The E-Sylum v10#1, January 7, 2007
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Sun Jan 7 20:00:36 PST 2007
Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 1, January 7, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Among our recent subscribers are Wendy Joseffy of Littleton Coin
Company, and Tom Wall. Welcome aboard! We now have 1,028 subscribers.
This week's issue opens with a review by Jeff Reichenberger of the
numismatic novel "Double Daggers" by James Clifford, and news of a
planned expansion of CoinsFacts.com. Research questions this week
include Loubat's "Medallic History of the United States" and the
mysterious Roman-numeral designated pattern sets of 1855.
A 1967 Order of Canada medal causes a fuss on eBay, and Dick Johnson
notes that numismatic items (including such high-profile medals) always
outlast their original owners and their heirs. Leon Worden asks the
provocative question, "Why did the S.S. Central America Sink?" and his
speculation involves more than just the stormy seas of 1857.
Our quiz question on Presidential Spouses gets more interesting with a
look at Rachel and Andrew Jackson. To learn why President Jackson was
said to have "rattled like a bag of marbles", read on. Have a great
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
BOOK REVIEW: DOUBLE DAGGERS BY JAMES CLIFFORD
Jeff Reichenberger writes: "'Double Daggers' is a novel about the famous
Brutus Eid-Mar denarius that was minted after the assassination of
Julius Caesar, and four men who had brief and ignominious possession
of it. Four men whose lives span 2000 years and parallel each other in
misfortune after they each acquire the Eid-Mar coin. A very bad luck
pedigree, or a God sanctioned curse?
"We are witness to the death of Caesar and subsequent chaos, taken on
horseback to Constantinople during the Crusades, caught with an insane
leader in the last days of WWII, and follow the present day life of a
Wall Street bond trader.
"All of the scenarios seem researched and plausible, and the author
describes the times well. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of
the 'The Queen of all Cities", Constantinople, the Byzantines, and
the Christian Crusades.
"The present day chapter is the weakest link. The author is employed
in financial securities so he knows his way around a trading floor to
be sure, but the numismatist in me found it impossible to believe "The
Trader", Jack Weston used the Eid-Mar denarius as a ball mark on a
golf outing! No matter how callous and inane the man's personality, he
still wouldn't use a two million dollar coin for a ball mark, would he?!
Note to self - calm down, this is fiction.
"Another item I have to nit-pick, when Jack Weston is admonishing a
colleague for trading in soybeans and hogs, he says; "You're not working
for Zsa Zsa Gabor on Green Acres!" Well, as a self-proclaimed purveyor
of useless information and trivial nonsense, one who was weaned on mind-
numbing sitcoms of the 60's and 70's, I couldn't live with myself until
I corrected this glaring faux pas. Any self-respecting couch potato knows
it was Eva Gabor, not Zsa Zsa, who played the lovable Lisa Douglas down
in Hooterville. Greeeenn Acres is the place to be ...
"Over all I liked the book - it is a relatively easy read and moves along
nicely. It has 196 pages, and comes with a replica of the Eid-Mar coin and
an insert explaining it. A bargain for $17 bucks, it can be ordered on
the author's website: jrclifford.com.
"Historical fiction is an interesting genre that appears to be gaining
popularity. The author can move his story in and out of actual history
as he pleases and the reader need not check the facts unless he is
compelled to do so. The most famous of these is "The DaVinci Code" of
course. It was nice to read one with a numismatic theme. There is one
other I have read called, "Through a Gold Eagle" by Miriam Grace Monfredo,
in which Dave Bowers is acknowledged for his contributions. Are there
any others out there?"
[We're all showing our age when we recall Green Acres. I have no idea
how it might hold up today, but I always found the show delightfully wacky
- a sort of 60s forerunner to the 90s' "Northern Exposure" and today's
"My Name is Earl." On cold days I can't help but recall farmhand Eb's
penchant for Hot Water Soup.
The closest thing I can think of for a numismatic connection is when the
local bank refused to open an account for Arnold the pig and his owner
Fred Ziffel told the pig not to get too upset because "there's lots of
prejudice in the world." Anyway, many thanks to Jeff for providing a
great review. -Editor]
COINFACTS.COM EXPANSION IN WORKS
This week the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) announced it will
begin publishing "Rare Coin Market Report", a monthly price guide edited
by PCGS President Ron Guth. In addition, PCGS founder David Hall,
President of Collectors Universe, Inc., announced planned upgrades to
Coinfacts.com, the great web site created by Guth and later acquired
by Hall's company.
According to the company's press release, "The future includes ...
expansion of the CoinFacts Online Encyclopedia (www.CoinFacts.com) to
include more photographs and extensive historical information; and
launching "PCGS Photograde Online," an updated version of the classic
grading guide originally authored in 1970 by James F. Ruddy.
""The enlargement and continuing development of the CoinFacts Online
Encyclopedia will be the most ambitious coin information project in
history. We're committed to doing everything we can to make the coin
market bigger, better and more fun for all participants," said Hall."
"He said the expansion of the CoinFacts Online Encyclopedia will be
a monumental work-in-progress, requiring several years to complete.
