The E-Sylum v20n53 December 24, 2017

The E-Sylum esylum at
Sun Dec 24 19:50:59 PST 2017

The E-Sylum
  An electronic publication of
  The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

Volume 20, Number 53, December 24, 2017
ISAAC EXCELL (1846-1925)

Click here to read this issue on the web

Click here to access the complete archive

To comment or submit articles, reply to whomren at

Content presented in The E-Sylum  is not necessarily researched or independently fact-checked, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


New subscribers this week include: 
Mike Sherman, courtesy of Ron Guth, 
Craig Rose, courtesy of Martin Kaplan, and
Balazs Csanady of Hungary, courtesy of Dave Hirt.
Welcome aboard! We now have 3,382 subscribers.

Your Editor will be travelling for the holiday this week, so the next issue may be abbreviated or late.  Meanwhile, Merry Christmas!

Thank you for reading The E-Sylum. If you enjoy it, please send me the email addresses of friends you think may enjoy it as well and I'll send them a subscription with your compliments. Contact me at whomren at anytime regarding your subscription, or questions, comments or suggestions about our content.

This week we open with one new book, one review, updates from the Newman Numismatic Portal, Christmas Club tokens, and notes from E-Sylum readers.

Other topics this week include Jack Dies, Tom Noe, Isaac Excell, Robert Savage, the Alaska Mint, January auction sale highlights, Maine's Viking penny, and the Numismatic Crime Information Center.

To learn more about Ohio's "Coingate", Trench Art, Christmas pudding coins, the Whitman Coin Supply Merchandiser, 
 the 1814 Czar's Visit to Paris medal, Australia's WWII internment tokens, Trump's Challenge Coin (it's huuuuge!), and the stunt pilot coin dealer, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren 
Editor, The E-Sylum


A new book examines the case against coin dealer Tom Noe, sentenced to 18 years on charges related to  an investment for an Ohio state insurance fund made in rare-coin funds he managed.  Here's an excerpt from a December 24, 2017 article from the Toledo Blade.

Garrison Walters agrees that Tom Noe committed crimes.

But in his new self-published book, Coingate: When Law and Fairness Collide, the former interim chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents suggests Noe should never have faced theft charges or been given an 18-year sentence that still has him behind bars.

He argues that errors on the part of the Lucas County prosecutor and judge, overzealous reporting by The Blade, a missing-in-action Ohio Supreme Court, and a tense political climate converged to make Noe “a political prisoner.”

“It’s entirely clear that a ‘nonpolitical Noe,’ someone of no prominence and of no interest to the local media and therefore to politicians, would have been treated very differently in the justice system,” Mr. Walters wrote.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, according to the author, who worked with the former Toledo-area coin dealer and Lucas County Republican Party chairman at the board of regents.

“The reader should walk away with an understanding that the justice system has an enormous amount of discretion built into the early stages and can be seriously warped by political considerations, even if unconsciously,” Mr. Walters said in an interview. “I do believe that they all acted honorably, but they should never have been put in the situation they were in.”

On Nov. 13, 2006, Noe was convicted of 29 charges, 25 of which were felonies, including a racketeering charge carrying a mandatory 10-year sentence. He was convicted on four misdemeanors related to the theft from a $50 million investment for the state’s insurance fund for injured workers made in rare-coin funds he managed.

Noe was convicted of taking money from the fund for his personal use, leaving behind records that sometimes masked the moves as transactions of fund assets.

Prior to starting his state sentence, he served two years in federal prison for using local conduits to launder illegal campaign contributions to the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush.

The 264-page book reads as part opinion piece and part academic thesis, looking at a justice system gone wrong with Noe as its case study.

But Mr. Walters argues in his book that, while certainly guilty of tampering with records and possibly forgery and tax fraud, Noe could not be guilty of theft. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had purchased shares in what were essentially hedge funds and did not directly own the coins in those funds, he said.

Noe’s contract allowed his private coin-dealing business to do trades and sell coins with the investment funds and to take loans and advances against profits. The problem, he suggests, came when the state prematurely shut down the funds, exposing Noe IOUs where assets should have been. Mr. Walters said he has no reason to believe Noe lacked the financial wherewithal to make good on those debts.

The book also contends the judge and prosecutor left the jury with the impression that the investments lost money when they made a profit of about $6 million. In hindsight, he agrees the BWC could make the argument it was entitled to that profit plus the value of the IOUs Noe left behind, but he said that wasn’t the argument the prosecution made.

The book contends Noe was caught between a Democratic Party eager to score political points and a scared Republican Party eager to distance itself from him.

