Len Augsburger also published an article in the September 2017 issue of The E-Gobrecht (a publication of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club) about other recent additions to
the Newman Numismatic Portal. With permission, we're republishing it here. Thanks, everyone. -Editor
Information Is Where You Get It
As collectors we gather information about our coins from a multitude of sources, and all of these play a different role in the collecting experience. Collectors chasing coins on a bourse
floor deal with much data that is never recorded and only orally shared between collectors and dealers. Who owns what? Who needs what? Which dealer has a buyer lined up for the coin I want to sell?
How strong or weak is the market? The answers to such questions constantly change, and are best learned by maintaining a level of engagement with dealers and other collectors.
As project coordinator of the Newman Numismatic Portal I am more focused on written materials and am constantly adding new resources to what is now the largest online American numismatic library.
In addition to published materials we’ve also pursued archival sources and I’m excited about our content from the U.S. National Archives. Heretofore, the effort required to access this material was
substantial – one needed to travel to a distant city and visit their facilities during normal business hours. Documents had to be called for, read, and copied for later study. Repeat visits were
often needed as one learned where the more useful documents were located in the archival collection. The Newman Portal now includes approximately 50,000 pages of such material, much of it scanned
under the direction of R. W. Julian (working under a grant from the Central States Numismatic Society). More recently, Roger W. Burdette has been contributing scans from Branch Mint correspondence
for the 1830s and 1840s.
The branch Mint correspondence is fertile ground, and if you are so minded, I encourage a few hours browsing these 19th century ledgers. The handwriting is generally legible and usually not
difficult to decipher – though I do recommend a large monitor and use of full-screen mode. You’ll get a good feel for what the Mint and Treasury department considered important at the time.
Interestingly, this doesn’t always intersect with our modern concerns. The LSCC and its members have devoted tremendous study to die varieties and progressions and, in truth, we know much more about
die varieties than the coiners who actually manufactured these objects. Mint officials at the time were more concerned with die preparation and shipment than in keeping track of which dies were
paired in a given year – in other words, they cared more about steady production and the daily demands of a coinage factory.
Other concerns included gold production, administration of annual assays, Mint personnel, and occasional emergencies such as the yellow fever that plagued New Orleans throughout the 19th
These archival materials are in handwritten form, and will perhaps be transcribed in the future, although the sheer quantity necessitates a good deal of time and effort. Electronic transcriptions
may eventually assist with this task. For now, we are living in an in-between period where one can view original documents online, and that is an important first step. Archives won’t tell you the
difference a Fine-12 and Fine-15 Liberty Seated quarter dollar but they can make your collecting experience richer, particularly if you already have an interest in the why of coins and wish to dig
To visit the Newman Numismatic Portal, see:
To view the referenced National Archives volumes, see:
U.S. National Archives (Record Group 104, Entry 216, Letters Received from Branch Mints and Assay Offices, 1834-1873)
For more information on Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC), see: http://www.lsccweb.org/
Wayne Homren, Editor
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