The first additions will be posted online during the first half of 2007.
""As a service to the numismatic community, access to the online
encyclopedia will continue to be free. We're putting the information
there for your use and enjoyment," Hall explained. Eventually, the web
site will include:
* Survival estimates for all United States coins, including varieties,
colonials, patterns and territorial issues in Mint State condition.
* Condition census figures for all United States coins with photos of
the finest known example of each.
* Expanded information about designers, metallic content, weights and
other facts related to the original minting of coins struck in the
* Auction information about coins from famous sales, such as the Bass,
Dunham, Eliasberg and Norweb collections."
[We're all for any initiative to place more numismatic information
online. This is a welcome development, made all the more interesting
by Hall's reference to "big plans for the next 20 years." -Editor]
To read the complete press release, see:
2009 INTERNATIONAL NUMISMATIC CONGRESS - NUMISMATIC RESEARCH SURVEY
E-Sylum subscriber Professor Walter R. Bloom, Honorary Associate
(Numismatics) of the Department of Maritime Archaeology at the Western
Australian Maritime Museum writes: "I have been invited to write three
sections for the Survey of Numismatic Research for the 2009 International
Numismatic Congress (Glasgow), this being a selective summary of the
more important numismatic publications appearing during the period 1
January 2002 to 31 December 2007.
"The purpose of the Survey is to provide a critical commentary on
recent work. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but as well as
covering the principal works, it should also indicate the general
directions of thought during the period under consideration. The
Survey has an audience that is much wider than the world of numismatic
scholarship: it should also be accessible to historians, archaeologists
"The sections I have been asked to cover are:
Coins and banknotes of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania
Medals: Australia, New Zealand and Oceania
Oriental Numismatics: Ethnographic currency of Oceania
"Relevant publications on Mints and numismatic museums in this area
of the world would also be of interest. In exceptional circumstances,
publications from 2001 that didn't appear in the 2003 Survey of
Numismatic Research could also be included."
[Professor Bloom's email address is walter.bloom at museum.wa.gov.au.
E-Sylum readers familiar with publications in these areas are
encouraged to contact him. -Editor]
LOUBAT'S MEDALLIC HISTORY OF THE U.S. HOARD INFORMATION SOUGHT
NBS Board member John W. Adams writes: "Inspired by our new editor
of The Asylum, David Yoon, I am working on a somewhat tardy book review
of Loubat's Medallic History of the United States (published in 1878).
Copies of this work have always been easy to locate, thanks to a
hoard discovered in the 1960s or 1970s. Do any of our readers know
just when and where the hoard was discovered?"
[The one-volume 1967 reprint by N. Flayderman of New Milford, CT is
also fairly easy to locate, with most copies offered on the Internet
in the $30-$40 range. I have a nice mint condition copy of the reprint
purchased in the 1990s, leading me to believe that at one time there
was a publisher's backstock of the reprint as well.
But John's question is about a hoard of the original large-format
two-volume 1878 edition. Numismatic periodical ads from the 60s or
70s might yield a reference to the book, either as a news item or
advertisement. An auction catalog of the era might also include a
run of mint-condition copies of the book. Lot descriptions in
numismatic literature auctions of the 90s through today might also
yield clues. Suggestions, anyone? -Editor]
1855 FLYING EAGLE PATTERN SET INFORMATION SOUGHT
E-Sylum subscriber R. V. Dewey has been researching a flying eagle
cent pattern (J-171) which he acquired directly from Abe Kosoff many
years ago. Based on his research and earlier E-Sylum discussions he
traces the coin back to the King Farouk collection and has dubbed his
coin "The Farouk Flyer." He writes:
"In the Judd pattern book (5th edition, page 44), the author states
that there are "very rare complete sets" of 1855 flying eagles. These
sets are numbered I to VIII in Roman numerals. Each set contains eight
pieces, supposedly one of each alloy struck in 1855. But today more
than eight alloys are recognized. So why did these "complete sets" have
only eight pieces?
"Is it possible these recently discovered alloys were surreptitiously
struck from the original Mint dies by someone unaware of the eight-piece
"complete sets"? Dr. Judd says rare set(s), plural, numbered I-VIII.
Were the "sets" Dr. Judd knew of all missing the same numbers nine and
ten, or did alloys nine and ten not exist in 1855?
"The Mint die used for the limited copper strikes like the J-167, would
still be in excellent condition to make flyers from any available alloy
at any time. When was German silver used/available?
"How many sets were made with the roman numerals in the obverse field?
Who got these sets? Do any complete sets exist today? Do any auction
records document the sale of complete sets? Any individual Flyers
with roman numerals? Do photographs exist? Which Roman numeral is the
J-171 stamped with? What is the size and where is the number located?
Does anyone possess auction photographs (with or without Roman numerals)
of the J-171/Nickel-looking flying eagle large cent? Any J-171 photographs
from private collections, old or new?
Thank you, E-Sylum readers for entertaining my questions! Where else
could anyone ask these questions and actually expect to get an answer?"
