The E-Sylum v8#54, December 25, 2005
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Sun Dec 25 18:28:11 PST 2005
Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 8, Number 54, December 25, 2005:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2005, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Among our recent subscribers are John Salyer of Heritage Galleries,
Greg McMurdo, Carrie Best and Tony Swicer. Welcome aboard! We
now have 831 subscribers. Merry Christmas, all!
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
MASSACHUSETTS RESEARCHER ROB RAY HEATH DIES
Robert R. Heath, author of "Commemorative Medals of
Massachusetts Cities & Towns" has passed away. Anne E.
Bentley of the Massachusetts Historical Society writes:
"I received the following e-mail from Rob Ray Heath's
family: "This is Bob Heath's stepdaughter, Mary. I am
very sorry to inform you that he passed away on December
11, after a short battle with cancer."
When Bob came to the Massachusetts Historical Society
this past June to photograph more of our pieces for his
latest edition of Commemorative Medals of Massachusetts
Cities & Towns he seemed fine and we had a most enjoyable
day, so to say this news came out of the blue is an
Mary said Bob was diagnosed with cancer of the esophogus
just before Thanksgiving and they are all in shock at how
quickly it progressed. She said he didn't suffer, so
they count that as a blessing."
ROMAN COIN PRICE YEARBOOK
Morten Eske Mortensen writes: "The Roman Coin Price Yearbook
2005 (RCPY) is here! I am certainly happy to be able to
announce that the printed 2005 edition of the RCPY covering
the full calendar years 2003 and 2004 now is in the hands
of the editor and presently being mailed to those who have
ordered it upfront and thus made the project be realized.
Many thanks for your support!
Republican vol., pp. 1-295, includes 8.000 entries.
Imperial vol.-I, pp. 300-899, includes 13.000 entries.
Imperial vol.-II, pp. 903-1.554, includes 14.000 entries.
The printing run was limited to 150 copies.
The 2005 edition includes estimated 35.000 auction results
extracted from around 230 international public auctions
held world wide in the two full calendar years 2003 and
2004. An impressive 65+ major auction houses are covered.
All results converted to USD. For exact listing of auction
At the same time has been released the never-before-published
2001 edition which includes estimated 33.000 auction results
extracted from around 220 international public auctions held
world wide in the two full calendar years 1999 and 2000.
The six publications are spiral soft bound on red paper
[contrary to the hitherto earlier published hard covered
yearbooks] and individually numbered. The publications are
not to be made available in the ordinary free book trade.
Sample page of the RCPY 2003 edition:
ANOTHER BURDETT BOOK ENDORSEMENT
Dick Johnson writes: "I would like to echo Dave Lange's
praise of Roger Burdette's book on American coinage,
recently published. The first of his planned numismatic
trifecta covering American coinage at the beginning of
the 20th century, "Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921"
covers the third phase; the next two books will cover two
previous phases. This period of American coinage is so
important, and so little known, that Roger is doing a
tremendous service to American numismatics by revealing
the people and events which led to the turn around -
Roger calls it a "renaissance" - in American coin design.
What happened? We got away from the stiff style of the
Barber-Morgan influence of coin design. These men were
engravers, they prepared their coin designs in small size.
They experimented with many small size designs (why so many
patterns exist) to choose only those that came up to their
satisfaction. This resulted in mediocre coin designs.
To their credit, Treasury officials turned instead to
American sculptors to create new coin designs. No small
designs these. These artists - St-Gaudens, Weinman, Fraser,
MacNeil, de Francisci - created oversize models which were
pantographically reduced. These artists applied a style of
design -- beaux arts -- to American coin design. It was so
successful we are replicating those same designs today,
recycling Weinman's Liberty Walking and Fraser's Bison,
To his credit, Roger Burdette searched out the original
documents to tell the story of these events as factual and
accurately as possible. He hit the archives and touched the
original documents. The present volume is strong on the
story of de Francisci's Peace dollar, and adequately covers
Weinman's two Liberty designs plus Fraser's Bison nickel
and MacNeil's quarter. Future collectors and writers on
these series will have to include this issue of Roger's
books in their study - it is that important.
