Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 14, April 6, 2008:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
WAYNE'S WORDS: THE E-SYLUM APRIL 6, 2008
We have no new subscribers this week - our current count is
1,142. We open with news of a numismatic literature dealer
returning to the fold. Also, I review the Robert Bass Collection
book from Kagin's, and Mike Paradis tells us about a rare pamphlet
on the New Orleans Mint which recently sold at auction. Next, a
web site visitor discovers our earlier articles on Scovill
Manufacturing, where her father and a family friend worked,
and Howard Berlin reports on his numismatic travels in Denmark
Next are follow-ups on last week's April Fool's story. I just
wish I'd been able to dream up something to catch my wife on
this year. The best one was when I called her up before our
wedding and told her a friend of mine had just called and said
the hall we’d booked for our wedding reception was on fire,
with three fire crews working to put it out. She had a bird.
In responses to earlier items, we have information on Arras
tokens and numismatists Bob Wester and William A. Philpott, Jr.
In the news, charges are dropped against a Liberty Dollar
proponent in Lancaster, the Royal Mint unveils new reverse
designs for Britain's circulating coinage, and the National
Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio accepts
a donation of Short-Snorter bank notes.
To learn about the ATM that went haywire, which country's
coins will NOT feature a 'voluptuous female torso', and which
U.S. Mint employee is called The Big Cheese, read on. Have a
great week, everyone.
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
ANNOUNCEMENT: DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS
David Sklow writes: "Hello Fellow Numismatic Literature
Enthusiasts! It is with great joy and anticipation that I
would like to announce the re-launching of my former Numismatic
Literature Auction business! David Sklow - Fine Numismatic Books.
"Founded in 1980 in Oscoda Michigan, relocated to Port St.
Lucie Florida in 1992 as Treasured Books, and now once again
open for business in the Numismatic Capital of the United
States Colorado Springs, Colorado!
"Our auctions will by mail bid with printed catalogs!
Preparation of a web site is in the planning and sales will
also be posted there. My first auction is planned for late
I am now asking for CONSIGNMENTS! Please contact me if you
have any Numismatic Literature you would like to consign and
we can discuss terms. I look forward to hearing from many of
you and being able to provide the same first class customer
service I did in the past! My contact information is as
follows. Please send me your mailing address and I will put
you on the mailing list!
Fine Numismatic Books
P.O. Box 6321
Colorado Springs, CO 80934
Business PH: 719-302-5686
Home PH: 719-266-9208
EMAIL: NumismaticBooks@aol.com "
[Welcome back, Dave! Bibliophiles always have room for
one more numismatic book dealer. We'll look forward to
Dave's catalogs and sales. -Editor]
BOOK: DOTTIE DOW'S "YESTERDAY'S ELONGATEDS", THIRD PRINTING
Larry Feit, President of The Elongated Collectors writes:
"Several years ago, The Elongated Collectors (TEC) was presented
with the copyright of 'Yesterday's Elongateds' by Dottie Dow,
along with a generous donation to reprint the book. This was
done in time for release at the 2004 Pittsburgh ANA convention.
TEC is now proud to announce that the Third Printing is nearing
completion and will be available in May. Cost of the book is
$25.00 postpaid for members and $40.00 postpaid for non-members.
As an aside, since TEC dues are only $12.50, it is more
cost-effective to join the club and get the book rather than
buy it outright. Visit tecnews.org for details.
Active TEC Members can purchase the third printing by the
full case (expected 12 books per case) at the discount price
of $18.00 per book (prepaid) which includes shipping. This
special price expires with orders postmarked on or before
midnight, August 15, 2008."
[Dottie Dow's book is the key reference for early elongated
coins (also known as "squished pennies"). -Editor]
BOOK REVIEW: THE ROBERT BASS COLLECTION OF PIONEER PATTERNS
'The Robert Bass Collection: The Finest Collection of Pioneer
Patterns Ever Assembled' is a great little monograph published
by Kagin's. It describes the collection of pioneer coinage
patterns assembled by Robert Bass. The 89-page perfect-bound
softcover reference is printed on glossy paper with full color
photographs of the items.
In a foreword to the catalog Bass writes: "My interest in Pioneer
Patterns began many years ago. At first I just bought books on
the subject to educate myself. Then I went on to establish an
extensive library. From those books, the stories of the mining
camps and the primitive life that was part of the Gold Rush Era
took hold of my imagination and I was hooked."
"It was fascinating to me the way gold dust was used as a medium
of exchange and then later on the private assayers would establish
their own mark on currency. How extraordinary! The more I read
the more I knew I wanted to find these early patterns and start
my own collection."
"My research taught me that pioneer Gold coins were scarce,
but the patterns were even scarcer."
In the preface which follows Don Kagin writes: "When I purchased
his pioneer gold collection in 1999 it was the finest in the
world but he could not bring himself to relinquish the patterns.
... Robert wanted to acquire every piece listed in my reference
book, Private Gold Coins & Patterns of the United States."
As his health declined in 2006, Bass finally decided to sell,
having "assembled 75% of all pioneer patterns issued including
all denominations and varieties and a substantial amount of
restrikes, counters, counterstamps, and even fantasies -- well
over twice that of anyone else in history." Kagin's firm
spent over a year "studying, researching, weighing, grading
and analyzing these specimens" to create the present reference.
In a footnote, Kagin indicates that "over fifty items,
including numerous unique fantasies and other items" listed
in his book "have been left out of this reference pending
additional research." Many of these pieces will be addressed
in Kagin's upcoming revised Pioneer Gold Coin book, which
The monograph is promotional in nature, but I don't hold that
against it. It is meant more as a sale catalog than a reference
work. It has relatively little text and no footnotes or
reference citations. Nevertheless it is a very interesting
and useful overview of this narrow, yet fascinating and
important area of U.S. numismatics. The color photos are
nice, and the layout is very attractive. I enjoyed learning
(and re-learning) about a number of interesting items, and
I'll list a couple here.
At the back of the book (one of my favorite places to find
great information) is a page on counterstamps picturing two
counterstamps of H.H. Pierson, a dentist who worked for coiner
Ormsby & Co. The text says "O.H. Pierson" in error -- the
stamp looks like "H.H. Pierson" to me. Brunk's book on
counterstamps lists "H.H. Pierson" and identifies the two
known undertypes which match the photos in the Bass book.
The Bass book describes a number of issues "probably struck
in Birmingham" [England] such as the one piece for the San
Francisco Standard Mint and a set of beautiful issues for
"San Francisco, State of California." The collection also
includes known fantasies and the original dies made for
Steven Nagy to strike Baldwin & Co, fantasies around 1900.
The booklet concludes with a seven-page spreadsheet listing
descriptions and pedigrees for each piece. All in all, a
nice reference to have on the shelf alongside the pioneer
gold books of Edgar Adams, Don Kagin, Dan Owens and others.
1847 JOHN RIDDELL PAMPHLET ON THE NEW ORLEANS MINT AUCTIONED
Mike Paradis forwarded photos and information about an 1847
John Riddell pamphlet that was in a recent sale by Bloomsbury
Auctions, Inc. of New York. Here's how it was described:
John Leonard RIDDELL. The Branch Mint at New Orleans, with
an Account of the Process of Coinage and Fac-simile Impressions
of the Coins Manufactured [caption title].
Np [New Orleans?]: 1847. 8vo (230x140 mm). Facsimile impressions
of obverse and reverse of 8 different coins, on the terminal
leaf. Contemporary plain wrappers. Condition: minor creases;
minor tears and chipping to the wrappers. The New Orleans mint
began to make coins in 1838. Riddell served as one of its first
melters and refiners at the mint. The facsimile impressions
are quite intriguing, as the process by which they were
accomplished is unclear.
Mike writes: "I could not find any previous sale of this 1847
publication. I knew of his 1845 Monograph of the Silver Dollar
but not this 1847 publication. It sold for $1200 to a floor
bidder on a $200-$300 estimate.
