The E-Sylum v10#32, August 12, 2007

esylum at esylum at
Sun Aug 12 14:32:40 PDT 2007

Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 32, August 12, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


One anonymous new subscriber this week brings our total to
1,167. Welcome aboard!

This week we open with some news from this week's ANA convention, 
and an announcement of a new book on modern world gold coins.  In 
the research department, we had a tremendous response to Pete Smith's 
query about a Brazilian counterstamp, some thoughts from several 
readers on forms of the word 'exonumia', and information on the use 
of Maria Theresa thalers in Saudi Arabia.  

In the news is a profile of money artist Peter Simensky, a newsman 
flips an original 1913 Library Nickel on the air as his guests gasp, 
a Colorado Congressman introduces a bill to allow for the alteration 
of the metallic composition of U.S. coins, and New Hampshire's 
governor pays a visit to Littleton Coin Company.

For medal collectors there is a nice new article on the history of 
the Purple Heart, and for every numismatist the Featured Web Page 
holds an interesting essay on the history of metals.

My London Diary returns with a vengeance this week, with entries on 
Sir John Soane's Museum, the Samuel Johnson house, St. Paul's Cathedral 
and The Tower of London.   To learn whether you'd be entitled to buy 
a ticket for the box, pit, first or second galleries at London's 
Haymarket Theatre, read on. Have a great week, everyone.

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


Intrepid numismatic photo-journalist Dan Gosling took some pictures 
of the two public Numismatic Bibliomania Society events at this week's 
American Numismatic Association convention.  These were Thursday's 
numismatic literature symposium with speakers John Adams and Harold 
Welch and the general membership meeting Friday morning, where Len 
Augsburger and Joel Orosz presented.

Adams spoke on "How Comitia Americana Came To Be - A New Way to Make 
a Book." Welch's topic was "British Token Literature - Putting Together 
the Pieces of the Puzzle."  Augsburger and Orosz spoke about "Frank 
Stewart and Artwork of the First U.S. Mint."  Dan's photos will be 
posted on the NBS web site.

NBS President John W. Adams writes: "There was quite a bit doing at 
the three NBS events. The Symposium played to a full house and, with 
spirited questions, ran well over the appointed time.  The Board 
proposed and the members confirmed three important new initiatives: 

1) homage to our co-founder George Kolbe.   Scott Rubin will assemble 
"George stories", biographic material, George's favorite lot 
descriptions, George's many contributions to the hobby, etc. and 
then run them in The Asylum with a special offprint thereafter;  

2) Joel Orosz will compose a history of the club's first 28 years, 
an effort for which he invites the contributions of all; and 

3) Len Augsburger will direct the compilation of a list of The 100 
Greatest Items of U.S. Numismatic Literature. Nominations may be sent 
to him beginning immediately; a preliminary list will be run in The 
Asylum and, based on feedback, a list will be finalized and probably 

Enthusiasm ran high at the meeting and spilled over into our best 
donated book auction ever (Wayne's coffee-stained notes on his London 
adventures was Lot #1)."

In other convention news, frequent E-Sylum contributors John and 
Nancy Wilson were received the highest award of the American Numismatic 
Association -- the Farren Zerbe Memorial award, given to recognize 
"numerous years of outstanding, dedicated service to numismatics".  

E-Sylum participants received honors from other organizations at 
the convention.  I've only gotten a few unofficial reports, but 
understand that Roger Burdette, numismatic researcher and author 
of the 'Renaissance of American Coinage' series has been elected 
to membership in The Rittenhouse Society.  Congratulations!  

David Kranz of Numismatic News reported in his blog that Gene Hessler 
won this year's Clemy award at the Numismatic Literary Guild's annual 
NLG Bash Aug. 9.  I've also heard unconfirmed reports that Roger's 
book, 'Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908' also got an award
at the Bash.

I'm a world away in London and couldn't attend this year's convention.  
I hope everyone had a good time and that bibliophiles were out in force.  
If you were there and have additional reports or recollections of the 
event to share, please drop me a line at whomren at  

To read David Kranz's blog entry, see:,date,2007-08-10.aspx 


The numismatic book division at Krause Publications has released a 
new title: 'Modern World Gold Coins, 1801-Present' by Colin R. Bruce 
II and Thomas Michael.  The 816-page softcovered book has over 15,000 
black & white photos.  George Cuhaj described the new book in his 
Monday blog entry:

"Modern World Gold Coins, 1801-present, includes the most actively 
traded area in the World Gold Coin market, 'modern' coins! The easier 
to find issues of sovereigns, francs, marks and roubles are included, 
as are the mid-20th century Franklin Mint commemoratives, and late 
20th century bullion issues.

"Gold, platinum and palladium are all included. Soft cover, $65.00, 
772 pages, with prices updated based on gold market value of $650-670 
per ounce! So nearly every price has been reviewed or updated since 
the 5th edition of the Standard Catalog of World Gold Coins.

"The product features sharper illustrations and expanded descriptions. 
The softcover book makes it a lighter-weight and easy-use item for 

To read George Cuhaj's original blog entry, see:

For ordering information, see:


Dick Johnson and Bruce Perdue noticed a glaring error in last week's 
issue - I'd forgotten to increment the issue number to 31 (so shame 
of the rest of our resident nitpickers who missed this one!)  I wish 
I could say I did it on purpose as a test - sorry!  Anyway, we've 
fixed the online archive and made sure this week's issue is properly 
numbered 32.   

This wasn't the only off-by-one numbering error in the issue - Dick 
Becker found a whopper in the Wayne's Word's item.  He writes: "Your 
headline announcement of a lady finding a 1794 CHAIN cent in her 
garden is outstanding. This earth-shattering news will, no doubt, 
have all of us waiting to see which auction house will feature it 
in their next sale. Look for a new sales record for a US coin. 

"Isn't it fun when we can make fun of ourselves once in a while? 
I wonder how many other Asylum "inmates" caught this one. Seriously, 
keep up the good work. I look forward, and read each issue."

[So far Dick is the only reader to report this one.  It has also 
been fixed in the online archive.  -Editor]


Speaking og online archives, Dick Johnson forwarded an article from 
the New York Post noting that the New York Times may soon open up 
its online article archive.  He writes: "This is good news for 
numismatic researchers. I have passed on quoting New York Times 
articles in past because I didn't pay for their Internet news items."  
Here are some excerpts from the article:

"The New York Times is poised to stop charging readers for online 
access to its Op-Ed columnists and other content, The Post has learned. 

"After much internal debate, Times executives - including publisher 
Arthur Sulzberger Jr. - made the decision to end the subscription-only 
TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement, 
according to a source briefed on the matter. 

"While other online publications were abandoning subscriptions, the 
Times took the opposite approach in 2005 and began charging for access 
to well-known writers, including Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Thomas 
L. Friedman. 

"The decision, which also walled off access to archives and other 
content, was controversial almost from the start, with some of the 
paper's own columnists complaining that it limited their Web 

[Back issues of The New York Times are invaluable for numismatic 
research, and not just U.S. numismatics.  As the newspaper of record 
its reporters cover important stories from around the world, and 
much useful information can be found in its archives.  I found the 
Times especially helpful in my research on emergency monies of the 
U.S. Civil War.  Researchers and anyone interested in particular 
numismatic topics should watch for this development and try their 
favorite queries once the archive becomes freely available. -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:

Dick adds: "Remember that recently New York Times publisher Arthur O. 
Sulzberger Jr. stated he did not know if there would even be a print 
edition in the future (mentioned here in The E-Sylum March 4, 2007).

"Most major libraries have microfilm runs of New York Times (the 
larger the library the further back they go), and printed yearly 
indexes.  These are especially useful in that other newspapers 
typically carry similar articles near the date first published in 
the Times, so it is, in effect, an index to all newspapers.
"Also, don't overlook the Obituary index since 1851 (two volumes 
last time I looked). There is also a Personal Name Index to the New 
York Times since 1975 (now in 7 volumes). There are even special 
subject indexes for sports and theater."

[As more of the back issue archive becomes available freely online, 
the microfilms will be much less necessary.  But the human-generated 
indexes should continue to prove very valuable; keyword search only 
goes so far, and unless the Times digitizes the indexes the hardcopies 
found in your local library will continue to be very useful. -Editor]



Responding Pete Smith's request for a copy or scan of the catalog 
description for lot 46 of Henry Christensen's 54th sale, E-Sylum 
readers came through in spades, forwarding images of the catalogue 
entry and other information and offers of help on the object of 
Pete's quest, a Brazilian counterstamp.  Many thanks to Bill Rau, 
David Levy, Alan Luedeking, Ralf W. Böpple and Ted Buttrey, a.k.a. 
Prof. T.V. Buttrey, Dept. of Coins & Medals, Fitzwilliam Museum, 
Cambridge University.

Ralf W. Böpple writes: "The lot description reads:

  "46 CEARA. Star C/M Star on obv of an 1815 Bahia 960 Reis of 
  Brazil, which was struck over a Spanish Amer 8 Rs. ca 1834.  
  Fonr 8830. A study of Prober's major opus. pp. 138-140, 
  indicates that this is one of the few "good" c/m's. Ex Fine. 

