The E-Sylum v10#11, March 18, 2007
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Sun Mar 18 18:06:29 PDT 2007
Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 11, March 18, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Among our recent subscribers are Robert Mueller, courtesy of Sam
Pennington, Ray Clark Sr., Royal Barnard and Donna Marschalk.
Welcome aboard! We now have 1,086 subscribers.
This week's issue opens with updates on the latest numismatic literature
sales of George Frederick Kolbe. Up next is a review of the new edition
of J.H. Cline's book on Standing Liberty Quarters. Next is a query
regarding the 1862 monograph on medals and tokens of the Presidents by
Satterlee, an answer to our quiz question on the earliest known pricelist
for U.S. coins, and the announcement of a sale of three libraries of
In the news, the family of Izzy Switt was rebuffed in their attempt
to reclaim their ten 1933 double eagles from the U.S. Mint. We also
have more reports of the "edgeless" or "Godless" Presidential dollar
coins, and new reports of unstruck "faceless" Presidential dollars.
In other news, numismatic and other researchers are having a tougher
time accessing materials at the National Archives, the Nobel Prize
medal stolen from Berkeley has been recovered, and Alan Stahl and
the Princeton library numismatic collection are profiled.
Research queries this week include such topics as the George Lovett
Battle Series Medals and the work of a Buenos Aires diesinker.
In international news, the Bank of England launches its new 20-pound
note honoring Adam Smith, and the British public is mystified as to
who Smith actually was. When asked whose image they'd prefer to see,
top vote-getters included Sir Winston Churchill, Stephen Hawking and
Princess Diana. Also in the news recently is the ancient naval custom
of placing a coin under a ship's mast for good luck. To learn about
"stepping the mast" and ashtray medals, read on. Have a great week,
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
KOLBE NUMISMATIC LITERATURE SALE #102 RESULTS
According to the firm's March 18 press release: "Celebrating forty years
as numismatic literature dealers, on March 15, 2007, George Frederick
Kolbe/Fine Numismatic Books conducted their 102nd sale of rare and out
of print numismatic literature. Featured were 707 lots on a wide variety
of topics, with a total estimate slightly under $79,000. Reflective of
the strong current market, over 85% of the lots sold for a total exceeding
$90,000, including the 15% buyer premium.
"Among the more interesting items: an early nineteenth century manuscript
on the Coinage of England was estimated at $500 and sold for $748; a mint
example of the 1935 first Stack’s sale brought $207; 1910, 1922, & 1933
American Numismatic Association auction sale catalogues respectively
realized $305, $259, & $201; a very fine example of Charles Pye’s 1795
work on Conder tokens experienced heavy bidding and went for $604; the
1559 first edition of Erizzo’s Medaglie Antiche, with over 500 woodcut
illustrations of ancient coins, was estimated at $1,000 and sold for
1,265; seven rare United States Coin Company catalogues all sold over
estimate, a particularly interesting one realizing $1,380; a good selection
of Heath counterfeit detectors were hotly contested for, generally
realizing well over their estimates; Nunn’s Numismatic Magazine, likely
the inspiration for The Numismatist and the founding of the American
Numismatic Association, had an estimate of $350 and brought $690; the
1864 first American auction catalogue accompanied by a printed list of
buyers’ names sold for $805; a complete set of Davenport works on crowns,
along with allied publications, sold for $1,035; and the list could go
on. A small number of catalogues are still available, including a prices
realized list, for $15.00."
KOLBE NUMISMATIC LITERATURE SALE #103 ANNOUNCED
According to the firm's March 18 press release: "On June 7, 2007 George
Frederick Kolbe/Fine Numismatic Books will conduct their 103rd auction,
featuring the second part of the Alan M. Meghrig Library. The 300 lots
include works on ancient and foreign numismatics but mainly are devoted
to books and periodicals covering American coins, mint errors, medals,
tokens, and paper currency. Many obscure and unusual modern works are
featured; often they are the first we have ever encountered. Beneath a
calm and measured demeanor, Alan Meghrig has systematically and
aggressively formed a comprehensive American numismatic library over
the past thirty plus years.
"In terms of unusual titles and the various editions and printings of
mainstream works, Alan’s library stands alone. This will become more
apparent as subsequent portions of the library are sold; many pleasant
surprises await American numismatic bibliophiles and researchers.
Following the Meghrig holdings, the sale will also feature a good
selection of 19th and 20th century American auction sale catalogues,
offered individually. Catalogues may be ordered by sending $15.00 to
Kolbe at P. O. Drawer 3100, Crestline, CA 92325 or the catalogue will
be accessible in May free of charge at the firm’s web site
BOOK REVIEW: J.H. CLINE, STANDING LIBERTY QUARTERS, 4TH EDITION
This week I had the opportunity to read the fourth edition of J.H.
Cline's "Standing Liberty Quarters", published this year by Zyrus
Press. The 240-page 8 1/2 x 11 paperback is available from the
publisher at $21.95.
To gain some perspective I first turned to my library shelf, which
illustrates the evolution of Standing Liberty Quarter literature over
the years. First comes the 1976 softbound book of the same title by
Keith N. Kelman. Kelman's 98-page monograph was the first detailed
presentation of the series. It opens with a 15-page history of the
coin, illustrated with a photo of Dora Doscher, one of the models used
by designer Hermon MacNeil. The Grading section consisted of just four
pages. The bulk of the book is comprised of a date-by-date analysis,
illustrated with an image of each coin. The only pricing information
in the book is a one-page list of prices for "full head" examples.