I highly recommend Roger's book. The boxes around the
quotations from the original documents is a little
disconcerting and the index could be in larger type for
these old eyes. Hey, that's all I could find to harp about.
I have had correspondence with Roger over the years. I was
proud to recommend he subscribe to E-Sylum (recorded in the
first 2004 issue). He has contributed several insightful
articles since. He's the caliber of the big guns we have
reading and contributing to The E-Sylum.
Merry Christmas to All you big guns from Dick Johnson."
ANS HONORS Q. DAVID BOWERS
>From the press release: "The American Numismatic Society -
an organization that has been dedicated since 1858 to promoting
the study of coins, medals, and other numismatic materials,
and the preservation and dissemination of information related
to this subject matter-will honor Q. David Bowers for his
unique contributions in numismatic scholarship and in promoting
coin collecting to a broad and growing audience. The Trustees
of the Society, decided to present this special award, in
recognition of the work that Mr. Bowers' has done in the
course of his more than 50 years in numismatics, at the
Society's annual Gala Dinner, to be held January 12, 2006
New York City.
The gala, which will take place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel
in New York City during the week when the spectacular New York
International Numismatic Convention brings into the city many
notable coin collectors and dealers from across the nation
and abroad. The event includes a reception, dinner and dancing,
and an auction of collectible items. The highlight of the event
will be the presentation of the special award to Mr. Bowers,
whose authorship of over 40 books and literally thousands of
articles on the history and collecting of coins, has served
to increase awareness among the general public of numismatics,
and to promote the greater understanding of the historical,
social and economic contexts in which coinage in America has
evolved. Major co-sponsors for the Gala Dinner are Whitman
Publishing and American Numismatic Rarities, firms that have
had close working relationships with Mr. Bowers during the
course of his long career.
Between 300 to 400 members and supporters the ANS are expected
to attend the event, which is an important source of income
that helps the Society to carry out its mission. ANS Director
Dr. Ute Wartenberg Kagan stated, "We are deeply grateful for
the support of our dinner co-sponsors. Along with all the
numerous friends of the ANS--such as Bowers and Merena Auctions
and Stack's Coins who are acting as reception and auction
sponsors--and the firms and individuals who are donating various
goods and services, or serving as program sponsors, they are
essential to the success of this event."
AMERICAN BANK NOTE COMPANY PRINTING PLATE ARCHIVES
The topic has already been adequately covered in the
numismatic press, but here's an excerpt from an article
in the mainstream press on the American Bank Note
Company printing plate archives (New York Times,
December 19, 2005):
"Steve Blum has been spending his days locked up alone
in a silent warehouse in central New Jersey, sorting
through boxes of what looks like scrap metal.
But to him, the dusty shingles are buried treasure.
These old dies and plates were once used to print items
of great worth: bank notes, stock certificates and bond
coupons, as well as postage stamps, tickets, playing
cards and other types of paper ephemera.
The slabs, about an eighth of an inch thick and ranging
from an inch square to poster-size, lie in boxes stacked
on more than a hundred pallets. Some of them date to
This 200-ton trove once belonged to the American Bank
Note Company, a major New York securities printer whose
clients included governments, universities, banks and
railroads, from captains of industry to humble savings
and loans. As demand for steel and copperplate engraving
fell, the company merged with or acquired many of its
competitors, often picking up their old plates as well.
"You're looking at the archive of an entire industry
here," explained Mr. Blum, 49, a rare-coin dealer from
Westfield, N.J., one of the two investors who bought the
plates last year for a few million dollars. Mr. Blum is
cataloging them in preparation for their eventual sale
to the public, the first time this kind of material has
left the vaults of any bank note company in significant
Q. David Bowers, an authority on coins and bank notes
who is preparing a history of American Bank Note and
other bank note printers, said getting at the archives
was "like opening King Tut's tomb."
"Douglas Mudd, curator of exhibitions at the American
Numismatic Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs,
said such sales could be controversial among collectors
since in theory the plates could be used to reprint old
notes. But he said that federal law protects collectors
from new reprints being sold as authentic prints and
acknowledged the archive's historical value.
