’t carry things like sterile eye wash, triangular bandages, burn pads, and CPR masks. After paying the $486 bill (after Walmart’s discount), Abby, Adam and I sorted everything in the back of her Ford Edge, and divided everything into 6 bundles, as requested by Brian Clayborn. We left the Walmart parking lot at 6:35 PM.
Abby, Adam and I arrived at Engine Company 53 shortly after 7:00 pm. We dropped off the supplies. Engine Company 53 told us that they would call the other 5 fire stations to come pick up their share of the supplies. The fire fighters were happy, to say the least. We then drove the 30 minutes back to Canton. I commented that it was a lot of stuff in the shopping carts at Walmart, but after dividing everything into 6, it did not look like a lot. Abby mentioned that Sam's Club sells medical gloves. We then went to the Canton Sam's Club, and purchased 1,600 pairs of latex free gloves for around $200. We then drove 30 minutes back out to Engine Company 53, dropped off the gloves, then drove 30 minutes back to Canton.
On Sunday, April 21st, I drove out to Engine Company 53. Brian Clayborn was on duty, and we spoke for about an hour. The Detroit metropolitan area has around 1.5 million people. Of those 1.5 million people, only 4 people responded to the WWJ and Fox 2 news reports. Some stuffed animals were dropped off, as well as some packages of gauze. I was hoping that some person or some organization drove to the fire station in an 18 wheeler with enough medical supplies for a year. No such luck.
I think the fire fighters at Engine Company 53 were still a little leery about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I then explained what had happened to Henry Hilgard, my truck going in for service, getting to the coin show late and hearing the WWJ news report. I told them that I could have made a donation in Henry’s name to the American Medical Association or the American Heart Association, but that was too impersonal for me. What I was doing for the Detroit fire fighters had meaning.
When I told Brian that I had $2,000.00 in promised donations, I thought he was about to cry. He is getting together today with fire and EMS personnel to develop a list of additional items that they need. On Monday, April 22nd, I am going to the medical supply company. Hopefully they will sell supplies to someone walking in off the street, so I can deliver them to Engine Company 53 a few minutes later.
Tuesday through Saturday I will be in Chicago for the Central States Numismatic Society coin show. After I return from Chicago, I will look into starting a nonprofit organization, and then request support from foundations (such as the Walmart Foundation).
With everything fresh on my mind, I decided to type this up. You now know what happened, and now you will know why. This was all done in the memory of Dr. Henry Hilgard. Did Henry have an affiliation with fire fighters? I have no idea. All I know is that at the time, it just felt like it was the right thing to do.
Wow. Many thanks to David and all who pitched in. What a great way to finish up such a sad week in this country. David's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org -Editor
CoinNews.net has a great photo article by Mike Unser about the U.S. Mint at San Francisco. Be sure to view the whole gallery online. -Editor
The SF Mint on average can produce about 200,000 collectible proof coins per day. More than 20.1 million were struck there last year alone.
In the mechanics, a blank slides into position flat side down so it can get squeezed between two vertically placed dies. These dies bear negative images of the heads and tails side of a coin. When the press applies some 90 tons of pressure between them, the blank flows like putty and accepts their designs. The blank doesn’t flatten like a penny in a souvenir machine as a surrounding collar restrains its expansion. That collar also creates a coin’s reeded edge or imparts the edge-incused lettering on Native American $1 Coins and Presidential $1 Coins.
In a large L-shaped area that San Francisco Mint employees call the Coining Press Room, there are nearly 20 presses lined up against walls. But before blanks get to them, they first receive some special attention. Though they have already been through the Treatment Room, the blanks are manually washed, dried and buffed. That’s quite an undertaking with the millions of proofs minted each year.
To read the complete article, see: U.S. Mint at San Francisco, Coining Press Room (www.coinnews.net/2013/04/17/u-s-mint-at-san-francisco-coining-press-room/)
This is the fifth article in a series on the San Francisco Mint. How'd we miss them? -Editor
Discovering the U.S. Mint at San Francisco (www.coinnews.net/2013/03/25/discovering-the-u-s-mint-at-san-francisco/)
Under the U.S. Mint at San Francisco (www.coinnews.net/2013/03/29/under-the-u-s-mint-at-san-francisco/)
U.S. Mint at San Francisco, Preparing Coin Blanks (www.coinnews.net/2013/04/03/u-s-mint-at-san-francisco-preparing-coin-blanks/)
U.S. Mint at San Francisco, Preparing Coin Dies (www.coinnews.net/2013/04/09/u-s-mint-at-san-francisco-preparing-coin-dies/)
The April 2013 issue of The Money and Medals Newsletter has a number of interesting numismatic articles. Here's an excerpt from one by Dr Megan Gooch of Historic Royal Palaces about an upcoming new mint exhibit at the Tower of London. Here's a short excerpt. -Editor
The famous surroundings of the Tower of London will be home to a new exhibition concentrating on the half century when the Tower was the nation’s minting powerhouse.
