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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit association devoted to the study and enjoyment of numismatic literature. For more information please see our web site at


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Content presented in The E-Sylum is not necessarily researched or independently fact-checked, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


Wayne Homren 2017-03-15 full New subscribers this week include: Oley Kawani, and Rigo Plascencia. Welcome aboard! We now have 6,817 subscribers.

Thank you for reading The E-Sylum. If you enjoy it, please send me the email addresses of friends you think may enjoy it as well and I'll send them a subscription. Contact me at anytime regarding your subscription, or questions, comments or suggestions about our content.

This week we open with three new books, updates from the Newman Numismatic Portal, reader comments and more.

Other topics this week include Howard Gibbs, Louis Eliasberg, Lorin Parmelee, Don Everhart, unsearched bags, numismatic clickbait, skit notes, auction previews, the U.S. Mint's annual report, the penny dress, and Martin Luther King, Jr. medallions.

To learn more about Quarter Eagles, Civil War-era currency iconography, collecting numismatic books, chronograms, physical bitcoin authentication, highlighting, rims and edges, the Tsao Kun medal, banknotes picturing coins, the 1929 Yellow Fever Congressional Gold Medal, the freaking warehouse literally filled with coins, and whether you are a man or a mouse, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Editor, The E-Sylum

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This press release from Whitman Publishing describes the story behind the creation of the new Bowers book on Quarter Eagles. -Editor

The latest Whitman Publishing book by Q. David Bowers will debut in March 2022. The 448-page Guide Book of Quarter Eagle Gold Coins will be available from bookstores and hobby shops and online (including at, and in the meantime is available for preorder. Here, Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker describes how the book came to be, and why it was undertaken in the first place.

GB-Quarter-Eagles_cover In the sixty-plus years Q. David Bowers has been studying the gold coins of the United States, he has examined countless related periodicals, read more than 5,000 numismatic catalogs, and consumed every available reference on the subject. Beyond this book learning he has personally studied hundreds of thousands of gold coins, and has cataloged many of the most famous coin collections ever sold.

Dave became a professional numismatist and coin dealer in the 1950s, when he was a young teenager. Back then gold coins weren't often seen in the hobby community. In his local coin club, even the older members rarely brought them in for show-and-tell, or to sell. Since the 1930s, Great Depression–era orders had legally restricted hoarding of such precious-metal coins (although collectors could keep gold pieces of numismatic significance, and personal exemptions allowed any American to own a reasonable face-value amount). Those federal restrictions would abide until the early 1970s.

Read more here

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News & Notes from the Society of Paper Money Collectors (Volume VII, Number 33, February 1, 2022) alerted me to a new book (actually, a PhD dissertation) titled Greenbacks and Greybacks: Iconographic Depictions of Union and Confederate Nationalism on Civil War-Era Currency. It's by Christian Martin Lengyel at the Kent State University Department of History. Here's the Introduction; the complete dissertation is available free online. -Editor

1862 One Dollar greenback The Civil War is certainly not a subject that has escaped the attention of scholars. In fact, C. Vann Woodward's conclusion from over three decades ago still holds true: far more has been written about these particular years than any others in American history. But, as Woodward goes on to mention, the more written, the more disclosed […] the more questions and controversies emerge to be coped with by latter-day historians.

Such is the case when it comes to nationalism and the differing stances of the Union and the Confederacy over what characterized proper mid-nineteenth century patriotism. Up to recently the literature on these issues remained remarkably scant. And while that trend has subsequently reversed itself, especially with regards to the Confederate States of America, there still has been surprisingly little attention paid to the northern theater as well as no in-depth side-by-side comparisons of the two fronts' nationalistic impulses. This dissertation intends to fill in those gaps.

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Encyclopedia of Physical Bitcoins and Crypto-Currencies author Elias Ahonen has published a new book about cryptocurrency. Another article in this issue notes that he is also serving as an authenticator of physical bitcoins. -Editor

Blockland book cover flat Elias Ahonen was described as one of the first Bitcoin historians by for his 2016 Encyclopedia of Physical Bitcoins and Crypto-Currencies. Though he started professional life as an IT analyst and North Korea geopolitical researcher, he found himself in a whimsical seven-year career as an international blockchain consultant and dealer of million-dollar Bitcoin art, the story of which Cointelegraph labelled as perhaps cryptocurrency's first rock'n'roll biography. His gonzo-style memoir serves as an intimate backdrop to the bigger story.

