The E-Sylum v10#12, March 25, 2007

esylum at esylum at
Sun Mar 25 19:23:29 PDT 2007

Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 12, March 25, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


Among our recent subscribers are Steve Butler and Gunter Kienast.  
Welcome aboard!  We now have 1,088 subscribers.

This week's issue opens with news of a numismatic literature moving sale, 
a special book section in Paper Money, and a probable error in the latest 
Red Book.  Next, Dave Lange provides some tantalizing hints of revelations 
to be found in his upcoming work on the development of the coin board.

In the news are follow-up articles on the "Godless" and "Faceless" 
Presidential dollars, one of which cites an interesting book on the 
history of money by a cultural anthropologist.  Another recently 
published article sheds some light on numismatic author C. Wyllys Betts.  

Did you know that today is National Medal of Honor day?  An article 
discusses the origin of the medal and its connection to events on 
March 25.  Other articles describe the continuing frenzy to obtain 
military medals for museums worldwide.  

In follow-ups from last week we have a number of submissions relating 
to ship's mast coins. (Who knew!) And speaking of ships, another coin 
has been found in the wreck of the confederate submarine Hunley.  To 
learn what numismatic items the Connecticut Historical Society found 
in an antique safe it was finally able to crack open this week, read 
on.  Have a great week, everyone.

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


Bryce Brown writes: "I'm making a move in a month or so (the closing 
date is not quite pinned down yet) that I'm certainly not looking 
forward to. In anticipation of this (read: rolling eyes), any order 
placed by an E-Sylum reader through April 8th will receive a 20% 
"clearance sale" discount. As always, my inventory can be seen here.  
Thanks! "


Fred Reed, Editor and Publisher of 'Paper Money', the official journal 
of the Society of Paper Money Collectors writes: "I think readers of The 
E-Sylum would like to know that the upcoming May/June issue of PAPER MONEY 
has a nine-page Special Book Section in full color with thirteen reviews 
on ten recently-published books.  Reviews are by Bob Schreiner, John & 
Nancy Wilson  and myself.  

"I have been wanting to do Special Book Sections in the magazine for some 
time, and this could be the first of an annual series.  In addition, there 
are three other columns on books in the magazine but not in the special 
section.  This is definitely a first for PAPER MONEY and may be the 
largest book section in a club publication in recent memory.  

"We are in no position to fill orders for the magazine to non-members, 
but for anyone who's been considering joining the Society of Paper Money 
Collectors, this would be a good incentive.  Dues are $30/annually in U.S. 
Send a check payable to SPMC to me at this address: Fred Reed, POB 118162, 
Carrollton, TX  75011-8162.  If you send in soon, your subscription will 
include the magazine with this First Special Book Section."


Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing forwarded the following press 
release, issued March 20: "Congressional legislation that appeared 
likely to develop has failed to materialize, resulting in a possible 
error in the 61st-edition Guide Book of United States Coins.

"The book, which debuted at the ANA National Money Show in Charlotte, 
reports that “Special silver Proofs of the Presidential dollars are 
struck each year for collectors….” It lists them as being minted in 
San Francisco, and values them at $16 each. 

"Although the United States Mint is enthusiastic about striking such 
coins, the legislation that would authorize them has not yet come before 
Congress. According to longtime Guide Book editor Kenneth Bressett, “As 
of mid-March, the striking of these coins has not been approved, and 
they might or might not be made.”

"Collectors are cautioned that silver-plated Presidential dollars 
appearing on the market are not official U.S. Mint products, and should 
be viewed as novelties only. The Mint currently makes circulation-strike 
Presidential dollars in Philadelphia and Denver, and Proofs in San 
Francisco—all in regular “Golden Dollar” composition (a pure copper 
core with outer layers of manganese brass)."


Dave Lange writes: "Following last week's American Numismatic 
Association convention I drove out from Charlotte into the Blue Ridge 
foothills to visit J. K. Post, Jr., son of the man who invented coin 
boards. Many readers know already that I've been writing a history and 
catalog of these fascinating and colorful relics of the 1930s and '40s 
for the past year and a half. The manuscript is now complete, the layout 
process has begun, and I hope to have the book in print sometime this 
"I was entertained by Joe for several hours at his home, and he provided 
me with copies of priceless documents that his father kept during 1934-39 
detailing the creation of the first coin boards, their marketing and his 
dealings with Whitman Publishing, to whom he sold the rights to this 
product in 1936. All of this material will be included in my book, along 
with a complete catalog of every brand, title and variety, as well as 
histories of the companies and biographies of the individuals who ran 
"The story of how the publication rights to the coin board concept were 
transferred from Post's Kent Company to Whitman was sugar coated for 
decades by the old Whitman management (the company now bearing that 
name has no connection to the Racine operation that ended over a decade 
ago). R. S. Yeoman and the former Whitman marketing people put out a lot 
of myths that were presented as gospel, and there was no one to contradict 
their version, Post Sr. having died in 1943. Though I was skeptical of 
the feel-good story published again and again in Whitman literature, 
and I've been told still other versions of the story by acquaintances 
of Yeoman, I was equally uncertain of whether the resentment expressed 
by Post's descendants was warranted. Having now seen the ledgers and 
other fiscal papers, I believe that the real story is a juicy one indeed. 

