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 Among our recent subscribers is Greg Culpepper, courtesy of John and Nancy Wilson. Welcome aboard! We now have 1,182 subscribers, and this week The E-Sylum celebrates an anniversary!

New books discussed this week cover topics including Union soldier identification discs and nineteenth century banking. In the news, the ANS names its new librarian, antiques book author Ralph Kovel has died, President Bush gets a "coin" from the CIA, and Howard Berlin visits the Chicago Fed and the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.

In topics first broached in earlier E-Sylum issues, we discuss ephemera relating to the John Ford, book publication on CDs, the Castine Hoard and the recently discovered J.L. Polhemus counterstamp.

Answers to previous queries include several great responses on counting edge reeds. New queries relate to a counterstamp on a $50 gold slug, Pistrucci Waterloo medal electrotypes, and the inscription on a 2004 Athens Olympic gold medal.

To learn who once owned the unique Charlotte Medal, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


We celebrate a milestone this coming week - it's been ten years since the first E-Sylum issue was launched into cyberspace. Below is an excerpt adapted from an article published recently by Kerry Rodgers. -Editor
In the mid 1990s Wayne Homren hoped to start an email newsletter for members of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, a group founded in 1979 to promote the study and collecting of numismatic literature. Every year at the group's annual meeting he asked for a show of hands to see who else had an email account.

At first cataloguer Michael Hodder was the only other person to raise a hand. As they exchanged email addresses the others looked on like they were witnessing some secret ritual. In subsequent years a few more hands went up. Finally at the 1998 meeting in Portland, OR nearly every hand went up. Wayne grabbed a tablet of paper and passed it around to collect email addresses. On September 4, 1998 the first issue of what is now called The E-Sylum was published in an email message to 49 people. As the word spread subscription requests arrived from around the world and by September 15 there were 90 subscribers.

The original announcement noted "This is intended to be a moderated, low-volume mailing list, with no more than one message every week or so. Its purpose and use will evolve over time - please send us your comments and suggestions."

The E-Sylum has evolved into a weekly forum where "numismatic bibliophiles, researchers and just plain collectors" congregate to exchange information and ideas about numismatics and numismatic research. Most of the top numismatic authors, curators and collectors around the U.S. are subscribers, as well as a number from around the world. Today each issue is read by over 1,100 subscribers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. It's been described as a weekly cocktail party of the world's top numismatic minds.

A typical issue could have anywhere from 15 to 30 pages of material arranged loosely into sections containing Numismatic Bibliomania Society news and announcements, numismatic literature sale announcements, book publication announcements, reviews of books and auction catalogs, answers to previous research queries, new research queries, excerpts of newspaper stories relating to numismatics, a humorous numismatic story and a Featured Web Site.

Topics are all over the numismatic map - anything interesting is fair game, and obscure topics are welcomed. Over the years subjects of discussion have included contemporary newspaper accounts of new coinage, biographies of numismatic authors and personalities, celebrity numismatists, numismatic ne'er-do-wells, the largest numismatics books, the most expensive numismatic books, counterfeiters, alternate currencies, rare medals, sunken treasure, archeological finds, and coins placed under a ship's mast or on a cadaver's eyes.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Frankly, I was hoping to show the society and other numismatic organizations what could be done with the new technology, hoping that someone else would pick up the baton at some point.

Well, other organizations have developed online newsletters, and many were inspired by what we've created in The E-Sylum. But ten years, three kids, two houses and four day jobs later I'm still here every week, pounding out another issue. I'm having too much fun to stop, and I suspect there would be an angry mob of torch-bearing villagers at my door if I tried to quit.

My readers are what keep me going - you folks are the best any editor could dream for. Thanks again to the ANA, ANS and NLG for the Burnett Anderson award - it was much appreciated. -Editor

To read our first complete issue, see: The E-Sylum: Volume 1, Number 1, September 4, 1998 (


Fred Reed provided this review of a new book with connections to U.S. numismatics. It's on U.S. Civil War soldier identification discs. The forerunner of "dog tags", these metal discs are closely related in design and manufacture to Civil War tokens. -Editor
Civil War ID Discs Collectors of Civil War-era numismatics have an exciting new reference catalog to consult in building their collections. McFarland & Co. has released Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War by Larry B. Maier and Joseph W. Stahl.

This 222-page, hard-bound volume is both a guide to this somewhat neglected series, and also provides an illustrated history of the genre. Nearly 50 different types of Civil War ID tags are cataloged. The book is heavily illustrated, offering nearly 400 large, clear photographs to differentiate varieties.

As many readers know, these identification discs were sold to troops by sutlers (private merchants who followed the troops' movements). The discs were manufactured by the principal die sinkers of the period, including Joseph Merriam, S.D. Childs, Frederick B. Smith, Robert Lovett Jr., and George H. Lovett. Most obverses feature patriotic eagles and shields, or military figures such as generals McClellan, Banks, Grant, Sigel, Hooker, Sherman, Scott, or George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. The soldiers identification data was engraved on the reverse.

These private ID medals were the forerunner of military-issued ID tags. As an iconic symbol of the American GI, the dog tag has gained considerable cultural recognition, Maier and Stahl write. This book returns to the origins of the dog tag with an in-depth look at all 49 styles.

In addition to a catalog and general history, the authors provide military career details for dozens of issued ID discs, and a census of 615 known specimens by type. Rarities are given based on the census results. The issue of price can be controversial, they caution. Breakouts of known pieces by unit and style of disc are listed. The work also provides a chapter on ID disc authentication.

Authors Maier and Stahl are Civil War interpreters. They pack their volume with a great deal of historical research, provide extensive and interesting end notes, a lengthy bibliography, and a detailed index. The foreword is by Civil War historian Edward Bearss.

List price is $55. Orders can be placed toll free at 1-800-253-2187, or via the publishers web site .

