The E-Sylum v10#27, July 8, 2007
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Sun Jul 8 15:03:57 PDT 2007
Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 27, July 8, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
WAYNE'S WORDS: THE E-SYLUM 8 JULY, 2007
Among our recent subscribers are Brett D. Irick, courtesy of
John Nebel, Rickie Rose, Dan Burleson, David Kahn, John P Andrew,
Anthony Portner and Julian Brook. Welcome aboard! We now have
This week we open with news on the disposition of John J. Pittman's
numismatic library. Dick Johnson reviews the recent History
Detectives segment on Continental currency and contributes a number
of items related to the Lincoln Cent, including an extraordinary photo
in Popular Science magazine.
Bill Snyder presents a mystery box for storing U.S. half dollars,
and Alan Weinberg reviews the recent Presidential Coin & Antique Co.
medals auction in Baltimore.
In response to earlier queries, David Gladfelter provides background
on Wayte Raymond's Standard Catalogs, and we learn about the origin
of the POW/MIA stamp on U.S. paper money. In a new research query,
Roger Burdette seeks information on William Ashbrook of the 1908
My London Diary this week includes a visit to the London Numismatic
Club, dinner with Coin World London correspondent John Andrews, and
visits to the Savoy Hotel and le Tour de France.
Next weekend I'm traveling back to the U.S. to visit my family.
Please send any submissions early in the week to ensure they make
it into the next issue.
To learn how to explode a post-1982 Lincoln cent, and where to find
Euro notes falling from the sky, read on. Have a great week,
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
KOLBE TO SELL SELECTIONS FROM THE JOHN J. PITTMAN LIBRARY
George Kolbe writes: "We are pleased to announce that important
works from the Numismatic Library of the late John Jay Pittman will
form a part of our fall 2007 auction sale. Many rare American
numismatic works will be featured in the sale, among them a dozen
plated Chapman brother catalogues, other 19th and early 20th century
auction catalogues featuring photographic plates, classic works on
American coins, and extremely rare ephemeral publications.
"Also featured in the sale, from various other consignors, are rare
and important works covering the numismatic spectrum, including an
example of the first illustrated numismatic book, published in 1517.
Catalogues may be ordered by sending $15.00 to George Frederick Kolbe,
P. O. Drawer 3100, Crestline, CA 92325. The catalogue will also be
accessible at our web site: www.numislit.com."
LANGE COIN BOARDS BOOK
In our June 17th issue we reported that David Lange's book 'Coin
Collecting Boards of the 1930s & 1940s: A Complete History, Catalog
and Value Guide.' had been completed. This week Dave writes: "I've
found a printer, and the book is a go. The price is $39.95 plus $5
for shipping, and I'm now taking orders for delivery in mid-August.
"Interested persons can view sample pages at my website. They will
also find complete ordering information there."
To visit Dave Lange's Coin Collecting Boards web site, see:
DAVID LANGE'S COIN COLLECTING BOARDS BOOK COMPLETED
For more information, see the publisher's web site at:
CHICHESTER 2007: CURRENCIES IN CRISIS
Yesterday (Saturday 7 July 2007) was the Summer Meeting of the British
and Royal Numismatic Societies, held in Chichester and titled "Currencies
in Crisis". I wasn't aware of the conference in time for later week's
newsletter, but it's worth noting. Perhaps one of our readers can give
us a report next week. The following description is from the British
Numismatic Society web site:
"This year’s will be a day of lectures examining the origins and impact
of crises that have affected British and world currencies. From major
debasements to abortive reforms, from the aftermath of wars to the decline
of empires, currencies have suffered and failed and been rejuvenated.
The changing fortunes of monetary systems have themselves also visited
periods of economic and social disruption on the countries and regions
within which they operated.
"The lectures will span numismatics from the Roman world to the
twentieth century. The speakers are Paul Cavill of Merton College
Oxford (16th-century debasement), Kevin Clancy (17th and 18th centuries)
and Graham Dyer (20th-century currency) of The Royal Mint; Professor
Edmund King of the University of Sheffield (English coinage 1138-1153),
Barbara Mears of Spink (early colonial Indian coinage), and Sam Moorhead (Roman currency) and Helen Wang (Tang dynasty coinage) of The British
For more information on Chichester 2007, see:
FUN SHOW EVENTS AND THE SUNKEN TREASURE LITERATURE CLUB
One event we're not late in reporting is next week's Summer FUN show.
Cindy Wibker of Florida United Numismatists writes: "This is just a quick
reminder to all bibliophiles that the first-ever Summer FUN show is next
week, July 12-14, in West Palm Beach, Florida. We (FUN) hope to see many
of you there! The list of dealers and schedule of events is on our website.
"There are four educational seminars, two on Thursday and two on Friday.
None of the topics are directly literature-related, but there is a club
meeting of the Sunken Treasure Literature Club on Friday from 3:00-5:00 PM."
[Here are a couple of the seminars that might be of interest to E-Sylum readers. -Editor]
Thursday July 12 2:30 PM: Educational Seminar. “EARLY AMERICAN COPPERS,”
by CHUCK HECK. Charles “Chuck” Heck is a recognized expert on the early
copper coinage of the United States. He is a frequent lecturer on this
subject at club meetings and coin shows across America. Chuck’s program
will provide in-depth analysis of early U.S. Large Cents, Half Cents
and Colonial coinage.
Friday July 13 2:30 PM: Educational Seminar. “COINS OF THE SOUTHERN
CONFEDERACY,” by ROBERT LeNEVE. Palm Beach Coin Club member Bob LeNeve
is a serious student of the Southern Confederacy – its history, traditions
and its coinage. In this program, Bob will give a short background on
the events leading up to the Civil War, the shutting down of the southern
mints and a detailed look at the regular coinage and restrikes of the
To visit the FUN web site, see:
To view the Summer FUN show schedule, see:
[A web search reveals that there is an online bibliography of over 950
"Sunken Treasure & Underwater Archaeology Books plus Shipwreck Auction
Catalogs, National Geographic Shipwreck Articles & Shipwreck Coin
Books" from the collection of Dave Crooks. -Editor]
To view Dave Crooks' Sunken Treasure Bibliography, see:
REVIEW: HISTORY DETECTIVES TV SHOW NUMISMATIC SEGMENTS
Dick Johnson writes: "I caught the TV show History Detectives
segment on the Continental currency this week. It was pretty much
what I expected. It did feature interviews with two numismatic
personalities, Glenn Jorde, chief authenticator of the Paper Money
Guaranty authentication service and Bob Hoge, curator at American
"E-Syluminiaries will recognize the scene in the ANS library with
their mobile bookcases. (I have mentioned these in E-Sylum before,
and have nightmares of being crushed by these someday). Most all
the statements were accurate, save for one segment at the end, kind
of a summary of coin collecting. They had to tell the story of the
bare breast design of Harmon McNeil's 1916 type I quarter, but their
misstatement was that all these were 'recalled.' They weren't, of
"It was followed by a segment on short-snorters, also of interest
to currency collectors. If you missed the show here is a transcription
of the audio portion (with Bob Hoge's name misspelled):
[Actually, I think that link is broken. Here's a link to the page
for the episode. -Editor]
ANS LIBRARY MOVE STATUS REPORT
WAYTE RAYMOND STANDARD CATALOGUE INFORMATION
Regarding Ron Pope's question last week on the Wayte Raymond Standard
Catalogs, David Gladfelter writes: "See entry #867 in Charles Davis's
'American Numismatic Literature' for information on this series of
"The 1935 edition (published in 1934) was the first, and it continued
annually through the 1945 edition (published in 1944) except for 1943
when only a 16-page supplement was published. The 1946 edition was
the first numbered one, the 11th, and thereafter this catalog was
published irregularly through the final 18th edition of 1957, of
which Olga E. Raymond, Wayte's widow, was the editor. In that edition
only, the substantial contributions of John J. Ford, Jr., and Walter
H. Breen were recognized, although the 1938 edition and all subsequent
to it did list names of the contributors.