“This was a situation in which unconscious bias combined with political expediency to create a situation that simply shouldn’t have occurred,” Mr. Walters said. “I don’t know that, if it were a nonpolitical Noe, there would have been a search warrant and a raid [of Noe’s business office].”

Noe’s convictions and sentence have been upheld at every state and federal appeals level. He has served about half of his 18-year sentence and was recently transferred from the Hocking Correctional Institution in southern Ohio to the Marion Correctional Institution. Both are medium-security facilities.

To read the complete article, see: 

BOOKS Author argues Tom Noe ‘political prisoner’ in Coingate


To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see: 


















Carol Bastable is President of the Love Token Society and editor of their Love Letter newsletter.  The December 2017 issue includes a review by Fred Schwan of the 2015 Trench Art book by Judy Waugh.  Carol kindly gave permission to republish the article here.  Thank you!

Trench Art by Judy Waugh (aka Trench Art Judy) (2015) is a great book. It is as interesting
as it is beautiful. I am a trench art fan and collector so that is hardly an unbiased
opinion. This is also a very unusual book in several ways. Obviously, it is unusual to have
a 350 page, large-format full-color book on trench art, but the uniqueness goes far
beyond that.

This is the only trench art book in which the author does not feel compelled to tell
readers what trench art is. In addition to being a trench art book, this is a coin book.
Again, the author understates this aspect. It is unlike almost all numismatic books, but it
is a coin book nonetheless!

Finally, it is a book about World War I trench art to the exclusion of conflicts before
and after although included in the text is discussion of a great item that was created
during the Boer War then added to during the Great War. I am less happy with this
approach, but I like the comfort and ease with which Waugh engages the discussion as
though only World War I could meet her collecting needs. I must say that it is a common
assumption that trench art of the Great War is the ultimate if not only trench art which, of
course, it is not.

The book subtitle gives you a clue to the unusual approach taken by the author: Trench
Art--the stories behind the talismans. Waugh built a collection of World War I trench art
with each piece having the name and service number and often religion of the soldier who
made or, at least, owned it. Overwhelmingly, the religion listed is Church of England (CE).

Most if not all of these coins with personal data were created and carried or worn for
identification purposes. Official government identification tags well known as dog tags were
created by the armies involved in the early 1900s. It is my opinion that the coin ID items
were created out of tradition or distrust of the official items. In addition, I believe that in
some cases the coin tags were made using coins when the official blanks were not available.
Coin ID tags are the most common type of World War I coin trench art. While such
items were also made and carried in World War II, they were much less common.

Waugh limits her collection to items that the soldier or sailor in question carried and
in most cases likely had some special meaning. Specifically, this excluded trench art items
that were made as gifts. She has a group of twelve amazing trench art musical instruments
(see banjo on book cover). I have never seen any and she has a virtual band. Small pocket
knives, letter openers, lockets and more meet her definition.

Step two was to research the person. Her pieces are spectacular, her stories delightful. She is as good a researcher as she is a
collector! She found at least some information on most of the soldiers. In a few cases she photographs! I really appreciate the photographs
because I have been doing some research on World War II for which I desperately need some photographs of a specific
period soldier and cannot find any.

My personal favorite Great War trench art coin is what I call the Baghdad Schilling. Without using that term (I made it up), the
book has more than eight pages on the subject. The Baghdad Schilling is a local coin engraved with a distinctive local scene and of
course for this book the identification information of the person who carried it.

The Baghdad Schilling is the most common coin trench art design. To have even two trench art coins with the same design is
unusual so to say that this is the most common is not denigrating the coin, but there are far more than two. I know of about eight
pieces. While they have the same or very similar designs, they were hand engraved, so each coin is different and of course the
names and service numbers are different on each coin. The service numbers can be recorded and tracked like the serial numbers
on banknotes! This is a wonderful possibility and I have started a list.

Just when you think that you are really on to something, you find a book to crush your theory. On page 326 a really beautiful coin
is illustrated with a design very similar to the one that I described above, but more dissimilar than any other two Baghdad Schillings.
When I first saw this beautiful coin, I was in love but crushed. I thought that it ruined my ideas about the Baghdad Schilling
because instead of Baghdad, Kazimain is boldly engraved on this coin! After reading the book and doing some other checking, I
found that Kazimain is a suburb of Baghdad so I am now happy to include this coin on my list of Baghdad Schillings.

Waugh introduces a theory that I had never before heard. She believes that many of the pieces that required specialized skill
and tools were crafted by unit armorers. While I had not heard this idea, it seems similar to what we know about World War II
Pacific trench art. There many of the more elaborate pieces were crafted by CBs (construction battalion personnel).

