The latest issue of JEAN, the Journal of Early American Numismatics has been published by the American Numismatic Society.
Here is the table of contents and an excerpt from the Editor’s Preface by Christopher R. McDowell. This issue features a very important article by Jeff Rock on the collection of Miss Sarah Sophia Banks at the British Museum.
Collecting American Colonial Coins in Eighteenth-Century England
Regulator and Regulated: The Monetary Conditions of Goldsmith
Thomas Shields and the Successful Circulation of Foreign Gold Coinage
Jesse C. Kraft
Proposed Design of a Commemorative Medal of the Battle of Pensacola (1781) by the Royal Academy of San Carlos Mexico
Ángel O. Navarro Zayas
Aztec Influence in Early Spanish Colonial Four-Reales Coinage, 1538–1542
Philip C. Ellsworth
The Montreal Medal of Songose: A Case Study of Established Numismatic Lore
Julia H. Casey
[I]t is the beautiful young woman on
the cover who began acquiring what is arguably the most important intact coin
collection ever assembled by a private individual. Her collection, as you will learn,
is not only important for its holdings of British treasures, but also its American
colonial pieces. Before today, few Americans had the pleasure of seeing Miss
Banks’ American coins, but here they are for our subscribers to enjoy along with
Jeff Rock’s brilliant descriptions and analysis.
Jeff ’s article has been in the works for a long time. The American Numismatic
Society, through JEAN’s publisher, Andrew Reinhard, worked with the British
Museum for over a year in order to bring you the fantastic images of Miss Banks’
collection in this issue. Jeff traveled to England at his own expense, and spent time
at both museums where he tracked down, selected, and examined all the coins
presented here. Many of the coins you will see in his article have never before been
photographed or studied by American numismatists. I wish to thank the ANS,
Andrew, and Jeff for their efforts and financial commitment in helping to bring
this important article to our subscribers.
Miss Sarah Sophia Banks, as you shall learn, was not a hoarder, but an
astute, sophisticated collector—she collected with a purpose, she was not merely
acquiring stuff. And, like many of you, she clearly enjoyed spending her leisure
time with her collection, lovingly organizing and recording every specimen.
Thus, her existing notes (some are missing) provide us with a rare opportunity to
learn how a late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century collection of American
colonial coins was put together in Europe. Through Jeff ’s research we learn which
American coins were available, how much they cost, and who was selling, trading,
or giving them away.
In many instances, the only reason mint state or near mint state specimens
of some American coins have survived is because people like Miss Banks saved
them for us. Jeff does an excellent job in explaining how English collectors helped
preserve American colonial coins. While Jeff discusses several other collectors
and writers, the star of the show is Miss Banks. Jeff ’s article takes up the bulk of
this edition of JEAN, but it is by no means the only thing readers have to look
forward to in this issue!
Dr. Jesse Kraft takes a look at Philadelphia goldsmith Thomas Shields’ business
records to inform us on gold coin regulating. With much hubris, Ye Editor thought
he knew pretty much all there was to know about pre-Revolutionary gold coin
regulation—I am now somewhat humbled. There was far more to the gold coin
regulating business than even I (with my vivid imagination) could have ever
dreamed of. I thought the business consisted mostly of plugging gold coins to raise
their weight, and was totally unaware that the bulk of the work was doing just
the opposite. Who knew that regulators spent more time and made more money
shaving gold coins than plugging them? Business ledgers like those of Mr. Shields
are a treasure trove of information that are beginning to open our eyes to the rich
history of the coins we collect and study. I would be remiss if I did not add that
Dr. Kraft is the new assistant curator of American numismatics at the ANS. I wish
him well in this job, and I am sure all our subscribers do as well. Although this is
his first article in JEAN, I do not think it will be his last.
I am currently working on a book to update C. Wyllys Betts’ work on
American colonial medals. As I slowly slog my way through each medal, I have
come to appreciate Spain’s tradition of proclamation and commemorative medals
relating to the Americas. Some of the medals listed by Betts were never produced.
This issue of JEAN presents an article dealing with an unlisted Betts medal; one
that was never actually minted—the proposed medal commemorating the battle
of Pensacola, in British West Florida. This proposed piece memorializes an event
not taught in schools, viz. the successful Spanish attack on Pensacola during
the American Revolution. This article was prepared by Dr. Ángel O. Navarro
Zayas from Ponce, Puerto Rico. I am informed by several sources that he is the
numismatic expert on that island. As a native speaker of Spanish, his perspective
on Spain’s American numismatic tradition is invaluable. This is the second issue
in a row where he has shared something with us, and I hope he will continue that
We are also lucky to have another article on Spanish coinage in this issue.
This article, written by a new contributor, Philip Ellsworth, was a real treat for
me and the other editors. We all loved it. One of our points of emphases over the
last two years at JEAN has been to explore Spanish coinage in greater depth. Mr.
Ellsworth’s article is about as deep a dive as you can take; a thrilling adventure into
pre-Columbian Aztec influence on Spanish coinage. As it turns out, one year the
prepared dies for the Mexico City mint did not arrive from Spain, and the mint
turned to local Aztec workers to help fashion the new dies. The resulting coins
from this clash of cultures are fascinating! I am sure you will enjoy reading and
learning about this unique moment in history as much as we have.
I save the article from my friend Julia Casey for last. Julia has been a
phenomenal addition to JEAN’s editorial team. As every author can attest, she
has made everything published in these pages better. Her research skills are
unsurpassed. Coincidentally, Julia is from a small town in New York State called
Ballston Spa that has a wonderful numismatic story attached to it; the discovery
of a Montreal Medal, Betts-431, issued to a Native American warrior from the
Mohican Tribe known only as Songose. This specific medal has been studied and
written about by many fine numismatic scholars. Julia shows us that there is more
to the story, and in doing so makes the point that we should not just assume we
know everything there is to know about colonial coins and medals. Each coin and
each medal has a rich history that we have only just started to understand.
For more information on the American Numismatic Society, see:
For more information on the Journal of Early American Numismatics, see:
Journal of Early American Numismatics (was Colonial Newsletter)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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