As an industry insider and a social scientist by training, Elias Ahonen gives an even and unbiased view of the space in a manner that is both easily accessible and utterly charming. There is no papering-over of the darker elements of cryptocurrency.

Read more here

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The latest addition to the Newman Numismatic Portal is a group of correspondence related to U.S. Mint medals of Lincoln and Garfield. Project Coordinator Len Augsburger provided the following report. -Editor

  Lincoln mint medal Garfield mint medal

Lincoln and Garfield Medal Correspondence

The assassination of President James Garfield in 1881 quickly resulted in a medallic tribute from the U.S. Mint, featuring the busts of both Abraham Lincoln and Garfield. Medals were produced in gold and silver in both large (Julian PR-40, 25mm) and small (Julian PR-41, 19mm) format. Recently transcribed by Newman Portal are several pieces of U.S. Mint correspondence from the period, related to these medals. Julian notes these pieces were often used as charms, and indeed, the market today assigns strong premiums to pieces in the upper Proof range.

Images: Lincoln-Garfield medal, Julian PR-41, NGC PR64 Cameo, from Heritage Auctions 8/2014, lot 5055, realized $3,965.63.

Link to U.S. Mint Lincoln-Garfield medal correspondence:


These are selections from the David Lisot Video Library that feature news and personalities from the world of coin collecting. David has been attending coin conventions since 1972 and began videotaping in 1985. The Newman Numismatic Portal now lists all David's videos on their website at:

Here's one on my talk at last fall's PAN show. -Editor

  PAN21 Howard Gibbs

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Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing penned this Coin Update article on collecting the numismatic books of the 1800s. -Editor


As robust as the world of modern American numismatic publishing is, it's good to take a look backward from time to time.

Numismatists love to study and collect the hobby's foundational books, auction catalogs, and periodicals of the 19th century. There's an entire industry (if that's the right word) devoted to buying, selling, and preserving these and similar objects of numismatic history.

Read more here

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  Mystery Rat Man Medal

Regarding the mystery "Rat Man Medal" Pete Smith asked about, Allen Berman writes:

"I have not done any research on this but I must say it does recall the famous saying, "Are you a man or a mouse?"

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Thomas More's Utopia
Illustration from Thomas More's Utopia Jerise Fogel writes:

"I am looking for something (anything!) on Thomas More's Utopia and the choice he made in it to eschew silver and gold, trying somehow to get away from the idea of commerce and trade (but I guess particularly coinage). I'd love to read what anyone has to say about this!"

I found no references to the 1516 book in The E-Sylum archive, and only one on the Newman Portal: - and that's just a citation to a Yale University Press publication for an irrelevant mention.

Can anyone help? Sounds like an interesting topic. -Editor

For more information, see:
Utopia (book) (

Other topics this week include chronograms. -Editor

Read more here

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Jeff Burke submitted this article on his latest acquisition. Thanks! Nice coin. -Editor

Adding a Standing Liberty Quarter Type Coin to My Collection

1926 Standing Liberty Quarter slabbed I remember the night that Tom Wood, president of our Lynchburg, Virginia Coin Club, was so excited to show us his complete set of Standing Liberty quarters (SLQ) at one of our monthly meetings! Tom's SLQ set took many years to complete and included a mint state 1916 specimen. (For an intriguing story about 1916 SLQ patterns, see Steve Roach's Delicacies of Change: 20th Century Patterns in Coin World, November 2021, pp. 34-35).

Memories of that night and my own research about the SLQ series lead me to the treasure hunt of adding another piece to my small collection of high-grade, well-struck and inexpensive U.S. type coins in my favorite series: Indian Head cents, Lincoln cents, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, Liberty Walking half dollars, Morgan dollars, Saint-Gaudens double eagles - and now Standing Liberty quarters.

Read more here

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Back when we covered the recent sale of a 2012 physical bitcoin I asked, "What exactly is PCGS certifying here? The holder states that it is a 2012-dated "Casascius Bitcoin 1oz .999 Find Gold." It also lists a denomination of "1000 BTC". But how could they certify that the unopened private key is there, correct and recoverable? Was the returned slab accompanied by a lengthy legal disclaimer?"

