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Wayne Homren We currently have 1,182 subscribers. Have YOU recruited a new subscriber lately? Please recommend us to fellow collectors you think would enjoy The E-Sylum.

This week we open with word on a couple of new books from Whitman Publications. Next, Richard Jewell reviews a new book on an old and interesting numismatic topic. Other books discussed include George Selgin's Good Money and Steve Tompkins' book on Early U.S. Quarters.

In topics from previous issues we have further information on star stamps on U.S. paper money, lists of pharmacist-numismatists, information on a new edge reeding technique, pedigree information on the Charlotte medal, and the Hispanic Society of America's plans for the coin collection formerly on "permanent" loan to the ANS.

Queries this week include engraved "dog tag" Love Tokens, collectors Bryon Reed and Byron Johnson, and more. To learn what the "N. T." in "Joseph N. T. Levick" stands for, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Numismatic Bibliomania Society


Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing forwarded this release about one of their newest books. -Editor
Bowers, Guide Book of Gold Dollars A Guide Book of Gold Dollars is the latest entry in Whitman Publishings Bowers Series of numismatic references. It debuted at the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Atlanta Expo in August.

United States gold dollars are a fascinating and highly collectible series. In A Guide Book of Gold Dollars, Q. David Bowersthe Dean of American Numismatics and the most prolific numismatic author of all timetells how to be a smart collector: how to evaluate quality, determine value, understand the market, and make good buys.

Along the way, he explains why, in all of American numismatics, the gold dollar possesses a special charm. Youll learn how the history of the nation shaped the coins design and productionhow the first gold dollars were made by a private coiner from gold mined in Georgia; why some felt only second-rate countries issued such small gold coins; what the public thought of the tiny, delicate, yet highly practical coins; and the effects of the Gold Rush, the Civil War, political controversy, monetary crises, and more on the coinage.

Bowers provides a wealth of information on each issue, including mintages, existing populations, grading information, values, auction records, and keys to collecting.

A historical backdrop of what was going on in America during each year, along with hundreds of full-color photographs, make this book a treat for anyone interested in our nations history.

By Q. David Bowers
Foreword by David W. Akers.
Full color; 6 x 9; softcover; 288 pages.


Dennis Tucker also forwarded this release about another new book, this one by Cliff Mishler. -Editor

Mishler, Coins: Questions & Answers The fifth edition of Coins: Questions & Answers, by Clifford Mishler, debuted at the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Atlanta Expo in August.

A popular seller since it was first published nearly 45 years ago, the book provides detailed answers to hundreds of the most commonly asked questions about the world of money. It covers challenging, interesting subjects that have puzzled collectors for decades. The fifth edition includes more than 400 photographs (40% more than the fourth edition).

The 352-page softcover book retails for $9.95. -Editor


Richard Jewell submitted the following review of a new book published earlier this year which should interest those collecting or researching numismatic items made of hardened wood. -Editor
Vermosen, Bois Durci, A Natural Plastic I recently acquired a new book on an old subject. The name of the book is Bois Durci Un Plastique Naturel, A Natural Plastic 1855-1927, by Gaston Vermosen. As you might surmise by the title the book is bilingual, written in French and English. I do not know of too many books written in this format, certainly not any numismatic ones ("I could be mistaken, but never wrong" - who said that?)

For those of your readers who may not know what bois durci is, it literally means "hardened wood", a process of taking sawdust, albumen or animal blood and hardening in a mould to form the desired object.

Vermosen, Bois Durci, A Natural Plastic sample illustration What numismatic connection is there? Various medals and medallions were made this way after being introduced at the 1862 London Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations.

The book is seventy-two pages in length, highlighted by fourteen pages dedicated to photos of the various manufactured objects de bois durci. It traces the historical beginnings, the many companies that evolved over time, their factories locations, production methods and their individual trade marks (mint marks?)

Vermosen, Bois Durci, A Natural Plastic sample pages

I found the book to be enlightening and one that should be in every numismatic library. It comes with its own CD and the author's promise to forward any additional updates. At the present time the only way to purchase the book is to e-mail the author at the following address The price is $45 USD.

Many thanks to Rich for making this book known to the larger numismatic community. I'd heard of bois durci, but wasn't aware of a book on the subject. For less than the cost of just one of the medals one can buy the book and become an expert on the topic - sounds like a bargain to me, especially with the accompanying CD.

The first edition is limited to 150 copies, and according to the Belgian author's web site, only 29 copies remain. The wide-format (21 x 21 cm) book has 72 pages of text and 14 color plates. The accompanying CD has a catalog with over 300 items illustrated, including over fifty plaques and medallions. The price is 22.50 EUR plus shipping. -Editor

To view the book's web site, see:


The following review of George Selgin's Good Money comes from the Marginal Revolution blog. -Editor
Good Money At the dawn of the industrial revolution as workers left the fields and moved to industrial employment the demand for a means of payment increased dramatically. Workers, once paid in kind, needed to be paid in a medium they could use to buy the necessities of life. Small-tender bank notes, however, were illegal and in Great Britain the production of coin was monopolized by the Royal Mint which failed to provide enough high quality coin to meet the demands of workers and business. Silver coin, despite the efforts of Sir Isaac Newton, was overvalued and fled the country. Gold was too expensive to make coins suitable for workingmen and the Mint could not or would not produce high-quality copper coins.

Good Money is George Selgin's explanation of how enterprising button makers solved what Sargent and Velde called The Big Problem of Small Change thereby making the industrial revolution possible. Selgin is a monetary theorist so you might expect a dry account of monetary history but the mint-battle between Matthew Boulton, whom Wired once named the ultimate CEO, and copper-king Thomas Williams propels the story forward. If you can imagine, Good Money is something of a cross between Friedman and Schwartz's A Monetary History of the United States (although not as broad in scope) and a business epic like Barbarians at the Gate. I also liked how Selgin draws on newspapers, novels, limericks and tavern songs to illustrate the problems and events of the time. This bard was both a good economist (he has Gresham's Law!) and public choice scholar.

'Tis Gold buys Votes, or they'd have swarmed ere now,
Copper serves only for the meaner Sort of People
Copper never goes at Court
And since on Shilling can full Twelve Pence weight,
Silver is better in Germany
'Tis true the Vulgar seek it, What of that?
They are not Statesmen,-let the Vulgar wait.

The money problem influenced and was influenced by all of the major events of the day so Good Money is also an economic and political history of the industrial revolution. Here's an interesting tidbit. Company stores were not so much a way for firms to rip off employees (why not just pay them less?) but were rather a means of economizing on coin. Selgin shows how the shortage of coin sheds light on a number of other otherwise peculiar business practices.