"According to the PR, it brought $275.00.  Unfortunately, I cannot 
help with the Prober book. I have seen it only once, in a George 
Kolbe sale a few years ago, and I was the underbidder. So many 
books on counterstamps in my library, and you guys ask for the one 
that's on the top of my want list!"

Alan Luedeking adds: "Note that Christensen's reference to Prober 
pp. 138-140 is incorrect. The correct page range in Prober is 133-135, 
with p. 134 being blank. Moreover the reference is not to Prober's 
"Carimbos de Minas" (a short work) but to a similar chapter in his 
work "Catálogo de Moedas Brasileiras de Prata", Sao Paulo, 1947."

David Levy writes: "I published the book 'The 960s Overstrikes' in 
2002 which contains a lot of information on brazilian counterstamping 
and I´d be very glad in give any help."



Responding to Ron Abler's question, last week I asked, "In the U.K., 
the field known in the U.S. as exonumia is paranumismatics. So what 
are the adjectival forms of these two words?"

Jørgen Sømod writes: "exonumia is paranumismatics.  I do not like 
and do not use any of these words. For me, tokens as well as medals 
and banknotes are all part of numismatics."

Martin Purdy writes: "I would say exonumismatic and paranumismatic, 
respectively.  I get 37 hits for exonumismatic on Google, which is 
low, but then it's quite a specialised field, so that doesn't perturb 
me too much.  One reference is from a site we are familiar with."  
[... meaning The E-Sylum, of course - see link below. -Editor]


David Gladfelter writes: "I get away with "exonumic" in articles 
for our local exo society newsletter, Jerseyana. But, for the 
definitive answer go to Russell Rulau - 'Exonumia' is Russ's word."

Dennis P. Skea writes: "There are also subcategories of exonumia 
collecting. I collect transportation tokens, so I'm a "Vecturist".  
Do I practice "Vecturism"? I also collect wooden nickels.  I'm a 
"Lignadenarist".  I won't even try on this one.  Some "transportation 
tokens" (good for one ride on a carosel, for example) are wooden 
nickels.  Have some fun with that combination."



Len Augsberger asked me to connect him with George Polizio regarding 
his item on Frank Stewart.  He writes: "I am wondering if he can give 
his source for the information on Stewart's purchase of the 1823 
quarter out of the May, 1914 Chapman sale.

"The reason I ask, is because this coin does not appear in the records 
of the Congress Hall collection which Stewart endowed.  It is interesting 
because the 1823 quarter was listed as a coin they needed, and yet it 
does not appear in the accession records."



Regarding the email scam involving Maria Theresa thalers discussed 
last week, Jim Downey writes: "I was stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 
in 1997-98.  I witnessed more than one transaction involving Bedouins 
in the markets where Maria Theresa thalers were used as the medium of 
exchange.  They were available from money changers for 30 SR.  I 
bought one as a souvenir even though I could get them in the US for 
less.  The money changers that I talked to about them insisted they 
were from France.  I tried to explain their origins but they insisted.  
I later learned that they considered all coins that were not of Arab 
origin to be from France.  No one could explain why."


Don Hartman of Mays Landing, NJ writes: "I thought readers might be 
interested in this find by a metal detectorist from near Williamsport, 
Pa.   I have been following metal detecting forums for many years and 
many great finds but I don't think I had seen a 1793 Washington Ship 
Token ever found.",99654.0.html 
"Also found this week was a somewhat decent 1795 O-113a variety 
Flowing Hair Half Dollar found near Albany, NY.  It has nice detail 
but appears to have some pit corrosion and scratches.  The detail 
is very fine I believe.",100493.0.html

Regarding the satirical proposal for a 99 pence coin, Jørgen Sømod 
writes: "There are many Austrian WWI notgeld with face value 99 heller. 
The law said  notgeld should have a value lower than one corona. And 
that is 99 heller."


The San Diego Union-Tribune published a profile August 5 of money 
artist Peter Simensky:

"Peter Simensky makes art about money. Currency is his medium. He 
crafts intricate collages from existing notes, keeping them true to 
scale. These bills are the main attraction in his exhibition at the 
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego downtown, “Cerca Series: 
Peter Simensky,” curated by Lucia Sanroman.

"The Brooklyn-based artist isn't the first to make art about or 
with money – and we can be sure he won't be the last. Nineteenth-
century fool-the-eye painters, including William Harnett and John 
Peto, liked to render American notes in their canvases. In their 
early 20th-century dada days, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray had fun 
with the concept of money; Duchamp appeared as sort of satyr on 
“Monte Carlo Bond” (1924) in a Man Ray photograph.

"More recently, there have been artists who draw their own bills. 
J.S.G. Boggs is a notable, sometimes notorious example, who has 
been doing it for years. He has happily substituted his meticulously 
executed versions of currency for real ones when making a purchase, 
telling the person at the receiving end he'll give them the option 
of taking real money or Boggs' bills. Still, this hasn't always 
kept him out of trouble; he was arrested at least twice for 
counterfeiting and acquitted on both occasions.

"Some artists have generated their own currency, distinct from 
conventional money. The late Edward Kienholz is highly regarded 
for life-size sculptures that offer gut wrenching social commentary, 
but his “Watercolors” are a trenchant take on artistic reputation 
and the commodity value of art. The words he stenciled on paper, 
the same way each time and against the same lightly colored background, 
were for goods or money. He made them for barter. So, if he put the 
words “For a New Oven and Range” in the work, that meant he received 
an oven and range in return. He did the same for horses, a suit, 
screwdrivers and even a jeep. He also made them in different 
dominations for a 1969 exhibition, writing an amount on each – 
from $1 to $1000 in systematic increments – and selling them for 
the amount on the picture surface.

"Simensky's art mixes both approaches. He makes bills, but unlike 
Boggs he has no desire to make you think that his resemble the real 
thing. Simensky's money is utterly implausible, verging on slapstick. 
He combines faces, so that glasses are too big and features don't 
match. Call it comic currency."

To read the complete article, see: 


Web site visitor Werner Press writes: "You published a review by Rulau 
on a new book by L.B. Fauver titled 'Nuremberg and Nuremberg Style 
Jetons'.  The internet is silent about Oak Grove Publications - can 
you tell me where to order the book?  Thanks in advance."

[I'm not sure myself - can any of our readers help?  -Editor]


Regarding the headline on last week's item about the sale of non-U.S. 
coins found in New York City parking meters, Bob Leuver writes: "I 
have searched my notes and fail to find a prior sale.  So, this is 
a Paul Harvey anecdote without the usual corroboration."

[Well, I could swear I've seen reports of such sales in the past, 
but maybe we haven't covered them in The E-Sylum.  I'm sure this is 
a perennial problem for them, so they must have disposed of unusable 
coins and slugs before in some manner.  -Editor]
Bob adds: "When I was director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 
I was out to a long lunch in Frankfurt, Germany with a couple of 
executives from the Deutchesbundesbank.  They told me that the subway 
system -- I believe it was Frankfurt -- was being overrun with coins 
from England that were about 1/10 or so of the equivalent of the 
West German coin required by the subway.  

"The bank was perplexed as what to do with the coins as the bags of 
English coins were beginning to consume space and they were heavy to 
move.  As the horde increased they kept hefting the bags of coins 
and moving them to larger quarters -- no pun intended.  After a 
high-level meeting the Germans decided to ship the coins to England 
as a goodwill gesture."

[Using cheaper coins from another country to fool vending machines 
is an age-old pastime.  I wouldn't be surprised if someone maintains 
a web page with a table listing what coins or tokens are known to 
be effective substitutes for other, higher-valued coins or tokens.  
Can anyone locate such a chart for us?  -Editor]


Dick Johnson writes: "An enterprising Canadian newspaper, the London 
Free Press -- under their Access to Information Act -- obtained and 
published the fact last Sunday (August 5, 2007) that the Royal 
Canadian Mint spent $110,515 for a public opinion poll whether or 
not to abolish their penny coin. That's a lot of money to cover 
your backside before a decision is made.
"A spokesman for the Mint revealed the study has been completed and 
is under review before it is publicly released. Other countries such 
as Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Finland have quit 
making one-cent coins. 
Winnipeg New Democrat MP Pat Martin is planning a private member's 
bill to discontinue use of the penny. Prices would be rounded up 
or down as they are in Australia. 

"He didn't mince words in what he said: 'I wish they'd stop wasting 
money on public opinion polls and hand-wringing and just stop making 
the damn things.'

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently expressed a coin-collectors' 
sentimental attachment to the penny."

To read the complete article, see:

Dick adds: "In another Canadian news article the headline reads 
'Ottawans differ on losing cents' I expected some support for keeping 
the cent. However, the comments strongly are in favor of abolishing 
the denomination as a circulating coin."
To read the complete article, see:


[Donn Perlman reported the following incident on the Collectors 
Universe coin forums.  -Editor]

"Thank goodness for 'Cointains.'

"Mark Concannon, a Milwaukee television anchorman, unexpectedly 
flipped the Bebee/McDermott specimen 1913 Liberty Head nickel 
during a live interview segment on WITI-TV's Fox 6 Wake Up News 
program on Wednesday morning, August 8. (Yes, he'd been politely 
informed before we went on the air that the "props" for the 
interview could be handled, but with care.....)

