The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

PREV        NEXT        V 04 2001 INDEX        E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 4, Number 53, December 30, 2001:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2001, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


  We have four new subscribers this week: Alan Weinberg
  (courtesy of W. David Perkins), Sam Louli of Toronto,
  Canada (courtesy of Paul Johnson), Mark Wm Clark,
  and Herbert A. Friedman.  Welcome aboard!

  One person unsubscribed, but several @Home subscriber
  addresses are still working and have been restored to the
  mailing list.  Our subscriber count is now  427.  Can we get
  to the 500 mark by midyear?


  Numismatic literature dealer Karl Moulton is offering
  important materials from "the first hundred years of
  American numismatics from 1860 - 1959."  His 44-
  page fixed price list features the largest selection of U.S.
  auction catalogues available anywhere.  Many duplicates
  are offered in the 19th  century listings.  Moulton notes
  that he has over 160 Chapman Bros. catalogues in stock,
  and compares this figure with the 191 found in the famous
  Wylie Hoard, which appeared in the mid-1970's.

  There are numerous other materials available.  Items such
  as early prices realized lists, AJN's, Numismatists, and
  American State Papers on Finance in the 1820's.   For
  those interested in the newer catalogues, he offers his
  reference "United States Numismatic Auction Catalogues
  1990 - 2000".

  Anyone in the U.S. not already on Moulton's mailing list
  who would like a complimentary copy can contact him at


  The December 1st issue of New Scientist has an
  update on Michael Molnar's research into the nature of
  the Star of Bethlehem, initially inspired by numismatic

 "After studying the symbolism on Roman coins, he concluded
  that the "star" was in fact a double eclipse of Jupiter in a rare
  astrological conjunction that occurred in Aries on 20 March,
  6 BC, and again on 17 April, 6 BC (New Scientist magazine,
  23 December 1995).  Molnar believed that Roman astrologers
  would have interpreted such an event as signifying the birth
  of a divine king in Judea. But he lacked proof.  Now he says
  he has found it, in the Mathesis, a book written by Maternus
  in AD 334. Maternus described an astrological event involving
  an eclipse of Jupiter by the Moon in Aries, and said that it
  signified the birth of a divine king.

  "Maternus did not mention Jesus's name," says Molnar. "But
  Roman astrology was a popular craze at the time and everyone
  reading the book would have known the reference was to
  Jesus and that the astrological event was the star of Bethlehem."

  So why did Maternus not mention Jesus by name? According to
  Molnar, early Christians hated pagan beliefs and did not want
  to justify the Biblical story with astrological mumbo-jumbo. The
  idea that the stars govern our fate flew in the face of belief in a
  Christian God as the controlling force in the Universe.

  "Being a pagan who had converted to Christianity during his
  lifetime, Firmicus was torn," says Molnar. "Hence his use of
  astrology to support the Christian story, but in a veiled way."
  According to Molnar, it was essential to early Christians that
  the true nature of the star be hidden, otherwise theologians
  would be mired in debate about celestial influences that were
  not part of Christianity. So they buried the knowledge of the
  star's astrological roots and in time it was forgotten.

  "I take Molnar's work quite seriously," says Owen Gingerich,
  a historian of astronomy at Harvard University. "Anything he
  comes up with along these lines has to be considered as being
  very likely correct."

  [Molnar's book on the subject was discussed in the September
  12&19, 1999 issues of The E-Sylum (Volume 2, Numbers
  37&38) -Editor]


  Victor Holden writes: "In The E-Sylum Volume 4, Number 51
  (December 16, 2001), Gustavo A. Granada inquired about
  literature dealing with the cleaning of bank notes.

  The only reference I am aware of is an article entitled PAPER
  Curto which appeared in Volume LVIII, Number 6 of The
  Numismatist and which runs to 5 pages.  I can send a
  photocopy if necessary.

  It should be borne in mind, however, that the cleaning,
  washing or pressing of paper money is generally harmful
  and reduces both the grade and the value of a note. It is
  a practice I do not condone."


  Mark Wm Clark of San Francisco writes: "I have heard about
  this list from several people and would like to be added to your
  e-mailing list.  I am a world coin dealer and do a lot with books
  when they escape being added to my own library."


  Bob Lyall writes:  "You ask for top catalogue in a specialty.
  I nominate Fred Pridmore Part 1, West Indies, (auctioneer
  Glendining & Co, London, cataloguer A H Baldwin & Sons
  Ltd, London) 21st September 1981.  (And please don't say
  Ray Byrne -- the West Indian specialist collectors wouldn't
  agree).  This was the first part of three sales of "Coins of the
  British Commonwealth of Nations" (actually including quite
  a lot of tokens) spanning 1981, 1982 and 1983."

