The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. For more information please see our web site at


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To join, print the application and return it with your check to the address printed on the application. Membership is only $15 to addresses in the U.S., $20 for First Class mail, and $25 elsewhere. For those without web access, write to:

David M. Sundman, Secretary/TreasurerNumismatic Bibliomania Society
P. O. Box 82 Littleton, NH 03561


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You won't regret it!


Wayne Homren New subscribers this week include Steve Fahrlender, courtesy of Ken Berger. Welcome aboard! We now have 1,162 subscribers. This is a big week for the Numismatic Bibliomania Society - our annual symposium and general meeting will take place at the ANA Convention in Baltimore, MD. I expect to be at the convention all day Thursday, and my wife and I will attend the banquet Saturday night. I hope to see many of you there.

We open with information on the upcoming Kolbe numismatic literature sales, a new book on Canadian numismatics, and a new price list of U.S. gold rush items.

In the news, the cutoff of banknote paper to inflation-ridden Zimbabwe is fueling a cash shortage (and the troops are growing restless). Also, the unique Charlotte medal is purchased by Australia's National Maritime Museum.

To learn about the arrest of a Walter Breen imposter, read on. Have a great week, everyone.

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


George Kolbe forwarded the following press releases for his upcoming numismatic literature sales. -Editor
On September 18th, 2008, George Frederick Kolbe/Fine Numismatic Books will conduct their 106th auction. Some highlights include an 1861 handwritten letter from James Ross Snowden to Jeremiah Colburn about his book on Washington medals and the restriking of medals; 19th and 20th century auction sale catalogues from the library of John J. Ford, Jr., featuring a number of sales room copies annotated by Ford and by Walter Breen;

Runs of W. Elliot Woodward, Ed. Frossard, Barney Bluestone, and M. H. Bolender auction sale catalogues; scarce Lyman Low sales; Ford's complete set of Kolbe's The Numismatic Bookseller; Ford's annotated Alexander Vattemare Presentation Album sales; a fine copy of Vattemare's 1861 "first comprehensive catalogue of American Numismatics" from the numismatic department of the French National Library; Ford's set of annotated NASCA sale catalogues;

An exceptional, complete set of Ruddy's Review; a complete original subscriber's set of hardbound Remy Bourne sales; Elder's 1908 James B. Wilson Sale with 28 photographic plates; a copy of Henry Chapman's 1916 Bement sale catalogue with six unique photographic trial plates; standard multi-volume works on ancient coins; Meili's monumental 1903 work on Brazilian paper money; a set of Calciati's Pegasi; Storer's 1931 Medicina in Nummis, etc.

Copies of the printed catalogue may be obtained by sending $15.00 to George Frederick Kolbe, P. O. Box 3100, Crestline, CA 92325. Telephone: (909) 338-6527; Fax: (909) 338-6980; Email: . The catalogue will also be accessible free of charge, several weeks before the sale, at the firm's web site: .


Kolbe Books is also pleased to announce the sale of the highlights of two important numismatic libraries on January 10, 2009 in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, during the New York International Numismatic Convention. The first is the superb library of antiquarian numismatic books dating from the early 1500s, along with classic works on Italian numismatics from the library of Dr. Ferdinando Bassoli of Turin, Italy.

Following it will be a select but remarkable collection of classic works on United States large cents and auction sale catalogues with photographic plates, featuring some three dozen plated Chapman Brother catalogues and nearly all the great large cent literature rarities, including an 1881 Andrews and leather-bound editions of Newcomb on 1801-1803 cents and Clapp on 1799 cents. Copies of either printed catalogue may be obtained by sending $25.00 to George Frederick Kolbe or $35.00 for the pair.


Serge Pelletier forwarded the following press release for his newest book. -Editor
Canadian Dictionary of Numismatics The first edition of “The Canadian Dictionary of Numismatics/Le dictionnaire canadien de numismatique” by Serge Pelletier, is now available from the publisher.

“Dictionaries tend to be dull recitations of definitions peppered with a few facts and examples. ‘Enjoyment’ is not a word that often comes to mind when thinking about reference books. Until now” said Doug Andrews, columnist at World Coin News after reviewing the latest book by world-renowned coin writer Serge Pelletier. “The result of more than a decade of research, this work is as meticulously documented as it is entertaining to read. Entries are crisp, informative and provide revealing insights into the collection and study of coins, tokens, and paper money” he concluded.