Well, one physical bitcoin author and researcher (is there more than one?) has hung out his shingle as a Casascius coin authenticator. -Editor

Casascius bitcoin, the world's first marketplace for physically-backed non-fungible tokens (NFTs), just sold a rare unpeeled 1 BTC Casascius coin at 3.5x the face value and added Elias Ahonen as a Casascius coin authenticator.

With only 19,752 unredeemed Casascius coins left, markets for these coins are experiencing high premiums. Prior to 4K offering Casascius coins on their marketplace, prospective buyers would have to search various forums for sellers, ask for references to ensure the seller is legitimate, and either trade in person or send funds ahead of time hoping that the seller will follow through with the trade and that the coin will be authentic. 4K streamlines this process by pre-authenticating each coin, which enables buyers and sellers to trade with confidence. With Elias onboard, 4K now has one of the world's foremost experts formally signing off on authenticity.

Read more here

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A new blog article by researcher Ron Guth of the Numismatic Detective Agency continues his Eliasberg Project with a look at the Eliasberg Continental Dollar. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. -Editor

  Eliasberg Continental Dollar
Black-and-white image from the 1996 Eliasberg sale - credit Bowers & Merena

In addition to his phenomenal collection of United States coins, Louis Eliasberg, Sr. built impressive collections of world gold, pattern coins, and U.S. colonial coins. For those of us who were around for the sales of his U.S. coins in 1982, 1996, and 1997, it's hard to believe that a quarter of a century has passed. During that time, his coins have either remained with the original buyers or they may have appeared and re-appeared on the market. In many of those reappearances, the Eliasberg provenance has simply gone missing, severing the ties to this important collection. Thus, the Eliasberg Project has become a personal challenge to identify Eliasberg coins and to re-establish the Eliasberg provenance chain where possible. A further goal of the Eliasberg Project is to present modern grades (where known) to give the Eliasberg coins their proper ranking in the Numismatic Detective Agency (NDA) Condition Census.

Read more here


AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS: Are your books carried by Wizard Coin Supply? If not, contact us via with details.


Here's another entry from Dick Johnson's Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Terminology. -Editor

Highlight, Highlighting. Creating a contrast of light and dark areas on a metal surface. Highlighting a medallic item puts dark coloring in crevices and some low areas of the relief, and, by burnishing or buffing, making the higher areas lighter in color. The relief stands out because of this two-toned effect, the contrast aids the human eye in perceiving the total view. Highlight is the result of oxidation (actually a sulphatization) and this relieving.

Read more here

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While we're on the topic of numismatic terms, this January 31, 2022 article by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez on the PCGS website provides a nice definition of the rim and edge of a coin. -Editor

  rim and edge of a coin

Rim, edge… Aren't these just different words for the same part of a coin? No, not at all… The rim and edge are as different from each other as the obverse (or head's side) and reverse (often called the tail's side). When it comes to coins, many people may confuse the rim and edge because these terms often have similar definitions when used in other contexts. For example, you might say you're going to fill the cup to its rim, which means the edge of the cup.

Read more here

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American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on Boston collector Lorin Parmelee. Thanks! -Editor

Parmelee In the nineteenth century, the coin collection of Lorin Parmelee has been called the greatest coin collection ever sold at auction. In truth, much of the collection did not sell at that auction. Various sales of duplicates were offered before the primary sale in 1890.

It is hard to find two records that agree on the facts of his life. His first name is variously spelled Lorin or Loring. His last name was Parmelee or Parmalee. Various names are given for his mother and his wife.

In 1890, New York Stamp & Coin conducted the major auction of his collection. It listed his name as Lorin G. Parmelee and included a picture with his signature as Lorin Parmelee. In that same year the Boston City Directory listed his name as Loring G. Parmelee. Rather than attempting to prove one name is right, it is better to recognize that both names were used.

Read more here

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As noted last week, Stack's Bowers has a backlog of Harvey Stack's numismatic memoir articles and will continue publishing them. In this one he discusses auction sales of 1993. -Editor

  Harvey Stack numismatic memories 2022-02-06

Harvey Stack loved to tell stories and his favorites were those about his family and the history of Stack's. While he passed away on January 3 of this year, he had already penned his remembrances through 1999. We believe Harvey would want these articles to be read and enjoyed and so we are pleased to continue the story of his life in numismatics.

1993 presented a wealth of numismatic material for Stack's to offer at public auction, 10 catalogs in total. It was a year when we were pleased to produce outstanding catalogs and sell important collections. We started the year in January with some additional high quality coins from the Floyd T. Starr estate -- gold, silver and copper items that had not been included in the earlier sales. Some were duplicates, but even these included rare dates and mintmarks in extremely choice grades.