  Bob Dunfield of Tradewind Books writes: "Regarding the top
  ten reference catalogs, I would nominate the Guthrie-Bothamley
  catalog of Mexican Revolutionary Coinage, 1913-1917,
  Superior Stamp & Coin Co., Inc., 1976.  This has become a
  standard reference for this series, as you probably know.

  Bill Bischoff writes: "I have one candidate to nominate, namely
  the Swiss Bank Corporation's Coins of Peru (Zuerich, Auction
  20, September 14 and 15, 1988).  Some coins from the period
  after Independence are included, but the bulk of the 1,356 lots
  is drawn from the mints of the Spanish Colonial Viceroyalty
  of Peru -- Lima, La Plata, and, especially, Potosi.  Subsequent
  research has modified some of the cataloguing, of course.  (For
  example, experts no longer believe it is possible to distinguish
  between the short-lived (1574 only) La Plata issues and those
  of  Potosi from 1575 on.)  For the sake of completeness the
  inclusion of Cartagena and Bogota would have been desirable,
  but Sellschop, whose collection underlay the auction, seems
  not to have been interested in those mints.  Still, the coins
  described and profusely illustrated here were the basis for the
  Grunthal/Sellshopp Coinage of Peru handbook published in
  1978, and they stand out for their high quality (none, as far as
  I can see, were from sea salvage, the source of the vast
  majority of macuquinas that come on the market today).
  Sellshopp started collecting these pieces long before there was
  a real market for them: hence it's unlikely that any one individual
  would be able to put together a comparable corpus today."

  Allan Davisson  writes: "Definitive sales on particular series?
  Some of the most exciting (and expensive) volumes in my
  library are sale catalogs. They are also some of the most
  useful volumes. The British series is rich in well produced and
  scholarly sale catalogs with fine plates.  Murdoch and Montague
  at the turn of the century should be on every serious British
  numismatic bibliophile's shelf.

  The mid-century Lockett sales are equally impressive and
  equally important. But, important as Lockett is, other British
  sales have their place as well.   Many years ago I published
  a list of the fifty most important British sale catalogs (for
  which I owe a great vote of thanks to an enthusiastic British
  colleague). I frequently pull down my custom bound set of
  Norweb sales when I wonder about a particular rarity.

  Ten on British hammered coins?  In no particular order:
  Murdoch, Montague, Ryan, Lockett, Norweb, Doubleday,
  Grantley, Carlyon-Britton, Rashleigh, and, finally, though
  not a sale catalog, the corpus of catalogs published over
  six years in the latter part of the 1990's by the late Patrick

  But what is the best catalog?  It all depends on what you
  are doing at the moment. I have just finished cataloging an
  important collection of hammered crowns of Charles I.
  The November 2001 Spink sale of the Van Roekel
  collection was extremely helpful.  This was a thoroughly
  catalogued sale with most of the varieties represented.
  In recent years it is arguably the "best" for this series. But
  the 1978 "West Country Collector" sale held by Glendining
  offered and illustrated the collection F. R. Cooper formed
  and used as the basis for his definitive work on the series.
  I turned to that as often as I turned to Van Roekel.  But it
  has also been convenient to have Paget and Lingford on hand.

  At the risk of being immodest, our catalog of Viking coins
  several years ago, our offering of the John Perry Celtic
  collection and our offering of Wayne Anderson's 18th
  century token collection still provide me with a record that
  I regularly use."

  On the topic of United States numismatics, Mark Van Winkle,
  Chief Cataloger for Heritage writes: "In response to your
  question about the top ten definitive reference catalogs,
  Heritage has just published a definitive catalog on Liberty
  Double Eagles.   The coins will be sold at the FUN Sale in
  January and the catalog is all-color (a first for Heritage), and
  100 hardbound copies were also printed (another first for

  I believe the most comprehensive catalog on Dimes by die
  variety is Stack's Lovejoy Collection, and Superior's
  Robinson Sales are still the best for early Cents. For proof
  gold, Ed Trompeter's sales in Superior (2/92) and Heritage's
  offerings of his Tens and Twenties are still definitive. Speaking
  of proof gold, Heritage also offered a complete set of high
  grade matte proof gold in the 1994 ANA Sale with updated
  information on the numbers believed extant of each issue by
  Jim Halperin. Heritage also sold what has to be the most
  complete set of Class I, II, and III branch mint proof
  Morgans in the 1995 ANA Sale.