When I first started working on a project to develop a new exhibition at the Tower of London I knew it would be fun. I had an idea about some of the (in)famous characters who had lived and worked at the Mint during its years in the Tower, but little did I know how interesting and entertaining some of them would turn out to be. It was decided that the exhibition would be located on Mint Street, site of the Mint between 1279 and 1812. This would ensure that visitors could experience history where it actually happened. To create this space, a Yeoman Warder and his family were moved out of the building to a new home elsewhere in the Tower. Luckily he was excited to hear that his old abode, an 18th century building which contained part of Edward I’s outer curtain wall, had been the Mint Office during the years in which Isaac Newton was Master of the Mint.
After developing several ideas, we opted to tell the story of the Mint through five important moments in history represented by ‘key’ coins which would tell the headline story of each section. Sadly Historic Royal Palaces, the organisation which runs the Tower of London, doesn’t have much in the way of a numismatic collection. However this was the perfect opportunity for the Royal Mint Museum, our partners in the project, to display some of the jewels in their collection, and a chance to borrow some fantastic objects from the British Museum and Bank of England Museum. Highlights include a Petition Crown of Charles II, several gold and silver plates from the Trial of the Pyx, part of the Colchester Hoard, and two rare countermarked Liberty Dollars.
We also wanted to incorporate some of the archaeological evidence for the Mint at the Tower, by showing objects excavated on Mint Street. Many rare unused cupels were found during archaeological excavations; these are small dishes made of bone ash which were used to assay, or test, the fineness of precious metals.
With a history that can be traced back over 1000 years, the Royal Mint is one of the oldest organisations in Britain. It evolved from a network of mints scattered across the country to become the single most important source of coinage securely located within the Tower of London.
To read the complete issue, see: The Money and Medals Newsletter (www.moneyandmedals.org.uk/#/newsletter/4547094513)
The April 18 Space Exploration Signature Auction from Heritage offers a number of rare and interesting items, including medals, relating to the exploration of space. Here are a couple items that caught my eye. -Editor
Apollo 11 Flown Silver Robbins Medallion
Apollo 11 Flown Silver Robbins Medallion Originally from the Personal Collection of Mercury Seven Astronaut Wally Schirra, Serial Number 416, with LOA. This 28mm sterling silver medal was one of 450 flown aboard Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing, July 16-24, 1969, with crewmembers Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. The obverse depicts Collins' early and original concept for the mission insignia with the eagle carrying an olive branch in its mouth. NASA thought the sharp, open talons of the eagle looked too "warlike" and the olive branch, representing peace, was moved to the claws. This is one of, if not the only, major official item that renders the insignia as it was meant to be by the astronaut designer. The reverse has the dates of the mission, surnames of the crew, and the serial number. Original case with numbered sticker on the bottom included. Excellent condition. From the Steven R. Belasco Collection of Space Memorabilia.
This was part of Wally Schirra's complete collection of Apollo Robbins medals sold together at a Christie's East auction on September 18, 1999, Lot 90. Note that we are offering all eleven of his medals in this auction.
Included with this lot is a copy of a signed Letter of Authenticity from Wally Schirra on his letterhead stating that each of his medallions were given to him by the mission commander. That would be Neil Armstrong in this instance. The full text of the letter is viewable online.
To read the complete lot description, see: Lot 40078: Apollo 11 Flown Silver Robbins Medallion Originally from the Personal Collection of Mercury Seven Astronaut Wally Schirra (historical.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=6095&lotNo=40078)
Apollo 15 Flown Silver Robbins Medallion
Apollo 15 Flown Silver Robbins Medallion Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Al Worden, Serial Number 127, with Signed LOA. This 35mm sterling silver medal is one of only 127 flown to the moon aboard Apollo 15, July 26-August 7, 1971, with crewmembers Dave Scott, Al Worden, and Jim Irwin. There were 304 of these originally struck for the 1971 mission but due to a spelling error on the landing site (Appennines instead of Apennines), only 127 were actually flown. The balance was returned to the Robbins Company for correction but was not ready in time for the takeoff.
The obverse features the mission insignia depicting three stylized birds flying above the Hadley Rille area of the moon with craters spelling out "XV" to the right. The reverse features the phrase "Man's Flight Through Life Is Sustained By The Power Of His Knowledge" around, Air Force wings (it was an all-Air Force crew), and the dates of the mission. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. Original case and pad with numbered sticker on the bottom included.
