Friday the 18th was a special day on a number of counts. First, it was my son Christopher's 11th birthday, although we'd celebrated as a family with a dinner and cake the night before. My wife was taking the rest of the family up to Pittsburgh for the weekend to visit friends and relatives. This weekend it would be just me and Max the dog.
It being the holiday season, my boss took several of us to lunch. We were working in Old Town Alexandria, VA. We walked to Murphy's Irish Pub. Everyone ordered a beer, so I joined in and had a pint of Guinness. The numismatic part of the day began at 4pm when we all knocked off early and I drove several blocks to Royal Street and rang Bill Eckberg's doorbell.
Bill is a longtime Half Cent collector, official of Early American Coppers (EAC), and editor of the EAC's "Region 8" electronic newsletter, another Sunday night numismatic tradition. He and his wife Susan greeted me, and Bill showed me an interesting lithographed print hanging in their hallway. It's a bird's-eye view of Alexandria from 1862 ("during the occupation"). He pointed out some landmarks including the old railroad tunnel and the spot where his house now stands.
We walked back to a comfortable room with a bookcase, couch and bar. But before we looked through his numismatic literature, Bill offered me a choice of single-malt scotches. As a collector, I picked the one he told me was a rare edition - only 100 cases made. He poured us glasses, and I took a sip. Smooooth.
We stood in front of the bookcase and Bill handed me a number of books. First, he showed me his complete set of all four different versions of the Goldberg sale of the Dan Holmes collection of U.S. Large Cents (Part 1).
1) a thin, gray-brown cover version showing only the S-79 that was given out to people who looked at lots at EAC 2009,
2) the "regular" catalog with the dark red cover and several coins that everyone on Goldbergs' mailing list got (I got this one as a member of EAC)
3) the spiral-bound version of #2 that was available only at lot viewing at the Goldbergs' office
4) the hard cover version of #s 2 and 3 that was given out at the pre-sale party the night before the auction.
In addition, there was a 6-page supplement to #1 that showed the upgrades Dan Holmes had added to his collection after lot viewing at EAC.
Bill kindly gave me a copy of the McCawley-Grellman fixed price list catalog of his Half Cent collection, the second set he's assembled and sold.
Maybe he'll start on a Large Cent collection next - he showed me an 1810 cent he purchased in the Dan Holmes sale. But he collects more than copper - he also showed me one of the new ultra high-relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle coins from the U.S. Mint. Beautiful!
I'd brought with me a binder of Large Cent ephemera from my library. One of my favorite items is Cogan's 1858 list of large cent prices. One little item I somehow had that Bill didn't was a pamphlet titled "About Early American Coppers" published by EAC. I had an extra, and gave one to Bill.
By 5:15 it was time to go already. Bill and Susan had to get ready for dinner and a theater show, and I had to get home through the rush hour traffic to walk Max. I listened to the weather forecasts on the radio. A winter storm was on the way, and now they were predicting 14-20 inches of snow on Saturday. My wife and family would be getting only 3 inches or so up in Pittsburgh - I was the grounds crew on duty at home.
It turned out to be a monster storm. There were six inches on the ground by morning, and it just kept snowing and snowing all day long, sometimes at the rate of two inches an hour. I know we have readers who'll tell us "heck, we get that kind of snow here every day, and twice on Sunday," but I've never seen a storm quite as bad as this.
When it finally petered out around midnight Saturday, about 22 inches had fallen, making it the worst December storm in D.C. history. I spent it shoveling, doing indoor chores, taking the dog out, and working on The E-Sylum in between. By Sunday morning the sun was out and my neighbors and I shoveled out our driveways. I spent the day wrapping Christmas presents, cleaning more snow from the house and of course, walking Max.
Cabin fever had set in and I went out for lunch to learn that the roads were still pretty bad. But that didn't keep me from going out to a sports bar at 4pm with my neighbor to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers football game against Green Bay. No beer this time, just good food and conversation and a game won by a last-second touchdown and extra point, breaking the team's maddening losing streak. By bedtime I'd completed The E-Sylum and sent if off into the ether for another week.
Max the dog says, "Happy holidays, everyone!"
Wayne Homren, Editor
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