When asked why he prepared this work when there are already several numismatic dictionaries, glossaries and lexicons in English and French, Pelletier explained: “It is true that several works on the subject exist but I have found them wanting. First most of these numismatic dictionaries come from countries other than Canada, and despite their commendable qualities, they generally do not reflect the interests of collectors of Canadian coins and paper money. Second, the entries rarely, or briefly, include Canadian numismatics and when they do, they are often inaccurate. Finally, most cater only to the learned. This dictionary fills the gaps left by these works and is, first and foremost, destined for beginners and scholars alike – so the beginner may look up PCGS and the advanced collector specialized in paper money may look up the Vexator Canadiensis token.”

“Although the focus is on Canadian coin collecting, there is extensive coverage of American, British, and French coinage. The book is authoritative and thought provoking, and is sure to become an eagerly sought after reference for both beginning and advanced collectors, or those with everyday questions about Canadian currency and its fascinating history” said Andrews.

The book is completely bilingual (with French and English entries cross-referenced) and ably fills a void that has always existed in Canadian numismatic publishing. This all-new volume is 6” x 9” in size with 320 pages, 40 of which are colour plates. It is available in two formats: hardbound @ $90 post-paid (ISBN 978-0-9808944-1-7) with an initial run of 25 copies; perfect bound @ $45 post-paid (ISBN 978-0-9808944-0-0) with an initial run of 500 copies. An electronic version may also be added for $15 (sold only with a printed copy). The CD-ROM contains a locked PDF copy of the dictionary. Orders may be placed with Eligi Consultants Inc., which can reached at: Box 11447, Station H, Nepean, ON K2H 7V1 CANADA, fax: +1-613-599-7630, Email: Canadian resident must add the applicable taxes.

Pelletier is the award-winning author of several books including A Compendium of Canadian Municipal Trade Tokens and the six-volume Standard Catalogue of Canadian Municipal Trade Tokens. He has served as President of the Association des numismates francophones du Canada and as Vice President of the Canadian Numismatic Association. He was a contributor to the Canadian Numismatic Correspondence Course, Parts One and Two, and has been published throughout the world in most of the major numismatic periodicals.


David Perkins forwarded the following press release for Holabird-Kagin Americana's 2008 America's Gold Rushes catalog. -Editor
Holabird Kagin FPL 2008 We are pleased to announce that the printed version of the brand new 2008 Holabird-Kagin Americana America's Gold Rushes catalog is now available for ordering. This exciting 560 page, full color book is far more than just a catalog, it is also a valuable reference piece covering the most important Gold Rush-related items ever! This is a must have for collectors, historians, researchers, librarians, and everyone with an interest in knowing more about the people and places that made the Gold Rush era such an exciting time in American history.

Printed copies are $50 shipped to US addresses. To order your copy, please call Holabird-Kagin Americana at (775) 852-8822. You may also send your address information to or

Holabird-Kagin Americana
3555 Airway Drive, Suite 308
Reno, NV 89511

Interested in a Special Collector's Edition?

We are considering producing a special, limited Collector's Edition of America's Gold Rushes. At $300 each, this special edition isn't for everyone, but for serious collectors and researchers who want a long-lasting reference piece, the cost will be easily justified. This will be a hard-cover, sewn binding, numbered and autographed edition that will be a great addition to any rare book, Americana, or numismatic library. If you would like a chance to obtain the Collector's Edition, please contact us immediately.

Fred Holabird sent me a review copy of this massive fixed price list. It's no ordinary dealer FPL - the 559-page book is packed with full-color illustrations of gold rush Americana. At least half a page is devoted to most of the items, which are arranged chiefly by state of origin. The state of California takes up nearly half the book, but Colorado, Nevada, and even Virginia and Vermont are represented.

The largest single class of items is assay receipts, but many other interesting types of items are included, such as gold-rush related letters, photos, books and pamphlets. Pioneer gold coins, ingots and related medals are featured as well. Some of my favorites are the Harvey Harris assay ingots, and the 1856 Vigilance Committee medals. Perhaps the most unusual item is #2, a Western Cattle Horn Chair, circa 1895.

Vigilance Committee Obverse Vigilance Committee Reverse

Fred has done a good deal of research, and it shows in the pages of this catalog. One key reference source on gold rush banking and bankers was Ira Cross' Financing an Empire: History of Banking in California, as well as contemporary newspapers. I wouldn't be surprised to see this catalog become one of those rare Fixed Price Lists which become a standard reference in their field.

