The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 9, March 1, 2020, Article 26


This week I was part of an email exchange kicked off by Dave Bowers. -Editor

The August 1915 issue of The Numismatist included this:

"Enormous quantities of siege and battlefield money, both notes and coins, were turned out by the Confederates during the American Civil War which broke out in 1861 over the question of slavery. The notes, of which many thousands are still in existence, are now worth little or nothing, save as curiosities; but some of the pieces of coined money are highly valued by collectors.

"This is especially the case as regards the ‘Richmond dollars,' which were minted inside the town during its long siege by the forces of General Grant, and which are really very handsome coins. It is currently said, by the way, that the dies for these dollars were cut by a couple of Londoners who had enlisted in the Confederate army, and who had originally been compelled to leave their native London in a hurry because of the misapplied enterprise they had shown there in making money at their own private ‘mints.'"

I'd never heard of 'Richmond Dollars', and didn't believe this story. No one was using coins during the war. I wondered if this could be referring to circulating counterfeits made after the war. -Editor

Dave Schenkman writes:

"I know nothing about them either, but tend to agree with you. I read the 1915 article, and it just doesn't make sense to me."

Confederate Numismatica author Peter Bertram writes:

"Richmond dollars? Really? Never heard of such a thing and view any claims about 'em as pure bologna!

"If one wishes to pull a scam, at least start with a verifiable fact or two. This scam is dead right out of the gate since there was no siege of Richmond, long or short. Grant's "long siege" was vs Vicksburg, Mississippi and there were no dollar coins struck there either!

"I don't think I'd invest too much time or effort (and no $$) looking for a specimen of such a coin since I doubt they exist."

Peter found this follow-up in the December 1918 Numismatist. -Editor

"The August, 1915, issue of The Numismatist contained an article, "Money Coined on the Battlefield," credited to Pearson's Weekly. Included in the issues of money coined under those circumstances was the Richmond Dollar", said to have been struck in the Virginia Capital during its long siege by General Grant during the Civil War. Until the publication of this article collectors generally had been blissfully ignorant of the existence of such a coin. The past month brought us a clipping from one of our readers, credited to Answers of London, which apparently was rewritten from the former article referred to. The paragraph in Answers relating to the "Richmond dollar" is as follows:

"During the American Civil War of 1861 a tremendous amount of battlefield money was turned out, both metal coin and notes. There are thousands of the latter still in existence, but as a means of exchange and bart they are of no value, except when regarded as curios. On the other hand, collectors of foreign and ancient coins set great store by the metal money which was made on the battlefield at that time. Perhaps the handsomest of all coins are those called the "Richmond dollars. " They were made during that long siege in which General Grant used his strong forces to such purpose. A couple of Britishers who were forced to escape from London about the time of this war, owing to their skill being utilized in their native town in a manner which brought them within the reach of the law, had enlisted with the Confederates, and it was they who cut the dies for this very handsome Richmond dollar. "

Collectors are well aware that frequently new varieties of coins come to light after many years, but it is seldom that the entire issue of a coinage can be successfully concealed from the great body of American collectors for any great length of time. These magazine writers convey the impression that the "Richmond dollars" are well known to collectors and that specimens of it are to be found in many of their cabinets.

After reading the above, with the knowledge collectors have of the money issued during the Civil War, they will be forced to conclude one of the four following things, probably the last:

First - That the "Richmond dollar" is a reality, and that a specimen had been seen by the writer.

Second — That he had heard of the Confederate half dollar, and in his mind has transferred the mint from New Orleans to Richmond.

Third — That he has mistaken some medal issued at the time, or for the occasion, for a "Richmond dollar. "

Fourth - That he never saw or otherwise heard of a "Richmond dollar", and drew entirely upon his imagination for the story."

Garrett Mid-American E-Sylum ad03d books

Wayne Homren, Editor

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