[R.V. asks a lot of interesting questions, but perhaps our readers have
some answers. I hadn't recalled reading this tidbit about the roman-
numeraled special sets. This note is not in the eighth edition of Judd
(Whitman, 2003). I couldn't find a reference to them in the Pollack
pattern book, either. But the seventh edition Judd does include this
note. So where are these coins today? -Editor]
WOODIN PATTERN DEAL INFORMATION SOUGHT
Relating to William Woodin's windfall of pattern coins from the U.S.
Mint that he later sold for $250,000, R.V. Dewey writes: "Does anyone
know how many coins, or the combined weight of the patterns Mr. Woodin
took home from the basement of the Philadelphia Mint? What year? How were
they moved from the basement and then transported? In what year and
how many coins did Mr. Newcomer receive for his $150,000.00? In what
year and how many coins did Mr. Granberg receive for his $100,000.00?"
[It's getting late and I'm not sure where the first reports of Woodin's
deal with the Mint were published, and I don't recall the Newcomer/
Granberg transactions. Can anyone fill us in with more details?
SOME JOSEPH L. MASSETTI INFORMATION FOUND
Regarding Len Augsberger's request for information on Joseph L. Massetti
(believed to have purchased U.S. Mint items from the Frank H. Stewart
estate), Saul Teichman writes: "Frank Stewart donated at least part of
his collection to the city of Philadelphia in 1914. I have an inventory
of this collection. The following link on the uspatterns.com website
contains some information on this - http://uspatterns.com/j21p30.html."
Dave Lange writes: "I did a search on Joseph L. Massetti through
Ancestry.com and found the following: He was born November 9, 1906
and died November 5, 1997. At the time of his death he was residing in
Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Adelio and Marion Massetti,
and in 1930 he had three brothers and two sisters. Only the younger
sister was born late enough (c.1928) that she's likely to be alive, so
I did a search on her. Unfortunately, I've found that females are harder
to trace, because of losing their maiden names after marriage. I found
no record of a Marian Massetti marrying, so I couldn't determine her
married name, if any. On the plus side, I found no record of her death,
and I did find some telephone listings in Pennsylvania for an M.
Len Augsberger adds: "I had spent about an hour on Ancestry.com looking
for the death date with no luck - seems it was filed under J. L. Massetti
& I did not think to allow for that spelling - sometimes an extra set of
eyes really helps. Thanks!"
KELLY LITHOGRAPHS OF DUNSMORE'S FIRST COINAGE PAINTING SOUGHT
Joel Orosz writes: "Len Augsburger and I are doing research on Frank
Stewart, the man who in the early 20th century, owned the first U.S.
Mint building in Philadelphia, and the artwork he commissioned with the
first Mint as its subject. Stewart commissioned the artist John Ward
Dunsmore to create an oil painting entitled "Inspecting the First
Coinage," in which George and Martha Washington, along with other
leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, are presented
the first coins produced by the Mint (1792 half dismes), by Mint
Director David Rittenhouse.
"Dave Bowers recalls that sometime before 1964, Jim Kelly, a prominent
coin dealer from Dayton, Ohio, made lithographic reproductions of this
painting. If any E-Sylum readers own a copy of this Kelly lithograph
of "Inspecting the First Coinage," Len and I would very much like to
get a description of its characteristics and dimensions, and if possible,
to see a photograph of it. We would also like to make note of how many
are still in existence."
THE RED BOOK EVOLUTION PARLOR GAME: HENDRIK HUDSON
Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing writes: "To get the ball rolling on
your Red Book Evolution Parlor Game, here's a tiny edit I made in the
2006 edition: I changed "Hendrik Hudson" (spelled that way since the
1947 edition) to "Henry Hudson."
To back up his proposed one-word change, Dennis offered the following to
editor Ken Bressett. He wrote: "I'd like to change the text of the 1935
Hudson half to "Henry Hudson" instead of the current "Hendrik Hudson."
In defense of this, I quote here the September 25, 1909 Scientific American:
"'On the 8th of January, 1609, a contract was made between "the Directors
of the Dutch India Company of the Chamber of Amsterdam" and "Mr. Henry
Hudson, Englishman, assisted by Jodocus Hondius," who was to act as
interpreter. In the Dutch copy of the contract preserved at The Hague,
Hudson's Christian name is three times spelled "Henry," and he signed
the document in the same way; so that in the opinion of the Hudson-Fulton
Celebration Commission, "as he was an Englishman, it is a mistake to
call him 'Hendrik.'"'
[Anyone else care to join in? I've already confessed to blindly skipping
past the standard text each year and I'm sure most of our readers do the
same. Who's been paying attention to the details as new editions of
this hobby classic are published? -Editor]
BREEN'S COMPLETE COURSE IN NUMISMATICS
David F. Fanning writes: "Jeff Reichenberger asked about Walter Breen's
"Complete Course in Numismatics" in the last issue of the E-Sylum. Here
is the entry for it from my annotated bibliography of Breen's published
numismatic works from the Summer 2004 issue of "The Asylum":
"'A Complete Course in Numismatics (Beverly Hills: American Institute
of Professional Numismatics, n.d. [c. 1970]), 21.5 by 28 cm, (1), 70
pages. Blue heavy paper cover, staple bound.