The first edition of Cline's book was published approximately 1984 -
I don't know for sure since it doesn't seem to have a publication date.
My copy was inscribed to me by the author at the Detroit ANA convention
that summer. The 135-page softcover cites Kelman's book in the
bibliography, but does appear to be a fully original work. Cline's
history section stretches for 66 pages in three chapters. Well
illustrated, the book pictures an array of original correspondence
between MacNeil and the Treasury Department, and also has portrait
photos of MacNeil at ages 36 and 60. The book also pictures Mrs.
Irene MacDowell, who also posed for MacNeil. The Grading section
consists of just three pages and like Kelman's book, the largest
section is devoted to a coin-by-coin analysis.
I don't have Cline's 2nd edition, but the 3rd edition grew to 175 pages
in a large 8 1/2 by 11 format, available in both hardbound and softbound
(mine's a hardbound). New to this edition were more photos of MacNeil,
photos of his studio and photos of some of his best-known sculptural
works, which include the east pediment of the Supreme Court building
(I didn't know that!). The reprinted correspondence is displayed two
sheets per page, but in a smaller format that's harder to read than in
the earlier edition. Another new section highlights errors on Standing
Liberty Quarters. The price section is now 15 pages.
Which brings us finally to the 2007 4th edition. It's available only
in softbound (which I don't like), but the $21.95 price is a bargain.
The layout and graphics are much improved. The correspondence is now
pictured one item per page, full size and much easier to read. Since
some of these are fuzzy photocopies or carbon copies, the full size is
almost a necessity for readability. The historical information and
photos are basically the same as in the earlier edition. There indeed
have been updates throughout the text, although I haven't tried to locate
them all. One feature present in the 4rd edition but now missing in the
4th is a reprint of a delightful 1972 newspaper article interviewing
Irene MacDowell at age 92.
The book is not the last word on the Standing Liberty Quarter series,
however. While it's an excellent source of information on varieties
and coining characteristics and has several excellent photos of MacNeil
and his studio that are available nowhere else, it is missing some of
the major revelations published a year earlier in Roger Burdette's
"Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921". Perhaps another edition
or another author will come along and pull the details together, but
for now the true student of the series must have BOTH Burdette and the
4th edition of Cline on their shelf.
To order the book online at Zyrus Press, see:
SATTERLEE 'ARRANGEMENT OF MEDALS OF THE PRESIDENTS' INFORMATION SOUGHT
Geoffrey Bell writes: "I acquired a book titled 'An Arrangement of
Medals and Tokens Struck in Honor of the Presidents of the United States
et al'. It is an original issue of 1862. It appears to have been in the
possession of a Charles P. Britton and later owned by Richard H.
Lawrence. It is hardbound with marbled covers in brown. Can anybody give
me information on the book relating to its rarity, the two people
mentioned, etc? Thank you. I can be reached at gbel at nb.sympatico.ca"
[The full-blown 19th-century title of the pamphlet by Alfred H. Satterlee
is 'An Arrangement of Medals and Tokens Struck in Honor of the Presidents
of the United States, and of the Presidential Candidates, from the
Administration of John Adams to that of Abraham Lincoln, Inclusive,
Described Chiefly from Originals in the Possession of the Compiler
and of Robert Hewitt Jr., Esq.'
I could swear I have a copy of the original in my library, but darned if
I can't put my finger on it right now. I did locate my copy of the 1962
Leonard Babin reprint. An original copy sold in the first George Kolbe
sale of the John J. Ford library (June 1, 2004, lot #835; est. $250,
hammer $140). I asked George his opinion of the rarity of the original.
He writes: "It is scarce but copies do turn up from time to time."
Now only if mine would turn up...
As Kolbe notes in his lot description, little is known of Satterlee.
A search in the Numismatic Indexes Project (NIP) archive turned up a
reference to an address on American Coins that a Robert Hewitt delivered
before American Numismatic and Archeological Society, June 28th, 1866.
So can anyone tell us more about either Satterlee or Hewitt?
By the way, the buyer of that Ford sale lot got a great bargain, in my
opinion. The lot included "a fine studio photograph of Satterlee taken
in the year of publication", "A clipping announcing publication, and a
April 10, 1862 newspaper clipping describing the book in detail."
QUIZ ANSWER: GEORGE JONES' 1860 COIN COLLECTORS' MANUAL
In an article last week about the PCGS Research Archive, I asked "So
who issued the earliest known pricelist for U.S. coins? And where and
when was it issued?" The answer is "The Coin Collectors' Manual,
Containing a Description of the Gold, Silver, Copper and other Coins,
of the United States, Together With an Account of Actual Sales in
Philadelphia and new York, Designed as A Guide Book for Coin Collectors",
compiled by George F. Jones. Published in 1860, it was sold by Edward
Cogan of Philadelphia, PA. The following description is from the PCGS
Research Archive, which has images of every page of the booklet:
"While a handful of books detailing the history of early American
numismatics had been published prior to the Civil War, (The Manual
of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations, Eckfeldt and Dubois, 1842;
and Dickeson's American Numismatical Manual, 1859 among them) there
was really no simple, succinct guidebook for collectors that discussed
values of coins.
