Volume 16, Number 49, December 1, 2013
New subscribers this week include Ian Russell, Neil Musante and Rodger Olinger. Welcome aboard! We have 1,682 email subscribers, plus 255 followers on Facebook.
This week we open with a note from numismatic literature dealers Kolbe & Fanning about their upcoming January 2014 sales, three new books, and notice of a new article with information for bibliophiles on Breton's Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens relating to Canada.
Other topics include the 2013 American Eagle One Ounce Platinum coin, Gobrecht's bookbinder's dies, the enigmatic R. E. Russell token, and figurines made from (gasp!) Roman gold coins.
To learn more about Liberty Seated Half Dollar Die Varieties, Riddell's Monograph of the Silver Dollar, Gar Travis, numismatic shopping in Singapore, "Instant Collectors", coin dresses and John Bolen's nut carving, read on. Have a great week, everyone!
David Fanning forwarded this announcement of the Kolbe & Fanning 2014 New York Book Auctions. -Editor
Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers have announced that they will be holding a two-session public auction sale of rare and important numismatic literature in conjunction with the 2014 New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
On the morning of January 11, the firm will be offering selections from the remarkable library on Russian numismatics formed by Quentin Archer. The Archer library is especially strong in pre-Petrine material and in references on the coins and medals of Peter the Great, with some coverage of later periods. Highlights include works by Tolstoï, Fraehn, Giel, Ilyin, Chertkov, Koehne, Markov, Oreshnikov, Zubov, and the Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich. Archer's holdings of important auction catalogues and periodicals are also notable.
Beginning at noon on January 11, Kolbe & Fanning will be offering the outstanding and comprehensive library on ancient numismatics formed by New York coin dealer Herbert Kreindler. This part of the sale will be held in association with Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH, of Osnabrück, Germany. The Kreindler library is well-known for its extensive nature, including original editions of virtually all of the key works on ancient Greek and Roman coins. His collections of classic auction catalogues and periodicals must also rank among the finest offered in recent years. A second part of the Kreindler library will be offered as a Künker eLive sale in cooperation with Kolbe & Fanning on February 13.
The printed catalogues for the two public sessions and the February eLive sale will all be mailed during the first week of December. PDFs of the two January catalogues are available for downloading from the Kolbe & Fanning website at www.numislit.com. The February eLive sale will be posted toward the end of the year and more information will be released about that particular sale at a later date. For more information, please contact David Fanning at (614) 414-0855 or by email at email@example.com. The firm’s website is www.numislit.com.
Author Bill Bugert forwarded this press release for his latest book, A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Die Varieties, Volume IV. Congratulations! -Editor
During the past four years, Bill Bugert is documenting and publishing information on all the known die marriages of Liberty Seated half dollars. This book, the fourth in a series with more to follow, documents the later date Liberty Seated New Orleans half dollars and completes the die marriages of the mint marked Liberty Seated halves, to date which total almost 800. This Volume IV has the die diagnostics with close up and oversized images of the 208 known die marriages for the dates 1853-O with arrows and rays to 1861-O. Special emphasis is placed on the very popular 1861-O half dollars with definitive information to distinguish halves coined by the three minting authorities in 1861: the U.S., the State of Louisiana, and the Confederate States of America.
This new reference contains 508 pages (8.5” x 11”) with same format and heavy glossy paper as my last volumes, includes almost 2,000 photos (mostly close-up or oversized), is a massive 5.3 pounds, and includes detailed die diagnostic descriptions and photographs, rarity ratings, and more. Noted numismatists Randy Wiley provided detailed edits and information.
Price: $80 postpaid to U.S. addresses Available in two formats: spiral bound and 3-hole punched (ready for your notebook). Please specify your choice.
Order directly from the author at:
There is a new edition of Lyman Allen's book on U.S./Philippine coins out. Allen's main distributor Ray Czahor supplied the cover photo. See Ray for more information. Would anyone care to write a review for us? -Editor
I have copies of the 2012 7th Edition of US/Philippine Coins. Mr. Culhane has added a Spanish section to the 6th edition catalog that Lyman Allen produced. The grading descriptions were deleted and no photos of varieties are included so you will need to refer back to the 6th edition for those. Cost of the new 2012 edition is $28 Postpaid in the USA.
Harry Waterson forwarded this review of a non-numismatic book that numismatic bibliophiles ought to appreciate. Thanks! -Editor
The author describes himself as being infected with incurable bibliomania which makes him a natural for the E-Sylum readership.
The novel is part mystery, part history and in all parts imbued with the lore and the love of books. It delves deeply into the ageless question of who wrote Shakespeare with a wonderful chronological examination of this enigma with flashbacks to the various players who strode the stage of literary scholarship ever since the Bard last laid down his quill. The tale is of a young antiquarian book dealer who is trying to authenticate the marginalia in a play that will prove Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Bibliomania ensues.