Read more here

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With permission, we're republishing excerpts of former U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart series published by CoinWeek beginning in April 2018. -Editor

In addition to coins and medals I sculpted toys, giftware, figurines, plates, life-size figurative monuments, Disney figures, flatware for Tiffany's and many more different projects.

  everhart Dance of the Dolphins
Dance of the Dolphins (1982) for the Society of Medallists – Don Everhart

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Missouri Numismatic Society President Chris Sutter saw last week's item about the 'Unsearched Vault Bags' Consumer Warning, and kindly passed along a related article he wrote last July for the MNS's annual publication, the Missouri Journal of Numismatics. With permission, we're republishing the article here. Thanks! -Editor

  Coin Investment Offer
by C. Joseph Sutter

Walking Liberty Bank Rolls ad In the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the exclusive St. Louis newspaper, advertisements have been appearing over the past year offering coin investments. As a coin collector these ads seem to offer numismatic investments to the uninformed. They offer fantastic deals and claim that collectors and dealers will be attempting to purchase all the item quantities before the general public has a chance.

So what is the story behind these ads?

Read more here

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In November we noted that the British tabloid The Sun has recently taken to republishing eBay sale results as articles with clickbait headlines - "Rare Lincoln Penny Sells for $thousands - do you have one?" In his Coin Collectors Blog recently, Scott Barman took a closer look at these articles. With permission, we're republishing his post here. -Editor

Lincoln Cent filled die error Exaggerated headlines are not new to journalism. Depending on whose depiction of history you read, it dates to the work of Joseph Pulitzer and New York World and William Randolph Hearst in the New York Journal. The battle between the two raged into the 1890s and earned the name of Yellow Journalism.

The tradition continues on the Internet. Instead of Yellow Journalism, it is called clickbait. In the old days, editors used the headlines to sell newspapers so readers could see the advertising. Today, the headline writers want you to click the links to display advertising. It is the same principles even though the medium is different.

Read more here

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Numismatic Auctions LLC February 2022 sale #66 includes some interesting Chinese material. Owners Steve and Lisa Davis passed along these photos of lot 1516, a group of coin dies and molds with related items. Thanks. -Editor

  NA Sale 66 Lot 1516 group

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Dix Noonan Webb is offering an interesting group of parody banknotes in their February sale. -Editor

More than 30 ‘skit' notes dating from the 19th century will offered by Dix Noonan Webb in their auction of British, Irish and World Banknotes on Thursday, February 24, 2022 at their Mayfair saleroom (16 Bolton Street, London W1J 8BQ). This group of notes is the first part of the astonishing collection put together by Sir David Kirch - more will appear in future auctions.

As Andrew Pattison, Head of Banknote Department at Dix Noonan Webb, explains: These documents, for it is technically incorrect to call them banknotes, are remarkable pieces of social history. They give us snapshots into the cares, fears, livelihoods, humour and pastimes of those who lived and worked in the British Isles for the last several hundred years.

Read more here


A GUIDE BOOK OF QUARTER EAGLE GOLD COINS, the latest book by Q. David Bowers, will debut soon. Keep abreast of new Whitman Publishing books, folders, and albums online at at , or call 1-800-546-2995.


In a February 3, 2022 blog article, Stack's Bowers Paper Money Researcher & Cataloger Chris Dahncke listed some highlights of the Maximus Estate Collection of World Paper Money in their upcoming February world paper sale. Some beautiful notes here. -Editor

  Barbados. Barclays Bank 100 Dollars 1926

Lot 72021: Barbados. Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas). 100 Dollars, September 1st, 1926. P-S103a. Uncirculated. A cancelled example of this scarce 1926 dated 100 Dollars note (usually cancelled examples are from the 1933 and 1935 series). This example has the Manager's signature, but it is lacking the Accountant's signature.

Read more here

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Allan Davisson published this announcement of Davisson's Auction 41, which closes March 16th 2022. -Editor

Our annual major sale marks the final result of a year of planning, selecting, acquiring, and soliciting material from this fascinating realm of numismatics. It all comes to a conclusion just as one calendar year ends and another begins. Many of the lots you see in this sale have stories that go beyond the tales the coins or tokens themselves might tell.