"In 1860, that need was met by George Jones of Philadelphia in his
publication of The Coin Collectors Manual. Sold at the shop of Edward
Cogan, it was by no means a lavish affair. A mere 42 pages long, it
simply listed all U.S., Colonial and Pattern coins in order, with prices
realized from the major sales of the past five years. In keeping with
the practice of the period, mintmarks were ignored."
The Earliest Known Pricelist for U.S. Coins
I asked George Kolbe about the Jones guide. He writes: "This is how
I have described the book for many years:
"Attinelli page 110. A significant work, the first guide book of values
for American coins, which were derived from early auction and private
sale records. Also featured is perhaps the earliest reference to the
problems inherent in grading American coins: 'In the sales of the
foregoing pieces, there are, of course, some apparent discrepancies,
as, for instance, where the condition of the coin sold, is represented
as the same, the prices are widely different. This can be accounted
for, generally, in no other way, than that one coin collector or dealer
may call a coin fine or very fine, when another would describe one
exactly like it, only as good or fine.'"
MINING LIBRARIES FOR SALE BY HOLABIRD-KAGIN AMERICANA
Holabird-Kagin Americana announced this week a fixed-price sale of
three mining-related libraries.
The press release notes: "The Mining History library has a solid western
slant centering on California and Nevada. A number of rare works are
present. These include: Myron Angel’s History of Nevada, 1881 (an original
in original binding); a very rare paper by Richthoben on the Comstock Lode,
1866; Goodyear’s rare and famous 1877 treatise on Western Coal Mines, which
is still the most important directory of western coal deposits; several of
J. Ross Browne’s works on the Comstock and Arizona entitled Adventures in
Apache Country (1869) and Crusoe’s Island (1864). The latter contains a
detailed description of the Comstock mines. Four different original Sutro
Tunnel publications dating from the 1870’s; two classic Mark Twain works
in first edition: Roughing It (1872) and Stolen White Elephant (1882).
Roughing It is the classic work about Sam Clemens’ travels in Aurora,
Unionville and Virginia City during the Territorial period.
"[The Mineralogy] library is a classic, consisting of 1059 volumes. Among
the highlights are the great rare Sowerby four volume set from 1806
(British Minerals…) with crisp, clean, hand colored illustrations of
minerals. This work in the quintessential mineralogical work, the
foundation of mineralogy as we know it today.
"The library contains a large stretch of the American Mineralogist as
well as the popular Mineralogical Record. Of additional interest are
at least 14 author signed works. A great deal of the library centers
around minerals of the western United States, as might be expected from
an extensive western mineral exploration library.
"[The Mineral Exploration] library consists of 1611 volumes, of which
1309 are pure mineral exploration related publications and 302 volumes
are mineral economics directly related to mineral exploration. The
library centers around economic ore deposits of the western United
States, principally Nevada, California and Arizona. Gold, silver and
copper are the principal themes collected for serious research.
Categorized by state, it contains nearly all of the critically
important papers in geology and mining geology."
"A list of any and all volumes is available upon request. For more
information contact Fred Holabird at Fred_home at holabirdamericana.com
COLONIAL NEWSLETTER INDEX ONLINE
Jim Spilman of The Colonial Newsletter Foundation, Inc. writes: "Here
is a direct public link to all of the CNL Back Issues #1 - #103 that
are contained on our CNLF Back Issue CD. Be sure to read the "ReadMe"
file -- FIRST.
"Included is a computer searchable Index for these issues. The final
page of the index contains a PageNumber/IssueNumber Cross Reference
that permits easy reference to the issue that you may want to download,
having located the Page Number in the Index. Enjoy!
SWITT FAMILY REBUFFED IN CLAIM TO 1933 DOUBLE EAGLES
An Associated Press story published March 13 brings the latest news
in the case of the ten confiscated 1933 double eagles:
"A family that asked the U.S. Mint to authenticate 10 extremely rare
coins cannot prove they were obtained legally and has no right to
them, government lawyers argue in court papers.
"Plaintiffs Joan S. Langbord and her two sons say they discovered the
cache in 2003 in a safety deposit box belonging to her late father,
Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt.
"They approached the Mint the next year and agreed to turn them over
to be authenticated, the Langbords say. But the Mint - after vouching
for them - refuses to return them on grounds they were stolen U.S.
"Plaintiffs fail ... to plead any fact to support their implication
that Switt legally obtained the 1933 Double Eagles," Assistant U.S.
Attorney Joel M. Sweet wrote in the brief filed Friday. "(That) supports
a reasonable inference that Switt obtained the 1933 Double Eagles knowing
that they were stolen property."
"Prosecutors argue there was no forfeiture involved because the
Langbords never had rightful ownership in the first place.
"'A thief cannot convey good title to stolen property,' Sweet wrote.
"Switt was not prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run
out. However, he was convicted of violating the Gold Reserve Act of 1934
in a separate case, and had his license to deal scrap gold - which
involved him with the Mint on occasion - revoked.
"Prosecutors also argue in their brief that someone other than Switt
stashed the coins in the bank deposit box. The Wachovia Bank box was
rented in 1996, six years after Switt died, they said.
"And the family did not list the coins or pay taxes on them when his
will was executed, they said."
To read the complete article, see:
MORE ON THE EDGELESS, GODLESS DOLLARS
A press report last week regarding the new U.S. Presidential dollar
coins with missing edge inscriptions stated that "About half were made
in Philadelphia and the rest in Denver. So far the mint has only
received reports of error coins coming from Philadelphia, mint
spokeswoman Becky Bailey said."