San Francisco Bullion Receipt


Good Money Regarding George Selgin's new book Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821, Scott Loos writes:
The Conder Token Collector Club had contacted the publisher to see if the author was able to attend the Baltimore ANA to speak at our meeting and possibly do a signing session at the ANA author's table. Unfortunately, he will unable to attend the convention, but I have arranged to have a case of the title shipped to me at my Baltimore hotel. If any E-Sylum readers are interested in obtaining a copy, I will have them available at my bourse table (#1616 - Scott Loos World Coins). The book retails at $40.00.
We have discussed the book before here in The E-Sylum. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm looking forward to it and would welcome reviews of the book for publication here after the convention. Below is an excerpt from the publisher's advertising blurb. -Editor
Good Money tells the fascinating story of British manufacturers' challenge to the Crown's monopoly on coinage. In the 1780s, when the Industrial Revolution was gathering momentum, the Royal Mint failed to produce enough small-denomination coinage for factory owners to pay their workers. As the currency shortage threatened to derail industrial progress, manufacturers began to mint custom-made coins, called "tradesman's tokens." Rapidly gaining wide acceptance, these tokens served as the nation's most popular currency for wages and retail sales until 1821, when the Crown outlawed all moneys except its own. Economist George Selgin presents a lively tale of enterprising manufacturers, technological innovations, alternative currencies, and struggles over the right to coin legal money.


Augsberger, "Treasure in the Cellar" Dave Lange of Bradenton, FL writes:
I just want to note how much I enjoyed Len Augsburger's book on the Baltimore Hoard of gold coins and the persons involved. I read it cover to cover over a series of airplane flights and found it to be not only entertaining but extremely well researched. It's rare that a numismatic subject can be so compelling as drama, but Len captured it perfectly.


Bruce W. Smith writes:
I am the editor of a new nonprofit website for the Journal of East Asian Numismatics ( Back in the 1990's, we published JEAN as a paper magazine in Taiwan. Publication ceased in 1998. Now we are restarting the magazine, but this time it will be online and free to all. The site, which will be in Chinese and English, will also contain back issues of the journal, links to other sites, and databases of information. One goal will be to establish a database of counterfeit Chinese coins, with information on who to identify the fakes. The site is currently under construction, but parts of the site are working (the Links and some selected articles from earlier issues and some new, unpublished material).

Journal of East Asian Numismatics


Dave Perkins writes:
A Stack's eNews emailing this week offers for bid a small token and medal research library (primarily catalogs) as an addendum to the firm's James E. Dice and M. Lamar Hicks sale. It's an unusual approach to adding a lot for the sale. I don't recall seeing this done before.

Auction addenda themselves are nothing unusual, but this is the first time I've ever seen one published by email. Not a bad way to get the word out quickly. -Editor


Kolbe 2008007-27
LAKE BOOKS Now in their 19th year, Lake Books is currently cataloguing its 95th sale of fine numismatic reference material. If you would like to join more than 200 previous consignors, contact us at
DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE offers fixed price lists on our Web site at This just in: Numismatic Bibliography and Libraries, by Frank Campbell. 8vo., card covers. 48 pages. 1986 NI reprint. An excellent overview of the subject. New. $20 postpaid.
DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS now accepting consignments for our October 4th mail bid auction. Consignments in hand include a Very Rare original photograph of "Ye Olde Mint" by R. Newell. (719) 302-5686, visit our web site


Bob Knepper writes:
The July 20 E-Sylum contains book reviews of "A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals". Your review mentions "Mardi Gras doubloons". The review by the Wilsons says "excluded are... clubs, fraternal societies".

The Mardi Gras doubloons are issued by the marching societies - so now I'm not sure whether they are included or not. Mardi Gras doubloons/medals already fill a medium size book. A few of the early, 1884-1895, doubloons from the Krewe of Rex happen to include "my" wildmen - though not very good ones. Thus I'm curious if they are in the new book.

When I read Bob's note I wondered if I'd misspoken in my review, but yes, Mardi Gras doubloons ARE included in Katie Jaeger's new Guide Book (p141-142), under the category of Celebration Souvenirs.

