The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

PREV        NEXT        V10 2007 INDEX        E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 10, Number 32, August 12, 2007:
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


One anonymous new subscriber this week brings our total to
1,167. Welcome aboard!

This week we open with some news from this week's ANA convention,
and an announcement of a new book on modern world gold coins.  In
the research department, we had a tremendous response to Pete Smith's
query about a Brazilian counterstamp, some thoughts from several
readers on forms of the word 'exonumia', and information on the use
of Maria Theresa thalers in Saudi Arabia.

In the news is a profile of money artist Peter Simensky, a newsman
flips an original 1913 Liberty Nickel on the air as his guests gasp,
a Colorado Congressman introduces a bill to allow for the alteration
of the metallic composition of U.S. coins, and New Hampshire's
governor pays a visit to Littleton Coin Company.

For medal collectors there is a nice new article on the history of
the Purple Heart, and for every numismatist the Featured Web Page
holds an interesting essay on the history of metals.

My London Diary returns with a vengeance this week, with entries on
Sir John Soane's Museum, the Samuel Johnson house, St. Paul's Cathedral
and The Tower of London.   To learn whether you'd be entitled to buy
a ticket for the box, pit, first or second galleries at London's
Haymarket Theatre, read on. Have a great week, everyone.

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


Intrepid numismatic photo-journalist Dan Gosling took some pictures
of the two public Numismatic Bibliomania Society events at this week's
American Numismatic Association convention.  These were Thursday's
numismatic literature symposium with speakers John Adams and Harold
Welch and the general membership meeting Friday morning, where Len
Augsburger and Joel Orosz presented.

Adams spoke on "How Comitia Americana Came To Be - A New Way to Make
a Book." Welch's topic was "British Token Literature - Putting Together
the Pieces of the Puzzle."  Augsburger and Orosz spoke about "Frank
Stewart and Artwork of the First U.S. Mint."  Dan's photos will be
posted on the NBS web site.

NBS President John W. Adams writes: "There was quite a bit doing at
the three NBS events. The Symposium played to a full house and, with
spirited questions, ran well over the appointed time.  The Board
proposed and the members confirmed three important new initiatives:

1) homage to our co-founder George Kolbe.   Scott Rubin will assemble
"George stories", biographic material, George's favorite lot
descriptions, George's many contributions to the hobby, etc. and
then run them in The Asylum with a special offprint thereafter;

2) Joel Orosz will compose a history of the club's first 28 years,
an effort for which he invites the contributions of all; and

3) Len Augsburger will direct the compilation of a list of The 100
Greatest Items of U.S. Numismatic Literature. Nominations may be sent
to him beginning immediately; a preliminary list will be run in The
Asylum and, based on feedback, a list will be finalized and probably

Enthusiasm ran high at the meeting and spilled over into our best
donated book auction ever (Wayne's coffee-stained notes on his London
adventures was Lot #1)."

In other convention news, frequent E-Sylum contributors John and
Nancy Wilson were received the highest award of the American Numismatic
Association -- the Farren Zerbe Memorial award, given to recognize
"numerous years of outstanding, dedicated service to numismatics".

E-Sylum participants received honors from other organizations at
the convention.  I've only gotten a few unofficial reports, but
understand that Roger Burdette, numismatic researcher and author
of the 'Renaissance of American Coinage' series has been elected
to membership in The Rittenhouse Society.  Congratulations!

David Kranz of Numismatic News reported in his blog that Gene Hessler
won this year's Clemy award at the Numismatic Literary Guild's annual
NLG Bash Aug. 9.  I've also heard unconfirmed reports that Roger's
book, 'Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908' also got an award
at the Bash.

I'm a world away in London and couldn't attend this year's convention.
I hope everyone had a good time and that bibliophiles were out in force.
If you were there and have additional reports or recollections of the
event to share, please drop me a line at

To read David Kranz's blog entry, see:
Full Story


The numismatic book division at Krause Publications has released a
new title: 'Modern World Gold Coins, 1801-Present' by Colin R. Bruce
II and Thomas Michael.  The 816-page softcovered book has over 15,000
black & white photos.  George Cuhaj described the new book in his
Monday blog entry:

"Modern World Gold Coins, 1801-present, includes the most actively
traded area in the World Gold Coin market, 'modern' coins! The easier
to find issues of sovereigns, francs, marks and roubles are included,
as are the mid-20th century Franklin Mint commemoratives, and late
20th century bullion issues.

"Gold, platinum and palladium are all included. Soft cover, $65.00,
772 pages, with prices updated based on gold market value of $650-670
per ounce! So nearly every price has been reviewed or updated since
the 5th edition of the Standard Catalog of World Gold Coins.

"The product features sharper illustrations and expanded descriptions.
The softcover book makes it a lighter-weight and easy-use item for

To read George Cuhaj's original blog entry, see:
Full Story

For ordering information, see:
Ordering Info


Dick Johnson and Bruce Perdue noticed a glaring error in last week's
issue - I'd forgotten to increment the issue number to 31 (so shame
of the rest of our resident nitpickers who missed this one!)  I wish
I could say I did it on purpose as a test - sorry!  Anyway, we've
fixed the online archive and made sure this week's issue is properly
numbered 32.

This wasn't the only off-by-one numbering error in the issue - Dick
Becker found a whopper in the Wayne's Word's item.  He writes: "Your
headline announcement of a lady finding a 1794 CHAIN cent in her
garden is outstanding. This earth-shattering news will, no doubt,
have all of us waiting to see which auction house will feature it
in their next sale. Look for a new sales record for a US coin.

"Isn't it fun when we can make fun of ourselves once in a while?
I wonder how many other Asylum "inmates" caught this one. Seriously,
keep up the good work. I look forward, and read each issue."

[So far Dick is the only reader to report this one.  It has also
been fixed in the online archive.  -Editor]


Speaking og online archives, Dick Johnson forwarded an article from
the New York Post noting that the New York Times may soon open up
its online article archive.  He writes: "This is good news for
numismatic researchers. I have passed on quoting New York Times
articles in past because I didn't pay for their Internet news items."
Here are some excerpts from the article:

"The New York Times is poised to stop charging readers for online
access to its Op-Ed columnists and other content, The Post has learned.

"After much internal debate, Times executives - including publisher
Arthur Sulzberger Jr. - made the decision to end the subscription-only
TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement,
according to a source briefed on the matter.

"While other online publications were abandoning subscriptions, the
Times took the opposite approach in 2005 and began charging for access
to well-known writers, including Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Thomas
L. Friedman.

"The decision, which also walled off access to archives and other
content, was controversial almost from the start, with some of the
paper's own columnists complaining that it limited their Web

[Back issues of The New York Times are invaluable for numismatic
research, and not just U.S. numismatics.  As the newspaper of record
its reporters cover important stories from around the world, and
much useful information can be found in its archives.  I found the
Times especially helpful in my research on emergency monies of the
U.S. Civil War.  Researchers and anyone interested in particular
numismatic topics should watch for this development and try their
favorite queries once the archive becomes freely available. -Editor]

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

Dick adds: "Remember that recently New York Times publisher Arthur O.
Sulzberger Jr. stated he did not know if there would even be a print
edition in the future (mentioned here in The E-Sylum March 4, 2007).

"Most major libraries have microfilm runs of New York Times (the
larger the library the further back they go), and printed yearly
indexes.  These are especially useful in that other newspapers
typically carry similar articles near the date first published in
the Times, so it is, in effect, an index to all newspapers.

"Also, don't overlook the Obituary index since 1851 (two volumes
last time I looked). There is also a Personal Name Index to the New
York Times since 1975 (now in 7 volumes). There are even special
subject indexes for sports and theater."

[As more of the back issue archive becomes available freely online,
the microfilms will be much less necessary.  But the human-generated
indexes should continue to prove very valuable; keyword search only
goes so far, and unless the Times digitizes the indexes the hardcopies
found in your local library will continue to be very useful. -Editor]



Responding Pete Smith's request for a copy or scan of the catalog
description for lot 46 of Henry Christensen's 54th sale, E-Sylum
readers came through in spades, forwarding images of the catalogue
entry and other information and offers of help on the object of
Pete's quest, a Brazilian counterstamp.  Many thanks to Bill Rau,
David Levy, Alan Luedeking, Ralf W. Böpple and Ted Buttrey, a.k.a.
Prof. T.V. Buttrey, Dept. of Coins & Medals, Fitzwilliam Museum,
Cambridge University.

Ralf W. Böpple writes: "The lot description reads:

 "46 CEARA. Star C/M Star on obv of an 1815 Bahia 960 Reis of
 Brazil, which was struck over a Spanish Amer 8 Rs. ca 1834.
 Fonr 8830. A study of Prober's major opus. pp. 138-140,
 indicates that this is one of the few "good" c/m's. Ex Fine.