What lessons can be drawn from the history of private coinage? Private money circulated only if it was voluntarily accepted as a means payment. Thus the primary problem faced by private firms was how to create trust and credibility. To encourage circulation, for example, issuers promised to redeem their tokens in gold (which the Royal Mint did not). In turn, the promise to redeem gave producers an incentive to make their coins difficult to counterfeit, which they did by making the coins beautiful - numismatists will appreciate the full-color illustrations of the private coinage produced by Boulton and his rivals - as well as technologically advanced.

Today, the big problem of small change is no longer such a big problem, although shortages of wanted coin continue to occur sporadically around the world (e.g. here and here) as well as surpluses of unwanted coin. Nevertheless, the basic problems of private coinage were trust and credibility. Modern issuers of digital cash face the same problems and thus Selgin's history is a valuable reminder about the scope and potential of alternative monetary institutions.

Full Disclosure: I was enthusiastic about Good Money when I read it in manuscript which is why it is published by the University of Michigan Press and co-published by the Independent Institute where I am director of research.

To read the complete article, see: Good Money (


Author Steve M. Tompkins forwarded the following update on his new book on Early U.S. quarters. -Editor.
Tompkins, Bust Quarters I just wanted to again thank everyone who pre-purchased my new book EARLY UNITED STATES QUARTERS 1796 - 1838, and say thanks for your patience in waiting to receive it! All of the pre-orders have now been shipped and if you still have not received it yet, it should be showing up any day. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions once you have had a chance to look through it. My address is

I have added an errata page listing any errors that I have found in the book that was missed in editing, if anyone finds others please let me know and I will add them to the list. There is also a page listing "New Discoveries" for items that were found after the book was sent to the printer.

NOTE: David Lange writes:
Due to a snafu with my domain registration, I've had to change the address of my website to a dotnet extension, as shown below. Nothing else has changed, but please update your favorite places to show the correct URL:


Alan V. Weinberg writes:
I've heard reliably that Hal Birt, Jr, a longtime Tucson Arizona coin dealer and author of the Arizona trade token reference (responsible for increasing the interest in Western trade tokens, along with James J. Curto), died last week from old age and the infirmities associated with being a long time cigarette smoker. Hal was about 81 (give or take a year or two). A very nice and informative man.

Hal Birt's book was titled Arizona Tokens and Scrip. It was published in 1990 and it is still the "bible" on Arizona trade tokens, although the Stack's Ford sale and the Schingoethe catalogs are now the bibles on Arizona scrip.


Several E-Sylum subscribers wrote this week about the late Dr. Radford Stearns. -Editor

Mack Martin writes:
Radford Stearns Dr. Charles Radford Stearns began his eternal life with Christ Sunday, August 31, 2008 after experiencing all he could during the time God gave him on earth.

He was born in Evanston, Illinois on October 12, 1940 to George Radford and Elisabeth D. Stearns and is survived by his wife of 42 years Mary Lucy (Franzman), his children Katherine Radford Stearns, Kristine Radford Lively (Ty), Thomas Radford Stearns and Ana Silva

After attending Notre Dame University he graduated from the Chicago College of Dental Surgery (Loyola) in 1967) to serve as an officer in the United States Navy in Albany, GA from 1967-1969. Dr. Stearns practiced general dentistry in Winder, GA but assembled the perfect staff in Lilburn, GA where he worked until his retirement in 2006.

Adventure travel, scuba diving, numismatics, underwater and wildlife photography and the Georgia Aquarium were just a few of his interests. His most significant trait was unbridled enthusiasm for anything he embraced, in his later years being the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Lilburn Relay for Life.

In numismatics he was a long term member of ANA and was serving on the board of Governors. He was a speaker at conventions on several topics and as a collector, displayed exhibits and won the Howland Wood award. He played a large part in getting the book State of Georgia Treasury Notes, Certificates and Bonds completed and opened the door to many new collectors and exhibitors.

He will be missed greatly by those whose lives he touched. Let us remember that we need not mourn when great men as these are lost, but rather celebrate that they had lived among us.

Bob Rhue writes:
So sad to hear of Rad Stearns' passing. He'd fought cancer so hard for the past several years, and always remained positive about it. Such an enthusiastic guy, always contributing and sharing, and with a passion for many areas of numismatics, Georgia Colonial currency being one of his favorites. He had a world class collection of it. He actually cost me a lot of money because he exhibited his collection of it at an ANA show 20 plus years ago. I saw it, got hooked, and have been collecting it ever since. He took such pride and joy in sharing by exhibiting at shows many of his varied numismatic interests.

He was always active and contributing & sharing his passion for our hobby. He recently ran and was elected to the ANA Board, and had a lot of sound ideas to help dig the ANA out of its current mess.

He was proud of his wife and children. Just a wonderful, generous human being, and a friend whom Im proud to have known & whom Ill miss dearly. Thank you Rad for all you did to better our world.

John and Nancy Wilson write:
It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Charles Radford Stearns, DDS on August 31, 2008. He was a close and personal friend of both of us. This is a great loss not only for his wife Mary Lu and their family, but also the entire numismatic community. Dr Radford Stearns had a great love for the numismatic hobby and contributed in many ways. He ran for the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors for the 2007-2009 terms and was successful. He will be missed on this important Board for which he brought knowledge, wisdom, energy and enthusiasm.

He was a great collector of Georgia Colonial Paper Money winning the ANA Howland Wood Best in Show Award. Besides collecting Georgia Colonial Paper Money, he also was a collector of Russian Money. Dr. Stearns not only exhibited at the ANA, but many other conventions around the country including CSNS and FUN. He was General Chairman for the 1987 American Numismatic Association (ANA) Convention in Atlanta, GA., where he received the ANA Goodfellows Award. This award is given to the ANA General Chairmen.

He also served at various ANA Conventions as Assistant General Chair, Educational Forum Chair and Exhibit Chair. He has served on the ANA Audit Committee. During this current term, he was Co-Chair of the Educational Committee. He has been on Numismatic Theater programs for the ANA, FUN, CSNS and many others. Besides these achievements, Dr. Radford Stearns has served in many capacities for the Georgia Numismatic Association and Blue Ridge Numismatic Association. He was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the United States Assay Commission.

Dr. Radford Stearns received many honors from the numismatic community that he was so dedicated to and loved so much. In 2004, he received the ANA Glenn Smedley Award and in 1995 two Presidents Awards. The coveted Numismatic News Ambassador Award was bestowed on him in 1988.

This great Numismatist, Doctor and family man has left a mark on everyone who has crossed his path. He will be in the memory of everyone who knew him. His work and accomplishments in the hobby and professionally will never be forgotten. All of our prayers and thoughts to his wife Mary Lu and the family. On behalf of numismatists everywhere, Rad, you will be missed but never forgotten.


The answers to these quiz questions are all found within today's issue.

Who are these famous American numismatists? HINT: the second one died 100 years ago today. -Editor
John Jay Pittman Levick JNT

Dick Johnson writes:
One of the American presidential candidates is very superstitious. He carries a lucky quarter, a lucky nickel and a lucky cent to all important events. He also carries a laminated four-leaf clover in his wallet at all times. He also has lucky clothing, a lucky sweater and lucky shoes. Guess which one?