Each of the stories in the book is great. E Hogben (service number 22900) is one of
Waugh’s subjects. He had a beautiful mandolin with coin identification tag. It is a wonderful
piece. Waugh found that Hogben was born three days before Christmas 1896 and killed in action
at the Battle of the Somme. This is a sad but typical story, but there is more, much more.
E. Hogben was a relative of Judy Waugh! This piece was not handed down for generations then
given to the keen collector. No, It survived the decades and likely passed through many hands
and at least a few collections until it was purchased by Waugh as if by fate.

The book includes a nice foreword by Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial
where he lauds Waugh’s work and recognizes the significance of trench art in scholarly
research. It is not often that we can find such words about numismatics much less numismatic
trench art.

The book is available in two formats: printed and digital. The printed version is large--350+ heavy pages with many professional
color images. The typography and layout are excellent. Research notes and clues in the end matter should be helpful for
anyone who wishes to pursue research along this line. The book is comprehensively indexed with a robust reference list and
bibliography. See below for notes on availability.

The digital version is available at Amazon for under $10. That was the first version that I obtained within a few minutes of
learning of its existence. I do not have a lot of experience with e books, and expected many problems with downloading and
reading. No worries, it worked great. Even today, months later, I went to my Amazon account and was able to read the book
there (for the second time). I can rather highly recommend this approach if you like eBooks or do not want to pay for a printed

This is a review. I have (appropriately) raved about this book. I am obliged to find some fault. My biggest complaint is that
the book came out in Australia in 2015 and I did not find out about it until 2017. True, it was still new to me, but if I had found it
earlier I could have consulted it more by now. If I had been producing the book, I would have been slightly less opulent. I would
not have had as many full-page images of single coins for example. Some more pages could have been saved in footnotes and
reference lists. These are just my opinions. Other people will disagree and reducing printed pages does not necessarily reduce
bound pages.

What is it worth? Those are the most common four words and most common question in collecting. Coins, stamps,
banknotes, and, yes, trench art. Old timers say that they do not like that. They say that it is the art, the history, even the chase
that are important.

There is no correct perspective. Both ideas are important, very important. While it does vary somewhat by where you are
in your collecting career. Still, determining and reporting values is a difficult task. This is especially true for such specialized--and
special-- items.

Trench Art as published in 2015 did not address values in a comprehensive way. Addressing this shortcoming, Waugh has
prepared a values supplement which is being included in each copy henceforth sold here in the United States.

I ordered a printed version and waited (not very patiently), but it arrived in due course, so I read it again--this time with
highlighter, sticky notes, and pen. Next, I ordered a
carton (8 copies) and took my copy as a sample to
the World’s Fair of Money (aka American Numismatic
Association convention) in Denver. At the
convention I rather easily sold the eight copies
that were on the way and which arrived while I
was at the convention. From that experience, I
have ordered another box of eight which have now

Finally, these eight are being offered first to
Love Letter readers. if you would like a copy of
Trench Art--the stories behind the talismans by
Judy Waugh, the price is $75 delivered. If you do
not like the book, you may return it (in resalable
condition) for a cheerful refund. Please confirm
your order including your mailing address in the
first email at fredschwan at

For more information on the Love Token Society, see:



Newman Numismatic Portal Project Coordinator Len Augsburger offers the following roundup of articles and information related to the old tradition of placing a coin in Christmas pudding.  Thanks!

Christmas pudding is a traditional English desert somewhat akin to American fruitcake.  An old tradition suggests hiding a silver threepence in the concoction, with the promise of good fortune for the finder. No doubt more than a few coins have been accidentally ingested. Some related discussion is found via the Newman Portal. During the conversion to decimal currency in 1966, as reported in the Calcoin News, an Australian woman asked “When the 3-pence pieces go, what are we going to put in the Christmas pudding?” 

A 1987 issue of the NI Bulletin noted the Bank of England was still receiving requests for silver threepence during the holiday season. The 2004 British Numismatic Journal notes this demand as far back as the 18th century. Modern sensibility has largely done away with the practice, due to concerns about microwaving a coin-filled cake, choking hazards, and the lack of circulating silver coins. Illustrated is a Massachusetts threepence from the Alan Weinberg collection.

Link to Fall, 1966 Calcoin News:

Link to March, 1987 NI Bulletin:

Link to 2004 British Numismatic Journal:

Link to Alan Weinberg Massaschusetts silver image collection:


Project Coordinator Len Augsburger offers observations related to content being searched for on the Newman Numismatic Portal. This week's search term is Chicago collector Isaac Excell.
Illustrated is the second finest known 1872-CC Quarter (ex-Norweb).