"Apparently a promotional educational text published by the American
Institute of Professional Numismatics. The text deals primarily with
how to grade coins, and may be the most extensive treatment of coin
grading by Breen. A copy described as being spiral-bound sold as lot
414 in Remy Bourne's October 6-7, 2000 auction for $98.
"The present compiler's copy has a duplicate page 10, but I do not know
if this appears in every copy. A final exam takes up the last four pages
and is to be filled out and sent in to the publishers, who would send
those who passed a certificate stating that they passed (see Breen's
The Minting Process for a similar test). Scarce.
"'The Institute of Professional Numismatics was an organization with
which both Breen and Ronald Gillio were involved. The other publication
I mention in this entry, Breen's "The Minting Process," is a superior
publication, and perhaps Breen's best work on that particular subject
(much more detailed than the more commonly-available "Dies and Coinage").
Both "The Minting Process" and the "Complete Course in Numismatics"
are tough to find, but not genuinely rare. They can bring $50-$75 if
both buyer and seller know what's being offered.'"
NOTES ON RECENT NUMISMATIC PUBLICATIONS
Bob Rightmire writes: "I just received the January 2007 issue of the
ANA's Numismatist magazine. There's a short article on The E-Sylum.
Nice tribute - I'd add that the subscribers give of their knowledge in
the most gracious manner. I'm proud to be a subscriber."
[I'd like to briefly mention some other noteworthy articles in recent
numismatic periodicals. The Winter 2006 issue of the American
Numismatic Society magazine features an article by Max Spiegel on
"The Garrett Collection: Coins, Medals and Archives at the American
Numismatic Society." The entire January/February 2007 issue of Paper
Money, the official journal of the Society of Paper Money Collectors
is devoted to paper money featuring Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S.
Secretary of the Treasury, including "The Stylish Secretary: The Story
of Secretary Alexander Hamilton's Portrait on the New $10 Note" by
Barbara Bither. Finally, the December 2006 issue of the TAMS Journal
features Katie Jaeger's article, "Exploring the Archives of the
American Institute." -Editor]
CONGRESSMAN SWORN IN WITH THOMAS JEFFERSON'S QURAN
Nothing numismatic in this item, but bibliophiles should appreciate it.
New Congressman Keith Ellison made history Thursday a becoming the first
Muslim member of Congress and taking the ceremonial oath with a Quran
once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
"'Look at that. That's something else,' Ellison, D-Minn., said as
officials from the Library of Congress showed him the two-volume
Quran, which was published in London in 1764.
"A few minutes later, Ellison took the ceremonial oath with House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at his side.
"Although the Library of Congress is right across the street from
the Capitol, library officials took extra precautions in delivering
the Quran for the ceremony. To protect it from the elements, they
placed the Quran in a rectangular box and handled it with a green
felt wrapper once inside the Capitol.
"The Quran was acquired in 1815 as part of a more than 6,400-volume
collection that Jefferson sold for $24,000 to replace the congressional
library that had been burned by British troops the year before, in the
War of 1812. Jefferson, the nation's third president, was a collector
of books in all topics and languages.
"Ellison's mother, Clida Ellison, said in an interview that she thought
any controversy over her son's choice was good, 'because many people in
America are going to learn what the diversity of America is all about.'
She described herself as a practicing Catholic."
To read the complete article, see:
PUBLIC LIBRARIES PURGE CLASSICS
Nothing numismatic here, either, bibliophiles are certain to have an
opinion - what are libraries for, anyway? Public libraries have always
weeded out older and less popular books to make room for new titles,
but the trend is accelerating. A January 2, 2007 article in The
Washington Post highlights changes at a Virginia library system that
call into question the true purpose and mission of public libraries.
"Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively
to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment
by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which
products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually
want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone
-- even if they are classics.
"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch
system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf
space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked
out, that's a cost."
"That is the new reality for the Fairfax system and the future for other
libraries. As books on tape, DVDs, computers and other electronic
equipment crowd into branches, there is less room for plain old books."
"... in the effort to stay relevant in an age in which reference
materials and novels can be found on the Internet and Oprah's Book
Club helps set standards of popularity, libraries are not the
cultural repositories they once were.
[Other librarians take a more traditional view, as noted in the
"Arlington County's library director, Diane Kresh, said she's "paying
a lot of attention to what our customers want." But if they aren't
checking out Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," she's not only keeping
it, she's promoting it through a new program that gives forgotten
classics prominent display.
"Part of my philosophy is that you collect for the ages," Kresh said.
"The library has a responsibility to provide a core collection for
the cultural education of its community." She comes to this view from
a career at the Library of Congress, where she was chief of public
service collections for 30 years."
To read the complete article, see:
The next day's Wall Street Journal responded with a piece by John L.
Miller headlined "Should Libraries' Target Audience Be Cheapskates
With Mass-Market Tastes?"
