The E-Sylum v10#28, July 15, 2007
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Sun Jul 15 16:57:52 PDT 2007
Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 28, July 15, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
WAYNE'S WORDS: THE E-SYLUM 15 JULY, 2007
Counting one anonymous new subscriber, we now have a total of 1,151.
This week we open with an announcement about Rusty Goe's new book on
James Crawford of the Carson City Mint, and a correction to an error
in last week's issue. Next, Dr. Ute Wartenberg Kagan discusses the
American Numismatic Society library and archives and their status in
the move being considered by the society. In the news, Dwight Manley
is working on a couple new projects and we speculate on possible
My London Diary continues with visits to Spink and Dix Noonan Webb,
and newspapers in Britain are buzzing with word of the theft of a
landmark collection of Scottish coinage. Have a great week,
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: JAMES CRAWFORD: MASTER OF THE MINT AT CARSON CITY
Marie Goe writes: "After suffering through many trials and shedding
many tears it appears as if Rusty's new book, 'James Crawford: Master
of the Mint at Carson City - A Short Full Life' is ready for
distribution. Whereas Rusty initially thought the book would contain
approximately 400 pages, it has swelled to 658 pages. Below is the
table of contents and a copy of the press release for the book:
Book One: The Early Years: Hardinsburg, Kentucky to Littleton, Illinois
Book Two: The California Years: La Porte in Sierra County
Book Three: The Lyon County, Nevada Years: Como to Dayton
Book Four: The Carson City Years: 1874 - 1885
"A new biography on the life of James Crawford, fourth superintendent
of the Carson City Mint from 1874 to 1885, is now available in hardcover,
from the award-winning author of The Mint on Carson Street, Rusty Goe.
Packed with more information about an officer in the Bureau of the
Mint system than any other reference, this 650-page book, entitled
James Crawford: Master of the Mint at Carson City A Short Full Life,
traces this historic figure from his birth in Kentucky to his rise to
fame and authority at Nevadas venerated coin factory in Carson City.
"While a small minority of coin collectors are familiar with the name
James Crawford, this great mans legacy has unfortunately been obscured
in the passing pages of time. Until now, that is. For, author Rusty
Goe, employing the tedious tenacity of a skilled researcher, has
reconstructed James Crawfords life, primarily through excerpts from
hundreds of pages of newspapers spanning the second half of the
nineteenth century. From stories of Californias Gold Rush to a
probing chronicle of Nevada s Comstock Lode, readers will be
transported back in time to one of the most colorful eras in
"Even readers that are unfamiliar with James Crawford, or the mint
at which he served, will enjoy the experience of learning about how
some of the most famous coins in history were produced; and about
how political chicanery affected the monetary system of the United
States. But aside from coin making and political rascality, readers
will appreciate the many human-interest stories scattered throughout
the pages of this enchanting biography.
"James Crawford loved life and certainly lived it to its fullest
measure. Whether out in the woods on a hunting expedition, participating
in a sporting tournament, attending a masquerade ball, vacationing at
beautiful Lake Tahoe, escorting a dignitary around town, presenting a
speech at a Republican rally, or playing a practical joke on a friend,
Crawford always found himself at the center of attention. And, just
as those who were close to him admired, respected and loved him,
readers will also become enamored with him by the time they have
turned to the last page in this exhaustive volume.
"Complementing the absorbing narrative is a virtual visual-feast of
images, including dozens of coins from the Carson City Mint, and
numerous pictures of persons, places, and old newspaper clippings.
Rusty Goe spiced up his first major work, The Mint on Carson Street,
which won Book of the Year honors from two prestigious numismatic
organizations (PNG and NLG) in 2004, with a similarly profuse
presentation of images, and he has not detoured from this
award-winning style in this new biography on James Crawford.
"This riveting book will appeal to a diversified readership,
including lovers of Nevada history, Old West history, U.S. monetary
system history, U.S. Mint history, and biographies of famous Americans.
"Anyone interested in the Carson City Mint, the coins produced
there, Nevada history, or even U.S. history will greatly enjoy
reading this book. It is filled with interesting facts and inspiring
"The book, available in hardcover, will be distributed at all major
outlets. The suggested retail price is $89.95 (Discounts will be
offered). For more information, please contact Southgate Coins at
5032 S. Virginia St., Reno, NV 89502 ; or phone (775) 322-4455."
[I've already sent my check. Anyone with an interest in U.S
numismatics, minting, or the Old West should buy or borrow a copy.
As many of our readers know (since they are authors themselves),
authoring a book is a long, difficult and often thankless task.
Show your support! -Editor]
CORRECTION: LANGE COIN COLLECTING BOARD BOOK AVAILABLE ONLY FROM AUTHOR
Through a cut and paste error on my part, last week there was an
extraneous link to the Zyrus Press web site following the item on
Dave Lange's Coin Collecting Boards book. Sorry! Dave's book can
only be ordered from Dave's own Pennyboard Press.
LANGE COIN BOARDS BOOK
ANA, ANS PLANS DRAW COMMENTS AND ANS REBUTTAL
George Cuhaj recently contributed a controversial Viewpoint article
to Numismatic News about the differing museum and library planning
trajectories of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the
American Numismatic Society (ANS). It was reprinted on George's
blog this week - here are some excerpts:
George writes: "What interesting news from two major U.S. museums.
The American Numismatic Association launches a plan to expand and
go bi-costal while the American Numismatic Societys goal is to
crawl under a rock.
"The American Numismatic Association recently announced a 40 million
dollar expansion program and plans for public museum satellite
locations in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif.