"The Numismatist has a similar pamphlet reproduced in the
April 1968 issue (pages 439 to 445) in an article by Eric
Newman. Both appear to be from Riddell and are about the New
Orleans Mint. Where they seem to differ, is with the one in
the Numismatist is titled 'The Mint at New Orleans' and dated
1845 and the one in the recent Bloomsbury auction is titled
'The Branch Mint at New Orleans' and dated 1847."
[I didn't find the pamphlet listed in Charlie Davis' 'American
Numismatic Literature' or in the Kolbe John Ford library sales.
George Kolbe writes: "I do not recall ever having handled
either edition although I have known of the work for some
time (perhaps from Eric Newman's article). Word on the street
is that it was sold to a telephone bidder and now resides in
a prominent numismatic library."
Riddell pamphlet title page
Riddell pamphlet title page
Riddell pamphlet illustrations
Riddell pamphlet illustrations
Riddell pamphlet illustrations (closeup)
Riddell pamphlet illustrations (closeup)
SCOVILL MANUFACTURING EMPLOYEES GRAY BUTLER AND EDWARD DAVIS
Web site visitor Roberta (Butler) Palmeri writes: "I was
doing some research online, looking for anything about our
late family friend Edward H. Davis. I was surprised to find
all of this information about him, and also about Scovill
Manufacturing of Waterbury CT. My father, Gray L. Butler,
was a manufacturing engineer at Scovill's for many years,
and he was a close friend of Mr. Davis. How interesting!
After my father passed away in 1984, we discovered several
large metal file cabinets full of patents from Scovill Mfg."
"This whole thing started when I began investigating the
history of a painting hanging in our hallway, a gift from
Mr. Davis during the 1960's. He was famous for his worldly
travels and had quite a collection of dusty old things in
his home back then.
"The history behind any individual can be fascinating ...
visiting your website surely educated me about such things
that I thought were permanently buried, along with my father,
Mr. Davis and Scovill Manufacturing Co."
[I put Roberta in touch with Dick Johnson and George Fuld,
who had provided us with the information on Scovill.
Roberta's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and
she would be happy to learn if anyone has additional
information on her father or Mr. Davis. -Editor]
Dick responded: "I did considerable research on Scovill a
decade ago. My specific interests were the die engravers
who worked for the company over its history. I found 59 of
these and documented their vital records (birth, death &
such). I even tracked down the dies Scovill had on hand
when they went out of business.
"The best resources I found were at the Waterbury Public
Library, Mattituck Museum, but best of all, most records
are in the Baker Library at Harvard Business School at
Harvard University, where records on the officers are
located. I searched the dies at the Connecticut State
Library and Pennsylvania State Library."
HOW MUSEUMS HANDLE DIES: THE SCOVILL DIE EXPERIENCE
ACCOUNT OF THE FULD VISIT TO SCOVILL MANUFACTURING COMPANY
PORTION OF SCOVILL ARCHIVES SAVED FROM DESTRUCTION
JOHNSON'S TEAM CATALOGS MARCEL JOVINE STUDIO COLLECTION OF MODELS
[Today Dick Johnson forwarded the following report on what
sounds like a fun day of numismatic work. Congratulations to
Dick and his team for tackling this rare opportunity. -Editor]
Numismatists are often called upon for unusual tasks. Yesterday
(Saturday, April 5, 2008) I began cataloging the studio collection
of famed sculptor-medallist Marcel Jovine. This included, for
the numismatic items, hundreds of his plaster models of medallic
work he created for a number of manufacturers.
I gathered together a team, conscripted from my local coin
club, an assistant (club president Mark Satori) and a
professional photographer (Tom Hines). This took serious
planning in preparation and scheduling. We had to meet with
one of the artist's daughters, who had to travel from Washington
DC to the family homestead in Closter, New Jersey, where the
collection was housed. And the caretaker of the family home
had to be present.
The scheduling had to clear with the five people involved,
and some spouses. Prior to this we insisted upon new racks
to be built for proper storage of plaster models. These had
to be erected before we arrived. Also in this time frame
photographer Hines had to build a portable light box, as I
insisted every object must be photographed on a full
light-white background. This drops out every background on
a print image to the shape of the object. No silhouetting
necessary after the fact on either digital image or film print.
The two and one-half hour drive brought us to the Jovine
homestead, as we passed by the Belskie Museum of Art and
Science in Closter where I am curator of medals ("no time
to stop, fellows, we have a lot of work to do").
Unloading and setting up equipment in the basement where
all models are stored took half an hour. Then a quick
review of the game plan: I wanted every image photographed
no matter what media: plaster, clay (if any), metal, rubber
mold, and every size (up to the 24-inch maximum of our
Also I wanted a scientifically accurate measurement in
centimeters of the image. Not edge to edge of the plaster,
say, but the image's edge to edge (since every model had a
flange for handling in numerous steps of manufacturing).
If the model is square or rectangular, image height comes
first -- height by width. I had prepared work pages with
20 numbers on a page where this measurement was to be
written next to a number.
I appended separate stickers to match those 20 numbers.
These were to be near the model when photographed and
placed adjacent to that plaster when stored in the new rack.
Accuracy counts, guys. This isn't pit stop team precision,
but care in handling. Plaster breaks. Every one of these
plasters is vulnerable. Use utmost care. Mark brings model
from old rack to work table. Measures image(s) and records.
Passes model to Tom with sticker. Tom places model in
camera range and sticker in position. Focus and shoot.
Mark takes model to new rack and positions sticker.
By lunch time my crackerjack team had photographed 80+
models. During the course we found the inevitable -- broken
plasters, two in fact. One was the Society of Medalists
Creation Medal #122. The Jovine daughter brought this to
me in five pieces. "Can we glue this back?" she asked.
"Not necessary," I said. "If we can find the original
mold for this, we can make another plaster cast quicker
than repairing this one. Her apprehension was dissipated.
The other broken plaster -- both of these were broken before
we got there (thank goodness) -- was Marcel's first medal,
The 1962 Closter Tercentenary Medal. Same reply applies.
By 6 pm quitting time my team had processed a remarkable
234 models! They faced two more racks of models yet to do,
perhaps a total of 600 medallic models. They pleaded with
Jovine daughter: could they come back next weekend to
finish the job? Amazingly everyone's schedule was free,
even if it required both days next weekend!
NUMISMA-TOURIST HOWARD BERLIN VISITS STOCKHOLM AND COPENHAGEN
Dr. Howard Berlin writes: "I'm in Stockholm right now. I
spent a day at the Royal Coin Cabinet, which is the National
Museum of Economy. Last week in Copenhagen I was at the Royal
Collection of Coins and Medals, which is part of the National
Museum. Both institutions also have numismatic libraries.
"The Copenhagen museum's library is open on Thursdays 1-4pm
but at other times should be by an advance appointment. The
official museum address is Frederiksholms Kanal 12, but the
main entrance really is on Ny Vestergade.
"The Stockholm museum's library currently has about 80 active
periodicals and their total holdings span more than 700 meters
of shelf space. Interested numismatists and researchers should
make an advance appointment. The museum is directly across
from the Royal Palace at Slottsbacken 6.
"The numismatic exhibitions of both museums are excellent,
particularly the specimens of their own coins (Denmark and
Sweden). There are some banknotes on display also.
"The Royal Coin Cabinet's Swedish medals exhibition occupies
one floor and over 40 cases. They just opened a Swedish plate
money exhibit with the heaviest coin (19.7 kg - 10 daler plate
money) and the first Swedish bank note. I was honored to be
able to see the exhibit two days before it was to open."
<************************** BOOK BAZARRE **************************>
DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE offers fixed price lists on
our Web site at . This just in: Ancient Coin
Reference Reviews. By Dennis J. Kroh. 1993. 4to., card covers. 107,
(1) pages. New. A fantastic reference work rating and discussing
hundreds of numismatic references. $25 e-mail
INDUSTRY COALITION ANNOUNCES NEW PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY: APRIL FOOL!