"According to the PR, it brought $275.00.  Unfortunately, I cannot
help with the Prober book. I have seen it only once, in a George
Kolbe sale a few years ago, and I was the underbidder. So many
books on counterstamps in my library, and you guys ask for the one
that's on the top of my want list!"

Alan Luedeking adds: "Note that Christensen's reference to Prober
pp. 138-140 is incorrect. The correct page range in Prober is 133-135,
with p. 134 being blank. Moreover the reference is not to Prober's
"Carimbos de Minas" (a short work) but to a similar chapter in his
work "Catálogo de Moedas Brasileiras de Prata", Sao Paulo, 1947."

David Levy writes: "I published the book 'The 960s Overstrikes' in
2002 which contains a lot of information on brazilian counterstamping
and I´d be very glad in give any help."



Responding to Ron Abler's question, last week I asked, "In the U.K.,
the field known in the U.S. as exonumia is paranumismatics. So what
are the adjectival forms of these two words?"

Jørgen Sømod writes: "exonumia is paranumismatics.  I do not like
and do not use any of these words. For me, tokens as well as medals
and banknotes are all part of numismatics."

Martin Purdy writes: "I would say exonumismatic and paranumismatic,
respectively.  I get 37 hits for exonumismatic on Google, which is
low, but then it's quite a specialised field, so that doesn't perturb
me too much.  One reference is from a site we are familiar with."
[... meaning The E-Sylum, of course - see link below. -Editor]


David Gladfelter writes: "I get away with "exonumic" in articles
for our local exo society newsletter, Jerseyana. But, for the
definitive answer go to Russell Rulau - 'Exonumia' is Russ's word."

Dennis P. Skea writes: "There are also subcategories of exonumia
collecting. I collect transportation tokens, so I'm a "Vecturist".
Do I practice "Vecturism"? I also collect wooden nickels.  I'm a
"Lignadenarist".  I won't even try on this one.  Some "transportation
tokens" (good for one ride on a carosel, for example) are wooden
nickels.  Have some fun with that combination."



Len Augsberger asked me to connect him with George Polizio regarding
his item on Frank Stewart.  He writes: "I am wondering if he can give
his source for the information on Stewart's purchase of the 1823
quarter out of the May, 1914 Chapman sale.

"The reason I ask, is because this coin does not appear in the records
of the Congress Hall collection which Stewart endowed.  It is interesting
because the 1823 quarter was listed as a coin they needed, and yet it
does not appear in the accession records."



Regarding the email scam involving Maria Theresa thalers discussed
last week, Jim Downey writes: "I was stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
in 1997-98.  I witnessed more than one transaction involving Bedouins
in the markets where Maria Theresa thalers were used as the medium of
exchange.  They were available from money changers for 30 SR.  I
bought one as a souvenir even though I could get them in the US for
less.  The money changers that I talked to about them insisted they
were from France.  I tried to explain their origins but they insisted.
I later learned that they considered all coins that were not of Arab
origin to be from France.  No one could explain why."


Don Hartman of Mays Landing, NJ writes: "I thought readers might be
interested in this find by a metal detectorist from near Williamsport,
Pa.   I have been following metal detecting forums for many years and
many great finds but I don't think I had seen a 1793 Washington Ship
Token ever found."
Full Story

"Also found this week was a somewhat decent 1795 O-113a variety
Flowing Hair Half Dollar found near Albany, NY.  It has nice detail
but appears to have some pit corrosion and scratches.  The detail
is very fine I believe."
Full Story


Regarding the satirical proposal for a 99 pence coin, Jørgen Sømod
writes: "There are many Austrian WWI notgeld with face value 99 heller.
The law said  notgeld should have a value lower than one corona. And
that is 99 heller."


The San Diego Union-Tribune published a profile August 5 of money
artist Peter Simensky:

"Peter Simensky makes art about money. Currency is his medium. He
crafts intricate collages from existing notes, keeping them true to
scale. These bills are the main attraction in his exhibition at the
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego downtown, “Cerca Series:
Peter Simensky,” curated by Lucia Sanroman.

"The Brooklyn-based artist isn't the first to make art about or
with money – and we can be sure he won't be the last. Nineteenth-
century fool-the-eye painters, including William Harnett and John
Peto, liked to render American notes in their canvases. In their
early 20th-century dada days, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray had fun
with the concept of money; Duchamp appeared as sort of satyr on
“Monte Carlo Bond” (1924) in a Man Ray photograph.

"More recently, there have been artists who draw their own bills.
J.S.G. Boggs is a notable, sometimes notorious example, who has
been doing it for years. He has happily substituted his meticulously
executed versions of currency for real ones when making a purchase,
telling the person at the receiving end he'll give them the option
of taking real money or Boggs' bills. Still, this hasn't always
kept him out of trouble; he was arrested at least twice for
counterfeiting and acquitted on both occasions.

"Some artists have generated their own currency, distinct from
conventional money. The late Edward Kienholz is highly regarded
for life-size sculptures that offer gut wrenching social commentary,
but his “Watercolors” are a trenchant take on artistic reputation
and the commodity value of art. The words he stenciled on paper,
the same way each time and against the same lightly colored background,
were for goods or money. He made them for barter. So, if he put the
words “For a New Oven and Range” in the work, that meant he received
an oven and range in return. He did the same for horses, a suit,
screwdrivers and even a jeep. He also made them in different
dominations for a 1969 exhibition, writing an amount on each –
from $1 to $1000 in systematic increments – and selling them for
the amount on the picture surface.

"Simensky's art mixes both approaches. He makes bills, but unlike
Boggs he has no desire to make you think that his resemble the real
thing. Simensky's money is utterly implausible, verging on slapstick.
He combines faces, so that glasses are too big and features don't
match. Call it comic currency."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


Web site visitor Werner Press writes: "You published a review by Rulau
on a new book by L.B. Fauver titled 'Nuremberg and Nuremberg Style
Jetons'.  The internet is silent about Oak Grove Publications - can
you tell me where to order the book?  Thanks in advance."


[I'm not sure myself - can any of our readers help?  -Editor]


Regarding the headline on last week's item about the sale of non-U.S.
coins found in New York City parking meters, Bob Leuver writes: "I
have searched my notes and fail to find a prior sale.  So, this is
a Paul Harvey anecdote without the usual corroboration."

[Well, I could swear I've seen reports of such sales in the past,
but maybe we haven't covered them in The E-Sylum.  I'm sure this is
a perennial problem for them, so they must have disposed of unusable
coins and slugs before in some manner.  -Editor]

Bob adds: "When I was director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing,
I was out to a long lunch in Frankfurt, Germany with a couple of
executives from the Deutchesbundesbank.  They told me that the subway
system -- I believe it was Frankfurt -- was being overrun with coins
from England that were about 1/10 or so of the equivalent of the
West German coin required by the subway.

"The bank was perplexed as what to do with the coins as the bags of
English coins were beginning to consume space and they were heavy to
move.  As the horde increased they kept hefting the bags of coins
and moving them to larger quarters -- no pun intended.  After a
high-level meeting the Germans decided to ship the coins to England
as a goodwill gesture."

[Using cheaper coins from another country to fool vending machines
is an age-old pastime.  I wouldn't be surprised if someone maintains
a web page with a table listing what coins or tokens are known to
be effective substitutes for other, higher-valued coins or tokens.
Can anyone locate such a chart for us?  -Editor]



Dick Johnson writes: "An enterprising Canadian newspaper, the London
Free Press -- under their Access to Information Act -- obtained and
published the fact last Sunday (August 5, 2007) that the Royal
Canadian Mint spent $110,515 for a public opinion poll whether or
not to abolish their penny coin. That's a lot of money to cover
your backside before a decision is made.

"A spokesman for the Mint revealed the study has been completed and
is under review before it is publicly released. Other countries such
as Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Finland have quit
making one-cent coins.
Winnipeg New Democrat MP Pat Martin is planning a private member's
bill to discontinue use of the penny. Prices would be rounded up
or down as they are in Australia.

"He didn't mince words in what he said: 'I wish they'd stop wasting
money on public opinion polls and hand-wringing and just stop making
the damn things.'

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently expressed a coin-collectors'
sentimental attachment to the penny."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

Dick adds: "In another Canadian news article the headline reads
'Ottawans differ on losing cents' I expected some support for keeping
the cent. However, the comments strongly are in favor of abolishing
the denomination as a circulating coin."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


[Donn Perlman reported the following incident on the Collectors
Universe coin forums.  -Editor]

"Thank goodness for 'Cointains.'

"Mark Concannon, a Milwaukee television anchorman, unexpectedly
flipped the Bebee/McDermott specimen 1913 Liberty Head nickel
during a live interview segment on WITI-TV's Fox 6 Wake Up News
program on Wednesday morning, August 8. (Yes, he'd been politely
informed before we went on the air that the "props" for the
interview could be handled, but with care.....)

