About.com Coin Guide James Bucki recently vacationed in Colonial Williamsburg and wrote a piece about the fabulous exhibits of colonial era coins, medals and paper money housed at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, where he spoke with curator Erik Goldstein.
Housed in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg are numismatic gems in the world of colonial coinage, medals and currency. The exhibit "Dollars, Farthings & Fables" brings to life the currency and coins that were driving a young nation. These tangible assets from a distant past are displayed in a style that is both interesting and enlightening to all visitors of the museum.
Since he was a boy, Curator Mr. Erik Goldstein was obsessed with the American Revolution while simultaneously being a coin collector. Therefore, it was only natural that he began to study colonial currency and early American coinage. He prefers "coins with history" over pristine examples that have never had a life outside of a museum's coin cabinet. One of his favorite examples of this principle is a Virginia halfpenny that was unearthed on the grounds of the Governor's Palace at Williamsburg. By no means is it an unspoiled specimen, but if it could talk it would have a story to tell that would keep us spellbound for hours.
"Dollars, Farthings & Fables"
The numismatic exhibit is a fun exploration of coins and currency in early Colonial America. The display explores the "first, biggest, prettiest, ugliest, busted myths and personalities" in colonial coins and currency. The exhibit guides visitors on a journey from colonial times to the beginnings of our new nation. Examples of wampum and "hoe" money that were traded with the early American Indians before coins arrived on our continent from other countries are on exhibit. Some of the other items you can see on display include a 1724 Brazilian 20,000 Reis gold coin, English farthing, 1652 Massachusetts "NE" Shilling, 1776 American Continental Dollar, gold doubloons, silver "pieces of eight", and a 1783 "Libertas Americana" silver medal brought back from France by Benjamin Franklin.
The Cornell Paper Money Hoard
One of the most impressive displays is the Cornell Paper Money Hoard. This hoard of North Carolina colonial paper money was assembled by Samuel Cornell, a merchant and currency speculator in the period right before the Revolution. While not the entire hoard, this portion contains about 4,200 notes from the original 6,700 notes and represents about 4% of that colony's total output of paper money during the period from 1748 until 1771.
The Jacob Giles Morris Collection
Another remarkable collection is the Jacob Giles Morris Collection of colonial paper money. The collection is still in its original leather bound album that was assembled by Morris until his death in 1854. It was donated by his heirs to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 2004. It is an almost complete date and denomination set of colonial currency that consists of 340 notes.
To read the complete articles, see:
Colonial Coins at Williamsburg, Virginia
Colonial Williamsburg's Collection Of Coins, Medals, and Currency
Wayne Homren, Editor
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