Tom DeLorey writes: "I have seen plain edge Washington dollars that
came out of Denver Mint rolls, though the point is rather academic as
the mint mark is missing along with the rest of the edge inscription.
There is an unprovable way of telling them apart, but it really does
Donn Pearlman writes: "Last week you mentioned the Reuters news
service story about the mis-struck Presidential dollars and the story's
incorrect spelling, "dye," instead of "die." I became aware of that
story about four hours after its initial distribution and I immediately
phoned the Reuters newsroom in New York City to politely point out the
word referring to coinage production is spelled 'd-i-e'. Reuters
subsequently did send a "write through," a corrected version.
"The earlier, widely-distributed Associated Press story that quoted
Professional Coin Grading Service President, Ron Guth, about the
missing edge-lettering on the dollar coins is something that PCGS and
I worked on for several days with AP reporters in Los Angeles and
Philadelphia. At one point, more than 370 news media web sites had
the AP story posted online!"
Regarding the item about popular opinion of the coin, James Higby
writes: "In response to Dick Austin's claim that LIBERTY has appeared
on all our coins since the beginning, it is observable that the word
does not appear on the flying eagle cent, the two-cent piece, the
silver trime, or the shield nickel."
AND NOW, THE FACELESS DOLLAR
Another Associated Press story about errors on the new U.S.
Presidential Dollar popped up on March 18:
"Mary and Ray Smith can't make heads or tails of a new presidential
dollar coin they found last week. It doesn't have either.
"A week after the revelation that some of the coins slipped out of the
U.S. Mint without 'In God We Trust' stamped on the edge, the Smiths
said Tuesday they found one with nothing stamped on either flat side.
"It does have 'In God We Trust' on the edge. What's missing is the
image of George Washington on the front and the Statue of Liberty on
the back. Instead, the Smiths' coin is just smooth, shiny metal.
"'Mint spokesman Michael White said officials had not confirmed the
Smiths' find. But Ron Guth, a coin authenticator with Professional
Coin Grading Service of Newport Beach, Calif., said after examining
it he is certain the coin is authentic.
"'It's really pretty rare,' Guth said. 'It somehow slipped through
'several steps and inspections.'"
To read the complete story, see:
[Mint errors have been around as long as the Mint itself, but it seems
to me that only in recent years have errors found their way into the
popular press. While there are many articles to be found in newspapers
of the 1800s and 1900s about public reaction to new coins, I don't
recall ever seeing an article about an error coin. Can anyone cite one?
In today's world of the Internet and eBay marketing, word spreads fast,
and apparently there is a very receptive market for these oddities.
It's also true that in years past the numismatic hobby didn't have a
Donn Perlman working the phones to stir up interest among journalists.
I suspected Donn's handiwork in this story, as well. When contacted,
he 'fessed up. Great work, Donn! -Editor]
ARTICLE RECALLS 1982 CENT SHORTAGE
Dick Johnson writes: "A columnist in the Evansville Indiana Courier
recalls the shortage of cents in 1982 this week. He remembers grocery
stores asking customers over the loud speaker for their cent coins
because of the penny pinch. It is one paragraph at the end of the
story." [The paragraph follows. -Editor]
"Telltale signs of the shortage abound. A shopper at Great Scot
supermarket can expect to hear a plea for pennies about once every 10
to 15 minutes over the public address system. At other stores, checkers
routinely ask customers if they have the needed one-cent pieces. And
some banks have posted signs asking depositors to exchange their copper
coins for other denominations."
To read the complete article, see:
ON THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES' NEW ACCESS POLICIES
Dick Johnson forwarded an extensive article by Carren Kaston titled
provocatively, "The National Archives - A Dying Institution?" The
institution drastically reduced the times for public access in October
2006, and the research community has been up in arms ever since.
"For many years, the Archives was open a full day on Saturday, and in
The evenings on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday every week. That level of
access - amounting to 60 hours a week - was on a par with the access
offered by the Library of Congress, Washington's other major research
facility, which has been and continues to be open three evenings a week
and on Saturdays. But the Archives has now eliminated nearly all
evening and Saturday hours.
"Public access at NARA is also threatened by a recent two thirds
Reduction in the number of technicians who "pull" materials, such as
Government correspondence and documents, in the Textual Records
Research Room. Wait times of several hours can occur, when the standard
used to be one hour, and the number of incorrect pulls has proliferated."
For perspective on the problem, I asked numismatic researcher Roger
Burdette. He writes: "The elimination of Saturday and evening hours,
except for one weekend a month, is a hardship on those who have limited
research time and resources.
"Before, I could schedule a Friday off from work, request the documents
at the 9:30 'pull' time and be able to spend the balance of the day
plus Saturday examining materials. The new hours eliminate most evening
and Saturday work time, thus requiring either a costly weekday visit or
an attempt to schedule around the single available weekend. Also
eliminated was one document 'pull' time during the day. This makes it
more time consuming to get additional documents from a second batch if
the first proved fruitless.
"Research is slow work, and many professional researchers put in long
hours in order to collect information for their clients. Elimination
of most evening and Saturday hours is likely having a severe impact
on their productivity."
STOLEN BERKELEY NOBEL MEDAL FOUND
Regarding last week's report that the Nobel Prize medal of the 1939
winner in Physics was missing from its display case at Berkeley, Dan
Demeo writes: "The missing medal was already found, a couple days after
the original report."