"On the other hand, the American Numismatic Society in New York
City, nearing its 150th anniversary, is adopting a long-range plan
that is tantamount to cold storage.
"So, what is the ANS about to do? Sell the newly acquired Fulton
Street property, and accept a 20-year lease and move into part of
the 11th floor of a recent factory conversion on the far west side
of Manhattan. The plan is to have the library on closed shelves,
and very limited access to the collection material. Therefore,
the collection will for all intents and purposes be in storage
for 20 years!"
To read George's complete blog entry, see:
[As of this writing, the ANS had not yet publicly announced their
plans. ANS Executive Director Dr. Ute Wartenberg Kagan will provide
us with the press release as soon as it is ready and I'll publish it
in The E-Sylum. I asked her for some additional information on how
the move might affect access to the ANS library and archives, a key
point of concern for bibliophiles and researchers. -Editor]
Dr. Kagan writes: "I read George Cuhajs comments in Numismatic News
with both interest and surprise. It is not clear where his information
comes from, but he is clearly misinformed. I want to assure
E-sylum readers that the new ANS location will have slightly more
useable space than we are using currently. Moreover, we have essentially
the same library and archives whose public area is almost identical
to the current setup.
"Exactly as now, some books will be housed in compact shelving in
open, fully accessible areas. There will be an additional reading
room, and a slightly larger rare book room. The vaults and coin
viewing area will accommodate more visitors, and there will be an
exhibition gallery with c. 12 museum exhibition cases. The entire
space will be welcoming and filled with ambient light. Not exactly
"Why are we selling our building and moving to a new home? As
obliquely referred to in Cuhajs column, it will put the ANS on
a solid financial footing now and into the future. Expenses will
be predictable; donations will go towards endowing more positions,
paying for exhibitions, lectures at the ANS and elsewhere,
increasing membership services etc. - an ideal position of strength
from which to grow bigger and be more responsive to the members,
Fellows and the public. Hardly what I call crawling under a rock.
"Once the ANS is sure of its current plans, which are still not
finalized, a press release with more detail will be issued."
U.S. MINT CHIEF COINER REFERENCE SOUGHT
Bob Merchant writes: "I am trying to find information on the chief
coiners of the U.S. Mint during its history. Is there a book that
covers this topic, or a known list of the chief coiners somewhere?
[I'm away from my library, so we'll have to rely on our readers
for answers. The Mint Directors and Chief Engravers tend to get
most of the attention from numismatic researchers. Chief coiners
are lesser known. I believe there was typically one chief coiner
for each branch mint, although Bob tells me he is only researching
the chief coiners who worked at the Philadelphia mint.
While I know that COIN WORLD Almanac and other publications publish
lists of Directors and Engravers, I'm not aware of any listing of
Coiners. Can anyone point us to a comprehensive list, or at least
name some of the chief coiners, such as Henry Voigt, Adam Eckfeldt,
Franklin Peale, A. Loudon Snowden etc.? -Editor]
HENRY CLAY WARMOUTH PAPERS HOLD NEW ORLEANS MINT INFORMATION
While looking up other things I came across a reference to an archive
that may hold some information of use to U.S. numismatic researchers.
It's the inventory of the Henry Clay Warmoth Papers and the Manuscripts
Department, University Library of the University of North Carolina
Warmouth was a plantation owner and governor of Louisiana. Archive
folders 89, 94 and 96 contain the following:
Folder 89: 1891: July-September: Correspondence with E. M. Halford
and Secretary of the Treasury Charles Foster regarding appointments
to the United States Mint in New Orleans.
Folder 94: 1892: May: Of note is correspondence and other items related
to the administration of the United States Mint in New Orleans. A List
of Coiners and Adjusters at the U.S. Mint dated 6 May 1892 records names
of employees, party affiliations, and comments on work ethic.
Folder 96: 1892: 1-15 July: Correspondence mostly concerns administration
of the United States Mint at New Orleans and Republican Party politics
To access the complete Warmoth archive listing, see:
NUMISMATISTS MANLEY AND MARSHALL IN A MOVIE DEAL?
This week the Orange County Business Journal's OC Insider columnist
Rick Reiff reported that "The Insider touched base with Newport Coast
businessman and sports agent Dwight Manley. Hes working on a movie
script with Penny Marshall, developing a reality TV show and advocating
for jockeys (getting minimum mount fees raised). And friend Jesse
Jackson was on hand at Mastros Ocean Club Fish House to help Manleys
girlfriend Bella Tatarian celebrate her birthday."
Manley is a well known numismatist who's been discussed in The
E-Sylum several times before. We've also reported that actress and
director Penny Marshall is known to be a coin collector. Could the
coin connection have anything to do with their getting together on
a movie project? Will they sneak any numismatic references into the
script? How about a numismatic connection in the reality show?
If anyone has anything to report on these two projects of Manley's,
we'd be curious to know. For fun though, it couldn't hurt to
speculate on possible numismatic ideas for film and TV.
One property I've always thought ripe for a film treatment is the
story of "The Man Who Stole Portugal", possibly the world's greatest
counterfeiting scheme. A con man who duped a British bank note printer
into believing he was an official of the Portuguese government, Alves
Reis obtained millions of dollars worth of real but unauthorized
banknotes. Rather than pass them through shills and share the profits,
he instead opened a bank and quickly undercut his competitors' rates.
Business boomed and he ALMOST got away with it. I think it would
make the basis for an ideal caper movie. Does George Clooney need a
follow-up for the Ocean's 11/12/13 etc series?
