The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 47, November 18, 2007, Article 19


Last week I wrote: "Tonight I'm taking my wife to the
Bruce Springsteen concert at the Verizon Center in Washington,
D.C.  ... I plan to annoy everyone around us by calling out
the names of John Mellencamp songs."

Kerry Wetterstom writes: "Be prepared for a fight at the
Springsteen concert! His fans are loyal and rabid (including
myself!), and probably would not take kindly to any Mellencamp
references! Of course, yelling 'Freebird,' even at a Springsteen
concert is always permitted!  Actually, I was once at a
Springsteen concert where someone yelled out 'Freebird'!
Springsteen and the boys proceeded to sing a killer version
of it!"

The Mellencamp reference was a joke - I didn't do it, but it
would have been fun to watch the melee if I could do it from
a distance.  Actually, I guess I did have the opportunity -
our seats were in a private corporate suite on the second
level directly across from the stage.  I'm a fan of both
Springsteen and Mellencamp but have never been a diehard
devotee of any particular band.  But now I'm sold on Bruce -
the concert was a killer.  It's no wonder why tickets similar
to ours had been bid up to the $1,500-$2,000 level on
that afternoon.

I may never tire of driving into Washington and seeing the
monuments gloriously lit at night.   The Washington Monument
obelisk was in full view from my car; the Lincoln Memorial
was off to the right and I believe I saw the Jefferson Memorial
in the distance.   To the left was the headquarters of the
Federal Reserve Bank.  Washington traffic was stop and go
as usual.  I turned left at 7th Street, where the National
Archives building stands.  Sturdy, silent and dark for the
night, the building houses the seminal documents of our
nation's founding - The Declaration of Independence,
Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Appropriate to the venue, Springsteen's playlist was heavy
with songs from 'Magic', described by a Washington Post
reviewer as "a new album whose central figures are isolated,
alienated and disillusioned. They've been betrayed and deceived,
and so there's a riptide of angst tugging at those who occupy
this wartime Americana."

In introducing one song, "Livin' in the Future," The Boss
talked about rendition, wiretapping and "a Constitution
under attack." -  "The E Street Band is here tonight to do
something about it!" he said.

This reminded me immediately of the classic parody song by
Tom Lehrer called "The Folk Song Army" about 1960s-era war
protesters - "Ready, Aim, Sing!" went the chorus.  But
Springteen immediately acknowledged his place in the world,
following "here tonight to do something about it!" with "We're
going to sing about it. We're musicians."  Then he added,
"It's a start. - after that it's up to all of us, I guess."

So what does any of this have to do with numismatics?   Not
much admittedly, but the NORFED and ACCG events this week do
link numismatics and the nation's laws.  The U.S. Constitution
and Federal Reserve are very much a part of what the Liberty
Dollar folks claim they're about, and the State Department
rules restricting imports of ancient coins are another
connection.  It will be interesting to see how these situations
play out.

Getting back to the concert, I can't think of a single
numismatic item relating to Springteen or any other modern
performer for that matter.  But how come?   You can buy a
T-shirt for $35, but I've not heard of any tokens, medals,
scrip, good-fors etc. featuring performers.  With the craze
in the military for challenge coins, I wonder why the practice
hasn't spread to fan clubs.  A T-Shirt will last only so long,
but a medallic tribute is for the ages.  A "challenge coin"
type medal could be manufactured and sold for far less than
$35 yet still yield a high profit for the concert promoters.

Back in the day, long before my time, performances of top
artists were commemorated with souvenir medals.  On the New
York Times archive I found an image of an article discussing
the Lyman Low sale of the Benjamin Betts collection of early
U.S. store cards, published December 19, 1897.  In the
collection was a medal stuck to honor "The Swedish Nightingale"
Jenny Lind.

The medal was "struck in 1850 to commemorate Jenny Lind's
first concert at Castle Garden.  On the face is a fine head
of Jenny Lind, and on the reverse the inscription '12,500
dollars given by Miss Lind to charitable institutions. First
concert in America, at Castle Garden, N.Y. Sept. 11 1850,
attended by 7,000 people. Proceeds, 3,500 dollars."

I could easily see today's concertgoers buying, collecting
and trading medallic concert souvenirs.  "Dude - you got
the Detroit 'Born in the U.S.A.' tour coin?  Cool!"   The
bands and their labels are very protective of their copyrights,
so any effort to strike medals or tokens would have to be
blessed by the bands.  Does anyone know someone who knows
someone in what's left of the recording industry?  Put a
kind word in their ear for numismatics, and be sure to tell
them it means "money".

For more on the art and architecture of the Federal Reserve, see:

To read a Washington Post review of the Springsteen concert, see:
Full Story

To view the 1897 New York Times article on the Betts sale, see:
Full Story

 We are the Folk Song Army.
 Every one of us cares.
 We all hate poverty, war, and injustice,
 Unlike the rest of you squares.

 So join in the Folk Song Army,
 Guitars are the weapons we bring
 To the fight against poverty, war, and injustice.
 Ready! Aim! Sing!

To read the lyrics of The Folk Song Army, see:
The Folk Song Army


  Wayne Homren, Editor

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