To read the complete lot description, see: Apollo 15 Flown Silver Robbins Medallion Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Al Worden (historical.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=6095&lotNo=40086)
I didn't have time last week to include the Baldwins' press release on their upcoming sale of Islamic coins, but The Daily Mail presented the subject well in this article forwarded by dick Hanscom. Thanks! -Editor
The first ever coin to record the famous Islamic phrase 'There is no God but Allah' is set to sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds when it goes under the hammer. The historic gold dinar from 690 AD was minted in Damascus by the Umayyad dynasty - the first Arab empire, which stretched from Spain in the west to India in the east at the peak of its power.
The coin, which weighs 0.15oz and is slightly larger than a 5p piece, comes in a set of 56 gold dinars struck between 690 and 750 - expected to sell for £500,000 at auction next month.
Dated 77 in the Islamic calendar, the words written on the coin translate in English to: ‘No God but God, Unique, He has no associate.
‘Muhammad is the messenger of God who sent him with guidance and the religion of truth that he might make it supreme over all other religions. God is one, God is eternal. He does not beget nor is he begotten. In the name of God this dinar was struck in the year seven and 70.’
Andre Di Clement, head of Islamic coins at central London auctioneers Baldwin's, said: ‘What makes these coins so important is that they are from the first Arab empire.
‘With Umayyad the Islamic world spread from India to Spain. One of the things they did was eradicate coinage from conquered lands and introduce their own coinage systems.
‘These coins, and coins like these, would have been used to finance the building of the Umayyad empire. Each year a new coin was made.
‘At this time they were far more advanced than anybody else in the world. Although the first coin is worth £300,000 it comes as part of a set. It is one of the finest examples known.
‘This is the most sought-after Islamic coin out there, whose legends set the pattern for centuries to come.
To read the complete article, see:
First coin to record Islamic phrase 'There is no God but Allah' expected to sell in set of 56 gold dinars for £500,000 at auction
New list available free!
Civil War Store Cards
from the estate of
Stephen L. Tanenbaum
Do you collect counterstamped coins and/or Civil War store cards, or would you be interested in doing so? I invite you to e-mail me for my latest list of pieces from the Stephen L. Tanenbaum Estate Collection. These pieces have been off the market for a long time—some of them since the 1960s!
For more than 40 years Steve gathered these, continually improving and upgrading. His counterstamps include many pieces listed and or even illustrated in the Gregory Brunk and Russell Rulau catalogs plus many that are unique or unlisted! The vast majority of the Civil War store cards Mint State, many certified by NGC (which Steve was in the midst of doing) and others still in his 2x2 cardboard holders. Rarity-9 (2 to 4 known) tokens abound as do, believe it or not, R-10 (unique) tokens and unlisted varieties. Among Civil War tokens are strikes in copper-nickel, overstrikes on Indian Head cents, rarities with various Stanton reverses (1042 and 1047 gems in abundance), mint errors, “rare towns,” brockages, and more await your consideration.
The majority of the counterstamps and Civil War tokens are highly affordable. And, of course, all are interesting! Nearly all are one-of-a-kind in the estate and are available on a first-come, first served basis. If you will send me an e-mail request I will send you my latest list by return e-mail.
Thank you for your interest!
Wolfeboro Falls, NH 03896
Request by e-mail: email@example.com
We've had a number of articles over the years about the "Stepping of the Mast" ceremony, where coins are placed under the mast of a ship for good luck. A reader passed along this sad but inspirational story from Dana Point, California of a coin placed in honor of a dead girl. Thanks. -Editor
Holding with tradition, a shining silver coin, with a tallship minted on one side, was carefully laid beneath the mast at the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center.
“It’s good to know that her favorite coin is at her favorite place,” Kajsa James said after the early morning stepping of the mast ceremony at the Ocean Institute.
Given to Maddie by her mother, Kajsa, on a family trip, the coin remained in the young girl’s treasure box, just the way she left it. After mustering up enough courage, Kajsa found her daughter’s cherished treasure, and holding the silver piece she turned it over.
“2005” it read.
The year Maddie was born.
In February of that year, her parents Collie and Kajsa James began the Maddie James Foundation, with hopes of raising $1 million to help build the long planned seaside-learning center at the Ocean Institute, Maddie’s favorite place.
Maddie had attended camp at the institute the summer before her death, and her parents knew this was where they wanted their daughter memorialized.
By May 20, 2011 the foundation reached its goal.
“There is just something about this community that really embraced this cause and I don’t think it would have been possible anywhere else,” James said. “I will be forever grateful for what they helped build here.”
Now, named for Maddie, The Maddie James Seaside Learning Center is nearing completion.
Built directly on the water, the center includes a new 300-foot ocean science landing and a 100-foot historic maritime pier, complete with a boom and main mast—the latter housing Maddie’s treasure—for students to navigate and use actual sailing technology, said Julianne Steers, director of husbandry at the Ocean Institute. The center will also house a pen for growing white-sea bass and additional hands-on learning space for visitors.
“I know that once it is done, and once the children are here, that’s when the real magic is going to happen,” James said. “It’s not the ending. It’s just the beginning.”