This book is an entertainment. No footnotes. I read it for the joy of the journey itself but did learn a flurry of odd facts. Books are often described as "real page-turners" by their publishers but I found this book exactly the opposite. I repeatedly set it down so that I would not rush through the journey but rather savor its many bibliomaniacal pleasures slowly and with relish. I recommend this book to the assembled literati, a worthy candidate for the Christmas list of any confirmed book lover who would like to include on his annual wish list a book that his spouse might actually enjoy reading too as opposed to the usual exotic tomes we all covet. My wife finds it difficult to generate much enthusiasm for my annual request for yet another obscure catalog of medals struck in wide wale corduroy.
For more information, see: www.charlielovett.com
Tony Hine submitted this note about the latest issue of the Canadian Numismatic Journal. Thanks! -Editor
The December 2013 issue of the Canadian Numismatic Journal has an important story on page 633 by writer Alan Roy about the 1961 discovery on Magdalen Island (a North American French territory in the Gulf of the Saint-Lawrence) of a hoard of unbound copies of Pierre Napoleon Breton's pioneering catalogue entitled Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens relating to Canada.
The owner of the hoard was planning to liberate their BTU content, and gave them away to a token collector on a numismatic search mission. The story reviews the distribution practices of pre-Great War publishers, a very informative discussion. The RCNA, the Journal's publisher, has the URL www.rcna.ca, and I think numismatic bibliophiles would find the annual digital membership fee of $32.00 a good investment to have online access to this story!
Dave Ginsburg submitted these thoughts (and a question) on a recent acquisition for his numismatic library. Thanks - can anyone help? -Editor
Over the past year or two, I've been filling in some holes in my research library by buying books written by or about John L. Riddell, who was, among many other things, Melter & Refiner at the New Orleans Mint from 1839 to 1848, and who has been mentioned in the E-Sylum several times recently (by Mike Marotta on September 29, 2013 and May 20, 2012; and by Steve Feller on January 20, 2013 and May 27, 2012).
Of Dr. Riddell's own writing, two publications are of interest to numismatists: the first is an 1845 pamphlet, "The Mint at New Orleans with an Account of the Process of Coinage" whose contents are rather widely available. The pamphlet itself was reprinted in the April 1868 issue of The Numismatist, while the information contained in the pamphlet had already been reprinted several times in the 19th century. In addition to updated editions of the pamphlet, versions of its contents were published in the January 1846 issue of Hunt's Merchant Magazine and the June 1847 issue of DeBow's Review.
Original copies, however, are a different matter; as was mentioned in the April 6, 2008 issue of the E-Sylum, when an 1847 copy of the pamphlet (in a very uncommon appearance) brought $1,200 at auction. (I feel fortunate to have all the above-mentioned "reprints"!)
The second publication, however, is a "horse of a different color": entitled A Monograph of the Silver Dollar, Good and Bad and also published in 1845, it is a study of all of the different types of silver coins presented as deposits at the New Orleans Mint, with obverse and reverse images of each coin type. As you might expect, a lot of counterfeit coins were deposited at the Mint, and the book has images of each one. If you are interested in seeing which counterfeit Mexican dollars or Bust half dollars were actually in circulation in the mid-19th century, this is the book for you. The book's pages aren't numbered, but it has images of 512 coins plus introductory text, so it must have about 200 pages.
While I've only been watching the numismatic book auctions for about a decade, I don't recall seeing an original copy, nor had I heard of a reprint. Fortunately, there is a digital copy available.
Imagine, then, my surprise, when I saw a listing for a 1969 reprint in David Sklow's October auction! The book was identified as one of a limited edition of 550 paperback copies from Mexico. I wasted no time in submitting my bid and I was fortunate enough to obtain the book.
When I received it, I was intrigued to see that it was copy #411 of a 550-copy facsimile edition published by the Numismatic Society of Mexico in 1969. I feel as if I've unearthed a bit of buried treasure: I certainly never expected to acquire an original, but I now have a copy of a reprint that I never expected to own! Of course, as soon as I saw the auction listing, I checked the ANA and ANS library catalogs and learned that each library has, in addition to copies of the original in their rare book collections, copies of the reprint. In fact, the ANA library has three copies, each available to be lent. So, it's not as if the reprint were completely unknown, but it's certainly not exactly available in the marketplace, either.
I'm hoping that one or more of my fellow E-Sylum subscribers can shed some light on how this edition came to be published and why it doesn't seem to be more available.
My copy of the Riddell Monograph reprint is #304. I've forgotten where I purchased it. I've been searching for an original myself for many years, but like Dave, I've had to settle for a reprint. I'm not aware of how the reprint came to be. Can anyone help? -Editor
To read the January 1846 Hunt's Merchant Magazine article, see: books.google.com/books?id=pqhJAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA66
To read the June 1847 DeBow's Review article, see: quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moajrnl;cc=moajrnl;rgn=full%20text;idno=acg1336.1-03.006;didno=acg1336.1-03.006;view=image;seq=0540;node=acg1336.1-03.006%3A9
To read the Google books copy of Riddell's Monograph, see:
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
More on Gar Travis Robert Neale of the Lower Cape Fear Coin Club writes:
The writeup in last week's E-Sylum notes Gar Travis' origin in Jacksonville, NC. He was a long time and life member of the Lower Cape Fear Coin Club in Wilmington, NC, and active therein until he left for California following the death of his father, for whom he cared over several years. Gar served as the coin club's President during 1995, 1996 and 1998. Gar did everything he could to promote numismatics locally as well as nationally. He was dynamic, opinionated, and extremely knowledgeable in numismatics, as he proved over the past decade in CA.