Fred adds that the authors reference one of Dick Johnson's E-Slum submissions: To read the complete article, see: HOW MUSEUMS HANDLE DIES: THE SCOVILL DIE EXPERIENCE (


Anne Bentley forwarded this press release about an October lecture at the Massachusetts Historical Society. At 6pm on October 21, 2008, Jane Kamensky, of Brandeis University will speak at the society about her new book on a topic related to banking and obsolete paper money. -Editor
Kamensky Exchange Artist The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse rediscovers a lost chapter in early American history: the story of Andrew Dexter, Jr. and the seven-story skyscraper for which he amassed--and then lost--a paper fortune.

Defying the then-predominant Puritan work ethic, Dexter financed his construction of the Exchange Coffee House by issuing millions of dollars in paper money using a string of banks stretching from Boston to Detroit. But in 1809, just as workers were putting the finishing touches on the Exchange, the financial pyramid collapsed. A now-bankrupt Dexter absconded to Canada, eventually making his way south to found the town of Montgomery, Alabama, which he named after one of his Revolutionary War heroes. Meanwhile, in Boston, the 'Change remained, a monument to Dexter's high-flying ambition and his equally monumental failure.

Speculation, fraud, luck, and failure have become important topics in American history in recent years; with The Exchange Artist, Kamensky steers the reader through the narrative of a second American founding: the birth of speculative capitalism, and uses architecture and the labor of building as (literally) concrete windows onto a vanished world.

Jane Kamensky is Associate Professor of History at Brandeis University and the author of Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England and The Colonial Mosaic: American Women, 1600-1760. She is a consultant and on-camera expert for documentaries shown on PBS and The History Channel, and has made appearances on National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Anne Bentley adds:
Jane's book is fabulously written and meticulously researched. If her speaking style is anything like her writing style, this should be a fantastic evening.

To read the original lecture announcement, see: The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation & America's First Banking Collapse (


The ANS has named its new librarian. Below is the text of the press release. Welcome to the numismatic fraternity! -Editor
Elizabeth Hahn The American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth Hahn to the Francis D. Campbell Librarianship. She took up the position on July 1, 2008. Ms Hahn comes to the position during an exciting time as the ANS is currently in the process of moving to its new location at One Hudson Square.

Ms. Hahn is a trained librarian and completed a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Long Island University. Her interest in specialized libraries compelled her to pursue a concentration in rare books and special collections as well as a certificate in archives, and she is particularly delighted about the extensive rare book collection at the Harry W. Bass Jr. Library at the ANS. When asked about her goals for the library, Elizabeth said that she is interested in updating the catalogs and databases in order to increase the efficiency of access to the collections. We live in a world where technology is constantly evolving and we need to keep up with those changes, she said. This is an excellent collection and it is important to convey the message to our members and the public of what resources we have and how they can be used.

Ms Hahn trained as an archaeologist and numismatist and has extensive library and museum employment experience. She holds a Master of Arts degree in maritime archaeology and history from the University of Bristol and a Master of Arts degree in classical art and archaeology from the University of Virginia. She is fluent in Italian and has a reading knowledge of German, French, ancient Greek and Latin. Elizabeth has worked on various excavations both on land and underwater in Sicily, Israel, and North America and spent a summer working at the Numismatic Museum in Athens, Greece. The ANS has played a fundamental role in my graduate studies, Elizabeth said, commenting on the research she conducted for a Masters thesis on the Greek coinage of Sicily and southern Italy. I have used the collections and resources in the past and I am thrilled to have the opportunity now to be a part of how those resources develop.

The ANS librarian position became vacant after Frank Campbell retired after working at the ANS for over half a century. During his tenure the ANS library grew enormously to a world-class library in numismatics. We are very fortunate to have found such a well educated librarian as Elizabeth, who has experience in libraries and numismatics. I am sure that the Bass Library in the new headquarters will be a popular place for academics, students and collectors, said Dr. Wartenberg Kagan, Executive Director of the American Numismatic Society.

The American Numismatic Society is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2008. With its numismatic collections and library it is generally recognized as one of the foremost centers for numismatic research and education in the world.


Dick Johnson forwarded the following thoughts about Ralph Kovel, coauthor of the famous series of antique and collectible price guides. -Editor
Kovel Ralph Ralph M. Kovel had a life-long interest in antiques, and, along with wife Terry, turned that interest into a cottage industry of publishing articles and books on antique prices and ultimately into a career in TV broadcasting. This week that interest halted as the 88-year-old Kovel died.

The couple's first book, on porcelain and pottery marks, was published in 1953. They feared not to enter a field already filled with published antique price guides, but it was the nearly yearly series of the "Kovel's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide" that earned their reputation. From that they added additional closely related books on furniture, bottles, pewter, silver and silverplate.

In this capacity they compiled the one book of greatest interest to the numismatic field, a book on limited editions. Following the popularity of the Franklin Mint and numerous imitators who issued medals, ingots, bars, plates and similar objects in limited editions, it was only natural for them to gather the prices of these objects for their 1974 book, The Kovels' Collector's Guide to Limited Editions.

In addition to gathering price data from flea markets, dealers, advertisements, and numerous contributors, they also visited many of the firms that manufactured limited editions. In 1973 Terry Kovel visited Medallic Art Company for a day gathering the most reliable information at the source. (I mentioned this in a previous E-Sylum, vol 9, no 44, art 24, October 29, 2006.)

Ralph and Terry Kovel authored a weekly syndicated newspaper column "Kovels Antiques and Collecting," in 150 newspapers. The pair also produced several programs for public television, Discovery Channel and HGTV (Home and Garden Television Network) and won two Cleveland Emmys for their television work.

For the Kovels the Limited Editions was their eighth book. Next week their 97th book, their Antique Price Guide for 2009, will be released.