To read the complete article, see: Maddie’s Prized Coin, Forever a Sign of Luck (www.danapointtimes.com/2013/04/12/maddies-prized-coin-forever-a-sign-of-luck/)
Our reader adds:
The coin is unmistakably a Stuart Devlin design and is from the Cayman Islands.
Several readers forwarded articles about the cancelation of plans for a controversial medal for pilots of remotely-controlled unmanned aircraft and cyber operatives, all of whom perform their duties far from the physical battlefield. Gar Travis was the first to forward news of the announcement. -Editor
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Monday that a proposed medal for drone pilots and cyber operators will not be a separate commendation but an attachment to an existing honor.
Veterans groups and some members of Congress objected to the Distinguished Warfare Medal when it was proposed in February by former Defense secretary Leon Panetta. They contended that it would have surpassed honors such as the Purple Heart.
"The service men and women who operate and support our remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyber, and others are critical to our military's mission of safeguarding the nation," Hagel said.
Hagel took the advice from the joint chiefs. They will now have 90 days to establish criteria for new honor.
Here's one forwarded by Dave Bowers. -Editor
“While the review confirmed the need to ensure such recognition, it found that misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose,” said Hagel, who was twice awarded the Purple Heart.
The leaders have instead recommended the creation of an alternative honor, similar to the "V" for valor that can be attached to the Bronze Star and other medals to reward an act of heroism.
When Panetta announced the medal would be created in mid-February, defense officials said it would be considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, but lower than the Silver Star.
Panetta said the new medal, for only a small number of service men and women, reflected battlefield contributions in a world of changing warfare. He said that remotely piloted aircraft and cyber systems have changed the way that wars are fought and can change the course of a conflict from afar.
But the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups sent a letter to President Obama in March, asking him to keep the medal ranked below the Purple Heart, which is awarded for combat injuries. Critics said the ranking was an injustice to those troops who risked their lives in battle.
To read the complete article, see: Hagel cancels creation of new drone, cyber medal following widespread criticism (www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/15/hagel-cancels-creation-new-drone-cyber-medal/)
Frank Draskovic also sent in an article. -Editor
To read the complete article, see: Pentagon Drone Medal Cancelled By Chuck Hagel, Suggests Special Pin (www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/pentagon-drone-medal_n_3086564.html)
It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for some of the now cancelled medals to make it out the back door of the factory, into the market?
I didn't get the impression that any of these had been struck yet. Only artist's conceptions have been published so far. -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON THE DISTINGUISHED WARFARE MEDAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n10a17.html)
There's always a local angle to obsolete banknotes, and occasionally they're a topic of a mainstream news article. Here's one from Wales about a sale of local banknotes by Spink. -Editor
Today we’re used to seeing the Queen staring benignly from crumpled £10 notes marked “Bank of England”.
But as recently as the early 1900s there were hundreds of different Welsh financial houses issuing their own money to anyone rich enough to use it.
This week, London auctioneer Spink, established in 1666, sold about 300 Welsh notes for about £65,000.
Andrew Pattison, a bank note expert at the auction house, said: “Between about 1780 and 1910 many towns in England and Wales would have issued their own notes.
“Traders and merchants and industrialists would get together and form banks and issue their own notes and this is what these are.
“Some of these banks were only around for one or two years until they went bankrupt.
“Others lasted until they were taken over by bigger banks like Barclays.
“The Welsh section of the collection is particularly interesting because Wales was so important in terms of industry and mining.”
The collection has been 30 years in the making and was put together by Jersey multimillionaire, David Kirch.
“It was almost complete in terms of what he could get,” said Mr Pattison.
It covered the “whole of England and Wales” and notes in the lot come from nearly every county in Wales.
“There were even individual notes on Anglesey. There is one from the Holyhead and Anglesey bank,” said Mr Pattison.
“That was a £2 note. There was a lot of those because the difference between £1 and £5 was so vast. So there were £7 and £8 notes as well.
“These were not really used by your average person. Very often it was such a huge amount of money, even £1.”
Notes were used by traders and businessman because it was safer and easier than carrying a lot of coins.
“Often if they wanted to send them, they would cut them in half and send the two parts separately,” he said.
“Each side had a serial number and when you got them both you knew you had the right one.
“We have got some that have been cut in half and stuck back together.”
To read the complete article, see: Welsh bank notes issued in 19th century sell at auction for £65,000 (www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/welsh-bank-notes-issued-19th-2824015)
In a good banknote sale, there are LOTS of local angles to go around, and the publicity sometimes drives more notes out of the woodwork. Here's an article on the Spink Kirch sale from Tamworth. -Editor
AS TWELVE rare Tamworth banknotes go under the hammer in London today, an Amington woman has revealed that she too has one of the notes. Mrs Henri Bennett (71) of St George’s Way, Glascote, was given the note by an elderly relative who used to live in Tamworth.