Richard Jewell writes:
I concur with your editorial review of the "Guide Book", but I feel a major area of United States medals were overlooked and not even mentioned, not even in the "Exclusion Preface". This would be the United States Assay Commission Medals from 1870-1977. Over a hundred years of medals and barely a mention (Chapter 9-National Medals, paragraph three). How could you have a "Guide Book" and exclude this national series?

It would be a major error if the book did not include the Mudie Series of National Medals. But there we aren't talking about a guide book, are we? Perhaps another Whitman book is in the works to cover this National series of United States Medals! Olympic Participation Medals were not mentioned either, but they may have been washed over in the "Exclusion Preface" with "not enough space for Olympic events"? All are possible suggestions for future reference works.


Ron Thompson writes:
In your tale of two cities contribution from Dick Johnson I noticed an error. In Dick's otherwise fine article, he mentions that Jarden Industries had $104 million in one-cent blank business in 1907. I think he meant 2007 because there was no need for a copper plated zinc blank in 1907.

George Kolbe's ad was also a bit mangled in some mail readers, so I'm running it this week in a different format, more true to his original submission. Thanks again to all of our advertisers for their support of The E-Sylum. -Editor


Dave Bowers writes to say that the Rittenhouse Society will have its annual meeting at the ANA Convention in Baltimore. If you are a member and have not received notice, this means Dave does not have your current e-mail address. To remedy this, please contact Dave at:


Mitch Sanders, Chair, CCAC writes
On behalf of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, I'd like to invite everyone to attend our public meeting and forum at this week's A.N.A. convention in Baltimore. We'll begin by considering designs for the 2009 American Eagle Platinum coins. After that, we'll open the floor for public comment about any issues related to American coin design.

We always look forward to interacting with the numismatic community at the A.N.A. convention, and we hope that anyone interested will attend our meeting and share their thoughts with us.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 AM on Friday August 1, in Room 316 of the Baltimore Convention Center. I hope to see you there!


Carl Honore of Puyallup, WA writes:
Dick Johnson's note on button making was interesting. It is true that button makers can develop into coin strikers, but that is only true as far as it goes. Washington's buttons were rather crude in design and execution. What set Boulton apart from his contemporaries was technology. Boulton, with the help of others such as Jean-Pierre Droz, Conrad Kuchlerm and even his partner James Watt all had a hand in the best tokens and coins of that time. One person cannot do it alone. What Boulton and Watt did was take the button manufactory to new horizons. In truth, button making did not require the same die set up as coin making, in terms of the stamping dies. The buttons from Boulton's era that I have are rather quite ordinary, uniface strikes. The two are really quite different in terms of execution. While Johnson's note is basically true, it is also quite general.

Ron Abler writes:
Dick Johnson’s observation about the close relationship between buttons and coins is spot-on and holds even more closely between buttons and medals. Medals, like coins, have not only their manufacturers and manufacturing methods in common with buttons, but medals and buttons also often share their subject matter. Take for example the U.S. Centennial of 1876 and especially the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The number of Expo souvenirs that were sold for that event is truly astonishing. The medals, of course, get the most attention from modern-day exonumists, but they were easily outnumbered by die-struck buttons, studs, pins, badges, cuff links, lockets, belt buckles, and even suspender snaps.

Mr. Johnson is right. It is striking (pun intended) how similar these mementos are in their manufacture: die-struck obverses with a dazzling array of reverses and/or shapes that betray their intended purpose. An Expo visitor with no numismatic bias might actually conclude that the medals could be defined simply as two-faced die-struck souvenirs with no discernible utilitarian purpose!


Dick Johnson submitted the following comments in response to our discussion on what some describe as the excessive use of adjectives in coin catalogue descriptions. He says "It's not the hype - it's the hyperbole!" -Editor
I don't mind the adjectives in coin descriptions for auctions and print ads (as mentioned in the last two issues of The E-Sylum). It is the adverbs -- the third and fourth words prior to the noun, those modifiers that pile on the adjectives. The adjectives are hype which can be excused somewhat in describing coins to enhance their desirability to elicit bids or a purchase. This can be considered trade puffing -- every successful salesman is a master of this form of communication. After all, a catalog description is an attempt to sell the item. Conversely, adverbs are hyperbole which are annoying to some. The verbiage has gone too far, piled too high, wrangling some ears (mine included). I want just the facts, Ma'am. Here are some jarring examples I found in past:
  • liquid fire full cameo
  • glossy sharp rims
  • mellowed natural tan color
  • exceptionally mirrored surface

These are from a series of ads in Coin World in 1995. The seller had undoubtedly studied descriptions of expensive coins. What I learned is there is a direct ratio between the offering price of the coin and the amount of hype and hyperbole in its describing. Greater cost, greater hype. Be on lookout for any word within quotation marks:
  • "real" coin
  • "glows" with silvery white radiance.