Sadly, I did not hear from Gar since he announced his retirement and the reason therefore in June. I last saw him during one of his rare trips back 'home' a few years ago. As a photographer myself, I can appreciate all those pix he posted in covering so many events. He was a man not to be forgotten for a very long time for his dual interests and dedication to valued causes.
Kris Briggs of Spectrum Group International writes:
I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the kind things that you and others wrote about Gar. He was quite a character and very, very talented. We will miss him.
Ginger Rapsus writes:
I was sorry to hear about Gar Travis. I spoke to him a number of times at ANA conventions. I especially remember the Banquet in Atlanta. I used my camera a lot on this trip and the night of the Banquet, my battery died. Gar left the table--he was sitting next to me-- and somehow found me a new battery!
Howard Daniel writes:
Gar Travis used to send me an email every once in a while to comment on an article I had written. It was always constructive criticism and I greatly appreciated them. I remember way back one of my articles generated an email from him with "I do not believe that!" So I scanned the documentation and the piece and emailed it to him. His response was "I do believe that!" I will miss him.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: GAR TRAVIS 1959-2013 (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n48a06.html)
Query: When Did Phone Numbers Become Commonplace? Bill Rosenblum writes:
I was saddened to learn about the passing of Gar Travis. I also had the Heritage issue and thumbed through the Max Mehl article. What struck me was that none of the letterheads of any of the letter writers, all of whom were successful wealthy people, had telephone numbers on the top. Most of the letters were from the 1940's when obviously businesses had telephones. Do any E-Sylum readers know when it became common to put phone numbers on letterheads?
Over the years I've offered documents and letters from the 1930's and 40's that I thought had phone numbers in the letterheads. But perhaps I'm mistaken. I'll have to see if I have photos of those in my files. I'll try to do some research this week.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: HERITAGE MAGAZINE B. MAX MEHL ARTICLE (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n48a09.html)
American Centennial Tokens Book Available Rich Hartzog writes:
Regarding the book American Centennial Tokens by Lingg and Slabaugh, years ago I purchased the remaining supply of this book from Paul Cunningham. I still have a few copies available at www.exonumia.com/books.htm
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON A CABINET OF CENTENNIAL MEDALS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n48a14.html)
Numismatic Shopping in Singapore Howard Daniel writes:
During every visit to Singapore, I stop in the Funan Stamp & Coin shop. The owner speaks VERY little English but we get along. His inventory includes lots of non-philatelic and non-numismatic items and he often has no idea where he placed an item. Many years ago, he gave me permission to start at some point in his small shop and just work my way around it looking at and opening up everything. Each year, he has less and less Southeast Asian items for me to purchase but every once in a while I get a goodie. One was a fairly modern minor Indonesian coin that was in a junkbox. When I told him it was worth much, much more than his junkbox price, his reply in pigeon English was "Do you want to buy it or not?" I bought it. I also came across the Japanese Occupation of Malaya (Singapore) book, and another one by the same printer about matchbook covers of the same era. I have no idea why I bought the latter book but it must have looked interesting to me at the time. How many people collect or even want to know about WWII era matchbook covers from anywhere in the world, let alone Malaya and Singapore?
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: NOVEMBER 24, 2013 : Another Japanese Occupation of Malaya (Singapore) Book (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n48a11.html)
Dave Bowers on 'Instant Collectors' Dave Bowers writes:
Nice issue as ever! Thanks for excerpting my Coin World article. One of my current theses is that people who simply look at grade and price of coins are enthusiastic buyers, but lacking any real interest in their romance, history, and tradition come and go quickly. It is not unusual for an “instant collector” to spend a lot of money, including on rarities, then quickly tire of the pursuit, or run out of money, and put the items up for sale not long afterward. Because of this we have the same specimens of classic rarities appearing again and again in auctions. This is in sharp contrast to decades ago when rarities would disappear into collections and stay there for a long time!
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NATIONAL BANK NOTE OF CENTRAL CITY, COLORADO TERRITORY (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n48a13.html)
This is one of the stored value cards you can buy at Half Price Books.
THE BOOK BAZARRE
An image of the coin in the November 26, 2013 issue of Coin Update sent me scrambling for more information on the 2013 American Eagle One Ounce Platinum Proof coin. What a wonderful design! Priced at $1,750.00 on the U.S. Mint web site, the coin's mintage is limited to 15,000.
The reverse design is by Artistic Infusion Program 2001-2012 Master Designer Joel Iskowitz, engraved by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Mike Gaudioso. The initials of both gentlemen are on the coin. -Editor
I contacted Joel Iskowitz for more information, and he writes:
Thank you so much for your kind words about my design for the 2013 Platinum Eagle Reverse. It was beautifully sculpted and engraved by Mike Gaudioso. I have been very fortunate to have my designs sculpted by the finest sculptors and artists in the world.