For the local story in the Cleveland paper, see: To read the complete article, see: Ralph M. Kovel, expert on antiques wrote, taught (

To read Dick's earlier E-Sylum article mentioning the Kovels, see: A HALLOWEEN PENNY PUZZLE (

Kolbe 2008007-27


Last week we published a note from Karl Moulton, who is working on a book about John J. Ford and the "Franklin Hoard". I didn't have them handy to scan last week, but wanted to include the following items of numismatic ephemera relating to Ford.

Here is a paper Ford submitted to the Professional Numismatists Guild committee defending the authenticity of the $20 U.S. Assay Office of Gold pieces.
Ford Franklin Hoard Paper Ford Franklin Hoard Paper contents

Next is Ford's "Wanted" flyer, originally produced about 1957 and reprinted by Stack's in 1999. After that is a pamphlet on Western Assay Ingots produced by Stack's about the same time.
Ford Wanted Poster front Ford Wanted Poster back Stacks Western Assay Ingots


George Kolbe forwarded an interesting tidbit of information about a famous medal discussed here recently - the unique Charlotte Medal, a silver disc engraved by the convict and expert forger Thomas Barrett when the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay.
I think big E readers will find the following report, (excerpted by yours truly) from the Sale 88 prices realized list of Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd, to be of interest:

"The highlight of this auction was the sale of the Dr John M Chapman Collection of Australian Historical Medals in a separate catalogue featuring the Charlotte medal that realised a world record price of $873,750 for an historical medal The Chapman collection listed in 750 lots realized a total of $2.25 million The Chapman Collection was eagerly anticipated by a large attendance of over 100 with standing room only. The excitement unfolded from the start with the Naval Exploration Medals bringing multiples of estimates the room was tense with TV cameras running, [when] the bidding for the Charlotte Medal (lot 704) got underway with the hammer finally falling on a new world record for an historical medal of $873, 850 [sic] (approx US$ 850,000).

Immediately after this, a round of congratulatory applause broke out in the room The price reflected the importance of the piece as a tangible historical colonial work of art of the First Fleet. It is interesting to note that the medal was owned till 1981 by the late John J Ford of the USA what irony that his most valuable medal turned out to be Australian. Ford only relinquished the medal in 1981 to us as a return of favour for securing for him in our sale 4 (Nov 1980) the John Jacob Astor Fur Traders Indian Peace medal."

Charlotte Medal Charlotte Medal

Does anyone know the earlier provenance of the medal? Was it documented in the Noble catalogues? -Editor


DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS now accepting consignments for our future sales. Consignments in hand include many rare monographs from The Numismatist 1893 and later. (719) 302-5686, visit our web site
DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE offers fixed price lists on our Web site at Our upcoming October 28th mail-bid auction will include a wide variety of material including A nearly complete run of the Essay-Proof Journal.


Last week I asked our readers about numismatic books offered only in electronic format. Here are the responses. -Editor

Roger deWardt Lane of Hollywood, Florida writes:
In 2003 I wrote a letter to ANS Librarian Frank Campbell sending him a copy of my new CD-ROM book and offering to send him all the CD's I had collected to study what other people in coins were storing on CD. I did send them to him including a 20 disc holder. From my experience, the creation of CDs either commercially or self-produced was a great idea during the period these were issued. But as the Internet became more available, most of the products put out on CD (slide shows, data bases, or book formats) were not very cost effective and most were discontinued. Based on my experience with print-on-demand publishing, it seems a far better way to distribute a book (or as I also have done, put it up on the Internet for download, either for a fee or free).

Roger's list included 24 numismatic CDs produced from 1993 through 2003. Eleven of these were Heritage auction catalogs, starting with the October 2000 Long Beach sale. Besides Roger's Brother Can You Spare a Dime? book, the list included Michael Fey's Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties and the Charleton Standard Catalogues of Canadian Government Paper Money 10th edition and Canadian Coins 52nd edition.

In publications apparently on CD only were World of Money, Interactive Exploration of Money Worldwide from Ancient Times to the Present Day by the Department of Coins & Medals, British Museum (1996). -Editor

Tom Michael of F+W Publications writes:
You asked about books on CD format. All of the books we have been releasing on Disc are DVD format. This would include the following:

Standard Catalog of World Coins 1901-Date - Three DVD set, including the 5th edition 1801-1900, 35th edition 1901-2000 and the 2nd edition 2001-Date (this was our first DVD offering)

14th edition Standard Catalog of World Paper Money - Modern Issues - 1961-Present - released as a book with DVD and as a stand alone package

36th edition 2009 Standard Catalog of World Coins 1901-2000 - released as a book with DVD and as a DVD stand alone package

3rd edition 2009 Standard Catalog of World Coins 2001-Date - released as a book with DVD

7th edition 2009 U.S. Coin Digest - released as a book with DVD and as a DVD stand alone package

Coming later this year will also be:

12th edition Standard Catalog of World Paper Money - General Issues - 1368-1960 - released as a book with DVD and as a stand alone package and 4th edition Standard Catalog of World Coins 1601-1700 - released as a book with DVD

Most collectors are familiar with our books, some use our DVD's and many use our NumisMaster website. We have been evolving our focus from print products alone, to a broader offering in various media. We want everyone to have access to our data through whatever media form they find most useful.

I was actually looking for information on numismatic books offered ONLY on CD (or DVD) and not at all in print. But this is useful information. -Editor

Tom adds:
At present we do not offer any numismatic books exclusively on DVD alone. This has been talked about and will most likely come into play in the future. We sell fewer stand alone DVD's than we do books at present. It's a new type of product for us and we are still feeling out the market.

Because we chose to include a free DVD with all our books this year, is is hard to fully judge their popularity. Our intent was to get the data out there in digital form and get collectors used to this type of format. As a media company I am sure that we will be doing more products offering digital forms of data as the 21st Century progresses. It's a great way to make the data more flexible for individuals.