"Again, I can't emphasize enough that the Racine Whitman and the Atlanta 
Whitman have no connection other than a name and product line. The 
current management are fine people. When the book is published, readers 
can decide for themselves exactly what went down 70 years ago.
"I've had an exhausting yet very satisfying experience researching the 
people and places associated with coin boards, and almost all of the 
material included in my book will be completely new to those intrigued 
by the coin hobby's history. Since this book appears to have a limited 
market, I will be self-publishing, and readers of the E-Sylum will be 
kept fully informed as to pricing and availability as these are 


An Associated Press story based on a Professional Numismatists Guild 
(PNG) press release was published this week warning the public that some 
of the error dollar coins being offered for sale are fakes.

"A group of experts issued a warning about George Washington dollar 
coins altered to look like valuable ones that left the U.S. Mint without 
"In God We Trust" on their edges.

"Collectors have reported finding and buying dollar coins that have 
had the words filed off their edges so they look like the incorrectly 
struck coins, according to the Professional Numismatists Guild. The 
ones that are truly mint errors have been selling for $50 or more.

"The fakes "are just alterations that are worth a dollar," said Fred 
Weinberg, a coin dealer in Encino, Calif., who is an expert on mint-error 
coins. 'It's an easy thing to alter.'"

To read the complete article, see: 

Donn Perlman forwarded the following link to the original PNG Press Release:

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) published a detailed report on 
the altered coins with some great close-up images. See: 


The Patriot-Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts published an article 
March 24 about the making of the new John Adams Presidential dollar 
coin.  Interviewed were designer Joel Iskowitz and Mint engraver 
Charles Vickers.  Accompanying the article is a great slideshow 
illustrating the coin-making process from the original drawings 
through striking, bagging and shipping.

"In a phone interview from his home in Woodstock, N.Y., Iskowitz 
said he modeled his pencil drawing on a famous John Trumbull painting 
of Adams that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery - partly because 
the 1793 painting is the closest to Adams’ 1797-1801 presidential term, 
but also because it seemed to best capture the person described by 
his contemporaries.

"'Coins are a different kind of art,' he said. 'For such a small 
thing, there’s a monumental aspect to it.'

"Once the Mint and the secretary of the treasury signed off on 
Iskowitz’s Adams design, it was assigned to engraver Charles Vickers, 
a Texas native who had a long career at the Franklin Mint before he 
moved over to the U.S. Mint.

"Vickers’ sculptured clay disk was replicated through a series of 
negative and positive molds - the last a hard, epoxy cast that was 
mounted on a 19th-century transfer-engraving machine, which miniaturized 
the 9-inch cast onto a coin-size, steel master die. That die was in turn 
used to fashion a set of dies for the coin’s mass production.

To read the complete article, see:

To view the slideshow on the making of the Adams dollar, see: 


"The 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar coin flopped. The 2000 Sacagawea 
dollar coin did little better. Nonetheless, the U.S. Mint in its 
infinite wisdom last month launched yet another new dollar coin.

"Sit down in the handsome office of Edmund C. Moy, the director of the 
Mint. Ask him to comment on the quote attributed to Albert Einstein: 
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting 
different results."

"Point out that the future of money is relentlessly shifting away 
from physical cash.

"Ask him if he has lost his blooming mind.

"The Congress made me do it, he replies."

To read the complete article, see: 

[The Post article goes into the history of money and the ongoing 
transition from physical to electronic forms, referencing along the 
way a book by cultural anthropologist Jack Weatherford called "The 
History of Money."  I hadn't heard of this book before - have any of 
our readers seen it?  In the next item I excerpt some information I 
found about it online. -Editor]


"Weatherford brings a cultural anthropologist's wide-angled perspective 
to this illuminating investigation of money's role in shaping human 

"Money, according to Weatherford, has experienced three revolutions: 
the first, with the invention of metallic coins (gold, silver) 3000 
years ago; the second, the development of paper money (now the most 
prevalent form of money) in Renaissance Italy; and today, on the cusp 
of the 21st century, the rise of electronic money (the all-purpose 
electronic cash card), which, he believes, will radically change 
the international economy.

