The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 32, August 10, 2003, Article 9


  One previously-thought fake was declared genuine, and
  another famous numismatic item was declared fake.  In what
  would have been front-page news in the numismatic press
  were it not for the hoopla over the 1913 Liberty Nickels
  was a presentation at the ANA convention by Bob Evans,
  Fred Holabird and Dave Fitch where they presented their
  evidence that the Justh & Hunter gold bar in the Lilly
  collection at the Smithsonian Institution is a modern
  forgery.   NBS Vice-President John Adams attended the
  presentation and sends this report:

  "The subject of Western precious metal ingots has been a hot
  one in recent years. Some new light was shed on the subject
  at a Numismatic Theatre presentation at ANA 2003. The talk
  was appropriately entitled "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly."

  Three scientists who were intimately involved with the recovery
  of treasure from the S.S. Central America - (Bob Evans, Fred
  Holabird and David Fitch) -  gave a well-illustrated presentation.
  Unfortunately, a late start foreclosed any opportunity for Q&A.

  The first 45 minutes of the talk were devoted to establishing
  the authors' mining credentials (impeccable), expertise in
  analytical instrumentation (considerable) and knowledge of
  Western history (well up the learning curve). Whereas some
  analytical data were discussed, most was held in reserve to be
  used against future perpetrators of fakes, to whom the speakers
  said "We will bust you".

  The final 15 minutes of the talk were devoted to much-awaited
  comments on good ingots and bad ingots.  First discussed were
  some well known fakes, such as a series of ingots ostensibly
  from Wells Fargo. Then the authors turned to four ingots in the
  Smithsonian Collection. One of these was deemed a fake, one
  was considered doubtful and two (one gold ingot and one silver)
  were declared to be genuine. The ingot declared a fake was
  done so partly on historical grounds that there was evidence
  that the  alleged maker, Parsons & Co.,  never made any gold
  bars at all. In the talk - but not in the published paper - the
  authors alluded to another Parsons bar which, being traceable
  back to  ownership by a well-known California family in the
  19th century, is almost certainly good.

  The whole subject is a complicated one.  Not discussed in the
  one hour available were future plans, if any, to test the many
  remaining bars at the Smithsonian. Nor were any plans put
  forward to test/validate the many ingots now in collectors'
  hands.  Thus this category of numismatics is likely to remain
  in limbo until future publications by the Evans group, a rumored
  paper being written by John Kleeberg and/or a Stacks' catalog
  describing the considerable volume of ingots in the John J. Ford,
  Jr. Collection."

  [Reuters and the Associated Press each carried stories on the

  "Scientists compared the museum piece to ingots recovered
  from a ship that sank off the coast of California in 1857 while
  carrying thousands of gold rush coins and bars, according to
  a study published in the August issue of Numismatist magazine.

  The bar, a gift from the estate of pharmaceutical tycoon Josiah
  Lilly, was revealed to be of modern origin. Bob Evans, the
  geologist who coordinated the investigation, said in a statement
  that Lilly had not known the bar was a forgery."

  "... researchers said it's more likely the bar dates only to the
  1950s.    ...   The scientists used new technology to study the
  chemistry of the ingots. Evans said they also compared the
  questionable Smithsonian bar to genuine ingots recovered
  from an 1857 shipwreck.

  Evans said the ingot at the Smithsonian has the words, "Justh
  & Hunter assayers" stamped on it. The genuine bars, he said,
  had only "Justh & Hunter" on it -- without the word "assayers."
  According to Evans, the fake ingot had a date and location of
  the manufacturer on it; the real ones do not have those markings.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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