As an aside, I just wanted to give a shout out to Mike and all the world class sculptor /engravers in Philadelphia. Their praises are largely unsung ,but they deserve the highest recognition. For the record, Don Everhart leads this team of the best of the best. Phebe Hemphill, Joe Menna, Charles Vickers, Jim Licaretz and Renata Gordon. I recently had my Civil War Sesquicentennial medal appear in The Numismatist, which was sculpted by Luigi Badia, who I think belongs in this league and is America's best medallic sculptor/engraver working in the private sector.
As for the underlying concept behind the 2013 Platinum reverse, I hope that the image relates the narrative without too much help from my verbiage, so I'll keep it short.
Essentially, I tried to closely interpret Chief Justice Roberts' reading of the fifth element of the Preamble to the Constitution: To Promote the General Welfare. I attempted to set a classical but hopefully timeless (which is the best meaning of "classic") incarnation of Young America peering into the future, envisioning how the internal structure of our democratic republic, as conceived by the founders, would work in practice over time. She is emblematic of pure concept and grace, and in the case of the founders, I think the genius of America. The gears are symbolic of the practical workings of our government, the balance of powers and the intricacies of local ,state and federal governments ultimately serving the will of the people. (not always so graceful, but ultimately the best system yet) The gears are also emblematic of time and invoke the inner workings of a timepiece.
There's more to it, but I'll leave it at that, for fear of eliminating the chance for the viewer to interpret its meaning independently.
At some other time, I would welcome the chance to speak up on the subject of why I feel it is vitally important to keep a connection with the history and lineage of the great artworks in our shared cultural history, even as we strive to create new images that are innovative and evocative of our own era.
Thanks, and Amen! -Editor
To order form the U.S. Mint, see: 2013 American Eagle One Ounce Platinum Proof Coin (GA7) (catalog.usmint.gov/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10001&storeId=10001&productId=16934&langId=-1)
Coin World published an article by NBS Treasurer David Sundman in their November 29, 2013 issue about the recent sale of his Massachusetts silver collection. Here's an excerpt. -Editor
When I entered Room 304 of the Baltimore Convention Center on Friday, November 8, there was standing room only and a true sense of excitement. Like everyone assembled there, I awaited the historic sale of some of the first coins struck in what would become the United States.
Unlike everyone else in the room, it was my personal collection on the auction block! Session Five of the Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction marked a dramatic next step in a collecting adventure that began 10 years earlier.
This summer, after much deliberation, I decided that in order to pursue other collecting interests, it was time to let these coins go to new homes. The fall Baltimore Stack’s Bowers auction would take place in conjunction with the Colonial Coin Collectors Club convention. My fellow C4 members are all fans of Massachusetts Bay Colonial silver; there could not be a better venue. So I consigned 18 of the 19 coins to Stack’s Bowers for the Whitman Baltimore Expo sale. At Dave Bowers’ thoughtful suggestion, I kept one of my two Noe 1 Pine Tree shillings, as a fond remembrance of the larger collection.
Walking into Room 304 brought back memories of a similar big day in my collecting history. In October 2005, I bid on the rare 1652 (undated) New England shilling, variety Noe-1-A, at an auction session of the John J. Ford Jr. Collection. Though the elapsed time of bidding for the coin was probably less than two minutes in 2005, it seemed like an eternity. When the hammer fell at $220,000, I had spent approximately $253,000 with the buyer’s fee — about nine times what I’d spent on my first house!
Now I was on the other side of the fence as the seller. I worried about my decision to sell. Would my coins be received favorably by collectors? Would they like them as much as I had?
The session began with an opening bid of $250,000 for my prized New England shilling, followed by an unnerving silence I soon learned to accept. In these days of Internet bidding, online and telephone bids take awhile for completion. When the hammer finally came down, the NE shilling had set a record price of $440,650 including the buyer’s fee. I could finally exhale! Thanks to enthusiastic bidding and the expertise of Stack’s Bowers, the auction total for the collection exceeded my expectations. It was an exciting sale!
Being the temporary caretaker of such important historical artifacts was a wonderful experience and I am thrilled the coins will soon be in new homes with appreciative owners. I am eager to put some renewed energy toward my other treasured and varied collections. I am still avidly collecting U.S. colonials, and I even bid on a few of them at the auction last Friday! Despite my nervous anticipation of the event, it was a memorable night!
To read the complete article, see: Being a temporary caretaker has been a wonderful experience (www.coinworld.com/articles/being-a-temporary-caretaker-has-been-a-wonder)
The article stated that the full story was available at www.LittletonCoin.com/MassSilver, but I couldn't find an article at that address. I reached out to David, who tells me the article won't go live on the Littleton site until December. -Editor
To read the complete article (once it becomes available), see: http://www.littletoncoin.com/MassSilver
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: THE DAVID SUNDMAN MASSACHUSETTS SILVER COLLECTION (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n43a22.html)
The December 2013 issue of the E-Gobrecht, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club’s electronic newsletter includes a nice article by Len Augsburger on engraver Christian Gobrecht's bookbinder's dies. Here it is, with permission. -Editor
At the recent Baltimore show, Alan Weinberg stopped me in the aisle. Alan collects colonials, early coppers, and American historical medals - I haven't converted him to Liberty Seated material, but anyone who has seen his large cents will appreciate why he is quite happy with his current interests! Anyway, Alan asked me if I had ever seen a book binding signed by Christian Gobrecht. I hadn't seen one, but I knew they exist-ed. A short biography written by Gobrecht's grandson, appearing in The Numismatist in 1911, mentioned that Gobrecht had engraved "bookbinders dies for embossing morocco." Needless to say, at this point, Alan had 110% of my attention.