"What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain
the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual
stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker
is all the rage at this very moment?
"If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run
libraries at all? There's a fine line between an institution that aims
to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize
the recreational habits of bookworms.
"Fairfax County may think that condemning a few dusty old tomes allows
it to keep up with the times. But perhaps it's inadvertently highlighting
the fact that libraries themselves are becoming outmoded."
Miller argues that a century ago when so many of our public libraries
were being created, books were much more expensive and out of the reach
of the common man. But rising incomes and today's big book chains and
Internet channels have made books far more affordable and accessible.
He writes that librarians should regard themselves "as teachers,
advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance.
"The alternative is for them to morph into clerks who fill their
shelves with whatever their "customers" want, much as stock boys at
grocery stores do. Both libraries and the public, however, would be
ill-served by such a Faustian bargain."
To read the complete article (subscription required) see:
ORDER OF CANADA MEDAL CAUSES RUCKUS ON EBAY
The Brooks Bulletin of Brooks, Alberta, Canada published a story about
this week's ruckus of the offering on eBay of an Order of Canada medal.
The Order of Canada is the country's highest honor for lifetime
achievement. Singer Shania Twain was among those granted the honor
in 2005. Begun in 1967, dozens are awarded yearly.
The current owner of the eBay medal is continuing to accept email bids
privately after the auction was shut down. The online auction company
said the medal was pulled from the site because "it violated the
company's policy banning the sale of government property."
"In an e-mail Friday to The Canadian Press, the seller - identified
only by the eBay username "dalida44" - said hundreds of people have
expressed interest in the medal, awarded nearly 40 years ago to noted
Quebec historian Gustave Lanctot.
"The correspondence has also included a number of "insulting letters,"
the seller said.
"I had even one person writing: 'Can't believe you would sell this,
this piece belongs to a museum. What else could we expect from a
Quebecer, though. Disgraceful."'
"When eBay pulled the medal five days early on Jan. 1, the bidding
had reached C$15,100 and more than 8,500 people had visited the auction,
the seller said."
"Lanctot was awarded the Order of Canada's medal of service just
five days after the order was established on July 1, 1967. Since 1972,
recipients have received a different medal and are described as
officers of the Order of Canada."
"Of the 389 medals of service awarded, only about 125 are still in
existence because the remainder were exchanged for the officer insignia
and melted by the Royal Canadian Mint, said McCreery, author of "The
Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development."
"Rideau Hall says families or successors of deceased Order recipients
can choose to return the award, keep it as an heirloom or donate it
to a museum, but it remains in theory the property of the Crown."
"Selling the medals is "highly discouraged," spokeswoman Marilyne
Guevremont said last week."
To read the complete article, see:
For more information and images of the medal, see the Wikipedia entry:
COINS AND MEDALS OUTLAST MEMORIES
Recent E-Sylum items on sales of The Order of Canada and Victoria
Cross medals point out how true it is that numismatic items far
outlast their original owners and their heirs. Dick Johnson writes:
"In last Sunday's newspaper was a flyer from P&G, the Proctor and
Gamble Company. Great old firm. They support the Special Olympics
for handicapped children. Great policy. On the cover of the flyer
they show a proud handicapped boy holding up a medal on a neckribbon
he apparently won. Excellent.
"Then why am I complaining? The headline reads "Memories Outlive
Medals." That's wrong. Medals are noted for outlasting just about
everything made by man in this world. Those Special Olympics medals
will, in all probability, outlast or outlive P&G!
"Empirical evidence shows that coins and medals have survived longer
than other art objects, architecture, written communication, and just
about anything man has made. Destruction has obliterated these. Compare
that with perhaps hundreds of thousands (millions?) of existing ancient
coins. Cave paintings are about the only thing older that have come
down to the present with pictorial data intact.
"The vicissitudes of time -- fires and floods -- have destroyed books,
libraries, paintings, statues, buildings, documents. It is difficult
to find an artifact that is as compelling as an ancient coin with its
image and caption. We know what Cleopatra looked like, and Julius
Caesar. Their contemporary portraits are found on coins. We know what
Columbus looked like. His portrait is on a contemporary medal.
"In many instances the only known portrait of some rulers have survived
only on the coins they had struck bearing their likenesses! (If you doubt
me, page through any encyclopedia to find an obscure king. Chances are it
is illustrated with his coin.) It is like the dinosaurs are gone but a
little burrowing rodent survived for eons. Little coins and medals have
survived while other objects didn't make it.
"The purpose of a medal, particularly souvenir or historical medal, is
to recall those memories while the recipient or first buyer is still
alive. After that a medal becomes an indestructible document of history.
Some ancient coins have lasted more than 2,600 years. That's longevity!
No doubt they could last another equal time, or perhaps even 10,000 years.
Man has a passion for saving these numismatic items. They could reveal
an event to an intelligent person at some indeterminate time in the
"Sorry, P&G your headline is exactly backwards - Medals Outlive Memories."
WHY DID THE S.S. CENTRAL AMERICA SINK?