Books won't go away in our lifetimes, but many other forms for our coin data will surely emerge. Consider music - since the inception of recorded music, how many media forms have experienced popular use? Cylinders gave way to discs, 78's transitioned to 33 1/3's which competed with tape and eventually we got CD's. Now most people use MP3 digital format. Maybe some day I will have a little pocket device with the Standard Catalog of World Coins 1601-2020 in digital format?

Do any of our readers have the Kindle from Amazon? The wireless electronic book reader can quickly download entire books on demand from a large library of titles, and seems to have a growing following. -Editor

Wendell Wolka writes:
Unless a "sugar daddy" pops up somewhere, the second edition of my book on Indiana Obsolete Notes and Scrip will likely be a CD-only offering.

At something close to the size of my Ohio book and as a second edition of a previous work, I doubt that the market is big enough to support a hardbound book. In addition a CD offers all color photos, enlargements of same, and an easy to use search tool at no additional cost.

Wendell's book on Ohio Obsolete notes is one of the thickest single-volume numismatic works printed. Books that size (as well as later editions of previously printed works) do seem to lend themselves well to electronic versions. -Editor.


us-quarter-reeded-edge Several readers responded to my query about counting the edge reeds on a coin with an amazing variety of methods. Everyone has a favorite way of doing it, each with its own pros and cons. None eliminate the tedium of actually counting, but most incorporate tools to make parts of the task easier. Now that these cats are out of their bags, it will be interesting to hear if any of our experts choose to experiment with one of the other suggested methods. -Editor
Tom DeLorey writes:
When I was at ANACS, I would stand the coin on edge under a microscope at low magnification, and turn the coin until I found some identifiable mark. Using that as a starting place, I would slowly turn the coin, counting as I went, until I returned to my identifying mark. Write down the results, and do it again to see if I got the same number.

I suppose it would be easier to photograph a coin in a conical mirror (as is done on lettered edge coins to show the inscription), make a print and check them off by tens as you suggest, but my way was faster back in the days when a photograph meant developing film.

Bob Johnson writes:
Many years ago I read an article in an error coin magazine (probably Lonesome John Devine's Error Variety News) on photographing the edge of a coin. This was many years before digital cameras, which should make the job much easier (instant results).

Disassemble a regular flashlight and take out the reflector. Place the coin in the reflector and take the photograph. The entire edge will be visible. Of course with a digital camera you can put the image on your computer and blow it up to make counting much easier. I have never tried this, but I'm sure it will work with a little practice.

Dick Johnson writes:
Counting the number of reeds on a coin is a curious task, but certainly one of numismatic importance. There is no one set way. I have observed different methods by different numismatists.

The surest way, of course, is on a photograph, mentioned in last week's E-Sylum inquiry, and even easier on an enlarged photo. Everyone, it seems, starts counting at the top. Mark a top reed as either a "0" or "1" right on the photo. Then you can mark every fifth or tenth one. Then count the tics to get a total count.

If you are attempting to count reeds on an actual coin take a well-sharpened lead pencil and rotate the point in one of the indentations near the top. (Pencil lead retains in the indentation and can be removed with a damp cloth afterwards.) Start counting and don't stop until you are back to that marked indentation. You have better eyes than I have if you made it all around the circumference without starting over. All I can say is thank goodness the U.S. three-cent silver is not reeded. Larger coins are easier, obviously, with larger reeding.

David Lange writes:
I devised myself a tool many years ago using materials at hand. The first was a "Koinvayer," a spring-loaded, plastic pair of tongs made by the E. T. Kointainer Company, the same business which makes Kointain capsules. The end of each tong has a convex diamond shape to hold a coin securely by its edge at a right angle to the tong handles. Instead of holding the subject coin this way, I placed it parallel to the tool, securing it between two plastic wheels lifted from an HO scale model railroad car. These wheels each came with a prong on its outside face that fit perfectly into the convex end of the tong, while the inside surface of each wheel had been smoothed by me with a file after I had cut it free from the axle which joined the two wheels. To further protect the coin's surfaces from abrasion, I placed self-adhesive paper dots over the filed side of each wheel.

While holding the coin between the two wheels with my hand, I then placed this trio between the tongs and released the pressure which held them open. This spring action provided a nearly hands-free tool that permitted me to rotate the coin 360 degrees while counting reeds. As for performing this last task, I painted every 20th reed with white-out, which is easily rubbed off the edge when the chore is completed, doing no harm to the coin. That gave me enough stopping points to complete the job without losing count.

Bill Bugert, Vice President of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club writes:
I have successfully been using a simple technique for years; with it, I have counted the reeds on well over 1,500 Liberty Seated Half dollars along with other smaller denominations.

In a nutshell, here it is. Simply remove the reflector from an inexpensive flashlight, place the coin into the reflector under your stereo microscope, and slowly rotate the reflector with the coin while viewing the in-focus edge (i.e., reeds) through the scope. Start at an obvious flaw (all coins have them) and, count the reeds (counting out loud is best and ignore distractions) using the reticule of your scope to keep track of your position; stop for breathers at easily referenced places (e.g., nicks, lint, cracks in the collar, etc). Continue until you get to the starting reed.

You may have to initially adjust the coin in the reflector to keep it in focus for the entire counting session. With practice, you can easily and accurately count the reeds on a coin in about 2 minutes. Careful with the reflector surfaces; they scratch easily and you may end up replacing it more often than you like. One more thing, you can also photograph the edge of the coin with this technique.

Mike Hodder writes:
Back in the day I tried several different ways of counting reeds on a coin's edge. None worked satisfactorily. I learned the following technique from E.G.V. Newman. It's the only one I found that rendered reliable counts every time.

Obtain a small amount, a few ounces is all that's needed, of ordinary white or yellow modeling clay, the sort one may buy in a hobby shop or from a school supply store. When one wants to count a coin's reeds pull off a small piece from the clay, knead it until it's warm and soft, and then flatten it out to an appropriate length and width (three to four inches by about one inch seems to work well but the desired length and width depend on the circumference and thickness of the coin to be examined).