"Full of forgotten lore and provocative opinions (e.g., harmful inflation 
is identified as the dominant monetary theme of our century), and 
sprinkled with allusions to Voltaire, Goethe, L. Frank Baum and Gertrude 
Stein, this intriguing selective survey will captivate even readers with 
no particular yen for financial knowledge.

Robert Heilbroner writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review (2/16/1997) 
states: "This is a fascinating book about the force that makes the world 
go round - the dollars, pounds, francs,marks, bahts, ringits, kwansas, 
levs, bipwelles, yuans, quetzales, pa'angas, ngultrums, ouguiyas, and 
another 200-odd brand names that collectively make up the mysterious 
thing we call money."

To read the complete description at ABE Books, see: 

[The book was published in hardback in 1997 by Crown and reprinted 
in paperback by Three Rivers Press in 1998. -Editor]


Last week we published the announcement of three mining libraries for 
sale by Holabird Americana.  Coincidentally, a March 20th Wall Street 
Journal article noted that major corporations are just starting to wake 
up to the value of historical information to be found in libraries and 

"For decades, geologist Johan Lavreau has minded a musty maze of African 
maps, papers and rocks stored in the bowels of a museum celebrating 
Belgium's colonial stewardship of the Congo between 1885 and 1960.

"It was a lonely job. He saw few visitors other than geology students 
and academics.

"Now the 63-year-old's archives, beneath the Royal Museum for Central 
Africa in a leafy suburb of Brussels, are a hot destination. Clamoring 
to pore over the maps: global mining operations hungry for clues about 
where to find the Congo's vast riches of copper, cobalt, gold, tin and 
other treasures.

"For mining firms, not only is the prospecting a lot easier in a 
Belgian basement, it often yields more than geologists find with 
the most sophisticated radar and sonar technology.

"The Congo once had copies of the same archives, but most were lost, 
looted or destroyed. The country, adds Mr. Lavreau, ground up its rock 
samples to make gravel for a parking lot.

"Miners can thank Belgium's King Leopold II, who controlled the Congo 
until 1908, for the riches preserved in Tervuren."

To read the complete article (subscription required), see:

I pointed out the article to Fred Holabird, who writes: "This is very 
interesting. It appears to be a wave of the future. In mining, the first 
fee library that I know of was in Wyoming (Univ of Wyoming), after the 
Anaconda archives were sold or transferred there into their own wing. 
The industry at first privately grumbled at paying a fee for access 
to files, but gradually got used to it over time. 

"I always assumed it was a cheaper form of exploration, but in most 
companies, egos are involved, such that exploration targets are those 
generated by so-called original thought. For years, small minds ruled 
the day, and no one valued old files. But the work force is changing, 
because obtaining that information is very costly if it has to be 
regathered. Many senior geologists today make a living off of selling 
data from their files. 

"I have been approached about using my own library on a fee basis. But 
I am a bit scared to do anything of the sort, because if some of these 
books are damaged, they are not replaceable. Thus a $200 per hour fee 
is too cheap if a single very rare printed work is ruined by a careless 
researcher breaking a spine, or dropping it on the floor, which could 
rip it apart. Or the greasy fingerprint syndrome...

"Anyway, original source material is becoming noticed, finally. Those 
of us with libraries of this nature understand what treasures we have, 
and value it highly. I use mine every day, and am always searching for 


Gunter Kienast of Lincoln, Nebraska writes: "It is by pure accident 
that I found the June 11, 2006 E-Sylum review of the Goetz Medal Sale 
in Kassel, Germany on the Internet. Would you please do me a favor and 
correct the spelling of my name on your records?  The article was just 
perfect and conveyed most there is to say and report on Karl Goetz. 
Thank you!"
[Our archive is for historical purposes and we don't make updates to it, 
but we are always happy to set the record straight.  The review submitted 
by Steve Pellegrini should have read: "It seems all things Goetz have 
become expensive. A signed and annotated first edition of Gunter Kienast's 
1968 book 'Medals of Karl Goetz' brought $1,000+ in a recent George 
Kolbe auction." Sorry for the mistake.  A link to the original article 
appears below.  -Editor]



Dick Johnson writes: "Paul Manship made the models for his zodiac 
series of medallic ashtrays in the 1920s. He brought his set of twelve 
models to Medallic Art Company, then in New York City, which produced 
them in metal for him. This was before 1929, because in that year eight 
of the twelve were acquired by American Numismatic Society (accession 
numbers 1929.54.25 through 1929.54.32).