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 The 1579 first edition of Occos masterpiece on Roman coins.
DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS now accepting consignments for our October 4th mail bid auction. Consignments in hand include Lincoln Medals by Robert P. King, an original manuscript. (719) 302-5686, visit our web site


Last week I asked about a six-pointed star inkstamp I noticed on a $50 bill. Not surprisingly, our readers have come forth with an answer. -Editor

$50 with star stamp closeup Tom DeLorey writes
Here at Harlan Berk's coin store in downtown Chicago, it is not unusual to see $50 and $100 bills with small rubber stamps on them. They are presumably bankers' and money exchangers' marks from overseas, indicating that the bank or exchanger in question has examined the note and found it to be genuine. It is the equivalent of the Chinese chop mark on 19th century crown-sized coins such as Trade Dollars. We just ignore them, and use our own observations of official counterfeit detection devices on the bills to verify them. After all, any counterfeiter could put any variety of "chop marks" on his bills to make it easier to pass them.

Joe Boling writes:
The "M" in the star of David on the $50 note is a money-changer's chop mark. Hundreds exist - so that the money-changer will not have to examine the note closely the next time he receives it, to determine its authenticity. Such marks are widely used in the mid-east, somewhat less in the far east.


In last week's item about collector Will Neil, I asked who could name three other numismatists whose profession was pharmacy. Why three? I dunno - I just made that part up, but figured there MUST be AT LEAST three. -Editor
Nick Graver writes:
Pharmacist-numismatists would have to start with fellow Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society member Chick Ambrass.
As an E-Sylum reader, Chick Ambrass was one of my picks. Any other pharmacists among us? Nick also correctly picked former American Numismatic Association President Alden Scott Boyer. -Editor
Pete Smith writes:
I have an unfair advantage. I have a copy of my book, American Numismatic Biographies in digital format. It is quite easy to search for the term pharmacist or pharmacy. These six people owned, operated or worked in pharmacies:

  • Alden Scott Boyer
  • Robert Coulton Davis
  • Lewis Feuchtwanger
  • George Francis Heath
  • Henry H. Leiter
  • William Elliot Woodward
I realize Lewis Feuchtwanger and Henry Leiter were not numismatists, but they are in ANB. Another former pharmacist in ANB that I didn't mention is Hubert Humphrey.

David Gladfelter and Joe Boling both suggested Byron Johnson. He isn't in Pete's American Numismatic Biographies. Should he be? I asked Joe Boling for more background on Byron and he writes:
Byron was a pharmacist by trade and an avid and omnivorous collector. His collection was sold by Bowers and Merena 26-28 Jan 1989. There is a biography of him in the catalog. The catalog does not say when he was an ANA governor, nor when he was ANA chief judge, but I know the former was while I was living in Seattle 1971-76, and the latter was sometime after that. His library was bought by Tom Sheehan.

From reading the bio for Byron, I see that another numispharmacist was B. F. Miles.

Showoff John N. Lupia III writes:
I can name nine:
  • Robert Coulton Davis (1813-1888),
  • Georg(e) Ludwig Ulex (d. 1883)
  • William Forrester Dunham (1857-1936) ANA member no. 361
  • Isaac Hands Gibbs, charter member of the ANS in 1858.
  • Isaac John Greenwood, resident member of the ANS since January 12, 1859.
  • William Elliot Woodward, coin dealer
  • Harlow Elliot Woodward (1851-), son of William Elliot Woodward, who was not only a druggist in Boston but continued his father's business trading as W. E. Woodward Company, at 40 Bromfield Street, Boston, Massachusetts until about 1895.
  • Alfred Bower Taylor(1824-1898), 1015 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. An apothecary who manufactured bottled perfumes and toilet waters. He was a founder and served as the recording Secretary of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia.
  • Dr. S. J. Caswell, MD (1847-), 616 George Street, Rockford, Illinois. ANA member no. 417

Kolbe 2008007-27


Timothy Grat of Moffat & Co. writes:
Thank you again for another fascinating installment of the E-Sylum. I just had to jump in on this weeks issue regarding edge reeding. My friend Dick Johnson made a comment which no longer is true. He wrote:
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.

British Colonial Security edge I could bring up designs applied under collar struck reeding, such as the British colonial coin edges, where the security marking are applied during the rimming operation and are not obliterated during striking. But I am sure Dick is more than aware of these pieces and was not referring to this type of operation.

500yen diagonal edge reeding However, in direct reference to his comment, the Japan Mint has released a 500 yen nickel-brass coin that is produced using helical reeding. This diagonally oriented reeding is contained in the collar which forms the coin edge upon striking. The ejection of this coin requires a new advance in coin press technology which allows the coining collar to rotate as the die pushes the coin out of the collar.

One must remember to visualize the coin that is struck is locked into the devices of the die and this in turn (pun intended) serves as the drive dog for removing the coin.

I realize that the term drive dog may be unknown to many of your readers - it is a machine tool term. A drive dog is a device that transfers rotary movement of the machine to the workpiece, in this case the rotary movement of the ratcheting ejection to the coin. If the face of the anvil die were blank, there would be no tooth to transfer the rotation to the finished coin.

Dick Johnson writes:
I was unaware of that coin press technology that ejects a diagonal reeded coin. I am starved to learn more about it. Tell me everything you know about it! Is that Japanese coin the first? Was this developed privately or at one of the Japanese mints? I can indeed imagine how this works. Clever of the Japanese to invent it.

Timothy Grat responded:
The Japanese Mint did develop the technology themselves. They are using Schuler MRH150s, same as the US Mint. They are running these ratcheting collars at just over 700 strokes per minute! I will grab a still shot of the collar off some video of the Japanese Mint that my partner Sean has. No use in grabbing a still of the striking, because at 715 SPM the camera didn't see much! The 500 yen piece is the only coin I know of thus far that has this edge. I can only imagine there were test pieces, but this is the first production piece. These are the same pieces that have the latent imaging and the micro-dot technology as!

500 yen collar Here's an image that shows the collar itself. This image was taken by Sean Moffatt at his visit to the Japanese Mint during the 22nd Mint Directors Conference in Osaka.

Dick Johnson adds:
This is fabulous coining technology information! You have taught me something I didn't know. This will likely be news to E-Sylum subscribers as well.


Inspired by our recent discussion of the topic, Steve M. Tompkins submitted these thoughts on photographing the edge of coins. -Editor
I was interested in the discussion about photographing the edge of coins to be able to count the reeds. This is an area that has not been fully explored with all coin series, but there have been a few pioneers in this arena.

The first and foremost is the late Russ Logan. Russ was always a proponent for looking at the "third" side of the coin. Russ was so enamored with this part of the coin that he designed and developed a specially prepared edge "mirror" which his company built. He determined the proper angle for the surface and had it ground to this angle then polished to a mirror like surface. Development of these edge mirrors was described in his paper "The Third Die: A Different Look" appearing in America's Silver Coinage 1794-1891 presented at the 1986 ANS Coinage of the Americas Conference.