A Newman Portal user this week searched for “Isaac Excell.” Excell was a Chicago collector who consigned to two Ben Green sales (1903, 1905) and one sale of B. Max Mehl (1927). Both of the Green sales include runs of hard times tokens consigned by Excell and cataloged by Low numbers. The August 2012 Stack’s Bowers sale catalog of the Battle Born collection places Excell in the pedigree chain of the finest known 1872-CC quarter (MS66, the next finest being MS62), privately sold to John H. Clapp in August 1905. 

This covers his numismatic activities but tells us little about Excell himself. We can surmise he was a longtime collector with widely spaced auction consignments. An 1875 Chicago city directory places him as a “commercial merchant” with the firm of Butts & Excell at 184 S. Water Street, while a Centralia, IL newspaper of 1876 narrows it down to the fruit business. The 1920 census lists him as living with his daughter and son-in-law and notes that his parents were from the UK. A genealogy search finally indicates a death date of 1925, and Mehl’s Coin Circular, March 1927, includes a testimonial from the administrator of the Excell estate (son-in-law John Wallace). 

The existence of the finest known 1872-CC quarter in his collection is the unanswered question – how could such a coin, the finest known by four grading points, come into the collection of a little-known Chicago collector?

Link to Ben Green sales:

Link to B. Max Mehl sales:

Link to B. Max Mehl’s Coin Circular:

Link to Stack’s Bowers catalogs:

For more information on Isaac Excell, see 
John Lupia's biography article elsewhere in this issue.


Also on the Newman Portal this week is a new post from John Kraljevich.  Appropriately for this holiday week, it opens with a discussion of Lee Hewitt's saying that there's "no Santa Claus in numismatics", Lew Werner's "Genuine Souvenir Santa Claus Cent" and Ohio dealer James Kelly.  Here's an excerpt about a great trade made at a time when colonial coins were not on the radar of most U.S. collectors.  Eric Newman thought differently.

The inaugural issue of Kelly’s Coins and Chatter came just three months after the beginning of his correspondence with Eric P. Newman which, unsurprisingly, was inspired by a request to inspect some English halfpence that were to be offered in an upcoming Kelly auction. 

Kelly’s house organ made its debut in June 1948. “Meet My Baby,” Kelly’s first headline announced, promising a bi-monthly publication that would “bring you news and information on Numismatics, along with coins sensibly priced and honestly graded.” It grew along with his business relationship with Newman, and just over a year after its introduction, Newman and Kelly closed their first trade: a swap of four common date double eagles for a 1786 Immunis Columbia copper with New Jersey reverse, Maris 3-C. Initially acquired for the equivalent of $140, it brought 1000 times as much — $141,000 — when sold in Newman V in November 2014. 

In retrospect, maybe there is a Santa Claus in numismatics, and maybe Jim Kelly was it. Newman’s letters to him show regret that Kelly was practically dropping down people’s chimneys and giving colonial coins away. In a July 1949 letter to Kelly, Newman noted “it is certainly a shame that there are not enough people collecting Colonials to appreciate this lovely material which you are sacrificing. Of course, in due time, they will be craving for these, but in the present they would rather pay the same money for some idiotic mint mark.”

It is only appropriate that the most Kris Kringle-centric publication in the history of numismatics came the year that the relationship between Kelly and Newman first kindled. Printed in red on green paper, with a bold illustration of Santa at center, the December 1948 issue of Kelly’s Coins and Chatter proclaimed wishes of “Merry Christmas to one and all: Here’s hoping Santa fills your stocking with health, happiness, and the many other things needed to make life more pleasant.”

To add to Kelly's best holiday wishes, here's hoping your prized purchase for 2018 is worth 1000 times more in 65 years, and that Santa doesn't fill your stocking with some idiotic mint mark.

To read the complete article, see: 

The Portal Opens #4: The Coin Dealer St. Nick


Kelly's Coins and Chatter,  June 1948:

1786 Immunis Columbia copper with New Jersey reverse, Maris 3-C:



 Torkington's Christmas Club Token 

David Pickup writes:

This is a small token made of copper and has


and on the other side


There is a place in Cheshire called Torkington but I think it probably is the name of a company rather than a place. It is probably for a factory where employees saved up money each week. Few people had bank accounts in the early part of last century and many clubs, work places and pubs had savings schemes like these. Unfortunately, they were not always safe as the money was sometimes stolen.

I remember in the 1960s there was a savings scheme at the village grocers and the butchers as well. Customers would pay a small amount every week and save up for the big day.