"The contents of the catalogs, as well as the titles, varied somewhat
from year to year. The 1940, 1941 and 1942 editions had extensive
merchant token supplements and for that reason are desired by token
collectors. Others included listings of colonial, obsolete and
confederate paper money.
"None of the editions are particularly rare, but a precursor, titled
'United States Coins & Currency' and consisting of five separate WR
publications bound together, is quite scarce. This precursor was
advertised for sale at $2.50 on the inside front cover of the first
five issues of Raymond's 'Coin Collectors Journal' in 1934. The
separate publications included are 'The United States Copper Coins'
(1931), 'Silver Coins of the United States Mints' (1933), 'United
States Gold Coins of the Philadelphia and Branch Mints' (1933),
'Private Gold Coins Struck in the United States, 1830-1861' (1931)
and 'United States Notes, 1861-1923' (1933).
"As you can see, Raymond's topical catalogs as well as the 'Standard
Catalog' had quite an influence on the development of the coin hobby
in the U.S. in the early to mid 20th century. Raymond also influenced
the collecting of world coins, publishing five editions of 'Coins of
the World -- Twentieth Century Issues' through 1955 and two of 'Coins
of the World -- Nineteenth Century Issues' through 1953, in a similar
"For the specialist, interleaved copies of these catalogs, as well as
fancy bindings can be had. Plain brown paper dust jackets were provided
for the early issues, and illustrated ones for the last few.
"Now for a trivia question: What rather prominent mistake can be found
in each and every edition of the 'Standard Catalog of United States
Coins' from the first through the 18th?"
[I was stumped on this one. Can some eagle-eyed reader give us an
WAYTE RAYMOND STANDARD CATALOGUE INFORMATION SOUGHT
MYSTERY HALF DOLLAR BOX INFORMATION SOUGHT
Bill Snyder writes: "I am wondering about this small, dove-tailed
wooden box. It is marked '$250$ HALVES' on all four sides and on
the sliding lid. Here are links to three images of the box:
The Dimensions are: interior - 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 x 1 7/8", exterior -
6 7/8 x 6 7/8 x 2 9/16". You can lay a five-by-five pattern of
fifty cent pieces in the bottom of the box and have about 1/4" left
over each way. The box easily accommodates stacks of twenty coins.
So, who made it, when, and for whom?"
Bill adds: "Per my Red Book, all U.S. Half Dollars (Seated Liberty
to Kennedy) have the same diameter specification (30.6 mm).
Unfortunately, the lid on this particular box in so warped that it
will not slide completely into place."
REFERENCES ON BRITISH COUNTERFEITING OF U.S. COLONIAL PAPER MONEY
In an earlier E-Sylum I recalled reading of some British efforts
to counterfeit notes of the revolting colonies and wondered if the
Brits were more successful than the Nazis in wartime counterfeiting.
Bob Neale writes: "You may be in the perfect place to look up an article
by Eric Newman in Brit. Numis. J. 29 (1959) pp 174-87: "The successful
British counterfeiting of American paper money during the American
revolution." I cannot access this for free. I don't know that the
article specifically addresses the amount of counterfeiting that took
place on a ship in New York harbor, but I'll bet it is interesting.
"Jason Goodwin also has a relevant quote in his book, Greenback, on
p 134, and Richard Doty seems to agree in his book 'America's Money
America's Story', p 49."
[Many thanks - I'll start tracking down some of these resources.
MORE ON THE LAURA GARDIN FRASER BETTER BABIES MEDAL
Last week helpful E-Sylum readers responded to Lynn Tice's question
on Laura Gardin Fraser's Better Babies medal with an avalanche of
information. Dick Johnson noted that these were produced by Medallic
Art Co. and were so marked on the edge. But Joe Levine's cataloging
indicated that they were also marked by Crowell Publishing company.
To learn which version Lynn has, I asked her to take a look for us.
This week, from the foothills of the Blue Ridge, Lynn writes: "Many
thanks to you and your readers for the information and research. Our
medal is edgemarked with a copyright Crowell Pub. Co. 1913. Not a
glimpse of Medallic Art Company on the edge or elsewhere. My eagle
eye husband confirms this with a loupe. It's about 2" wide.
"My dad's brother Alfred was born Sept. 2, 1915, died Feb. 12, 1918.
His picture hung in our grandmother's parlor and we have a lock of
his hair. When we think of state fairs, beauty contests, etc, we tend
to think of ribbons being awarded, not medals. Your interest in an
old family mystery has been making the rounds of our family emails."
LAURA GARDIN FRASER BETTER BABIES MEDAL INFORMATION SOUGHT
LAURA GARDIN FRASER BETTER BABIES MEDAL
REVIEW: PRESIDENTIAL COIN & ANTIQUE CO. 77TH AUCTION
Speaking of Joe Levine, Alan V. Weinberg writes: "Joe Levine of
Clifton VA conducted his 77th Presidential Coin & Antique Co. medals
and tokens auction in Baltimore June 30 in connection with the
Baltimore coin show recently acquired by Whitman Publishing Co.
"This token, medal and political ephemera auction is now an annual
affair as Joe is now semi-retired. His catalogues, going back to the
early 70's, are notable for not only very rare material but the
historical background emphasized with each lot. Like Q. David Bowers,
Joe has always rightfully felt that an educated and informed client
is a stronger bidder, a long term collector and potential future
"While PCAC was unlisted in the show's roster of bourse dealers and
Joe's booth was ignominiously isolated in a dark, extreme rear corner
of the huge convention hall bourse room (while centrally located booths
were unoccupied and unassigned), Joe's booth had a multiple-lamped
exhibition table away from the main bourse floor's maddening crowd
and bourse noise. So there was some benefit to the isolation.
"There was some eye-opening action Saturday night at the PCAC auction
in a quiet room on the 3rd floor of the convention center. The sale
featured a collection of American Agricultural and Mechanical Society
medals. This was the finest and largest collection of these often
aesthetically pleasing award medals ever sold at auction. Thus, the
catalogue will serve as a reference work on the subject until
someone produces a more comprehensive study.
"Aside from a decidedly strong bid book (mail, emailed and telephoned
absentee bids), there were some fierce floor battles between some
determined dealer/collectors and collectors on the floor. No bidder
collusion here although two of the main bidders were close friends
and sat across from each other. New price levels were set as some
medals soared over $1,000 apiece.
"The sale also featured the collection of Henry Clay political and
historical medals and tokens of the late Pittsburgh coin dealer
and collector Charles Litman, an unrivaled assemblage of over 100
pieces. Several pieces soared over $2,000 each.