"These pure copper medallic ashtrays were made by electroforming, a 
process similar to electrogalvanic casting (which makes the copper 
patterns for coins and medals, prior to reducing and cutting dies). 
The action for both processes takes place in electrolytic tanks where 
an electrolyte solution contains copper ions in solution. The copper 
for the ashtrays comes from sacrificial copper anodes that furnish the 
ions of copper to replace the ions in that solution that deposit on 
the object’s mold. 

While I cataloged all the medals made by Medallic Art Company during 
the decade I worked there I did not catalog the galvanos, patterns, 
dieshells, molds and other objects in the firm’s die vault. I wish I 
had done that.

However, the medallic ashtrays were made sporadically from the 1920s 
until 1972. There was never a large order for these, and, I was told, 
never all twelve were made at one time after World War II. Orders, as 
might be expected, were always for one or two specific zodiac symbols.

The ashtrays were given an antique copper finish. Unlike medals they 
were never sprayed with a protective lacquer -- this would discolor 
rapidly with use as an ashtray. 

Interestingly, when we placed these out in the open in our showroom 
in New York City they were the most stolen object. I never saw more 
than three of these at any one time. When we moved in June 1972 to 
Danbury Connecticut even these had disappeared."


Sam Pennington, publisher of the Maine Antique Digest writes: "I'm 
working on an article on storage and display solutions for medals, 
especially the 2 3/4-inch Society of Medalists variety. Please send 
me any ideas, information, sources, or pictures.  I can be reached 
at (207) 832-6276 or samp at Thanks!"


The web site has posted a nice history article by Mary 
Cummings titled "Southampton Village: The Transition to Stylish Resort". 
 The article includes some information about numismatic personality C. 
Wyllys Betts, author of the classic 1894 reference "American Colonial 
History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals":

"The first of the Betts brothers to arrive was Frederic, a lawyer 
whose clients included J.P. Morgan & Co. and a long list of corporate 
giants.  C. Wyllys Betts, also a lawyer, arrived not long afterward 
and both bought land at the south end of the lake adjoining the ocean, 
thus making them “the fortunate possessors of the most valuable building 
sites in Southampton,” according to one of their contemporaries, 
William S. Pelletreau."

"Well-heeled Yale men, the Betts brothers were prominent in promoting 
the various improvements championed by the SVIS (Southampton Village 
Improvement Association). Among C. Wyllys’s other interests were 
numismatics (he was co-editor of the American Journal of Numismatics)
and English furniture. Legend has it that he shipped so much furniture 
back to Southampton after buying sprees in the British Isles that 
Frederic felt obliged to build his brother six houses to accommodate 
his extravagant purchases. Whether inspired by furniture overload or 
something else—a desire to be surrounded by friends, perhaps, or to 
turn a profit on his real estate investments?—six cottages went up on 
Betts land, all spoken for during the summer of 1880, according to a 
report in the Evening Post."

The read the complete article, see: 


On March 23 the National Review published a story by James S. Robbin 
called "A Time for Heroes", which discusses the origins of the U.S. 
Medal of Honor.

"Many readers are I’m sure familiar with the 1927 Buster Keaton silent 
classic The General, a comedy about an intrepid though bungling 
Confederate railroad engineer pursuing Yankee raiders who have stolen 
his much-loved steam engine and erstwhile fiancée. 

"O.K., so what is the link between Keaton’s film and the Medal of Honor? 
The General was very loosely based on an actual event; in April 1862, 
20 Union soldiers from Ohio and two civilians, led by a scout named James 
J. Andrews, penetrated deep into Georgia on a raiding mission to disrupt 
the Confederate rail and communications system. 

"All 22 raiders were soon captured. Eight, including Andrews, were 
executed after a military trial in Atlanta. The rest were held as 
prisoners of war. Eight escaped jail in October, and the remaining six 
were exchanged in March 1863 for a like number of Confederates held 
by the Union. They reached Washington on March 25. 

"Two weeks earlier the Congress, in the Civil Appropriations Act, had 
authorized the president “to cause to be struck from the dies recently 
prepared at the United States Mint, for that purpose, ‘Medals of Honor,’
 … and present the same to such officers, non-commissioned officers and 
privates, as have most distinguished, or who may hereafter most 
distinguish themselves in action, and $20,000 are appropriated to 
defray the expenses of the same.” 

"Secretary of War Edwin Stanton saw an opportunity to highlight the 
courage and sacrifice of these men, and all six were awarded the Medal 
of Honor. The first went to the youngest of the raiders, Private Jacob 
Parrott, then only 19 years old. The men were also awarded $100, given 
commissions as Lieutenants, and given a private audience with President 
Lincoln. Eventually all but three of the 22 men on the mission received 
the medal.