It turns out that decorative book bindings are not so different from coins. You need a die, a press, and some leather - that's it! However, while coin dies are almost always incuse (a reverse image on the die brings up a positive image on the coin), book-binders dies can come either way - either stamped or embossed. In stamping, the die or punch is pressed into the leather so as to create an image in blind, as the die creates an impression in the leather. Embossing is more like striking a coin - the image is cut intaglio into a block die, then the whole piece is pressed into the leather so as to bring the image up in relief. Bookbinders started with screw presses, just like the coiners, and then moved to a lever press in 1832, a few years before the U.S. Mint also evolved from the screw press.
Alan directed me towards Neil Musante's table, where not one but two such books were for sale. Neither Alan or I had any idea what they were worth. I snapped up the nicer of the two for $75 and left one for someone else to find. These two books sported embossed leather bindings, and pleasantly a book about these bindings was published in 1990 by Edwin Wolf, long associated with the Library Company in Philadelphia. Even more pleasantly, the Wolf book was already in my library. This particular binding is #170 in the Wolf catalog and was first used in New York for an 1831 edition of Shakespeare, and employed as late as 1852 in New Orleans. 1831 predates Gobrecht's official association with the Mint which commenced in 1836.
I suspect the die may have deteriorated over time. The book I purchased was an 1848 edition of Sparks' biography, and the cover (illustrated here) seems lightly impressed compared to the illustration in the Wolf catalog. To me it is like the difference between a Liberty Seated quarter struck in the 1840s and one in the 1870s. The earlier coins, especially when well hammered, show greater depth than the mass produced work of the later coins. If there are any mechanical engineers out there with access to 3-dimensional imaging equipment, measuring the depth of relief of these coins would make an interesting research project.
In the meantime, I'll be on the lookout for additional and "well struck" specimens - the Wolf catalog lists four or five dies created by Gobrecht to emboss leather covers. If I get really lucky one of these books will include numismatic content!
For more information on the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, see: www.lsccweb.org
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY!Live and Work in Southern California
Stack’s Bowers Galleries offers an important employment opportunity for the right person. We are seeking an experienced numismatist in the American series—coins, tokens, medals, and paper money—to work with our “dream team” of catalogers, building on the tradition of the Ford, Eliasberg, Bass, Cardinal, Norweb, Battle Born and other great collections.
If you can write in an authoritative and compelling manner with a high degree of accuracy, this may be just right for you! You will be working in Irvine, a modern community in dynamic Orange County, California—one of the finest areas to live. We offer generous benefits including medical and dental coverage, 401K plan, and more. Our offices are in our own modern, state-of-the art building with all amenities.
If you would like to be considered for this position please contact Q. David Bowers by mail or by email with your resumé, samples of your past writing (on numismatics or other subjects), and salary requirements: Mail to the attention of Q. David Bowers, PO Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894. Email to: Ckarstedt@stacksbowers.com
An article by Jeff Starck in the November 25, 2013 issue of Coin World discusses the Norweb specimen of the 1799 Draped Bust dollar with a countermark depicting English King George III. Here's an excerpt. -Editor
Little marks usually detract from the value of coins, but one very significant mark on an early American silver dollar transforms the coin into a major rarity.
A 1799 Draped Bust silver dollar with an octagonal countermark depicting English King George III resulted from a brief emergency effort to meet the unquenchable demand for silver coinage in late 18th century England. One of five or six examples known, the coin highlights Davisson’s auction No. 33, which closes Jan. 22.
The piece, formerly in the Emery May Norweb Collection, is in Good Extremely Fine, a very high grade for the coin, according to Allan Davisson. It was purchased from Spink in 1957.
A void of silver coinage in circulation in the latter third of the 1700s forced England to use paper money and merchants to issue an abundance of trade tokens.
The Bank of England in 1797 began adding an oval countermark to foreign silver coins, mostly Spanish 8-real coins from the Spanish-American mints of Mexico City, Lima and Potosi, according to Peter Seaby in The Story of the English Coinage.
The Spanish coins were lighter and contained lower fineness of silver than the earlier British crowns (the countermarked coins traded as 4 shillings and 9 pence), so they had less silver than their face value, discouraging the hoarding. The American silver dollars have slightly more silver than the Spanish-American 8-real coins but still less than their new face value as countermarked.
According to Spink’s Nov. 19, 1986, catalog of the third part of Norweb’s English collection, five examples of the octagonal countermark are known on a U.S. silver dollar. A possible sixth piece has since been discovered.