"Dawn Haley, Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Treasury 
Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and I were the 
interview guests on the segment to promote the opening of the 
ANA World's Fair of Money. She brought along a few eye-opening 
items from the BEP's popular Billion Dollar Display including 
Series 1934 Gold Certificate $100,000 notes and a $500 million 
Treasury Bond. With the gracious permission of the ANA and the 
assistance of ANA Money Museum Curator, Douglas Mudd, I had the 
Bebee/McDermott 1913 nickel which is making its "homecoming" 
appearance in Milwaukee for the first time in 40 years. 

"During the interview, newscaster Concannon picked up the nickel 
and flipped it in the air. Fortunately, it's in a Cointain protective 
holder, and fortunately, Concannon caught it. A similar situation 
occurred with me in the late 1990's when I was on KTLA-TV in Los 
Angeles with Greg Roberts to show an 1894-S dime that was going 
on display at the Long Beach Expo. Comedian Bill Cosby was also 
on the set. During the live interview, the Cos came over to look 
at the coin (it was in a PCGS holder), took a dime from his pocket, 
put it on the table, picked up the '94-S and began doing a "Fat 
Albert" walk off the set with the '94-S. It was very funny, and 
after the segment he graciously posed for a photo holding the coin 
(which was safely returned to Roberts.)

"Newscaster Concannon was enthusiastic about coin collecting and 
genuinely interested in the items Haley and I brought for 'show 'n' 
tell.' It was a great promotion for the ANA convention. As a 
numismatist, I was briefly stunned by the coin flip. As a 30-year 
broadcaster (before turning to The Dark Side of the Force, PR), 
I knew it was 'good television.' But I hope that this was a TV 
first that has no sequel...."

To read the complete article, see:


I arrived back in London on the Sunday night Virgin Atlantic redeye 
from Dulles International.  In what's getting to be too much of a 
routine, I caught the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station 
and walked several blocks to my hotel with my wheeled luggage in tow.  
After unpacking and taking a shower, I got dressed and headed to the 
office.  After work I checked the schedule of events I'd lined up 
for the week.  

Patrick McMahon of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts had recommended 
visiting Sir John Soane's museum. He wrote: "There is no numismatic 
material there that I can recall (unless his designs for the Bank 
of England count), but there is nothing quite like it."

The Soane web site states that "Soane designed this house to live in, 
but also as a setting for his antiquities and his works of art. After 
the death of his wife (1815), he lived here alone, constantly adding 
to and rearranging his collections."

Never one to turn down good advice from those in the know, I had made 
plans to visit the Soane after work Tuesday.  Ordinarily open only 
until 5pm, the museum has a special candlelight event until 9pm on 
the first Tuesday evening of the month, so I had planned my visit 
for the first Tuesday of August.  Luckily, work didn't get in the 
way.  I left the office about 6:45.

Fortunately, the Soane was in walking distance.   According to my 
map, it was pretty much a straight shot, although in typical London 
style the street changed names at various intersections.  Turning 
off Charing Cross Road I walked down Newport Court to Long Acre 
and then Great Queen Street on my way to 13 Lincoln Inn Fields.

Along the way a storefront caught my eye at 23 Great Queen Street.  
As a numismatist I'm familiar with many types of medals, orders and 
decorations.  In the window were various sashes, decorations and 
several books relating to medal-issuing societies.  The name of 
the store?  Central Regalia Limited - "manufacturers of fine regalia."  
Aha - another only-in-London moment.

The bibliophile in me made note of the books, which could well contain 
information on the issuance and use of various medals and decorations. 
Included were 'The Knights Templar" by Sean Martin, 'The Mark Degree" 
by David Mitchell and multiple titles by Richard Johnson such as 'The 
Lodge treasurer, Charting Steward and Almoner - A Practical Guide'.  
Also on display was a copy of 'Freemasonry Today' magazine.

Two doors down at 19-21 Great Queen I was stopped in my tracks again.  
Signs declared Toye Kenning & Spencer Ltd, founded in 1685, 
"manufacturers of ties, trophies, badges & medallions, special 
commissions, presentations & long service awards."  Gold lettering 
on the transom window spelled "Regalia House".  So what are the odds 
of stumbling upon not one, but TWO regalia peddlers in one block?  
Try THAT on your next trip to the mall.

The widow displays included clocks, watches, picture frames, ties, 
Masonic badges, emblems, cufflinks, glassware, etc.  Books were on 
display here, too.  In addition to some of the same tiles found in 
the neighboring store were 'The Concise History of Freemasonry' by 
Robert Freke Gould and 'Rose Croix: A History of the Ancient and 
Accepted Rite for England and Wales'.  The firm's web site is .  The site states that "Since 1685, 
the name Toye, Kenning & Spencer has been synonymous with quality, 
craftsmanship and service."

"As medal manufacturers for over one hundred years, we supply the 
armed forces and emergency services in both full size and miniature 
medals and ribbons as well as offering a full mounting service.

"As leading international medal ribbon weavers, we have a 
comprehensive stock service for United Nations & International 
Mission medal ribbons.

"We also supply organisations such as the Royal Life Saving Society 
and the National Rifle Association with all of their medal 

The hour being late, the regalia shops were closed, but might make 
a fruitful stop for collectors of medals and decorations while 
visiting London.  I continued on to the Soane only to discover a 
queue of some forty people waiting to get in.

The Soane is a private home and relatively small by museum standards.  
Only 75 visitors are allowed in at a time.  People wait outside to be 
let in only when enough others leave.  So I waited.  A group of seven 
young Londoners was in front of me.  A young woman with a Spanish 
accent got in line behind; next a group of people speaking German 
arrived.  So who was this man whose museum has been drawing people 
from around the world since 1837?

Born in 1753, John Soane was the son of a bricklayer who became one 
of England's greatest architects, responsible for interiors at No. 10 
Downing Street, and for Britain's first public art gallery.  His 
favorite and most famous work was the headquarters of the Bank of 
England (see there - a numismatic connection and I haven't set foot 
in the door yet).

Soane's home is an architectural showpiece featuring a beautiful 
spiraling white marble staircase and a hundreds of feet of built-in 
glass-front bookcases (a bibliophile's dream!).   He died in 1837, 
leaving his home as a public museum.  The original endowment has long 
since been exhausted and the museum is supported by the Government 
and private donations.  But admission is FREE to what is perhaps 
the most idiosyncratic of all London museums.  

Although Patrick McMahon didn't remember any numismatic material, 
my numismatist's nose could sniff some.  I mean, what educated gentleman 
of his day DIDN'T appreciate numismatics?  As I was to find out, there 
were indeed some numismatic treasures waiting inside.

By the time I got to the front of the line there were about sixty 
people behind me.  Finally the door manager motioned me inside.  The 
narrow hallway sported six large plaster wall medallions depicting 
classical allegorical scenes.  Four of them were about two feet in 
diameter; two others were about four feet across.  There were others 
in the alcove and hallway beyond, nine in all.

Turning to the right I entered a combination dining room/library.  
Books were shelved throughout the entire home, but the core of the 
6,000+ volume collection is stored here.  It was about this time that 
I realized that a nostalgic candlelight tour is not the best time to 
view either coins or books - in the dim light it was difficult to 
read the spines and see what books were present.  But I was able 
to make out a few.  

The first item I encountered was a nicely bound set of Gentleman's 
Magazine v1-54, 1731-1764.  No, it's not forerunner of Playboy - 
Gentleman's Magazine was a potpourri of news, announcements and 
discussions on a wide range of topics, driven largely by news and 
reader letters.  Sound familiar?  I like to think of The E-Sylum 
as a faster-paced GM for numismatists of today (both Gentlemen and 
Ladies, thank you).  There are many interesting numismatic tidbits 
within, such as a contemporary announcement of Franklin's Libertas 
Americana medal in the March, 1783 issue.

Other books in the library include the works of Chaucer, a beautifully 
bound 25-volume set of 'Swift's Works', a 20-volume Encyclopedia 
Britannica, Raleigh's 'History of the World' and Malcolm's 'History 
of Persia'.  On a bookshelf in the Kitchen I found the five-volume 
'Catalogue of the Library in Sir John Soane's Museum'.  According 
to the museum's website, "Work to recatalogue the Library to modern 
bibliographical standards is nearing completion, and over the next 
three years groups of entries will be made available on the website 
at intervals as the editing is completed."  Surely there must be a 
few, but try as I might, I could not locate a numismatic tome 

To access the online catalog of Soane's library, see:

In the Dressing room beyond were four hanging frames filled with 
"casts of gems" by Edward Birch and Nathaniel Marchant.  These were 
pretty coin-like cameos in plaster.  On the far wall I spotted a
man's portrait labeled "Nathaniel Marchant R.A. Die Sinker To the 
MINT".  Aha!  Another numismatic connection.

I've found little about him on the Internet, other than a reference 
to an article by Gertrud Seidman in the Fifty-Third Volume of the 
Walpole Society titled 'Nathaniel Marchant, Gem-Engraver, 1739-1816'.   
The Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University mounted a small exhibition 
on Nathaniel Marchant in honour of Miss Seidmann in 1999-2000.  Can 
anyone shed more light on Mr Marchant?  Was he an engraver at the 
Royal Mint?