Next, take a felt tip marker (one with washable, not indelible, ink) and mark one reed on the coin's edge. Then, take the coin by its edge (as always), push its edge into the clay, and roll the coin along its circumference through the clay. The clay will be impressed by the reeds as the coin rolls along and the ink from the marker will show in the light colored clay each time the marked reed rolls onto it. Keep rolling until two ink marks are seen in the line of indentations.

It's a simple job to count the indentations left in the clay by the reeds starting at the first ink mark and ending just in front of the second one. A low powered glass is useful. A sewing needle can be used to mark in the clay groups of five reeds to aid in the tally. When one is finished, just ball up the clay for re-use (the tiny ink marks blend back into the clay when it's kneaded). Store it in a closed container so the clay doesn't dry out. I found a plastic quarter dollar tube worked well. The impressions in the clay can be photographed to document a count.


Dick Johnson forwarded this detailed report on minting technology surrounding edge reeds. -Editor
Let's define some terms. A reed is the wave from the top of one raised ridge to the top of the next ridge. Reeding is the collective term for all the reeds. The ridge has its own term knurl and collectively known as knurling . The indentation is known as a flute. A reed is one knurl and one flute. Reeds are created by the collar when struck in a coining press. The collar is a large flat ring with a center aperture nearly the exact size as the coin being struck. Both dies have to enter this aperture and retract. The clearance between dies and the collar wall is thousands of an inch. (If the clearance is too great this is an area where metal will escape as flash this is how wire rims are formed.)

The collar has grooves cut on the inside wall of the aperture these form the knurls on a coin. The grooves are cut by a tool-and-diemaker . The shape of the knurl depends upon the cutting tool he uses.

When a coin is struck the metal in the blank expands to fill all the modulated relief in the obverse and reverse die, all the design devices and all the lettering. At the same instant the blank expands up against the collar. All things being right like the correct mass of the blank and the correct pressure of the press metal flows into all the openings in the collar to fill and form all the coin's knurls. That's the reeding. If there is not enough metal to completely flow into the grooves the tops of some of the knurls are incorrectly formed. Usually increasing the pressure of the strike will remedy this problem.

At this point in the press cycle the coin is frozen in its chamber. It must be removed ejected by one die pushing it out. There is a mechanism built into the press, an eccentric wheel with a kickout pin pushes the die past the edge of the collar so the struck piece is freed.

A coin with reeding must easily slide out during ejection. Other than a blank wall aperture forming a smooth edge coin reeding is the only edge treatment where this can occur. Obviously, lettering or any edge ornamentation, or even diagonal lines cannot be ejected in a coining press. (Edge lettering is an entirely different subject, completely different from our discussion here of reeding.)

We should also mention interrupted reeding. This is the technology to place a smooth area on a reeded edge piece. A smooth area is useful for placing hallmarks, edge lettering and such, in contrast to the entire circumference with reeding, which numismatists call fully reeded. It is created by leaving the inner aperture wall blank where a smooth area is desired.

In 1965 the Franklin Mint used this concept for a great commercial use. They were striking gambling tokens of similar size for many casinos in Las Vegas. They learned that patrons were carrying these tokens to other casinos. They needed a quick way to identify host tokens from those of other casinos. By using a different collar with unique pairs of reeded and blank areas for each casino the tokens would stand out when laid in rows. Joseph Segel, as president of Franklin Mint, received U.S. patent 3350802 in 1967 for this invention.

As mentioned in last week's E-Sylum, reed counting can be a diagnostic to distinguish two different coins. U.S. Assay gold coins were mentioned. A more modern example is the 1968 Canadian dime . The Canadian Royal Mint could not supply a large order for the 10-cent coin that year. In addition to what it produced it asked the Philadelphia Mint to strike the Canadian dime as well. The Ottawa Mint supplied obverse and reverse dies to the Philadelphia Mint, but did not furnish an accompanying collar. Philadelphia pressmen grabbed a collar off the rack intended for a U.S. dime, since both were of the same dimensions. That collar had a different reed count and this is the only diagnostic to differentiate which mint struck any 1968 Canadian dime.

Reeding has some beneficial advantages. It aids the blind (a reeded quarter is thus different from a smooth edge nickel of similar size), and it aids everyone in picking up and holding on to the coin. There are also some advantages in coin sorting and counting machines as well.

Placing reeding on coins is almost as old as the use of the collar in coining itself. The collar was first used by Aubin Olivier using a screw press at the Paris Mint in 1555. But we dont know which was the first coin with a reeded edge. It might have been influenced by Sir Isaac Newton who was a strong opponent of coin clipping. As Mintmaster at Britains Royal Mint he sought ways to combat shaving or clipping the edges of coins. The reeded edge was created to halt scraping or filling off metal from coin edges to melt the filings.
Dick Johnson adds:
QUERY: For knowledgeable E-Sylum readers, I would like to ask: What was the first coin with a reeded edge? It would probably date late 1500s or early in the 17th century. (And dont tell me ancient coins were reeded those serrations are something else.) I would like to know the first diestruck coin with reeding.


Tom Kays writes:
Last weeks featured Web page: CASTINE AND THE OLD COINS FOUND THERE as suggested by Ray Williams includes a numismatic mystery. In the E-Sylum photo one of the eighteen coins pictured is dated 1769. Yet the Castine Hoard, if associated with Baron Jean Vincent dAbbadie de St. Castin who departed for France circa 1703, must have closed much earlier than 1769 while he was still in America.

At the centennial of the hoards discovery, some of the original coins on loan from the Maine Historical Society were gathered by Sydney P. Noe, then Librarian of the ANS, and put on display in New York City. See Numismatic Notes and Monographs #100, The Castine Deposit: An American Hoard, American Numismatic Society, New York, 1942 for a detailed accounting of the coins with individual plates.