 U.S. Christmas Club Tokens 

Thanks!  A web search for Christmas Club Tokens turned up several others and a short Wikipedia article about U.S. Christmas Clubs, which apparently didn't start until the early 20th century.  Other images and information are welcome.  is there any numismatic evidence for U.S. Christmas Clubs before 1909?

To read the Wikipedia article, see: 

Christmas club


 U.K. Christmas Club Tokens 
David Powell writes:

There is an article on the use of tokens by Christmas Clubs, whereby members saved up for their purchases over the course of the previous year, in my Leaden Token Telegraph newsletter no.115 {pages 3-4},
The tokens were either used as receipts for the money or as pub tokens {drink entitlement vouchers} at the club's meetings.

Thanks!  Here's an excerpt from the article.

The concept of saving up for a rainy day, or for a specific event, is not new. The idea of chucking a
sum each week or month into the Post Office, bank or building society, in order to lessen the pain of a
possible financial outlay when the time comes, goes back further than one might imagine. The organisation
which we might trust with our money, or the amount put away, or the means by which we
do it; yes, they change, but the concept, no. Some people might even have a special account, distinct
from the one which they use for their everyday affairs, for the purpose; imposing a certain discipline
on themselves, whereby some money is ringfenced and not allowed to disappear into the general pot.
Here we look at some of the ways in which it was done in the past.

Some of you will have worked in offices where one of your colleagues collected small payments each
week and there was a big payout in December, ready for the Christmas purchases. Perhaps some of
you still do. Others will recall local shops doing the same; the grocer or the butcher, maybe. In those
days, even for the older of our current readers, it will have been a paper record that was kept.

In the early 20th cent, and perhaps the late 19th, it was sometimes tokens which were used. In the
heyday of brass tokens, benefit societies of various types seized upon the token as a way of receipting
payments made towards sickness or burial insurance. These societies were often very locally operated,
dealing with extremely modest sums. So, when Christmas started to be more generally celebrated
in a manner which involved expenditure on items which could not merely be put aside during
the year, local shopkeepers jumped on the bandwagon and started operating along similar lines. Many
of them had long been deploying metal bonus checks as a way of tempting people with special deals,
so the use of tokens was not wholly foreign.

Figs.1-7 show a number of typical examples. The first four state “Xmas Club “ or “Christmas Club”
specifically. Fig.5-6 say “Grocery Club” and “Annual Grocery Club”, respectively, but despite the
slight anonymity of purpose one feels that Christmas is more than hinted at. All these first six relate
to grocers and state a value on the reverse, usually 3d, which seems to have been the popular weekly
contribution; because of the sameness of design I have not illustrated every example. Fig.1, which
alone manages to state all it wants to on one side, merely repeats it on side two. Fig.7’s issuer is a tailor
rather than a grocer and the initials “CC” are again enigmatic, but as we are told that they are not
those of the issuer’s name, “Christmas Club” seems the obvious interpretation.

To read the complete article, see: 

Leaden Tokens Telegraph december 2016 : Christmas Clubs …..



 More Christmas Medals 
David Powell writes:

Here is a picture of a calendar medal with Christmas-related reverse.

John Sallay writes:

Your holiday-themed medal roundup is really terrific. Thanks very much for organizing us to share a few interesting pieces from our collections. Here’s one more – an unsigned 38mm copper medal by William H. Key from the 1880’s, showing a Holy Nativity scene on one side and group of cherubs (the “Heavenly Host”) on the other.

The reason I don’t say obverse and reverse is that this particular piece involves two dies that were both used as obverses on several different Sunday School award medals in the late-19th century. At the same time, it’s hard to call it a mule because – like Lovett and other American medalists of that period – Key engraved a bunch of dies for his stock medals and then mixed and matched them quite liberally as a matter or course in his medal business, selling whatever the market would bear.

Merry Christmas!

Thanks!  Great medals.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:



 On Jack Black's Coin Collection 
Regarding actor Jack Black, 
David Pickup writes:

One year I spent over £50.00 with the family going to Gulliver’s Travels at the cinema so I think he owes me!
His interest in coins makes us even!

At Jack's mention of his coin collection Conan said, "I'm sorry, we're out of time.."  But clearly the bit was preplanned and hats off to both host and guest for the exposure for our hobby.

And what was the source for that 1913-dated Abraham Lincoln piece?  Clearly it was Photoshopped, but I doubt it was totally fabricated.  What numismatic item's image did they start with?