The Portrait room held 28 paintings and sketches, including twelve 
by William Hogarth (1964-1764).  There were more paintings throughout 
the house.  In the gift shop were some beautiful large landscapes 
with water and buildings including two by Venetian artist Canaletto 
(1697-1768) - Piazza S. Marco and Rialto, Venezia.  

The sheer amount and diversity of the Soane holdings is amazing.  
There are architectural elements, busts, statues, pre-Columbian pottery 
and even a huge sarcophagus of an Egyptian King.  What a treasure palace 
- I can only wonder what the value of the collection is today, 170 
years after Soane's death.

How did Soane assemble his collection?  The docents told me that although 
he took the Grand Tour of Europe as a young man he rarely traveled, and 
bought much of his collection through auctions and dealers.  He also 
purchased entire collections.  When I asked about coins and medals I 
was told that Soane wasn't much interested in numismatics.  Pity - 
imagine the numismatic treasures that could have found their way into 
this collector's centuries-old time capsule.  The docents threw me a 
bone, though, telling me that upstairs was a set of medals Soane bought 
in Paris in 1819.  Hmmmm - more later.

I had already encountered a few numismatic specimens on display.  In 
an alcove in the basement were five medals including gold and silver 
examples of a "medal presented to John Soane by the Architects of 
England. Engraved by Wyon the Chief Engraver of His Majesty's Mint.  
The silver version shows the reverse featuring a portion of his 
favourite work: the Bank of England."  The obverse of the medal 
features a portrait of Soane.   Unfortunately, much of Soane's earlier 
Bank of England building was demolished as part of a renovation in the 
1920s which some called "the greatest architectural crime, in the City 
of London, of the twentieth century".

Finally completing my rounds of the basement and ground floor, I made 
my way upstairs in the dimming evening light.  How come they don't make 
candles with more candlepower?  Anyway, just as the closing hour 
approached I found the numismatic Holy Grail of the Soane museum, 
sitting in two glass-topped wooden cases on a window seat in the back 
bedroom.  Each case held four custom-made wooden trays of bronze medals 
of all sizes, about 130 in all.  Despite the poor lighting I could see 
that the medals were in great condition, many with superb mahogany 
surfaces.  The label read as follows:

"Medals struck at the Paris Mint between 1796 and 1815 to celebrate 
the victories and other episodes in Napoleon's career.  Designed by 
Baron Denon (1747-1825) and engraved by various French artists, this 
collection is traditionally said to have been assembled by Baron 
for the Empress Josephine."

I was agog at the sight of the collection and wished for just 
three things:

1. a good magnifier
2. a good flashlight
3. a good deal more time

But soon it was 8:55PM and downstairs one of the docents said 
"Do guard your ears!" before clanking a large hand bell to signal 
closing time.  Reluctantly, I left the building.

I visited an Indian restaurant for dinner on my way back to the tube 
stop.  Passing a Tapas restaurant decked out in red chintz, it looked 
to me like a French bordello on Bastille Day.  I guess I still had 
visions of Paris on my brain.

It was 10pm and few cars were about on Charing Cross Road.  I jaywalked 
straight across without a care, a death-defying act in midday.  The 
only moving vehicles were six tricycle rickshaws, some pulling tourists, 
most empty.  The sidewalks were as packed as ever with people, though, 
including families with children coming from the thratre.  I wished 
my family could be with me.  Soon I was on the tube, hurtling back to 
my hotel on a Central Line train.  So ended another day in London.

While writing this diary entry I came across a great article on 
Soane's museum.  Here's an excerpt that we collectors can relate to:

"John Soane's problem was that he couldn't stop collecting fantastic 
things and cramming them into his house on Lincoln's Inn Fields in 

"He was one of those splendid and productive wackos who make life 
worth living for the rest of us by leaving behind something astonishing 
to remind us that the secret to being interesting is being interested."

"The tidy chaos of Soane's Museum is what makes it so enchanting -- 
unlike other museums, the collection is not organized according to any 
perceivable linear or thematic thread. He arranged his exquisite 
hodgepodge the way he wished, juxtaposing objects for his own 
aesthetic satisfaction. Great cooks don't bother with recipes."

[Has the existence of Soane's set of Napoleonic medals been recorded 
in the numismatic literature?  Is there any other record of its 
provenance? -Editor]

To read the complete Salon article on Soane's museum, see:

For more information on Napoleonic medals, see:

For more information on Baron Denon, see: 

For more information on the Soane museum, see  

For more information on Sir John Soane, see: 



My work week got busier and busier and I stayed later at the office 
each night.  On Thursday I didn't leave until nearly 11pm.  On the tube 
home the driver announced, "we're stopping at this station for a few 
minutes so we can clean up some vomit on the first car."  That was 
just what I needed to hear as I attempted to digest a few pieces of 
late-evening pepperoni pizza from the office.  The driver came on 
the loudspeaker a couple minutes later and said, "Really, it's only 
vomit, there's no need to look down the car."   I wasn't among those 
looking - all I wanted was to get back to my hotel.

At 6am my alarm rang and by seven I was standing outside on my suit 
and tie.  Three of us hopped into a car driven by our client.  We 
circled around some local street closures, then alongside Hyde Park 
to Marble Arch.  The large archway was built as an entrance to 
Buckingham Palace, but it was later moved and reassembled at the 
southwestern corner of Hyde Park.  Here we turned onto Edgeware 
Road heading north out of London.  This is the beginning of what 
is now the A5 expressway, following a route originally paved by 
the Romans.

We arrived in Leavesden well before our 9am meeting.  The building 
had a café in the lobby, and our client offered to buy us breakfast.  
I'm not a ham and eggs person on a good day and would have been happy 
with some toast or cereal.  But the café was mainly offering hot 
wrapped sausage sandwiches, basically sausage hot dogs.  Everyone 
bought one.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do, I thought.  So I 
ate a sausage hot dog for breakfast.

Our meetings went well, thanks in part to our preparation work the 
night before.  But a lack of sleep was catching up on me.  I had to 
concentrate to not doze off as others droned on.  But that wasn't 
my biggest problem - that would be the silent sausage farts.  My 
biggest fear was that I'd fall asleep and my colleagues would wheel 
me out of the room so I would stink up the hallway instead.  But 
the storm passed and a supply of caffeinated cola kept me awake. 

About 5 o'clock our client dropped us at a train station and we 
took the tube back into London.  We worked until 6:30 or so, then 
walked toward the Lowlander Pub in Covent Garden, where we'd been 
a few Fridays before.  My co-worker, who's usually very good with 
London directions, ended up detouring us a good bit out of our way, 
but it gave me a chance to see Covent Garden Market again.  The 
place was alive with hoards of people.  An acrobat entertained by 
juggling while riding a unicycle on a rope suspended between two 
columns.  Tourists were having their photo taken with a man dressed 
as a statue of a Roman soldier.  A sign chiseled in a nearby wall 
noted that Samuel Pepys watched his first Punch puppet show near 
the site in May 1662.  Over three centuries later, the place was 
still a magnet for street entertainers.

We finally got to the pub around seven.  Our client joined us later, 
along with his wife.  We had some nice conversation, but I was fading 
fast - exhaustion was setting in.  I couldn't bear to eat and drink 
like the locals - screw the Romans, screw Wild Boar Sausages, and 
screw the beer, too.  I ordered a bottle of water and a hamburger.  
I left around 9:30 and could barely keep my eyes open.  But I made 
it home, looking forward to a good night's rest.

I guess I got my rest - I didn't set the alarm and didn't crawl out 
of bed until after 10am.  The forecast was for a sunny day with a high 
of 79 degrees Fahrenheit.  That would make it warmest day I've seen my 
whole stay in London.  Earlier this week it had hit 102 degrees back 
home in Virginia.  Here in London the high was only 70; going to work 
in the morning I saw people wearing jackets.  I gladly put on shorts 
and a T-shirt, looking the part of a proper American tourist.

I left my hotel around noon.  As I walked to the main street, I 
could already tell it was going to be a perfect day, one where the 
skies are clear, the air is warm, and all the women are beautiful.  
Alongside Prince Alfred pub, a florist displayed colorful cut flowers 
for sale.  I wanted to buy my wife a bouquet, but she and my kids 
were thousands of miles away.

Wishing to try something different for lunch, I walked into Halal, a 
local eatery run by a Muslim.  I hadn't been in before, but was impressed 
with the cleanliness and brightness of the place.  I ordered a chicken 
curry dish, and it was very good.  As I paid my bill I noticed some Euro 
coins in the tip plate.  I asked the manager about the exchange rate, 
and then offered to pay in pounds for the coins.  He agreed, and I took 
the coins - two fifty cent coins of country different designs, and a 
twenty cent and ten cent coin.

I walked into my regular Queensway tube station.  As I turned the 
corner onto the platform, a train was just arriving.  See - I just 
knew it would be a perfect day.  I hopped on and exited at the Holborn 
station.  One woman walking near me had a little dog walking ahead of 
her on a leash.  A woman up ahead of me was wearing a pair of jeans 
cut a little bit too low around the waist, revealing an inch or so of, 
shall we say, "cleavage".  She must have felt a breeze (or my eyeballs) 
and gave her pants a tug upward.