"To commemorate this event, Congress has designated March 25 as National 
Medal of Honor Day. The purpose of the holiday is to recognize the 
heroism of the more than 3,400 recipients, educate the public on the 
medal and what it means, and to celebrate and honor the more than 100 
living recipients of the medal."

To read the complete article, see: 


The Chronicle-Herald of Halifax, Nova Scotia published an article this 
week about the upcoming sale of the Victoria Cross medal belonging to 
William Hall, the first black Nova Scotian to win the honor:

"As near as can be established, Hall was born at or near Horton, N.S. 
Several years are given for his birth: 1821, 1827 or 1828. British 
records show that he joined the Royal Navy at Liverpool, England, in 
1852, as an able seaman aboard HMS Rodney, which was sent to the Black 
Sea during the Crimean War (1854-56).

"For Hall’s service in that war, he was awarded the Crimea Medal with 
bars for Sebastopol and Inkerman, two honours which "were not earned 
easily," Admiral Pullen commented in one of his letters. Hall also 
received the Turkish Crimea Medal.

"The fall of 1857 found Hall as a captain of the fore top aboard HMS 
Shannon on his way to service in India where, by a deed which required 
unbelievable tenacity and courage under heavy fire, Hall earned his 
Victoria Cross.

"In 1966, Admiral Pullen, then retired, was appointed to the Atlantic 
provinces pavilion at Expo ’67. He thought the Montreal Expo would 
provide an excellent showplace for Hall’s story and, specifically, a 
display of his medals. He set about obtaining them, only to find that 
they had disappeared. 

"They had been seen in public at Hall’s funeral. Shortly before his 
burial, they were removed from his body and given to members of his 

[The story describes Admiral Pullen's tenacious quest to locate the 
medals.  He finally obtained them by purchasing another set of medals 
which he was able to trade for Hall's medals. -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:  


A March 21 article in the Toronto Star describes one man's quest 
to obtain for a museum a WWI medal awarded to Conn Smythe, founder of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team:

"Military buff Dave Thomson believes Smythe's Victory Medal, which 
was sold by the Smythe family to an unnamed purchaser before it ended 
up online, should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 48-year-old from 
St. George, Ont., said yesterday he is trying to raise enough money 
to buy it for the museum.

"The medal is for sale at, with the 
opening bid at $2,000. The auction closes March 27.

"Smythe's medal is described on the website as 'historic and rare,' 
with its original colourful ribbon intact. 'C.F.Smythe' with his rank 
"2.Lieut." is inscribed on the decoration's rim with "The Great War 
For Civilization 1914-1919" etched on the back. Victory medals were 
awarded to 351,289 Canadians who served during the World War I. 

"Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment Ltd. spent $102,531 (U.S.) in December 
to buy a large collection of basketball memorabilia that once belonged 
to the game's Canadian inventor, James Naismith, after it was found in 
Naismith's American granddaughter's basement. MLSE's purchase of the 
artefacts was done live and online, with the Leafs' parent company 
donating the items to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

"MLSE president and CEO Richard Peddie said the club would take 'an 
active look' at Smythe's medal. 'Obviously, we're very mindful of 
Conn Smythe's history and contribution to the Leafs of today.'"

To read the complete article, see: 


On March 24, 2007 The Guardian published an article about millionaire 
art collector Frank Cohen.  The article mentions how he got interested 
as a boy in collecting coins, and quotes Cohen as saying that he'd 
assembled "one of the best coin collections in the world".  Is that 

"Cohen, who left school at 15 and worked the market stalls of 
Manchester before building up his empire of DIY stores, has been 
collecting contemporary art since the 1990s. He has, he thinks, 
about 1,500 works in his collection. The most he's ever spent is 
$2.5m on a Jeff Koons, and then there was $1m for a Richard Prince.

"He tells these details with gusts of laughter and evident enjoyment. 
Since he sold his shares in Glyn Webb in 1997 for £25m, his art 
collection has become his full-time occupation, and that of four 
employees. But he has always collected something or other.

"'When I was a kid I collected cigarette cards. Then one day I went 
to the cinema in Manchester. I was about 17. I got a Victorian penny 
in my change. I went to a shop round the corner and they gave me 
four shillings for it. I thought, that's not bad.'

"In the end, he says, he built up 'one of the best coin collections 
in the world'."