To read the complete article, see: Auction offers 1799 silver dollar repurposed as British coin (www.coinworld.com/articles/auction-offers-1799-silver-dollar-repurposed)
Aaron Packard may have made a breakthrough in attributing the enigmatic Feuchtwanger-style R.E. Russell storecard. Here is an excerpt from an article he posted to his web site this week. Be sure to read the complete version online. -Editor
Speculation has long existed that the R.E. Russell storecard featuring Feuchtwanger’s Obverse-6 die was struck for a New York City based merchant or business. Russell Rulau in his token guides has asserted this, and many other exonumismatists have naturally assumed that because the token features Feuchtwanger’s eagle, it was prepared for a New York merchant.
Cataloged as HT-309, the token was struck in German Silver and features Lewis Feuchtwanger’s Obverse-6 design.
The emission deviates from Feuchtwanger’s usual one-cent storecard in that its denomination was 12½ cents.
Additionally, instead of Feuchtwanger’s usual reverse, engraved atop the emission is the name ‘R.E. Russell.’
Assumed to be name of an issuing merchant, it features the acronym ‘I O U.’ Presumably, it means “I owe you.”
Despite the historical assumption that R.E. Russell was a New York City merchant, anyone who has taken even a cursory moment to research the origins of the storecard has quickly found that associating a New York City merchant with the token is impossible. None of the contemporary New York City directories list an R.E. Russell.
Other numismatists including David Bowers have conducted exhaustive research on many of the Feuchtwanger emissions. In his More Adventures with Rare Coins the token is briefly mentioned, but no issuing merchant is identified. Later, during direct correspondence with Bowers, he confirmed that thus far numismatists have been unsuccessful at attributing any merchant with the token.
Previous die analysis incontrovertibly connects the firm of Bale and associates with the Feuchtwanger emissions. The same firm has also been connected with Richmond’s Beck’s Public Baths token. Moreover, die analysis also connects the R.L. Baker storecard to Bale and associates similarly. These connections affirm the great geographical reach that the private mint had.
Based on these earlier findings by others, the author had to consider the possibility that the R.E. Russell token may have been struck for a merchant far away from New York City. Expanding his search to include the entire United States, via libraries, newspaper archives, and other historical sources from outside the New York City area, there was but only one merchant found that used R.E. Russell moniker around 1837. That merchant was Robert E. Russell of Columbia, South Carolina.
It has yet to been determined incontrovertibly if Robert E. Russell of Columbia, South Carolina was the same R.E. Russell on the storecard. However, it highly probable that they are indeed one and the same.
Both the man and the token used the same “R.E. Russell” moniker. Both the man and token were contemporaries. Indeed, what appears to remain uncertain is whether the storecard was issued for his seed business, his public baths, as an admission token, or his boarding house.
Of the prolific number of R.E. Russell advertisements uncovered and viewed, none encountered thus far allude explicitly to a token.
However, two different possibilities exist that infer pricing plausibly associated with the token.
The first possibility suggests it could have been an admission token to his Botanical Garden.
A second possibility suggests a connection to his advertisements placed in the summer of 1840. Although no explicit pricing relates specifically to 12½, the advertisements allude to pricing based on bits. His advertised cost for a cold bath was set at 2-bits, while the advertised cost for a warm bath was set at 3-bits. Since 12½ cents equals a bit, two or three of the R.E. Russell HT-309 tokens could purchase a bath.
Further research into the final affirmation of Robert E. Russell of Columbia South Carolina and the R.E. Russell storecard is both warranted and will progress.
To read the complete article, see: THE CURIOUS R. E. RUSSELL TOKEN DECRYPTED? (www.novanumismatics.com/engraving/the-curious-r-e-russell-token-decrypted/)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
A couple issues ago, Alan Weinberg described an unusual item he encountered at the Whitman Baltimore coin show. -Editor
I neglected to mention what I examined at length at the Whitman show - undoubtedly the most intriguing and unusual numismatic-related item I'd seen in ages.
A mint state, superbly engraved huge, approx. 3 1/2" x 2" large Brazil nut on a halved Brazil nut stand. The upper portion exposing the white inner nut "meat" , approx. 2 1/2" x 2" , was a skillfully worked, cut and detailed image of a man's full face with detailed protruding teeth, sad eyes and an expression that initially impressed me as being an "Alice in Wonderland" character in the Disney feature film. The cartoonish facial expression was that close.
Turning the masterpiece of nut-engraving over, I noticed the carved- in signature on its base, a prominent JAB monogram dated 1905.