On the way to my destination was Sir John Soane's museum.  This time 
there was no wait to enter and I went in for some unfinished business.  
I made a beeline for the Napoleonic medal set on the second floor.  
The sunlight beaming through the window made it easy to see the medals 
this time.  I confirmed Tuesday evening's impression - the medals were 
generally in superb shape, although some could benefit from some 
conservation work.  

Two small holes in the trays were unfilled, causing me to wonder if they 
had ever been filled.  Two round patches of background material less faded 
by sunlight than the surrounding areas made me suspect two larger medals 
had either been lost or (hopefully) taken by the curators for study or 
conservation.  One of them had suspended via a hole or bezel - a small 
nail remained behind.  My favorite medal?  There on many, particularly 
those with very high relief.  They had allegorical motifs, nudes, Gods, 
warriors and of course, Napoleon.  

In the daylight I could read the spines of many of the books I saw. 
Remember, Soane was an architect and he used his collections and 
library partly for the education of himself and his pupils.  Some of 
the books were tour guides and town histories, undoubtedly acquired 
for information on old buildings.  Some titles included "Walks Through 
Bath", "Beauties of England and Wales", "Oxford Guides", "Winchester & 
Cambridge", "History of Exeter" and a four-volume set of "Hughson's 

Before leaving I took a quick walk around, and it was a better 
experience now that the rooms were better lit.  Light poured through 
the windows and skylight domes.  Outside in the court I could see 
Soane's tall monument to the family dog, inscribed "Alas / Poor Fanny".

The Picture Room revealed its secrets.  I had wondered why it contained 
so few paintings.  It didn't.  Today I could see that the walls open up 
on hinges, an ingenious space-saving design revealing many more paintings 
and prints behind on hinged panels.  Many are paintings and drawings 
of Soane's architectural designs.  On a shelf is a scale model of 
Soane's South Front of the Bank of England.

Once outside I decided to walk through Lincoln's Inn Fields, a city 
park across the street.  It is the largest public square in London 
and is thought to have been one of the inspirations for New York's 
Central Park.  The trees are a wonder - with trunks measuring several 
feet across, they must be centuries old.  The oldest building facing 
Lincoln's Inn Fields is Lindsey House, built in 1640.  At nearby 
Powis House, the charter of the Bank of England was sealed in July 

As I continued my walk I heard the beep-beep-beep of a construction 
vehicle backing up.  It was a flatbed truck (pardon me, "lorry") 
carrying wooden timbers, perhaps for scaffolding.  Construction 
cranes towered nearby.  I imagined John Soane's excitement if he 
could be with me today - he'd probably run over to the site 
foreman's office, imploring to be shown the plans.

I passed the Courts of Justice and Law Society on Chancery Lane.  
A plaque on one building noted what had been lost to earlier 
construction: "Site of Old Serjeant's Inn 1415-1910".  

My destination was the home of Samuel Johnson, author of the first 
major dictionary of the English language.  An elderly couple from 
Chicago that I'd met at the Benjamin Franklin house recommended it, 
but noted that it was difficult to find in narrow lanes off Fleet 
Street.  So onto Fleet Street I turned.  A double-decker tour bus 
passed by.  Across the street was a tall, narrow building housing 
Ye Olde Cock Tavern.

Following my map I came to Pemberton Row. There was a construction 
fence and another tall crane.  But the fence held clues that I was 
drawing near.  Painted on the fence were definitions of interesting 
English words, including: "Equinumerant - Having the same number", 
"Discalceation - The act of pulling off the shoes", "Circumferaneous 
- Wandering from house to house ' 'A circumferaneous fiddler, one 
that plays at doors.'"

Around a corner I walked onto Gough Street and spotted my goal, but 
my heart sank as a read the sign on the locked gate: "Dr. Johnson's 
house will be closed today..."   But I was relieved to read the rest: 
"... between 1-2 pm".  I was even more relieved as I checked the time 
on my mobile phone: 1:57pm.   The admission was 4.50 GBP.  I pulled 
out a fiver and waited.  I was soon joined by five other people.

A pretty blond woman walked out of the house and clapped with 
excitement - "Ooh, a crowd!"   She unlocked the gate and let us in.  
I paid my admission and was given a 50 pence coin in return.  I looked 
at it disappointedly.  "You should be giving out Johnson coins in change," 
I said.  In 2005 the Royal Mint issued a circulating commemorative 50p 
coin in honor of the 250th anniversary of the 1755 publication of 
Johnson's Dictionary. Finding one of the coins in change had partly 
inspired my visit.

The clerk explained that they'd tried to get a supply of the coins, 
but it had taken months to get their order filled by their bank.  
They had none in the till, but did offer some uncirculated ones for 
sale in Royal Mint packaging.  The gift shop also sold books on 
Johnson, including, of course, James Boswell's classic, "The Life 
of Samuel Johnson."

In the front hallway, the original front door was secured with two 
large deadbolts and an even larger iron chain.  Partway up the stairs 
was a small built-in closet that once stored candles, handy when 
going upstairs after dark.

At the top of the stair was a nook with chairs and a video player.  
I pushed in a tape and watched a 20-minute video with costumed actors 
portraying Johnson and Boswell touring the house and discussing 
Johnson's life.  He had been born into a poor family in 1728.  He 
entered Oxford University but was too poor to complete his studies.  
He later found work as a teacher and founded a private academy.  He 
only had three pupils, but one was David Garrick, who became Johnson's 
friend and later went on to fame and fortune as an actor.  By 1737 
Johnson was penniless and he and Garrick set out together to make 
their fortunes in London. There he found employment writing for 
The Gentleman's Magazine. For the next thirty years, Johnson wrote 
biographies, poetry, essays, pamphlets and parliamentary reports.

In 1745 he signed a contract with a publisher to write his dictionary, 
worth the equivalent of over $300,000 today.  He thought the project 
would take three years; it took a decade.  He moved to the Gough street 
house to work on the project and be close to his printer.  Johnson 
scoured his extensive library for references, underlining words and 
sentences for inclusion in his dictionary.  He had a team of six 
clerks working for him in the attic of the house.  They transcribed 
the excerpts onto cards and organized them for him.  Johnson would 
study the cards and write his definitions.  Eventually the cards 
were assembled and prepared for the printer to typeset.

I climbed to the attic workroom.  While Johnson's dictionary was not 
the first dictionary of the English language, it was by all accounts 
the best to date and came along at a fortuitous time - the declining 
cost of printing and the corresponding rise in literacy demanded 
clearer standards in meaning spelling, and grammar.  The workroom 
was dim, but large enough to accommodate the clerks and their work.  
It held no furniture or artifacts relating to his dictionary.  If 
there was copy of his original dictionary anywhere in the house, I 
did not see it.

So what's the numismatic connection?  Well, we at The E-Sylum love 
words, although it's been a while since we've defined an unusual 
numismatic term.  That's all that led me here.  But there were 
some interesting numismatic items here besides the 2005 commemorative.

In the attic room through 18 September is "Behind the Scenes", an 
exhibit on Georgian Theatres 1737-1784.  In one case was a 
Shakespearian Jubilee Medallion, a silver medal struck in 1769 
to "commemorate the Jubilee organized by David Garrick in Stratford-
Upon-Avon to celebrate the bicentenary of Shakespeare's birth.  The 
medal was displayed with its original hanger, ribbon and box.

In another case was a group of 1778 Haymarket entry tokens.  These 
were used as admission tickets to the Haymarket Theatre.  The four 
apparently polished tokens were encased in Lucite.  Their 
inscriptions included the words "Box", "Pit", "First Gall'y" and 
"Second Gall'y".  The exhibit text explained that Boxes were for 
people "of quality".  The Pit was for "ladies, gentleman and 
intellectuals."  The First Gallery was for "tradesmen and their 
wives" and the Second Gallery was for "the mob."  [Quick quiz: 
name a U.S. numismatic item relating to a theatre. -Editor]

Finally, a third case contained another unusual numismatic item: 
"John Philip Kemble's 'George'", a crude-looking medal of "silver 
or nickel alloy c1781-1817."  The text explained that "A George 
Medal was "... traditionally worn onstage by actors in the role 
of Richard III; it depicts George slaying the dragon'.

It was nearly 3pm.  I made my way out of the Johnson house and 
found a new passage back to Fleet Street.  The dome of St. Paul's 
Cathedral loomed in the distance.  I was thirsty, but passed up 
the first shops I encountered - A McDonald's and a Starbuck's.  
Not enough of the local color for this numismatourist.  

But I soon came across Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese restaurant.  A 
sign noted that it was rebuilt in 1667 (after the London fire 
of 1666) and was "a known haunt of Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens 
and countless others."   To the right of the entrance was a sign: 
"Under 15 Sovereigns ... Rebuilt in the reign of Charles II and 
continued successively in the reigns of ..."  The sign listed 
all monarchs from James II (1685-1688) through Elizabeth II (1952-).

The most telling sign of the restaurant's longevity was the stone 
stoop in front of the door - it was worn down several inches by 
centuries of patrons' shoes.  A grate above it allows today's 
visitors to enter without tripping.  But I didn't need a restaurant, 
just a drink.  