  Those are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head,
  and I look forward to reading what others believe are
  definitive catalogs."


  Speaking of definitive catalogs, an original set of the
  seven Grinnell United States Paper Currency sale catalogs
  by Barney Bluestone are offered in the Currency Auctions
  of America sale at the upcoming F.U.N. show in Florida
  (January 10-12, 2002, lot 1198).  The sale also includes
  four pocket edition Heath's Counterfeit Detectors (lots
  1149-1152).  None of the lot descriptions includes
  bibliophilic data or conditions, but paper collectors
  apparently aren't concerned with that.  Luckily, most of
  the lots are pictured in the catalog.


  Carl Honore writes: "Regarding the Euro program -- the same
  thing was done in Russia when communism fell and the new
  modern coinage came out.  Some of the pieces were in
  bimetallic format similar to the Canadian two cent piece.  I
  have a set of these and also a set of the older Russian coins
  with the Hammer and Sickle and portrait of Lenin.  These
  newer Russian pieces were glued (yes, glued) to a card with
  the denominations underneath and encased in a sandwich bag
  (yes a sandwich bag) with the excess folded over and taped."


  Bob Dunfield writes: "With regard to ideas on topics for
  The E-Sylum, I would like to see references on Mexican
  Numismatics;  Carlos & Johanna to 2002, and especially
  topics covering both the War for Independence and Revolution.
  Trends for Mexican coinage are slowly creeping upward in
  price and popularity, and the US Mexican Numismatic Society
  (USMexNA) has grown substantially in membership throughout
  the last few years.

  There are many beautiful and fascinating coins to be found here,
  and many of the interesting and beautiful coins are relatively
  inexpensive, with numerous die varieties to be found and studied.
  Thank you once again for these excellent installments!"


  Ron Guth writes: "Here's an interesting numismatic reference
  from C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia."  This one
  comes at the beginning of the first chapter of "The Magician's
  Nephew", when Polly asks Digory if his uncle is really mad

  "Well, either he's mad," said Digory, "or there's some other
  mystery.  He has a study on the top floor and Aunt Letty
  says I must never go up there.  Well, that looks fishy to begin
  with.  And then there's another thing.  Whenever he tries to
  say anything to me at meal times -- he never even tries to
  talk to her -- she always shuts him up.  She says, 'Don't worry
  the boy, Andrew', or, 'I'm sure Digory doesn't want to hear
  about that', or else, 'Now, Digory, wouldn't you like to go
  out and play in the garden?'"

  "What sort of things does he try to say?"

  "I don't know.  He never gets far enough.  But there's more
  than that.  One night -- it was last night in fact -- as I was
  going past the foot of the attic stairs on my way to bed (and
  I don't much care for going past them either) I'm sure I heard
  a yell."

  "Perhaps he keeps a mad wife shut up there."

  "Yes, I've thought of that."

  "Or perhaps he's a coiner...."


  Ed Krivoniak writes: "The allergy that Myron Xenos is referring
  to is an allergy to the alloying elements in the gold and not to the
  gold itself.  People with this allergy notice it most on 10K gold,
  less on 14K and in almost every case the allergy disappears
  when the person wears 18K or better jewelry."

  Henry Bergos writes: "I am VERY allergic! If I see a coin that
  I like and can't afford I break out in the grumbles and coises...."


  In the December 9, 2001 issue of The E-Sylum (vol 4, no
  50), we published excerpts from a New York Times article
  on the living conditions of Big Apple bibliophiles, forced to
  find creative ways of living with their books in tight city
  quarters.  Henry Bergos writes: "being a New Jorrker with
  only about 1600 volumes in my library, about 600 numismatic,
  I can speak of this affliction.  Not being a "natty dresser"
  (euphemism for slob), I had one of the workmen in my
  building convert a 5 foot closet into book shelves. This
  provides 90 feet of book shelf space. Of course double
  deep. I also have books in my "linen" closet, and three free
  standing book shelves - one double deep. Other books
  are in milk cartons in the kitchen.  Thank goodness I don't
  cook or I might have a problem.

  There are only a few on my file cabinets. Let's not leave out
  those stored in my 82-year-old Mom's apartment. There are
  none in the bathtub -- there are three suit cases there.  None
  on the bed unless I am doing some research. Yes, I do use
  them.  There are also clippings from Coin World, mostly
  from the last 31 years in those file cabinets sorted by category.