John McCloskey has also been counting reeds on coins for many years and has published much information in the Gobrecht Journal for many different denominations and different years found in the Seated coinage. These counts can be used to distinguish specific collar dies used, which can aid in detecting counterfeits and those with mint marks added to create rare coins.

Flashlight Reflector For those not fortunate enough to own one of these edge mirrors, the simplest and easiest way to count the reeded edge of a coin is the one described by Bill Bugert in the last issue. However, counting the reeds is much easier if you put the coin in this reflector and shoot a picture using a copy stand and a digital camera. Once you have taken the picture and downloaded it to a computer, it can be cropped and resized to something slightly under 8 1/2 X 11, then printed out on any inkjet or laser printer.

You can then easily mark the page starting at any reed, count any direction, and mark every 10th reed. After completing the full circumference of the coin then count how many marks you have and add any leftover reed under ten on the last place you counted. I used this device to count the reeded edges on all die marriages of the Bust Quarters for my new book on that series.

Flashlight Reflector photo One thing you need to keep in mind is that the flashlight reflector needs to be at the proper angle for the reeds to be shown well in the photograph. A larger, wider lens will not work as well as one about 2" in diameter. As most of these are made out of plastic and just chrome-plated to create the mirrored surface, they are easily scratched and after repeated use need to be replaced with a new one.

Also, make sure that the reflector you choose has a smooth surface, as many cheap flashlight reflectors are now being made with multifaceted surfaces which can not be used for this purpose. I get the ones I use at the local Dollar Store, for the large sum of...$1! (Who says all things related to numismatics have to be expensive?)


Last week Leon Worden asked:
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.

Franois Velde of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago writes:
These are the first words of Pindar's 8th Olympian ode: Mater O chrusostephanon aethlon, Olumpia despoin' aletheias O mother of gold-crowned contests, Olympia, queen of truth

(most of the individual words are recognizable: mater=mother, chrusos=gold, stephanos=crown, aethlon has given us athlete, despoina is the same root as despot.)

Many thanks. Our readers sure are a sharp bunch! Now I had to look up Pindar, and learned that "Pindaros or Pindar (c. 518 BC to c.438 BC) was the great lyric poet of ancient Greece, was born at Cynoscephalae." -Editor
To read more on Pindar, see: Pindar (


Last week I asked for more information on the history of the unique Charlotte Medal, engraved by the convict and expert forger Thomas Barrett when the First Fleet arrived at Australia's Botany Bay.

Colin Pitchfork, President of the Australian Numismatic Society and Numismatic Consultant to Noble Numismatics forwarded the full text and illustrations of the medal from the recent Noble Sale. Many thanks! Here's an excerpt which includes a partial pedigree. -Editor
The `Charlotte' Medal, 1788, in silver (74mm, weight 37.58gms) (MH.49 - this piece), engraved on both sides of a thin silver disc, obverse, fully-rigged ship secured to a buoy, sun near horizon to left, crescent moon and stars in the sky, inscribed in left field `The Charlotte at anchor / in Botany Bay / Jany. th 20, / 1788', inscribed on reverse a full description of the voyage from London to Botany Bay (13,106 miles) in nautical terminology. Contemporary in style this medallion was engraved by Thomas Barrett one of the convicts on board the `Charlotte' whilst the ship was anchored in Botany Bay between the 20th and 26th January. This medal is widely acclaimed as the first Australian Colonial work of art and an icon of the foundation of our nation and as such is of immense historical interest to Australia. Extremely fine and unique

Ex The Marquess of Milford Haven, A.H.F. Baldwin and (Spink Australia Sale 6 [lot 422]) John J. Ford Collections. The `Charlotte' was built on the Thames in 1784. Her length was 105 feet, the maximum breadth between her wales was about 28 feet 2 inches, and her tonnage 38 tons. The ship featured two decks and three masts, but had no embellishments such as a figurehead or galleries, and contemporary records generally describe her as `square-sterned'.

Charlotte Medal obverse Charlotte Medal reverse

Christopher Eimer writes"
The Charlotte medal was pedigreed in the Noble catalogue to an earlier Noble auction, in its earlier incarnation as Spink Australia, in Sale 6 on 20 November 1981. I do not have a prices realized for this auction, but I believe that it sold for something in the order of A$ 11,000. Prior to this and the Ford ownership, the medal, as also mentioned in the Noble Auction catalogue, was in the collection of A.H.F. Baldwin and, previously, that of the Marquess of Milford Haven.

What was not mentioned in the catalogue is that the medal was published in 1919 in the first volume of the Marquess of Milford Haven's collection of naval medals, as No. 40 on pages 463, and on 465, where it is illustrated.

I trust that this finds you well and add my congratulations and praise for the work that you are doing on the E-Sylum.


Ray Williams writes:
Tom Kays, who added information about the Castine Hoard in the last E-Sylum, was also the one who brought the website to the attention of the colonial community. He is the author of a wonderful article, that's 30 pages in length, and I recommend to all to enjoy. I reread it often. The article appeared in The Colonial Newsletter and is available to read on the web. It gives you a good idea of the coins circulating in the tobacco colonies, it reads easy, is historically informative and makes us all appreciate how easy it is to make a transaction today.

Even if you don't collect colonial coins, most of us have an interest in our colonial history and can still enjoy this work.

It's a great article - I can see why Ray (President of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club) rereads it often. At 30 pages it's more of a monograph. I'd call it required reading for anyone interested in the history of coinage in the U.S. I have the CNL issue around here somewhere, but I'll print out the web version and keep it handy for lunchtime reading. I understand Tom is working on a book-length manuscript, and I know I'll be one of the first in line to buy one. -Editor

Tobacco Colonies

To read the complete article, see: When Cross Pistareens Cut Their Way Through the Tobacco Colonies (


Last week Jonathan Brecher asked for information about his "negative-image (incuse and reversed) electro-somethings of the Pistrucci Waterloo medal."

Dick Johnson submitted this analysis of Jonathan's pieces, which includes a detailed description of the electrotype process. -Editor
What Jonathan Brecher has, as illustrated in last week's E-Sylum, is an electrogalvanic mold. I am delighted to furnish him the following information on his electrogalvanic item.

Jonathan was particularly concerned about the wax coating on this piece. He said "I've shown these to several people, and nobody seems to know what to make of them." This is understandable. Electroforming, the electrolysis process, and even electrotypes are one of the least understood concepts of all numismatics. This is why I have joined with numismatist John Kraljevich in the preparation of a monograph on the subject, Electrogalvanic Casting In Numismatics. This has been mentioned previously in E-Sylum (vol 9, no 44, art 19, October 29, 2006).