This being Saturday in the City of London, a booming business 
district during the week, many shops were closed.  Local chains 
Pret A Manger,  E.A.T. and William H. Smith were closed for the 
weekend.  I found an open convenience store and bought a cold Coke 

I walked down the street and entered St. Paul's Cathedral.  After 
waiting in line with other tourists I bought my ticket and was told 
"if you want to climb the dome, you'd better start now - there's 
not much time left."  So I found the first of the 400+ steps and 
began my ascent, but not before marveling at the absolute beauty 
and splendor of the magnificent structure.

"Stairway to Heaven" I heard someone quip. The first landing is the 
Whispering Gallery, a shelf of seating surrounding the lower part 
of the main dome.  A choir began to practice and the sound and view 
were heavenly.  Entering another door, I climbed the second set of 
stairs to a higher landing.  It's as if Christopher Wren designed 
the stairs with tourists in mind; the various landings allow you 
to catch your breath before resuming the ascent.  There are also 
benches at various points along the stairs.

The final journey is on a narrow winding iron grill stair.  If you 
look down, you'll see the faces of others below looking up at you.  
The line of people backs up here, as people linger at the very top 
before coming back down a separate stair.  At one point in the final 
climb, you have to squeeze through a narrow stone doorway.  The trek 
is not for the obese, acrophobic, claustrophobic, or discreet women 
in skirts.

A one point there is a glass window in the floor at the very center 
of the dome.  You can look down from an angel's perch to the floor 
of the Cathedral below, where people look like ants.  Near the pinnacle 
of the dome you step outside onto a walkway to a magnificent view of 
London.  The Thames sparkles below.  Downstream is the Tower Bridge 
and Tower of London.  Upstream are the Houses of Parliament, the 
Millennium Bridge and the London Eye, the huge Ferris Wheel also 
built to celebrate the millennium.  I took some photos, like everyone 
else.  What would the architects Wren and Soane think to view their 
city from this vantage point today?

The climb down was quick and uneventful.  I entered the American Chapel 
at the East End of the Cathedral.  A sign read "This area, originally 
containing the high altar, had suffered major bomb damage in October 
1940."  Later, downstairs in the crypt, was a placard stating "following 
the bombing raid of 29 December 1940, when St. Paul's was seen rising 
above the smoke and flame all around, Winston Churchill telephoned 
the Guildhall to insist that that Cathedral must be saved at all costs.  
St. Paul's was a symbol of the nation's defiance in the dark days of WWII."

After the war, restoration work began on the Cathedral. The replacement 
of the high altar area "revived an unfulfilled plan of Sir Christopher 
Wren and provided a space for a chapel of great beauty and significance." 
The American Chapel was dedicated in November 1958.  The sign 
reproduced Winston Churchill's letter about the Chapel:

"Our two countries, parted long ago by war, were brought together 
again by war in a unity and understanding such as we had never known. 
Through long years of endeavour and endurance we shared all things, 
and though we lost so much we found a lasting friendship.  We shall 
not forget those gallant American soldiers, sailors and airmen who 
fought with us..."

Churchill's was the only non-royal state funeral held in St. Paul's, 
on 30 January, 1965.  The others were Nelson and Wellington, who have 
huge monuments in the basement crypt.  I lingered a bit, then went 
outside to continue my journey.  I followed my map toward The Tower of 
London, passing the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street.  By the 
time I arrived at the Tower it was 5:30 and too late to enter.  I 
walked around the outside of the old structure, and viewed some 
remaining parts of the old Roman wall that once encircled the City.  
I hopped on the tube and headed home for dinner.

Back at the hotel Saturday evening I did my laundry and worked on The 
E-Sylum in my room.  Twice I returned to the laundry room to find that 
one of the other guests had mucked with my dryer - after an hour and 
a half my clothes were still wet.  I stalked back to my room and brought 
my laptop down to the laundry room, where I worked on the E-Sylum with 
the computer atop a dryer.  Next one to touch my clothes will find 
themselves stuffed into a washing machine with the agitator in an 
awkward place.  So my Saturday evening wasn't as glamorous as the ANA 
awards banquet in Milwaukee.  But it was a fun day of numismatic 

For more information on the Marble Arch, see: 

For more information on Covent Garden and Punch and Judy, see

For more information on Lincoln's Inn Fields, see:'s_Inn_Fields

For am image of the Samuel Johnson commemorative 50 pence coin, See: 

For more information on Samuel Johnson, see: 

For more information on the Royal Haymarket Theatre, see


Earlier in my visit Jim Spilman wrote: "While you are there in London 
with the Bloody British be certain to stop by the Arms Museum within 
the Tower of London.  It is just 'around the corner' in one of the 
buildings adjacent to the Crown Jewels exhibit.   Last time I was 
there they had on display the ORIGINAL Steam Gun invented by Jacob 
Perkins (ca. 1820).  It could penetrate a 19" brick brick wall with 
iron slugs. "Reference:  Jacob Perkins, His Inventions,  His Times,  
& His Contemporaries.  Page 111ff.  Greville & Dorothy Bathe.  The 
Historical Society of PA. 1943 (200 copies)" 

Not having yet been inside the Tower of London, I made this my goal 
for Sunday.  I had some salad and an apple for lunch at my hotel and 
headed again for the tube.  This time I walked up to the Notting Hill 
Gate station and took the Circle Line, which stops directly at the 
Tower station.  Wearing shorts and a T-shirt in giddy anticipation 
of a repeat of Saturday's weather, I was sadly encountered with cool 
and cloudy weather.   Too lazy or stubborn to go back and change, I 
pressed on.  The sun shone thru enough times that I made do, but 
warmer clothes would have been welcome.

I passed through the main tower gate about 1pm, just in time to 
catch up with a tour group led by a member of the Yeoman Warders, 
the famous "Beefeaters".  He seemed to really enjoy his work, teasing 
the crowd, yet doling out very interesting bits of history and lore 
about the Tower.  At the center of the complex is The White Tower.  
Built by William the Conqueror along the banks of the Thames in 1078, 
the structure which served as the royal palace for over 500 years.  
In the 12th century, King Richard the Lionheart enclosed the White 
Tower with a curtain wall and had a moat dug around it.  Various 
other building and towers were built within the walls.  "The Tower 
of London" is a term referring to the entire complex.

After our tour most of the hundreds of tourists got in line to view 
the Crown Jewels.  As one who hates lines, I decided to go look for 
the coin exhibits.  "No one will be there". I thought.   It turned 
out to be a good decision.  I waited until about 4 pm and by then there 
was no line at all to see the Jewels.  I skipped in giddily like a kid 
on a private visit to Disneyland. 

Disneyland is an apt analogy - prepared for huge crowds, the exhibit 
walks visitors through multiple waiting galleries before delivering 
the crowd to the main event.  Projection screens show films of the 
coronation of Elizabeth II, and discuss some of the more famous 
diamonds and gems that adorn the crowns.

In the final exhibit room visitors are herded into two lines, one in 
front of a line of exhibit cases, and one behind.  The floors are 
moving walkways like those seen in airports.  What better way to move 
the cattle along and prevent lingering?

No such precautions were needed at the numismatic exhibit, which turned 
out to be pitifully small.  There was no signage anywhere, and two of 
the guards I spoke to had no idea it was there.  A third guard directed 
me to the top floor of the White Tower.   I entered the Tower in awe of 
its thousand-year history.  The White Tower is today basically a museum 
of armaments, filled with suits of armor, muskets, cannons and other 
weapons.  It was an interesting exhibit, but I have to say I enjoyed 
the armaments at the Fitzwilliam Museum more.  At the Fitzwilliam the 
armor is right out in the open, close enough to touch.  The Tower 
museum lacks that wow factor - there are far more items on display, 
but they are farther back from visitors or behind glass.

Once inside I also had to ask for assistance finding the Jacob Perkins 
gun.  Because of the steam power mechanism, I was expecting something 
very large, but as it turns out the gun itself is fairly small, as it 
is meant to be attached to steam source by a tube.

Within a case displaying a number of experimental weapons was the 
Perkins steam gun, circa 1840.  It is not the original Jacob Perkins 
gun as Jim remembered (unless that was also there and I missed it).  
This one was an improved version built by Jacob's son Angier.

The final room at the top of the White Tower held the new "Hands on 
History" exhibit, where visitors heft axes and feel the tension of 
an archer's bow.  Along the center of the room is a long exhibit 
by the Mint with large-scale reproductions of different coins, each 
about a foot across.  As anyone who has seen the early hammered 
coins knows, the artwork was typically crude.  I over heard one 
visitor, while looking at the enlarged coin likeness of William I 
comment sarcastically, "What a beautiful likeness!"

There were some real coins in the exhibit, but only twelve - 
displayed were obverse/reverse examples of:

Silver penny of William I
Gold noble of Edward III
Gold sovereign of Edward VI
Silver crown of Charles I
Silver crown of George II

In all, the numismatic exhibit was pretty disappointing.  I guess I 
expected too much from a venue that once housed an actual mint.  The 
old mint facilities were not in the White Tower, but in an outbuilding 
elsewhere in the compound.  There is a "Mint Street", but this area 
is private and closed to visitors.