  The ANA was nice to me. I have The Numismatist on
  microfiche.  Sure wish I got more books on fiche before the
  companies who made them closed. It took me years to get
  an Arbuthnot, and I'm scared to touch it.  Could have gotten
  it on fiche for a tenth what I paid for the paper copy.

  By-the-way, I live in a studio apartment.  Gotta go find
  something to read."


  "I'm no beginner. In the early-mid 60's I sold my complete
  set of large Chapmans with plates to Harry Bass thru Aaron
  Feldman, privately, at Aaron's NYC apt. That was Harry's
  intro to numismatic literature. At the time I was planning to
  leave numismatics due to "high prices".  Little did I know..."


  Herbert A. Friedman has written a dozen or more articles
  for the IBNS Journal.  His main area of specialty is


  Dick Johnson writes: "Wayne Homren, take a bow!  To the
  officers of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society you are to
  be congratulated for supporting this newsletter, now on the
  brink of its fifth year.

  Wayne, your concern early on whether there was going to
  be enough material to fill a weekly newsletter sounds familiar.
  I faced critics who felt the same when I started Coin World
  -- on a weekly schedule -- when only monthlies existed in
  the numismatic field over forty years ago in 1960.

  We solved the problem with a two-step approach: by asking
  coin clubs to send us their monthly meeting reports and
  asking for their membership lists.  We wrote the meeting
  reports as news items and sent a sample copy to every
  member of that club when their club -- and often their name --
  was in the news story in that week's issue. Subscription was
  cheap then, $3 a year, and subscription skyrocketed.

  So Wayne, my advice for continued E-Sylum success is:
  Keep your newsletter filled with fresh news and mention as
  many names as possible in every issue.

  What impresses me most about E-Sylum is the collective
  knowledge of your readers. Case in point: I asked a tough
  question recently about Panamint balls of silver. Despite my
  years in the field (February will be my 63rd as a collector!)
  I had not heard of this. Yet you received two absolutely
  fantastic communiqu├ęs, from Dave Bowers and Jan Monroe.
  Questions answered and thank you gentlemen!

  Wayne you deserve a pat on the back -- job well done!
  It gave me great pleasure to join with two dozen of my fellow
  members by electing you into the rolls of the Rittenhouse
  Society last year. You have achieved a rarefied status in the
  numismatic field. Keep up the good work!"

  [Thanks! (blush)  -Editor]


  Harold Welch writes: "Congrats on four excellent years of the
  E-Sylum!  What a wonderful undertaking it has been.  Is it
  possible to print out the entire series at once from the website?
  If not, and you find a new webmaster, perhaps configuring the
  archive so as to enable a complete printout would be a great

  By the way, I was pleased to see your reference to Dr. Richard
  Doty's current research which was published in the "Conder"
  Token Collector's Club Journal.  We are expecting to publish
  some wonderful original research in upcoming issues.  Anyone
  who might be interested in joining the CTCC should inquire
  with me at for further information."

  [The NBS Board has been discussing the idea of printing
  back issues of The E-Sylum, to get it out of cyberspace and
  onto some shelf space for posterity.  The completion of volume
  four is as good a stopping point as any.  But with each issue
  now taking several printed pages, a complete hardcopy would
  run into hundreds of pages.

  This would not be much of a moneymaking venture for NBS,
  but the society should not have to put its treasury at risk, either.
  Thus we will likely solicit prepaid orders at a price which covers
  the cost of production and shipping, plus a few extra copies to
  be given to the major numismatic libraries.

  As mentioned in previous issues, member Bill Malkmus has
  been compiling an excellent comprehensive index to The
  E-Sylum from the first issue to date.  The index alone covers
  about forty printed pages!   We've sure covered a lot of
  ground in that time.   We don't yet have an estimate of the
  cost, but to express interest, please write to me at this
  address:  Knowing approximately
  how many prepaid orders to expect will help us get quotes
  from printers.  Dealers, this means you, too - let us know if
  you'd have an interest in multiple copies. -Editor]


  Speaking of multiple copies, a couple of forward-thinking
  subscribers to the early volumes of George Heath's
  Numismatist magazine had two or more subscriptions in
  their name, enabling them to build duplicate sets of this
  important and now extremely rare periodical.   Who
  were they?


  This week's featured web site is the International Bank
  Note Society (IBNS) web site:
 Wayne Homren
 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 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. Those wishing to become new E-Sylum subscribers (or wishing to Unsubscribe) can go to the following web page link.

PREV        NEXT        V 04 2001 INDEX        E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

NBS Home Page    Back to top

NBS ( Web