April Fool! Last week's item on a new electronic payment
medium ("Quions") was a complete fabrication. The historical
facts are true, as most numismatists are aware. Federal currency
once included the name of an issuing institution (National
Bank Notes) and money has indeed incorporated advertising
(such as the Civil War-era encased postage stamps mentioned
in the article, as well as the now-illegal late 19th-century
practice of counterstamping coins.
Other parts of the article (like reusable coins) are pretty
far-fetched, but fiction has been known to become fact at times.
The basic concepts aren’t so far-fetched and next-generation
Internet features such as address space, mobility and security
just might make interactive money possible someday sooner than
you might think. Ever since the invention of the telegraph
businesses and individuals have been “wiring” virtual money
across long distances, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch
to transfer it wirelessly across much shorter spans.
One E-Sylum reader said: "Wow !!" One of my high school
buddies wrote: "Do they/you really think this type of
technology would really take off in mainstream America?
Or is it some 'pie in the sky' geek fantasy? I'm sure you
as a numismatist think it is possibly the greatest concept
since sliced bread, but I being the pragmatist don't see
it really catching on with the general public, let alone
trying to retrofit all of the existing vending machines to
accept the new fangled coin. Look at the problems they
had with the changes made to the paper denominations and
the vending machines receiving the new bills."
Dave Perkins rightly noted the dangers of hackers taking
control, forwarding this USA Today article about a Google
search hack some cybercrooks are using.
Bob Fritsch writes: "Nice April Fool's scam with the Quions".
Joel Orosz writes: "How quaint that this news release about
quoins was quietly dated April 1. A queer quoincidence?
I quite quonsider that the quontrary is true. Still, I got
a big quckle out of it!"
Harry Cabluck writes: "On the subject of the new payment
technology Quoin, it was named by an eastern European printer
who coined the word Quoin from Quoins used in holding type
together before printing. His name was Dren Ekoj. He named
his device the Loof Lirpa. The battery he used for the memory
chip in 1845 was not perfected well enough to last longer
than six weeks. Also, when the quoin was exposed to inclement
weather it exploded and of course became worthless, leaving
the owner a really small hole in his purse."
[An urgent email sent Tuesday afternoon by a community activist
in Northwest Washington said "A loof lirpa had escaped from
the National Zoo and was galloping around the streets of
Cleveland Park. A careless zookeeper had been distracted
while the animal's enclosure was unlocked, and the 350-pound
lirpa, which has 'gazelle-like horns,' hurtled off." D.C.
Police Cmdr. Andy Solberg chimed in to alert residents that
"a department helicopter was on the case. DO NOT TRY AND
CAPTURE THE LOOF LIRPA ON YOUR OWN." The commander laid it
on thicker saying "the lirpa was planning to mate this
weekend and is so nearsighted that it could mistake a golden
retriever for a potential partner." -Editor]
Len Augsberger writes: "I read as far as Linden Labs before
my BS detector went off." Bob Leuver writes: "Very cute.
If this made it to the main channels it might be picked up
as true! Virtually true, that is."
Len Augsburger forwarded it to a friend who responded "Sadly,
not even close to clever enough to fool me - although "Bernard
von NotHaus' reminded me of "Nuthouse", which was kind of nice."
"Dick Johnson writes: "With this talent the writer of this
farce should be writing fiction. It contains just enough
truths, however, to make it believable. For example, von
NotHaus could have said what the writer quoted here.
"Where he slipped up was placing words in the mouth of Mint
Director Edmund Moy. As a bureaucrat he would never make the
statements attributed to him here. If he did he would know,
not only that he would be cashiered from his job, but stoned
by his own employees. 'Bad Mint Director, Bad man! Bad! Bad!'
An enjoyable read, but tell the author to go back to his
Tom Kays writes: "Bravo! Have you considered submitting
this to Halfbakery.com? They vote in croissants for the
best idea that should've worked. You get low score if the
concept has actually been invented "baked" (often a surprise
to the baker), or if it lacks all links to reality. The best
are those that seem obviously doable and impracticably useful.
People are invited to follow-up with quips and half-baked
[I didn't submit the idea, but here's an example of another
crazy (or not) idea from HalfBaked.com. -Editor]
Never have to make or carry change ever again.
The problem with money is that its in these inconvenient
discrete units (the penny, for example) If money were a
liquid, there would be no such thing as getting change.
A wallet would look approximately like a fancy fountain pen,
with a clear glass cylinder, filled with some liquid,
preferably really cool looking, like mercury.
When a purchase for cash for cash exchange was made, one
would place their "wallet" into a machine designed to
extract the exact amount of liquid cash. Two "wallets"
could be plugged together for person to person exchanges.
Gradations on the glass chamber (think titration tube, or
similar) would let the two parties be sure that the correct
amount of currency has changed hands.
To read about the National Zoo's Loof Lirpa escape, see:
INDUSTRY COALITION ANNOUNCES NEW PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY
NOTES ON BIBLIOPHILE ROBERT I. WESTER
Last week I asked what became of NBS member Bob Wester.
Dave Harper of Numismatic News writes: "Bob Wester retired
to Costa Rica. He became an active collector there and a
good friend of Numismatic News writer Paul Green's.
Unfortunately, he died of prostate cancer at the age of 65
on May 27, 2003.
"I gave him the nickname 'Survivor Bob.' He retired from
his job in February of, I believe, 2000. He presented himself
at Paul Green's table at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in March
of that year and told Paul that he had retired there because
of Paul's column. I met him several weeks later. We had a
nice conversation and we hit it off. I warned him of the
travails of the rainy season that was set to begin in a few
short weeks. When I returned just after Thanksgiving, he came
to see me and told me he had survived his first rainy season,
and the nickname was born.
"Wester had a habit of talking about himself in the third person.
He would take a problem and address himself as 'Robert' and
then vocalize the issues as others listened. He did this so
often that Paul Green's Costa Rican wife, Mayela, blurted out
in the middle of one of those conversations, 'Who is Robert?'
We all laughed, Survivor Bob most of all."
Bob Fritsch writes: "Bob Wester was a major force in New
Hampshire Numismatics for years. I first met him in 1988
at the New Hampshire Collectors Club -- he was the permanent
Exhibit Chairman for that club's annual Tri State Exhibition.
Around 1999-2000 he offered to sell me several scarce-to-rare
New Hampshire Town Medals to finance his move to Costa Rica.
"I next heard of him through Paul Green's column in World Coin
News, getting the name 'Survivor Bob'. He had the gift of gab
and could charm anyone out of whatever treasures they had that
he wanted. From Paul's reports, Bob amassed a collection of
Costa Rican banknotes and nobody knew where he got them.
"We were surprised when suddenly he showed up at a local show.
He had come home to die of cancer. It is too bad he did not
get to enjoy a long and well-deserved retirement.
"Proving it is a small world after all, I met a nephew of
Bob's in Okinawa when I was sent there for a special mission
for the Navy in 2003."
Alan V. Weinberg writes: "I knew Bob Wester fairly well and
bought most of his American Agricultural and Mechanical Society
silver and gold medal collection intact around 1990.
"He was a quite knowledgeable numismatist and serious collector.
A very nice guy. He always came up with great numismatic items.
I distinctly recall Bob sold at auction through Bowers & Ruddy
(or Bowers & Merena) Sylvester S. Crosby's ANS silver membership
medal and his personal silver inscribed pocket watch which, if
memory serves, Tony Terranova bought.
[Bob indeed had the gift of gab, in a disarmingly honest and
charming way. Until Dave mentioned it I had forgotten about
Bob's unusual habit of addressing himself in the third person.
It was all part of his charm. Thinking through a problem that
way may seem goofy to the rest of us when vocalized, yet it
can be extremely effective in getting to the heart of the
matter at hand. I think that helps explain his great success
in ferreting out rare items in out-of-the-way places the rest
of us wouldn't think of looking in.
