The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 20, May 19, 2019, Article 32


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

American Eagle artists interviewed

A May 17, 2019 Coin World article by Paul Gilkes interviews creators of the American Eagle bullion coin designs on the Mint's plans to redesign the pieces. -Editor

The designers of the reverses of the American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins have mixed opinions about the possibility that their designs might be replaced with new ones, as U.S. Mint officials are proposing. The same designs have been on the coins since both series were introduced in the fall of 1986 - a design by Miley Busiek Frost on the gold coin and one by John Mercanti on the silver coin.

Mercanti, who retired in 2010 as the nation's 12th chief engraver, says changing the American Eagle designs is inevitable. "Nothing lasts forever," he said matter-of-factly.

Frost, however, has a very different view on the possibility of a new design. The private-sector sculptor who designed the Family of Eagles motif for the reverse of the gold series, questions the U.S. Mint's logic in replacing the designs of one of the world's most recognizable and best-selling gold bullion coins.

To read the complete article, see:
American Eagle artists speak out on possible replacement of designs (

Buyer's Fee Math

This New York Times article is about the art world, but numismatists know a thing or two about auction house buyer's fees, and this math doesn't add up. -Editor

Jeff Koons is back on top, if on top means holding the highest auction price for a living artist, as hyped by the auction house responsible. Mr. Koons's 1986 "Rabbit," a precise stainless steel copy of a plastic inflatable toy - mirror-smooth yet with seams and puckers - sold Wednesday night at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale for $91.1 million, the highlight of New York's buoyant spring auctions.

It broke the record set last fall when Christie's auctioned David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures)" - a 1972 painting the size of a small mural - for $90.3 million. But let's get real. The hammer price for both works was actually $80 million. The "Rabbit" inched ahead by a whisker - about $762,500 - because of a twist of fate: Christie's increased the fees buyers pay on Feb. 1. The difference was simply a matter of auction house profit-seeking. It recalls the soaring home-run statistics from baseball's "steroid era" before testing for performance enhancing drugs became routine. The price should have an asterisk or footnote - something that says, hey, the final bids on these two art works were exactly the same. It was a tie.

Yes, the hammer price is the same, but who cares? It doesn't matter. The buyer doesn't pay the hammer price, they pay the hammer PLUS the buyer's fee, so the latest work sold for More. Real. Money. That's what matters.

I guess another way to look at it is from the seller's viewpoint. Assuming seller's fees were the same in both cases, then the sellers collected the same amount, and you could say the pieces "sold" for the same amount. But the buyer's fees are real and you can't just pretend they don't exist. A thing is worth what someone else will pay for it, and what the buyers paid includes that pesky buyer's fee,


To read the complete article, see:
Stop Hating Jeff Koons (

Stolen 1780 Hamilton Letter Found

Bibliophiles and researchers alike should enjoy this New York Times report that an important long-missing 1780 letter by Alexander Hamilton stolen from the Massachusetts Archives has been found after some 70 years. Thanks to Len Augsburger for spotting this story. -Editor

1780 Hamilton letter to Lafayette A letter written by Alexander Hamilton during the Revolutionary War has resurfaced more than seven decades after the document was stolen from the Massachusetts Archives, according to federal authorities.

The letter, addressed to Hamilton's good friend the Marquis de Lafayette, came to light last November when an auction house in Virginia notified the F.B.I. after a South Carolina family tried to consign it for auction, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Federal District Court in Massachusetts by the United States District Attorney's Office.

In 1950, a former Massachusetts Archives employee was arrested for stealing and selling documents, including the Hamilton letter and original papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers, to rare-books dealers when he worked at that institution between 1937 and 1945, the complaint stated.

The three-paragraph letter - now valued between $25,000 and $35,000, according to the Virginia auction house - warned Lafayette, the French general who commanded troops in several Revolutionary War battles, of pending danger from the British.

To read the complete article, see:
A Stolen Letter Written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 Resurfaces (

Amazing Circus Poster Find in Wisconsin

It's non-numismatic, but the researchers and ephemera collectors among us will enjoy this amazing story of archival preservation. It's worth reading the whole thing online. Thanks to Len Augsburger for passing along this story from the Chicago Tribune. -Editor

By the time Berger was done excavating and researching, he had unearthed a 9-foot-high by 55-foot-long, multi-sheet, full-color paper lithograph circus poster advertising the Great Anglo-American Circus and Menagerie performing in Durand on Aug. 17, 1885, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

"It's one of the oldest and best preserved circus posters in the world," Berger said. "It's considered a one-and-only type of thing."

"Circuses, in their day, were pioneers of mass media and in-your-face, bombastic advertising," he said. "That bill stand is really a perfect example of that kind of approach."

To read the complete article, see:
Wisconsin bar owner uncovers huge, 134-year-old circus poster: 'It should never have survived' (

New Website: Bookophile

For bibliophiles there's a new web site devoted to books. I haven't seen a numismatic book there yet, but those may come in the future. Here's what dealer Shanna Schmidt had to say about it in her Newsletter #116. -Editor

I'm so excited to see that the folks from Coinsweekly have endeavored to create a new website which features books, one of my favorite things. Bookophile is a beautifully designed site with articles and more on interesting books and relatable subjects. I'm sure this is a work in progress but from what I've seen thus far I believe I will be visiting this very often.

Here is a link to it. The site is available in English and German.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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