Alan said that author Neil Musante, an expert on the work of engraver John A. Bolen had verified the piece as the work of Bolen. I reached out to Neil, who provided an image of similar nut carvings from his book on Bolen. Thanks! -Editor
Regarding the nut carving, it is not a Brazil nut but a very hard nut called Tagua or something like that. I think the art has been around for a very long time. In his later years Bolen did quite a number of them. They are illustrated in my book on page 251 to 252. The illustrations on page 251 remained with Bolen’s great granddaughter and she allowed me to photograph them for the book. The nut that Alan saw on the floor was more like the ones illustrated on page 252 and I had never seen one of those until Baltimore. The JAB initials carved into the bottom were definitely Bolen’s monogram as I have a steel plate with that exact image if you will. The plate will be in the next Americana sale conducted by Stack’s Bowers.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: ENGRAVER JOHN BOLEN'S BRAZIL NUT CARVING (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n47a15.html)
Fred Michaelson sent me a nice gift earlier this year - a copy of An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton. As an introduction I'll let the author describe the book's genesis, from a 2010 interview. -Editor
Question: What’s a writing project that’s turned out well for you, and what did you learn from it?
James Lipton: I cornered the market on the most peculiar habit of the English language, namely the designation of groups of things by a term. We all know a few, a gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, a host of angels, and we use them without thinking about them. A chorus of complaint. One day I suddenly thought to myself, why a gaggle of geese, why a pride of lions? A pride of lions – pride, really, it is the quintessence of a lion; he’s proud. Who said that we will capture the entire quintessence of this beast in a single word, a pride of lions?
And that started me on a search that lasted for years. It took me finally to the bowels of the main reading room of the British museum where I was actually in possession, at last, of the original books of hunting in which these terms were compiled; principally The Book Of St. Albans. This is 15th century stuff. And I discovered it was a charm of finches, properly, when the only profession a gentleman could ever admit to was hunting. So he had to know the proper terms. He saw a charm of finches, an unkindness of ravens, a parliament of owls, an exaltation of larks, a leap of leopards. I mean, these are beautiful terms; an ostentation of peacocks. I was fascinated, and there they were, these lists that were compiled in the 15th century. Some of the first books every printed in England, it was that important.
And then I discovered a pontificality of prelates, a superfluity of nuns. And I thought, my god, they were playing word games with them in the 15th century. And I finally compiled all of the original terms with their provenances. And that took a lot of digging because most of them are in Middle English. So, I had to translate out of Middle English into modern English. And I fell in love with them and I began to invite my own. An acre of dentists. In the 15th century, they said a rascal of boys. So, I said an acne of adolescents, a lurch of buses, a slouch of models, and an unction of undertakers, in a larger group, an extreme unction of undertakers. And I couldn’t stop. It was like eating peanuts. And I wrote this big book, which became the definitive book on this subject and ultimately all the introductions that I wrote to the various sections of it became a love letter to this magnificent English language.
It was a very enjoyable book that gave me a renewed appreciation for the power and whimsy of the English language. A few that caught my fancy are:
And naturally, the book started me wondering about the collective terms of numismatics. There was one in the book: "A hoard of numismatists", along with "A stampede of philatelists". Here are a few of my suggestions:
And what about collective terms for the things we collect? How about ...
I gave Fred a preview of this article, and he promptly provided the following:
So what are yours?
To read the complete interview transcript (or view the video), see: The Exaltation of Wordplay (bigthink.com/videos/the-exaltation-of-wordplay)
Oh, and I couldn't resist adding this related missive forwarded by Harvey Stack back in October (with a couple minor edits to help placate spam filters):
The American Medical Association has weighed in on Obama's new health care package. The Allergists were in favor of scratching it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves. The Gastroenterologists had sort of a gut feeling about it, but the Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve. Meanwhile, Obstetricians felt certain everyone was laboring under a misconception, while the Ophthalmologists considered the idea shortsighted.
Pathologists yelled, "Over my dead body!" while the Pediatricians said, "Oh, grow up!" The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it. Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the whole thing and the Internists claimed it would indeed be a bitter pill to swallow. The Plastic Surgeons opined that this proposal would "put a whole new face on the matter". The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were p-ed off at the whole idea. Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was a gas, and those lofty Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no.
In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the a-holes in Washington.
Caroline Newton of Baldwin's forwarded this press release about the firm's sale of Russian coins and medals from the Linden collection in January. -Editor
Coins from one the world’s most prolific collections will be sold in New York on Thursday 9th January at Baldwin’s auction, in association with Dmitry Markov Coins & Medals and M & M Numismatics.
The collection was formed by Swede, Åke Linden. Born in Stockholm, but brought up in Karlskoga, he was a man of international stature, serving for a number of years as Assistant General Director of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), now the World Trade Organisation. He was inspired to start collecting coins as he travelled from country to country as part of his job and became intrigued by the volume and variety of different local currencies he encountered. His aim was to own an example of every type coin from every country in the world since 1850, and he set about the task with passion and a methodical and a single minded approach.
The auction includes several exceptional Russian coins from the collection, including potentially the most expensive in the sale. Struck to commemorate the 30th birthday of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, the 1876 proof-like gold 25 Roubles is one of only four large gold coin types issued by Imperial Russia. Of the four, the 25 Roubles coin is the rarest and most elusive, as only 100 pieces were struck. Depicting a crowned double headed eagle the present example is uncirculated and in exceptional condition. It is expected to sell for US$200,000 [Lot 1235]
An 1897 Imperial 10 Roubles and an 1895 Half Imperial 5 Roubles, both proof-like, uncirculated, and extremely rare, are two further examples of the impeccable taste of this discerning collector. The 5 Roubles is one of only 36 struck and each coin is estimated at US$100,000. [Lots 1313 and 1314]
Both the coins were produced as part of a set of major currency reforms, designed by famous Russian Finance Minister Sergei Witte, to firstly stabilise the Russian Rouble , and then to place it on the Gold Standard. Witte issued a series of special gold coins which had dual denominations and could be traded in European countries as part of the European Monetary Union. The reforms were hugely successful at providing stability and stimulating economic development.