I left the Tower of London complex about 5pm and walked toward Tower 
Hill, to the place where the Royal Mint relocated upon leaving the 
Tower.  The Royal Mint building was there, across the road leading to 
the Tower Bridge.  It too, was closed to the public.  The Mint had 
long ago packed up again and removed to Llantrisant, Wales.  Time 
marches on, and so did I.  This time I walked several blocks to the 
Liverpool Street Station to catch a tube train back to my hotel.  
That's all for this week's numismatic adventures.  
Cheers from London!



Dick Johnson writes: "The headline stated “The Blog Turns 10” in my 
morning newspaper. Blogs have been around for a decade! Can you believe 
it? The article tells me there are more than 53.1 million individual 
blogs now – on every conceivable subject -- and 175,000 new blogs 
are created every day!

"But I am glad there is a blog on numismatics, and numismatic literature. 
Or, perhaps you do not consider E-Sylum a blog, editor Wayne Homren’s 
personal blog. Unlike the gossip, politics, and shear running off of 
the mouth – there is now a word for this “blogorhea”—that you will find 
on most other web postings, I am certain you will agree what you read 
here every week is a cut above anything else on the Internet.

"Wayne Homren was a visionary. Look at the first line in this issue. It 
says vol 10, number 32.  Wayne envisaged many years ago what a weekly 
discourse of news, announcements, gripes, comments and discourse on 
numismatics would find an audience on the Internet. Way ahead of its 
time. He has found that audience. He has built a readership based on 
the freshness, quality, importance and service to his subscribers by 
providing numismatic information we all wanted. And he has maintained 
that every week since.

"As a high school senior in 1946 I could not get enough news of 
numismatics in the then existing publications (Numismatist, Numismatic 
Scrapbook). So I subscribed to a newspaper clipping service for any 
news clipping on coins. For a class in journalism that year I wrote a 
paper “Establishing a numismatic news service.” This came about, somewhat, 
14 years later when I started Coin World. So you see I have some insight 
of the subject.

"I recognized Wayne was on to something when I first learned of E-Sylum. 
He foresaw the Internet as an effective way of publishing without paper, 
print and mailing. It comes to us every Monday on our computer screen.

"No, I don’t consider E-Sylum a blog. To me it is an Internet newsletter. 
Make that a Newsletter with a capital N."

[I often call The E-Sylum a blog when explaining to people outside the 
hobby what I do with my spare time – it’s a popular term and most people 
know what it means now.  But it think Dick's right – The E-Sylum not 
exactly a blog.  From the start it was a newsletter - an email newsletter.  
Now that we've grown into having a web archive and RSS feed, it looks 
and acts a lot more like a blog, but it holds to its newsletter roots.  
Many thanks to all E-Sylum readers for your interest and participation. 
It's reader input that really differentiates The E-Sylum from a "mere" 
blog, which is typically a one-way publishing street.  -Editor]

Dick adds: "I say I write at least one article a week for an Internet 
Newsletter.  People seem to understand that.  Perhaps it is time to 
put 'Newsletter' as a subhead somehow."

[Instead of “an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania 
Society.”, I guess we could be more specific and label it “an online 
newsletter.”   It’s not just email since we have an RSS feed as well; 
both forms qualify as “online”.  If you know what "RSS" is, you can 
use the following address to set up The E-Sylum in your RSS feed 
reader: . -Editor]


Ralf W. Böpple of Stuttgart writes: "On the question of how obsolete
-denomination coins were taken out of circulation, I can only make a 
guess. I understand that most odd denominations were either never 
widely used, or at least no longer so in the years prior to their 
termination. So the number of pieces in circulation should have been 
very low to begin with. 

"The regular way in such a situation would be that people spend them 
(even if they are not officially demonetized, there is a strong 
incentive for the public to do so, for fear that the government might 
change its mind in the future). The shopkeepers turn them over to 
their banks, because their clients are reluctant to accept them as 
change, and the banks send them off to the Federal Reserve or whoever 
might be in charge of the local cash supply.

"If the coins were made of silver, they might have been hoarded (there 
is a psychological difference between paying with a silver half dime 
and a nickel, even though both are worth 5 cents) and were then melted 
down in later years."



On a related topic, Ralf W. Böpple writes: "Regarding Roger deWardt 
Lane's attempt to circulate dollar coins in a coin club meeting, I 
would simply say that numismatists tend to keep unusual coins they 
get in circulation, so it appears to me quite logical that they put 
them aside and did not spend them. The effect of people NOT wanting 
the new dollars should be increased circulation, because people would 
try to get rid of the unwanted coins as quickly as possible! It is 
like the two dollar bill (another topic recently discussed). During 
my very first visit to the US some time back, I received one in change, 
and I found it so exciting that I kept it, and still have it today. 
If I wouldn't have found it interesting and exotic, I would have made 
it circulate as quickly as possible, right?"



On Monday the U.S. Mint in Denver held a ceremonial striking of 
Wyoming's commemorative quarter with a number of Wyoming state 
officials present.   The Denver Post published a short article:

"Participants in the ceremony included Bradford Ross, the grandson 
of the first woman governor of Wyoming and the first woman director 
of the Mint, Nellie Tayloe Ross; Milward Simpson, director of the 
Wyoming Department of Parks and Cultural Resources; and James Helzer, 
Wyoming Quarter Commission Member. 

"According to a news release, Wyoming's state quarter is the fourth 
coin released in 2007 and the 44th released in the Mint's 50 State 
Quarters Program. An image of a bucking horse and rider are featured 
on the coin, along with the inscription, "Equality State," which 
acknowledges the state's historical role in establishing equal voting 
rights for women. The coin also is inscribed with "Wyoming" and the 
year "1890," the year the state was admitted into the Union."

To read the original article, see:

The Jackson Hole Star-Tribune published a video on its web site. 
To view the video, see:

The Wyoming Tribune published a lengthier piece:

"Some may look at the Wyoming quarter - which was the subject of a 
ceremonial striking at the U.S. Mint here Monday - and see the 
duality in the state's culture engraved on the tails side of the 

"On the right of the coin is the state slogan, 'The Equality State,' 
celebrating Wyoming's groundbreaking role in providing equal rights 
for women.

"On the left is the well-known cowboy on a bucking bronc - a 
masculine symbol of individualism that brings to mind the popular 
moniker 'The Cowboy State.'

"Nellie Tayloe Ross, Wyoming's first female governor and the first 
woman in the nation sworn in as a state governor, would not see 
those values in opposition though.

"On Monday, her grandson, Bradford Ross, said, 'I think my grandmother 
would say that the suffrage issues really helped illustrate the 
reality of the (cowboy on) the bucking horse symbol.

"'The men of Wyoming - the cowboys of Wyoming - are so self-confident 
that they don't feel like they're losing anything by giving women the 
right to vote. My grandmother saw the people of Wyoming were 
progressive and insightful.'

"Dignitaries and media milled about the highly secured production 
floor of the Mint in Denver, a facility Ross knew well.

"Milward Simpson is director of the Department of State Parks and 
Cultural Resources. He also was a member of the Wyoming Coinage 
Advisory Committee that reviewed and whittled down the options for 
the coin.

"He said public suggestions for the bucking bronc and cowboy as a 
symbol for the coin ran 10-1 as the most recommended symbol in 
3,200 suggestions.

"Some people see the two slogans - 'The Equality State' and 'The 
Cowboy State' - as contradictory, but he does not.

"'The nature of the cowboy as a symbol is retrospective, and the 
Equality State is aspirational. So they sort of fit together,' he 

"Simpson said Ross' role at the Mint made her the logical choice 
to exemplify Wyoming's commitment to equality for women during the 
striking of a coin.

"She was appointed to head the U.S. Mint by President Roosevelt in 
1933 and served until 1953.

"Bradford Ross said his grandmother's accomplishments at the Mint 
included overseeing the opening of a new building in San Francisco 
in 1937; producing coins for European nations after World War II; 
and pushing for automation and efficiency at the Mint facilities.

"Bradford Ross said, 'Walking the halls of this building as a little 
12-year-old boy with my grandmother, I could see how proud she was 
of the people who work here and the work that they do.'

"Ross' legacy lives on at the Mint, said Barbara Hurtgam, acting 
deputy plant manager.

"She said she hoped the attendees witnessing the ceremonial striking 
would find the facility 'as automated and efficient as (Nellie Tayloe 
Ross) would want us to be.'

To read the complete article, see:


"U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has introduced legislation that 
would authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to adjust the metal 
content of coins distributed by the U.S. Mint. The bill is an effort 
to save taxpayers over $100 million per year.

"'This common sense legislation will allow our government to alter 
the composition of coins so we no longer have to spend so much money 
making our money. As a representative of one of the two states with a 
U.S. Mint Department circulating coins, I will work hard to ensure 
that this bill is passed expeditiously so our government can start 
saving money today,' Allard said in a press release.

"The U.S. Department of the Treasury has reported that changing the 
composition of our pennies and nickels will save the government over 
$100 million a year. This legislation could also lead to a saving of 
nearly $400 million a year by making similar changes to the dime, 
quarter and half dollar.