Q. David Bowers American Coin Treasures and Hoards, published by Bowers and Merena Galleries, 1997 gives a good sense of the paucity of early American coin hoards, so that understanding the Castine Hoard is key to knowing what coins circulated in the old Massachusetts Bay Colony which then included coastal Maine. Also see The Colonial NewsLetter #128 of August 2005, Second Thoughts on a First Rate Hoard: Castine Revisited.


Last week Jeff Tolson wrote:
I found a silver dollar sized French coin dated 1821 stamped with J.L Polhemus druggist 190 J St. cor. Sacramento Cal today while metal detecting in the hills near Coloma, CA.

Jeff provided these photos of the piece (click to see larger versions). Neat find!

Polhemus Five Francs obv Polhemus Five Francs rev2


Dave Hirt writes:
When I read about the J.L. Polhemus counterstamps in last week's E-Sylum, it jogged my memory. Some months ago this counterstamp on a gold coin was discussed. At that time I thought I remembered a $50 Slug with that counterstamp sold in a Morgenthau sale. I was away from home at the time and could not check my catalogs. This time I looked and found it, but it was not J.L. Polhemus, but rather J.T. JONES CORNER MONTG. & COMMERCIAL ST. In any case that coin would be the ultimate for a counterstamp collector. The coin was in Sale 388. 3/15/1938, lot 179.

There are very few known U.S. merchant counterstamps on gold coins. I did not recall this one. Are any of our readers familiar with it?

An Internet search turned up a reference to a J. T. Jones in San Francisco. The same document lists another San Francisco merchant at the corner of Commercial and Montgomery streets. The search also turned up a reference in (surprise!) The E-Sylum. In the Christmas Eve 2000 issue, Mike Hodder submitted a Press Release from Stack's about their upcoming January 2001 sale.

In Western Americana, "the unique 1851 $50 slug with the J.T. Jones counterstamp, an historic record of San Francisco's vigilante days."

Stack's online auction archive goes back only to July 2003, so I was unable to get an image of the coin or lot description. I asked Mike Hodder, who writes:
The coin was consigned without provenance as lot 1600 of the Stack's January, 2001 auction. Bidding opened at $6,600 and closed at $32,000. It sold into a prominent mid-Atlantic states collection. Don Kagin and Tony Terranova were underbidders. The coin is plated in Kagin, p.380, n.1, and Brunk 99.

So I went to my shelf and pulled out my copy of Don Kagin's 1981 book, Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States. The photo of the well-worn coin (see below) is not the best - perhaps it was taken from a catalog. From the book's description:
J.(ames) T.(hompson) Jones was the proprietor of the famous Blue Wing Saloon, 138 Montgomery Street. This saloon was one of the most notorious of the Barbary Coast.
Jones on $50 Slug

Can anyone provide a better image of the coin or its counterstamp? Is its current owner among our readership? Many thanks to Dave Hirt for bringing up the topic. Interesting counterstamp on an unusual host coin.

To read the complete E-Sylum article, see: STACK'S JANUARY SALE (

To view the complete reference, see: Petition Of Citizens Of San Francisco For The Repeal Of The Mortgage Tax Law (1 of 2) (


Harry Waterson writes:
The Polhemus counterstamps reminded me that I had recently run into another druggist of interest. In the July 1929 issue of The Numismatist (p441) there is this filler in the middle of the page:

Mr. Neil's Letterheads

Will W. Neil, a member of the A.N.A., who conducts a pharmacy at Baldwin, Kan., uses a letterhead for his correspondence, which reads as follows:

Numismatist by Instinct - Pharmacist from Necessity
Baldwin, Kansas.

I hope Mr. Neil was hugely successful in both pursuits.

Mr. Neil was indeed quite successful - his collection headlined a B. Max Mehl auction decades later. Included were many of the top U.S. rarities, such as:
  • 1913 Liberty Head Nickel
  • 1894-S Dime
  • 1876-CC Twenty Cent Piece
  • 1838-O Half Dollar
  • 1804 Dollar
  • 1870-S Dollar
  • 1885 Trade Dollar
QUICK QUIZ: Name three other numismatist-pharmacists! -Editor

From the PCGS web site:
Will Neils collection of U.S. coins was sold in 1947 by B. Max Mehl, the flamboyant dealer from Texas. The catalog of the sale, replete with seven of our Ten Most Famous U.S. Rarities, was rated "A+" by numismatic expert, John Adams, who has examined all of the early U.S. coin catalogs for content and quality. Neils 1913 Nickel is an exceptional PR-64 from the Farouk collection, he owned an 1804 Silver Dollar (Class III), and both types of the 1880 Stellas. Neil's numismatic legacy lives on through B. Max Mehl's catalog and the memory of his fabulous collection.

To read the complete article, see: Ten Most Famous United States Ultra Rarities: Will W. Neil (


Regarding last week's mention of the Pistrucci Waterloo medal, Jonathan Brecher writes:
Pistrucci-Waterloo-rev-deta If you like the Pistrucci medal, here are some pics you might enjoy. These are negative-image (incuse and reversed) electro-somethings of the Pistrucci Waterloo medal.

These are the correct size, with the medal part measuring about 5.5 inches in diameter, and a total diameter of about 6.5 inches including the broad rim. The rim and the backside of each half are covered in some sort of fairly hard waxy substance.

I've shown these to several people, and nobody seems to know what to make of them. I've had several guesses that are generally plausible, but nothing that I feel is quite right (in particular, the presence of the wax seems like it ought to be important, and none of the guesses can explain it.)

I've found several sale records of positive-image cliches (including sets that were produced by the Waterloo Committee in 1969), but nothing for negatives. Another mystery...


To view all of Jonathan's photos as a slide show, see: Pistrucci Waterloo Medal electrotypes (


My Mom, God bless her, gave me a card with money for my birthday Sunday. Since I turned 50, she included a $50 bill. I told her I can't wait until I'm 100. Anyway, I noticed something unusual about it. In the lower right corner of the front of the note is a small inkstamp of a six-pointed star. On closer examination, it appears to have a script letter "M" inside.