"But the highlight of the sale was the finest known Augustus Saint-
Gaudens 1905 Theodore Roosevelt bronze inaugural medal with accompanying
letter that sold for $44,850 to a prominent New York City numismatist,
a world's record price for this official medal, 1 of only 125 struck
by Tiffany & Co. It might well have gone higher but for the tactical
error of the underbidder admittedly not realizing that his "cut bid"
was his final bid. This was also a new world's record for any non-gold
"Shortly afterward, the even rarer but less famous silver Warren Harding
inaugural medal sold for $40,825 to the aforementioned floor bidder who
was so disappointed in losing the Roosevelt medal. This is the 2nd high
world's record price for a non-gold inaugural medal. Inaugural medals
have been a specialty of PCAC for decades and the field is what it is
today largely because of Joe Levine's input.
"Throughout the auction, there was humorous banter both from the auction
podium manned by Joe himself and from the audience members which led to
a relaxed and entertaining three hours."
[I have a copy of the catalog with me here in London. Of additional
interest to bibliophiles are lots 365 and 367, two different examples
of the 1909 Lincoln Centennial medal and Book. The book in lot 367
is titled "The Lincoln Tribute Book". Joe notes that "This is the
second and scarcest of the two books of the period with medals bound
POW/MIA STAMP MYSTERY SOLVED
Last week I referenced a blog entry by David Kranz of Numismatic
News asking about a POW*MIA stamp he'd encountered on U.S. paper
money. Curious, I did a web search and emailed Sjana Bauer, Founder
and President of POW/MIA Freedom Fighters. He writes: "The logo itself
is a public domain graphic. The wording itself says, 'You are not
Forgotten"' or 'Let Us Not Forget', or something similar to that
will be found on the graphic.
"Many POW/MIA organizations and members and the general public
continue to use this logo and fly the POW/MIA Flag, which itself is
flown as mandated by Federal law on certain days throughout the year,
in memory of those men and women that were left behind and are waiting
to return home for burial.
"For the families of these men and women, they are simply waiting
for the government to give the answers as to what happened to their
loved ones. No one expects unrecoverable remains to be returned, but
there are questions yet to be answered and it is time for the families
and the public to be told the truth. It is time for the men and women
that can come home, to come home. It is time for the remains that
are available to be returned to American soil, to be returned and
"Why is the logo showing up on American money? To make sure the
American people don't forget!"
To visit the POW/MIA Freedom Fighters web site, see:
POW-MIA LOGO STAMP INFORMATION SOUGHT
WILLIAM ASHBROOK 1909 FIXED PRICE LIST AND CATALOG SOUGHT
Roger Burdette writes: "I am searching for the following items for
research and hope someone can direct me to copies. Many thanks.
1. Fixed price list dated February 1909 issued by William Ashbrook,
2. Auction catalog Ohio State Numismatic Association, October 28-29,
1909. Auctioneer was Ray Patton. 745 lots.
"There will be an article in Coin World (written by Jeff Reichenberger
and myself) in a month or so that lists most of the original owners of
the 1907 $10 with normal rim and periods - only 50 survived melting.
Jeff examined all of Ashbrook's 40-year-long personal diary and
discovered quite a trove of numismatic information.
"William Ashbrook acquired more than 1/5 of the total available during
the 1908 Assay Commission meeting. He also had a huge run of gold proof
sets bought from a Delaware estate. The private sale and auction were
of duplicate pieces from his collection. I'd like to know more about
what he sold in 1909 so I can try to trace a couple of the pieces or
proof sets to institutional or possibly private owners."
BOSTON GLOBE ON THE JACOB PERKINS NEWBURYPORT BUILDING
As Karl Moulton noted on July 24, media descriptions of the Jacob
Perkins Newburyport, MA building as a former 'mint' are incorrect.
In a lengthy article this week, the Boston Globe gets it right.
"Commonly referred to as the "Mint Building" -- a misnomer because
it was paper currency, not coins, that it produced -- the structure
is adjacent to the Caleb Cushing House Museum, the Federalist building
that serves as the society's headquarters and features rooms furnished
in the style of the early to mid-1800s."
"At age 12, Perkins apprenticed with a goldsmith. Later he was
employed to make dies for the production of the copper coin used
"In 1795, he invented a machine for manufacturing nails. He followed
that in 1804 with the discovery of a new technique for making steel
engraving plates for printing currency. The discovery was significant
because it allowed for more detail to be included on the paper notes,
which made them less susceptible to counterfeiting.
"At first, Perkins and his brother sold the plates to banks. But
after opening the Mint Building, they began to print the currency.
The Mint Building, where the printing took place, is believed to
have been part of a complex whose other buildings are now gone.
"Mack said the new museum would display artifacts from Jacob Perkins's
life, some of which it has already accumulated over the years, and from
the early currency printing industry."
To read the complete article, see:
KARL MOULTON ON THE JACOB PERKINS BUILDING
CORRECTION: COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY LOCATION
A headline in last week's issue was incorrect, as Dick Johnson
pointed out. Colorado State University is in Fort Collins, not
PRE-1982 CENTS MASQUERADE AS QUARTERS IN DENVER PARKING METERS
LEN AUGSBURGER ON CHRISTIAN GOBRECHT'S WOODCUTS
[With permission I'm reprinting from the July 2007 issue of The
E-Gobrecht (Volume 3, Issue 7, Whole Number 28) the following article
on "Christian Gobrecht’s woodcuts" by Len Augsburger. See the
original article for illustrations. -Editor]
I recently purchased, via abebooks.com, an old volume that contains
woodcuts executed by Christian Gobrecht while he lived in Baltimore.
"A Key to French Conversation and French Idiom," published by Warner
& Hanna in Baltimore in 1812, is a primer to the French language,
with numerous woodcuts illustrating the text. Many are unsigned, but
probably most are the work of Gobrecht. The engraver cleverly hid
his signature within the base of the cuts, some indicating "G",
others "Gobrecht". Three of these images were rendered in the Hanover
Numismatic Society series of medals from 1966-1981 honoring Christian
Gobrecht and are illustrated here, scanned from the 1812 volume.
Some of these woodcuts apparently originated in an earlier volume,
"The Baltimore Spelling Book : Containing Easy Lessons in Spelling
& Reading, Ornamented with Elegant Cuts", this also published by Warner
& Hanna in Baltimore, and thought to have been published in 1811. This
volume was referenced at the Maryland Historical Society. Warner and
Hanna published anumber of other books, and it is quite possible that
Gobrecht woodcuts could be located in these as well."
POPULAR SCIENCE MAGAZINE: HOW TO EXPLODE A LINCOLN CENT
Dick Johnson writes: "There is a photograph in the July 2007 Popular
Science magazine that is worth the cost of the entire magazine. It
shows a 1999 Lincoln cent. What's so special about that? Let me tell you!
"It is an 'exploded' view of the thin copper shells -- obverse and
reverse -- that covers the zinc core of the struck cent. I have never
seen the zinc core of a Lincoln cent before, nor the shells separated
from a cent.
"There is a simple technology for doing this columnist Theodore Gray
explains in his column, 'Gray Matter,' this month. 'Turn your cheapest
coins inside out,' he states, 'using some hardware store chemistry.'
"The copper shells are formed by dissolving away the zinc core. This
is done by carefully grinding away the smallest amount from the edge
until the zinc is exposed. Then place this cent in hydrochloric acid
-- that's muriatic acid you can get in the hardware store (for cleaning
"After the zinc is completely dissolved the shells remain but will be
extremely thin -- like foil -- but if done properly will exhibit the
intact surface of the cent.
"To get the zinc core you have to dissolve the copper away with cyanide
and Gray does not recommend anyone do this because cyanide is so poisonous.
[See the link below for previous E-Sylum discussion about the numismatic
uses (and misuses) of cyanide. -Editor]
"Popular Science hired a professional chemist to do this. Likewise we
don't recommend any collector try this as well.