This was mentioned prior to the publication of one of the few (and best!) articles on the subject. Red Book guru Kenneth Bressett wrote "The Nature and Use of Electrotype Reproductions" which appeared in the now defunct ANA Journal, spring issue 2007. Well worth obtaining that issue for reading that article alone.

An electrogalvanic mold is the pattern for casting electrotypes or galvanos. The pattern can be most any composition. The U.S. Mint was using iron in the 1850s; the British Royal Mint was using iron as late as 1886. But the pattern can be plaster, any other metal, or even carved wood (the later has to be specially treated to close all the tiny pores in the wood). A wax pattern is usually cast in plaster before it is used in the electrogalvanic process.

The pattern must be specially prepared: (1) the surface to be reproduced is coated with bronze power to make it electrically conductive -- this also acts as a release agent to remove the casting afterwards; (2) it is wired, two copper wires are attached to the pattern's surface to carry the electric current to a bus bar above the tank where the electrolysis takes place, these also support the pattern and its galvanic casting while it is in the tank; and (3) the area where no deposition is to take place is coated with wax, this is a stop-off (the British call this a resist).

The wax on Jonathan's electroform is this resistant material still intact. It covers the entire back, and the portion of the front, the flange, where no metal is to be deposited. If this were not done the metal would deposit on both sides, all around and entomb the desired electroform.

The wired and prepared pattern is immersed in an electrolyte solution in the tank. This solution is slightly acidic but also contains cyanide. Electrotypers have experimented for decades to replace the deadly cyanide, but found it is best to use in electrolysis. The solution must also contain ions of the metal to be deposited. Most metals can be electroformed. In numismatics it is the same as coinage metals, gold, silver, copper. The process is the same as goldplating, silverplating, copperplating. (Other metals are plated in the jewelry field, or even chromium plating in industry.)

A tank large enough to contain the suspended pattern contains the electrolyte solution. It also must have anodes present. If you are creating a copper electrotype, you must have several pure copper anodes suspended in the solution as well. Separate tanks for each metal. The anodes are sacrificial -- they wear away like a bar of soap -- ions of the copper in the anode pass into the solution and deposit on the pattern's treated surface, this is the cathode, when the electric current is turned on.

The current must be a low voltage direct current and must form a complete circuit. A rectifier converts AC current to DC and is wired to bars from which the anodes are suspended. The current passes into the anodes then into the solution, onto the cathode pattern, up the copper wires to the bus bar and back to the rectifier. Circuit completed.

It is fun to watch gold or silverplating. It changes the color of the anodic metal in about 15 seconds. But usually it requires about three days to deposit enough metal, say a 1/16th inch, to give the electroform enough strength so it won't malform. This form is also called a galvano. After that time the ensemble of pattern and electroform are removed from the tank.

They are separated. If any opening is found a screwdriver is inserted between the mold and the cast galvano. It is pried open a little more. The electrotypers' trick of the trade is applied. Compressed air is blown into this opening and the two snap apart.

Jonathan's electroform is negative. As a negative mold it makes a positive cast.. (Casting always reverses polarity.) His photo shows a hanger. This was not used in the electrolysis process; it was intended to hang on a wall. How much more realistic to have the original two copper wires intact.

If Jonathan can prove the provenance of this piece back to Pinches, it may have been the original one Pinches used in 1849 to make the first Waterloo Medals. However, once you have one of these medals anyone with electroforming equipment and the required skill could copy it by creating the pattern for casting these medals anew. Unlike foundry casts, however, subsequent electroformed castings do not shrink, they are the exact same size as the original, so size is not a diagnostic.

Operating a successful electrolysis is not easy. There are a many variables, chemical composition, pH, temperature, placement of the pattern in relation to the anodes, the electric circuit, the ionic balance. It takes considerable skill. That is why you will not find many electroformed copies.

Possibly Jonathan's pattern could have been made in the United States. It could have been made by one of the New England silverware firms (1850s) or by New York City electrotyper Samuel H. Black as early as 1859. Or by a specialized electroforming firm as early as 1884. We have a list of a dozen American electrotypers and are compiling the known electrotypes they made.

The most important thing you should remember about electroforming -- it replicates minute detail. In comparison with other methods of making numismatic items: foundry casting reproduces detail down to 1/100 of an inch, die striking reproduces detail down to 1/1000th of an inch, but electroforming reproduces detail down to the width of an atom!

Medalmakers have a saying about this: "If it is in the model, it is in the medal." Here are some highlights in the history of electroforming:
  • In 1791 Italian Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), for whom "galvano" is named after, first observed electric current.
  • In 1800 another Italian, Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) -- "volt" is named after him -- created the first voltaic pile, a battery. Batteries were the source of the electric current until Thomas Edison developed electric generation.
  • In 1805 a third Italian, Luigi Brugnatelli performed the first electroplating, on two medals!
  • In 1837 a German Moritz Herman Jacobi (1801-1874) first developed the electrolysis process which he called "galvanoplasty."
  • In 1840 two British cousins George and Henry Elkington learned of Jacobi's process and patented it in England for the manufacture of silverware.
  • In 1844 Scovill Manufacturing in Waterbury is first to use electrolysis in America.
  • In 1847 the Rogers Brothers imported Elkington's process for sillverplating utensils in America and created their famed 1847 trademark.

  • In 1849 the world's most famous electrotype medal was made for the 1815 Battle of Waterloo after medallist Benedetto Pistrucci (1784-1855) had taken three decades to model it. Pinches had to electrolytically cast it because it was too large to strike with a pair of dies.
  • In 1851 William E. DuBois (1810-1881) begins using electrolysis at the U.S. Mint according to Kenneth Bressett.
  • In 1860 DuBois replicated the 1804 dollar by electrolysis.
There is more to the electrolysis story, but we have covered the period near the time of Pinches creating the Waterloo Medal of 1849.

Jonathan Brecher adds:
Fabulous! That makes a LOT of sense. Given that there are at least two different types of wax, I wonder if that means these molds were actually used in production over a longish time period, where the wax would need to be touched up from time to time.

I wish I could prove the provenance back to Pinches. Unfortunately, this came from an estate sale. Whatever the previous owner knew, it's been lost.

I'll definitely try to track down a copy of that ANA Journal. I'm not actually collecting electrotypes, but I've picked up a few that I like, and I definitely don't know as much as I could. Thanks, Dick!

Dick Johnson adds:
You have made a correct assumption. The evidence of two kinds (or colors) of wax could very well indicate it was cast at two different times. This could be decades apart! Electrotypers generally only keep one kind of wax on hand. In fact, you could have this done now.

If you would like to see this process in action -- or if you would like to have a positive made from your mold -- I recommend you bring your mold to the following firm to have this work done, they are the America's most expert medallic electrotypers:

Greco Industries, Inc.
Ricky Greco, VP
Francis J. Clarke Industrial Park
14 Trowbridge Drive
Bethel, CT 06801
Phone: (203) 798-7804

This firm is in a brand new $3 million plant. It was founded by Hugo Greco, former head of the finishing department at Medallic Art Co in New York City. He just celebrated his 50th year in the field. The Greco family brings a great deal of Italian craftsmanship to their work.