"A much cherished Nobel Prize medal stolen from the University of
California, Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science late last week has
been recovered and a suspect has been arrested, university police
announced today (Wednesday, March 7).
"Campus police received a tip about the theft that led them to the
suspect, a UC Berkeley student who worked in the building where the
medal was in a locked display case. The student told police that he
took the medal on a whim.
"The medal was awarded in 1939 to Professor Ernest O. Lawrence for
his discoveries in physics. It was the first Nobel given to a UC
Berkeley professor. The medal's value to the university and the
Lawrence Hall of Science, where it had been placed in a special
memorial room to honor the scholar, is immeasurable, officials said.
"Hall officials said the medal will be secured until it is unveiled in
a new and even more secure display setting as part of the commemoration
of the 40th anniversary of the Lawrence Hall of Science in May 2008.
Plans already were under way prior to the theft for an updated display."
To read the complete Berkeley press release, see:
LAWRENCE NOBEL MEDAL MISSING FROM BERKELEY DISPLAY CASE
OLYMPIC COIN COLLECTION NOT UNIQUE
One reader writes: "I read with interest the article regarding Al
Driega's Olympic coin collection. I believe I have a collection which
could give his a 'run for the money.' For many years my uncle collected
coins, especially Olympic coins. When he reached his late 80s (he'll be
92 in July), he decided that he had to do something with it. Since he
and my aunt have no children and there are only three nephews (my
two brothers and I) on his side of the family, and I am the only one
interested in coins, he decided to give his collection to me.
"For over a year, about every 3 to 4 weeks I would receive a box in
the mail containing part of his collection. I purchased a foot locker
just to house the Olympic coins. When the last of the boxes finally
arrived, the foot locker was filled to the brim. I also have boxes
and boxes of Olympic pins.
"I also received all his other coins. Since my collecting interests do
not include Olympic coins, I have not yet gone through all the Olympic
coins in the foot locker. However, I know that he has almost every
Olympic coin issued (from both host & non-host countries) starting with
the 1952 Finland games up to around 1996 or 2000. He also had some
miscellaneous coins from other games (e.g. Pan-Asian, Pan-American,
etc.). These were far from being complete and I have disposed of most
"Al Driega states 'I don't know of any individual collector in the
world that has a collection comparable to mine, and I would certainly
know about anyone as avid as I am.' Obviously, he is wrong! Many
collectors for various reasons do not want people to know what they
collect nor the extensiveness of their collections, while others, such
as my uncle, just collected, and except for a subscription or two to
a numismatic publication, had no involvement in the coin collecting
"Anyway, as I said at the beginning, my uncle's collection which is
now mine could definitely give Al Driega's collection a 'run for the
MORE SOURCES FOR HISTORICAL CONSUMER PRICES
Regarding web sites for historical pricing information, Tom DeLorey
The web site states: "The following form adjusts any given amount of
money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index, from 1800
"The pre-1975 data are the Consumer Price Index statistics from
Historical Statistics of the United States (USGPO, 1975). All data
since then are from the annual Statistical Abstracts of the United
SOURCE FOR HISTORICAL CONSUMER PRICES
Patrick MacAuley writes: "For the Bicentennial, the U.S. Department
of Commerce published a magnificent 2-volume HISTORICAL STATISTICS OF
THE UNITED STATES Colonial Times to 1970. Every historian or economist
should have this compendium in their library. It includes consumer
price indices back to 1820, which can be spliced with the latest
Consumer Price Index data available on-line to provide an estimate of
the change in U.S. consumer prices between any two years from 1820
"I used this approach to check Henk Groenendijk's statement that a
half-cent in 1857 had more purchasing power than a dime had in January
2007, and he was statistically correct. However, the world has changed
so much since 1857 that comparisons are pretty fuzzy. For example,
the price of gasoline was not a cost-of-living factor in 1857, while
horse-feed prices aren't much of a factor in 2007."
GEORGE LOVETT BATTLE SERIES MEDALS INFORMATION SOUGHT
Dave Baldwin writes: "I recently acquired a set of George Lovett's
Battle Series Medals in white metal from 1876 in their original case.
I know of two other sets and would like to find out how many others
might still be intact and thought this would be a good place to start.
I can be reached at davethecat at aol.com. Thanks."
INFORMATION ON BUENOS AIRES DIESINKER TIRONE Y VALSECCHI SOUGHT
Yosef Sa'ar of Israel writes: "I have an 1889 Argentine token signed
by the following diesinker including his address:
"Tirone y Valsecchi
"If any numismatist has other signed works or information about
this diesinker, I would certainly appreciate correspondence and
citations. My email address is ysaar at actcom.co.il. Thank you."
INFORMATION ON ASHTRAY MEDALS SOUGHT
Sam Pennington, publisher of the Maine Antique Digest
(samp at maineantiquedigest.com) writes: "I'm working on an article on
ashtray medals. I have information on the Manship Zodiac medals and
a few others he did. I'd like to hear from anyone who has or knows of
other makers or other medals. Thanks."
Ashtry medals (or medallic ashtrays) are working ashtrays made and
decorated like medals. They vary in size from four to six inches.