[So... are any of our readers aware of Frank Cohen and his coin 
collection?  Given what he's spent on art it's plausible that he 
could have assembled one of the best collections in the world.  
Can any of our readers in the U.K. confirm this?  -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:,,2041708,00.html 


Regarding last week's item about coins placed under a ship's mast, 
Katie Jaeger writes: "Coincidentally, I have an article coming up on 
the mast timber suppliers of Pennsylvania, and how they got their 
enormous product to market at the seaports. It includes a description 
of mast stepping and coin placement."
"The original reason that shipbuilders would invite the whole community 
to this ceremony was that all hands were needed to lift these gigantic 
pieces of timber into place! It evolved into a much-enjoyed tradition 
like the topping out party for a skyscraper.

"Lest readers get the impression my article is numismatic, it mentions 
that a coin of the current year was placed beneath the mast just before 
it settled into place during stepping, but that's all.  Since 2003 I've 
been gathering information for a comprehensive article on mast-step coins, 
how they are used to date wrecks, the traditions behind them, etc., but 
that one is years away."

[Katie's article will appear in the upcoming Winter/Spring 2007 issue 
of New York's South Street Seaport Museum's magazine.  -Editor]


Richard Becker writes: "In this issue there was an interesting 
commentary titled "Stepping the ships mast" where the ancient custom 
of placing a coin under the mast pole of a newly commissioned ship 
was discussed. The final question asked was if any reader owned such 
an authenticated coin that had been used in such a ceremony. Over 20 
years ago I purchased what I believe is such a coin. 

At a local antique fair a dealer showed me a 1536 Mexico Carlos y Johanna 
4 real (first issue) coin that was choice about uncirculated condition 
but which had a crude hole punched through it with an antique square 
nail.  The story that went with it was that the coin had been attached 
to a large piece of ship mast that was found buried on the shore of 
eastern Florida. Presumably this would have been one of the many ships 
that transported the wealth of the new world from Mexico to Spain. 

However the coin had long ago been removed from the wood due to the 
bulkiness of it. (they also had lost the nail) !!!  Well, anyhow, to 
make a long story short, I purchased the coin for, I believe, $20 and 
still have it as part of my Mexican type collection.  I believe it was 
too tall a tale for someone, who obviously had very little knowledge 
of coins, to make up just to sell a coin that, without the hole would 
have been worth thousands, but in it's present state was only a 


Dave Lange writes: "I went directly from the Charlotte ANA show to 
the Whitman show in Baltimore, arriving at the latter a day early. 
This gave me the opportunity to tour the U.S.S. Constellation in 
Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The ship had been condemned by the Navy 
as unfit for visitors in 1994 but was then restored to its present 
glorious state during 1996-99. I hadn't been on the ship since 1985, 
and it really is a much improved exhibit.
"One thing that caught my attention was the display of coins retrieved 
from beneath the mast during the most recent restoration. I was hoping 
to see some old pieces, if not large cents then at least some silver 
coins. Instead, the coins recovered consisted of a cent, nickel, dime, 
quarter dollar and half dollar, all of recent vintage. They were somewhat 
encrusted, so I couldn't read the dates, but the three highest 
denomination coins were clearly cupro-nickel-clad, and the hub style 
of the quarter's reverse was that adopted in 1977! So much for history 
and romance.
"Another interesting incident occurred while I was aboard Constellation. 
I'd made my way down to the lowest deck, which was below water and had 
no portholes. Hearing multiple sirens nearby, I jogged up the steps two 
levels to the gun deck to find out what was happening. Leaning on one 
of the cannons, I peered out the gun port to see fire trucks, police 
cruisers and ambulances all gathered on the nearby dock and police tape 
all around that side of the ship. There were also hundreds of bystanders 
looking back in my direction, though their eyes were aimed at a slight 
downward angle. Following their gaze, I looked straight down from my 
perch to see a body floating face down about ten feet below me, bobbing 
against the side of the ship. Just then a small police craft pulled 
alongside, and the three occupants began gently prodding at the body. 
They declined to do anything further at that time, and the boat moved 
back to the dock. It was perhaps a half hour later when the body was 
finally removed and laid out on the dock, at which time we were permitted 
to exit the ship. I got an extended tour that day, courtesy of some poor
soul's tragic misfortune. Until that point the highlight of my day was 
getting to raise the national flag during the sounding of colors.
"As I was exiting through the gift shop, a final episode occurred that 
annoyed me in no small amount. I ran into a familiar coin dealer who 
was just about to board, and he ran over to me with a big smile. He 
then pulled from his pocket a plastic flip containing a bronze souvenir 
medal of the Constellation struck perhaps 30 or 40 years ago. It bore 
the date 1797, as at that time the mistaken notion still persisted that 
this 1855 sloop-of-war was actually the famous 1797 frigate named 
Constellation, a sister ship to the U.S.S. Constitution now preserved 
at Boston. He gloated as he told me that he'd bought the medal from a 
dealer's junk box for a dollar and had been using it for years to 
obtain free entry to the ship, which was evidently the purpose of this 
medal when made. He then told me that he had a similar medal that he 
used regularly to go aboard Constitution for free, too. As he trotted 
off happily toward the gang plank, I paused to ponder what a wonderful 
job the volunteers have done in restoring this beautiful ship, and I 
dropped an additional five dollars into the collection box to supplement 
the admission price I'd paid earlier."