  Kellogg & Co $20 gold

The U.S. private territorial gold pieces came from a collection formed over a lifetime by a collector who could get as excited about a beat-up button from the Civil War or an Anglo-Saxon penny. He would usually call after our sales closed and pick up lots that hadn't sold regardless of whether they were the kinds of things he ordinarily collected, as long as they were nice.

Read more here

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Here's a selection of interesting or unusual items I came across in the marketplace this week. Tell us what you think of some of these. -Editor

Charlemagne Denier
Charlemagne Denier

Lot 210. France, Carolingian. Charlemagne (Charles the Great). As Charles I, King of the Franks, A.D. 768-814. AR denier. Class 2. Metallum (Melle) mint, Struck A.D. 771-793/4. Rare.

France, Carolingian. Charlemagne (Charles the Great). As Charles I, King of the Franks, A.D. 768-814. AR denier (18.7 mm, 1.26 g, 7 h). Class 2. Metallum (Melle) mint, Struck A.D. 771-793/4. C(AR)O/LVS in two lines; pellet between / mEDOLVS, short cross over short cross saltire, with annulet in center. Depeyrot 605; MEC 727. Good VF/EF. Rare.

From the upcoming Agora Auctions sale. I don't know why, but the crudeness of this piece is what caught my eye. -Editor

To read the complete lot description, see:
Lot 210. France, Carolingian. Charlemagne (Charles the Great). As Charles I, King of the Franks, A.D. 768-814. AR denier. Class 2. Metallum (Melle) mint, Struck A.D. 771-793/4. Rare. (

Other topics this week include a Civil War Soldier ID Dog Tag, a French Public Education Ministry Award Gold Medal, and the Yellow Fever Congressional Gold Medal. -Editor

Read more here

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They lost their heads, but not their pocket change. Arthur Shippee passed along this BBC News article that discusses Iron-Age coins found during the excavation of a late Roman town and cemetery. Thanks. A team of 50 archaeologists worked on the site for more than a year. -Editor

Iron age coin found at Late Roman dig Decapitated skeletons, brooches, spoons, coins and tableware have been found in an archaeological dig that uncovered part of a Roman town.

This included the largest Roman cemetery yet to be excavated in Buckinghamshire, with 425 burials.

Read more here

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The U.S. Mint recently published its 2021 Annual Report. Mike Unser summarized manufacturing costs in a article. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. The one and five cent coins continue to cost more than face value to produce, but seigniorage totaled $381.20 million for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2020 and ended on September 30, 2021. -Editor

Lincoln-cents-reverses The price for manufacturing U.S. coins for circulation went up last year, except for the half dollar, the United States Mint disclosed this month in its 2021 Annual Report. And for a sixteenth straight year, the unit cost for both cents and nickels was above their face values.

The Mint struck nearly 15 billion coins for circulation during the fiscal year.

Read more here

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A more comprehensive analysis of the 2021 U.S. Mint Report comes from Louis Golino "The Coin Analyst" at CoinWeek. This is just an excerpt related to the cent - be sure to read the complete article online. -Editor

2021proofset While the Mint managed to generate seigniorage and net income from all coins that totaled $556.4 million (including $381.20 million from circulating coins), this represented a decrease of 30% compared to the prior year.

The main reason for that is that the cost to produce the cent rose to 2.1 cents and the nickel to 8.52 cents from 1.76 and 7.42 cents respectively the prior year due to rising zinc and copper costs. In addition, shipments of pennies and quarter dollars decreased during this period.

Read more here

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On a related note, public radio's Marketplace took a look at how the Mint decides how many coins to produce each year. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. -Editor

U.S. coins Listener and reader Jeff Bailey from Jonesboro, Arkansas, asked:

I've noticed that the mint numbers for coins can vary a lot from year to year. How does the United States Mint determine how many coins of each denomination to produce in a year?

In 2021, nearly 15 billion pennies, quarters, nickels, dimes and half dollars departed the U.S. Mint's facilities to be spent by the public.

Read more here

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In recent years John Kraljevich has written on Facebook about various aspects of African-American history for Black History Month, usually in connection with a numismatic object. On February 1st he announced that he's working to pull these stories together into a book due to be published by Whitman Publishing later this year, titled Freedom Will Be Ours. We'll look forward to it!