Mr. Blum said he is awed by the plates' historical
significance. "It was the financial power made possible
by this printing that made America great."
To read the complete story, see"
>From the original press release:
"Over the years, the firm acquired other companies and
their archives, according to researcher Q. David Bowers,
Numismatic Director of American Numismatic Rarities of
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and a former President of the
nonprofit, 33,000-member American Numismatic Association.
He is writing a massive reference book about the art,
history and financial aspects of 19th century U.S. paper
money with American Bank Note Company as the prime focus."
"In addition to creating a reference book about the
material, we plan to exhibit some of the printing plates
at collectors' shows around the country, and we'll donate
some to various museums. Eventually, most of the archives
will be offered for sale to collectors."
To read the complete press release, see:
[So start making shelf space for another Bowers book!
I'm looking forward to Dave's treatment of the subject.
Most books on obsolete paper money simply catalog the
notes; few go into much depth on the history of the
notes or their issuers. If Dave's research is only a
fraction of what he typically does when writing about
coins or tokens, his new book will be groundbreaking.
This isn't Dave's only new book on paper money. He and
David Sundman coauthored "100 Greatest American Currency
Notes" the latest entry in Whitman's "100 Greatest" series.
The 144 pages hardcover coffee-table size book lists at
$29.95 plus shipping. The pre-publication price is just
$24.95. See www.anrcoins.com for more information.
FRICKE CONFEDERATE PAPER MONEY REFERENCE PUBLISHED
Coin World reviewed the new book by Pierre Fricke in
The January 2, 2006 issue (p106). "Collecting Confederate
Paper Money - A Complete and Fully Illustrated Guide to all
Confederate Note Types and Varieties" is an 800-page reference
edited by Stephen Goldsmith.
"The book includes information from the library of the late
Douglas B. Ball, who was considered by many in the hobby to
be the 'world's leading authority on Confederate paper money,
bonds and other fiscal paper'"
The review neglected to mention the price of the book,
which is $49.95 plus shipping. For more information,
see the web site of publisher R. M. Smythe at
http://www.smytheonline.com. Has anyone seen the book
NEVADA QUARTER FIRST-STRIKE CEREMONIES
"According to an Associated Press account published
December 22, "The ceremonial strike marking the start
of minting is scheduled for January 5th at the U.S.
Mint in Denver.
Officials from the state treasurer's office and Nevada
State Bank are scheduled to attend the event.
The coins featuring three wild horses are scheduled
to be released for circulation on January 31st. A
ceremony is planned in Carson City."
To read the full article, see:
REIVER 1797 NC-7 CENT MISATTRIBUTED
Michael Schmidt writes: "As an interesting addendum to
the material on the sale of Jules Reiver's 1797 NC-7 Large
Cent mentioned in the November 20th E-Sylum, it should be
noted that the coin is slabbed in a Numismatic Conservation
Service holder (NGC's conservation business wing) and is
mis-attributed as an NC-5."
[The E-Sylum item quoted a Heritage press release about
the upcoming January 23-28, 2006 sale:
Dave Lange of NGC writes: "This appears to be just a
typo. We will ask Heritage to send us back the coin for
correction before the sale." -Editor]
WHATEVER BECAME OF DON TAXAY?
Five important works on North American numismatics were
written by Don Taxay:
"Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and unofficial U.S. Coins" (1963)
"The U.S. Mint and Coinage" (1966)
"An Illustrated History of U.S. Commemorative Coinage" (1967)
"Money of the American Indians (1970)
"Scott's Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia
of United States Coins (1971)
After this burst of scholarship, Taxay faded from the scene.
In the Colonial Coins mailing list this week, Ray Williams
asked "Speaking of Don Taxay, does anyone know whatever
happened to him? He just disappeared and fell off the edge
of the earth..."
Various stories and rumors were mentioned, ranging
from reports that Taxay had moved to India, had a sex
change operation, lives among the Seminole Indians
somewhere in the Everglades of Florida, or tends bar or
dances on stage in Las Vegas. Any, all or none of these
may be true. While entertaining, perhaps some of our
readers can shed further light on the subject. When is
the last time anyone recalls hearing from him? What
were his plans?