I can almost hear him now: "Well, Robert, where do you think
you'd find Sylvester Crosby's photograph, or correspondence?
Well, probably in the hands of a family member, maybe a daughter
or granddaughter. So where would you look for Crosby's family
members, Robert? Well, Crosby was from New Hampshire, so I
could start with a phone book and make some calls..."
Robert's search led him to the Crosby family where he discovered
and purchased Crosby's medals and "Crosby's Crosby", the author's
own copy of his classic work on U.S. Colonial Coinage. He wrote
articles about Crosby and other numismatic topics in The Asylum,
our print publication.
The Crosbys of Charlestown, New Hampshire II/1:1-4
Engraving Art, Science in Book (W. L. Ormsby volume) III/1:4-9
ANS Plans New Building ... in 1906 III/3&4:6-7
The Vermont Coinage by Reverend Edmund F. Slafter IV/4:5,8
Ormsby's Bank Note Engraving VII/1:21
MORE ON ARRAS TOKENS
Regarding last week's item on Arras tokens, Ken Berger writes:
"Yes, it is true arras are found in many weddings which have a
Spanish tradition. I disagree however that they are always gold
coins. The Philippines, for example, used silver coins. In the
past these were primarily pesos.
"The coins are supposed to be dropped from the groom's hands
into the bride's hands in a 'more or less' cascading action.
However, if any of the coins are dropped then bad luck is
believed to be likely to occur in the marriage. In order to
prevent such bad luck from occurring, the coins often had a
hole drilled into them so a string could be passed through
them & they could be tied together. These coins were to help
the new couple with expenses as they started their life together.
It is also possible that they were used as the lucky coins,
one of which would be placed under each of the main pilings
at each of the four corners of their newly-built house.
"Thus, crown-sized coins with holes in them were possibly
used in arras. However, it is also possible that they were
worn as a piece of jewelry, or even served as teething rings.
ARRAS TOKENS DEFINED
WIKIPEDIA NOW HOLDS 10 MILLION ARTICLES
Dick Johnson writes: "A milestone was reached last week when
a German reader added an article on 16th-century painter
Nicholas Hillard to Wikipedia. It was the 10 millionth
article on the Internet encyclopedia.
"Have you searched a numismatic term or personality on
Wikipedia recently? I have and I can see ample room for
additional updates. Since the site is entirely reader written,
it is amazing how accurate it can be, and how uniform the
"While it is an excellent place to start a new research
project, it cannot serve as the last word. You still must
dig and check on your own."
To read the complete article, see:
To search the Wikipedia, see:
DIGITIZING BOOKS HELPS RESEARCHERS DO THEIR HOMEWORK
Dick Johnson writes: "Last week Editor Homren asked readers'
opinion of digitizing out-of-print published works. It is
indeed the godsend he suggested. Even when you go to the
big box library or archives, the more you know in advance,
the more you will accomplish on site. Do your homework first
before heading off for any research.
"This applies to that important background data that you
won't find in numismatic literature. Since so many items
we write about existed prior to any recent copyright
expirations, access to these publications is a tremendous
advantage. Research projects differ of course. Some are 90%
numismatic, 10% other. Some are only 10% numismatic --
where you know most everything about the items you are
researching -- but want that background data. The 90% of
the information will come from printed and archive resources
not found in numismatic volumes. That would be the greatest
area where digitized books can be of extreme usefulness to
the numismatic researcher. You must do a lot of reading.
"In such research you will always, always! find leads to
another avenue that should be researched. Track down that
lead, but you must learn to channel your searching (or you
will spend a lifetime in one area). Concentrate your effort
on one topic at a time. Don't be sidetracked.
"Put your goal in words and write it down. What specifically
are you seeking? Come up with as many keywords you can
think of that are appropriate. Let the librarian or archivist
know this in advance of your arrival.
"Know the Rule of Propinquity (nearness in time and place).
Where did the object or event take place and when? Always
keep this in mind.
"In your final writing you will want to answer every question
an intelligent reader might ask about your subject. Beat him
to it. Ask these questions yourself and seek the answers.
"In numismatics we do HISTORICAL RESEARCH (with a little
ART RESEARCH on the artists and the designs as well). To
aid your historical research read "The Modern Researcher"
by Jacques Barzun, any edition (latest: 6th edition, 2004).
This book will hone your research methods and give you great
background information. I am always inspired after rereading
"Also peruse (skim if you must) "A Guide to Historical Method"
by Gilbert J. Garraghan. This book was mandatory two decades
ago (before the Internet), but it will guide you in your
"So digitizing will supply us with the published information
of the past that we can obtain at home. Read these before you
go to the big box libraries and archives. But you must do both.
Let editor Homren know how you are doing. Good Luck!"
Former American Numismatic Association Librarian Nancy Green
writes: "I must comment on John Nebel's input of last week.
He is absolutely right, the Kirtas book scanner would be
wonderful for ANA's Dwight Manley Library but as always the
stumbling block (aside from the $150,000 cost of the machine)
is the cost of personnel to run the machine.
"Books as tools for research are, to a large extent, being
replaced by content on the Internet, although I think the
main value of the web is to locate information, not necessarily
get it directly. The value of the Internet is incredible and
will only increase. But books will never be replaced by
anything more beautiful or functional.
"The physics of the book is a wonderful thing and when the
power goes out or your battery fails, nothing is better than
a book and a candle. I don't believe there is any laptop that
can match the aesthetics of a beautiful book. Most of us have
been through the technology of Beta and 8-track. And who can
forget 78s and 45s. Media in these formats is now pretty much
unusable but books remain, and even damaged, can provide
extensive information and enjoyment."
[Nancy is absolutely right. As she, Dave Bowers and others
rightfully point out, electronic media changes quickly with
the times and quickly becomes outmoded. Transferring knowledge
from one format to another is always a quandary. While digitizing
books for easier access is great, the institutions should NEVER
dispose of the original source material, although of course
many do so anyway. -Editor]
PUBLIC DOMAIN NUMISMATIC BOOK PUBLISHING EXPERIMENT
ON PROTECTING LIBRARIES FROM FIRE AND WATER DAMAGE
Regarding the discussion initiated by Ken Hallenbeck on
protecting libraries from fire and water damage, former
Bureau of Engraving and Printing Executive Director Robert
J. Leuver writes: "The interested parties might with to
contact either the BEP's assistant director for technology
or the safety officer. In my time (nine years at the BEP),
Clayton Pettaway was our safety officer. Clayton, however,
"BEP has a serious interest in fire suppression systems as
paper and the printed products of U.S. currency and postage
stamps have to be protected in storage, during printing and,
ultimately as finished products. BEP has unique systems of
fire protection depending on location or production points
of the 'products' and printing equipment.
"Of course, even the best systems fail. In the early 1980s,
I was acting director when Harry Clements, the director,
was out of town on business. I received a call about about
6:30 AM, just as I was about to leave our home for my morning
run. Ray Lavan, the chief of security, called to tell me
of a 2 AM fire in the Cotrell press room. He said there was
no reason to call earlier as the fire was in progress and the
Washington, D.C. fire department was both in charge and had
taken control of the fire. He further said that a Bureau
security vehicle was already at my home to take me to the BEP.
"I rushed to the Bureau, just beating the horrendous backup
of traffic on 14th Street and the ensuing back-up on I-95
(now I-295). Four Cottrell presses were in ruins. The
commemorative postage stamps being printed were slated to be
issued in about two weeks. By 11 AM, Milton Seidel, the
assistant director for research and engineering, stated that
he could get two presses back into operation within a week,
while the other two had to be dismantled. I directed that
such action be taken immediately and so informed U.S. Treasurer
Bay Buchanan and Treasury Secretary Donald Regan.