She said: “I was really interested to read the Herald story about the Tamworth bank notes being auctioned because I have one – and I was wondering if anyone else in Tamworth also does.”
Henri’s note is a one pound from the bank of Harding, Oakes and Willington. Dated 23 May 1817, the note was given to her by her 81-year-old cousin Jean Breiley who now lives in Devon.
In the late 1700s and in the 1800s, there were hundreds of privately-owned banks throughout England and they all issued their own notes, as it was safer and easier to do that than bring in big quantities of cash from London.
Tamworth had two privately-owned banks in the late 1700s and early 1800s and both went bust.
Tamworth Bank was founded in 1796, during the reign of King George III, by local businessmen Thomas Bradley Paget and Michael Corgan.Their bank went bust in 1817.
Tamworth Old Bank was also founded in 1796 and its partners were Samuel Tufley, Harding, Charles Oakes and Thomas Willington. Their bank went bust in 1819. Because both Tamworth banks were short-lived, they produced comparatively few notes, so they are quite rare.
Tamworth Castle has confirmed it has four Tamworth banknotes which are kept in its archive because of their fragility.
To read the complete article, see: Tamworth woman has rare town banknote (www.thisistamworth.co.uk/Tamworth-woman-rare-town-banknote/story-18730359-detail/story.html#axzz2QxkmsB1s)
Coin Update published a link to an article from China about the money counting center for the Bus Company of HaiKou City. With electronic fare cards and coin and banknote counting machines, manual operations like these are largely (if not completely) a thing of the past in the U.S. Great photo. -Editor
Recently, the reporter visited the coin counting center in the Bus Company of HaiKou City where many fare boxes are placed. There are 14 staff members working here and they count changes and coins of more than 200,000 yuan every day.
At 8 a.m., one staff member opens the fare boxes, and distributes changes and coins to his colleagues. Everyone will repeat counting over and over again. According to Hong Qing, head of the counting center, every worker counts changes and coins of 10,000 yuan every day; therefore, avoiding mistakes is not an easy task. Counting money until they get cramps in hands is no exaggeration. Each person will count changes and coins of 15,000 - 20000 yuan every day. They will count much more changes and coins on holidays.
After counting, they will deposit the money in the bank. However, the bank will charge fees for dealing with too many changes and coins. To solve the problem, the bus company provides change service for changes and coins which is welcomed by the citizens. "We can find a lot of fake coins every day and don't know how to deal with them,"
To read the complete article, see: Coin counters: Counting changes and coins of 200,000 yuan every day (english.peopledaily.com.cn/90882/8214321.html)
In the don't-take-any-wooden-nickels-either department comes this story from Kolkata, India about prostitutes receiving training to spot counterfeit bills. -Editor
Prostitutes working in Kolkata's largest red-light area are being trained by an NGO to identify fake currency notes to prevent them from being duped by their clients.
The training programme, conducted by Durbar Mahila Samanaya Committee, an NGO working for the sex workers, will teach them to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes by touch and from hearing the faint rustle of the paper.
In the last few months, there have been several instances of customers slipping counterfeit notes to prostitutes, taking advantage of dim lighting at brothels in the Sonagachi redlight area, an NGO member said.
Most of them realised they were duped only when they went to deposit their earnings at the USHA Bank, a bank set-up for betterment and development of their living conditions.
According to a prostitute, it is the first time customers who are the ones passing on counterfeit notes the most. "In most cases, I received counterfeit notes from first time customers. I did not notice because they took advantage of the dim lighting in the cubicles at Sonagachi," she said.
Since most prostitutes are illiterate, they will by taught basic techniques to identify a fake note. For example, in real notes, the print is slightly raised, enabling one to feel it while rubbing the note, while in a fake note, the print cannot be felt.
Also, in a real note, the security thread has he word ‘RBI’ printed on it, while a fake note does not. Prostitutes were also advised not to accept money in the dark, so they can check the authenticity of the notes by checking for watermarks by holding them against a source of light.
To read the complete article, see:
Prostitutes trained to spot fake currency from clients
E-Sylum reader and contributor Bob Evans was the Chief Scientist and Historian for the Columbus-America Discovery Group, the team that recovered the fabulous gold treasure from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Lawsuits surrounding the company and its founder Tommy Thompson have driven a number of one-sided accounts in the media, some of which have been reported here in E-Sylum. Bob submitted the following open essay to our community of numismatists. It's lengthy, but there's no shortage of virtual paper and ink in cyberspace. What follows is a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the finding, inventorying, and ultimate disposition of the recovered treasure. Thanks! -Editor
An open essay for the readers of E-Sylum:
The readers of this forum are an on-line community of intelligent and discerning numismatists, many of whom have a deeper interest in the S.S. Central America treasure than average folks. The popular press, newspapers and wire stories, have been the only recent sources for information about the ongoing court cases and legal entanglements involving this great treasure and the people involved with it. These sources are flawed, through the hasty process by which they operate, and by the bias of presenting almost exclusively one side of the story. In the course of years the “news” has allowed misconceptions and inaccuracies to drift into the discussions. As someone intimate with the subject, and yet not embroiled in the legal brouhaha, I offer the following perspective, in hopes that this community might enjoy a more complete understanding of a very complex subject.