"Dawn Haley, Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Treasury
Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and I were the
interview guests on the segment to promote the opening of the
ANA World's Fair of Money. She brought along a few eye-opening
items from the BEP's popular Billion Dollar Display including
Series 1934 Gold Certificate $100,000 notes and a $500 million
Treasury Bond. With the gracious permission of the ANA and the
assistance of ANA Money Museum Curator, Douglas Mudd, I had the
Bebee/McDermott 1913 nickel which is making its "homecoming"
appearance in Milwaukee for the first time in 40 years.

"During the interview, newscaster Concannon picked up the nickel
and flipped it in the air. Fortunately, it's in a Cointain protective
holder, and fortunately, Concannon caught it. A similar situation
occurred with me in the late 1990's when I was on KTLA-TV in Los
Angeles with Greg Roberts to show an 1894-S dime that was going
on display at the Long Beach Expo. Comedian Bill Cosby was also
on the set. During the live interview, the Cos came over to look
at the coin (it was in a PCGS holder), took a dime from his pocket,
put it on the table, picked up the '94-S and began doing a "Fat
Albert" walk off the set with the '94-S. It was very funny, and
after the segment he graciously posed for a photo holding the coin
(which was safely returned to Roberts.)

"Newscaster Concannon was enthusiastic about coin collecting and
genuinely interested in the items Haley and I brought for 'show 'n'
tell.' It was a great promotion for the ANA convention. As a
numismatist, I was briefly stunned by the coin flip. As a 30-year
broadcaster (before turning to The Dark Side of the Force, PR),
I knew it was 'good television.' But I hope that this was a TV
first that has no sequel...."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


I arrived back in London on the Sunday night Virgin Atlantic redeye
from Dulles International.  In what's getting to be too much of a
routine, I caught the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station
and walked several blocks to my hotel with my wheeled luggage in tow.
After unpacking and taking a shower, I got dressed and headed to the
office.  After work I checked the schedule of events I'd lined up
for the week.

Patrick McMahon of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts had recommended
visiting Sir John Soane's museum. He wrote: "There is no numismatic
material there that I can recall (unless his designs for the Bank
of England count), but there is nothing quite like it."

The Soane web site states that "Soane designed this house to live in,
but also as a setting for his antiquities and his works of art. After
the death of his wife (1815), he lived here alone, constantly adding
to and rearranging his collections."

Never one to turn down good advice from those in the know, I had made
plans to visit the Soane after work Tuesday.  Ordinarily open only
until 5pm, the museum has a special candlelight event until 9pm on
the first Tuesday evening of the month, so I had planned my visit
for the first Tuesday of August.  Luckily, work didn't get in the
way.  I left the office about 6:45.

Fortunately, the Soane was in walking distance.   According to my
map, it was pretty much a straight shot, although in typical London
style the street changed names at various intersections.  Turning
off Charing Cross Road I walked down Newport Court to Long Acre
and then Great Queen Street on my way to 13 Lincoln Inn Fields.

Along the way a storefront caught my eye at 23 Great Queen Street.
As a numismatist I'm familiar with many types of medals, orders and
decorations.  In the window were various sashes, decorations and
several books relating to medal-issuing societies.  The name of
the store?  Central Regalia Limited - "manufacturers of fine regalia."
Aha - another only-in-London moment.

The bibliophile in me made note of the books, which could well contain
information on the issuance and use of various medals and decorations.
Included were 'The Knights Templar" by Sean Martin, 'The Mark Degree"
by David Mitchell and multiple titles by Richard Johnson such as 'The
Lodge treasurer, Charting Steward and Almoner - A Practical Guide'.
Also on display was a copy of 'Freemasonry Today' magazine.

Two doors down at 19-21 Great Queen I was stopped in my tracks again.
Signs declared Toye Kenning & Spencer Ltd, founded in 1685,
"manufacturers of ties, trophies, badges & medallions, special
commissions, presentations & long service awards."  Gold lettering
on the transom window spelled "Regalia House".  So what are the odds
of stumbling upon not one, but TWO regalia peddlers in one block?
Try THAT on your next trip to the mall.

The widow displays included clocks, watches, picture frames, ties,
Masonic badges, emblems, cufflinks, glassware, etc.  Books were on
display here, too.  In addition to some of the same tiles found in
the neighboring store were 'The Concise History of Freemasonry' by
Robert Freke Gould and 'Rose Croix: A History of the Ancient and
Accepted Rite for England and Wales'.  The firm's web site is .  The site states that "Since 1685,
the name Toye, Kenning & Spencer has been synonymous with quality,
craftsmanship and service."

"As medal manufacturers for over one hundred years, we supply the
armed forces and emergency services in both full size and miniature
medals and ribbons as well as offering a full mounting service.

"As leading international medal ribbon weavers, we have a
comprehensive stock service for United Nations & International
Mission medal ribbons.

"We also supply organisations such as the Royal Life Saving Society
and the National Rifle Association with all of their medal

The hour being late, the regalia shops were closed, but might make
a fruitful stop for collectors of medals and decorations while
visiting London.  I continued on to the Soane only to discover a
queue of some forty people waiting to get in.

The Soane is a private home and relatively small by museum standards.
Only 75 visitors are allowed in at a time.  People wait outside to be
let in only when enough others leave.  So I waited.  A group of seven
young Londoners was in front of me.  A young woman with a Spanish
accent got in line behind; next a group of people speaking German
arrived.  So who was this man whose museum has been drawing people
from around the world since 1837?

Born in 1753, John Soane was the son of a bricklayer who became one
of England's greatest architects, responsible for interiors at No. 10
Downing Street, and for Britain's first public art gallery.  His
favorite and most famous work was the headquarters of the Bank of
England (see there - a numismatic connection and I haven't set foot
in the door yet).

Soane's home is an architectural showpiece featuring a beautiful
spiraling white marble staircase and a hundreds of feet of built-in
glass-front bookcases (a bibliophile's dream!).   He died in 1837,
leaving his home as a public museum.  The original endowment has long
since been exhausted and the museum is supported by the Government
and private donations.  But admission is FREE to what is perhaps
the most idiosyncratic of all London museums.

Although Patrick McMahon didn't remember any numismatic material,
my numismatist's nose could sniff some.  I mean, what educated gentleman
of his day DIDN'T appreciate numismatics?  As I was to find out, there
were indeed some numismatic treasures waiting inside.

By the time I got to the front of the line there were about sixty
people behind me.  Finally the door manager motioned me inside.  The
narrow hallway sported six large plaster wall medallions depicting
classical allegorical scenes.  Four of them were about two feet in
diameter; two others were about four feet across.  There were others
in the alcove and hallway beyond, nine in all.

Turning to the right I entered a combination dining room/library.
Books were shelved throughout the entire home, but the core of the
6,000+ volume collection is stored here.  It was about this time that
I realized that a nostalgic candlelight tour is not the best time to
view either coins or books - in the dim light it was difficult to
read the spines and see what books were present.  But I was able
to make out a few.

The first item I encountered was a nicely bound set of Gentleman's
Magazine v1-54, 1731-1764.  No, it's not forerunner of Playboy -
Gentleman's Magazine was a potpourri of news, announcements and
discussions on a wide range of topics, driven largely by news and
reader letters.  Sound familiar?  I like to think of The E-Sylum
as a faster-paced GM for numismatists of today (both Gentlemen and
Ladies, thank you).  There are many interesting numismatic tidbits
within, such as a contemporary announcement of Franklin's Libertas
Americana medal in the March, 1783 issue.

Other books in the library include the works of Chaucer, a beautifully
bound 25-volume set of 'Swift's Works', a 20-volume Encyclopedia
Britannica, Raleigh's 'History of the World' and Malcolm's 'History
of Persia'.  On a bookshelf in the Kitchen I found the five-volume
'Catalogue of the Library in Sir John Soane's Museum'.  According
to the museum's website, "Work to recatalogue the Library to modern
bibliographical standards is nearing completion, and over the next
three years groups of entries will be made available on the website
at intervals as the editing is completed."  Surely there must be a
few, but try as I might, I could not locate a numismatic tome

To access the online catalog of Soane's library, see:

In the Dressing room beyond were four hanging frames filled with
"casts of gems" by Edward Birch and Nathaniel Marchant.  These were
pretty coin-like cameos in plaster.  On the far wall I spotted a
man's portrait labeled "Nathaniel Marchant R.A. Die Sinker To the
MINT".  Aha!  Another numismatic connection.

I've found little about him on the Internet, other than a reference
to an article by Gertrud Seidman in the Fifty-Third Volume of the
Walpole Society titled 'Nathaniel Marchant, Gem-Engraver, 1739-1816'.
The Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University mounted a small exhibition
on Nathaniel Marchant in honour of Miss Seidmann in 1999-2000.  Can
anyone shed more light on Mr Marchant?  Was he an engraver at the
Royal Mint?