Out and out hyperbole:

  • aura of respectability
  • desirable in any grade
  • greatest coin of all time
  • magnificent specimen
  • never have an equal
  • for the ultimate collection

These are all exact wording from the ads of The Mint of Kansas City. Here is my candidate for the worst coin description in one of their ads -- for a gem 1879 Three Cent Piece (from Coin World, July 10, 1995, page 11):

  • very, very pretty!


Joel J. Orosz submitted the following request for information regarding a set of medals once in the hands of President James Madison and displayed in his residence, Montpelier, in the 1830s. -Editor
Lance Humphries, who co-authored with me two articles on Robert Gilmor, Jr. several years ago for The Numismatist, is now working for Montpelier, James Madison's residence in Orange, Virginia. He is part of an extensive effort to restore Montpelier to its Madison-era appearance. Several visitors to Montpelier during the 1830s described a collection of medals that resided in the Drawing Room, perhaps similar to the seven-medal set, mostly Comitia Americana medals, that George William Erving sent to Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in 1823.

Lance has found a Google Books citation to The Numismatist that reads "The exhibits were as follows: By Mr. Blake: A case of seven bronze medals presented to President James Madison by George W. Erving..." The Google Books citation reads: 1894, p. 143. This is incorrect--it reflects the date of the first volume of The Numismatist that Google scanned, not the actual date of the issues of The Numismatist in which the content occurred.

"Mr. Blake," of course, is George H. Blake, the renowned paper money authority, who was an active collector from the late 1890s until his death in early 1956. The snippet from Google Books is probably a report in The Numismatist about a monthly meeting of the New York Numismatic Club. Can any readers of The E-Sylum help to pinpoint the date of the report in The Numismatist; how the Madison medal set left the Madison family; from what source Blake may have acquired the set; and what my have happened to the set post-Blake? (George H. Blake is not listed as a consignor to any American numismatic auction sale by Martin Gengerke).

No monetary award involved, but I suspect that someone providing great information could wangle a behind-the-scenes tour at Montpelier from Lance!


Katie Jaeger submitted the following query for the experts among our readers at The E-Sylum. -Editor
For 99 cents at a Goodwill store, I bought Marshall McClintock's 1948 Nobel Prize Treasury, a Literary Guild publication in hardback. I was just sick of everything and figured, well, short works of early Nobel-for-literature winners couldn't let me down. I was right. I've been reading it in bed off and on for about two months.

A few times while reading, I thought I saw movement on the page. My eyes not being as sharp as they used to be, I couldn't really verify it. Until last night - I stopped my reading and pulled the book close to my face. I saw the tiniest insect I've ever seen (way smaller than an aphid), nearly the same color as the yellowed page, maybe a touch whiter - ecru, I guess. Hard to imagine that any living thing, other than a microbe, could be so small. It was running across the page I'd just turned, evidently not liking the burst of light.

Now I'm not particularly squeamish about bugs, and I was enjoying the story (Thomas Mann's Little Hanno) and decided to worry about it later. I fell asleep, and this morning, in my rush to work, left the book on the bed. For about the tenth time.

I've just been web surfing on "book mites" and "book lice" and have read that the remedy is freezing, or putting the book in a hot dry place for a while. My question is, should I be majorly bummed that I've been sleeping with these critters? Actually, I feel sorry for them, in their tinyness, having to sleep with me, but, still...I'm not entirely happy with the term "lice." Any expertise among the readership?


Internet searches can turn up numismatic references in the strangest places. I was surprised to come across a reference to tokens of the Belgian Congo on the site of the Harvard Business School. I was looking forward to discovering a paper of interest unknown to numismatists, but it turned out to be a reference to something already in the numismatic literature domain.