"Both Buchanan and Regan concurred in my decision, as did
Director Clements. This was over the objections of Clayton
Pettaway and the D.C. fire marshal, who wanted an investigation
as to why the four pressmen 'got out so quickly' and the fire
suppression systems failed to work. Security and Safety had
a good suspicion as to what happened, but it was essential to
get the first day issue of the commemorative stamps distributed
at least in part. The fire had obviously spread across the
floor and up the wall and knocked out the controls for the
fire suppression system.
"The commemorative stamp on the Cottrell press? The Fire
PROTECTING LIBRARIES FROM FIRE AND WATER DAMAGE
QUERY: JOHN FREDERICK LEWIS DESIGN FOR 1926 SESQUICENTENNIAL HALF DOLLAR
Roger Burdette writes: "If I may, I’d like to tap into the
knowledge base of E-Sylum readers. Nearly all articles and
books about Franklin half dollars state that mint engraver
John Sinnock “borrowed” the Liberty Bell design from “…artist
John Frederick Lewis…” for the 1926 sesquicentennial half
dollar. Sinnock later was said to have used the same design
on the half dollar.
"Has anyone actually seen this design or drawing by Lewis?
(Lewis was a lawyer, served on many Philadelphia civic
commissions and collected oriental manuscripts. His personal
papers are at the University of Delaware.) Thank you. My
email address is email@example.com."
NEW ZEALAND COIN ISSUING AUTHORITY: ANOTHER CLARIFICATION
In an earlier item correcting a listing in Whitman's Modern
World Coins book, Martin Purdy stated, "The correct issuing
authority for current New Zealand collector issues is: New
Kerry Rogers then noted: "In point of fact The Reserve Bank
of New Zealand has the sole authority to approve any issue
of New Zealand currency. Currently, the Bank has a commercial
contract with New Zealand Post."
Martin Purdy now adds: "While Kerry's comment is strictly true,
the point (and the purpose of my publicising the error in the
catalogue appendix) is that if collectors want an address to
turn to to acquire current New Zealand 'collector' issues, it
is NZ Post's address that they need, not that of the Reserve Bank."
NEW ZEALAND COIN ISSUING AUTHORITY: A CLARIFICATION
ALAN WEINBERG ON HARVEY GAMER AND HERITAGE EXONOMIA SALES
Alan V. Weinberg writes: "A significant negative development
has occurred this week in the field of exonumia. Exonumia as
a highly collectable field has been growing apace in the past
several years as more and more dealers and collectors have
been attracted to it due to the outrageous price structure
of coins and currency. The major factor in this growth (aside
from eBay) has been Heritage's sophisticated auction catalogues
and the development of their Exonumia Dept under the leadership
of Harvey Gamer who had moved from Canada to Dallas for this
"All of this came to a sudden halt the middle of last week
when Heritage suddenly dismissed Gamer for what he termed
minor misunderstandings & miscommunications. With Harvey's
dismissal, the continued existence of the Heritage Exonumia
Department is put in great jeopardy and likely cannot survive
as they have no one else capable of and knowledgeable enough
to handle this field.
"I have been in Exonumia for 40 of my 50 years collecting
and I know of no one in the hobby who is knowledgeable
enough and available to take on Gamer's responsibilities
and move to Dallas. No one. The next exonumia sale had been
scheduled for September.
"What a shame. What was Heritage thinking...or were they?
Heritage has become the 800 lb gorilla of the exonumia auction
field under Gamer's watch. Exonumia as a field will be
significantly set back."
[Time will tell how the situation develops at Heritage and
their competitors. The genie is already out of the bottle
in terms of the popularity and price advances in exonumia,
so I expect this is a train that will continue hurtling down
the tracks regardless of engineers at the controls. But one
person can make a huge difference at one firm. Again, time
will tell, and consigners and collectors alike will be watching.
A number of Heritage folks are E-Sylum readers, and perhaps
they'll keep us posted on developments. -Editor]
GRANVYL HULSE ON CHOP MARKS
Granvyl Hulse writes: "What goes around comes around. I was
in the local grocery store yesterday and the person ahead of
me handed the clerk a $100 bill. The clerk reached in a drawer,
pulled out a special pen and swiped the bill. The first thought
that came to my mind was 'chop marks'. I went back home and have
pulled out an old Peru 1807 8 real coin that I keep to illustrate
chop marks when I do the Boy Scout merit badge and am going to
take it back to the store to show them what the Chinese used to
do 201 years ago. My, how times have not changed except for
[I've had similar thoughts watching store clerks do this -
someone in front of me at the grocery store Friday paid with
a $100 bill. There are three differences between pen marking
and counterstamps, though:
1. the pen mark is a test, not the affirmation of the result
2. the pen mark is anonymous - it doesn't identify the
merchant who made it
3. the pen mark isn't permanent - it disappears in time
Still, there are interesting parallels with the old chopmark
practice. Same idea, different era. -Editor]
WILLIAM A. PHILPOTT, JR. (1885-1971)
[Last week I asked for more information on William A. Philpott,
Jr. Harry Cabluck forwarded a link to a web page on Philpott
at the University of Texas web site. Here are some excerpts.
Nestled in the file folders and portfolios comprising the
William A. Philpott, Jr. Collection, documents significant
to the study of Texas history have lain in quiet repose for
decades. Their arrival in Special Collections in July, 2004,
signals a new chapter in an odyssey that has taken many
interesting twists and turns.
Dallas resident, William A. Philpott, Jr. (1885-1971), served
as Secretary of the Texas Bankers Association from 1915 through
1964. For over fifty years, Philpott assembled and nurtured an
acclaimed collection of books, maps, historical manuscripts,
national bank notes and coins. In 1969, Philpott prepared for
the dispersal of his manuscript materials by publishing a
Texiana catalog, including two addenda. A third addendum
followed in 1973, after his death. In the introductory remarks
to Texiana, Philpott reflected on his collecting career: "…The
project was an all-consuming hobby, and has paid off adequately
by pleasant excursions with great men and events of the past;
in promoting mental composure; and in lasting satisfaction of
the soul.…I am sad at heart to contemplate passing on these
treasures to others…."
A Houston businessman purchased a significant portion of
the Philpott Collection in 1973. The new owner later pledged
his Philpott documents to a Houston bank as collateral for
debt obligations. In l986, a portion of the pledged collection
was publicly auctioned by a Dallas art gallery; the remaining
documents continued to secure the debt. Through a series of
bank mergers, custody of the remaining documents ultimately
passed to Wells Fargo Bank Texas, N.A. in 1996. Recognizing
the historical significance of the materials, Wells Fargo sought
a public institution where its Philpott Collection would be
available for research and study. In July, 2004, through the
generosity of the Summerlee Foundation in Dallas, the William
A. Philpott, Jr. Collection was acquired by The University of
Texas at Arlington Libraries Special Collections where it will
soon be available for research.
The Philpott Collection is comprised of some 215 Texana and
other historical documents and manuscripts, divided into 185
lots. Diverse in nature, the documents reflect its creator’s
collecting interests. The oldest item is a 1633 French document
signed by the Engraver of the Mint under King Louis XIII. The
most recent is a 1956 Texas Bankers Association Dallas convention
[The article mentions another University holding, "the Texas
Currency and Land Scrip Collection" which should be of interest
to numismatists. -Editor]
To read the complete article, see:
CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST LANCASTER, PA LIBERTY DOLLAR PROPONENT
[Liberty Dollar proponents are still in the news. John Eshbach
forwarded this item from the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal.
Theft charges against a Clay Township man who paid a utility
bill last fall with privately made coins were dropped Friday
after the man paid the bill in U.S. currency.
Fritz Schrom, a 47-year-old Constitution Party activist, was
charged Jan. 31 with theft by deception for using silver and
copper coins made by Liberty Dollar to pay an electric bill
at a Weis Markets in Penn Township.
Schrom's preliminary hearing was scheduled for Friday. But
before it began, he and his attorney, public defender David
Blanck, agreed to pay the $111 bill with U.S. dollars, and
the theft charges were withdrawn.