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: 



 Theodore Roosevelt Quotation 

Regarding the Theodore Roosevelt quotation "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords,"
Ted Banning writes:

Although I can't find the original source of the quotation on the Roosevelt plaque either, it is widely ascribed to Roosevelt himself. In fact, it is one of a number of Roosevelt quotations inscribed on the inside the Roosevelt Memorial rotunda at the American Museum of Natural History.  See:


To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: 



 Insect Chopmark on U.S. $5 Bill 

Cruz Olivas of Florence, Arizona forwarded this image of this chopmark on a U.S. $5 bill.    I haven't seen one like this before, and never on as low a denomination as a $5 bill.

To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see: 





 Periodical Sought: Whitman Coin Supply Merchandiser
Author Dave Lange writes:

The coverage given to 1960s publication The Coin Dealer a few weeks ago reminds me of another periodical for dealers that I've been seeking. During that same decade Whitman put out a publication for its supply dealers that was known under several titles, and I'm trying to obtain or simply locate as many issues as possible. The title used the longest was Whitman Coin Supply Merchandiser, but it also was called at various times Coin Supply Merchandiser or Stamp and Coin Supply Merchandiser. I'm hoping readers may have this publication for either sale or loan. My next book will be on Whitman coin folders and albums, so this could provide some useful dates and facts.

I'd never heard of those publications!  Sounds like they they would be a trove of good information for Dave's next book.  Can anyone help?  Who's got some of these, or knows where to find them? Thanks.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: 



 Ferry Boat Ticket Information Sought 

An E-Sylum reader writes:

The last time I saw Rich Hartzog (it was in Baltimore) I asked about this piece, which he said he had never seen previously and promised to see if he could get any info on it.  It appears to be a ferry boat ticket of the early 1800's (supposedly from New York City, although for sure printed in NYC).
"Mobilitate viget" is from Virgil, and means "it grows by moving").

Previous to my asking Rich about this I did extensive research on early New York Transit tokens, chits and the like, asked many other sources, including the New-York Historical Society, Heritage and B. Cudahy, author of the definitive work on Ferry Boat stuff from NYC.  

Anyway, I came up with almost nothing, and was wondering if any of our readers may have some insight into this thick uniface cardboard piece that measures approx 55 x 50 mm. 

Neat item!  Clues, anyone?

 Ginger Rapsus on Chocolate Coins
Regarding chocolate  coins,
author Ginger Rapsus writes:

I used to buy them by the pound & use them as giveaways when I had a book signing, or went to a convention & gave goody bags. Chocolate is always welcome! Happy holidays!

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: 

NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: DECEMBER 17, 2017 : On Chocolate Coins


 Quick Quiz: Stunt Pilot Coin Dealer 

Pete Smith writes:

Can anyone identify the mystery coin dealer sitting on the wing of a moving aircraft?
Hint: He was a coin dealer after retiring as a stunt pilot.

Hmmmm.  That's a new one on me - I was not aware of any coin dealer who'd been a stunt pilot.  Anyone?


Jeff Rock submitted these thoughts on the late Rich Hartzog.  Thanks.

I was deeply saddened to read of the passing of Rich Hartzog in last week's issue of The E-Sylum.  I bought several things from his World Exonumia sales and, of course, many of the books that he published and when our paths crossed at shows it was always an enjoyable time at his table going through some of the MANY boxes he carted around -- no matter what you collected he probably had some.

But Rich really stands out to me for a service he performed.  About 40 years ago I learned that my great-grandfather had issued a couple of trade tokens for the general store he ran in a small town in Illinois (he was also the postmaster for the town which sounds very grand but really meant the mail train tossed the one sack of mail out with whatever other things were delivered to his store and people from the town would come in and pick up their mail along with their supplies).  I had advertised for this token for years, and had offered to pay several hundred dollars for one when "Good For" tokens of this era were usually selling for $10-20.  But I never got a single answer to the ads I placed, and no dealers ever had one for sale.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Rich was selling the Ore Vacketta collection of Illinois trade tokens -- Vacketta literally wrote the book on these tokens, and he was a distributor of groceries so he actually knew the people in the state and they knew him and what he collected, so they were happy to give him some of their tokens for his collection.  Unfortunately I hadn't heard about these sales until they were nearly all completed and I wrote to Rich seeing if he had sold the tokens from the tiny town of Grape Creek (so tiny that it no longer exists, having been absorbed into another nearby town).  He went back through the catalogues and didn't see any sales, and went through all the remaining tokens from the Vacketta estate -- but no luck.  Perhaps, we thought, Vacketta never owned them (though he and my great-grandfather were friendly enough).