As for a numismatic reality show, why not send two teams of youngsters
to the ANA's Summer Seminar? Let them sign up for any courses they
want. Then set them loose in the numismatic marketplace with a small
grubstake. Who can wheel and deal their way to the top like Manley
ROBERT LOVETT GRAVESTONE PLAQUE DEDICATED
The Zanesville Times Recorder reported last week that "Due to the
efforts of Harold Levi and George Correll in finding the grave site
of Robert Lovett, Levi and Correll were enshrined in the American
Numismatic Association Hall of Fame 2006. A plaque will be placed
by the grave-stone of Robert Lovett, the designer of the Confederate
cent, in McConnelsville Cemetery at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14."
Harold Levi writes: "I found Robert Lovett, Jr.'s gravesite in September
of 2004. This was with help from Katie Jaeger. She had a copy of the
November 1879 obituary published in the McConnelsville Herald. In 2005,
George Corell and I restored Lovett's grave and those of his family. We
had two plaques made that are the obverse and reverse of the Confederate
cent, which were mounted in front of Lovett's headstone. We had a
dedication ceremony in July of 2005.
"Later in 2005, I wrote a nomination for Lovett to the ANA Hall of
Fame, and George Corell seconded the nomination. Robert Lovett was
inducted in 2006. Katie Jaeger and I attended the ceremony at the
ANA Convention in Denver in August 2006. George and I had a bronze
plaque made to commemorate RL's induction into the Hall of Fame,
which will be mounted on RL's grave this weekend with a small
ceremony. McConnelsville has their annual Civil War reenactment
this weekend, the reason for having the dedication this weekend.
I will wear my Confederate uniform with a red sash and sabre, I
am a Sergeant-Major in my reenacting group."
MORE ON THE MYSTERY HALF DOLLAR BOX
Regarding Bill Snyder's mystery half dollar box, Tom DeLorey writes:
"I suspect that it was something privately made for the banking trade.
The interesting question is when. The fact that it is slightly oversized
for a 5x5 grid of modern halves makes me wonder if perchance it was made
for Lettered Edge halves made up until 1836."
"Five capped bust halves measure 6-3/8 inches. Five modern halves
measure 6.0 inches. I doubt we could ever prove it was intended for
bust halves, or a mixture of bust halves and seated halves during
the time they circulated side by side (which, as I understand, was
up to the Civil War), but it is a possibility. Another possibility
is just that they wanted to leave room for the bank teller or cashier
to dig them out of the box easily."
Bill Snyder rechecked his measurements: "Measured with a ruler (my
calipers only extend to 150mm), the interior is basically 160mm by
160mm. (Divided by 25.4, one gets 6.3", a bit more than the 6.25"
I reported earlier)!
"However, measurements at some points deviated from 160 by as much
as 2mm +/-. That is, the width (for example) at the mid-point is not
exactly the same as the width near either end."
MYSTERY HALF DOLLAR BOX INFORMATION SOUGHT
QUIZ ANSWER: WAYTE RAYMOND STANDARD CATALOGUE MISTAKE
Last week David Gladfelter asked, "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?"
Kenneth Bressett writes: "My guess is their listing of the Good
Samaritan Shilling. It continued right through all 18 editions even
though it was a well known concoction, and not a pattern or genuine
David Gladfelter provided this answer to his question: "The reverses
on the 1798 small eagle 15-star dollar and 13-star dollar are
transposed in all editions. Maybe this isn't as obvious as I thought
since both reverses have small (not heraldic) eagles."
ON THE DIFFICULTY OF COMPLETING A SET OF WAYTE RAYMOND STANDARD CATALOGS
Ron Pope writes: "David Gladfelter's information in last week's
E-Sylum is just what I needed concerning the Wayte Raymond Standard
Catalogs. Thanks! Even though it is stated that none of the editions
is particularly rare, it is my assumption that a complete set of these
would still be tougher to assemble than a complete set of "Red Books,"
though, like many coins, the demand for the Standard Catalogue must
certainly be much lower. Does anyone know if this is so?"
[What do our readers think? I would tend to agree with Ron on the
challenge of assembling a complete set of the Raymond guides. Far
more of the Red Books were printed. Although the early editions are
expensive, they do appear regularly for sale. The challenge for
collectors of both books is getting examples in top condition.
These were handbooks meant to be used, and they were. -Editor]
QUIZ ANSWER: LLANTRISANT'S NUMISMATIC CONNECTION
Last I asked about the numismatic connection of Llantrisant, Wales.
Jeff Starck of Coin World was the first to answer. He writes:
"Llantrisant is home to the Royal Mint."
I also asked if anyone knew the proper definition of "penultimate",
a favorite word of Q. David Bowers who, like me, had misunderstood
it for years. Jeff also got this correct. He writes: "Penultimate
means second to last, i.e., not the ultimate, but the one preceding
the ultimate. Stack's Part 27 of the John J. Ford collection might
be the penultimate, with Part 28 being the last. (I jest about the
number of sales, though!)."
Joe Boling also came through with correct answers to both
WILLIAM ASHBROOK 1909 CATALOG FOUND; EDWARD BRINGHURST CONSIGNMENT SOUGHT
In response to Roger Burdette's query, P. Scott Rubin writes: "The
Ohio State Numismatic Society auction of October 29, 1929 was
catalogued by Henri E. Buck. William A. Ashbrook was the Secretary
of the O.S.N.S.
Lot 2. Eagle. 1907 St. Gaudens, with periods one of the 500 lot,
unc., record above $50.
Lot 377 Eagle. St Gaudens 1907, with periods 500 lot unc. Rare.
Under the heading "An Invoice from Akron, Ohio.
Lot 404 1907 $10 First issue of the St. Gaudens eagle with wire
edge and periods. Unc. Only 500 issued. Record $50.
