The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 43, October 27, 2019, Article 7


The Constitution and 'In God We Trust'
Ben Weiss writes:

02c_1864_PF65_obv_SBG3 In his review of the book by Bill Bierly "In God We Trust", Dave Bowers writes: "Today there are vocal critics who feel that it [i.e. In God We Trust] has no place on coins or paper currency." In fact, among those critics are our very Founding Fathers who wrote in the First Amendment to our United States Constitution, ratified in 1791, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...". I don’t think many people would argue that "God" isn’t a religious concept. Therefore, placing "God" on our official coins or paper currency does indeed respect the establishment of religion, which is specifically proscribed in our Constitution.

As a related issue, Article VI of our Constitution states that " religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." So people can believe whatever they wish, but as citizens we are bound to obey the tenants of the most important legal document we have.

One of my first coin show purchases as a young collector was a two-cent piece for my type collection. As a longtime collector of U.S. coins it's hard to imagine NOT having that motto around. The issue rears its head periodically and so far the legal challenges have been unsuccessful. I imagine someday it might actually find its way back to the Supreme Court for a decision. The final chapter on 'In God We Trust' may not have been written yet. But I'm eagerly looking forward to getting my copy of Bill's book to learn more about the origins of this familiar phrase on our money. -Editor

To read the Wikipedia entry, see:
In God We Trust (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Fact-Checking the Stella-Bordello Connection

Eric Schena submitted these notes on the purported use of $4 Stella coins as jewelry by Washington, D.C. madams. -Editor

I saw the note regarding the $4 Stella Stack's Bowers Galleries has in the November Baltimore auction and thought I would drop a note since I wrote the historical description for that coin. I had heard about the purported brothel connection for decades ever since I first saw reference to it in Breen's encyclopedia. Sure enough, just checked my copy:

1879 $4 Stella reverse "Though extremely popular today, and much exaggerated in rarity, Stellas in their own day provided a juicy scandal resulting in amusing newspaper copy for several years - and many laughs at the expense of the congressmen who had ordered the restrikes. The story broke that while no coin collector could obtain a Stella from the Mint Bureau at any price, looped specimens commonly adorned the bosoms of Washington's most famous madams, who owned the bordellos favored by those same congressmen. Today there are several dozen 1879 Flowing Hair Stellas with telltale traces of removal of those same loops, whose owners probably sometimes wish the coins could talk."

He even includes this note under #6408:

"More than half the survivors show traces of cleaning or improper handling; many are frankly impaired; several dozen show solder residues from earlier use as jewelry (see introductory text), but their scandalous history keeps them in demand."

Unfortunately, Breen makes no specific citations for the original newspaper stories and I couldn't find any such references in contemporary news accounts other than a few banal announcements of new bills authorizing the coins in Congress. Considering his sometimes rather questionable/exaggerated scholarship and the lack of reference to primary source materials, I chalked it up to artistic license or recounting a second- and third-hand story, so I have studiously avoided stating that story as fact. Makes for great copy but poor scholarship.

There are certainly many impaired examples - I actually cataloged such an example in an earlier sale. The coin is a great candidate for jewelry: not too large and not too small, plus I can see how the large star makes it particularly appealing for that purpose. Interesting stuff and hopefully someday we can get to the source of that story.

Thanks. It does make a great story, but it may only be that, at least until some contemporary documentation shows up. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Was Charles Ira Bushnell really an Uncle of the Chapman Brothers?
Julia Casey writes:

Sage Bushnell obverse "Recently I was researching the Fugio "New Haven" restrikes and "Bushnell Fantasy" Fugios for a new article (with Christopher McDowell) which will be published in the December issue of the Journal of Early American Numismatics (JEAN). More than once I came across references to Bushnell being an uncle to Samuel Hudson Chapman and Henry Chapman. This relationship was implied to be why the Chapmans may have obtained the consignment of the Bushnell collection for their famed sale of 1882.