Then, out of the blue, I got an excited call from Rich.  The estate found a small box of tokens and sent them to him and in this group of 50-odd additional tokens were not one but two of my great-grandfather's tokens, one of each denomination he issued, and the pieces illustrated in Vacketta's book.  Rich negotiated a private sale for those two with the estate at a price that was likely higher than what they would have brought at auction, but less than I would have been willing to pay for them.  The tokens arrived, and one of them immediately went into my collection.  The other one though had a very special fate.

My grandmother, the daughter of the William Pilkington who issued these tokens, was still alive and remembered those tokens from when she was a kid.  Her dad had bought her a tiny toy cash register and she would play storekeeper in the shop itself -- ringing up purchases and the like.  In the till of that register she had dozens or hundreds of these tokens, and she would sometimes be the one who gave them out to customers.  While still a teenager her world was shattered when her father was killed in a freak train accident.  She fled Grape Creek, taking nothing with her but a suitcase of clothes, and never saw any of those tokens again.  We never found out what happened to them - though it's likely that they were redeemed and then melted down in one of the many scrap metal drives for World War II.  I didn't tell her that I had -- finally! -- found the tokens, and for Christmas of that year she received a really nice hand-carved wooden box that had a few trinkets in it.  At the
  bottom, wrapped up separately, was her father's token, which she called the best Christmas gift she ever received.

Several years later as her own health was failing she packed an "emergency bag" that had things she would need if and when she went to the hospital.  In it was some money, her checkbook, some records and documents that were important -- and this token, one of the only links she had to happier times as a child.  When she passed away the token went to her daughter, my mother, who will make sure that it finds its way to the next generation.

When Rich found the tokens for me the deal was that I would write an article on the owner of the store and the area, which was something that was often missing in the literature -- that personal context.  But sadly this didn't happen.  My grandmother was supposed to write down her memories and I would shape them into an account, but she constantly put it off -- thinking of those days would inevitably get her thinking about the loss of her father, and 70 years later that was still too emotionally raw.  But, as we were cleaning out my grandmother's house after she passed away I found several notebooks that included pages of memories about the store and her time there -- perhaps enough to belatedly write this article that was promised to Rich.  If so (and I will make it a priority to get through in 2018!) then it will definitely be dedicated to Rich; it's just a shame that it would be done only after the two people most interested had both passed away.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: 




Dick Johnson submitted this entry from his Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Terminology.  Thanks.  

 Jack Die. 
A die with no design; a blank die; it is used to strike uniface medals. The
jack die is usually placed in the upper (punch) position in a press, while the obverse die
is in the lower (pile) position. If a jack die has been machined to fit within a collar in a
coining press it can only be used to strike pieces in that diameter. If the jack die is an
OPEN FACE die, conceivably, it could be used to strike any diameter piece smaller than its
diameter. Some jack dies have a rim or border, however if the die contains any lettering
or symbols it is not a jack die.

In cataloging coins and medals a side struck with a jack die containing no detail is
described as plain or blank. Often a manufacturer will use a die with no detail other
than the firm’s logo. This should not be considered a blank reverse struck by a jack die
but should, indeed, be cataloged in full, identifying all lettering and symbols (if any) of
the maker.

However, in the rare instance of a reverse with a single letter or symbol – with no
other relation to the obverse or the maker – it can be considered the designation for the
jack die. An example is the reverse of the Lafayette medal by James Bale (Fuld
LA.1824.1); contains a tiny letter P in the signature position (lower right).

A die with a nondescript design used like a jack die is called a DIAPER die.

Reference: CLASS 04.4
NC8 {1957} Fuld, illustrated p 1040.

Looking for the meaning of a numismatic word, or the description of a term?   Try the Newman Numismatic Portal's Numismatic Dictionary at:


ISAAC EXCELL (1846-1925)

John Lupia submitted the following information from the online draft of his book of numismatic biographies for this week's installment of his series. Thanks!  As always, this is an excerpt with the full article and bibliography available online. This week's subject is 
Chicago collector Isaac Excell.

Isaac Excell (1846-1925), was born the eldest of eight children, in August 1846, at New York City, son of English immigrants, Robert Excell (1824-1899), a carpenter by trade, and Emily Kirkby (1827-1872).

His family to moved to Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, about 1857.

In 1863, his father became the owner of a saloon, and Isaac worked for him there as a barkeeper.

In 1872, at Shopiere, Wisconsin, he married Geneva A. Palmiter (1846-1913), a native of New York.

He was a commission produce merchant who operated variously with different partners. Butts & Excell operated on South Water Street from 1875-1876. In 1876 he was reported to have sold bad eggs to Isaac Turrowsky. Excell claimed they switched the eggs insisting he sold them fresh eggs. A fist fight broke out and Excell was arrested and fined. In 1877, his new partner was James L. Ford. He and Ford were brought up on charges to defraud a Mr. Todd. The judgment was set against Excell and Ford to pay $50.94.