Lot 405 1907 $10, second issue of the St. Gauden's eagle with
milled edge and periods. Unc. Mint Lustre. Only 50 issued and
they are mostly in Museums, or the cabinets of collectors who
are not sellers. Extremely rare, and has record of $225.
Lot 406 1907 $10, third issue, edge milled, but no periods and
in lower relief. The commercial coin, unc.
(note). Bids will be received for the three foregoing pieces as
one set or seperately."
[Many thanks to past NBS President Scott Rubin for digging into
his vast U.S. catalog archive to locate this scarce little catalog.
E-Sylum readers come through again! -Editor]
Jeff Reichenberger writes: "I'd like to follow up on Roger Burdette's
inquiry about the Ashbrook sales with one of my own. Also stemming
from my Ashbrook study, I'm looking for any information about a
collection of gold coins, possibly a consignment, from the name
Edward Bringhurst of Wilmington, DE, or from his daughter, Mrs.
Galt Smith. Unfortunately, I can only speculate an approximate range
of the decades 1920 to 1950 that these coins may have surfaced in
a sale or auction, if at all. Any such information would be
"In addition, I am self-publishing a short run of my manuscript on
the Ashbrook diaries in pamphlet form. Entitled: Charter Legacy,
Numismatic chronicle from the diaries of William A. Ashbrook 1905 -
1920; it covers an interesting period in numismatics from the
Congressman's point of view as Chairman of the House Coinage Committee,
the ANA and it's Federal Charter, as well as some national historic
events. I anticipate completion in a few weeks. If anyone is interested
in receiving a copy, I'd be pleased to send one for the cost of postage.
Just send me a mailing address. jkreichenberger at hotmail.com"
WILLIAM ASHBROOK 1909 FIXED PRICE LIST AND CATALOG SOUGHT
[Thanks also to Jeff for sharing his research in Ashbrook's diaries.
I've already requested my copy. -Editor]
THE HUNGARIAN MINT
Howard Daniel writes: "I am researching the origin of the Socialist
Republic of Viet Nam 100 Dong 1997 KM-60 silver non-circulating legal
tender coin. It is the only one known to me without the National Seal
of Viet Nam, so I started to look into it. At first, I assumed it
was minted by the Havana Mint in Cuba but through several contacts,
the Hungarian Mint Ltd (Magyar Penzveryo Rt.) was suggested to me.
"I could not find the Hungarian Mint on the web but I did find their
national bank. I sent an email to their "info" and requested it be
forwarded to the mint. It was, and I received a reply from Ms
Zsuzsanna Asztalos. After another email, she forwarded all of the
technical details to me. This was the first great response from a
mint in a VERY long time. The website is at www.penzvero.hu and
Zsuzsanna's email is Asztalosza at Penzvero.hu. She can also put you
in contact with the coin shop in the national bank in Budapest.
"My previous information was that Paramount International Inc. in
Orlando, Florida created the set of coins this coin was part of.
It was called the UNESCO Children of the World Set with about 25
coins in it. All were dated in the mid-1990s. But Zsuzsanna told
me Spink in London originated the order for the Vietnamese coin.
"The Modern Coin Department of Spink has been sold since this coin
was minted and further information about it was not available at Spink.
So I contacted the buyer, ATS Bullion of London, and they said a Geoff
Kitchem of GMCC Ltd. now has all of the information. His email did
not work for me and I am hoping someone reading The E-Sylum knows him
or how to contact him so I can continue my research. I can be
contacted at HADaniel3 at man.com."
HARMER ROOKE MILLION DOLLAR SALE CIVIL WAR TOKEN SESSION PRL SOUGHT
Steve Butler writes: "I am looking for the prices realized for the
Harmer Rooke 'A Million Dollar Sale' of November 17, 1969. I have
not been able to locate it - neither the American Numismatic
Association library or any of the other coin & book dealers I
contacted have it."
The sale contained seven sessions, over six days. The fourth session
was Civil War Tokens & Masonic Pennies from the Virgil Brand collection.
Being a collector of CWT's, I am always researching any token I purchase
as to origin. I just purchased a token sold in that auction and the
seller included the original receipt. The catalog I already own, but
I'd like to learn the selling price of the lot. Thanks in advance."
WAYNE'S LONDON DIARY 15 JULY, 2007
Monday morning brought this nice note from Jim Duncan of New Zealand.
He writes: "Your letters from London are excellent. Just like "Letter
from America" by broadcaster Alistair Cooke! Keep up the fantastic
work - numismatic and otherwise."
I've gotten a number of great compliments on my London diaries.
Thanks to all for their interest and support. I'll do my best to
keep them coming. I actually didn't think I'd get much numismatic
activity in this week, but on Tuesday I was able to sneak away at
lunchtime and set off toward Spink.
Founded in 1666 by John Spink as a goldsmith and pawnbroker shop,
it narrowly escaped destruction when the Great Fire of London swept
through the City. By 1770 Spink and Sons had developed a jewellery
and coin dealing business. In the 1880s Spink purchased the Soho
Mint in central London and started to design and produce medals.
The company now holds three royal warrants for medal services to
Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales.
These are the three crown logos that adorn the company's business
cards and letterhead.
In 2000 Spink moved to a renovated four story building at 69 Southampton
Row in Bloomsbury. I'd heard from several of my London contacts that
Spink had invested a great deal in their facility, and this was easily
confirmed by simply stepping through the front door. The lobby alone
was spacious, far larger than any mere coin shop. More typical in the
high-priced real estate market of London was the tiny shop of Colin
Narbeth and Sons, a single small room shared with another dealer. A
dozen Narbeth shops would fit in the Spink lobby alone.