"Take a peak at this web site, view the photo and the YouTube video and
see if you don't agree with me. Amazing!"
[It's a wonderful photo that ought to find its way into future numismatic
books on the cent. It would be interesting to see if a similar process
can be applied to split the layers of higher denomination clad coinage
such as the U.S. dimes and quarters. On the downside, the existence of
this recipe for the manipulation of coins will undoubtedly lead to the
marketing of coin components in the guise of mint errors. Be aware!
Here are a couple excerpts from the article. -Editor]
"Looking for something more interesting to do with that jar of pennies
than just cash it in? One word: acid.
"In most years before 1982, American pennies were 95 percent copper.
Then the price of copper went up until you could get $100 worth of
pennies at the bank, melt them down, and sell the metal for more than
$100. So the government started using a core of cheap zinc with only
a thin plating of copper.
"The fact that pennies are made of two different metals opens up the
interesting possibility of separating them.
"... these two methods let me prepare this real-life exploded
view—proving that what the U.S. Mint has joined together, an Icelandic
chemist and an American teenager may put asunder."
To read the complete article, see:
QUIZ ANSWER: NUMISMATIC USES OF CYANIDE
WAYNE'S LONDON DIARY 8 JULY, 2007
Regarding my stay in London, Roger Burdette writes: "When do you
begin spelling words with extra letters and taking the 'lift' to
your hotel room? I replied that "I’m already taking the tube and
the lift every day, and using colourful phrases!" Roger's retort
was: "Bilmey, let's hope you don't come down with 'pub elbow' from
lifting all those pints. That would put the cotter in the hill! If
you're driving, be sure to stay off the vergis - driving there
could land you in gaol for a fortnight."
Well, I haven't driven in London and don't plan to. And I doubt
I'm in danger of getting pub elbow - this week brought some late
nights in the office. We even put in a full day and then some on
the Fourth of July, which strangely, the Brits don't seem to celebrate.
Work keeps getting in the way of fun, but I try. Although I missed
the first half, on Tuesday I made it to the meeting of the London
I wasn't the only late arrival. Outside the Warburg Institute on
Woburn Square I met David Dell, a well-dressed older gentleman who
introduced himself as a 50-year member of the club. I learned that
he collected the short cross coinage. But we were both locked out
of the building. David reached through the bushes and tapped on the
meeting room window, which was conveniently on the first floor just
off the lobby. It's the same room where the British Numismatic
After an officer of the club had some cross words with the building
guard who had left his post with the door locked inside and out, we
were let inside. Harry Mernick was finishing up his presentation on
"The Royal Mint Centenary Medal Series, 1986-1999". Counting myself,
there were seventeen attendees.
Beautifully illustrated with images projected from his computer,
Harry's talk was quite interesting. Examples of all the medals were
laid out for viewing on the table at the front of the room. The
series commemorates important British events. Mintages were 5,000
in bronze, 2,500 in silver and 25 in gold.
The series was discontinued after 1999 for lack of public interest.
It's a shame, for many of the medals are quite well executed. Harry
suggested that the problem could be due to the availability of so
many commemorative coins in circulation and the high prices charged
by the Mint for the medals. He noted that the Royal Mint is testing
the waters with a new series, priced at 1,495 GBP for a set of six
One attractive medal honored the Llantrisant Longbowmen. The Welsh
archers changed the course of warfare forever when their technological
advances ended the reign of Knights on horseback which had dominated
battlefields since the later years of the Roman Empire. At 100 yards
their bodkin-tipped arrows could pierce not only chain mail, but
In a famous battle in 1346, "the French sent in wave after wave of
cavalry, hoping to overwhelm the English line. It held. Each time the
longbowmen made terrible slaughter from the protection of their ditches
and caltrops. As supplies of arrows ran shot, they sallied out in groups
to drag arrows out of dead and living, horses and men; and took prisoners
for later ransom.
"By midnight, Philip's brother, Charles II of Alençon and his allies,
King John of Bohemia and the Count of Flanders, Louis II of Nevers, as
well as 1,500 other knights and esquires were dead." [Taken from the
web site listed below. -Editor]
How events from 1346 ended up commemorated on a modern Centenary medal
I don't know, but I deserved to be confused for arriving late. It was
an elegant medal regardless. I learned more than just the story of
the archers - I finally learned how to pronounce the name of the town
of Llantrisant, Wales. Harry explained that it means the "Land of
Three Saints" - Llan/Tri/Sant.
QUIZ QUIZ: What is Llantrisant's numismatic connection? Harry's
vocabulary also includes the word "penultimate", which I remember is
also a favorite of numismatic author Q. David Bowers. Harry used the
term correctly, but many of us misunderstand. So what does it mean?
Other medals in the series are proper centenary medals, commemorating
events occurring 100 years earlier. The 1994 Tower Bridge medal
commemorates the 1894 opening of the iconic London landmark. A
majestic composition with extraordinary detail, the medal is a delight.
If you're in London and looking for a souvenir, pass up the trinkets
and get something like this.
I also enjoyed the beautiful art deco-style design of the 1997
Women's Institute medal, commemorating the founding of the organization
in 1897 (in Canada, actually).
In the question-and-answer session following Harry's talk, Frances
Simmons spoke about the Royal Mint's efforts to attract new engravers,
and another member noted that the remains of John Harrison (a renowned
clockmaker commemorated on one of the medals) are interred near Royal
Mintmaster Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.
Following the meeting I was delighted to be invited to dinner at a usual
post-meeting haunt. Our party included Phil and Harry Mernick, David
Powell, Anthony Portner, and Robert H. Thompson, who edits a bibliography
of the British Numismatic Journal. We walked down Tavistock Place past
a nice a pretty public square, eventually stepping into a little Indian
Starters and a round of cold Cobra beers was served. Conversation was
a delight, and covered topics in and out of the numismatic realm. I
noted that the pound coin seems to be the real workhorse, with most
examples I've seen being well worn. Phil Mernick said that apparently
1% or more of all pound coins in circulation are actually counterfeits.
Apparently the high face value and worn condition of most of the
genuine coins makes it ripe for fakery.
Phil told us about some of the diagnostics, which are mainly on the edge.
He pronounced the two coins I drew from my pocket as genuine. I looked
at them through a borrowed loupe to view the details. When I asked Phil
why the words "One Pound" were backwards, he politely informed me that I
was looking at the coin upside down. OK, no more Cobras for me tonight.
We exited the restaurant after a great meal and walked toward the Russell
Square tube station. On July 7, 2005 a train traveling to Russell Square
from the next station (King's Cross's St. Pancras) was violated with the
explosion of a terrorist's bomb, killing 26 people. Built in 1906, the
station has many interesting original architectural features, including
mosaic tile signage. Harry pointed out to me the blast doors, large
heavy safe-like doors used to seal the tunnels against Nazi bombs in WWII. Life goes on. We boarded a train and said our goodnights as we exited
at our stops.
By Thursday the pace of work cooled down a bit and I was lucky to be able
to go through with my planned dinner with John Andrew. Numismatists in
the U.S. know him as the London correspondent of Coin World. We met about
6 pm in the lobby of my building. I had my laptop open to check a phone
number and offered to show him the draft of this week's issue. It's not
necessarily a pretty sight - like software and sausages, one is better
off not knowing how it is made.
