The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

PREV        NEXT        V10 2007 INDEX        E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Dave Lange writes: "Following last week's American Numismatic
Association convention I drove out from Charlotte into the Blue Ridge
foothills to visit J. K. Post, Jr., son of the man who invented coin
boards. Many readers know already that I've been writing a history and
catalog of these fascinating and colorful relics of the 1930s and '40s
for the past year and a half. The manuscript is now complete, the layout
process has begun, and I hope to have the book in print sometime this

"I was entertained by Joe for several hours at his home, and he provided
me with copies of priceless documents that his father kept during 1934-39
detailing the creation of the first coin boards, their marketing and his
dealings with Whitman Publishing, to whom he sold the rights to this
product in 1936. All of this material will be included in my book, along
with a complete catalog of every brand, title and variety, as well as
histories of the companies and biographies of the individuals who ran

"The story of how the publication rights to the coin board concept were
transferred from Post's Kent Company to Whitman was sugar coated for
decades by the old Whitman management (the company now bearing that
name has no connection to the Racine operation that ended over a decade
ago). R. S. Yeoman and the former Whitman marketing people put out a lot
of myths that were presented as gospel, and there was no one to contradict
their version, Post Sr. having died in 1943. Though I was skeptical of
the feel-good story published again and again in Whitman literature,
and I've been told still other versions of the story by acquaintances
of Yeoman, I was equally uncertain of whether the resentment expressed
by Post's descendants was warranted. Having now seen the ledgers and
other fiscal papers, I believe that the real story is a juicy one indeed.

"Again, I can't emphasize enough that the Racine Whitman and the Atlanta
Whitman have no connection other than a name and product line. The
current management are fine people. When the book is published, readers
can decide for themselves exactly what went down 70 years ago.

"I've had an exhausting yet very satisfying experience researching the
people and places associated with coin boards, and almost all of the
material included in my book will be completely new to those intrigued
by the coin hobby's history. Since this book appears to have a limited
market, I will be self-publishing, and readers of the E-Sylum will be
kept fully informed as to pricing and availability as these are


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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

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


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

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

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

"Ask him if he has lost his blooming mind.

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

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


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

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

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

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

To read the complete description at ABE Books, see:
description at ABE Books

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gunter Kienast of Lincoln, Nebraska writes: "It is by pure accident
that I found the June 11, 2006 E-Sylum review of the Goetz Medal Sale
in Kassel, Germany on the Internet. Would you please do me a favor and
correct the spelling of my name on your records?  The article was just
perfect and conveyed most there is to say and report on Karl Goetz.
Thank you!"

[Our archive is for historical purposes and we don't make updates to it,
but we are always happy to set the record straight.  The review submitted
by Steve Pellegrini should have read: "It seems all things Goetz have
become expensive. A signed and annotated first edition of Gunter Kienast's
1968 book 'Medals of Karl Goetz' brought $1,000+ in a recent George
Kolbe auction." Sorry for the mistake.  A link to the original article
appears below.  -Editor]



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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

The read the complete article, see: Full Story


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


Regarding last week's item about coins placed under a ship's mast,
Katie Jaeger writes: "Coincidentally, I have an article coming up on
the mast timber suppliers of Pennsylvania, and how they got their
enormous product to market at the seaports. It includes a description
of mast stepping and coin placement."

"The original reason that shipbuilders would invite the whole community
to this ceremony was that all hands were needed to lift these gigantic
pieces of timber into place! It evolved into a much-enjoyed tradition
like the topping out party for a skyscraper.

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

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

Full Story


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

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

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


Dave Lange writes: "I went directly from the Charlotte ANA show to
the Whitman show in Baltimore, arriving at the latter a day early.
This gave me the opportunity to tour the U.S.S. Constellation in
Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The ship had been condemned by the Navy
as unfit for visitors in 1994 but was then restored to its present
glorious state during 1996-99. I hadn't been on the ship since 1985,
and it really is a much improved exhibit.

