On Saturday, December 14th an event for young numismatists was held at the Annandale, VA coin show run by Wayne Herndon. I was unable to attend, instead spending the day at my daughter's basketball game and Girl Scout party. Thankfully my Nummis Nova compadres Eric Schena, Jon Radel and Tom Kays attended and ran the event. Tom wrote up the following account for tonight's E-Sylum. Thanks, everyone!
Members of the Nummis Nova dinner club sponsor an event for young coin collectors at the semi-annual coin show at the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia. In December we worked against winter weather and a missing tote of important stuff to pull off a grand event nonetheless.
We invited back the fabulous speaker who spoke last time on local trade tokens, the eminent Eric Schena, who spoke about local currency this time. As Eric drove through an ice storm from out by West Virginia; at 11:00 AM, our start time, he was still on the way. Jon Radel and his son brought the tote of donated coins and tokens but the tote with the “auction bucks” remained at an undisclosed location in Herndon, having been overlooked.
With minutes to go, Jon’s son reconnoitered the bourse floor for paper. He returned with a stack of dealer business cards, which with a pen and some imagination were rendered into official “Series 2” Auction Bucks. Each child who attends is given ten auction bucks upon entry and may earn more by answering numismatic questions, (or by asking really good coin questions that may temporarily stump the Nummis Nova staff, but don’t tell the kids so, or they may do some homework and succeed in a “run” on the auction buck bank.)
Kids who collect coins, being especially gifted among their peers, as we all know, would be quite capable of this mischief. For example, they had little trouble identifying Justice John Marshall and President Zachary Taylor from tiny vignettes on Eric’s banknotes, so future speakers, be prepared for lively discussion. Great discussion about coins is a Nummis Nova objective and why we take delight in providing this event. We have never been let down in this regard, nor do we expect it.
Twenty five auction lots (sized in number based on the number of kids) were selected from the donations, including a wide universe of objects, that quite frankly interested the adults too, such as a beautiful, nineteenth century badge from an unknown fraternal organization (given away with the assignment to identify it), scarce trade tokens, elongated cents, medals, silver and copper U.S. nineteenth and twentieth century coins, foreign coins from colonial times up to the modern day, and as a surprise, a pair of genuine twenty dollar bills, released at the end of the auction to see which kids had the patience and auction strategy to wait before they leap, pool resources, and cut deals with siblings. Devilish, no?
Eric showed fine images of rare local bank notes from Alexandria, Fairfax, Leesburg, Winchester, and points south, issued from the War of 1812, up through small sized, National Currency of the Great Panic (correction “Depression” as Roosevelt termed it) of 1929.
Eric passed around a funny three dollar bill from a bank that never survived long enough to issue it. Perhaps the plan was to fold as soon as enough depositor’s coins hit their bank’s vault (and bounced into the bank president’s carpet bag next to his travel kit.)
Eric explained that many original bank buildings, such as the Athenaeum in Alexandria, which one can visit today, were the source of exchange for some of these rare notes. As Eric talked he asked the kids questions about banknotes of exigency, such as the cute, Leesburg “Dog” Notes printed on lined notebook paper.
Unknown to Eric, who was obliged to pay auction bucks to the kids for participation, we ran out of business cards, our stock for manufacturing “Series Two” Auction Bucks. Thinking quickly and working in haste we found a roll of old register tape and were in fact fabricating “Series Three” Auction Bucks, on torn strips of paper. They were not pretty, but with cross authenticated initials, they served Johnny-on-the-spot. Eric had to smile as we began to hand him some of these “hasties” as they were a perfect and timely counterpoint to the lesson at hand and illustrated his talking points well, about what happened among wildcat banks of long ago.
So E-Sylum readers, for some “virtual auction bit-bucks,” backed by your good faith in our sketchy intentions to ever redeem them, see if you can answer one of the kids questions posed by Eric.
In what year did Washington City, the original twenty mile square diamond shaped, “District of Columbia” lose all the land in Virginia, including Arlington and portions of Alexandria? Eric showed a neat example of a Washington City bank note from a Virginia town.
Exchange Bank of Seldon Withers & Co.
Payable in Virginia bank notes
Extra credit for the adults now, what Virginia banks issued Washington City banknotes? What did they term the event where Northern Virginia’s land was carved away from Washington City, leaving the present day bounds of Washington D.C. with a big bite missing below the Potomac?
Alexandria, District of Columbia scrip note
One question sadly had no answer; “where can children see and learn more about these local banknotes?” Most museums do not have them to display and most web sites are dealer-oriented, about their sales price, and not about their lore and legend, that Eric speaks of so enthusiastically. I leave it to Eric to judge the veracity of any responses from the readership to the questions above, and to bestow virtual auction bit bucks as they may be earned.
What a great account! The on-the-spot creation of emergency money was a wonderful teaching moment. Kudos to the team for rolling with the punches and making it all happen. We'll have answers to Tom's quiz questions next week. Submit your responses! Let's see who knows their history. I'll admit that I'm stumped. Who knew that Arlington and Alexandria were once part of D.C.? Not me.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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