When Schrom emerged from the courtroom, about eight supporters
— most of them wearing "Ron Paul for President" buttons —
He estimates he's paid for about $80,000 worth of goods and
services with Liberty Dollar coins over the past 18 months,
spending most of the money in Lancaster County.
Schrom said he was prepared to fight the charges against
him to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
The theft charges stemmed from his payment Oct. 20 of a
$110 PPL bill and a $1 service fee at the Weis Markets in
Manheim Shopping Center.
He paid the clerk with five $20 coins, one $10 coin and
one $1 coin made by Liberty Dollar, which has been minting
the coins since 1998.
The clerk accepted them and gave Schrom a receipt, he said.
When Weis took the coins to a bank and it refused to accept
them, Penn Township police became involved.
Schrom acknowledged that banks don't recognize the coins
as legal tender but said they are designed to be private
currency for people to use as a form of barter. About $20
million of them are in circulation nationwide, he said.
He is now attempting to get his coins back from Penn
Township police. Because of recent declines in the value
of the dollar, they are now worth much more than face value,
To read the complete article, see:
ROYAL MINT UNVEILS NEW CIRCULATING COIN REVERSE DESIGNS
[On Wednesday Phil Mernick forwarded a copy of the Royal
Mint's press release announcing the new reverse designs for
Britain's coins. He writes: "Very different!" Indeed,
the new designs will likely take some explanation and some
'getting used to'. As Dick Johnson notes below, the concept
is borrowed from the medallic world, although the young
designer may well have conceived of it independently. Here
is a short excerpt from the Mint's release. -Editor]
"Today, the Royal Mint is proud to unveil the new designs
for the reverse of circulating coins used in the United
Kingdom. It has been almost 40 years since the most current
reverse designs were introduced and the new designs will
renew and reinvigorate the UK’s coinage.
"A different detail from the shield of the Royal Arms is
shown on the reverse of the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p
coins and when placed together the coins reveal the complete
"The Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary
treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all
six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin
displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is
the first time that a single design has been used across a
range of United Kingdom coins.
"Against all the odds, a young artist has won a public
competition and devised a stunningly original series that
stands as an imaginative and clever solution."
To view all of the Royal Mint's materials on the new design, see:
[Dick Johnson was the first to forward a newspaper article
about the Mint's announcement. He also sent a copy of it to
friends at the American Medallic Sculpture Association -
here's an excerpt of his reactions. -Editor]
In America the U.S. Mint redesigns one coin denomination at
a time. Obverse by one artist, reverse by another. How much
better to have one artist design multiple coins at one time.
This is exactly what happened this week in England (at least
new reverse designs, with the same portrait of the Queen on
the obverse). But note the touch of creativity: the six
coins, one of each denomination, can be placed adjacent to
each other "to form a complete image of the royal shield of
arms. The £1 coin features the complete shield." That is
For more information on the American Medallic Sculpture Association, see:
American Medallic Sculpture Association
[The following are excerpts from The Independent's article
on the Mint's announcement. -Editor]
In the biggest change to coinage since decimalisation, new
designs were introduced yesterday that form a jigsaw-like
image of heraldic symbols when the various denominations
are laid out next to each other.
When correctly assembled the "tails" sides of six coins from
1p to 50p form an image of the royal coat of arms, carrying
the symbols of the nations of the UK.
Each denomination carries parts of two sets of three lions
passant guardant, the Scottish lion rampant and the harp of
Ireland. The new £1 coin carries the complete image.
The coins, the heads sides of which retain the 1998 portrait
of the Queen by Ian Rank-Broadley, are believed to be the
first in the world designed to form a unified picture when
None of the new coins carries the ancient symbol of Britannia,
who has guarded the nation's currency for 1,000 years but who
may return on one-off commemorations for special events.
Other symbols heading for the smelter of numismatic history
are the portcullis and chains (1p); ostrich feathers (2p),
thistle (5p), lion (10p), rose (20p). Britannia appeared
on the old 50p.
Matthew Dent, a 26-year-old designer from Bangor, north
Wales, designed the reverses after winning a competition
launched by the Royal Mint in 2005. It is the most significant
redesign of the country's coins since 1968.
If some of the other 4,000 designs pitted against Dent's
work had been chosen, the new sides of the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10,
and 50p might have been a Spitfire, a DNA double helix,
fish and chips or a pint of beer.
Entrants were given a free hand to come up with ideas but
were advised to consider heraldic motifs and themes. Mr Dent,
whose winning idea earned him £35,000, explained: "I felt
the solution to the Royal Mint's brief lay in a united design.
The idea of a landscape appealed to me – perhaps this landscape
could stretch off the edge of one coin and appear on the edge
of another. Then I decided to look at heraldry." Speaking at
the launch at the Tower of London, the historic home of the
Royal Mint, Mr Dent said: "I would love it if the coins are
played with by everyone from kids at school to folks in a pub."
Sir Christopher Frayling, chairman of the design board, which
picked out the design from among those from 500 entrants, said:
"I think these designs will become a classic in the history
of coin design."
*Coins tend to be changed when a monarch dies but, after 56
years of the Queen's reign, the Royal Mint decided its metallic
art had been "around a long time".
To read the complete article, see:
[It was a nice touch to hold the announcement ceremony at
the Tower of London, the early home of the Royal Mint.
Below are excerpts from another story on the new coins from
The Telegraph, along with some reader comments. -Editor]
The apprehension felt before the publication of designs for
the new coinage was understandable. Britain has had a lacklustre
coinage since 1968, and it should not have lasted this long;
but trends in design being what they are, and political
considerations interfering, something frightful might have
The new coinage does not match the glory days when the designs
of Pistrucci, de Saulles or Mackennal: but it could have been
The new reverses are clean, spare, and their sequence logical.
The abstracts of royal arms will not be to everyone's taste,
but they strike the eye immediately as handsome, and in their
way are more in keeping with the traditions of the coinage
than the first decimal designs were.
The absence of Britannia, which is surely no political statement,
is sad: but it would be a rash numismatist who believed she has
brandished her trident for the last time.
To read the complete article, see:
One reader commented: "This looks like a government plot to
stop even the most hardened Euro-skeptics grieving over the
loss of our much-loved coins and accept the Euro.... if Welsh
nationalists, angry with Matthew Dent's omission of the Welsh
dreagon, decide to burn down his Bangor home, the government
should give him free accommodation in a building which,
fittingly, used to house the Royal Mint - the Tower of London."
MATTHEW DENT, DESIGNER OF THE NEW ROYAL MINT COIN REVERSES
[The Times of London published a profile of Matthew Dent,
the 26-year-old graphic designer who was paid £35,000 (about
$70,000) for his winning entry for the new circulating coin
reverse designs. -Editor]
Matthew Dent was 8 when he fell in love with coins. It was
1990 and his friend brought a recently introduced 5p into school.
“It was shiny and I wanted one,” said Mr Dent. “It just looked
amazing.” Now, the 26-year-old graphic designer has been
announced as the creative force behind the first new British
coin series since decimalisation in 1971.
His vision for the coins beat more than 4,000 entries in a
2005 Royal Mint competition to find fresh designs for seven
of Britain’s eight circulating coins, from the 1p piece to
the £1 coin. The £2 will remain unchanged.
That moment will have been a long time coming for Mr Dent, who
continued his job at a design company throughout the process.
“The committee would meet and set deadlines and I would work
frantically. Then we would have long breaks,” he said.
“I was working weekends and evenings. I was going to bed at
three in the morning. I spent a lot of time apologising to
my girlfriend,” he said.
But, despite 16 stages of revision and a committee veto on
a “voluptuous female torso” intended for the 50p, Mr Dent
said the final designs were true to the original. The images
on the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p can be pieced together to
form a whole royal shield of arms. The £1 coin, or “jigsaw box
lid”, features the complete picture.