ON LIBRARY PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION
Doug Andrews writes: "I have written about protection
and conservation measures for years, including in The
Asylum. Water and fire damage are the two greatest risks
to any library. My recommendations, for any who haven't
read it elsewhere, are "protect, document, insure."
VOCABULARY WORD: VERSO
The theme of the Word-A-Day mailing list this week is
words related to words, writing, and language. Wednesday's
selection was "verso", a word bibliophiles have likely
seen in auction catalog book descriptions:
"verso (VUR-so) noun
1. A left-hand page.
2. The back of a page.
[Short for Latin verso folio, from verso (turned) and
folio (leaf). From versus (turning), from vertere (to
turn). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wer- (to
turn or bend), also the source of wring, weird, writhe,
worth, revert, and universe.]
The counterpart of this word is recto, the right-hand page."
See the full entry on the Wordsmith web site:
DEFINITIONS: PAPER MONEY AND CURRENCY
In our last issue, Fred Schwan wrote: "One of my pet
peeves (and it really drives me crazy) is the use of the
word currency to mean paper money. Currency is the money
in circulation--both struck and printed."
Michael Schmidt writes: "Probably one of the major abusers
he would like to have words with would be the U S Government.
In all of their laws and regulations (at least through 1965)
when they mean them to apply to paper money they use the
term currency. If they mean coins, they say coins. They
never use the term currency to mean both coins and paper
THE ONGOING DOLLAR COIN DEBATE
Arthur Shippee writes: "Here is a note from a retired
Canadian friend of mine, to whom I'd sent Mark Tomasko's
note about bills vs. coins: "Penny, nickel, dime, quarter,
looney, twoony: I love them all! They make money transactions
interesting, colourful, potentially threatening (you
perhaps a moot question, as I use cards for everything
ver a dollar, and in Saskatoon we can now even use cards
at parking meters. Coins connect me to the historic past
of western civilization. A pocketful of even pennies,
worthless though they may be, gives me by their sheer
weight the sense that I am after all a man of substance!"
Steve Woodland writes: "Time and time again, I read
comments like those of Mark Tomasko in v8#53 of the
E-Sylum, where Americans think that "paper dollar bills"
are the only way to go, and that the people in those
countries that have large denomination coins in circulation,
such as Canada and the European Union, run around with
pockets and purses laden with pounds of heavy change. As
a Canadian who has lived without a one-dollar bill since
1987 and without a two-dollar bill since 1996, I have come
to appreciate the benefit of our one-dollar "loonie" and
two-dollar "twoonie" coins. First, they don't wear out
as easily as paper money, and while this doesn't save
huge amounts of money, it does save money. Second, the
coins are much more useful in vending machines, toll
booths, public transit and parking meters, where coinage
dominates. Third, the large denomination coins are much
lighter than the same amount of money in small denomination
coins. For example, a Canadian "loonie" weighs in at 7
grams and a "twoonie" at 7.3 grams, while the equivalent
in 25-cent pieces would weigh 17.6 grams and 35.2 grams
respectively. Mr. Tomasko can continue to carry around
his quarters, I'll stick to my 1-dollar and 2-dollar coins.
As a further observation on the issue of 1-dollar circulation
coins in the US, I concur with Bret Evans' comments in his
article "Top 10 numismatic faux pas" in the 2005 issue of
Collector's Guide. In discussing the disinterest by the US
public in the Susan B. Anthony 1-dollar coin, Mr. Evans
states that while the 1-dollar coin was needed for vending
machine, public transit and toll road operations, it "...was
doomed to failure for two reasons. First off, the Suzie was
too similar to the 25-cent coin in both size and colour.
Hard to distinguish from its lower value sister, the coin
was a source of frustration. The other problem was that the
$1 note was still being issued on demand. If the Suzie had
been the only $1 denomination [in circulation], consumers
would have eventually adjusted. Faced with choosing between
a confusing newcomer and a tried and true performer, most
Americans chose [to stick with] the banknote."