The Portrait room held 28 paintings and sketches, including twelve
by William Hogarth (1964-1764).  There were more paintings throughout
the house.  In the gift shop were some beautiful large landscapes
with water and buildings including two by Venetian artist Canaletto
(1697-1768) - Piazza S. Marco and Rialto, Venezia.

The sheer amount and diversity of the Soane holdings is amazing.
There are architectural elements, busts, statues, pre-Columbian pottery
and even a huge sarcophagus of an Egyptian King.  What a treasure palace
- I can only wonder what the value of the collection is today, 170
years after Soane's death.

How did Soane assemble his collection?  The docents told me that although
he took the Grand Tour of Europe as a young man he rarely traveled, and
bought much of his collection through auctions and dealers.  He also
purchased entire collections.  When I asked about coins and medals I
was told that Soane wasn't much interested in numismatics.  Pity -
imagine the numismatic treasures that could have found their way into
this collector's centuries-old time capsule.  The docents threw me a
bone, though, telling me that upstairs was a set of medals Soane bought
in Paris in 1819.  Hmmmm - more later.

I had already encountered a few numismatic specimens on display.  In
an alcove in the basement were five medals including gold and silver
examples of a "medal presented to John Soane by the Architects of
England. Engraved by Wyon the Chief Engraver of His Majesty's Mint.
The silver version shows the reverse featuring a portion of his
favourite work: the Bank of England."  The obverse of the medal
features a portrait of Soane.   Unfortunately, much of Soane's earlier
Bank of England building was demolished as part of a renovation in the
1920s which some called "the greatest architectural crime, in the City
of London, of the twentieth century".

Finally completing my rounds of the basement and ground floor, I made
my way upstairs in the dimming evening light.  How come they don't make
candles with more candlepower?  Anyway, just as the closing hour
approached I found the numismatic Holy Grail of the Soane museum,
sitting in two glass-topped wooden cases on a window seat in the back
bedroom.  Each case held four custom-made wooden trays of bronze medals
of all sizes, about 130 in all.  Despite the poor lighting I could see
that the medals were in great condition, many with superb mahogany
surfaces.  The label read as follows:

"Medals struck at the Paris Mint between 1796 and 1815 to celebrate
the victories and other episodes in Napoleon's career.  Designed by
Baron Denon (1747-1825) and engraved by various French artists, this
collection is traditionally said to have been assembled by Baron
for the Empress Josephine."

I was agog at the sight of the collection and wished for just
three things:

1. a good magnifier
2. a good flashlight
3. a good deal more time

But soon it was 8:55PM and downstairs one of the docents said
"Do guard your ears!" before clanking a large hand bell to signal
closing time.  Reluctantly, I left the building.

I visited an Indian restaurant for dinner on my way back to the tube
stop.  Passing a Tapas restaurant decked out in red chintz, it looked
to me like a French bordello on Bastille Day.  I guess I still had
visions of Paris on my brain.

It was 10pm and few cars were about on Charing Cross Road.  I jaywalked
straight across without a care, a death-defying act in midday.  The
only moving vehicles were six tricycle rickshaws, some pulling tourists,
most empty.  The sidewalks were as packed as ever with people, though,
including families with children coming from the thratre.  I wished
my family could be with me.  Soon I was on the tube, hurtling back to
my hotel on a Central Line train.  So ended another day in London.

While writing this diary entry I came across a great article on
Soane's museum.  Here's an excerpt that we collectors can relate to:

"John Soane's problem was that he couldn't stop collecting fantastic
things and cramming them into his house on Lincoln's Inn Fields in

"He was one of those splendid and productive wackos who make life
worth living for the rest of us by leaving behind something astonishing
to remind us that the secret to being interesting is being interested."

"The tidy chaos of Soane's Museum is what makes it so enchanting --
unlike other museums, the collection is not organized according to any
perceivable linear or thematic thread. He arranged his exquisite
hodgepodge the way he wished, juxtaposing objects for his own
aesthetic satisfaction. Great cooks don't bother with recipes."

[Has the existence of Soane's set of Napoleonic medals been recorded
in the numismatic literature?  Is there any other record of its
provenance? -Editor]

To read the complete Salon article on Soane's museum, see:
Full Story

For more information on Napoleonic medals, see:
Full Story

For more information on Baron Denon, see:
Full Story

For more information on the Soane museum, see

For more information on Sir John Soane, see:



My work week got busier and busier and I stayed later at the office
each night.  On Thursday I didn't leave until nearly 11pm.  On the tube
home the driver announced, "we're stopping at this station for a few
minutes so we can clean up some vomit on the first car."  That was
just what I needed to hear as I attempted to digest a few pieces of
late-evening pepperoni pizza from the office.  The driver came on
the loudspeaker a couple minutes later and said, "Really, it's only
vomit, there's no need to look down the car."   I wasn't among those
looking - all I wanted was to get back to my hotel.

At 6am my alarm rang and by seven I was standing outside on my suit
and tie.  Three of us hopped into a car driven by our client.  We
circled around some local street closures, then alongside Hyde Park
to Marble Arch.  The large archway was built as an entrance to
Buckingham Palace, but it was later moved and reassembled at the
southwestern corner of Hyde Park.  Here we turned onto Edgeware
Road heading north out of London.  This is the beginning of what
is now the A5 expressway, following a route originally paved by
the Romans.

We arrived in Leavesden well before our 9am meeting.  The building
had a café in the lobby, and our client offered to buy us breakfast.
I'm not a ham and eggs person on a good day and would have been happy
with some toast or cereal.  But the café was mainly offering hot
wrapped sausage sandwiches, basically sausage hot dogs.  Everyone
bought one.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do, I thought.  So I
ate a sausage hot dog for breakfast.

Our meetings went well, thanks in part to our preparation work the
night before.  But a lack of sleep was catching up on me.  I had to
concentrate to not doze off as others droned on.  But that wasn't
my biggest problem - that would be the silent sausage farts.  My
biggest fear was that I'd fall asleep and my colleagues would wheel
me out of the room so I would stink up the hallway instead.  But
the storm passed and a supply of caffeinated cola kept me awake.

About 5 o'clock our client dropped us at a train station and we
took the tube back into London.  We worked until 6:30 or so, then
walked toward the Lowlander Pub in Covent Garden, where we'd been
a few Fridays before.  My co-worker, who's usually very good with
London directions, ended up detouring us a good bit out of our way,
but it gave me a chance to see Covent Garden Market again.  The
place was alive with hoards of people.  An acrobat entertained by
juggling while riding a unicycle on a rope suspended between two
columns.  Tourists were having their photo taken with a man dressed
as a statue of a Roman soldier.  A sign chiseled in a nearby wall
noted that Samuel Pepys watched his first Punch puppet show near
the site in May 1662.  Over three centuries later, the place was
still a magnet for street entertainers.

We finally got to the pub around seven.  Our client joined us later,
along with his wife.  We had some nice conversation, but I was fading
fast - exhaustion was setting in.  I couldn't bear to eat and drink
like the locals - screw the Romans, screw Wild Boar Sausages, and
screw the beer, too.  I ordered a bottle of water and a hamburger.
I left around 9:30 and could barely keep my eyes open.  But I made
it home, looking forward to a good night's rest.

I guess I got my rest - I didn't set the alarm and didn't crawl out
of bed until after 10am.  The forecast was for a sunny day with a high
of 79 degrees Fahrenheit.  That would make it warmest day I've seen my
whole stay in London.  Earlier this week it had hit 102 degrees back
home in Virginia.  Here in London the high was only 70; going to work
in the morning I saw people wearing jackets.  I gladly put on shorts
and a T-shirt, looking the part of a proper American tourist.

I left my hotel around noon.  As I walked to the main street, I
could already tell it was going to be a perfect day, one where the
skies are clear, the air is warm, and all the women are beautiful.
Alongside Prince Alfred pub, a florist displayed colorful cut flowers
for sale.  I wanted to buy my wife a bouquet, but she and my kids
were thousands of miles away.

Wishing to try something different for lunch, I walked into Halal, a
local eatery run by a Muslim.  I hadn't been in before, but was impressed
with the cleanliness and brightness of the place.  I ordered a chicken
curry dish, and it was very good.  As I paid my bill I noticed some Euro
coins in the tip plate.  I asked the manager about the exchange rate,
and then offered to pay in pounds for the coins.  He agreed, and I took
the coins - two fifty cent coins of country different designs, and a
twenty cent and ten cent coin.