I was Tommy Thompson’s friend. I accept that readers might judge that there is bias on my own part because of this fact, but I would like to state that it is a different bias, and so some form of balance may result.
The numismatic world has followed with interest the continuing legal cases involving Tommy Thompson and the business of the S.S. Central America treasure. Thompson’s reputation received an additional blow this week when U.S. Marshals began posting his image and that of his assistant on digital billboard “wanted posters” in Columbus, Ohio, the SSCA Project’s hometown, and in Vero Beach, Florida, Thompson’s last known address. He has been a fugitive since last August, when U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. issued an arrest warrant for him for contempt of court, after he failed to appear in Sargus’s court for several years.
Another legal proceeding, a state case in the Franklin County (Columbus,) Ohio Court of Common Pleas, contests Thompson and his companies’ actions and inactions in the course of over two decades of business. Over most of the course of these lawsuits, a period of several years, I was perfectly happy to be uninvolved, since the cases are reminders about some of the worst human qualities, and just how tricky the business of treasure finding can be. It is instructive to realize that Thompson’s companies have been involved in active court cases for 25 of the past 28 years.
For those of you who may not know, it was my responsibility, a great personal honor, and a truly wonderful experience to be the caretaker of this treasure during the recovery and post-recovery phases of its journey from the seafloor to market and display. Originally, I was a young geologist, Tommy Thompson’s neighbor and friend. In 1983 I began my involvement with the S.S. Central America . I became the “Chief Scientist and Historian” for Columbus-America Discovery Group, which was the operating entity headed by Thompson, and which was the discoverer and salvor of the S.S. Central America treasure. In that capacity I was present on board during all the recovery of the treasure. As “Mission Coordinator,” I worked with the engineers to plan the dives, and I applied my knowledge and research of the history of this remarkable shipwreck and treasure to realize the project’s goals.
The recovery was executed by means of a remote-controlled robot submarine. Now, almost twenty-two years after we last visited the shipwreck site, it is easy to forget what an enormous technical achievement this was at the time. Our control and logging systems for the recovery were handled through the equivalent of five or six XT computers, with combined digital memory less that what is commonly carried in an average pocket these days. A great many innovations have been introduced for robotic technology since then, but the event and the achievement are still unsurpassed. When treasure was recovered I initiated a meticulous system of record keeping. I was the treasure’s curator, first for the finders and later for the California Gold Marketing Group. The physical treasure was under my personal control or supervision for almost all of its journey from the seafloor to market.
Inaccurate and misleading press:
I would like to remind readers of the popular press that journalists are motivated to write interesting prose. They also write with deadlines and word counts in mind, and news writers tend to not be completely comprehensive and accurate in their reportage. They are not required to cite references or footnote their text. There are standards of course, “fact checking” and the like. But when one of the plaintiffs is the parent company of the principal newspaper reporting the trials, readers should be careful. Except for an occasional sentence here and there, only one side of the story has been seen in the popular press.
As an example of this bias and liberty of language, I offer the following flowery description of Tommy in the FoxNews wire article from August 27, 2012, “But like a pirate captain who refuses to share the booty, Thompson stiffed his crew and investors…” only then adding, “according to a lawsuit…” I guess people want to believe this stuff. I had to smile, and then frown. My old friend, boss and colleague was simply not that colorful or swashbuckling. He was hardly Jack Sparrow or Blackbeard. Think more along the lines of Dilbert in charge of the operation.
In the current instance the tendency to sway from pure objectivity is compounded by the fact that one of Thompson major legal adversaries is The Dispatch Printing Company, the publisher of The Columbus Dispatch, the hometown newspaper of the S. S. Central America Project and of the lawsuits. Through this company, its owners were large investors in the treasure project. They are also very well connected in the world of journalism. They and another closely allied investor are suing Thompson in the Court of Common Pleas over an accounting of corporate finances. It should be noted that they are minority of the investors/partners, a group now numbering in the hundreds.
A group being portrayed as Tommy’s “crew” is also suing, saying they are owed “millions.” That action is being pursued through the Federal Court.