"Allard added that once this bill is enacted, the United States Mint, 
which is a part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, will seek 
industry and public comment on alternative compositions for the coins."

To read the complete article, see: 

To view the full text of the bill, see:

[David Ganz published a detailed article on this legislation on 
Numismatic News' Numismaster site.  Here are a couple excerpts. 

"Legislation has been simultaneously introduced in the House and Senate 
to allow the Treasury secretary to change the composition of American 
coinage, and to allow public participation in the process.

"This marks the third time in the last 42 years that the Mint is being
asked to make serious changes in its coinage composition. The first 
came with the Coinage Act of 1965; the second came with the proposal 
in 1973 to change the composition of the cent from copper to aluminum. 
Copper-nickel clad coins and a zinc cent that is copper plated were 
the end result.

"This legislation is far more encompassing and looks to the future 
and the need for prompt action by the Treasury secretary as the price 
of copper, nickel, zinc and other raw materials rises faster than 
Congress can cope with them.

"Treasury has undertaken several major studies of coinage composition 
in the last half century. First of these was by the Treasury and 
entitled, "Treasury Staff Study on Silver and Coinage" (1965). Treasury 
also contracted for private studies.

"One of these was by the Battelle Memorial Institute, entitled "Final 
Report on a Study of Alloys Suitable for Use as United States Coinage" 

"Before any changes take place, both the Senate and House must approve 
in identical bills and the President must sign it into law. Odds are 
this one will move ahead, given its powerful backers."

To read the complete Ganz article, see: 


On Monday, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch visited the town of 
Littleton and made a stop at Littleton Coin Company.  His visit was 
chronicled in the Caledionian-Record of Vermont.

"After getting an earful about health care needs, and being very 
impressed by what happens each day at Littleton Regional Hospital, 
the governor headed over to the Littleton Coin Co. for an up-close 
and personal look at one of the region's top employers - employing 
360 people, said Milton Bratz, director of Administrative Operations.

"The company was a dream of Maynard Sundman, who was a coin collector, 
and after the war desired to start a company based on his passion - 
he found an investor and had his wife look for a site in New Hampshire.

"They moved the fledgling business from Bristol, Conn., to Littleton, 
the 92-year-old Sundman shared with the governor. He said the city he 
grew up in had a brass mill, and he got the idea that a coin company 
would make a good business.

"The governor and he inspected the old Royal typewriter he still 
uses, 'but not for important things,' he said with a smile.

"Bratz told the governor that even when the economy isn't so strong, 
that people continue to purchase things for their hobbies - such as 
coin and stamp collecting. People may cut back on eating out or buying 
fancy suits, but they 'keep buying stamps and coins.'

"The plant, located in the Littleton Industrial Park, has expanded 
several times and occupies an 85,000-square foot facility.

"Littleton Coin has 'the largest inventory of any coin company in 
the United States,' today, said Bratz, as Gov. Lynch moved around 
the company, learning about the ins and outs of collecting new 
coins, and the value of ancient coins excavated the world over."

To read the complete article, see: 


Crooks in Canada are playing switcheroo with a real security feature 
on Bank of Canada notes.

"The RCMP are warning the public to be wary of funny money sporting 
a genuine security feature. 

"Counterfeiters are stripping the holographic stripes off of lower 
denomination bills and gluing them onto poor quality $20, $50, and 
$100 notes, according to the RCMP Bureau for Counterfeit and 
Document Examinations (BCDE). 

"What’s more, the crooks are taking the genuine notes without the 
holographic stripes to banks to be replaced, or pasting $20 stripes 
on counterfeit $20 notes, then returning the damaged bills to the 

"The majority of incidents have occurred in Alberta but the bills 
have also popped up in B.C., Ontario and Quebec. 

"The public and merchants should be on the alert for bills which 
have a genuine holographic stripe with a lesser denomination than 
the actual bank note." 

To read the complete article,


Counterfeiters in Louisiana are washing genuine notes and using 
the paper to print higher-denomination fakes.

"The pen commonly used to identify counterfeit money isn't enough 
to tell that $100 bills being passed in Central Louisiana are phony. 
Bank tellers and store clerks need to look at other security 
features built into every bill, police say.

"Counterfeiters have been removing the ink from $5 bills and printing 
them as $100s, said Alexandria Police Sgt. Lee Leach, who is a 
financial crimes detective. Because they use the paper from real 
money, they will pass the pen test, he said.

"The pen's ink checks for chemicals embedded in currency. 'The pen 
can only tell if the paper is authentic or not ... If the money has 
been washed and you have a fake $100, it's no good and you're out 
of money,' Leach said.

"Some businesses won't take any bill larger than a $20. But people 
counterfeit $20s and $10s, too, Leach said.

'We have counterfeit detection on currency counters, and it's a 
good idea for people to look to find Abraham Lincoln's face on a 
$100 bill,' Abshire said. 'I was a teller before, and those fake 
$100 bills look different. They are real good quality, but the 
color is faded looking.'"

To read the complete article, see:,2933,292783,00.html 


According to published reports, "The speaker of Pakistan's 
parliament has ordered an inquiry into why the national flag 
depicted on the new 1,000 rupee banknote is not in green but 
red and carries a close resemblance to its Turkish equivalent. 

"A senior finance official told the National Assembly that a 
cabinet committee had approved the note, which went into circulation 
in late 2006 and is worth the equivalent of $16. 

"The controversy comes at a time when Pakistan finds itself in the 
middle of a political storm." 

To read the complete article, see:


American Heritage has published an interesting article on "The 
Curious History of the Purple Heart" on August 7th, the 225th 
anniversary of its creation.

"The Purple Heart is known among servicemen as the “medal no one 
tries to earn,” yet hundreds of thousands have been awarded. It 
is the oldest military decoration still in use in the world, 
having been established by Gen. George Washington at a moment when 
he feared losing his army to mutiny or revolt, yet for a century 
and a half it was all but forgotten, only to be reborn in the 1930s.

"Washington personally awarded the badges—small hearts of 
purple-sprigged silk edged in silver thread, purportedly designed 
by Pierre L’Enfant, who would later plan the city of Washington, D.C.
—to Brown and Churchill at his headquarters in Newburgh on May 3, 
1783... On June 10, Washington presented a third badge to Daniel 
Bissell, Jr., another sergeant with the 2d Connecticut. 

"And that’s where the official chronicle ends. In his original orders, 
Washington had directed that each recipient’s name be “enrolled in the 
book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office.” The book, if 
it ever existed, seems to have become a casualty of the haphazard 
storage of records in the nineteenth century. 

"Although no other documentation exists, it’s unlikely that Washington 
awarded only three Badges of Merit, and all to Connecticut residents. 
For one thing, a fourth badge later turned up in a New Hampshire barn. 
In the 1920s, an officer of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati 
found a dust-covered, moth-eaten Continental Army uniform coat hanging 
limply from a peg in a Deerfield stable. On the left breast was a 
heart-shaped silk badge, believed by experts to be a genuine Badge 
of Merit. The original owner is unknown, but he could not have been 
Churchill (whose badge is in a New York State museum), Bissell (whose 
badge was destroyed in an 1813 fire), or Brown (whose badge was stolen 
in 1924 and had a different design)."

To read the complete article, see:


An obituary published Saturday in the Chicago Tribune shows how you 
can keep people guessing about what a "numismatist" is.

"Paul A. Downing, a retired savings and loan executive who once 
served under former Gov. Jim Thompson, gained a reputation for 
honesty and integrity but also displayed a mischievous wit that 
left co-workers laughing or running for their dictionaries.

"He once introduced himself to a new secretary as a "numismatist," 
said one of his former employees at Uptown Federal Savings and Loan 
in Chicago, where he worked the majority of his professional life.

"By day's end she was pretty sure he belonged to a cult of some 
sort," said Dory Hofvander. "That evening she looked the word up 
in the dictionary and found out he was a coin collector."


This week's featured web page is recommended by John and Nancy 
Wilson, Ocala, FL.  They write: "Here is a great place to find 
out everything you might want to know regarding metals.   The 
title and credits are, 'A Short History of Metals', by Alan W. 
Cramb, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Carnegie 
Mellon University." 

[I found the paper very interesting.  It's a short but thorough 
overview of "what we knew when" about various metals.  What's most 
fascinating is how mankind developed using so few metals.  "... 
seven metals, known as the Metals of Antiquity, were the metals 
upon which civilisation was based..."  (Gold, Copper, Silver, Lead, 
Tin, Iron, Mercury)  "These metals were known to the Mesopotamians, 
Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans."

"Currently there are 86 known metals. Before the 19th century only 
24 of these metals had been discovered and, of these 24 metals, 12 
were discovered in the 18th century. Therefore, from the discovery 
of the first metals - gold and copper until the end of the 17th 
century, some 7700 years, only 12 metals were known."

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. For more information please 
see our web site at

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at this address: 

To join, print the application and return it with your check 
to the address printed on the application. Membership is only 
$15 to addresses in the U.S., $20 elsewhere.  For those without 
web access, write to:

David M. Sundman, Secretary/Treasurer
Numismatic Bibliomania Society, 
P. O. Box 82 Littleton, NH 03561

For Asylum mailing address changes and other membership 
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