The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 46, November 10, 2013, Article 19


This week brought the Whitman Expo to the Baltimore Convention Center. It's not quite in my back yard, but close enough that I was able to get there a couple days this week.

The show wasn't yet open on Wednesday, but I went up late in the afternoon to visit the lot viewing room for the Stack's Bowers auction. There I met up with Vicken Yegparian and Brian Kendrella to chat for a bit about a web site project I'm working on. It was the first chance I'd had to meet Brian, and I hadn't seen Vic in ages. I enjoyed our time together. All the while, the lot viewing room was quite busy with prospective viewers.

I couldn't make the show Thursday, but left work early Friday to head back up to Baltimore. I walked in on the upper level and noticed a familiar face thru a window on a conference room door. It was former Chief Engraver John Mercanti giving a presentation. I slipped inside and took a seat.

American Venus I'd missed much of his presentation, but he caught my attention when he recommended a book I'd never heard of before: American Venus. It was a biography of model Audrey Munson. Mercanti was discussing her because she was a model for the Walking Liberty Half Dollar which in turn became the model for his American Eagle bullion coin.

Back at home the next day I grabbed my copy of Roger Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921, but didn't find Munson or the book in the index or bibliography. So I checked with Roger, who writes:

I've seen the book. I didn't cite it because it had nothing useful for the book I was writing. I found nothing in Weinman's papers to indicate that he used any specific model for the half dollar.

Mercanti did say that he and other artists often use composite models rather than any single person. So it may well be that Munson sat for Weinman at some point, but other models may have, too. John told the group a great story of how he used to commute to the Mint on public transportation, and would find himself staring at a stranger who had just the right nose he wanted to use in his work.

I wasn't the only straggler at Mercanti's talk. Soon in walked an old friend from Pittsburgh, Richard Jewell, and not long after him came former Mint Director Ed Moy. I'd met Ed back before he left the Mint, when he came as my guest to a dinner meeting of my numismatic social club, Nummis Nova. And soon it dawned on me that the person manning the computer to run John's slides was none other than Dennis Tucker from Whitman Publishing.

John had some extra time and gave us highlights from another presentation of his on moving the Mint into the digital age. He started by describing the mint's six Janvier reducing machines, which were quite old, clunky, slow and prone to breakdowns. His bosses had told him, "Either that machine (the Janvier) goes into the Smithsonian, or you will." So he started learning what digital technology could do.

He purchased a good copy of the bust of Michelangelo's David and began asking all new sculptor-engravers to model it using computer tools. The task often took a couple weeks given all the detail involved. Some of them did very well, and one woman outshone them all. Many of the older engravers couldn't or wouldn't learn the technology, but it became mandatory for the new generation.

After John concluded I spoke to Rich and his wife for a while, and grabbed Mercanti to ask him to sign my copy of the first edition of his book on the Silver Eagles, which he kindly did.

My next mission was to find Q. David Bowers. He told me I could track him down at the Stack's-Bowers or Whitman booths, but he wasn't there. I walked around the bourse floor visiting some other folks, but many were busy with customers, including Julian Leidman, Wayne Herndon, Dave Perkins, and John Kraljevich. I did get to say hello to Tony Terranova, and then made my way back to literature dealer John Burns' table.

John was still looking a bit peaked, but he was set up at the show in his usual spot. We talked a while and kibitzed with other bibliophiles who came by, including Phil Carrigan and Barry Tayman. Next I stopped at Charlie Davis' table. I learned Dave Bowers had been spotted recently on the bourse floor, and set off again in search of him.

Near the Whitman booth I happened to turn to my left and realized I was standing next to David Sundman. We chatted a bit and he helped me track down the elusive QDB. We found him upstairs outside the auction room. The three of us settled into some chairs and had a wonderful conversation.

Dave showed us a rare National Bank Note from the Territory of Colorado that he'd bought on the bourse floor. We talked about Sundman's Massachusetts silver coins in the evening's sale. Other topics included The E-Sylum, Dick Johnson, and the vast difference in coin prices since QDB began his career as a dealer. Chris Karstedt joined us for a while, too. It was a very enjoyable interlude.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I made a quick stop at John Kraljevich's table, and he was busy with customers as usual. I looked for Dave Perkins but he was away from his table for a club meeting. Next I visited for a bit with Dave Lange at the NGC table.

My next stop was the American Numismatic Society reception, where I was among the first people in the room, along with Ray Williams and Syd Martin. We talked for a bit as Ray slowly dismantled a copy of the convention auction catalog, taking away the pages that didn't pertain to his interest in U.S. colonial coins. Great way to save shelf space, but painful for a bibliophile to watch. I teased him that I'd "write him up", but I don't have the authority to give him a ticket or a fine. He's still my favorite colonial guy, an energetic booster for the specialty.

Several of us stacked the chairs against the wall to make room for mingling. Soon the catering staff rolled in tables of appetizers and a bar, followed by a small hoard of ANS members. I teased Barry Tayman that I'd known "I'd have to elbow you out of the way to get at the bar." Soon I was chatting with David Gladfelter and introducing him to Jon Radel. Before leaving I spoke with ANS Executive Director Ute Wartenberg Kagan for a bit. She later told me:

It was a fantastic show for me and ANS. We sold almost $8,000 worth of books and got a few new members. This won't be our last event here.

It was now time for dinner and I raced down to the lobby to meet up with Dave Lange, Len Augsburger, Dave Perkins and his friend Mike Clark, who collects early U.S. quarters and numismatic literature among other items. We walked down the street to the Pratt Street Ale House, where I'd made reservations. Waiting for us were Eric Schena and his wife Heather. Soon the seven of us were seated at a table. Still pretty full from a late lunch at Chipotle, I only ordered an appetizer.

Conversation was all over the numismatic map, from Eric Newman's collection, Col. E.H.R. Green, John J. Ford, Dave Perkins' Civil War token research, Heather's undertaker tokens, and how Dave Lange visited Walter Breen in jail to discuss Buffalo Nickel research.

It had been a long day for everyone and the group scattered after finishing our meals. But I had one more stop. I'd arranged to meet Dennis Tucker after dinner. I called him and he directed me to Sullivan's, a great restaurant on the other side of the convention center. When I arrived his group was just finishing dinner. And what a group it was - Dave Crenshaw and Lori Kraft of Whitman Expos, Dawn Burbank of Whitman Publishing and her husband Shane, Stephen Pirtle and Tabitha Campbell of Anderson Press, plus guest authors Ed Moy and John Mercanti (and his wife Marianne). The waiter set a chair for me at the end of the table next to John's wife.

I'd just missed several stories Ed told of his days leading the Mint. But it was still nice to see him, and I was able to talk a bit with John Mercanti and his wife. Since the side dishes at Sullivan's are served family style, plates were passed down the table and I snacked on some leftovers. At our house it's always my son Christopher who wolfs down everyone else's food. Luckily there wasn't much as I still wasn't very hungry. But I made room for the next course - dessert! I had a great piece of cheesecake with strawberries.

After the group split up, Dennis Tucker and I relocated to the bar for a drink. I allowed myself just one beer, since I still had a long drive home ahead of me. We chatted for a good while until it was time to go. I got to my car by about 11pm and somehow made it home by midnight - ah, the joys of Beltway driving without all the other damn cars on the road!

My numismatic day wasn't over, though. When I got home, a box from Stack's Bowers was awaiting me. It contained the three latest hardbound catalogs of the John J. Ford collection sales. That was an even better way to end the day than cheesecake. Many thanks to everyone I saw this week; it was a delight to talk with so many wonderful fellow numismatists.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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