I walked into my regular Queensway tube station.  As I turned the
corner onto the platform, a train was just arriving.  See - I just
knew it would be a perfect day.  I hopped on and exited at the Holborn
station.  One woman walking near me had a little dog walking ahead of
her on a leash.  A woman up ahead of me was wearing a pair of jeans
cut a little bit too low around the waist, revealing an inch or so of,
shall we say, "cleavage".  She must have felt a breeze (or my eyeballs)
and gave her pants a tug upward.

On the way to my destination was Sir John Soane's museum.  This time
there was no wait to enter and I went in for some unfinished business.
I made a beeline for the Napoleonic medal set on the second floor.
The sunlight beaming through the window made it easy to see the medals
this time.  I confirmed Tuesday evening's impression - the medals were
generally in superb shape, although some could benefit from some
conservation work.

Two small holes in the trays were unfilled, causing me to wonder if they
had ever been filled.  Two round patches of background material less faded
by sunlight than the surrounding areas made me suspect two larger medals
had either been lost or (hopefully) taken by the curators for study or
conservation.  One of them had suspended via a hole or bezel - a small
nail remained behind.  My favorite medal?  There on many, particularly
those with very high relief.  They had allegorical motifs, nudes, Gods,
warriors and of course, Napoleon.

In the daylight I could read the spines of many of the books I saw.
Remember, Soane was an architect and he used his collections and
library partly for the education of himself and his pupils.  Some of
the books were tour guides and town histories, undoubtedly acquired
for information on old buildings.  Some titles included "Walks Through
Bath", "Beauties of England and Wales", "Oxford Guides", "Winchester &
Cambridge", "History of Exeter" and a four-volume set of "Hughson's

Before leaving I took a quick walk around, and it was a better
experience now that the rooms were better lit.  Light poured through
the windows and skylight domes.  Outside in the court I could see
Soane's tall monument to the family dog, inscribed "Alas / Poor Fanny".

The Picture Room revealed its secrets.  I had wondered why it contained
so few paintings.  It didn't.  Today I could see that the walls open up
on hinges, an ingenious space-saving design revealing many more paintings
and prints behind on hinged panels.  Many are paintings and drawings
of Soane's architectural designs.  On a shelf is a scale model of
Soane's South Front of the Bank of England.

Once outside I decided to walk through Lincoln's Inn Fields, a city
park across the street.  It is the largest public square in London
and is thought to have been one of the inspirations for New York's
Central Park.  The trees are a wonder - with trunks measuring several
feet across, they must be centuries old.  The oldest building facing
Lincoln's Inn Fields is Lindsey House, built in 1640.  At nearby
Powis House, the charter of the Bank of England was sealed in July

As I continued my walk I heard the beep-beep-beep of a construction
vehicle backing up.  It was a flatbed truck (pardon me, "lorry")
carrying wooden timbers, perhaps for scaffolding.  Construction
cranes towered nearby.  I imagined John Soane's excitement if he
could be with me today - he'd probably run over to the site
foreman's office, imploring to be shown the plans.

I passed the Courts of Justice and Law Society on Chancery Lane.
A plaque on one building noted what had been lost to earlier
construction: "Site of Old Serjeant's Inn 1415-1910".

My destination was the home of Samuel Johnson, author of the first
major dictionary of the English language.  An elderly couple from
Chicago that I'd met at the Benjamin Franklin house recommended it,
but noted that it was difficult to find in narrow lanes off Fleet
Street.  So onto Fleet Street I turned.  A double-decker tour bus
passed by.  Across the street was a tall, narrow building housing
Ye Olde Cock Tavern.

Following my map I came to Pemberton Row. There was a construction
fence and another tall crane.  But the fence held clues that I was
drawing near.  Painted on the fence were definitions of interesting
English words, including: "Equinumerant - Having the same number",
"Discalceation - The act of pulling off the shoes", "Circumferaneous
- Wandering from house to house ' 'A circumferaneous fiddler, one
that plays at doors.'"

Around a corner I walked onto Gough Street and spotted my goal, but
my heart sank as a read the sign on the locked gate: "Dr. Johnson's
house will be closed today..."   But I was relieved to read the rest:
"... between 1-2 pm".  I was even more relieved as I checked the time
on my mobile phone: 1:57pm.   The admission was 4.50 GBP.  I pulled
out a fiver and waited.  I was soon joined by five other people.

A pretty blond woman walked out of the house and clapped with
excitement - "Ooh, a crowd!"   She unlocked the gate and let us in.
I paid my admission and was given a 50 pence coin in return.  I looked
at it disappointedly.  "You should be giving out Johnson coins in change,"
I said.  In 2005 the Royal Mint issued a circulating commemorative 50p
coin in honor of the 250th anniversary of the 1755 publication of
Johnson's Dictionary. Finding one of the coins in change had partly
inspired my visit.

The clerk explained that they'd tried to get a supply of the coins,
but it had taken months to get their order filled by their bank.
They had none in the till, but did offer some uncirculated ones for
sale in Royal Mint packaging.  The gift shop also sold books on
Johnson, including, of course, James Boswell's classic, "The Life
of Samuel Johnson."

In the front hallway, the original front door was secured with two
large deadbolts and an even larger iron chain.  Partway up the stairs
was a small built-in closet that once stored candles, handy when
going upstairs after dark.

At the top of the stair was a nook with chairs and a video player.
I pushed in a tape and watched a 20-minute video with costumed actors
portraying Johnson and Boswell touring the house and discussing
Johnson's life.  He had been born into a poor family in 1728.  He
entered Oxford University but was too poor to complete his studies.
He later found work as a teacher and founded a private academy.  He
only had three pupils, but one was David Garrick, who became Johnson's
friend and later went on to fame and fortune as an actor.  By 1737
Johnson was penniless and he and Garrick set out together to make
their fortunes in London. There he found employment writing for
The Gentleman's Magazine. For the next thirty years, Johnson wrote
biographies, poetry, essays, pamphlets and parliamentary reports.

In 1745 he signed a contract with a publisher to write his dictionary,
worth the equivalent of over $300,000 today.  He thought the project
would take three years; it took a decade.  He moved to the Gough street
house to work on the project and be close to his printer.  Johnson
scoured his extensive library for references, underlining words and
sentences for inclusion in his dictionary.  He had a team of six
clerks working for him in the attic of the house.  They transcribed
the excerpts onto cards and organized them for him.  Johnson would
study the cards and write his definitions.  Eventually the cards
were assembled and prepared for the printer to typeset.

I climbed to the attic workroom.  While Johnson's dictionary was not
the first dictionary of the English language, it was by all accounts
the best to date and came along at a fortuitous time - the declining
cost of printing and the corresponding rise in literacy demanded
clearer standards in meaning spelling, and grammar.  The workroom
was dim, but large enough to accommodate the clerks and their work.
It held no furniture or artifacts relating to his dictionary.  If
there was copy of his original dictionary anywhere in the house, I
did not see it.

So what's the numismatic connection?  Well, we at The E-Sylum love
words, although it's been a while since we've defined an unusual
numismatic term.  That's all that led me here.  But there were
some interesting numismatic items here besides the 2005 commemorative.

In the attic room through 18 September is "Behind the Scenes", an
exhibit on Georgian Theatres 1737-1784.  In one case was a
Shakespearian Jubilee Medallion, a silver medal struck in 1769
to "commemorate the Jubilee organized by David Garrick in Stratford-
Upon-Avon to celebrate the bicentenary of Shakespeare's birth.  The
medal was displayed with its original hanger, ribbon and box.

In another case was a group of 1778 Haymarket entry tokens.  These
were used as admission tickets to the Haymarket Theatre.  The four
apparently polished tokens were encased in Lucite.  Their
inscriptions included the words "Box", "Pit", "First Gall'y" and
"Second Gall'y".  The exhibit text explained that Boxes were for
people "of quality".  The Pit was for "ladies, gentleman and
intellectuals."  The First Gallery was for "tradesmen and their
wives" and the Second Gallery was for "the mob."  [Quick quiz:
name a U.S. numismatic item relating to a theatre. -Editor]

Finally, a third case contained another unusual numismatic item:
"John Philip Kemble's 'George'", a crude-looking medal of "silver
or nickel alloy c1781-1817."  The text explained that "A George
Medal was "... traditionally worn onstage by actors in the role
of Richard III; it depicts George slaying the dragon'.

It was nearly 3pm.  I made my way out of the Johnson house and
found a new passage back to Fleet Street.  The dome of St. Paul's
Cathedral loomed in the distance.  I was thirsty, but passed up
the first shops I encountered - A McDonald's and a Starbuck's.
Not enough of the local color for this numismatourist.

But I soon came across Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese restaurant.  A
sign noted that it was rebuilt in 1667 (after the London fire
of 1666) and was "a known haunt of Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens
and countless others."   To the right of the entrance was a sign:
"Under 15 Sovereigns ... Rebuilt in the reign of Charles II and
continued successively in the reigns of ..."  The sign listed
all monarchs from James II (1685-1688) through Elizabeth II (1952-).