As I have mentioned in a recent article in MCA Advisor, foundry casting can reproduce detail down to 1/100th of an inch, die striking can reproduce detail down to 1/1000th of an inch, but electrogalvanic casting can reproduce detail to the width of an atom!! It is far more detailed.


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


Steve M. Tompkins writes: Polhemus 1833
I just thought I would share another J. L. Polhemus counterstamp. Most of these are found on coins from the mid-19th century. This example on an 1833 dime is one of the earliest dated United States coins known with this stamp.


Last week We discussed a story about an old 1912 lease for a landmark Cleveland, Ohio building, which a court ruled is still payable in gold coin. -Editor
Joe Boling writes:
I am amazed that a Federal court has determined that the contract payable in gold is enforceable - I understood that all such contracts were nullified by the gold withdrawal decrees of 1933.

Franois Velde of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago writes:
The Cleveland gold clause case is astounding, since US law says explicitly (8 USC 5118(d)(2)): "An obligation issued containing a gold clause or governed by a gold clause is discharged on payment (dollar for dollar) in United States coin or currency that is legal tender at the time of payment."

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


Last week we discussed a story about an Ohio man's payment of 5,000 pennies to cover the first installment of his traffic fines. I was mistaken when I wrote that cents are only legal tender in small sums. -Editor

Joe Boling writes:
I believe the court that refused payment in cents is out of luck (David Ganz, tell us!) - didn't the same law that re-monetized the trade dollar also remove the dollar limits on the validity of minor coins?

Franois Velde of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago writes:
As for pennies, there is no limit on their legal tender (see 8 USC 5103). Limitations on the legal tender of subsidiary coinage were removed in 1965, when quarters and dimes ceased to be made of silver.

I don't understand the court case, since a fine is as a debt. In payment of goods and services, there is no debt, and legal tender does not apply: see the Treasury's FAQ at FAQs: Currency: Legal Tender Status . (

I asked David Ganz for comment and he forwarded this:
No, there is no law that says a merchant must take any particular kind of currency, said Michael White, spokesman for the U.S. Mint. Businesses are free to set their own guidelines as to what they accept as payment, he said.

Theres an amplification on the Treasury Departments web site. They ask the question a different way, but point to the same answers. ON the web site, the party says I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn't this illegal?

Responding, Treasury says The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, entitled "Legal tender," which states: "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues."

They go on to explain that This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services.

Summarizing its position, Treasury goes on to say that Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.

Actually, the citations to federal statutory sources are correct, and so are the examples cited because they are examples of real-life cases that have been decided for the propositions stated. But they ignore the history of what legal tender means, what in fact legal tender really means, and why laws about them were created in the first place.

There are two constitutional issues that are useful to discuss what the words mean. First, is Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which provides "The Congress shall have Power ... To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures...."

Next is from Article I, section 10, which reads, "No state shall ... coin Money' emit bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts...." Courts have consistently held that neither of these provisions of the Constitution renders the country's current money system unconstitutional, staring with the Legal Tender Cases in 1884.

Those cases involved the ultimate political gamble: creation of paper currency at the height of the Civil War, designed to fund the effort. Its inventor: Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury. When accomplished, the federal government reportedly had three days in funding in its vaults; thereafter, it printed what it needed.

Legal tender ultimately is the power of compulsion. It means that the government can require you, willingly or not, to accept a type of money that is tendered. Thats why state-authorized private banknotes were an ultimate failure and sold at discounted prices that were disparate.

Over the years, there have been many challenges to what legal tender means; few recall that prior to 1857, foreign coins circulated freely in the United States. The act of Feb. 21, 1857, (ch. 56, 11 Stat. 163 ) determined that the legal tender of the Spanish pillar dollar continued but for other foreign coins, legal tender status was denied.

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

The below photo from 1973 is on page 277 of David's new book, Profitable Coin Collecting - it contains the answer to one of today's quiz questions. Pictured are John Jay Pittman (then ANA president), David Ganz, Rep. Wright Patman of Texas, chair of the House banking and currency committee, and Rep. Leonor K. Sullivan of Missouri.

Pittman Ganz


In previous E-Sylum issues we discussed the legal proceedings between the Hispanic Society of America and the American Numismatic Association over control of the Hispanic coin collection which had been lent to the ANS.

This week The Art Newspaper published an article on the collection, reporting speculation that the Spanish government may be interested in bidding. One reader believes that the ANS was "hoodwinked" out of the $30-40 million collection. -Editor
The Hispanic Society of America has recalled 38,000 coins from the American Numismatic Society (ANS) which have been on loan for more than half a centuryand appears to be preparing to sell them.

The valuable collection consists of coins minted in Spain, its dependencies, and the powers that controlled Spain from the 5th century BC until the 20th century. They were deposited at ANS by the organisations president and patron Archer Huntington (1870-1955), who was also founder of the Hispanic Society. Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director of ANS, estimates that the collection may be worth $30m-$40m, with the Roman gold and silver and a rare 50 excelentes of Ferdinand V and Isabellathe worlds largest struck-gold coinalone worth perhaps $15m$20m. Sothebys and the London-based coin firm Morton & Eden began creating an inventory and appraising the Roman, Visigoth and Islamic gold coins last month.

A Hispanic Society spokesman says that the trustees have decided to explore a deaccession [but] no decision has been made on going forward. But The Art Newspaper has seen a copy of a letter that the Hispanic Societys director Mitchell Codding sent to Ms Kagan on 25 January 2008 in which he informs her that the board of trustees adopted a resolution to deaccession the loan collection with the assistance of Sothebys International.

Title to the coins became an issue in early 2007 when the Hispanic Society drew up a modern loan agreement. We signed it in April 2007 and in July received a letter cancelling it and saying we want our coins back, says Ms Kagan, calling the revised document a set-up intended to eliminate any questions of ownership related to the original informal deed of loan. In February 2008, two weeks after the loan expired, the Hispanic Society filed a lawsuit in Supreme Court of New York County demanding the return of the coins, and in April won a judgement that the Hispanic Society alone owned the coins and that ANS must return them.

Sothebys vice-chairman David Redden helped convince the judge that ANS should make available not only the photographic record that Huntington provided for most of the coins, but also the computer database that ANS subsequently created. We were told to hand over the entire record and that we had no copyright on this material. We basically gave them a sales catalogue as well as the coins, Ms Kagan says.

We will submit a formal letter to the New York attorney general objecting to the sale, she says, referring to the state official who oversees charities. We want to point out the violation of Huntingtons very clear intent that nothing would be sold, she says. The Hispanic spokesman maintains that any sale would be done with full transparency and in compliance with the rules of the American Association of Museums and applicable laws of the State of New York.