"One thing that caught my attention was the display of coins retrieved
from beneath the mast during the most recent restoration. I was hoping
to see some old pieces, if not large cents then at least some silver
coins. Instead, the coins recovered consisted of a cent, nickel, dime,
quarter dollar and half dollar, all of recent vintage. They were somewhat
encrusted, so I couldn't read the dates, but the three highest
denomination coins were clearly cupro-nickel-clad, and the hub style
of the quarter's reverse was that adopted in 1977! So much for history
and romance.

"Another interesting incident occurred while I was aboard Constellation.
I'd made my way down to the lowest deck, which was below water and had
no portholes. Hearing multiple sirens nearby, I jogged up the steps two
levels to the gun deck to find out what was happening. Leaning on one
of the cannons, I peered out the gun port to see fire trucks, police
cruisers and ambulances all gathered on the nearby dock and police tape
all around that side of the ship. There were also hundreds of bystanders
looking back in my direction, though their eyes were aimed at a slight
downward angle. Following their gaze, I looked straight down from my
perch to see a body floating face down about ten feet below me, bobbing
against the side of the ship. Just then a small police craft pulled
alongside, and the three occupants began gently prodding at the body.
They declined to do anything further at that time, and the boat moved
back to the dock. It was perhaps a half hour later when the body was
finally removed and laid out on the dock, at which time we were permitted
to exit the ship. I got an extended tour that day, courtesy of some poor
soul's tragic misfortune. Until that point the highlight of my day was
getting to raise the national flag during the sounding of colors.

"As I was exiting through the gift shop, a final episode occurred that
annoyed me in no small amount. I ran into a familiar coin dealer who
was just about to board, and he ran over to me with a big smile. He
then pulled from his pocket a plastic flip containing a bronze souvenir
medal of the Constellation struck perhaps 30 or 40 years ago. It bore
the date 1797, as at that time the mistaken notion still persisted that
this 1855 sloop-of-war was actually the famous 1797 frigate named
Constellation, a sister ship to the U.S.S. Constitution now preserved
at Boston. He gloated as he told me that he'd bought the medal from a
dealer's junk box for a dollar and had been using it for years to
obtain free entry to the ship, which was evidently the purpose of this
medal when made. He then told me that he had a similar medal that he
used regularly to go aboard Constitution for free, too. As he trotted
off happily toward the gang plank, I paused to ponder what a wonderful
job the volunteers have done in restoring this beautiful ship, and I
dropped an additional five dollars into the collection box to supplement
the admission price I'd paid earlier."


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

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

"I had just about traversed the entire bourse when I came across an
unusual Buffalo nickel at one dealer's table. It was a beautiful AU
1915 Buffalo Nickel with the numbers “5”, “1” and an anchor etched into
both the obverse and reverse (see photos). It looked like this had been
done with a hand stamp or stamps. I was sure it had been done a long
time ago, and probably in 1915, because of the AU condition of the
nickel. The dealer knew nothing. He had picked it up with some other
coins and exonumia from an estate. I made an offer and drove home with
my stamped 1915 nickel.

"I really didn't know what I had and why the nickel had been stamped
in this manner. So I began doing a little research on the Internet. I
did find out that there was a U.S. Navy Destroyer O’Brien (DD-51) that
was commissioned in 1915."

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


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

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

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

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

"The other site with northern New York papers is at

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


Last week we published the following from the press release on the
results of the Kolbe numismatic literature sale #102:  "Featured were
707 lots on a wide variety of topics, with a total estimate slightly
under $79,000. Reflective of the strong current market, over 85% of the
lots sold for a total exceeding $90,000, including the 15% buyer premium."

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

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

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


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

[As more countries adopt polymer notes the days of linen may be
numbered.  But it's a good question - just what is this stuff?


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story



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

To read the complete article, see: Full Story


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

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

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

Adna Wilde's article on the Lesher
Referendum Medals

  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        V10 2007 INDEX        E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

NBS Home Page    Back to top

NBS ( Web