Has anyone else encountered this stamp? Any idea who made it or why? -Editor

$50 with star stamp

$50 with star stamp closeup $50 with star stamp closeup2


Leon Worden writes:
Athens04gold Can anyone translate the inscription on this gold medal from Athens 2004? It belongs to Olympic home run record-holder Crystl Bustos (USA Softball, 2000-gold, 2004-gold, 2008-silver), and she'd like to know what it says. [Other images of '00, '04, '08 medals available to fellow E-Sylum inmates upon request.] Thanks.

It's all Greek to me (you don't know how long I've waited to be able to say that...) Anyway, can one of our readers help? -Editor


E-Sylum reader J. Edgar Hoover forwarded this article about a commemorative medal (called a "coin" in the article) given to President George W. Bush on a recent visit to the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. -Editor
Bush visited the CIA HQ to receive briefings on the war on terror and the situation in Georgia. But instead of a quickie stop, he stayed for over two hours and met with many of the agency's workers during lunch. In his fifth visit to the CIA since becoming president, Bush was joined by CIA Director Mike Hayden and Deputy Director Steve Kappes to meet with counterterrorism experts and then political and military analysts on Georgia and Russia.

Bush then walked into the agency's cafeteria where he was greeted with a standing ovation by the 2,000 employees inside. Clearly pleased, he told them, "I appreciate your service more than you could possibly know."

Bush then took a seat at a table with two dozen junior employees. They included analysts, clandestine operatives, scientists and engineers, and support personnel. In between bites, he asked them about their jobs and where they have served overseas. One analyst, who played a key role for the CIA in identifying the nuclear reactor that was being built in Syria with North Korean assistance, gave the president a bronze commemorative coin that Hayden had presented to each agency employee who was directly involved in that intelligence effort.

The 3-inch diameter coin was inscribed with, "Syria-North Korea Project" and the words, "No Core, No War."

During the visit, which went two hours longer than scheduled, we hear that the president shook hands, gave hugs, and signed autographs, even on $5 and $10 bills some employees gave him for signature because they didn't have another piece of paper handy.

Will the "coin" end up at Bush's presidential library? Other numismatic souvenirs were created that day when the Prez signed some $5 and $10 bills. There are (relatively) lots of notes signed by the signers of our money (the Treasurer of the U.S. and Secretary of the Treasury), but how many notes are signed by a sitting president? -Editor
To read the complete article, see: A CIA Standing-O for President Bush (


E-Sylum reader Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean forwarded this Sports Collectors Digest article. Topps is planning to give away U.S. paper money inside packs of baseball cards, including $500 and $1,000 bills
Collectors love to rip open new packs of cards. Will they dare rip open the card itself? Topps is hoping to tempt some of them with one of its upcoming products.

Topps Treasury Basketball, which will go live the week of Sept. 29, will offer one autographed card and one Rip card in every 18-pack box. The Rip cards bring back the card-within-a-card concept that has been tried a few times in the hobby in the past, but this time Topps is upping the ante by offering some very tempting possibilities within the Rip card.

There will be no debating the value of the other insert cards titled, Theyre Money. Actual $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000 bills will be inserted into the Rip cards. A total of 429 cards will contain some form of cash.

So where will they get the $500 and $1,000 bills, which haven't been produced for decades? -Editor
To read the complete article, see: There's Money in Topps Rip Cards...Literally (


Last week I wrote: "Jim Neiswinter has been studying the famous 1873 Levick plate for some time." Where that date came from, I'll never know. The plate was published in the April 1869 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics.

Joe Boling pointed out my misspelling of a subscriber's name - it's Phil Iversen, not Iverson.

With tongue in cheek, Alan Luedeking reported an error in this excerpt published in last week's issue. It was taken from the description of the cover lot in George Kolbe's 106th sale.
Snowden served as Director of the Mint from June 1863 until April 1861, and claimed authorship for two major 1861 American numismatic works: the one cited in the letter and his even more popular Mint Manual.

Alan writes: "Was Snowden's restriking of medals in any way connected with his ability to work backwards in time?"

OK, Mr. Smartypants - Snowden's tenure as Mint Director began in 1853, not 1863.


Howard Berlin filed this report last Saturday, but I was unable to get it into last Sunday's issue. He wrote:
In Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank has a nice exhibit. The have three $1 million displays. One is a rotating cube of $1 packs. Another is $1 million of $20 packs underneath a glass dome. The last one is a suitcase of packs of $100 in which you can take a picture of yourself with it (the photo is FREE). They also have 18 notes for you to try to determine if they are real or counterfeit. I got 12 of the 18 correct.

I am attaching pictures of all three exhibits. The last one is of my oldest son (who lives in Chicago), my wife, and the guy with the Berlin shirt and hat is me.

Chicago FED-1 Chicago FED-2

Chicago FED-3


In subsequent emails Howard Berlin added:
Scotsman I returned home from Chicago and left again for Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow). I will be visiting numismatic collections at the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh), The Bank of Scotland Museum on the Mound, and the Hunterian Museum (Glasgow) in between some pubs and distilleries.

This distinguished gentleman is the doorman of the 5-star Balmoral Hotel decked out in full regalia, including the small dagger at the top of the right sock. Contrary to common belief, NORMAL men wearing kilts DO WEAR underpants! (no, he didn't demonstrate his)

This week I'm in Scotland. Right now I am at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow looking at the some of the coins of Dr. William Hunter, who collected just about everything in addition to coins. Across the street from the museum is the Hunterian Art Museum where there are a few more coins and next to it is the university library. I was told by the museum's senior curator, Dr. J D Bateson, that it holds approximately 100 of Hunter's numismatic books that go back to the 16th or 17th century. Apparently you do not need to make advance arrangements to see these, just sign in.