I will not belabor this point too much, but I can cite many examples of “spin” and factual drift in the coverage of my old friend Thompson. For instance, the FoxNews article about the warrant for Tommy’s arrest refers to California Gold Marketing Group as “a California mint.” As another example of the long-standing practice of slanted coverage, Miriam Gottfried, one of two co-authors from Forbes magazine, interviewed me by phone for the June 19, 2006 article “Ship Of Fools.” (How’s that title for bias?) I spent close to an hour talking to Ms. Gottfried, but apparently I had nothing sufficiently disparaging to say about Thompson, and I was not quoted once in the article. The press’s constant use of terms like “loot” and “booty,” both suggesting stolen or ill-gotten rewards, are reminders that the search for colorful synonyms can lead to confusion and assumption of wrongdoing, whether intentional or not on the part of the writers.
Some key facts have never been discussed in the coverage of this case. Thompson has declined to appear in court and offer counter-testimony to his detractors. His reasons are his own. But this means that the plaintiffs’ spin on issues has been given free rein in the media.
The Federal Case:
The group filing the federal suit, the “crew” that is allegedly being “stiffed,” is led by Mike Williamson, the principal of the sonar company that was employed in our search for the shipwreck site. Williamson has been joined in the suit by some of his associates from the sonar crew, along with one or two others from other seasons or phases of the project. The FoxNews article uses simile to suggest that Thompson has stiffed his “crew,” implying that his entire crew is suing. This is not true, although Williamson and his associates could accurately be considered among the crew.
I do not know the full details of Thompson’s contract with Williamson or the others, but is my recollection and understanding that they were promised a small percentage of the net proceeds, not of the treasure in kind, and not based on its gross value. I also can state without doubt or hesitation that we acted on Williamson and Associates’ analysis of the sonar anomalies they imaged in 1986, and this caused us to spend an entire season (1987) and millions of dollars pursuing false targets, the wrong wrecks. In 1986, being a land-based geologist, I had had no previous experience with such sonar surveys. So, during that season I provided “shore support” from our home office in Columbus, communicating key details of our historical and scientific preparatory studies to the expedition.
Several sonar anomalies were found, and Williamson and Associates prepared a list of the most promising, which they called the “Hit Parade.” In their opinions, one anomaly in particular matched our target model remarkably well. It showed a mid-ship sonar shadow that looked like a side-wheel. Before concluding the 40-day search expedition the sonar crew collectively “voted” on board ship, rendering a 90 per cent confidence that this shipwreck was the Central America. In a logbook they had marked the anomaly that ultimately proved to be the shipwrecked S.S. Central America as a “large geological object,” and they did not include this image in the Hit Parade.
So, we spent the entire 1987 at-sea season (I was aboard ship that year for 115 days) studying and visiting both the prime and secondary Williamson targets, comparing those actual shipwrecks with their respective sonar images. Although the secondary target proved to be a shipwreck from the correct period, with artifacts from the 1850s, we found no gold. While reviewing the rest of the sonar records in the ‘87-’88 off-season, I came across the image of the actual S.S. Central America , identified by Williamson and Associates as a “large geological object,” essentially a pile of rocks. This story was recounted in some detail in Gary Kinder’s best-selling book about the project, Ship of Gold: In the Deep Blue Sea. We went through the same story in exhaustive detail during the 1993 salvage trial (or re-trial) in Federal District Court in Norfolk, VA.
As I said, I don’t know the details of their contract(s,) but the fact that this group now claims to be owed millions of dollars strikes me as particularly strange. It is personal for me, in no small part because I spent almost four months at sea in 1987, and risked my relationship with the woman who is the love of my life, over Williamson and Associates’ erroneous analysis. They were supposed to be the experts.
The State Case:
Regarding the other legal case, I am not an accountant or any kind of expert on such practices in business, and so I will not say anything concerning the details of the business accounting of the project. This subject seems to be the gist of the lawsuits. But as near as I have been able to determine, the plaintiffs’ accusations about missing millions is founded on optimistic projections from press releases and statements made shortly after we found “the treasure.” When these statements were made we did not know what we might find ultimately, or what it would bring in the market. One figure was $400 million. According to both the suit of the “crew” and the suit of the investors they have never received a sufficient accounting of the proceeds. The plaintiffs called into question the accounting of the treasure as well.
Last fall this issue drew me into the state lawsuit as an expert witness for Thompson’s company. I was never compensated for this testimony, but I offered it in defense of the treasure and my work with it. I have not been employed by Thompson's company since the early months of 2000, when I went to work for Dwight Manley and the California Gold Marketing Group. Essentially, as its curator, conservator and principal spokesman, I followed the treasure to market.
So I know exactly what happened to the physical treasure. Thinking that this matter was clear, I remained silent about the issue of the quantity of gold recovered from the S.S. Central America shipwreck. I stayed out of the lawsuits, which began in 2005, well after I left the company. They were none of my business. Then, in their zeal to paint Tommy Thompson in the most unfavorable of colors, the plaintiffs began to call the accounting of the treasure itself into question in their pleadings. Last summer the popular press began throwing loose phrases about the treasure into the coverage.