Leon Worden writes: "Thank you for providing a forum that allows me to
engage in some wild & crazy speculation. I came across the following item
in the Aug. 25, 1854, edition of an old broadsheet newspaper from New York,
Intelligencer: "The steamer George Law arrived at New York yesterday with
San Francisco dates to the 1st inst. She brings three hundred passengers,
and about $1,200,000 in gold."
"As you may know, in 1857, the George Law was rechristened the S.S.
Central America, and later that year, loaded with 500 passengers (578
total passengers and crew) and $1.6 million in gold that had been
consigned to banks in New York, she sank.
"In his 1998 bestseller, "Ship of Gold," author Gary Kinder writes that
the bow of the S.S. Central America was riding high off the water when
she departed Panama for Cuba. I ask: Why? I mean, sure, maybe her engine
and boiler works weighed 750 tons, but so what? If her passenger count
and cargo weight were within design tolerance and evenly distributed
throughout the ship, wouldn't she have been riding at even keel? (Or
whatever you call it - I'm not seaworthy.)
"Kinder suggests that because of the way the ship was riding, the
boiler room flooded more quickly than it might have, after she sprung a
leak in a Category 2 hurricane. The bucket brigade couldn't bail fast
enough, and if my memory serves, it took her three days to sink, by
which time the storm had subsided.
"Within months, the insurance companies that covered the banks' gold
shipments had covered the banks' losses. One hundred thirty years
later, when Tommy Thompson began to pull the $1.6 million in gold
(face value) from the bowels of the ocean, the successors to those
insurance companies filed a claim in federal court against the gold
itself and eventually won a percentage of it.
"Now for my crazy speculation. Why was the S.S. Central America riding
high? Why was she carrying more than half again as many passengers and
one-third more gold (by weight, since it's gold) on a trip in 1857 than
she carried in on a trip in 1854? Was she stuffed beyond design capacity?
If so, was it the steamship's standard operating procedure at the time
to overload her?
Alternately, did some enthusiastic bankers (notice I didn't say "greedy")
convince (notice I didn't say "bribe") some dockworkers and ship's crew
to overload the ship with gold?
"And if she was overloaded, with or without the complicity of the
bankers, were the insurance companies that covered the bank's losses
entitled to a share of Tommy Thompson's treasure?
"I wonder. If the steamship company's employees overloaded the ship
beyond her design capacity, it would seem to me that they could be
guilty of criminal negligence at best (not to mention wrongful death),
and the proper claim would be against the steamship company or its heirs
and assigns -- not the gold. And if the bankers played a role in the
overloading of the ship, surely they would have been in breach of
contract under their insurance policies, and the insurers would have
borne no responsibility to cover their losses. The insurance companies'
payout would have been improper.
"My own problem with this theory is that I have only two points of
I have only two sets of numbers -- an 1854 shipment (300 passengers,
$1.2 million in gold) and an 1857 shipment (500 passengers, $1.6 million
in gold). I don't know what was "average," and I don't know the ship's
design capacity. Does any E-Sylum subscriber know these answers?
"Finally, why should anyone care after all these years? Well ... Kinder's
book, "approved" by Tommy Thompson prior to publication, reports that
there is a lot of gold that Thompson left down there at the bottom of
the sea. A couple of years ago, Thompson formed a new "exploration"
company, ostensibly to bring it up. The insurance companies could come
knocking again. Maybe I should run this one past Tommy Thompson's
LIBERTY DOLLAR TRANSFORMS IN LIGHT OF MINT PRESSURE
In past E-Sylum issues we've followed the story of The Liberty Dollar,
which was recently singled out by U.S. Mint publicity. The Mint's
focus has forced several changes, and these are detailed in the December
2006 issue of Liberty Dollar News.
"In early December, NORFED Inc. was dissolved by the Board of Directors.
Very quickly, the new currency company reinvented itself as "Liberty
Services" dba "Liberty Dollar," a new business entity. Without mentioning
the recent "Warning" by the US Mint or its unfounded allegations against
NORFED, Bernard von NotHaus, the Monetary Architect for the Liberty Dollar
explained that, "We simply realized that the Liberty Dollar would succeed
easier and faster without any political baggage."
"Henceforth, the "new" Liberty Dollar is politically neutral and dedicated
to "Protecting and growing your money - one Liberty Dollar at a time." It
will be specifically marketed to businesses as a "private barter currency"
that is profitable for businesses and consumers, and good for the
[The group has a new bank account but is still looking for a new executive
director. One new wrinkle is a very limited exchangeability of Liberty
Dollars for U.S. Dollars. But don't look to buy these as junk silver and
turn them in at nominal face value any time soon: "... as Liberty Dollars
are distributed at a discount, that discount must be given up when the
Liberty Dollar is exchanged back into USD... And for the exchange service
to be successful it must also work at a slight profit to cover the overhead
To read the complete December 2006 Liberty Dollar newsletter, see:
LIBERTY DOLLAR FIGHTING FOR EXISTENCE
ANA CONVENTION PHOTO ARCHIVE
Prompted by last week's item regarding the 1974 Numismatic Literary Guild
Bash, Barbara J. Gregory, Editor-in-Chief of the ANA's NUMISMATIST Magazine
writes: "The American Numismatic Association's Publications Department
maintains an archive of convention-related photographs dating to the late
"For the 1974 gathering in Miami, the ANA apparently obtained the services
of a professional photographer who documented the event with a prodigious
number of 8" x 10" black-and-white glossies (among them images of the
infamous NLG Bash).