Yesterday's post discussed Martin Luther King, Jr. medallions. Here's an excerpt - see the complete post online. -Editor

MLK medallion For those who wanted to show their loyalty to the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr., or who wanted to make plain their part in his legacy, a portrait medallion of King was a natural accessory. Most types I've seen show his portrait in profile or three-quarter profile, often with an inscription noting the dates of his birth and death.

Jackson's Martin Luther King medallion seems to have showed up in 1970. His was especially large, nearly four inches in diameter. It showed a very high relief portrait of King facing left and was suspended from a substantial chain with two hangers. The earliest appearance of it I've found was published in the October, 17, 1970 issue of the Wilmington News Journal during a visit to Delaware for an NAACP convention. He wore it on the cover of the September 23, 1971 issue of Jet magazine and at the opening of the Black Expo in Chicago the same week. Perhaps most famously, Jackson wore it on Sesame Street's Episode 402, recorded on February 23, 1972 and on August 20, 1972 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Wattstax benefit concert, before a crowd of 112,000. Millions more saw it when the Wattstax movie saw wide release.

After a handful of appearances in 1973, including at the Operation PUSH convention in June of that year, Jackson seems to have mostly retired his MLK medallion. Fashion changed, and Jackson changed with it.

But the day Jackson put his MLK medallion back in his jewelry box was far from the end of the King medallion.

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Dresses made of meat are sooo 2010... Today's fashion choice is a dress made from coins. -Editor

Mike Nixon of Pearland, TX writes:

"My wife inhabits a whole ‘nuther part of the internet universe than I do…she came across this and sent it to me, I found it interesting and thought the E-Sylum audience would too. The video of the young lady describing how she did it and the sheer amount of work it took is entertaining."

  Dress made from pennies

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Michael Kodysz writes:

Castello gold cube "I heard on Good Morning America that a German artist named Niclas Castello dropped a solid gold cube worth $11.7 million in Central Park. My first thought: a 24kt-solid-gold cube that size would be worth a lot more than $11.7 million, and too heavy to transport or move without heavy-duty equipment. I doubt that a single artist or even a single corporation could get their hands on that much gold all at once. I told my wife, I bet it's hollow and sure enough it is. To describe the cube as solid gold is as misleading as claiming that a hollow Easter bunny is made from solid chocolate. It isn't.

"An interesting exercise: calculate the weight and value of the 24kt-gold cube if it were actually solid rather than hollow. Judging by the photos I'm guessing the cube's size at around 24-inches square.

"This story is on numerous news outlets."

Read more here

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Here are some additional items in the media this week that may be of interest. -Editor

Why Henry III's Gold Penny Failed

In a blog article, JP Koning discusses why those Henry III gold pennies are so rare. Found via News & Notes from the Society of Paper Money Collectors (Volume VII, Number 33, February 1, 2022) -Editor

Henry III gold penny obverse Minted in 1257, only eight of Henry III's gold pennies have survived. This is odd given that medieval historian David Carpenter's analysis of historical records indicates that 72,000 of these coins may have been produced within a year or two.

Why are there so few of Henry III's gold pennies still in existence? In this short post I'll suggest that the gold penny was a failure. Rather than circulating in trade, as one would expect of a coin, most of them were melted down within a year or two after issuance. And so there are very few gold pennies left for detectorists to find.

In his paper Gold and Gold Coins in England in the Mid-thirteenth Century, Carpenter maintains that Henry III picked the right ratio between gold pennies and silver pennies. A gold penny weighed the same as two silver pennies. At Henry III's chosen exchange rate of twenty silver pennies to one gold penny, this implied a price of ten grams of silver to one gram of gold. Carpenter says that this was in line with the prevailing 10:1 market rate between silver and gold bullion at the time.

But historian John Munro suggests otherwise. What Carpenter omits is that an English silver penny was only 92.5% pure, the remaining 7.5% being comprised of base metals. This means that Henry III's chosen exchange rate of twenty silver pennies to one gold penny actually valued the quantity of gold inside a gold penny at just 9.3 times that of an equivalent amount of silver, not 10 times.

Thus the king's chosen rate undervalued gold. And so Henry III's gold penny would have run smack dab into Gresham's law. It would have been more profitable for an English merchant to melt down 1 kg of gold pennies into bullion and buy 10 kg of silver with the proceeds at the going market rate than to spend that 1 kg of gold pennies as coins...

To read the complete article, see:
Why Henry III's gold penny failed (

To read an earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Other topics this week include Digital Cash. -Editor

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