The HBS working Knowledge e-mail newsletter "... summarizes new working papers, case studies, and publications produced by Harvard Business School faculty." In this case, the newsletter highlighted an article in the April 2008 journal of the Token and Medal Society. Author Louis Wells is a faculty member. -Editor
Heart of Darkness: Business Tokens of the Congo (Part 1)
Authors: Louis T. Wells
Publication: TAMS Journal 48 (April 2008): 36-42.

Few numismatic fields are as unexplored as the tokens of what was once the Belgian Congo. Although the head (and "extra-wife") tokens have been thoroughly cataloged, I have found only one very early and incomplete attempt, by Mahieu in the 1920s, to report other tokens from this vast territory. Most of the tokens in this article that have not been previously listed were obtained in markets in Kinshasa between 2000 and 2005. Given the poor communications and regional violence, tokens from the eastern and even central part of the Congo were unlikely to appear in this western-located city. Probably many more tokens were issued in association with the Congo's important mines and plantations. This "Part I" article should serve as a start for the development of a "Part II" with a more complete list and history of issuing companies. Until then, the tokens of the former Belgian Congo and its independent successor states remain largely in darkness.


Forbes Magazine published a set of photos on its web site on how to detect counterfeit U.S. currency. It's not a detailed how-to course despite the title, but there are several good photos with accompanying text on how the notes are made and some of the anticounterfeiting measures. -Editor
In the last five years, the Secret Service has made 29,000 arrests for counterfeiting and seized $295 million in counterfeit money--still only a fraction of the amount in circulation. Working with the U.S. Treasury Department, the Secret Service ensures that the design of U.S. currency is always evolving. The $20 bill has changed 10 times since 1928, when Andrew Jackson first appeared on the front. Changes almost always involve adding design and structural details to the bills to make them hard to replicate and easy to distinguish from fakes.

U.S. Banknote Paper Fibers U.S. Banknote Paper Microprinting

To read the complete article, see: In Pictures: How To Tell If Money Is Counterfeit (


We reported in earlier issues that the company that had been supplying banknote paper to Zimbabwe had stopped shipments due to international pressure. Opponents had agued that the shipments aided the government in oppressing its people. Could this boycott be the last straw that brings down the government? According to reports, with no cash to pay its troops, the military is growing restless. -Editor
Zimbabwe 100 Billion Dollar Note The Zimbabwean government was today struggling to find enough cash to pay its workers, and more importantly the military, after it was forced to severely cut back on printing money because sanctions severed its supply of banknote paper from Europe.

Officials involved in the printing of money said the regime was fearful that the presses could be shut down altogether if further political pressure causes the withdrawal of software licences used to design and print the notes.

On Monday, the central bank issued a $100bn note, the highest denomination to date but worth only about 7p, printed on what remains of stocks of the German-supplied paper.

The source said the firm had been told that new supplies of currency paper were coming from Malaysia but it was unable to meet the current demand for cash created by hyperinflation that economists estimated was running at about 40m%.

The speed of the devaluation can also been seen in the watermarks. Hold a $750,000 note up to the light and the watermark shows the paper was intended to be used for a $1,000 bill. The $25bn note has a $500 watermark.

To read the complete article, see: Soldiers await pay as Zimbabwe runs out of paper to print money (


Dick Johnson was the first to forward this story about the results of the Noble auction of John Chapman collection of Australian coins and medals. -Editor
Charlotte Medal The crowd of medal collectors breathed a collective sigh and craned in their seats as Australia's first piece of colonial art sold for $750,000 at auction to a beaming mystery buyer seated in the third row.

Minutes later, it was revealed that the National Maritime Museum had bought the Charlotte Medal — a silver disc engraved by the convict and expert forger Thomas Barrett when the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay. Even the most hardened medal collectors paused in their bidding to clap.

Very little material survives from the ships of the First Fleet, so the Sydney museum sent its assistant director of collection and exhibitions, Michael Crayford, to Melbourne to secure a seminal piece of Australian history.

Charlotte Medal "It is also one of the best artworks for that period (so) we're absolutely thrilled to have it and it will be on display to the public within weeks," Mr Crayford said.

The silver disc was sold by John Chapman, a retired dentist, who bought it at auction in 1981 for $15,000.

The rest of his extensive collection of Australian medals, coins and banknotes, valued at $1.6 million before auction, also went under the hammer at the Noble Numismatics auction yesterday.

"I'm very pleased because what I wanted was for the medal to be displayed to the public," Dr Chapman said. "You realise that in the end you can't own these things, you're just the custodian."