The fear among scholars is that the historic Huntington collection will be broken up. Ms Kagan says ANS donors would not be able raise the funds to buy it, though she would particularly like to acquire the antique items that today cannot be obtained legally because of restrictive patrimony laws.

Some insiders believe the Spanish government may be interested in purchasing the collection en bloc. The Hispanic Society has cultivated close relations with Spain, and sought the governments financial assistance to move the museum and its holdings from upper Manhattan to a more accessible location in the city centre, but that support never materialised and last year the relocation was abandoned. We just want to preserve what can be preserved, she says, but I am pessimistic.

Web site reader Adrian Dunevein commented:
It sounds like the ANS has been hoodwinked in this situation and now has to comply with the letter of the law. The kicker has to be the handover of the catalogue which ought to have been used by ANS lawyers in proof of ownership. Is it not enough that the Hispanic society has the coins ?

To read the complete article, see: Hispanic Society to sell historic coin collection? (


Steve M. Tompkins writes:
Last week's E-Sylum announced a new book, Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Does any one know if this book also touches upon the subject of personalized dog tags engraved on coins?

In the Love Token arena, there are many examples found that list items that might in actuality be hand-made Civil War dog tags. Sometimes this is only a name, sometimes actual dates are listed, presumably for when a soldier enlisted or when enlisted and when mustered out if two dates are listed. The ones that leave absolutely no doubt about their purpose actually list the battles that the soldier saw action in. I look forward to seeing what the authors have covered in this new work.


Mitch Ernst writes:
To your knowledge has anything ever been written and published about Byron Reed and his collection (other than the Spinks Auction Catalog description about the sale)? Thanks.

Well, I have some ephemera in my files (pictured below), but I'm sure our E-Sylum readers will know of more definitive references on Reed and his collection. -Editor
  • A eight-page self-covered booklet published for the dedication of the Byron Reed Collection Exhibit at the Western Heritage Museum, April 7, 1989. Present was "Dr. Richard G. Doty, Associate Curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution."
  • A one-sheet folded pamphlet c1988 published by the Western Heritage Museum
  • A one-sheet folded pamphlet from 1988 published by the Western Heritage Museum

Byron Reed Coin Collection Byron Reed Exhibition Bryon Reed Collection pamphlet

Going straight to the source, I asked Dick Doty, who was there for the exhibit opening. He writes:
Theres surprising little information about Reed. He came out in the late 1850s, I think, got into real estate, did well, collected, left his collection to the city when he died in 1891.

I was involved with the collection on three occasions. I appraised it at the end of 1985 not sure how they contacted me, but they did and I went. Then there was the dedication of the new exhibit in May 1989, and a final trip out in early fall 1996 or 1997 to advise them on what to do next. Lawrence Lee was their curator at that point.

The eternal problem with that collection was an ongoing tug-of-war between the Mayors office and various other branches of the government. The first time I saw it, it had superb US stuff, including both varieties of 1829 5$, in proof; a stellar collection of German thalers, and, for what its worth, the best collection of Sutler tokens anywhere, incl. manufacturers samples. I always meant to get back out and work on the last, but never did.

Dr. Lawrence J. Lee of Lincoln, NE writes:
It so happens I will be leading a tour Wednesday night of the Byron Reed gallery in Omaha's Western Heritage Museum for members of the Lincoln Coin Club as part of our monthly club program. Club members will board a private coach here in Lincoln, ride to Omaha (1 hour), tour the Reed exhibit and then go to Piccolo's Steak House for a much-anticipated feast.

Mitch Ernest will be at the museum as our guest and I will tell him about the two, 3-ring notebooks I have of articles and commentary regarding Reed, his biography, his coins, various fights through the years to sell his collection, the selling of portions of his collection in 1996, the opening of the exhibit in 1998 and the ongoing trials and tribulations of the collection. I will also have a copy of the final report I submitted to the Omaha City Council in 2001, summarizing the collection and its holdings.

We won't get to see it on our tour as it is in a climate-controlled vault, but Reed's library of numismatic books and catalogs (said by Charles Davis in 2001 to be "the last 19th Century numismatic library") is still intact. The collection contains 183 pre-1891 numismatic books (many first editions, including Hickcox, Maris, Crosby, Dickeson, Slafter, Frossard, Doughty and Baker) and 237 auction catalogs (no Attinelli but virtually complete runs of Bangs & Co, Chapman Bros., etc., and almost all with "prices realized" marked in them). Reed's remaining working library also includes another 874 general works, 162 newspapers and over 1,380 documents.

We anticipate having a great time. It's a pity everyone can't be a member of the Lincoln Coin Club.

The E-Sylum family is everywhere. Mitch's query shot from Lincoln, NE to me and Dick Doty in the Washington, DC area, and all the way back to Larry Lee in Lincoln. Perhaps our readers will have more to add about Byron Reed and his collection and library. The library is intriguing and has always interested me. I've never seen it, but would jump at the chance. As Charlie Davis stated, it is probably the only 19th century American numismatic library still intact - fascinating. -Editor


Ray Williams forwarded this note which asks an important question for E-Sylum readers and members of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society: just what is it that makes one a numismatic bibliophile? -Editor
At ANA, I joined the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. I attended a couple of their events and they are a good group of guys (and gals). Am I a bibliomaniac? I don't know! What is a bibliomaniac?

I'm a coin collector specializing in American Colonials. In the process of researching my hobby, I've accumulated many books. Most of the books I have, I purchased for their contents. But I do own an original Crosby and an original Maris, in addition to the modern reprints of each. Does that make me a bibliomaniac? ( I bet my wife thinks so!)

In my three china cabinets in the dining room, you can look through the glass doors and see no china, just numismatic books packed tightly. Does this make me a bibliomaniac? (It does make me a lucky man to have a wife this understanding!)

I don't collect books for their rarity or value. I do enjoy holding a nicely leather bound book in my hands but I also enjoy using a modern reprint where I can make notes in the borders. I value three books that are all Rarity 7 not because of their potential market value but because of the sentimental stories as to how they came into my possession. I guess I'm not quite a bibliomaniac but a coin collector that has a deep appreciation for his library.

While we're talking about appreciation of a library, I've questioned many friends about why collectors will spend hundreds and thousands on coins for their collections but will refuse to spend a relative pittance for books to enable them to enjoy these coins. It's mind boggling to think that a $50 or $100 book that will give years of enjoyment will go unpurchased. Not just books, but hobby publications and clubs are neglected too while the coin collector never knows what he's missing... Sometimes you can't even lead the horse to water!

If comedian Jeff Foxworthy were a numismatist, perhaps he would develop a routine based on the question, You might be a numismatic bibliophile if ...