The most telling sign of the restaurant's longevity was the stone
stoop in front of the door - it was worn down several inches by
centuries of patrons' shoes.  A grate above it allows today's
visitors to enter without tripping.  But I didn't need a restaurant,
just a drink.

This being Saturday in the City of London, a booming business
district during the week, many shops were closed.  Local chains
Pret A Manger,  E.A.T. and William H. Smith were closed for the
weekend.  I found an open convenience store and bought a cold Coke

I walked down the street and entered St. Paul's Cathedral.  After
waiting in line with other tourists I bought my ticket and was told
"if you want to climb the dome, you'd better start now - there's
not much time left."  So I found the first of the 400+ steps and
began my ascent, but not before marveling at the absolute beauty
and splendor of the magnificent structure.

"Stairway to Heaven" I heard someone quip. The first landing is the
Whispering Gallery, a shelf of seating surrounding the lower part
of the main dome.  A choir began to practice and the sound and view
were heavenly.  Entering another door, I climbed the second set of
stairs to a higher landing.  It's as if Christopher Wren designed
the stairs with tourists in mind; the various landings allow you
to catch your breath before resuming the ascent.  There are also
benches at various points along the stairs.

The final journey is on a narrow winding iron grill stair.  If you
look down, you'll see the faces of others below looking up at you.
The line of people backs up here, as people linger at the very top
before coming back down a separate stair.  At one point in the final
climb, you have to squeeze through a narrow stone doorway.  The trek
is not for the obese, acrophobic, claustrophobic, or discreet women
in skirts.

A one point there is a glass window in the floor at the very center
of the dome.  You can look down from an angel's perch to the floor
of the Cathedral below, where people look like ants.  Near the pinnacle
of the dome you step outside onto a walkway to a magnificent view of
London.  The Thames sparkles below.  Downstream is the Tower Bridge
and Tower of London.  Upstream are the Houses of Parliament, the
Millennium Bridge and the London Eye, the huge Ferris Wheel also
built to celebrate the millennium.  I took some photos, like everyone
else.  What would the architects Wren and Soane think to view their
city from this vantage point today?

The climb down was quick and uneventful.  I entered the American Chapel
at the East End of the Cathedral.  A sign read "This area, originally
containing the high altar, had suffered major bomb damage in October
1940."  Later, downstairs in the crypt, was a placard stating "following
the bombing raid of 29 December 1940, when St. Paul's was seen rising
above the smoke and flame all around, Winston Churchill telephoned
the Guildhall to insist that that Cathedral must be saved at all costs.
St. Paul's was a symbol of the nation's defiance in the dark days of WWII."

After the war, restoration work began on the Cathedral. The replacement
of the high altar area "revived an unfulfilled plan of Sir Christopher
Wren and provided a space for a chapel of great beauty and significance."
The American Chapel was dedicated in November 1958.  The sign
reproduced Winston Churchill's letter about the Chapel:

"Our two countries, parted long ago by war, were brought together
again by war in a unity and understanding such as we had never known.
Through long years of endeavour and endurance we shared all things,
and though we lost so much we found a lasting friendship.  We shall
not forget those gallant American soldiers, sailors and airmen who
fought with us..."

Churchill's was the only non-royal state funeral held in St. Paul's,
on 30 January, 1965.  The others were Nelson and Wellington, who have
huge monuments in the basement crypt.  I lingered a bit, then went
outside to continue my journey.  I followed my map toward The Tower of
London, passing the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street.  By the
time I arrived at the Tower it was 5:30 and too late to enter.  I
walked around the outside of the old structure, and viewed some
remaining parts of the old Roman wall that once encircled the City.
I hopped on the tube and headed home for dinner.

Back at the hotel Saturday evening I did my laundry and worked on The
E-Sylum in my room.  Twice I returned to the laundry room to find that
one of the other guests had mucked with my dryer - after an hour and
a half my clothes were still wet.  I stalked back to my room and brought
my laptop down to the laundry room, where I worked on the E-Sylum with
the computer atop a dryer.  Next one to touch my clothes will find
themselves stuffed into a washing machine with the agitator in an
awkward place.  So my Saturday evening wasn't as glamorous as the ANA
awards banquet in Milwaukee.  But it was a fun day of numismatic

For more information on the Marble Arch, see:

For more information on Covent Garden and Punch and Judy, see
Full Story

For more information on Lincoln's Inn Fields, see:'s_Inn_Fields

For am image of the Samuel Johnson commemorative 50 pence coin, See:

For more information on Samuel Johnson, see:

For more information on the Royal Haymarket Theatre, see


Earlier in my visit Jim Spilman wrote: "While you are there in London
with the Bloody British be certain to stop by the Arms Museum within
the Tower of London.  It is just 'around the corner' in one of the
buildings adjacent to the Crown Jewels exhibit.   Last time I was
there they had on display the ORIGINAL Steam Gun invented by Jacob
Perkins (ca. 1820).  It could penetrate a 19" brick brick wall with
iron slugs. "Reference:  Jacob Perkins, His Inventions,  His Times,
& His Contemporaries.  Page 111ff.  Greville & Dorothy Bathe.  The
Historical Society of PA. 1943 (200 copies)"

Not having yet been inside the Tower of London, I made this my goal
for Sunday.  I had some salad and an apple for lunch at my hotel and
headed again for the tube.  This time I walked up to the Notting Hill
Gate station and took the Circle Line, which stops directly at the
Tower station.  Wearing shorts and a T-shirt in giddy anticipation
of a repeat of Saturday's weather, I was sadly encountered with cool
and cloudy weather.   Too lazy or stubborn to go back and change, I
pressed on.  The sun shone thru enough times that I made do, but
warmer clothes would have been welcome.

I passed through the main tower gate about 1pm, just in time to
catch up with a tour group led by a member of the Yeoman Warders,
the famous "Beefeaters".  He seemed to really enjoy his work, teasing
the crowd, yet doling out very interesting bits of history and lore
about the Tower.  At the center of the complex is The White Tower.
Built by William the Conqueror along the banks of the Thames in 1078,
the structure which served as the royal palace for over 500 years.
In the 12th century, King Richard the Lionheart enclosed the White
Tower with a curtain wall and had a moat dug around it.  Various
other building and towers were built within the walls.  "The Tower
of London" is a term referring to the entire complex.

After our tour most of the hundreds of tourists got in line to view
the Crown Jewels.  As one who hates lines, I decided to go look for
the coin exhibits.  "No one will be there". I thought.   It turned
out to be a good decision.  I waited until about 4 pm and by then there
was no line at all to see the Jewels.  I skipped in giddily like a kid
on a private visit to Disneyland.

Disneyland is an apt analogy - prepared for huge crowds, the exhibit
walks visitors through multiple waiting galleries before delivering
the crowd to the main event.  Projection screens show films of the
coronation of Elizabeth II, and discuss some of the more famous
diamonds and gems that adorn the crowns.

In the final exhibit room visitors are herded into two lines, one in
front of a line of exhibit cases, and one behind.  The floors are
moving walkways like those seen in airports.  What better way to move
the cattle along and prevent lingering?

No such precautions were needed at the numismatic exhibit, which turned
out to be pitifully small.  There was no signage anywhere, and two of
the guards I spoke to had no idea it was there.  A third guard directed
me to the top floor of the White Tower.   I entered the Tower in awe of
its thousand-year history.  The White Tower is today basically a museum
of armaments, filled with suits of armor, muskets, cannons and other
weapons.  It was an interesting exhibit, but I have to say I enjoyed
the armaments at the Fitzwilliam Museum more.  At the Fitzwilliam the
armor is right out in the open, close enough to touch.  The Tower
museum lacks that wow factor - there are far more items on display,
but they are farther back from visitors or behind glass.

Once inside I also had to ask for assistance finding the Jacob Perkins
gun.  Because of the steam power mechanism, I was expecting something
very large, but as it turns out the gun itself is fairly small, as it
is meant to be attached to steam source by a tube.

Within a case displaying a number of experimental weapons was the
Perkins steam gun, circa 1840.  It is not the original Jacob Perkins
gun as Jim remembered (unless that was also there and I missed it).
This one was an improved version built by Jacob's son Angier.

The final room at the top of the White Tower held the new "Hands on
History" exhibit, where visitors heft axes and feel the tension of
an archer's bow.  Along the center of the room is a long exhibit
by the Mint with large-scale reproductions of different coins, each
about a foot across.  As anyone who has seen the early hammered
coins knows, the artwork was typically crude.  I over heard one
visitor, while looking at the enlarged coin likeness of William I
comment sarcastically, "What a beautiful likeness!"