"The subjects of some shots are readily recognizable--such as Virgil
Hancock, George Hatie, Grover Criswell, Eva Adams and a youthful David
Ganz--although the majority are not. Leisure suits, white belts and shoes,
hip-hugging skirts, bell-bottom pants and long sideburns were de rigueur.
"For years, we've hoped to find someone with the time, knowledge and
inclination to review the several hundred photos and identify the
[Unlabeled photos are a common problem for households everywhere, not
just institutions. In the future perhaps this is where the Internet
can help organizations (and individuals) label their convention photos.
There are a number of web sites where electronic images can be uploaded
and made available for comments. If a set of convention photos were
made available and links publicized, a handful of individuals working
from the comfort of their homes could label a large number of photos
While far from a perfect solution, it sure beats having a box of
completely unlabeled photos decades later when all the participants
are dead. One term for this method is "crowdsourcing" - outsourcing
the work to a crowd of interested participants. C'mon, who WOULDN'T
be willing to take a couple minutes to help out, even if only to find
and label your own smiling face for posterity? -Editor]
ANA HEADQUARTERS HIT WITH SECOND BLIZZARD
Just before the Christmas holiday Colorado was hit with a major
snowstorm, and the American Numismatic Association headquarters in
Colorado Springs was closed for a day. I was away from the computer
last week when I heard about the second snowstorm to hit the area.
Friday December 29 was another snow day for headquarters staff.
NUMISMATIST Editor-in-Chief Barbara Gregory reports that "the second
storm hit downtown Colorado Springs a little harder than the first.
We received about 7" in the first storm, and approximately 9" in the
second, with gusty winds and drifting. Other parts of town faired much
worse. My husband and I spent Friday and Saturday digging out friends,
family and neighbors. Major arteries are dry and clear, but many side
streets still are treacherous."
[Colorado is getting hit hard this winter - the THIRD major snowstorm
in as many weeks hit the area on Friday, January 6th, piling up to
eight more inches in the Denver area. -Editor]
ANA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RESPONDS TO OROSZ QUESTIONS ABOUT ANA FINANCES
A January 15, 2007 Coin World Guest Commentary by ANA Executive Director
Christopher Cipoletti addresses questions raised in the earlier commentary
by Joel Orosz. ANA members and others interested in the organization are
encouraged to review the discussion in full detail in that publication.
With permission, below are a few excerpts related to subjects of special
interest to we bibliophiles, the library and related budget items.
"All funds donated for book purchases are used for book purchases just
as all funds that are specifically designated are used for the designated
purpose. ANA's outside auditors look at designated funds and assure that
moneys donated for a specific purpose are used properly. We have
consistently received clean audits indicating that we are fulfilling
donor requests and intent. During his tenure in the library, Mr. Sklow
purchased practically no books - despite having a $15,000 fiscal year
book purchase budget."
"Prior administrations and boards made commitments to pay retired
employees after they left ANA. That money is accounted for and shared
by many departments, including the library. Retired Librarian Lynn Chen
receives a monthly payment from 1997 to 2007 as a result of policies
established by an ANA Board and administration in the 1990s."
"All of these moneys are accounted for by the ANA finance office and
are reviewed by the ANA auditors. They are approved by the ANA Board
in the budgeting process. There are NO missing funds."
"We would be pleased to open the association's books to a reputable
auditing firm of Dr. Orosz's choice so that he can see we are being
good stewards of the ANA's assets."
The Sklow and Orosz Commentaries were discussed in earlier E-Sylums:
FORMER ANA LIBRARIAN SKLOW SPEAKS OUT
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RESPONDS REGARDING LIBRARY BUDGET ISSUES
JOEL OROSZ ASKS FOR THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT ANA FINANCES
GREG MANNING LEAVES ESCALA GROUP
According to a press release published by Escala Group a few weeks
back, "Greg Manning, First Vice Chairman of the Board, and President
of the North American and Asian Philatelic Auction Division, will leave
his role as president of the division, effective December 15, 2006, and
will resign as a member of Escala's Board of Directors as of the same
date. Mr. Manning has been active in the philatelic field for over 48
years, and in addition to consulting for the company, has other
interests that he will now pursue."
[Escala has been in the news following the financial implosion of its
unit in Spain. The company's U.S. numismatic divisions include
Teletrade, Bowers and Merena Auctions, and Spectrum Numismatics.
JAMESTOWN 400TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE COIN CEREMONY PLANNED
The Jamestown, VA Daily Press reported that "Gold and silver
commemorative coins issued by the U.S. Mint in honor of Jamestown's
400th anniversary will be available at Jamestown Settlement on Thursday.