“I want my new designs to intrigue, to entertain and to raise
a smile,” Mr Dent said.
Andrew Stafford, chief executive of the Royal Mint, said that
the designs were contemporary but retained “the gravitas and
reference to history required for the UK’s coins”.
Phillip Mussell, director of the magazine Coin News, was
generally complimentary about the design, but expressed
concern that the lack of numerals would pose difficulties
for visitors from foreign countries.
To read the complete article, see:
[The Royal Mint's web site has this profile of Matthew
As an artist his inspiration comes from many sources and
he explored a number of options before finally developing
his ideas for an heraldic set. The result is a set of coins
firmly rooted in the heraldic traditions of the British
coinage yet beautifully contemporary.
In seeking to spread a single design across six denominations,
Matthew Dent conceived an idea that has never been realised
before on the British coinage. To have the £1 as the unifying
coin only emerged towards the end of the design process.
Matthew Dent has commented that ‘the addition of the £1 coin
design to the set was as a way of defining the whole series.
A key coin uniting the designs’. Against all the odds, a
young artist has won a public competition and devised a
stunningly original series that stands as an imaginative
and clever solution.
‘I felt that the solution to the Royal Mint's brief lay in
a united design - united in terms of theme, execution and
coverage over the surface of the coins. I wondered about a
theme of birds or plants, but also considered buildings and
coastal scenery. The issue with this for me lay in their
distribution; how to represent the whole of the United Kingdom
over six coins. The idea of a landscape appealed to me; perhaps
using well-known landscapes from different areas around the
United Kingdom which could stretch off the edge of one coin
onto another. This seemed like a good solution but I also
wanted to look at other options and themes.
I thought the six coins could make up a shield by arranging
the coins both horizontally, as with the landscape idea, as
well as vertically, in a sort of jigsaw style. I liked the
idea and symbolism of using the Royal Arms, where individually
the coins could focus on specific elements and when placed
together they reveal the complete Royal Arms.
I found the idea that members of the public could interact
with the coins the most exciting aspect of this concept. It's
easy to imagine the coins pushed around a school classroom
table or fumbled around with on a bar - being pieced together
as a jigsaw and just having fun with them.’
To read the complete article, see:
[I'll be curious to see the new coins in person. They are
already being manufactured at the Mint. What do E-Sylum
readers think? -Editor]
MOVIE REVIEW: THE BANK JOB
On Wednesday evening I told my son that "me and Pap-Pap are
going to a Prayer Meeting." Translation: my father-in-law
and I were going out to a movie. We saw "The Bank Job", a
new heist movie based on a true story. Set in London in
early 1970s, it chronicles the unlikely tale of a group of
amateur thieves who break into a safe deposit vault and
unwittingly stumble into a rabbit's nest of spies, mobsters
and cops on the take.
As a collector who's had a safe deposit box since I was twelve,
I've always enjoyed the mystique of the safe deposit vault.
Having already seen countless heist films in my childhood,
entering the vault for the first time felt like going to church
- a sacred place. Tucked down in the basement of a big bank
building, the vault was attended by the prim purveyors of an
ancient ritual - the signing of forms, the checking of signatures,
and the turning of multiple keys (kind of like launching an ICBM
from a missile silo beneath a Kansas wheat field).
One can't help but wonder just what treasures are held in
those antiseptic little metal boxes, or to fantasize about
what it would be like to ransack them and haul off the loot.
Does that box hold a coin collection like mine? Gold bars?
A dusty diary? What's in that BIG one? Antiques? Paintings?
Maybe, maybe not. Some boxes may hold little other than birth
certificates or other documents. There's an old story about
a man who visited his safe deposit box every weekday for years
on end. The staff was dying to know why. Finally they did
learn what he kept in his box - salt and pepper shakers. He
ate his lunch there because it was cheaper and more convenient
I was also interested in the film because of my recent stay
in London. I wasn't disappointed - locations included the
Tottenham Court tube station and the Paddington train station,
both places I passed through frequently. In the film, spooks,
crooks, mobsters and Lords met there to make deals and trade
hostages and compromising documents and photographs.
Paddington looked just like I remembered it although I could
tell right away that the tube station scenes were filmed
elsewhere. Tottenham Station had been modernized. According
to a note on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) Aldwych
station was chosen to film the underground scenes.
The web site also notes a numismatic anachronism: "although
the film is set in 1971, signs on various shop doors seen in
the film advertise that credit cards 'Visa' and 'Mastercard'
are accepted. The name 'Visa' was not used for the charge
card before 1977 (replacing Barclaycard in the UK); 'Mastercard'
was 'Master Charge' until 1979."
Goofs like that are a reminder that movies being what they
are, it may have only the slimmest connection to reality.
It is true that on the night of September 11, 1971 a gang
tunneled into a branch of Lloyds Bank at the intersection of
Baker Street and Marylebone Road in London and robbed the safe
deposit boxes there. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess as to
how accurately the film depicts the actual events. Truth
really is stranger than fiction, though.
The producers claim that they have an inside source who
served as an advisor on the film. Was the real goal of
the robbery to obtain compromising photos of a member of
the royal family? We may never know. Four people served
time for the robbery, but little of the loot was ever
None of that should matter to the average filmgoer, though.
It's a very well done and entertaining film, but not one to
take young children to.
To read a review of The Bank Job in The New Yorker, see:
To read a review of The Bank Job in The Telegraph, see:
SHORT-SNORTER COLLECTION DONATED TO AIR FORCE MUSEUM
[Richard Giedroyc published a Numismatic News Viewpoint
article titled "Share numismatic wealth with museums"
describing his recent donation of a collection of short-snorter
notes to the National Museum of the United States Air Force
in Dayton, Ohio. Here are some excerpts. -Editor]
There are a lot of coin collectors who if they could would
find a way to take their collection with them to the afterworld.
A few of these collectors may will their possessions to a
museum, however the vast majority will hope the family will
keep the collection as a legacy. In fact if there are no other
collectors in the family at that point the collection will be
sold, many times incorrectly since collectors are not great
at leaving instructions.
Understand this, you don’t have to have a million dollar
collection for it to be worthy of being contributed to a
museum. You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to donate
Putting my money where my mouth (or in this case my pen)
is, this is exactly what I did during late 2007. I contributed
my entire collection of Short Snorter bank notes to the National
Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
The Air Force museum proved to be a good choice. They were
thrilled. According to Archives Assistant Christina Douglass,
the museum previously had but a single note, that note having
been received with some World War II memorabilia. Here was
their opportunity not only to receive additional notes, but
notes that someone had taken the time to research regarding
who signed them, where they were signed, when, and other
historical background information of value to future researchers.
The notes, furthermore, are often within the realm of military
Why am I publicizing this contribution? Because the museum
would be pleased to add additional examples to it, if other
collectors are willing to add their contributions rather than
leave the fate of such collectibles to their relatives once
the collector in the family is gone. Does this take the notes
off the market as far as collectors are concerned? Of course!
But, you know what, there is no guarantee the notes would
survive in the long run considering eventually it will sooner
or later come down to non-collectors having to dispose of
something of which they know nothing about.
Anyone interested in adding further Short Snorters to this
collection should first contact the Department of the Air
Force, National Museum of the United States Air Force, 1100
Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio 45433-7102.
I would love to see my contribution be simply the nucleus for
an even larger museum collection. Any takers?
To read the complete article, see:
SWEDES FIND VIKING-ERA ARAB COINS
[Dick Hanscomb forwarded this article on a recent hoard
Swedish archaeologists have discovered a rare hoard of
Viking-age silver Arab coins near Stockholm's Arlanda airport.
About 470 coins were found on 1 April at an early Iron Age
burial site. They date from the 7th to 9th Century, when
Viking traders travelled widely. There has been no similar
find in that part of Sweden since the 1880s.
