The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 34, August 22, 2010, Article 23


Tuesday was the August meeting of my Northern Virginia numismatic social group, Nummis Nova. We met a week later than normal to accommodate last week's ANA convention. I arrived at Clyde's of Tyson's Corner around 6:15, and already there were Tom Kays, Gene Brandenberg and Dave Schenkman. I sat next to Tom and across from Dave, who had an interesting item to show everyone - a relic medal made from copper from the Confederate ship Merrimac.

Merrimac relic token obverse Merrimac relic token reverse

Dave writes:

My most interesting purchase at the recent ANA convention is a relic medal made of “A piece of copper taken from the wreck of the rebel ram Merrimac in 1862 by J. F. Pratt, A. A. Surg. U. S. A.,” pictures of which are attached. In my opinion this is one of the most desirable of all numismatic “relic” items.

This piece was brought to the attention of numismatists in the August 1868 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics when it was announced that “Through our friend Mr. J. A. Bolen of Springfield, Mass. we have received an impression of the above medalet as a donation to the society from Dr. J. F. Pratt, whom, as the society is now adjourned, we heartily thank in its behalf. The Doctor has four for sale at Two Dollars each. This memorial originated in the following way. Dr. Pratt having written to Mr. Bolen that he had such a piece of copper, the latter suggested that this use should be made of it. Being authorized to do so, he struck ten impressions only, and then defaced the reverse die, sending the Doctor the die and all the impressions except one. It is an interesting example of ‘Historic Material.'”

Neil Musante, in his comprehensive work, The Medallic Work of John Adams Bolen, (which I believe is still available from Charlie Davis) notes that Dr. Pratt donated one specimen to the New England Numismatic and Archaeological Society. There is also an example in the American Numismatic Society. Musante only found record of one nineteenth century sale, and two in the twentieth century.

I talked with Tom about several topics including The E-Sylum, his research on foreign coins used in early America, and photo-cropping software. He recommended free software called Photoscape that allows you to crop pictures in circles, a handy feature for manipulating coin images. It can be obtained from I usually use the free editor bundled with our Flickr photo archive, but it doesn't handle circular cropping. I tried it out on the above images of Dave'sBolen medal, and it worked nicely, even though it too me a few minutes to first figure out the program's interface.

Tom can always be counted on to pass around a neat group of interesting numismatic items at our meetings. One item which caught my eye was another relic medal. This one was made from silver recovered from Vigo bay wreck.

Vigo medal by John Croker obverse Vigo medal by John Croker reverse

Tom writes:

This is an example of a silver half crown sized medal by John Croker, Betts #97, commemorating a victory won on October 12, 1702. Queen Anne with love-lock and brooch is on the obverse; Vigo Bay with French and Spanish fleets burning, the English fleet having captured “Spanish American treasure” on the reverse. It may be presumed this medal was made from booty, as were English coins in 1703 marked “Vigo” to denote the captured silver war prize.

In other conversation with Tom we discussed Eric Newman's research into James Audubon's grouse image and another "numismatic grouse", the 1665 Henry Fairfax medal. See Tom's query in the following item in this issue.

Gene had a nice group of six Hard Times Tokens, including Low numbers 4, 16 and 23. All were ex-Elvira Clain-Stefanelli. Low 4 has legends including "My Substitute for the U.S. Bank. Down with the Bank". The token includes images of a donkey and running boar. Gene had joked that the tokens were worth "at least five dollars apiece". I returned the joke, offering ten dollars for Low-4 so I could give it to my son Tyler, who collects coins with animals on them.

Others gradually arrived. It was great to see Traci Poole, who was back in town after relocating to Idaho. She brought me a present from the ANA convention - my certificate for editing The E-Sylum, which was voted the 2nd Best Numismatic Electronic Publication for 2010.

Dave Schenkman remarked, "If The E-Sylum is number two, what was number one?" I didn't know, although by now the answer may be on the ANA web site. He said "The archive alone is a treasure."

Also in attendance were Wayne Herndon, Bill and Susan Eckberg, Joe Levine and Mike Packard. Joe proposed a topic for E-Sylum readers - compiling a list of "The Worst Numismatic Books Ever Written" (by deceased authors only, please).

I could write more, but I'm running out of time so I'll stop here. It may have just been the wine Gene and I were drinking, but it was one of the most enjoyable dinners I can recall having - a wonderful group of folks and some great numismatic conversation.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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