OK readers, how would you fill in the blank? And is Ray a numismatic bibliophile, or not? -Editor


As E-Sylum readers know, Jim Neiswinter has been researching and writing about the famous 1869 Levick plate of 1793 large cents. He's been learning about the interesting life of numismatist Levick, who served in the Union Army in the Civil War. Recently he came across an article by Scott Valentine about Levick in the Jul/Aug 2004 issue of Military Images, and kindly offered to share it with E-Sylum readers. -Editor

When Brigadier General Daniel Sickles decided to raise a brigade composed of Empire State (New York State) troops, he envisioned a brigade staffed by the finest officers available, officers who had already been tested in battle. With those qualities in mind, Sickles raised what was to become known as the Excelsior Brigade.

One of those selected was Joseph Napoleon Tricot Levick, a transplanted Louisianan of French ancestry. Having served as a private in Company H of the famed 7th New York State Militia for about 40 days, Levick sought to parley his militia experience into a commission. For although it was rapidly becoming a war of exacting brutality, it was just as quickly becoming a war of opportunities wherein a lowly former bookkeeper, such as Levick, could rise through the ranks.

On June 11, 1861, Levick was commissioned 2nd lieutenant of Company I of the 1st Regiment, Sickles' Brigade, later redesignated the 70th New York State Volunteer infantry a.k.a. the 1st Excelsior Regiment of the Excelsior Brigade. For almost two years, he would experience some of the most intense fighting of the war. Promoted on April 30, 1862 to first lieutenant, Levick would engage the enemy in his new rank five days later.

On May 5th, while Brigadier General Edwin Sumner sat idly with his command astride the Yorktown Road in front of Fort Magruder, near Williamsburg, Virginia, an impatient Brigadier General Joseph Hooker, commanding the 2nd Division of the Third Corps, sent his command forward to engage the Confederates entrenched in front of Fort Magruder. The 70th New York, along with the balance of Hooker's 1st Brigade, advanced vigorously to the task.

For about two hours Hooker's Division gave better than they got and actually captured almost all of the rifle pits in front of Fort Magruder. But finally, with no help in sight and fighting against twice their number, Hooker's Division grudgingly began to give ground. In the desperate hand-to-hand fighting of the rear action that followed the 1st Brigade's withdrawal, 1st lieutenant Levick was constantly in the thick of the fighting. Just as all seemed lost for the 1st Brigade, General Philip Kearney's Division of the Third Corps came to Hooker's aid and largely contributed to the victory the Union command would claim that day.

One day later, lieutenant Joseph Napoleon Tricot Levick was promoted on the field of battle to the brevet rank of captain for conspicuous gallantry during the previous day's battle

Jim Neiswinter adds:
Levick_ps This explains why I could never find anything about him in Philadelphia before 1855. I've been trying to find out what the "N T" in "Joseph N. T. Levick" stood for since 1986. If he moved North in the 1850s he probably had a pronounced southern accent. And he fought for the North.

There are 2 known pictures of Levick. The first is the one everyone has seen - with the bowler hat & Pince-nez glasses. The American Numismatic Society archivist, Joe Ciccone, told me he recently found an old photo album. Apparently the ANS asked for pictures of the members back in the late 1860s and put them in this album. The other picture is a strange one. If it didn't have Levick's name at the bottom you would be hard pressed to know that it's him.

I realized this morning when I saw today's date in the paper - Levick died 100 years ago today.

The photo pictures the other American numismatist in today's quiz, Joseph N. T. Levick. The image reminded Jim of Ghandi, but I was thinking more on the lines of former ANA Executive Director Ed Rochette. -Editor

To read the original article, see: Four Yanks (


An E-Sylum subscriber writes:
You note proudly your 10 years of service in preparing the E-Sylum, but then in the note about the Civil War soldier ID discs, you mention a different publication, The E-Slum. Is this new? I've heard the phrase: get your mind out of the gutter, but this is ridiculous!
Our reader is referring to this passage, which Nick Graver also caught:
Fred adds that the authors reference one of Dick Johnson's E-Slum submissions
Oops! Sorry 'bout that, folks! -Editor


Dick Johnson forwarded this article from the Cleveland, OH area, discovered by his son Jeffry. -Editor
A Parma couple on the verge of losing their home to foreclosure made a rare discovery that saved their house.

The couple, who did not want to be identified, brought an old silver dollar to the Cash-4-Gold store on the corner of Ridge and Pearl in Parma.

Jim Matiach, owner of the business and president of Coin and Jewelry Buyers of America, examined the 1873-CC silver dollar and gave the homeowner the good news.

"We sat down and we were able to negotiate a price and he walked away with enough money to pay off some of his bills and hopefully be able to keep his house," says Matiach.

Depending on its precise condition, the 1873-CC Seated Liberty dollar can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Only 2,300 were minted but only 40 to 60 are believed to still exist, with the others having been melted down.

Matiach says it is not unusual to find people searching their homes for old coins, especially today. The pile of coins on his counter, recently sold for cash, confirms his observation.

"I deal with this on a daily basis at this point. The economy is very slow right now. Metal is very high," Matiach tells Channel 3 News.

He says people are scouring their houses for silver, gold, old jewelry, silverware, and even old tea sets, a fine example of which was just sold by an older couple.

"People are losing their jobs," explains Matiach, "and the easiest way to get by and pay your bills right now is to go clean out your drawers. I mean we buy everything."

To read the complete article, see: Rare coin saves house from foreclosure (


Dick Johnson sent the following item, which provided the answer to his presidential candidate quiz question. -Editor
Count on this when John McCain makes his acceptance speech tonight at the Republican National Convention: Thirty-one cents worth of "lucky" coins will be resting in his pocket.

According to reporters following the campaign, McCain is quite superstitious, a throwback to his days as a Navy pilot. Supposedly, he also owns lucky feathers, shoes and sweaters, plus a laminated four-leafed clover he carries in his wallet.

Last April, The Washington Times reported McCain's lucky lucre consists of a certain quarter, nickel and penny, either given to him by admirers or found by the senator himself.

But, as any seasoned coin picker-upper will attest, they all were heads-up when found.

According to folklore, a coin will not impart good fortune to the finder if it is tails-up. It has to be heads, or it isn't touched.

Surely McCain isn't alone. People can dismiss superstitions all they want, but deep down inside, just about everybody has some quirk, custom or talisman they believe in.

To read the complete article, see: Venable: A different type of 'change' (


This week's featured web page from Luke Roberts' site on Japanese coinage.

From the web page:
Ever wonder about coin collectors from a long time ago? Well I never did until I came across this book and purchased it. It is a fascinating window into, or--to use the title-- a mirror upon coin collecting in Kyoto in 1842. I have reproduced the book in total at this site.

... Kokin kousei, Shinsen zeni kagami (Corrected Against Past and Current Records, A New Selected Mirror of Cash Coins). It was published in three parts but bound together here (21.7cmX15.8cm), perhaps by the purchaser. The colophon of part one states that it was published in the summer of 1842 by Nakamuraya Touji. He was a store owner dealing in old coins and his store was in Kyoto

Kokin kousei

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