Hunterian Museum

I recall Donal Bateson's talk on Hunter and his collections from one of my visits to the British Numismatic Society in London last year. I envy Howard - I never got the chance to travel to Glasgow to see the Hunterian.

Arriving right at the start of the meeting we signed in and quickly grabbed chairs in the crowded and hot lecture room. The speaker was Donal Bateson on the topic of "William Hunter and Eighteenth-Century Coin Collecting." Dr. Hunter (1718-1783) was a wealthy London collector who assembled a grand numismatic cabinet which he donated to the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Coincidentally, yesterday my kids Tyler, Hannah and I played taxi. They wanted to pretend we were driving in London. We rode the London Eye, took a boat down the Thames, and had fish and chips for lunch at the Rock and Sole Place. What fun! -Editor
To read the complete BNS diary article, see: WAYNE'S LONDON DIARY 27 MAY 2007 (


Nick Graver forwarded these photos along with an email that's been making the rounds of the Internet, titled Most Valueless Currencies in the world. You gotta love the receipt from the Victoria Falls Hotel. How much gratuity would you leave on a $1,243,255,000 tab? -Editor

How would you like to be a billionaire? It's easy, just move to the countries below.

Zimbabwe as an example, this country's entire population of over 12,000,000 are billionaires. In fact, many are trillionaires, or even quadrillionaires. in case you're unfamiliar with "quadrillions, " a quadrillion is a million billion, or a 1 followed by 15 zeros

Zimbabwe $250 Million Note

Zimbabwe Receipt


Arthur Shippee forwarded this article from the Jerusalem Post, which mentions coins and tokens found in an archeological dig in Vienna, Austria. -Editor
The earliest synagogue was a simple rectangular room and can be dated to around 1236, by the find of a coin, an Austrian penny of that date, on the surface of the plaster floor. The wall with the ark faced southeast, the direction of Jerusalem. There was a small entrance lobby to the north and a narrow women's annex to the south, with window-slits into the main chamber.

Nine lead tokens, the size of large coins, were also found. They were embossed with formal designs, such as an eagle, a rosette and one with two kings holding a crown, and they are unique in Austria. Though not definitely of Jewish origin, it is tempting to see them as associated with the money-lending trade, and they may have counted as ersatz money for use among the Jewish merchants.

Today these remains are beautifully exhibited in the underground museum, which is regularly visited by non-Jewish schoolchildren to give them a flavor of early Jewish life in their capital.

To read the complete article, see: Vienna's underground synagogue (


Arthur Shippee forwarded another item from the Jerusalem Post - this one is about a man arrested for selling illegally excavated ancient coins. -Editor
Jerusalem Coins Seized A 43-year-old Arab resident of east Jerusalem has been arrested for allegedly posing as a city tour guide and selling tourists various rare antique coins, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.

The suspected antiquities thief was nabbed red-handed on Sunday in the Old City of Jerusalem by the state-run archeological body's anti-theft division in the midst of making a sale to unsuspecting tourists.

The suspect was found to be carrying around 100 impressive antique coins of various shapes and sizes, including Roman coins and a motley collection of other coins dating back to the Hellenistic Period.

The coins, which were taken from various archeological sites across the country, are valued in the thousands of dollars.

"It is important that the public know that antique coins which are being offered for sale on the street and in markets were illegally excavated at archeological sites throughout Israel," said Shai Bar-Tura, the deputy head of the Antiquities Authority's anti-theft division.

"Our history is being sold for greed," he said.

The phenomenon of antiquities theft has taken on gold-rush dimensions with an antiquities site now plundered nearly every day on average.

To read the complete article, see: Man posing as J'lem tour guide nabbed for selling ancient coins to tourists (


An E-Sylum reader forwarded this item about an old 1912 lease for a landmark Cleveland, Ohio building, which a court ruled is still payable in gold coin. -Editor
A 1912 lease provision that requires payment in gold coin is enforceable, a federal appellate panel held yesterday, even though the U.S. withdrew the gold coin from circulation in 1933 and the building owner, for decades after that, didn't attempt to enforce the payment term.

Because the price of gold has shot up since 1912, a lower court must now determine what the 35,000 gold coins that the lease calls for in annual rent is worth in U.S. dollars, under the ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Associated Press.

The gold coin requirement had apparently been long forgotten until 216 Jamaica Avenue bought the building in 2006. It tried to enforce the payment provision, and sued when the tenant balked.

To read the complete article, see: 1912 Gold Coin Lease Payment Term is Enforceable, 6th Circuit Rules (

To read a related article, see: Gold Rush: Thompson Hine on Losing End in Landlord/Tenant Case (


If gold is legal tender in Ohio, copper - not so much. Joseph D. McCarthy forwarded this Associated Press article from Massillon, Ohio. The subject is the recurring theme of people attempting payment in pennies to make a statement, perhaps not realizing that they just aren't legal tender in large sums. -Editor
A municipal court has refused to accept a man's payment of 5,000 pennies to cover the first installment of his traffic fines.

Judge Edward J. Elum and Massillon Municipal Court deputy clerk Shane Jackson both declined to accept the delivery of the pennies thrown into a box with packing peanuts and mailed by Philip B. Simer, 27.

Simer spent $14.31 to mail his payment to the court, which sent the heavy package back to him on Friday.

Simer was found guilty of two traffic violations earlier this month.

He was ordered to pay $243 -- or $50 every two weeks -- in fines and court costs.

He used the pennies to make his first $50 payment.

A postal worker had to deliver the large brown box with a dolly, but the Elum and Jackson both refused receipt.

Simer said he has no intention of paying the fines in anything but pennies.

To read the complete article, see: Court refuses payment in pennies (


This week's featured web page is ZENO.RU, the Oriental Coins Database. It is recommended to us by Dan Freidus.

Chinese Sacrificial Coin

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