The draft is a very long conglomeration of unedited and unformatted
text. Since Monday morning I'd been plopping in emails from subscribers
and the entire text of newspaper articles from the web. To keep things
straight every item is separated by a draft headline in the same format
as the finished product. If you think the final issues are big, you
should see a draft. But disk space is cheap, so everything under the
sun gets thrown in to the pot.
I was shocked, shocked! to learn that John was not already a subscriber.
Sacrebleu! But we remedied that quickly and walked down Shaftesbury
Avenue in the London drizzle to Bali Bali, an Indonesian/Malaysian/Thai
restaurant. We had a wonderful dinner, sharing tales of our collecting
John has over 30 years experience in banking and has published over
twenty books on topics ranging from personal finance to Faberge, and
has contributed to all of the major U.K. newspapers including The Daily
Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Financial Times
and The Scotsman. He has written extensively on numismatics in numerous
countries and is Consultant Editor of the U.K.'s Coin News.
He has a healthy numismatic library and offered to make me a copy of
the item Bob Neale recommended - Eric Newman's 1959 article in the British
Numismatic Journal on "The successful British counterfeiting of American
paper money during the American revolution." Two thousand miles away
and I'm still trodding in Eric's footprints on the numismatic landscape.
John doesn't actually collect coins anymore, just books and information.
He decided to stop collecting when he began writing about numismatics
professionally. His collecting passion is post-WWII British silver and
gold. Not coins, but tableware and decorative pieces. A few years ago
he sold a collection of Faberge pieces he'd assembled over the years,
including elegant gold cigarette and match cases set with precious stones.
The collection included a number of pieces in their original
presentation boxes including gifts from the Tsar of Russia. Walking
into a London jewelry exhibit recently he spotted a piece on loan from
comedienne Joan Rivers and exclaimed "That's my brooch!"
A good friend of John's is Gerald Hoberman, known numismatically for
his beautiful 1981 Spink publication, "The Art of Coins and Their
Photography". Hoberman has published scores of books of photographs.
John wrote the text for one on London which he showed me at dinner.
The photographs of London landmarks and quintessential sights (local
pubs, cheesemongers etc) were stunning. A number of shots of palaces,
parks and gardens were taken from the air, offering a heavenly
perspective. Having spent time around London I could really appreciate
the book's charms - it's highly recommended for non-numismatic reading.
Our conversation lasted throughout our long dinner which included
appetizers and dessert. We talked about Stephen Fenton (who lives
near John) and the 1933 Double Eagles, and my collection of J.S.G. Boggs
material. At John's request, back at my hotel I emailed him citations
for some of the books on the topics. It was a delightful evening and I
look forward to visiting him again before my time in London is done.
Together we'll work on a piece about The E-Sylum for Coin News.
Friday morning I had to be up bright and early for a breakfast meeting
with Tom Patterson, CEO of my company, Command Information. Tom is a
pioneer in Internet security and formed the company to jumpstart
commercial use of the next generation of the Internet (IPv6). He had
with him a new T-Mobile phone which can switch from the standard cell
phone network to faster Wi-Fi connections. The phone uses IPv6, as
does the new iPhone from Apple.
The meeting was at the Savoy Hotel. Hopping into a cab at 7am, we
passed preparations for the Tour de France in Hyde Park and Trafalgar
Square. Once at the hotel we were greeted by a chatty top-hatted
doorman. The lobby of the Savoy is huge, topped by a large decorative
plaster border unlike any I've ever seen before. The restaurant was
equally immense and framed in marble. Our table was at the window,
overlooking the Thames.
I chose the buffet. It was an absolute delight to the eye - the food
was presented meticulously. There were three kids of marinated smoked
salmon, dozens of types of sliced fruit, and usual breakfast fare of
eggs, sausage, bacon, etc. The waitress poured glasses of fresh orange-
mango juice. It was a far cry from my usual breakfast of cereal and
O.J. from a supermarket-brand carton.
After work on Friday a colleague and I walked the few blocks down
Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square where the opening ceremonies
of the Tour de France were being held. No cars could get near - the
streets were closed. It was fun to walk down the center of Charing
Cross Road, normally jammed with traffic. Police were out in force,
but I saw no one being stopped or searched. Together with throngs
of people we strolled right past the security barriers.
The square was packed with thousands of people on temporary bleachers
and chairs. From my spot on Charing Cross I could see the stage through
the trees. The head of operations for the Tour introduced himself and
then the crowd was treated to a history of the bicycle as people pushed
or rode antique bicycles across the stage. One of the earliest was an
example of the classic Victorian style with no gears and one huge wheel
in the front.
A large video screen made it easier to see the action on the stage,
but where I stood it was all very noisy and difficult to hear, as people
squeezed past us holding conversations and vendors hawked T-shirts from
a truck behind. We watched a man climb atop a bus shelter to take a
photo - after he was in place someone handed him up a backpack and a
camera with a huge zoom lens.
I didn't stay long and walked back toward my tube stop. I don't mind
crowds, but my nervous family wants me to stay away from them. That's
easier said than done in Central London. I stopped for a haircut and
then walked to my tube stop at Oxford Street. Had the weather been better
I would have walked all the way home, and that would have made for a much
more pleasant journey. The sidewalk at Oxford Street was jammed with
people, and officials were turning people away from the entrance to the
underground. I assume it was because of the traffic generated by the
Tour; this entrance was now an exit only - I would have to cross two
streets to get into the station.
Crossing those streets took a while - there were mobs of people. Finally
I reached the train platform and it was also quite crowded. A train
arrived soon but was already jammed with passengers. Two people got off,
three people squeezed in, and off the train went with me and hundreds of
others still stranded on the platform. Somehow I managed to get on the
next train which was equally packed nutztobuttz with people. What was
that about avoiding crowds?
When I reached my stop at the Queensway station I squeezed off the train.
The Central Line is deep underground at that point and to get to street
level riders have to take a lift (elevator) or brave the stairs. I
chose the stairs. Normally I'm the only one but tonight there were
dozens of people hoofing it up the 123 steps. No, I didn't count them,
but there's a sign to warn the faint of heart. It was a relief to reach
the street and breathe the cool evening air. While the rest of London
was out and about Friday night, I was quite content to have the hotel
laundry facility to myself to take care of the weekly washing. While
waiting I read some email and popped a few more submissions into this
week's E-Sylum draft.
Saturday morning brought a strange sight to my windows - blue skies
and sunshine. It had been at least a fortnight since we had such a
nice day. I faced the day with mixed emotions, though. It was the
anniversary of the London bombings which killed 52 people on the
London transportation system.
Checking email at breakfast I got a note from ANS Executive Director
Ute Wartenberg Kagan who was traveling in Berlin. She writes: "Two
years ago on July 7 I was in London and just about to enter Edgeware
Road, one of the stations where a bomb went off on a train. Later I
heard that one of my numismatic colleagues from the British Museum was
on one of the trains, but was unharmed. But in London people expect
this sort of thing, I am sure you noticed."
Although I had been invited to attend, I decided not to go to the
'Currencies in Crisis' conference in Chichester. I also passed up a
chance to visit Wimbledon for the playoffs. It had been a long week
and I wanted to complete my E-Sylum chores at a leisurely pace and
take a few casual walks in the warm sun. I opened the windows wide
to let in the fresh cool air.