There, that's my two cents worth! (hmmm, another item
of currency that should be considered for retirement)"
MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION MEDAL
Regarding my question in last week's issue, Joe Levine
of Presidential Coin & Antiques writes: "From our Auction
#65 in 1999:
MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION MEMBER'S BADGE.
Red, white, blue and gold enamel Maltese cross suspended
by a new replacement ribbon with a red center bordered
with white and edged with blue. Clasp numbered 6113.
The Loyal Legion was formed in Philadelphia on April 20,
1865 - 6 days after Lincoln died. Its membership was open
to commissioned officers of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps
who served in the Civil War. Originally, a member had to
be an officer during the Civil War. Later on, the membership
was opened up to veterans of the Civil War who became officers
at a later date. Still later, membership was opened to male
lineal descendants of those qualified to join originally.
The original ribbon had a red center bordered with white
and edged with blue. When membership was opened to lineal
descendants, their ribbon was changed to a blue center,
bordered with white and edged with red. The modern badges
issued today, have the old style ribbon colors. This badge,
with its clasp numbered 6113, has been traced to the Oregon
Commandery . According to their records, it was issued to
John Murphy on March 7, 1888. Murphy as a Sergeant and First
Sergeant in the 5th U.S. Artillery. He retired as a major,
and thus, under the relaxed rules, was entitled to membership
in the Legion."
[Gar Travis forwarded a link to an image of a MOLLUS medal:
Here are a few other links he recommends:
We referenced only one of these last week. -Editor]
BRIBERY ALLEGED IN GEM GRADING: IS COIN GRADING VULNERABLE?
An article in the December 20 Wall Street Journal discusses
a recent scandal involving independent graders of gemstones.
How good are the checks and balances at the top numismatic
grading services? Could such a scandal befall ever the coin
grading industry? We all hear the constant complaints about
the services, but I've never heard a whiff of such shenanigans
in our field.
"Bribery allegations at the nation's top rater of diamonds
are rocking the jewelry business and tarnishing trust in
the system for valuing gems.
The Gemological Institute of America, which grades diamonds
for independent dealers and big retailers such as Tiffany &
Co. and Bailey Banks & Biddle, recently fired four employees
and shuffled top management after a four-month internal
probe of its policies.
The institute also is in talks to settle a lawsuit filed
last spring by a diamond dealer accusing workers in its New
York laboratory of taking bribes to inflate the quality of
diamonds in grading reports, said people familiar with the
The institute's grading system is relied upon by most
dealers and retailers in determining the worth of diamonds.
Since the quality of gemstones is impossible for a layperson
to evaluate, independent labs like the Gemological Institute
are vital in determining a diamond's worth."
COIN EXHIBITING IN INDIA
The art of numismatic exhibiting and judging is spread
worldwide. Here is an excerpt from an article about
exhibits at a recent coin show in India:
"While the judges team, comprising two numismatists
from the city and another such enthusiast from Maharashtra,
had a tough time in deciding on the winning collection from
about a dozen displays...
And once again Pankojini Jaiswal, an ace numismatist
from the city had the last laugh in the women's category
with an eclectic collection, while S.R. Arun bagged the
award in the senior men's category for his assortment of
Rachit Chaudhary from JH Tarapore School notched the top
spot in the junior category as he took the judges on a
trip around the world with his collection boasting of
coins from each country across the globe.
P. Baburao walked away with the overall trophy with his
collection of notes with signatures of RBI governors and
with numbers matching the birth dates of all Tata group
"Points such as the condition of coins, how well were
they displayed, rarity, clarity of the numbers and the
theme chosen were kept in mind while judging the displays,"
Col H.C. Pant, president of Coin Collectors' Club, said.
To read the complete article, see:
FEATURED WEB SITE: BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTING
This week's featured web site is recommended by David
Klinger. It's a familiar one, but well worth another
look: the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP).
David writes: "There is a wealth of info there."
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
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Numismatic Bibliomania Society,
P. O. Box 82 Littleton, NH 03561
For Asylum mailing address changes and other membership
questions, contact David at this email address:
dsundman at LittletonCoin.com
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