Sculptor Paul Manship made a number of them including the twelve signs
of the zodiac. I'm working on an article on ashtray medals. I have info
on the Manship Zodiac medals and a few others he did. I'd like to hear
from anyone who has or knows of other makers or other medals. You can
see an example of a six-inch Manship medal at
ARTICLE PROFILES PRINCETON NUMISMATIC CURATOR ALAN STAHL
On March 15th the Daily Princetonian published a lengthy article
on the Princeton University Library coin collection and its curator:
"Alan Stahl is the University's Curator of Numismatics whose job is
to archive, research and showcase the library's remarkable collection
of coins. Princeton, along with Harvard and Yale, are the top
universities who hold numismatics collections, though none of them
are "world class," Stahl said.
"'Our collection is probably the most comprehensive for [an American]
university to hold,' Stahl said.
"'Harvard has Greek and Roman coins but not many others; Yale's is
more comprehensive [than Harvard's] but not as much as ours.' Princeton
is also the only school to have had a curator continuously since the
"The RBSC employs 12 students who each work to catalogue the coins.
In the office where Stahl works, named the "Coin Room," they photograph,
label and research the coins, loading the profiles into an online
"Stahl is a historian by academic training, though he didn't become
interested in numismatics until he wrote the dissertation for his
Ph.D in medieval history from the University of Pennsylvania.
"One of his students commutes three hours each way from Fordham
University; another comes from Rutgers University. Neither of those
schools have sizeable numismatics collections of their own."
To read the complete article, see:
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS OF THE MEDALLION ARTICLE PUBLISHED
E-Sylum subscriber Sam Pennington, publisher of the Maine Antique
Digest, has written a well-illustrated article on the twelve medals
issued by the Circle of Friends of the Medallion from 1909 to 1915.
"Collectors looking for an undervalued field might well consider the
American art medal. Why? A Belgian Web site (www.artmedal.be/) provides
the artistic part of the answer: “Designed to be held in the hand, medals
represent the ultimate in portable art and are often miniature sculptural
masterpieces.” Prices realized at auctions provide the financial side of
"Art medals are in a strange limbo. Coin collectors are not interested
in them, nor are art collectors, despite the fact that art medals were
done by the best sculptors of the day: Paul Manship, Victor D. Brenner,
John Flanagan, James Earle Fraser, Augustus Saint-Gaudens among them.
With few exceptions, prices for works by well-known sculptors sold in
the medals trade do not come close to those asked in the sculpture
To read the complete article, see:
BANK OF ENGLAND LAUNCHES REDESIGNED TWENTY-POUND BANKNOTE
According to a report in The Guardian, "The UK's most common banknote
is set for a relaunch as newly-designed £20 notes hit the streets for
the first time since 1999.
"The Bank of England's new note will bear the image of 18th century
economist Adam Smith, renowned for his Wealth of Nations analysis on
free markets. He is the first Scot to feature on a banknote.
"Customers at the cash machine will find the new £20 in a brighter
purple colour to make it more recognisable, although it will be the
same size as its predecessor.
"The new note will also feature a larger silver hologram and metallic
thread recognition strip to combat fraudsters as well as a new
security colour tag which shows up under ultra-violet light."
To read the complete article, see:
To view an image of the note in an earlier BBC news article, see:
BRITISH PUBLIC SAID TO WANT PRINCESS DIANA ON A BANKNOTE
According to a British popular press article, "Princess Diana's face
should be on banknotes alongside the Queen, according to the public.
"On the day that Adam Smith replaces Edward Elgar on the new £20
note, three-quarters of Brits say they have no idea who he is.
"Instead, they have called for more traditional British icons such
as Winston Churchill, Emmeline Pankhurst and Princess Di to be
immortalised on our money.
"The survey also found that one-in-ten Brits believe Smith, 'the father
of economics' who will appear on notes from today, was a politician
and 15 per cent think he was an artist.
"Some more bizarre guesses on Smith's claim to fame included that he
was a footballer, a landscape gardener or 'brother of John Smith –
the beer maker'.
[The top five male vote-getters were: Sir Winston Churchill - 52.4%,
Stephen Hawking - 7.7%, John Lennon - 7.5%, Spike Milligan - 6.8%,
Charlie Chaplin - 4.9% (TV personality Simon Cowell got 1.3%).
Although Princess Diana's name headlined the story, she was only
second in the voting, losing out to one of the founders of the British
women's suffrage movement. The top female names were Emmeline Pankhurst
- 25.9% Diana, Princess of Wales - 22.8%, Jane Austen - 12.5%, Margaret
Thatcher - 10.5%, and Beatrix Potter - 9.5% (actress Helen Mirren got
2.4% of the vote). -Editor]
To read the complete article, see:
HONG KONG TESTING POLYMER NOTES
In news from Hong Kong, "The Chief Executive in Council has approved
to issue for trial a $10 polymer note, which is cleaner, more durable,
secure and environmentally-friendly, in the middle of this year to
circulate alongside the existing $10 paper notes and coins, both of
which will remain legal tender.
"Financial Secretary Henry Tang said today the move aims to find out
whether polymer notes are suitable for issue in Hong Kong and whether
the community will accept them.
"Monetary Authority Chief Executive Joseph Yam said that the $10 polymer
note will resemble the existing $10 paper note issued by the Government,
except for changes to cater for new security features specific to polymer
"Mr Yam said: "Experience in countries which have introduced polymer
banknotes indicates that the annual production cost for banknotes could
be reduced by about 40% due to the longer lifetime of polymer notes
despite a higher unit cost of production."