To read the complete article, see: Coin forger's medal fetches a pretty penny (

To read a related article, see: First Fleet medal sells for $750,000 (

When informed of the hammer price, Alan Weinberg commented:
Wow! Incredible. Medal history has been made. One wonders who the immediate underbidder was, or if was there a reserve of $750,000 Aus.

Later Alan added:
The more I thought about it, the more I'm convinced there was no immediate underbidder to the $750,000 Aus sale price of the Charlotte medal and the Maritime Museum just stepped out and paid the reserve price. Reserve price? Well, for weeks prior to the auction, Dr Chapman the consignor and the auctioneer were interviewed, emphatically stating that the medal was "worth" $750,000 Aus. and that was also the catalogue estimate. Awfully peculiar that this is exactly what the medal sold for.

I was aghast when I first heard and read the estimate. $250,000 maybe. To my knowledge, no silver medal of any country has exceeded at auction $230K (plus buyer's fees). That record was set by the genuine oval George Washington Indian Peace Medal in the Stack's Ford sales.

I simply cannot believe there was an underbidder driving up the Charlotte medal to its estimate and proclaimed value of $750,000 Aus. That was a reserve and the National Maritime Museum, using taxpayer funds, just paid it.


Dick Johnson wrote the following after reading an article about the smuggling of coins from India. -Editor
Metalworkers in Bangladesh are smuggling low value coins out of India to melt them for their metal content, to be made into razor blades, fountain pen points and other small metal objects.

This is creating a coin shortage in northeastern India. Merchants there are printing cardboard tokens same size as the coins to overcome the shortage. Sound familiar? This emergency solution has been used universally for hundreds of years.

It will continue in countries throughout the world until governments realize they must eliminate low denomination coins and turn to rounding off to a denomination in which the metal in that denomination coin is not vulnerable to melting.

American Congressmen and U.S. Treasury officials should note this trend as well. This is a lesson in economics they have not learned yet as our cent and five-cent piece face this same vulnerability.

They are calling it the new barter. Across tea gardens in states bordering Bangladesh, workers are encouraged by the owners to accept brown-coloured cardboard tokens instead of the metallic coins issued by state-owned mints across the country. The cardboard tokens are exactly the same size as the coins they represent, with similar values marked on them. Workers use them to buy snacks and tea from the company canteen as they would use coins — and get back change in the form of sweets and cigarettes. That makes these drab tokens legal tender.

To read the article in an Indian newspaper: Ringing In The Change (


Dick Johnson submitted the following item about the cost of producing the medals for the 2008 Olympics. -Editor
A news article revealed the cost of the medals to be awarded at the Beijing Olympics next month -- $1.24 million in contrast to $429,000 in Athens four years ago. That makes every Chinese Olympic medal cost $393 on average. The article tells of the metal supplier and who won the battle to supply this to China.

Analysis of base metal prices between the Athens Olympics of 2004 and last month, when the Beijing organising committee took delivery of the 6,000 medals that will be draped around athletes' necks, reveals that the total cost of the medals has increased from $469,000 to $1.24m, a rise of nearly 200 per cent.

Ironically, given the location of next month's Games, much of the impetus for the surge in commodity prices in recent years has come from China's insatiable appetite for raw materials to fuel its economic expansion.

To read the complete article, see: Why Beijing Olympic medals are worth their weight in gold (


Is it just me, or was fugitive Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic hiding cleverly disguised as numismatic author Walter Breen? When Karadzic was captured Monday in Belgrade, his bespectacled, balding and heavily bearded new-age physician look reminded me of Walter. -Editor

Karadzic Radovan Breen Walter


This week's featured web page is an American Heritage article by Q. David Bowers on AMERICAN GOLD.

NOWADAYS MONEY SEEMS to have become a pure idea, a universally agreed-upon fiction conveyed by pieces of paper, plastic cards, computers, and coins made of nearly worthless metal. But until just fifty-one years ago, money meant solid gold, that precious, rare, beautiful, glamorous, and nearly indestructible element which had stood throughout history as the invulnerable guarantee of financial security. For 138 years, from 1795 through 1933, the United States grounded its currency in gold (as well as silver part of the time) and issued hundreds of millions of gold coins, valued at one to twenty dollars apiece. They were worth their weight and were traded freely. Today most of them are gone—they were melted down for bullion, both by citizens and by the government.

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