After having some lunch I went for a long walk in Hyde Park, home base
of the London leg of the Tour de France bicycle race. Hundreds of trucks
and buses were parked three deep along one long road. I soon came
across the People's Village, basically a peddler's fair piggybacking on
the Tour. There were booths selling T-shirts, all manner of food and
drink and traditional French products. I saw a few of the racers whiz
by to the cheers of the crowd. This was only the prologue race - the
official race starts Sunday and goes on and on. One rider described it
as "the only sporting event in the world where you need a haircut
On Sunday I worked some more on The E-Sylum in the morning and after
lunch set out on another journey. My cross-town destination was Sotheby's,
to view lots in their 12 July sale of English Literature and History.
It was a quiet afternoon. I checked my backpack in the cloakroom and
entered the book room for lot viewing. There were only three others
viewing lots. I filled out a lot viewing sheet, but was never asked
for identification. Viewers are not allowed to copy or transcribe any
part of the documents in their notes, but the staff was quite helpful
and I had free reign to handle the items.
I was particularly interested in just one lot, and only for viewing
since it would be too expensive to buy. Here's the lot description
(estimate 2,000-3,000 GBP):
"Newton, Sir Isaac. Collection of documents relating to the Royal Mint
including a receipt for plate taken from three ships, subscribed ("recd
the plate above mentioned ... by me") and signed by Newton as master of
the mint, 1 page, folio, 28 May 1703, endorsed on verso, tear resulting
in loss of half of signature, professionally restored.
"[together with:] a group of 16 documents relating to the Royal Mint
including: letters to and from various correspondents, some being copies,
on such subjects as the use of an iron screw press "that may be used for
forginge or Counterfeiting the current monies and coyne of this Kingdom",
the discharge of goods seized from a pirate by the Hull mint, building
work at the Chester mint, and a patent held by Sir Talbot Clarke for
the smelting and refining of copper; receipts including sums received
in taxes by various county receivers, the costs of assaying and
transporting plate brought from Vigo, and the salaries of officials at
the Exeter mint; in total 22 pages, various sizes and locations, 2
December 1682 to 23 December 1712, professionally restored and
strengthened, waterstaining (17)"
That the document is missing part of Newton's signature is a shame.
Only "Isaac" remains. An interesting group, particularly the pirate
item. I recall the spelling as "Pyrate". They're not for me at that
price level, but I hope they find a good home.
While I was there I took a peek at a few other items. Lot 15 is a very
nice large autographed photographic portrait of inventor Thomas Edison,
suitable for framing. Lot 44 is a two-volume, first edition set of
Adam Smith's 1776 treatise, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Wealth of Nations." It was a treat to hold the first edition of
this landmark work. Chapter IV is titled "Of the Origin and Use of Money".
Lot 92 is a two-volume first edition of Charles Dickens' "Sketches by
'Boz'" with sixteen wood-engraved plates by George Cruikshank, known
numismatically for his famous "hanging" satire note. Lot 105 is an
1849 edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's "Frankenstein: or The
Not all of the lots were centuries old. Lot 282 is a 1997 first edition
of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone", estimated at 1,000—1,500 GBP. The book carried
a marking from the Portsmouth City Council Library Service and a date
of 8/97. The original cover price was 10.99 GBP. My neighboring lot
viewer questioned why the book didn't been marked as a discard, since
"a lot of these get nicked from public libraries."
Leaving Sotheby's I continued walking down Bond Street, London's upscale shopping district comparable to LA's Rodeo Drive or New York's Fifth Avenue. Since it was a Sunday the shops were closed. I turned left on Piccadilly and wandered into the Royal Academy of Arts. Situated on a beautiful plaza together with the Astrological and Geological Societies and the Society of Antiquaries, the setting is similar to the American Numismatic Society's former home on Audubon terrace, only in a civilized neighborhood.
I had seen my fill of Impressionist Paintings and passed on the summer
exhibit, "Impressionists by the Sea". I was disappointed that the
library was closed - I would have liked to ask the librarians about
works pertaining to coin designers. Established in 1768, the Academy's
library is the oldest institutional library in the U.K.
I walked through the public galleries viewing paintings and some
interesting artifacts such as Sir Joshua Reynolds' palette. Making
use of my E-Sylum vocabulary, I recognized the word "Tondo" in the
exhibit guide, and made my way upstairs to view what the Academy
considers its greatest treasure - the marble sculpture the Toddei
Tondo: The Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John by Michelangelo
Leaving the Royal Academy I walked through Mayfair past Shephard's
Market and other landmarks, making my way into Hyde Park near Apsley
House at Hyde Park Corner. The park was still full with the Tour de
France, and I climbed up a temporary staircase and bridge to cross
over the racecourse on Serpentine Drive. Stopping to buy some water
(1.65 GBP for a 500ml bottle), I continued along the far side of
Serpentine Lake, past the Diana Memorial Fountain and Round Lake back
to my Bayswater neighborhood. It was about a three mile walk in all
- time to rest my weary feet.
To visit John Andrew's web site, see:
To read more on the Llantrisant Longbowmen, see:
To view images of counterfeit British one-pound coins, see:
To learn some diagnostics of fake one-pound coins, see:
To view Sotheby's lot description
LONDON POLICE DOG AWARDED MEDAL FOR BRAVERY
London newspapers reported on Tuesday that "Heroic hound Jake the
cocker spaniel is to be honoured today for his bravery after the 7/7
"Handler PC Bob Crawford and two-year-old Met police dog Jake (full
name Hubble Keck) formed part of the emergency services response
after the attacks.
"They were sent to Tavistock Square and later Kings Cross.
"At Tavistock Square, injured people were in need of urgent medical
attention but the bus was believed to contain a further suspect
"Jake and PC Crawford searched a safe route to the device ensuring
that it was safe for paramedics to reach the passengers.
"They then searched an area close to the bus so a make-shift field
hospital could be set up.
"Afterwards they set about searching a mile long route underground
from Russell Square tube station to Kings Cross to ensure people
could be rescued safely.
"Today, Jake will be given the animal equivalent of the George Cross
by HRH Princess Alexandra at St James's Palace."
To read the complete article, see:
[We've discussed previously in The E-Sylum about medals awarded in
Britain to animals. A related article published last year notes
that Bamse, the canine mascot of the Norwegian Forces during WWII
received a postumous PDSA Gold Medal (the 'animals' 'George Cross')
for saving the lives of two crew members of his ship.
The PDSA Gold medal (called the equivalent of the George Cross) seems
to be different than the Dickin medal (called the equivalent of the
Victoria Cross). Can anyone confirm this? -Editor]
To read about Bamse, the life-saving Norwegian dog, see
DICKIN MEDAL: THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR ANIMALS
SPY PIGEON'S MEDAL FETCHES £39,200
FAKE COINS ABOUND IN CHINA
Britain isn't the only country plagued with counterfeit coins. A
Friday article in China Daily notes that "Fake coins can now be found
in several Chinese cities. Many convenience stores, snack bars, and
newspaper stands are buying them and giving them as change to customers,
who then spend them in other places, according to Nanfang Weekend.
"Two employees of a fake coin retailer in Guangzhou, capital of
southern Guangdong Province, who gave their names as B Zai and A Wei,
told the paper that many local convenient stores and snack bars buy
"Their boss buys fake coins, valued at 1 yuan each, from a wholesaler
and sells them to shops at 35 fen.
"Retailers stick posters on walls and lampposts, and also advertise
on the Internet.
"'Most coin identification machines cannot detect them from genuine
ones,' he said."
"'Coins are simple to copy as they do not have anti-counterfeit
safeguards,' he said.
"In the first eight months of last year, Hubei Province confiscated
more than 10.52 million counterfeit coins with 1 yuan face value."