"I decided to look into the genealogy of Bushnell and the Chapman brothers but could not find the connection. The Chapmans’ parents were both said to be from Ireland and Bushnell was from an old New England family. I also attempted to look into Bushnell’s wife and the Chapmans’ wives but was not able to place the relationship. Can any readers provide additional information? "

Another long-repeated "fact" that may or may not be true. Can anyone point to some evidence for this? Has the topic been researched before?

According to Pete Smith's American Numismatic Biographies, "After his death his son offered the coin collection for sale at $10,000. Lorin Parmelee bought it for about $8,000. After skimming the collection, the remainders were consigned to the Chapmans for auction June 20-24, 1882."

Had there been a prior family relationship I suspect the Bushnell collection would have gone directly to the Chapmans. Did a family connection materialize later? -Editor

Pete Smith adds:

"Charles Ira Bushnell was the only child of Giles and Ann Bushnell. Samuel Hudson Chapman and Henry Chapman were sons of Henry Chapman, Sr. and Jane Hudson Chapman. I have not found names of their brothers and sisters. At the moment I cannot confirm that Bushnell was an uncle of the Chapmans."

To read the Bushnell ANB bio entry on the Newman Numismatic Portal, see:
Charles Ira Bushnell (

More Paperboy Collecting Stories

Paul Peelle of Amherst, MA submitted this story of his paperboy experiences. Thanks! -Editor

I just read "Paperboy Collecting Lessons" in the 9 October edition of The E-Sylum. Here is my story:

Generic paperboy I had some newspaper routes beginning in the late '50s through the mid-'60s on Long Island in NY. Not surprisingly, I collected one-cent pieces. I never found a single Indian Head penny or those half dozen or so key Lincoln dates. Nonetheless, I enjoyed searching.

I lived in a very hilly area and had one customer who lived on a very steep hill. She always appreciated that I got her newspaper delivered to her front door nice and dry, even on days with such heavy snow that no car could make it up that hill (I left my bicycle at the bottom of the hill and walked up). Six days of delivery cost thirty cents; a few customers might give me an extra five-cent tip. This old-to-me woman, however, would give me a half dollar every Saturday. Almost always it was a Walking Liberty; otherwise it was a Franklin. Saving pennies for a collection was affordable; even though it was strain, I did put aside those Walkers—I really liked the design. No, I never received any 1921s. Duplicates and Franklins went into the bank, along with all of my other earnings. Between that and the money I earned from shoveling snow (no snow-throwers in those days!), I had enough to pay for my first year of college!

But there is more. Since all I could afford to collect were the pennies and halves, I never looked at other coins that went through my hands before the bank. On one Saturday (collection day), my eye happened to be caught by this one particular five-cent piece. I could clearly see the S mint mark below the buffalo on the plain, and then flipping it over saw the bold 1913 date. I don't know why, but I decided to look it up in my Red Book. It had a value of $35. What should I do? I don't collect nickels. Maybe I could sell it, but I don't know how. I should probably just put it in the bank as usual. As I held it, I fell victim to the beauty of James Earle Fraser's design. And thus I expanded my collection to include Indian Head nickels. I eventually picked up the attractive Standing Liberty quarter dollars since it was a short series (with lots of holes).

My paper carrier career afforded me the opportunity to search through a reasonable amount of change (without roll searching from banks) and build a relatively nice, strictly pocket-change collection. Thank you Long Island Press.

Thanks - great story. I remember one Friday I was walking my route collecting payments. As I rang a doorbell a dog walked up on the porch beside me. The lady opened the door and the dog ran in. Before I could tell her how much she owed, she began yelling "Get your dog out of my house!!" MY dog?? I thought it was YOUR dog!! I went inside and chased it out for her.

I started delivering around 1969 and while I did get some silver coins I don't recall ever getting any Walking Liberty or Franklin Halves, just Kennedys. To make paying my route manager easier I would take my change to a local store and they were happy to exchange the coins for bills. They would also save silver coins for me, which I bought at face value. Those were the days. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wife's Coin Collection Plan
John Regitko of Toronto, Canada writes:

My wife has an evacuation plan for my coin collection if I pass on before her. It can be summed up in one word:


Ouch! Does the machine spit out the empty slabs? -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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