There were some real coins in the exhibit, but only twelve -
displayed were obverse/reverse examples of:

Silver penny of William I
Gold noble of Edward III
Gold sovereign of Edward VI
Silver crown of Charles I
Silver crown of George II

In all, the numismatic exhibit was pretty disappointing.  I guess I
expected too much from a venue that once housed an actual mint.  The
old mint facilities were not in the White Tower, but in an outbuilding
elsewhere in the compound.  There is a "Mint Street", but this area
is private and closed to visitors.

I left the Tower of London complex about 5pm and walked toward Tower
Hill, to the place where the Royal Mint relocated upon leaving the
Tower.  The Royal Mint building was there, across the road leading to
the Tower Bridge.  It too, was closed to the public.  The Mint had
long ago packed up again and removed to Llantrisant, Wales.  Time
marches on, and so did I.  This time I walked several blocks to the
Liverpool Street Station to catch a tube train back to my hotel.
That's all for this week's numismatic adventures.
Cheers from London!



Dick Johnson writes: "The headline stated “The Blog Turns 10” in my
morning newspaper. Blogs have been around for a decade! Can you believe
it? The article tells me there are more than 53.1 million individual
blogs now – on every conceivable subject -- and 175,000 new blogs
are created every day!

"But I am glad there is a blog on numismatics, and numismatic literature.
Or, perhaps you do not consider E-Sylum a blog, editor Wayne Homren’s
personal blog. Unlike the gossip, politics, and shear running off of
the mouth – there is now a word for this “blogorhea”—that you will find
on most other web postings, I am certain you will agree what you read
here every week is a cut above anything else on the Internet.

"Wayne Homren was a visionary. Look at the first line in this issue. It
says vol 10, number 32.  Wayne envisaged many years ago what a weekly
discourse of news, announcements, gripes, comments and discourse on
numismatics would find an audience on the Internet. Way ahead of its
time. He has found that audience. He has built a readership based on
the freshness, quality, importance and service to his subscribers by
providing numismatic information we all wanted. And he has maintained
that every week since.

"As a high school senior in 1946 I could not get enough news of
numismatics in the then existing publications (Numismatist, Numismatic
Scrapbook). So I subscribed to a newspaper clipping service for any
news clipping on coins. For a class in journalism that year I wrote a
paper “Establishing a numismatic news service.” This came about, somewhat,
14 years later when I started Coin World. So you see I have some insight
of the subject.

"I recognized Wayne was on to something when I first learned of E-Sylum.
He foresaw the Internet as an effective way of publishing without paper,
print and mailing. It comes to us every Monday on our computer screen.

"No, I don’t consider E-Sylum a blog. To me it is an Internet newsletter.
Make that a Newsletter with a capital N."

[I often call The E-Sylum a blog when explaining to people outside the
hobby what I do with my spare time – it’s a popular term and most people
know what it means now.  But it think Dick's right – The E-Sylum not
exactly a blog.  From the start it was a newsletter - an email newsletter.
Now that we've grown into having a web archive and RSS feed, it looks
and acts a lot more like a blog, but it holds to its newsletter roots.
Many thanks to all E-Sylum readers for your interest and participation.
It's reader input that really differentiates The E-Sylum from a "mere"
blog, which is typically a one-way publishing street.  -Editor]

Dick adds: "I say I write at least one article a week for an Internet
Newsletter.  People seem to understand that.  Perhaps it is time to
put 'Newsletter' as a subhead somehow."

[Instead of “an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania
Society.”, I guess we could be more specific and label it “an online
newsletter.”   It’s not just email since we have an RSS feed as well;
both forms qualify as “online”.  If you know what "RSS" is, you can
use the following address to set up The E-Sylum in your RSS feed
reader: . -Editor]


Ralf W. Böpple of Stuttgart writes: "On the question of how obsolete
-denomination coins were taken out of circulation, I can only make a
guess. I understand that most odd denominations were either never
widely used, or at least no longer so in the years prior to their
termination. So the number of pieces in circulation should have been
very low to begin with.

"The regular way in such a situation would be that people spend them
(even if they are not officially demonetized, there is a strong
incentive for the public to do so, for fear that the government might
change its mind in the future). The shopkeepers turn them over to
their banks, because their clients are reluctant to accept them as
change, and the banks send them off to the Federal Reserve or whoever
might be in charge of the local cash supply.

"If the coins were made of silver, they might have been hoarded (there
is a psychological difference between paying with a silver half dime
and a nickel, even though both are worth 5 cents) and were then melted
down in later years."



On a related topic, Ralf W. Böpple writes: "Regarding Roger deWardt
Lane's attempt to circulate dollar coins in a coin club meeting, I
would simply say that numismatists tend to keep unusual coins they
get in circulation, so it appears to me quite logical that they put
them aside and did not spend them. The effect of people NOT wanting
the new dollars should be increased circulation, because people would
try to get rid of the unwanted coins as quickly as possible! It is
like the two dollar bill (another topic recently discussed). During
my very first visit to the US some time back, I received one in change,
and I found it so exciting that I kept it, and still have it today.
If I wouldn't have found it interesting and exotic, I would have made
it circulate as quickly as possible, right?"



On Monday the U.S. Mint in Denver held a ceremonial striking of
Wyoming's commemorative quarter with a number of Wyoming state
officials present.   The Denver Post published a short article:

"Participants in the ceremony included Bradford Ross, the grandson
of the first woman governor of Wyoming and the first woman director
of the Mint, Nellie Tayloe Ross; Milward Simpson, director of the
Wyoming Department of Parks and Cultural Resources; and James Helzer,
Wyoming Quarter Commission Member.

"According to a news release, Wyoming's state quarter is the fourth
coin released in 2007 and the 44th released in the Mint's 50 State
Quarters Program. An image of a bucking horse and rider are featured
on the coin, along with the inscription, "Equality State," which
acknowledges the state's historical role in establishing equal voting
rights for women. The coin also is inscribed with "Wyoming" and the
year "1890," the year the state was admitted into the Union."

To read the original article, see:
Full Story

The Jackson Hole Star-Tribune published a video on its web site.
To view the video, see:

The Wyoming Tribune published a lengthier piece:

"Some may look at the Wyoming quarter - which was the subject of a
ceremonial striking at the U.S. Mint here Monday - and see the
duality in the state's culture engraved on the tails side of the

"On the right of the coin is the state slogan, 'The Equality State,'
celebrating Wyoming's groundbreaking role in providing equal rights
for women.

"On the left is the well-known cowboy on a bucking bronc - a
masculine symbol of individualism that brings to mind the popular
moniker 'The Cowboy State.'

"Nellie Tayloe Ross, Wyoming's first female governor and the first
woman in the nation sworn in as a state governor, would not see
those values in opposition though.

"On Monday, her grandson, Bradford Ross, said, 'I think my grandmother
would say that the suffrage issues really helped illustrate the
reality of the (cowboy on) the bucking horse symbol.

"'The men of Wyoming - the cowboys of Wyoming - are so self-confident
that they don't feel like they're losing anything by giving women the
right to vote. My grandmother saw the people of Wyoming were
progressive and insightful.'

"Dignitaries and media milled about the highly secured production
floor of the Mint in Denver, a facility Ross knew well.

"Milward Simpson is director of the Department of State Parks and
Cultural Resources. He also was a member of the Wyoming Coinage
Advisory Committee that reviewed and whittled down the options for
the coin.

"He said public suggestions for the bucking bronc and cowboy as a
symbol for the coin ran 10-1 as the most recommended symbol in
3,200 suggestions.

"Some people see the two slogans - 'The Equality State' and 'The
Cowboy State' - as contradictory, but he does not.

"'The nature of the cowboy as a symbol is retrospective, and the
Equality State is aspirational. So they sort of fit together,' he

"Simpson said Ross' role at the Mint made her the logical choice
to exemplify Wyoming's commitment to equality for women during the
striking of a coin.

"She was appointed to head the U.S. Mint by President Roosevelt in
1933 and served until 1953.

"Bradford Ross said his grandmother's accomplishments at the Mint
included overseeing the opening of a new building in San Francisco
in 1937; producing coins for European nations after World War II;
and pushing for automation and efficiency at the Mint facilities.

"Bradford Ross said, 'Walking the halls of this building as a little
12-year-old boy with my grandmother, I could see how proud she was
of the people who work here and the work that they do.'

"Ross' legacy lives on at the Mint, said Barbara Hurtgam, acting
deputy plant manager.

"She said she hoped the attendees witnessing the ceremonial striking
would find the facility 'as automated and efficient as (Nellie Tayloe
Ross) would want us to be.'

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


"U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has introduced legislation that
would authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to adjust the metal
content of coins distributed by the U.S. Mint. The bill is an effort
to save taxpayers over $100 million per year.

"'This common sense legislation will allow our government to alter
the composition of coins so we no longer have to spend so much money
making our money. As a representative of one of the two states with a
U.S. Mint Department circulating coins, I will work hard to ensure
that this bill is passed expeditiously so our government can start
saving money today,' Allard said in a press release.