Off to the left was a large display of numismatic literature for sale,
both new titles and used and antiquarian works, case after case, floor
to ceiling. A freestanding case exhibited an antiquarian numismatic
work. Beyond was a wide showroom, dim, but with spot lighting
highlighting exhibits and counter space. On the left wall were
glass exhibit cases displaying numismatic items of all kinds, including
coins, medals and paper money. There was a nice set of Palestinian
Mandate banknotes I'd never seen before. Here too, in the center of
the room was a freestanding exhibit case with more numismatic items.
On the right was a counter with chairs. A salesman talked with a
client. They seemed lost in the huge room.
I walked back toward the front door and stepped up to the reception
desk. My mission was to visit Philip Skingley, head of Spink's
Publications Department. We'd met briefly at the meeting of the
British Numismatic Society on 22 May. I'd been wanting to visit for
some time. Due to the rescheduling of a planned meeting I had some
time over lunch. This visit was completely unplanned and I hoped
to surprise him. Surprise! - he wasn't in.
The receptionist informed me that Philip was at the warehouse,
where all their modern publications are stored and shipped. But
she called up Philip's assistant Catherine Gathercole and handed
the phone to me. I introduced myself and apologized for the
unscheduled visit. She was quite helpful and offered to come speak
with me. Within minutes we met and she was showing me around the
First we reviewed the works for sale on the lobby shelves. I pointed
out a copy of the 2004 Anniversary issue of The Asylum, noting that I
edited the electronic companion, The E-Sylum. Next she showed me an
upstairs room lined with more shelves of books. Time was getting
short, and I didn't want to overstay my welcome. I accepted her gift
- a copy of the 2006 edition of Coins of England. I'd mentioned that
I was interested in getting a copy to learn more about the modern
coins I was seeing in circulation, and perhaps learn how to recognize
genuine examples from the counterfeits. I thanked her again and
made plans to read it on my flight home Thursday.
Before leaving Spink I took the lift to the basement auction room
where a sale of musical instruments was going on. Another auction
firm uses the Spink space when available. Some fifty bidders of
several nationalities crowded the room. On tables beyond a number
of violins and other stringed instruments were displayed. The
auctioneer called the lots from the front of the room, and along
a side wall were arrayed several assistants representing phone
and internet bidders. Three Japanese men huddled over a catalog,
consulting on bids.
Feeling like an interloper, I stayed only a few minutes and was
soon on the street heading back to the office. I amused myself
by reading the names of businesses along the way. I chuckled at
the sign of "Moon, Beever, Solicitors". I picked up a boxed
salad at a street vendor, and rushed back to the office. Enough
numismatic fun for now - tomorrow's another day.
When Wednesday dawned I faced little but the prospect of work.
I donned my suit for a planned afternoon meeting. But as luck
would have it I wouldn't need to attend, allowing for a bit of slack
in my schedule. Having completed a good number of tasks before noon,
I made a phone call. Dialing the number of Dix Noonan Webb, I asked
for Peter Preston-Morley.
I'd never met him, but a couple years earlier I'd recommended to Mary
Ann Spence, widow of my late friend Dr. David Spence, that she contact
Peter and other dealers about the sale of David's Conder token collection.
David and I were members of Sphinx, a Pittsburgh-area coin club founded
in 1960 by Ray Byrne. Mary Ann talked with a number of dealers, and
eventually settled on Dix Noonan Webb. They sold David's collection
in two sales.
Peter was busy at lunchtime, but offered to see me around 2pm. I brought
in lunch and finished a few more tasks. About 1:45 I set out on foot.
Soon I was passing through Piccadilly Circus, then past the Ritz Hotel.
Along the way a Middle Eastern woman motioned to me and pointed to the
baby she was pushing in a pram. She didn't seem to speak English (or
wanted me to think that). She gestured again and held out a hand filled
with coins. She was begging for change. I didn't quite know what to do;
if it was a scam she'd found a despicable prop. I felt a bit guilty but
moved on. But my journey got stranger yet. Just past Bond Street, a
tall young man in a suit looked toward me, opened his arms and said,
"Sir, Let's become friends!". I thought, "You're in Mayfair pal, Soho's
the other way," thinking of the neighborhood close to our office known
for its gay bars and entertainment. I wish I'd said it, but by then I'd
motored far past him and was still quickening the pace. I arrived at
DNW just about 2pm.
The Dix Noonan Webb office is in a row of classic London homes on
Bolton Street off Green Park, which leads to Buckingham Palace. After
ringing the bell the door unlocked and I stepped inside. The front
parlour held a reception desk. I asked for Peter and browsed through
a set of DNW auction catalogs while waiting.
Soon Peter came downstairs to greet me, and we stepped into a nearby
room to talk. Lined with book shelves, the room held a library of
biographies and many years worth of government publications such as
The Army List and The Navy List - all useful for cataloging military
medals and decorations.
I had told Peter I was a friend of the Spences, but he assumed I was
a family friend - he didn't know I was a fellow numismatist. We ended
up talking for about half an hour. I told him about The Sphinx Society.
We talked about David and fellow Sphinx member Charlie Litman, who
helped David acquire the core of his Conder collection from a collector
in the Boston area.
We also talked about the sale of the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh's
numismatic collection. I was only a budding numismatist at the time
the sale was announced (1978), when I was taken under the wing of
Glenn Mooney and his fellow members of the Western Pennsylvania
Numismatic Society. We also talked of Glenn's friend and mentor,
William W. Woodside.