In the 1880 U. S. Census he is listed working as a bookkeeper married to Geneva and their four children ; Fred Oliver (1873-1956), Jennie, Irene Claudia (1877-1949), and Robert.

Isaac Excell is ANA Member No. 95.

Beginning in 1895 he became a client of the Chapman Brothers buying coins. There are several pieces of correspondence with the Chapman Brothers in the Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection.

In April 1902 he advertised to trade a nearly complete set of US silver coins all mint marks  and denominations , a fine lot of cents and half cents and over 50 varieties of Hard Times tokens and Hawaiian cents for 1801 and 1802 half dollar; 1824 Quarter-dollar; Dimes of 1797, 1798, 1801-1804, Hard Times Tokens, etc.

On July 18, 1903, he consigned coins to be sold at auction by Ben G. Green's Sale No. 6.

In August 1905, he privately sold John H. Clapp the Eliasberg 1872-CC Arrows, VG8, Liberty Seated Dime, May 4-5, 1999, Stack's Sale of Herman Halpern, lot 2128. 

In 1920 he was a widower, retiree, living with his daughter Irene Claudia Wallace and son-in-law, John Foster Wallace, a real estate broker at 5112 Dorchester Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

He died on May 3, 1925, and is buried with his wife at Milton Junction, Rock County, Wisconsin.

Excell's son-in-law John Foster Wallace was executor of his estate and finding some Mehl invoices wrote to Mehl, visited him and then shipped his late father-in-laws coin collection intact to him by American Express.

His coin collection was sold posthumously by B. Max Mehl Sale No. 75, April 12, 1927.

To read the complete article, see: 



* * * * *

The entire inventory of the Lupia Numismatic Library is for sale.  Individual items will be available before the remaining archives are broken up into parcels sold at philatelic auctions in the U. S. and Hong Kong.  Check frequently as dozens of new items with estimates will be posted daily until everything is sold.

All inquiries will be given prompt and courteous attention. Write to: 

john at



This article from the Anchorage Press interviews
Mike Robuck, owner of The Alaska Mint.

Tell us about your company.

Our family business is one of a kind. We offer a large variety of products including; Alaskan themed medallions, locally made native crafts, natural gold jewelry, estate jewelry, and many more. The cool part about our store is that we manufacture a lot of our products in-house in our production room. We buy raw gold nuggets and gold-bearing quartz from miners, with these natural elements, we create one-of-a-kind jewelry. While the pieces are rare, they are surprisingly affordable. We make great gifts and souvenirs not only for tourists but locals as well. Coming to the Alaska Mint is an experience in itself, getting to see all the Alaskan history on the walls, ceilings and just about everywhere you look.

What was the inspiration for opening your business?

I grew up in the jewelry business so I got introduced to it at a young age and something I noticed was that every jewelry store was exactly the same. So, I sought out to make one that was different and would stand out. I always was fascinated with coins, so one day I went to the U.S. Mint in Denver and one of the things that they let you do is mint your own coin. After minting that first coin I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to start a mint. So I gathered all the parts to make a coin press and in 1990 I minted my very first coin, and the rest is history.

Why did you choose Downtown?

I worked at the mall and I would ride my bike downtown and I noticed it was busy with visitors everywhere. So I got a sidewalk vendor permit, there I sold 1 style of silver coin, gold nugget earrings, and rabbit skins. The coin was very popular with all the visitors, so I decided that downtown was the best place to start my store. I started out in the old City Hall in the summer of 1990, then I moved into E. street terrace, now known as bear square. The store was upstairs and the minting was done downstairs. At the end of 1999, we moved into our current location.

Here are some examples from the firm's web site.

To read the complete article, see: 

ADP PROFILE: The Alaska Mint


To visit the Alaska Mint web site, see:


Ondrej Tucek writes:

I am trying to obtain information and photographs regarding the engraver Robert Savage.  I am currently organizing an exhibition that will celebrate next year the artistic as well as artisan legacy of famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. Mr Savage engraved two important Czechoslovakian banknotes - one was issued in 1919, the other in 1920. With both banknotes he followed the design of Mr Mucha. Also, both banknotes were - according to Czech sources - printed by the American Bank Note Company.

The exhibition titled Mucha: Art and Artisanship will be held in the Municipal Museum in the town of Carlsbad/Karlovy Vary from June 20th to August 14th 2018 - coinciding with the 53rd year of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.  
Any help readers can provide will be greatly appreciated.  i can be reached via email at

ondrejtucek at

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