"The U.S. Department of the Treasury has reported that changing the
composition of our pennies and nickels will save the government over
$100 million a year. This legislation could also lead to a saving of
nearly $400 million a year by making similar changes to the dime,
quarter and half dollar.

"Allard added that once this bill is enacted, the United States Mint,
which is a part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, will seek
industry and public comment on alternative compositions for the coins."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

To view the full text of the bill, see:
Full Story

[David Ganz published a detailed article on this legislation on
Numismatic News' Numismaster site.  Here are a couple excerpts.

"Legislation has been simultaneously introduced in the House and Senate
to allow the Treasury secretary to change the composition of American
coinage, and to allow public participation in the process.

"This marks the third time in the last 42 years that the Mint is being
asked to make serious changes in its coinage composition. The first
came with the Coinage Act of 1965; the second came with the proposal
in 1973 to change the composition of the cent from copper to aluminum.
Copper-nickel clad coins and a zinc cent that is copper plated were
the end result.

"This legislation is far more encompassing and looks to the future
and the need for prompt action by the Treasury secretary as the price
of copper, nickel, zinc and other raw materials rises faster than
Congress can cope with them.

"Treasury has undertaken several major studies of coinage composition
in the last half century. First of these was by the Treasury and
entitled, "Treasury Staff Study on Silver and Coinage" (1965). Treasury
also contracted for private studies.

"One of these was by the Battelle Memorial Institute, entitled "Final
Report on a Study of Alloys Suitable for Use as United States Coinage"

"Before any changes take place, both the Senate and House must approve
in identical bills and the President must sign it into law. Odds are
this one will move ahead, given its powerful backers."

To read the complete Ganz article, see:
Full Story


On Monday, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch visited the town of
Littleton and made a stop at Littleton Coin Company.  His visit was
chronicled in the Caledionian-Record of Vermont.

"After getting an earful about health care needs, and being very
impressed by what happens each day at Littleton Regional Hospital,
the governor headed over to the Littleton Coin Co. for an up-close
and personal look at one of the region's top employers - employing
360 people, said Milton Bratz, director of Administrative Operations.

"The company was a dream of Maynard Sundman, who was a coin collector,
and after the war desired to start a company based on his passion -
he found an investor and had his wife look for a site in New Hampshire.

"They moved the fledgling business from Bristol, Conn., to Littleton,
the 92-year-old Sundman shared with the governor. He said the city he
grew up in had a brass mill, and he got the idea that a coin company
would make a good business.

"The governor and he inspected the old Royal typewriter he still
uses, 'but not for important things,' he said with a smile.

"Bratz told the governor that even when the economy isn't so strong,
that people continue to purchase things for their hobbies - such as
coin and stamp collecting. People may cut back on eating out or buying
fancy suits, but they 'keep buying stamps and coins.'

"The plant, located in the Littleton Industrial Park, has expanded
several times and occupies an 85,000-square foot facility.

"Littleton Coin has 'the largest inventory of any coin company in
the United States,' today, said Bratz, as Gov. Lynch moved around
the company, learning about the ins and outs of collecting new
coins, and the value of ancient coins excavated the world over."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


Crooks in Canada are playing switcheroo with a real security feature
on Bank of Canada notes.

"The RCMP are warning the public to be wary of funny money sporting
a genuine security feature.

"Counterfeiters are stripping the holographic stripes off of lower
denomination bills and gluing them onto poor quality $20, $50, and
$100 notes, according to the RCMP Bureau for Counterfeit and
Document Examinations (BCDE).

"What’s more, the crooks are taking the genuine notes without the
holographic stripes to banks to be replaced, or pasting $20 stripes
on counterfeit $20 notes, then returning the damaged bills to the

"The majority of incidents have occurred in Alberta but the bills
have also popped up in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

"The public and merchants should be on the alert for bills which
have a genuine holographic stripe with a lesser denomination than
the actual bank note."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


Counterfeiters in Louisiana are washing genuine notes and using
the paper to print higher-denomination fakes.

"The pen commonly used to identify counterfeit money isn't enough
to tell that $100 bills being passed in Central Louisiana are phony.
Bank tellers and store clerks need to look at other security
features built into every bill, police say.

"Counterfeiters have been removing the ink from $5 bills and printing
them as $100s, said Alexandria Police Sgt. Lee Leach, who is a
financial crimes detective. Because they use the paper from real
money, they will pass the pen test, he said.

"The pen's ink checks for chemicals embedded in currency. 'The pen
can only tell if the paper is authentic or not ... If the money has
been washed and you have a fake $100, it's no good and you're out
of money,' Leach said.

"Some businesses won't take any bill larger than a $20. But people
counterfeit $20s and $10s, too, Leach said.

'We have counterfeit detection on currency counters, and it's a
good idea for people to look to find Abraham Lincoln's face on a
$100 bill,' Abshire said. 'I was a teller before, and those fake
$100 bills look different. They are real good quality, but the
color is faded looking.'"

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


According to published reports, "The speaker of Pakistan's
parliament has ordered an inquiry into why the national flag
depicted on the new 1,000 rupee banknote is not in green but
red and carries a close resemblance to its Turkish equivalent.

"A senior finance official told the National Assembly that a
cabinet committee had approved the note, which went into circulation
in late 2006 and is worth the equivalent of $16.

"The controversy comes at a time when Pakistan finds itself in the
middle of a political storm."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


American Heritage has published an interesting article on "The
Curious History of the Purple Heart" on August 7th, the 225th
anniversary of its creation.

"The Purple Heart is known among servicemen as the “medal no one
tries to earn,” yet hundreds of thousands have been awarded. It
is the oldest military decoration still in use in the world,
having been established by Gen. George Washington at a moment when
he feared losing his army to mutiny or revolt, yet for a century
and a half it was all but forgotten, only to be reborn in the 1930s.

"Washington personally awarded the badges—small hearts of
purple-sprigged silk edged in silver thread, purportedly designed
by Pierre L’Enfant, who would later plan the city of Washington, D.C.
—to Brown and Churchill at his headquarters in Newburgh on May 3,
1783... On June 10, Washington presented a third badge to Daniel
Bissell, Jr., another sergeant with the 2d Connecticut.

"And that’s where the official chronicle ends. In his original orders,
Washington had directed that each recipient’s name be “enrolled in the
book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office.” The book, if
it ever existed, seems to have become a casualty of the haphazard
storage of records in the nineteenth century.

"Although no other documentation exists, it’s unlikely that Washington
awarded only three Badges of Merit, and all to Connecticut residents.
For one thing, a fourth badge later turned up in a New Hampshire barn.
In the 1920s, an officer of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati
found a dust-covered, moth-eaten Continental Army uniform coat hanging
limply from a peg in a Deerfield stable. On the left breast was a
heart-shaped silk badge, believed by experts to be a genuine Badge
of Merit. The original owner is unknown, but he could not have been
Churchill (whose badge is in a New York State museum), Bissell (whose
badge was destroyed in an 1813 fire), or Brown (whose badge was stolen
in 1924 and had a different design)."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story


An obituary published Saturday in the Chicago Tribune shows how you
can keep people guessing about what a "numismatist" is.

"Paul A. Downing, a retired savings and loan executive who once
served under former Gov. Jim Thompson, gained a reputation for
honesty and integrity but also displayed a mischievous wit that
left co-workers laughing or running for their dictionaries.

"He once introduced himself to a new secretary as a "numismatist,"
said one of his former employees at Uptown Federal Savings and Loan
in Chicago, where he worked the majority of his professional life.

"By day's end she was pretty sure he belonged to a cult of some
sort," said Dory Hofvander. "That evening she looked the word up
in the dictionary and found out he was a coin collector."


This week's featured web page is recommended by John and Nancy
Wilson, Ocala, FL.  They write: "Here is a great place to find
out everything you might want to know regarding metals.   The
title and credits are, 'A Short History of Metals', by Alan W.
Cramb, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Carnegie
Mellon University."

[I found the paper very interesting.  It's a short but thorough
overview of "what we knew when" about various metals.  What's most
fascinating is how mankind developed using so few metals.  "...
seven metals, known as the Metals of Antiquity, were the metals
upon which civilisation was based..."  (Gold, Copper, Silver, Lead,
Tin, Iron, Mercury)  "These metals were known to the Mesopotamians,
Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans."

"Currently there are 86 known metals. Before the 19th century only
24 of these metals had been discovered and, of these 24 metals, 12
were discovered in the 18th century. Therefore, from the discovery
of the first metals - gold and copper until the end of the 17th
century, some 7700 years, only 12 metals were known."

Featured 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        V10 2007 INDEX        E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

NBS Home Page    Back to top

NBS ( Web