At the time of the Spink Carnegie Museum sales Peter was with Spink
and cataloged parts of the collection, including the encased postage
stamps. I had let him know about my interest in U.S. Encased Postage
Stamps, and he noted that the Carnegie collection was a superb
By an unfortunate happenstance, the U.S. encased pieces were sold
by Spink in London, a terrible venue for the collection. They had
been included with a large group of material shipped to London.
They would have sold much better in New York, but the mistake was
to my benefit. I told Peter that I'd bid in the sale though a
dealer, and had gotten a great bargain on one of the pieces.
I noted that when Glenn Mooney died I'd helped the family liquidate
his coin collection. Along with the collection were some numismatic
books, including a ledger of Bill Woodside's collection that his
widow had given to Glenn. I placed it in a George Kolbe sale where
it brought over $2,000, more than any single coin in the collection.
The thick binder held rubbings and provenance data on Woodside's
coins. Peter said that over the years a number of Woodside's collections
had come to market and while cataloguers knew that some of the pieces
had come from prominent collections, they were at a loss because of
the lack of documentation. It's a shame that the information had
gotten diverted, but at least the ledger survived and could perhaps
be of use to researchers in the future.
Our time had come to an end, but before I left Peter gave me a present.
I'd mentioned my recent acquisition of Operation Bernhard notes from
Simon Narbeth, so Peter dug out a copy of the 16 March 2006 DNW sale
of British and World Banknotes, which included a very comprehensive
collection of these notes formed over many years by a knowledgeable
collector. Simon had attended the sale, and perhaps some of my
notes had come from this collection - I'll try to follow up. I
walked back to the office, this time uneventfully.
On Thursday I flew back to the U.S. for a weekend visit with my family.
I read through much of Coins of England and parts of Burn's 'A Descriptive
Catalogue of the London Traders, Taverns, and Coffee-House Tokens Issued
in the Seventeenth Century'. The original 1853 book I'd purchased from
Douglas Saville is probably not what one would typically see on a flight
across the Atlantic. I also typed up the bulk of this diary entry and
watched all or part of three movies (it's a loooong flight). Id highly
recommend two of the films for viewing. "Amazing Grace" is the true
story of the fight to abolish slavery in England, and "The Illusionist"
is an excellent fictional mystery/love story featuring a talented magician
in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna.
It was great to see my family again. On Saturday my wife and I made
an overnight trip to Alexandria, VA (along the Potomac River near
Washington, D.C.) to celebrate our recent 10th wedding anniversary.
We had a nice dinner at the Union Street Public House and walked past
Gadsby's Tavern on North Royal Street, a favorite haunt of George and
Martha Washington - his birthday parties were held there until his death.
We took a carriage tour around town (more of a donkey cart, actually)
and saw a couple numismatic landmarks. The Old Dominion Bank Building
on Prince Street is a fine unaltered example of Classical Revival
architecture. It closed in 1862 when Union forces took over the city.
The cashier buried the bank's assets, keeping the institution solvent
during the war. We also saw the Bank of Alexandria on North Fairfax
Street. Founded in 1792, George Washington was one of the bank's
directors. It failed during the panic of 1834, but the building again
houses a bank today. I enjoyed imagining the interesting numismatic
items that must have passed through the banks' tills in those early
days of the country.
That's all the numismatic activity for this week. I've been signing
much of my email "Cheerio from London" recently, but I can't say that
today. This note is coming from U.S. soil. But by the time many of
you read this I'll be on my way back to London and hoping to find
time for some more numismatic adventures. Stay tuned, everyone.
To visit the Spink web site, see:
To visit the Dix Noonan Webb web site, see:
LORD STEWARTBY SCOTTISH COIN COLLECTION STOLEN
A coin collection theft has British newspapers buzzing.
"One of Britain's most important historic coin collections has been
stolen from the home of a former government minister.
"Antique coins worth more than half a million pounds, including one
struck under the reign of Robert the Bruce, 900 years ago, were taken
in the raid.
"Police believe around 1,000 coins, collected over more than 50
years, were removed from the home of Lord and Lady Stewartby in
Broughton, in the Scottish Borders.
"Nick Holmes, curator of numismatics at the National Museums of
Scotland, added: It has always been made available as a resource
for people researching coins and to lose so many coins from this
period is a tragedy.
"Of course, for poor Ian this must be awful and he has devoted
more than half a entry to this collection.
"He is the acknowledged expert in this field and is the one we
all turn to when we want to know something. Lydia Pretzlik, 38,
the Tory peer's daughter, said he was devastated by the loss.
"The theft happened a month ago but police only released details
of the incident yesterday."
To read the complete article, see:
John Andrew forwarded a BBC article on the theft: "Nick Holmes,
senior curator in numismatics at the National Museums of Scotland,
said the theft had dealt a devastating blow to the study of historic
coins in Scotland.
"He added: 'In terms of that period, Lord Stewartby had more coins
in his collection than the National Museums of Scotland have.
"He had managed to collect a number of very rare pieces which
were previously unknown.
"It wouldn't be putting it mildly to say that this theft has put
the study of numismatics back 50 years because if the collection
is not recovered all of the work Lord Stewartby has put in over
the past half century will be lost.'"
To read the complete article, see:
Dr. Ute Wartenberg Kagan also forwarded an article, this one
from The Herald:
Dick Johnson forwarded this article from the daily record:
The Financial Times also chimed in on the theft:
[The Scotsman's web site allows reader comments, and they picked
up on the reporters' error in stating that Robert the Bruce reigned
900 years ago: "So Robert the Bruce reigned 900 years ago, did he?"