Verne Walrafen of the Original Hobo Nickel Society writes: "Actually 
we recently published an OHNS Scrapbook item on that very subject: 
'“Stepping the Mast” ~ Not Exactly a Hobo Nickel' −by Ralph Winter.

[Thanks for letting us know about Ralph's article.  Here is a short 
excerpt.  Check out the complete article for images of the coin and 
ship. -Editor]

"I had just about traversed the entire bourse when I came across an 
unusual Buffalo nickel at one dealer's table. It was a beautiful AU 
1915 Buffalo Nickel with the numbers “5”, “1” and an anchor etched into 
both the obverse and reverse (see photos). It looked like this had been 
done with a hand stamp or stamps. I was sure it had been done a long 
time ago, and probably in 1915, because of the AU condition of the 
nickel. The dealer knew nothing. He had picked it up with some other 
coins and exonumia from an estate. I made an offer and drove home with 
my stamped 1915 nickel.
"I really didn't know what I had and why the nickel had been stamped 
in this manner. So I began doing a little research on the Internet. I 
did find out that there was a U.S. Navy Destroyer O’Brien (DD-51) that 
was commissioned in 1915."

[I didn't include this information when I edited last week's E-Sylum 
article, but coins chosen for the mast ceremony are often ones which 
incorporate the ship's number in some form, such as in the date or 
denomination (or in the O'Brien's case, the inscribed '51').  So 
Ralph's coin could well be one made and distributed to commemorate 
the stepping of the mast ceremony for the O'Brien.   But do we know 
for sure?  I don't think the article presents enough evidence for a 
definitive conclusion, but it's hard to think of another likely 
explanation for the coin's inscription.  Perhaps someday we'll locate 
a more detailed account of the event which describes the souvenir 
nickels.  -Editor]

To read the complete article, see: 


Dick Johnson forwarded a March 21 article published in the RootsWeb 
Review email newsletter about web sites where researchers can search 
old newspapers for information.  "Search Old Newspapers by OCR" was 
written by Russ Sprague of Kensington, Maryland:

"In recent months, I've found three sites where you can view images 
Of old newspaper pages and search them for names, places, or events 
Using simple or more complex search terms. The search is accomplished 
By Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR is not perfect but it is 
A powerful search tool that can search thousands of newspaper pages 
In seconds.

"OCR works because newsprint is fairly standard, as opposed to
handwriting. Depending on the image quality, it may not always pick 
up names and phrases as expected or may include stray unexpected
material. As a rule however, it is a very powerful and fast method to
find articles of interest (marriage announcements, obituaries, births,

"One site is from NNYLN (Northern New York Library Network) at

"The other site with northern New York papers is at

"This next site was referred to me recently and is truly international.
It can be found at 

"I've absolutely lost track of all the great information I've found
from these sites. The images are large and can take time to load so it
helps to have a high-speed Internet connection."

To read the complete article, see (scroll down): 


A March 21 Associated Press story reported that Bernard von NotHaus is 
suing the U.S. Mint over its warnings about his organization's "Liberty 
Dollar" currency.

"A man who calls himself the 'monetary architect' of a private currency 
is suing the federal government, alleging that officials damaged his 
company by warning consumers that its paper notes and coins are an 
illegal currency.

"Bernard von NotHaus' lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction barring the 
government from describing his company's Liberty Dollars in those terms. 
It also seeks a court order instructing the U.S. Mint to remove or retract 
a warning about the currency posted on its Web site in September.

"The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Evansville, 
alleges the Mint's Web site message has caused a 'chilling effect' 
on Evansville-based Liberty Services Inc.

"That message states that Liberty Dollars carry words such as 'liberty,' 
'dollars' and 'Trust in God,' as well as torches, liberty heads and 
other symbols that could cause them to be confused with federal currency. 
It warns that it is a federal crime to use the "medallions as circulating 

"Since that message was posted in September, von NotHaus said interest 
in his paper and minted currency has 'virtually disappeared' among his 
previous customers."

To read the complete article, see: 


Last week we published the following from the press release on the 
results of the Kolbe numismatic literature sale #102:  "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."