Two further coins, a 1902, Gold 37 ½ Roubles – 100 Francs, the highest denomination of a Russian coin ever struck, and a 1896 Nicholas II Coronation Commemorative 2 ½ Imperials – 25 Roubles, were also produced during this period of reform and each is estimated at US$75,000. [Lots 1311 and 1312]
All four coins are part of the Åke Linden collection.
Elsewhere, a gold Paul I 1798 5 Roubles , formerly in the collection of the famous numismatist, the Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, is one of a number of coins in the collection from his assemblage. In choice uncirculated condition it is estimated at US$35,000. [Lot 1154]
Comprising every coin ever produced from the Russian Empire, the Michilovitch collection was subsequently seized by the communists. The gold and silver coins and medals were to be sold in Luzern in September 1939 but the sale was cancelled due to the outbreak of war. In 1951 the coins were catalogued by Baldwin’s for a Christie’s sale in London, while around that time a U.S. dealer negotiated a private treaty purchase of the copper coinage and sold that part of the collection to the Smithsonian Institution, where they remain. Coins from the Michalovitch collection are always eagerly sought by contemporary collectors.
The second part of the New York January auction comprises a fine selection of Russian Orders, Decorations and Medals and includes a 1925 Prototype Order of the Red Banner of Labor of Ukraine, Type 2. Established by the Fifth All-Ukranian Congress of Soviets in1921 as an award to honour great deeds and service to the state and to society, the order was never commissioned making this prototype not only unique, but of major historical importance. It is estimated at US$250,000 [Lot 2079]
An Award Badge of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic is one of only seven of its type ever awarded and is one of the rarest lots in the sale with only two, including this example, known to be in private hands. It is estimated at US$75,000. [Lot 2080]
The auction will be held in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, as part of the 42nd New York International Coin Convention and will commence at 7.00pm local time. Viewing is available at A. H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd., 11 Adelphi Terrace, London, until Wednesday 4th December and at the Waldorf Astoria from 6th-8th January.
I wasn't aware of the Linden collection. Impressive collecting goal! I was of course. Familiar with the famous Mikhailovich collection. -Editor
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Coins have been used to make other things from time immemorial. Dick Hanscom forwarded this article from the Daily Mail about Iron Age figurines found in Sweden which researchers believe were made from Roman coins. Thanks. -Editor
No less than 29 of these so-called guldgubbars, which means 'Gold Old Men', were unearthed in the southern region of Blekinge and each are thought to have been made using 6th Century Roman coins.
The figurines are most commonly found at sites of ritual and worship as devotions to the gods, and because they were discovered alongside the ruins of houses and a forge, archaeologists now believe the area may have been home to an Iron Age cult.
The hoard of gold, said to be one of the largest discoveries of guldgubbar in the whole of Sweden, was found during excavations of the site being carried out by the Blekinge Museum.
Each of the figurines is thought to date back to the 6th century AD and each measure two centimetres tall.
‘The discovery of gold from this period shows that people in the area served as soldiers in the Roman Army,' said Björn Nilsson, of Södertörn University College.
‘Up here in the Nordic countries the gold coins that had been paid to the soldiers were melted down and formed into guldgubbar and guldkoner.'
To read the complete article, see: Could these 1,400-year-old figurines be evidence of an Iron Age cult? Hoard of 30 models hints that Swedish town was once a religious centre (www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2515008/Could-1-400-year-old-figurines-evidence-Iron-Age-cult-Hoard-30-models-hints-Swedish-town-religious-centre.html)
In the November 28, 2013 issue of CoinsWeekly, editor Ursula Kampmann pointed out two examples of numismatics in fashion - dresses with images of coins on them. In the left is actress Scarlett Johansson in a Dolce & Gabbana dress illustrated with Greek coins. On the right is a model in Milan wearing Dolce & Gabbana's centurion dress, adorned with Roman coins and medallions. -Editor
Johansson's one of my favorite actresses these days. But I'm not impressed with that dress. But the Centurion one is awesome. Hooray for numismatic fashion! -Editor
To read the complete article, see: Caprices of fashion – an actress as advertising pillar for numismatics (www.coinsweekly.com/en/News/4?&id=2442)
Lewis Feuchtwanger, prominent New York chemist and mineral collector, was born in Furth, Bavaria on January 11, 1805, the son of a mineralogist. He inherited his father's taste for the natural sciences, and devoted special attention to them during his medical studies at the University of Jena. He received his doctor's degree there in 1827, and emigrated to the United States in 1829, settling in New York, where he opened the first German pharmacy. He also practiced medicine, and was particularly active during the cholera epidemic of 1832.