"Robert the Bruce, was King of Scots from 1306 until his death in
1329. 1329 subtracted from 2007 = 678. Does that look like 900 to
"Mr. Stewartby's collection is so well known and catalogued that
selling this stuff is going to be difficult and whatever is sold
will most likely eventually be identified as stolen - even 20, 80,
200 years from now. This theft just goes to show the follow of
keeping highly valuable items at home, especially when their presence
there is so widely known among the collecting fraternity..."
To read the complete Scotsman article, see:
WOMAN STABBED NEAR DENVER MINT
On Tuesday the Rocky Mountain News reported an incident near the U.S.
Mint in Denver: "A man with an ice pick stabbed a young woman today as
she was walking to the Denver courthouse. With their guns drawn, Denver
sheriffs deputies caught the alleged attacker as he attempted to flee,
Sgt. Frank Gale, the sheriffs spokesman, said.
"Deputies said they dont believe the alleged assailant and his victim
knew each other, and investigators were trying to figure out a motive
for the assault, the sergeant said.
"Gale said the stabbing occurred about 10:30 a.m. in the 1400 block
of Cherokee Street, between the U.S. Mint and the courthouse.
To read the complete article, see:
MINT APPOINTS HOUGHTON TO CITIZENS COINAGE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
According to a press release this week, "The United States Mint
announced ... that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr., has appointed
Arthur A. Houghton, III, to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee
"Mr. Houghton, who was selected as the CCAC member appointed to serve
by virtue of his qualifications as a numismatic curator, will serve a
four-year term. His experience includes tenure as Associate Curator
and acting Curator-in-Charge at the J. Paul Getty Museum from 1982 to
1986, where he gained national recognition for his role in building
the museums extensive collection of antiquities, including its early
collection of ancient coins. Mr. Houghton has authored or co-authored
four books and more than 50 articles on ancient coins, history and
"Mr. Houghton served as president of the American Numismatic Society
(ANS) from 1995 to 1999. He was also president of the consulting firm
Arthur Houghton Associates, Inc., from 1995 to 2000. Currently, Mr.
Houghton serves on the boards of the Corning Museum of Glass, American
Near East Refugee Aid and the ANS.
To read the complete press release, see:
SPAIN BOARDS ODYSSEY SHIP
Dick Johnson forwarded the latest story in the saga of Odyssey Marine's
latest salvage effort:
"The Spanish Civil Guard has intercepted a boat operated by a US company
amid a row over treasure from a shipwreck. The guard had been ordered by
a Spanish judge to seize the vessel as soon as it left the British colony
"Gibraltar officials and Odyssey Marine Exploration, which owns the ship,
said Spain had boarded the ship illegally as it was in international
"In May, Odyssey said it had found $500m (£253m) in coins from a 17th
Century wreck somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
"Madrid suspects the sunken galleon may either have been Spanish or
have gone down in Spanish waters."
To read the complete article, see:
ARTICLE PROFILES PETER YEUNG OF PANDA AMERICA
A question-and-answer style interview in the Daily Breeze of
California spotlights Peter Yeung of Panda America.
"When Peter Yeung was about 10 years old, his cousin gave him a rare
coin. That helped spark a passion for coins that lasts to this day.
Yeung, 40, is president and co-owner of Torrance coin trader Panda
America. The Torrance resident has owned the shop with his partner,
Kitty Quan, since 2005.
"Growing up in Pasadena, Yeung would visit his local bank to exchange
dollar bills for rolls of pennies. Then he would sift through the piles
of pennies in search of valuable coins, using a collector's book as
"He would return the ordinary pennies to the bank for bills and keep
the more valuable coins. The next day, he would return to the bank
to exchange the bills for more pennies.
"By ninth grade, Yeung was working part time at a coin shop. His
passion led him to skip school on many Fridays. He started traveling
to coin shows in Las Vegas and New York.
"What challenges do you face?
"Helping all the government mints around the world sell as many
coins as possible. Each country issues more and more variants of
coins. It's like car manufacturers. They don't want to sell just
one model. They want to sell many models.
"What foreign country mints the most popular coins?
"China. They're the most popular, and they have the best long-term
value. They have a growing population and a very large collecting
base. The Chinese are savers in general. Collecting stamps and
coins is a huge hobby in China. They've got a large secondary market
to keep the values.
"Who are your customers?
Mostly people in their mid-30s and up. Collecting coins has always
been referred to as a king's hobby in the old days. Traditionally,
it's been doctors, lawyers, people with high incomes. Now we're
finding a lot of people who are middle income. Because of the
explosion of the Internet, it has made collecting coins a lot
"What's your favorite coin?
"It's a U.S. coin from 1796, a $2.50 gold piece.
"What's the best part of your job?
"Having people bring coins that they thought had no value and
having me tell them it's of great value. Once in awhile, it's
like telling people they've won a small lottery. It's satisfying
to be able to help people.
"What's the worst part of your job?
"The opposite of that. Telling people their coins are not worth
anything, that their pennies are just regular pennies.
To read the complete article, see:
ON THE PROPOSED ABOLITION OF CANADIAN CENT COINS
Regarding last week's item on the proposed abolition of the Canadian
cent coin, Michael Schmidt writes: "If that .7 cent figure doesn't
include the shipping cost then they do need to go ahead and discontinue
the cent. 815 million coins is 81.5 million dollars. At .7 cents each
they cost 57 million dollars to make, and shipping is 33 million for a
total cost of 90 million dollars for 81 million dollars worth of coins.
Can politicians do simple math? Of do we need to explain it to them
in language like that used in tax legislation?"