To read the complete article, see:
STILL MORE ON THE TYPOGRAPHIC SYMBOL FOR COIN REVERSE
For a while now we've been following Ed Snible's quest to learn more
about the typographic symbol for coin reverse with limited success.
In his July 1 blog Ed speculates on why use of the symbol died out.
"The )( symbol is a new obsession of Wayne Homren, who reports in
today's e-Sylum that he has contracted the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz,
Germany, The Type Museum here in London, the International Printing
Museum near Los Angeles, the Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA;
the JAARS Museum of the Alphabet in Waxhaw, NC; and the St. Brides
Printing Library in London.
"No useful replies yet.
"In a June 3 comment here, Dr. Robert J. O’Hara pointed to an 18th
century list of alchemical symbols, Medicinisch-Chymisch- und
Alchemistisches Oraculum (1755), which includes both )( and ℞. Both
symbols abbreviate words beginning with RE (Realgar and Recipe). If
one needed to abbreviate “reverse” down to a single character to save
space it makes sense to use a symbol which had already served that
purpose. )( was such a symbol, but would numismatic readers in the
18th century have understood it?
"The earliest numismatic use that I know of is from 1758, in a book
published in Vienna, Prague, and Triest by Ioannis Thomae Trattner.
However, I just haved looked. I don't have any 17th or 18th century
books, and Google has scanned only a few. I would be curious to find
earlier citations of the symbol. It would be interesting if the
symbol started with publishers known for printing alchemical works.
I have before never considered a connection between numismatics and
"It is interesting that the symbol died out. It was used by Eckhel,
who is the father of numismatics as a science. It seems logical that
authors would want to make the works look more like Eckhel's, so why
did the symbol die out? Possibly type setters didn't have the symbol,
but perhaps even in the 19th century no one knew the name of the
symbol or its exact meaning?"
To read Ed's original July 1 blog entry, see:
TYPOGRAPHIC SYMBOL FOR COIN REVERSE
TYPOGRAPHIC SYMBOL FOR COIN REVERSE HAS E-SYLUM READERS STUMPED
NOTES ON THE TYPOGRAPHIC SYMBOL FOR COIN REVERSE
[Ed raised a very interesting question, which could be destined to
remain a numismatic mystery. Thanks to Karl Moulton we have some
additional background on the symbol's use in the U.S., but little
proof of where it came from originally, what it was called or why
it died out. Perhaps someday an answer will turn up.
Meanwhile, researchers should keep an eye on Ed's blog for his
regular updates on numismatic literature being added to Google Book
search. The latest include three titles in the BMC Greek series:
Vol. 16 Ionia, by Head, 1892.
Vol. 17 Troas, Aeolis and Lesbos, by Wroth, 1894.
Vol. 19 Lycia, Pamphylia and Pisidia, by Hill, 1897 -Editor]
STEPPING THE MAST COIN CUSTOM TAKES TO THE SKIES
Dick Johnson writes: "If you are an aircraft mechanic raise your
hand. I don't see many hands raised among E-Sylum readers. This
story is about a 75-year-old (best guess) custom with Lincoln cents.
Even though I have collected and written about Lincoln cents for
almost an equal time (68 of those 75 years) this story is new to me.
"The custom is to place a Lincoln cent -- which automatically becomes
a 'lucky penny' and extending that luck to every thing it touches --
on the engine of an airplane. Specifically, one kind of aircraft
engine, Pratt & Whitney engines, which are manufactured here in
"It seems the mechanics who make these engines place a Lincoln cent
of the current year on every one made. When an engine is restored or
overhauled at some later date, the mechanic has the option of
retaining the original cent bearing the date of manufacture, or,
use one of the current year.
"A contributing writer for Aircraft Maintenance Technology magazine,
Giacinto Bradly Koontz, wrote an article, published this week, where
the writer wanted to track down the origin of this curious custom
and how long this has been going on. Learning the answer wasn't easy.
"The best guess would be the 1930s, since the 'engine pennies' were
found on one type of engine, R1340 WASP, which was first manufactured
in 1940. One mechanic the author interviewed listed two other engines
in which the custom could have started.
"An aircraft owner stated he picked up the custom from a crop duster,
who wouldn't think of flying without a penny on his own P&W. 'It's
just one of those things some of us do, but probably don't know why.'
He speculated it could be placed there to signify the last overhaul,
like a date stamp. Other mechanics said they did it because their
fathers and grandfathers did. The custom continues today. Fly safely!"
[The lengthy article relates the custom to the ancient shipbuilding
custom of placing a coin under the mast in a ceremony called Stepping
the Mast. We've written about this in previous E-Sylums. -Editor]
To read the complete article, see:
NAVAL COIN CUSTOM IN THE NEWS: STEPPING THE SHIP'S MAST
UPCOMING JAEGER ARTICLE ON STEPPING THE MAST
ON ELIMINATING THE CENT
Tim Shuck writes: "Dick Johnson’s comments on why we no longer need
the cent are persuasive, and I agree that ‘deficit’ minting of coins
needs to end. However, if rounding to ten cents is implemented he
might want to reconsider removing cents and nickels from circulation,
either physically or by revaluation.
[Revaluation has been one of the options proposed. -Editor]
"Under such a scenario, if I use quarters to pay for a purchase
ending in 20 cents (using one quarter), 60 or 70 cents (using three
quarters), how would I get the five cents in change back? Forced use
of dimes would be an inconvenience that, along with political (and
practical) issues related to revaluation, will make elimination of
the nickel a non-starter in my opinion. And we might need those cents
as well to make up five cents in change.
"I could suggest, tongue halfway in cheek, that if cents and nickels
go, the quarter also needs to be replaced with a new 20 cent piece;
history in the making and a host of new collecting possibilities. If
that happened all circulating coins would then be an even multiple of
the lowest denomination coin, which is needed to avoid the five-cents-
in-change problem. This seems too obvious; am I missing something
ABOLITION OF CANADIAN CENT PROPOSED
Dick Johnson writes: "Canada is getting serious about abolishing the
cent denomination. Last week the national bank issued a statement
endorsing its demise. This week a member of parliament, Pat Martin,
is drafting a bill to accomplish just that. The $30 million is the
amount the Canadian Mint would save annually by abolishing the penny,
says a study by the Library of Parliament, whose facts Mr. Martin is
using to bolster his argument that the penny should no longer "nickel
and dime Canadians."
"Canada is not facing the problem, as does the United States, that of
the U.S. cents costing more for its metal composition than its face
value, since Canadian cents are made of steel. The Royal Canadian Mint
manufactures steel cents for 0.7 cents each, which means a penny is
still actually worth something, but not much. The problem with pennies
is that Canadians lose them, throw them away or store them in buckets
by the millions. Last year the mint stamped out 815 million pennies. At
2.35 grams each, they are in weight as they are in value -- pretty much
nothing. But together, they weigh almost two million kilograms. Moving
all those coins from the mint to banks alone costs about $33 million.
"By abolishing the cent Canadians would have to do some rounding off.
Not all prices, just the final tally. An editorial in the Winnipeg Free
Press noted this has already been done in Australia, New Zealand, France
and Spain. We could add Finland to that list."
To read the Winnipeg Free Press editorial, see:
LOBBYIST HIRED FOR ZINC BLANK MANUFACTURER
Dick Johnson writes: "Congress can expect a lot of pressure from a
lobbyist hired this week by Jarden Zinc Products. They manufacture
the copper-coated zinc blanks the U.S. Mint purchases to strike into
"Since the cent's existence is vulnerable -- because the market price
of its two metal components is waverying above the coin's face value
and the importance of the cent to the American economy is declining --
this poses a tremendous loss of business to this company should the
coin be abolished.