"Edmund C. Moy, director of the Mint, will participate in the release
ceremony in Jamestown Settlement's Robins Foundation Theater at 10 a.m.,
immediately before coin sales begin."
"Congress authorized the production of up to 100,000 $5 gold coins and
up to 500,000 silver dollars honoring Jamestown and America's 400th
To read the complete article, see:
For images and descriptions of the new coins, see the U.S. Mint web site:
AQUA REGIA: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME
Our discussion of the Nobel Prize medals led us to aqua regia, a
solution used by Jewish recipients to dissolve their medals and hide
the gold from the Nazis during WWII. I doubt any of our readers would
attempt this, but just in case Fred Holabird warns us: "This is very
serious - do NOT make this acid at home. It is exceptionally dangerous
- your life is at stake."
MORE QUIZ ANSWERS: PRESIDENTIAL SPOUSES WHO WEREN'T FIRST LADIES
Regarding our quiz question about Presidential spouses who were never
First Ladies, Fred Reed writes: "Rachel Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson,
died after he was elected but before he went to Washington to get
inaugurated. I visited the Hermitage (their home outside of Nashville)
again this summer and highly recommend it."
[Andrew Jackson is famous among U.S. numismatists for his opposition to
the First Bank of the United States and the political and "Hard Times"
tokens issued around the time of his presidency. His wife Rachel is
largely forgotten by history, but Jackson's predilection for fighting
duels over his wife's honor is legendary. For the trivia buffs among
us, here is some more background on Rachel and Andrew Jackson. -Editor]
"Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received
sporadic education. But in his late teens he read law for about two
years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely
jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man
who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel."
To read the complete White House history page on Jackson, see:
"Jackson met Rachel after her first husband, Colonel Lewis Robards,
left her to get a divorce. They fell in love and quickly married.
Robards returned two years later without ever having obtained a divorce.
Rachel quickly divorced her first husband and then legally married
Jackson. This remained a sore point for Jackson who deeply resented
attacks on his wife's honor. Jackson fought 103 duels, many nominally
over his wife's honor. Charles Dickinson, the only man Jackson ever
killed in a duel, had been goaded into angering Jackson by Jackson's
"Fought over a horse-racing debt and an insult to his wife on May 30,
1806, Dickinson shot Jackson in the ribs before Jackson returned the
fatal shot. The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart
that it could never be safely removed. Jackson had been wounded so
frequently in duels that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles"
"Rachel died of an unknown cause two months prior to Jackson taking
office as President. Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for Rachel's
death because the marital scandal was brought up in the election of
1828. He felt that this had hastened her death and never forgave
To read the complete Wikipedia entry on Andrew Jackson, see:
NUMIS-WORTHY EXCERPT: USURER'S DISHONESTY PUNISHED
Author Eric Leighton has agreed to share with E-Sylum readers some
excerpts from his new book "NUmiS WORTHY: Old Numismatic News 1752
to 1800', a compilation of contemporary newspaper reports published
in Nova Scotia.
This piece from the Nova-Scotia Gazette & Weekly Chronicle, Aug. 22,
1786 is likely an anecdote from a London paper, since it appeared on
the same page as other London news. In it a greedy money lender (or
usurer) gets his comeuppance.
"AN usurer, having lost an hundred pounds in a bag, promised a reward
of ten pounds to the person that should restore it. A man having brought
it to him demanded the reward. The usurer, loath to give the reward,
now that he had got the bag, alledged after the bag was opened, "That
there were an hundred and ten pounds in it when he lost it." The usurer
being called before the judge unwarily acknowledged, that the seal was
broken open in his presence and that there were no more at that time,
but an hundred pounds in the bag.
"You say, says the judge, that the bag you lost had an hundred and ten
pounds in it." "Yes my lord." "Then replied the judge, this cannot be
your bag, as it contained but a hundred pounds; therefore the plaintiff
must keep it till the true owner appears, and you must look for your
bag where you can find it."
BOOK REVIEW: NUMIS WORTHY - OLD NUMISMATIC NEWS 1752 TO 1800
FEATURED WEB PAGE: PRIVATE BANKNOTES OF THE CHIEF TREASURY OF WALES
This week's featured web page is an article by Peter Symes on some
the private banknotes of the Chief Treasury of Wales and the Black
"Over thirty years ago the threatened interests of Wales prompted a
Welshman to challenge the authority of the British Government and the
British banking system. The issues by the Chief Treasury of Wales and
the Black Sheep Bank managed to attract the interest of Welsh nationalists
and gained great notoriety in Great Britain. Today, the notes issued by
the two authorities are amongst the most sought after of all private
The man behind both 'issuing authorities' and their note issues was
Richard Williams, a Welshman who had been employed in the banking
industry for many years and who was an Associate of the Institute of
Bankers. In 1968 there was some debate in Wales concerning the
possibility of establishing a Bank of Wales, which would be used to
promote trade and industry in the principality."
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. For more information please
see our web site at
There is a membership application available on the web site
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
questions, contact David at this email address:
dsundman at LittletonCoin.com
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