Most of the coins were minted in Baghdad and Damascus, but
some came from Persia and North Africa, said archaeologist
The Vikings travelled widely in their longships in the
Baltic region and Russia from the late 8th to the 11th
Century. They are known to have travelled as far as North
Africa and Constantinople (now Istanbul).
To read the complete article, see:
THE NEW YORKER ON THE PENNY DREADFUL
[Harry Waterson forwarded this article by David Owen in the
March 31, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. Owen delves into
the problems with the nation's lowly cent coin and along the
way visits with personnel at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
Dick Johnson and Dave Kellogg of Syracuse, NY (who admitted
to being behind in reading The E-Sylum) also mentioned it.
Dave adds: "Why, you might well ask, have I had time to read
the New Yorker but not the E-Sylum? The answer is 'March'.
That's maple syrup season, and I have been occupied in the
sugar shed boiling, boiling, boiling maple sap. Magazines
are allowed; a computer is not." Here are several excerpts
from Owen's wonderful article. -Editor]
Several years ago, Walter Luhrman, a metallurgist in
southern Ohio, discovered a copper deposit of tantalizing
richness. North America’s largest copper mine—a vast open-pit
complex in Arizona—usually has to process a ton of ore in
order to produce ten pounds of pure copper; Luhrman’s mine,
by contrast, yielded the same ten pounds from just thirty
or forty pounds of ore. Luhrman operated profitably until
mid-December, 2006, when the federal government shut him
The copper deposit that Luhrman worked wasn’t in the ground;
it was in the storage vaults of Federal Reserve banks, and,
indirectly, in the piggy banks, coffee cans, automobile
ashtrays, and living-room upholstery of ordinary Americans.
A penny minted before 1982 is ninety-five per cent copper—which,
at recent prices, is approximately two and a half cents’ worth.
Luhrman, who had previously owned a company that refined gold
and silver, devised a method of rapidly separating pre-1982
pennies from more recent ones, which are ninety-seven and a
half per cent zinc, a less valuable commodity. His new company,
Jackson Metals, bought truckloads of pennies from the Federal
Reserve, turned the copper ones into ingots, and returned the
zinc ones to circulation in cities where pennies were scarce.
Luhrman’s experience highlights a growing conundrum for the
Mint and for U.S. taxpayers. Primarily because zinc, too, has
soared in value, producing a penny now costs about 1.7 cents.
Since the Mint currently manufactures more than seven billion
pennies a year and “sells” them to the Federal Reserve at their
face value, the Treasury incurs an annual penny deficit of about
fifty million dollars—a condition known in the coin world as
In January, I fulfilled a long abandoned schoolboy ambition by
taking a field trip to watch coins being manufactured, at the
Mint in Philadelphia. On arrival, I was required to empty my
pockets of change, to make it easier for the Mint’s police
force to determine later whether I had tried to smuggle anything
out. Then I met John M. Mercanti, a substantial, bearded
middle-aged man, who is the Mint’s supervisory design and
master tooling development specialist, and is identified by
a sign on his office door as the Big Cheese. “My wife laughs
at me, but I pick up pennies,” he said. “To me, a penny is a
work of art that a lot of time and effort have gone into, and
I’m not just going to let it lie on the sidewalk. It becomes
a personal thing.”
New coins begin in Congress, which sets the themes, the
metal content, and other details in consultation with the
Mint and various interested parties, including coin collectors
and historians. Next, the designs are created by Mercanti’s
staff of six in-house artists and a larger group of freelancers.
For about a century, the Mint’s sculptors have made eight-inch
prototypes from clay and other materials, after which a machine
called a Janvier transfer engraver has rendered those images
onto coin-size metal dies. Now the Mint is moving toward an
entirely digital system.
I met Joseph Menna, a young staff artist who earned a master’s
degree at the New York Academy Graduate School of Figurative Art,
and he let me try his virtual-engraving tool, which looked like
a dentist’s drill and gave realistic tactile feedback as I
slashed away, on a computer tablet, at the face of James Madison.
One of the biggest challenges of coin design is portraying
realistic-looking three-dimensional facial features on a metal
surface that is nearly flat. This difficulty explains why the
faces on coins are almost always shown in profile: doing so
keeps noses recognizable. The 2006 nickel, which features a
likeness of Jefferson and was sculpted by Menna’s former
colleague Donna Weaver, is the first circulating U.S. coin
to have a forward-facing portrait; it is considered by coin
aficionados to be an engraving tour de force.
To read the complete article, see:
REBUTTAL: COUNTERPOINT: STEEL CENTS COULD WORK
Responding to Jeff Kelley's comments on his piece about Steel
Cents, Dick Johnson writes: "Each of the three points you brought
up in the counterpoint in favor of steel cents last week have
already been refuted. Your points concern: (1) copper plated
zinc and steel cents circulating side-by-side, (2) rounding
off to nearest 5 cents, and (3) penny vending machines.
"When two coins of unequal value circulate side-by-side, the
lesser value will always drive out the dearer value. If you
suggest a steel cent valued at one cent would circulate with
a copper coated zinc cent valued at slightly more than one
cent Gresham's Law comes into play. If you think not, then
why didn't the silver-manganese wartime nickels stay in
circulation for a couple of years longer than they did (when
their value was only one or two cents more).
"Rounding off has proved successful whenever it has been
tried. For every apocryphal story you could relate, even from
overseas, I could match it with another. Not every merchant
will always round up. I like the story of the Israeli drug
chain that advertised it would only round down. It won a
marketing advantage over their competitors for only a few
cents per purchase. Great point to advertise, which they did.
"As for penny vending machines: Show me one. Few if any
are active today. It is not cost effective to stock and
retrieve cent coins from such a vending machine. Further,
vending machines do not reject foreign coins and slugs by
magnetism. It is done by surface resistivity of acceptable
alloy coins. But thank you for writing, Jeff. Please do
DICK JOHNSON: STEEL CENTS WON'T WORK!
COUNTERPOINT: STEEL CENTS COULD WORK
BRITISH ATM GOES HAYWIRE, DISPENSING DOUBLE CASH
[Reuters published the following article about a haywire
automated teller machine. -Editor]
A British cash machine became a big hit this week after it
started paying out twice as much money as it should.
The ATM, outside a supermarket in they city of Hull in
northern England, began spewing out double the money Tuesday
afternoon and continued doing so for several hours, drawing
a crowd of hundreds eager to cash in on the mistake.
Those requesting the maximum daily withdrawal of 300 pounds
($600) were being given 600 pounds and a receipt for 300.
"People were calling their mates up and telling them to get
down there," the Hull Daily Mail quoted a passer-by as saying.
After several hours the machine finally ran out of money.
To read the complete article, see:
[So what happened? Did someone load 20-pound notes in the
10-pound slot? Did the onboard computer slip a binary digit?
What makes this incident interesting is not so much that an
error occurred but that how rare such incidents are given
the billions of transactions handled yearly by ATMs worldwide.
FEATURED WEB SITE: PERSPECTIVES IN NUMISMATICS
This week's featured web site is Perspectives in Numismatics,
a compendium of studies presented to the Chicago Coin Club.
Originally published in 1986, the volume was edited by Saul
B. Needleman. Not all of the book's articles are online,
but several are, including:
Medieval European Coinage by John F. Lhotka, Jr.
A Coin Called Peso by Miguel L. Muñoz
Economics of English Coinage Denominations
by Saul B. Needleman
Early Coinage of Moscow by Gerard Anaszewicz
English Merchant Tokens by Richard Doty
Collecting U.S. Tokens: Challenges and Rewards by
Robert D. Leonard Jr.
Jetons - Their Use and History by Bert van Beek
Caudillism as Demonstrated by Bolivian Propaganda Coinage
by George Lill III
Featured Web Site
Numismatic Bibliomania Society
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.
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. For more information please see
our web site at http://www.coinbooks.org/ There is a membership application available on the web site. To join, print the application and
return it with your check to the address printed on the application. Visit the Membership page.
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