A reader notes: "I object to the apples and oranges approach above.  
The estimate was $79,000 without the premium, or $79,000 x 1.15 = 
$90,850 with the 15% premium.  I know my math, and I can do the figures 
in my head, but too many people will look only at the gross figures 
and think $90,000 is a whole lot better than $79,000, where in 
actuality they are the same.  

"True, the $79000 figure was for 100% of the sale, and the 85% that 
sold realized $90,000, so on that basis Kolbe did fine.  But, assuming 
the estimates were equally divided over the sold and unsold lots (not 
likely), it is hardly a ringing endorsement for a 'strong current 
market'.  Rather, I'd say Kolbe had accurate estimates, and he sold 
85% of the sale.  

I see this with- and without- the buyer's premium comments in the 
numismatic press all the time, and I would strongly urge all involved 
to settle on one or the other, and be consistent.  End of speech!"


Chick Ambrass writes: "I know that U.S. paper money is made primarily 
from linen, but I was never completely sure what linen actually is, or 
where it comes from.  I was watching the History Channel's series Modern 
Marvels episode on the cotton industry and they stated that 75% of our 
paper money comes from cotton, and that most of the raw material comes 
from the scraps of the denim industry.  Is there more to it than that?  
Can anyone give us a more precise definition of 'linen' in general and 
how it relates specifically to paper money?"
[As more countries adopt polymer notes the days of linen may be 
numbered.  But it's a good question - just what is this stuff?  


Katie Jaeger writes: "The national press attention to the dramatic 
presidential dollar errors makes me wonder whether it wasn't the Mint 
public relations department who arranged for the appearance of these 
oddities.  Maybe that extra corn leaf on the Wisconsin quarter was a 
test run for a new marketing idea?"

[I wouldn't expect the government to have that much creativity, but I 
guess it's a possibility.  If it was done on purpose, it sure was 
successful. But its usually much safer to bet on the government's dumb 
luck over forethought.  -Editor]


In earlier E-Sylums we followed the story of the fascinating engraved 
"lucky" coin found in the wreckage of the Civil War submarine Hunley. 
According to an Associated Press report this week, archaeologists combing 
through the recovered hull have discovered another coin.  It's probably a 
run-of-the-mill piece of pocket change, but the article provides an 
update on the ongoing historical research into the history of the vessel 
and background of the crew:

"The story of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first sub to 
sink an enemy warship, is leading back to the Old World as researchers 
plan to spend weeks trying to discover the roots of four European crewmen. 
Scientists also said Thursday they have recovered a second coin from the 
hand-cranked sub - a silver dime to go along with a $20 gold piece 
recovered in 2001.

"With a mint date of 1841, the dime shows Lady Liberty seated in robes, 
surrounded by 13 stars. It was found with the remains of a European 
crewman known only as Lumpkin.

"Genealogist Linda Abrams, who has been researching the crew's identities 
for six years, plans to spend several weeks searching records in England, 
Germany and Denmark.

"'I was lured in by the opinion of everyone involved at the time that 
these eight men were Americans,' said Abrams, of Longmeadow, Mass. 'It 
was pretty shocking to find out that four of them appear not to be 

"The gold coin previously found in the sub is said to have saved the 
life of Lt. George Dixon, the sub's commander, at the Battle of Shiloh.

"The bullet hit the coin in Dixon's pocket, and he had it engraved 
to read: 'Shiloh April 6, 1862 My life Preserver.'"

To read the complete article, see: 


Dick Johnson writes: "The Connecticut Historical Society received a 
450-pound antique safe decades ago but for all that time no one could 
open it. It was relegated to the basement of an historical house it 
owned. Recently it was brought out from behind the furnace, and a 
volunteer locksmith succeeded in cracking the combination and opened 
it. Guess what it contained? Well first, was the combination to the 
safe. Second, was a yellowed clipping from the 1930s. Third was a 
group of four wooden tokens from Missouri. Grealdo Riveria would be 

To read the complete article, see:


This week's featured web page is Adna Wilde's article on the Lesher 
Referendum Medals on the American Numismatic Association web site.

"The proprietor of the new mint is Joseph Lesher, one of the pioneers 
of Colorado. For 20 years he has lived and labored in the silver camps 
of the state. Georgetown, Central (City), Leadville and the Silver San 
Juan have known him. When silver declined and gold was found south of 
Pike's Peak he came to Victor and prospered. Fortunate investments in 
real estate multiplied his small capital and at this writing he is one 
of the monied men of the camp.

"Mr. Lesher has faith in silver. He also has a sincere desire for its 
enlarged use. This desire is not entirely unselfish, for Mr. Lesher 
owns a silver mine near Central (City) that was worked at a profit 
before the slump of '92, but has since been idle." 

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

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