To read the complete article, see:
VENEZUELA REVALUES CURRENCY, ISSUES NEW COINS
Dick Johnson forwarded this article about a monetary change in
Venezuela and the resulting new coins:
"The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) directorate defined the scale
Of "bolivar fuerte" (strong-bolivar) coins and bills that it will
begin to circulate starting on January 1st, 2008.
"The country will travel back in time to 1844, and it will once again
circulate coins like the one-cent coin, first on a scale of coins that
will increase in increments of five cents; the second coin is a five-cent
coin, better known as a "puya;" then the ten-cent coin, followed by the
"locha" worth 12.5 cents; next, the "medio" worth 25 cents; and the
"real" worth 50 cents; and finally ending up with the new 'bolívar
"The bills will be printed in the following denominations: a bill of
two bolívares fuerte, a ten, a twenty, a fifty, and a hundred bolívar
fuerte bill, and they will circulate under the Bs.F currency sign.
"The monetary reform system is based on taking three zeros off of the
present currency. For example, the two-thousand bolivar bill will be
converted to a two bolívar fuerte bill, and the fifty-thousand bolivar
bill will be a fifty bolívar fuerte bill."
To read the complete article, see:
NAVAL COIN CUSTOM IN THE NEWS: STEPPING THE SHIP'S MAST
The Lookout of Victoria, British Columbia (a newspaper for the Canadian
military Pacific fleet), reports that "After two months alongside, HMCS
Oriole is back to sailing condition, with a refinished mast, new rigging
and brighter lights.
"During installation, Chief Boatswain PO1 Jim Levesque placed a set of
2007 coins on the mast step, which were specially ordered from the Royal
Canadian Mint. They joined the rusted and warped coins placed by previous
crews as part of a naval tradition that dates back to the Romans. Sailors
place coins under the mast of a ship every time it is repaired as ferry
payment to the underworld should they become shipwrecked."
To read the complete article, see:
And according to a press release issued March 6th, "Invoking a millennia
of maritime and shipbuilding tradition, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70),
currently in drydock at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard, stepped
its new mast today in a solemn ceremony on the flight deck.
"The ceremony involved a series of remarks by distinguished guests and
culminated in the welding of a commemorative metal plaque to the base of
the ship’s new mast. USS Carl Vinson Commanding Officer Ted Carter lead
"As Capt. Carter explained, the ceremonial placing of coins at the base
of a ship’s mast is a practice that goes back to at least the ancient
Romans. It was thought to bring good luck to a ship and her crew, and
the Navy adopted the ceremony as part of its traditional shipbuilding
"Pictured is an 1883 penny, which was placed at the base of the mast
of USS Carl Vinson during the ship's commissioning. On March 6, 2007,
this ceremonial penny was placed back under Carl Vinson's new mast. The
penny will now become a permanent fixture for the carrier's next 25
years of service to the fleet.
To read the complete Press Release, see:
[This is a timely topic - I located a 2007 academic paper by Deborah N.
Carlson (of the Nautical Archaeology Program, Department of Anthropology,
Texas A&M University), titled "Mast-Step Coins Among the Romans". The
paper confirms that the practice can be traced to the Romans but also
indicates that the tradition goes back even farther. The paper grew
out of a graduate seminar in Greek and Roman Numismatics taught by
Professor John Kroll at the University of Texas at Austin.
"The archaeological evidence of more than a dozen ancient shipwrecks
indicates that the tradition of placing a coin inside the mast-step of
a ship’s hold probably originated with the Romans. The mast-step coin
phenomenon, which persisted through the Middle Ages and continues in
various forms today, has often been characterized according to the
modern concept of ‘luck’.
"The custom was, however, not one of an exclusively maritime nature;
rather, it was ultimately derived from a long-standing religious tradition
that can be traced back to the consecration of the earliest Greek temples."
To read the complete paper, see:
[I know there are plenty of shipwreck coin collectors. Anyone own a
ship's mast coin? -Editor]
NINE-YEAR EBAY STAMP FRAUD CHRONICLED
Dick Johnson writes: "There is considerable coin fraud on eBay, but
nothing, it appears, like the rampant stamp fraud that has appeared
there for years. MSNBC has been conducting an in depth study of one
case on this subject since its earliest broadcast in 2002. I don't know
when the recent broadcast occurred but a print report went on the Internet
a week ago (Feb 26, 2007).
"The latest report states this is a nine-year illicit venture that has
"seen thousands of altered postage stamps sold to unwitting collectors
on eBay and other Internet auction sites." The mastermind behind this
is known to law enforcement officials and leading stamp authorities.
They even know where he lives (upstate New York Saratoga area) but he
has never been charged! He is also well known to eBay, yet he still
succeeds in getting his fraudulent product listed and sold.
"EBay has suspended the seller's accounts eleven times, but he switches
over to Yahoo for awhile, then returns to eBay under new credentials. He
buys stamps in poor condition, alters them to a higher grade or a slightly
more valuable variety, then puts them up for auction again. A typical case
may be a stamp purchased for $60 later sells for $80. It is estimated he
has sold tens of thousands of altered stamps, but his take may be in the
"The low profit is said to stay under the radar "of what is prosecutable."
The amounts are so small and the collectors who have been defrauded are
widespread. It is difficult to make such a case stick authorities assert.
Postal authorities, New York State Attorney General, local police, FBI,
have all refused to prosecute.