ABOLITION OF CANADIAN CENT PROPOSED
DICK JOHNSON ON FUTURE COIN DENOMINATIONS
Dick Johnson writes: "Thank you, Tim Shuck, for your comments on
eliminating small coin denominations in last weeks E-Sylum. In answer
to your scenarios of purchases of 20 cents (or 60 or 70 cents) where
you have only quarters, you would lose the five cents. That is part
of the rounding up or rounding down in the rounding off process
where the smallest coin is a dime. (I like what the Canadians call
the final transaction price, the tally amount.)
"Five cents is a minor amount and it would only be for a short time
until all prices are established in multiples of ten cents. Today
the average factory worker earns $88 a day. Five cents is one-1,760th
part of a days wage. Not that much to get upset over. That factory
worker earns five cents in one and a half seconds. Rather
insignificant loss, wouldnt you say? (Did you buy a lottery ticket
today? Far greater loss!)
"For the frugal person, Tims proposed transaction would be better
accommodated be proffering two quarters or a dollar to obtain the
"Eliminating the cent and nickel is the first step to a complete
overhaul of our coins. The quarter would indeed be eliminated a few
years later but must remain in circulation because there would not
be enough half dollars around at first. Halves would take on far
more importance under this plan. The mint would strike halves on
presses that formerly struck cents and nickels. Meantime the quarters
would circulate in pairs.
"Tim, your sights are not raised high enough in suggesting a 20-cent
piece. (It would shortly go the way of the same coin of last century
or the 2-cent piece abolishment because it does not have that
much usefulness in the overall scheme of the rising economy.)
"To understand all this I must reveal more of my plan for Future Coins.
Here are the coin denominations for the greatest efficiency in American
commerce in the coming years after, say, 2010:
"Dime. Half Dollar. Dollar. Five Dollar. Ten Dollar.
"There is an optimum number of coin denominations for the most
efficient cash commerce. Think of it as the number of coin compartments
in a cash register drawer. Four denominations is too few. Six or more
is too many, as so many European countries have learned after switching
over to the euro with all their fractional denominations. Low
denomination coins in Europe are proving unnecessary some merchants
are even refusing them five coin denominations are the most ideal
"Obviously we do not have enough high denomination coins in America,
and coins below ten cents are unnecessary in a dynamic, growing
American economy. We cannot keep on issuing the same low value coins
of 200 years ago when bread was a nickel, and today is several dollars.
The cent and the nickel are just unnecessary in the 21st century, as
was a mill coin in the 19th century.
"You may say the dollar has been devalued over 200 years but this is
countered as earnings have risen. It is relative. Eliminating the
small denominations would save billions, however!
"If I get enough inquiries asking about these proposed coins I will
reveal some characteristics about these coins in a future E-Sylum:
Size, Composition, Color and Why. Email editor Wayne Homren or me
at dick.johnson at snet.net
"This is what you will be collecting in the future, our Future Coins.
Are you interested?"
COIN POLICE ACTIVE IN INDIA
Dick Johnson writes: "'In India, where the steel in their rupees
can be sold for up to 35 times that [face] amount, India's has
deployed a paramilitary force along their border with Bangladesh
to prevent coin smuggling. Like most governments, India also makes
it illegal to introduce substitute currency.' So comes the news
from India, reported this week in the blog "Hodakvalue," on the
"Rising costs of the metals in coins is affecting nations worldwide.
Apparently the most rampant coin melting for their composite metal
value is in Bangladesh. Next-door neighbor India is vulnerable. The
same report gives some comments about the stringent coin situations
"'In Calcutta alone, India's central bank - the Reserve Bank of
India - has distributed coins worth nearly six million rupees
($150,000) to overcome the shortage in the last two weeks, bank
treasurer Nilanjan Saha said.'
"'Long queues form outside the bank's regional office in the
city centre every time this happens.'
"'Unscrupulous touts set up makeshift shops and collect as many
of the coins as they can, only to sell them later at a premium.'
"Nations don't seem to realize that rationing coin distribution
-- or hiding from the situation -- won't solve the problem. It
won't go away and the cost of the metals are surely going to rise.
"The solution is to eliminate small denomination coins, strike
coins of higher denomination and round off transaction prices above
the value of those low-denomination coins. This is necessary for
large and small countries as well. The longer they wait, Treasury
officials will find even greater problems.
"Here's the report from India "Preventing the flight of pennies
with armed border guards":
A THEFT IN NEW ZEALAND
OK, it's not even remotely numismatic, but here's a joke for this
week, about a theft in New Zealand:
"Police in New Zealand were mystified by the apparent theft of a
complete toilet bowl from a police station in Auckland.
"When a local news reporter asked the police sergeant if they had
any leads, he replied, 'At present we have nothing to go on.'"
Credit this one to the Good Clean Funnies list:
LIBRARY BEING DEMOLISHED FIGHTS BACK
This is also non-numismatic, but perhaps bibliophiles will appreciate
this story from Meadville, about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. While
demolishing an old library building, "A 1,500-pound wrecking ball
broke loose from a crane cable and raced downhill, smashing into
several cars and injuring three people before coming to rest in the
trunk of a car at an intersection Monday.
"The wrecking ball, about 3 feet across, was being used to demolish
part of a library at Allegheny College when the cable snapped, police
said. The crane operator tried to stop it, but it rolled nearly three-
quarters of a mile downhill, damaging more than a dozen vehicles as
it bounced from curb to curb, police said.
"The ball lodged in the trunk of a car, pushing the vehicle about
To read the complete Associated Press article, see:
FEATURED WEB SITE: CHINESE SYCEE
This week's featured web site features Chinese Sycee coinage. It
was highlighted by Numismatic News' Tom Michael in a blog post this
week on Milled Chinese Coins. The site pictures cast sycee,
chopmarked coins and other Chinese numismatic and financial
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