From the FoxNews article (08/27/12): “How much of the Central America's gold was recovered is unclear, though Thompson sold bars and coins to a California mint for $52 million.”
This sentence is loose and open to misinterpretation, which has subsequently occurred. The casual reader will misconstrue “How much of the gold was recovered…” with “How much gold…” After the FoxNews article I began to get questions from friends, collectors and numismatists about the integrity of my work with the treasure. Just because Thomas G. Thompson had not voluntarily released a full financial accounting of his businesses to those who are suing him, this does not by extension mean that the amount of the gold itself that was recovered from the shipwreck site is unclear.
This was compounded by the matter of the “missing coins.” One of the points of contention is the lawsuits is that there are 500 gold “coins” that either are or were in Thompson’s possession. The press coverage sometimes states that these were “commemoratives.” Sometimes it does not. The general public and other reporters don’t understand the subject, and so confusion ensues. A popular misconception has emerged that there is an “unknown amount” of treasure missing. This is not true.
These 500 coins are commemorative re-strikes of the historical 1855 Kellogg & Co. $50 gold pieces. On each day, from August 20 to September 12, 2001, a total of 5,000 of these commemoratives were produced for California Gold Marketing Group by personnel from The Gallery Mint: Ron Landis, Joe Rust and their staff. The coins were minted at The Presidio in San Francisco, commemorating the anniversary of the departure of the S.S. Central America gold from San Francisco, its voyage to Panama, the crossing of the isthmus, and its northbound voyage until lost in the shipwreck.
Landis and Rust used a transfer technique to produce the dies for the re-strikes, expertly copying the original dies from Kellogg, which had survived. The gold for these coins was derived from Kellogg & Humbert ingots recovered from the S.S. Central America, thus using Kellogg gold to re-produce Kellogg’s design. The faces of the ingots, known in numismatic circles now as “faceplates,” were saved, and can be found here and there on bourse floors and in auctions. Attached are photos of the obverse and reverse of a re-strike, in this case produced on August 20, 2001, as counterstamped on the reverse. All of the commemoratives are similarly counterstamped with their production dates.
What has been recovered? What remains?
The point here is that treasure is not missing. The inventory has been published. There is no other gold that has been recovered. Perhaps the math is not simple, but it is not beyond the talents of the most elementary minds, or at least the reasonably educated.
The gold, as recovered, reported to the U.S. District Court, and examined by the insurance claimants’ court-appointed expert Fred Holabird during the 1990s, was fully adjudicated and accepted prior to the in-kind division, which occurred on June 16, 1998. When the treasure came to market in 2000 the breakdown of holdings of the insurance claimants and Columbus-America was released. No secrets!
There were 532 ingots recovered. Descriptions of these can be found in the wonderful book by Q. David Bowers, A California Gold Rush History, as illustrated by the Treasure of the S.S. Central America . This is not some obscure source. This well-known, massive volume won “Book of the Year” from the Numismatic Literary Guild, and it has garnered wide acclaim.
As for the coins, if one takes the coins described in the sale catalogue from Sotheby’s (the portion of the treasure that was awarded “in kind” to the insurance claimants, and combines it with the inventory as reported in the Christie’s sale catalogue (which is an accounting of coins awarded to Columbus-America Discovery Group as the successful salvors) this yields a full inventory of the coins. It comes to a little over 7,500 gold coins. In addition, there was over twenty pounds of native gold, “dust” and nuggets that we recovered. This native gold also went to the insurance claimants as part of the in-kind division.
That’s it folks! My advice is, accept it. There is no “missing” treasure.
A great deal of treasure remains on the shipwreck site. Many contemporary accounts, published opinions of other authors, and my own analysis and logic indicate that the passengers were carrying an amount roughly equal to the listed commercial shipment. This shipment was $1,219,189.43 according to a reliable newspaper account (Aspinwall Courier, September 4, 1857.) Passengers had paid at least $150 for passage, $300 for First Cabin accommodations. Let’s say that the 400-plus passengers carried $2,500 apiece, or $1 million. With another logical assumption, that this gold was in the form of double eagles, we get tens of thousands of gold coins remaining on the shipwreck site.
Legal entanglements have precluded further treasure recoveries, and the marvelous scientific and educational opportunities that lie dormant, a mile and a half deep in the Atlantic. This is a shame!
There are many details that I could not address, even in this lengthy essay. I welcome questions and comments, either on this forum or in private at my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Evans Geologist, Historian, Curator
Many thanks to Bob for his essay, which The E-Sylum is happy and proud to publish. The best thing about The E-Sylum is hearing directly from persons in the hobby in a position to know the facts about the question at hand. This definitely sheds some light on the topic and provides a useful counterpoint to stories we've seen in the media. It's an ongoing tale of a slow-motion manhunt, and it's anyone's guess how the court cases will ultimately be resolved. -Editor