"The fault lies with eBay which accepts the listings in the first place.
EBay has such a convoluted complaint registration system that it takes
months for any significant action to take place. And when it does identify
a fradulent seller eBay is weak keeping them from returning. I liked one
statement by Rosalinda Baldwin, CEO of The Auction Guild, an Internet
watchdog, who commented:
"Given that eBay doesn't take every possible step to verify that people
opening accounts are who they say they are, "Can someone keep registering
under false IDs and false registration and get away with it? Oh, yeah,
even the idiots can do that," she said.
"The report is 6 1/2 pages in length, but most interesting: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17171372/
"Further websites are on the same subject:
SCADS (Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers) lists the group as
the "Saratoga Ring."
SCADS Hall of Shame
SUGGESTIONS FOR E-SYLUM CONTRIBUTORS
Wayne Schroll writes: "A few simple things that have occurred to me over
the months that may be helpful to your contributors."
[I’m aware of these problems and try to avoid them, but sometimes
they slip thru regardless. Sorry! -Editor]
Wayne writes: "1) When someone refers to a book or article, just the
author's last name or the name and topic are often insufficient for
someone who wants to find the book. My pet peeve has always been the
"fragmentary reference". The E-Sylum, in fact, is very good about
references. There are other publications I read where I see references
like "see Spink" about English coins or quoting Q. David Bowers in "his
book". This sort of thing makes me apoplectic on a good day. I have
been studying coins for a long time and if I am confused or frustrated,
probably someone else is too. A partial reference is not always obvious,
particularly if it is about an area one is unfamiliar with and wants to
read about it. Books should be referred to (once in the article) by
author name and full title.
[On item #1, I do try to expand to full author and title, but don’t
always get or take the time to do it. It’s easy when the submitter
is careful, but often they’re not. You should see some of this stuff
BEFORE I edit it...
I realize that part of what makes contributing to The E-Sylum enjoyable
is the ease of simply hitting the Reply button and firing away. So don't
let writing complete references slow or stop you if you don't have time,
but please do be more complete if time allows. -Editor]
"2) If a contributor is asking for assistance with a research topic they
should specifically say what they are looking for and provide a specific
way to contact them, if indeed that is what they want."
[On item #2, I’m sometimes hamstrung by the requester. If they don’t
want to publish their email address I will always forward notes to them,
but don’t always take the time to spell this out in the issue. In one
case the submitter said he preferred snail mail to email, but he didn’t
give me his snail mail address. So I went with what I had. -Editor]
"3) For aesthetics: the word 'From' should be avoided as the first word
in a sentence in column 1. Sometimes email programs prepend a ">" symbol
before the "From" to indicate that which follows is a message being
replied to. This is fine in an email thread, but looks goofy in a
newsletter or similar article. It's something the programmers never
[On item #3, this sometimes happens accidentally when inserting line
breaks. I do this manually, and by late Sunday evening I’m tired and
don’t pay close attention. I did learn not to do this in my own preface,
but sometimes forget. -Editor]
"Again, thank you for your efforts on a very enjoyable newsletter.
Nice work. I hope my comments are of benefit to someone."
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE E-SYLUM EDITOR
Alex Jensen writes: "I recently joined The E-Sylum list and I am very
happy with what I read. Thank you! However, I have a recommendation
for you. Every time I get The E-Sylum I miss an overview of the topics.
In order to to establish an overview I believe adding a table of contents
would do that. How does that sound to you? Best regards and many thanks
for a very interesting newsletter."
[Well, I agree that a table of contents would be handy, but I already
lose enough sleep preparing the newsletter. My Wayne's Words section is
intended to provide a summary as well as an outlet for editorializing,
but it is not a strict table of contents. Part of the problem is that
the final issue doesn't come fully together until just before publication.
New submissions and news items pop up constantly. It's not practical
to build a table of contents before the issue is done, and by the time
Sunday evening rolls around I'm in no mood to stay up later and create
However, thanks to John Nebel's programming magic, soon after each new
issue is posted to the NBS web site, a table of contents is automatically
generated from the headlines of each submission. So while the original
email has no table of contents, the permanent archive does. For example,
this page lists every issue in the current volume, with links to the
table of contents for each:
FEATURED WEB PAGE: BROCKAGE ERROR COINS
This week's featured web page is on brockage errors at CoinFacts.com:
"A brockage error can only occur when there are two coins involved. One
of the coins involved will always be a struck coin which has not ejected properly. That struck coin will find its way back between the dies and
will be struck next to a blank planchet which was fed into the collar.
The image of that first struck coin will be impressed into that side of
the blank planchet. The result will be a second coin which has images
of the first coin impressed into it."
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. For more information please
see our web site at
There is a membership application available on the web site
at this address:
To join, print the application and return it with your check
to the address printed on the application. Membership is only
$15 to addresses in the U.S., $20 elsewhere. For those without
web access, write to:
David M. Sundman, Secretary/Treasurer
Numismatic Bibliomania Society,
P. O. Box 82 Littleton, NH 03561
For Asylum mailing address changes and other membership
questions, contact David at this email address:
dsundman at LittletonCoin.com
To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, just
Reply to this message, or write to the Editor at this
address: whomren at coinlibrary.com
Those wishing to become new E-Sylum subscribers
(or wishing to Unsubscribe) can go to the following web page:
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Issues from September 2002 to date are also archived at this address:
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