"In addition to the U.S. Mint, Jarden supplies zinc coin blanks to
the Royal Canadian Mint as well as other countries. Canada has advanced
further in their plans to abolish their cent coin; their national bank
recently endorsed the cent's elimination. U.S. Mint officials are mute
on the subject.
"Jarden Zinc Products is a subsidary of Jarden Corp, headquartered in
Rye, New York. Their zinc processing plants are located in Tennessee
To read the original Associated Press report, see:
THE TOKENS OF THOMAS CHURCH
[Last week's discussion of the Canadian Numismatic Bibliography
illustrates the vast number of topics under that umbrella. One
interesting Canadian item that I learned about from my friend Larry
Dziubek are the privately-made tokens of Thomas Church. He gave a
presentation on the topic at a local Pittsburgh club meeting one
month, based on a Canadian Numismatic Journal article by Fred Bowman.
Larry gave me permission to republish the text of his presentation
for the benefit of E-Sylum readers. -Editor]
Thomas Church was born in 1843 in Ireland. His father was an artist
that painted murals, some of which are in the Canadian Parliament.
The family lived in Ottawa since 1851 and Tom got in his career field
as a lumberman by 1860. He eventually became the manager of the mill.
He lost his left hand in an industrial accident a few months before
the entire lumber yard and town was destroyed by fire in 1900.
Mr. Church had no children by his first two marriages, but had seven
with Margaret Spratt his third wife. In his mid-thirties he became a
serious collector of Canadian coins and tokens. He began to experiment
in cutting his own dies in the 1880’s. Many of the dies had the style
of early Canadian tokens found in the Breton series. He built a forge
and workshop near his home and began to cut and harden steel dies.
This hobby and his love for growing roses seemed to consume all of
his spare time.
Some of the talent needed for this task was inherited from his father,
the artist. Although his first attempts were on the crude side, the
quality of his workmanship continually improved until it was near the
level of a professional die cutter. Most of his early issues were in
soft metals that were melted, and used later to make bullets. A few
strikes were done over existing coins or tokens. Some small mintages
were due to the short life of inferior dies when striking harder metals.
Later Thomas began to roll sheets of different metals for his
planchets. These were not always made in a uniform thickness and add
to the variety and weight of his products. His personal amusement
and recreation turned into a minor business. He made milk check tokens
for C. W. Barrett of Leitrium, Ontario, the brother-in-law of his
second wife. These were the only issues struck in quantity. He also
made several personal tokens for himself, as well as some for the
Central Canada Exhibition in 1896.
He made tokens for Louis Laurin who owned and operated a general
store and was also a serious collector. When a fire destroyed Laurin’s
collection in 1899 he began to specialize in collecting Communion
Tokens. Early articles (1903) on the subject of Thomas Church listed
only twenty eight varieties in all metals, using some twenty of his
dies. Now the thinking is that there are some fifty-five combinations
or mulings from fifty-eight different dies. There would be another
fifty-two varieties if you counted all the pieces struck in various
metals. Many of these would be LEAD strikes that were only intended
to be “die trials” that got into some early collections.
Leading Canadian collectors of the day such as F.R.E. Campeau, R.W.
McLachlan, Joseph Leroux, and F.X. Paquet had standing orders to
purchase Church issues as soon as they were made. After the great
fire of April 1900 that destroyed all of Ottawa and Church’s home
on Victoria Island, he never resumed any efforts to make tokens. He
died on March 7, 1917 at age 74. The most definitive report on
Church’s output was the October 1959 Fred Bowman article in The
Canadian Numismatic Journal.
CALIFORNIA'S 'PENNY KING' AND THE MYTH OF THE MILLION DOLLAR PENNY
Dick Johnson writes: "This is one of the strangest stories I ever read.
And it is one of several on 'pennies' this week. A man in California
gives a dollar bill to strangers for every cent they have. But that's
not all. The stories he tells are stranger yet!
"Freelance author Alex S. Gabor tells of the gentleman who calls himself
the 'Penny King.' He states he was cheated out of a $70-million dollar
company 34 years ago and for the last 15 years he has been giving away
his dollar-for-cent exchanges.
"He states there is a million-dollar penny out there somewhere and he
hopes to find it. His son found a trunk of cents he cashed in for $4,000
so he has been quite active in this rater strange preocupation. The rest
of his statements range from unusual to unbelievable so you will have to
read the author's own words. He calls it 'The Myth of the Million
"The article was published in the American Chronicle this week. Go
read for yourself."
[Here are a couple short excerpts from this wacky article. -Editor]
"There are many articles on the subject of this mythological penny that
could fetch over a million dollars. Supposedly the United States Mint
made only one of these pennies and it somehow managed to slip out of
the garbage bin and into circulation through some former government
employee’s deliberate attempts to cash in on what could now only be
deemed a tiny diamond in a global haystack.
"“The Penny King” likes to tell the story of how he once put up a
golden penny for auction on eBay with a minimum bid of $1 million
and someone successfully bid and won.
"He was all set to cash in his spray painted gold penny and buy hundreds
of thousands more and make a global business of it when the person who
won the auction backed out thinking it was altogether a joke.
To read the complete article, see:
WHY DO PEOPLE LOVE TO THROW COINS INTO FOUNTAINS?
A June 30 New York Times article addressed another age-old coin
custom, throwing coins into a fountain.
"Dionysos, standing there in his sandals with his arm over that woman,
knows. He spends his days watching everyone in the room and everything
"He knows it cannot be Aphrodite, on his right. She has no arms.
"He knows it cannot be Hercules, also on his right. No arms on him,
"So who is dropping all the coins in the fountain in the Metropolitan
Museum of Art’s new Greek and Roman galleries?
"Not David Mendez, though he knows more about coins in fountains than
anyone else at the Met. That is because he takes the coins out, once
a week, every week, using an old wiper blade and napkin-size pieces of
thin white cloth.
"The Met says that the fountain, in the Leon Levy and Shelby White
Court, was not planned as a receptacle for discarded dimes, pennies
and quarters, not to mention euros, Mexican pesos and Taiwanese dollars.
“The fountain was designed to recreate the ambience of a Roman court,”
said Harold Holzer, a spokesman for the Met, “but you know, it’s
inevitable. From Trevi to Dendur, water attracts coins.”
To read the complete article, see:
MONEY FALLS FROM THE SKY IN GERMANY
According to a Reuters report, "A German motorist surprised by euro
notes swirling in the air around her car hit the brakes and collected
a "substantial amount of money" before turning it over to police,
authorities in Worms said on Thursday.
"A police spokesman in the small western town said the 24-year-old
woman saw the money flying through the air in her rear view mirror
late on Wednesday. She pulled over and tried to collect all the
"When police went with her to the scene they could not find any
"A spokesman at Worms city hall said police were withholding details
on the exact sum and location of the find in the hope of learning
more about the money's origin."
To read the complete article, see:
FEATURED WEB PAGE: CHRISTIAN GOBRECHT
This week's featured web page is on Christian Gobrecht, at the U.S.
Patterns web site.
"The name of Gobrecht, the third person to occupy the post of chief
engraver at the Philadelphia Mint, is well known to collectors today
and is reflected in such popular terms as Gobrecht dollar and The
Gobrecht Journal, the latter being the publication of the Liberty
Seated Collectors Club."
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