The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 12, March 20, 2011, Article 9


Alan V. Weinberg writes:

Sarah Sophia Banks portrait Amazing how casual comments can lead to even more fascinating information on e-Sylum.

One of the major items I distinctly recall in 1966 in the British Museum trays (and which I had photographed at the time), was a superb prooflike, largely mint red ornamented edge George Washington "Peter Getz" pattern copper cent, previously known as a "half dollar". It is the finest "Getz" copper (or silver, surpassing the # 1 Ford silver with its cabinet friction) extant and is plated/catalogued as #1 in George Fuld's 2009 splendid book on Washington pattern coinage by Getz. Its pedigree goes back to Sarah Sophia Banks in 1818.

As to John Dannreuther's comments regarding tags showing SSB, all the tags I saw - many dozens - said Sophia Banks (I would not have known who "SSB" was) or Sir Joseph Banks and most were dated 1800- specifically the tag for the 1792 half disme which had been missing. I distinctly recall assuming that the missing half disme must've been Gem Mint State having been donated so near to 1792 and I'm certain that tag said Sir Jos. Banks. I'm also certain many other tags said Sir Jos. Banks 1800 as I would not have known who Sophia Banks was at that time and presumed she was Sir Joseph Bank's wife since their gifts to the BM were so similar in numismatic nature and date.

From the extreme rarity (even in that era- i.e. two Higleys in nice condition) and top condition of the American coins, it is difficult to presume a friend merely acquired and forwarded the coins to the Banks family unless that friend was himself an accomplished numismatist with excellent contacts. I continue to believe that at least one of the Banks arrived to visit America and gathered the specimens himself/herself. They were too accomplished a family not to have visited the U.S.

As The E-Sylum described the tall imposing brash and loud Sarah Sophia Banks, I kept mentally viewing her image - the distinguished 1930's British and American film character actress Edna May Oliver!

Philip Mernick writes:

I emailed Catherine Eagleton at the British Museum on the "How did Sarah Sophia Banks get her early U.S. coins?" question. She is their specialist on the Banks collection

Katie Eagleton writes:

I saw The E-Sylum mentions of Sarah Sophia Banks. I know quite a bit about where she got all her early U.S. coins from, and can name most of the individuals involved, in fact. It's going to be a section of the book I'm writing at the moment, for which 200 pages are already drafted, and I'm just looking for a suitable publisher. Probably the whole thing won't be finished until 2012-3 now, because of some other projects I'm working on, but it's well under way.

Wow - that's something to look forward to. In the meantime, here's a note from Pete Smith with a little more biographical information to tide us over. -Editor

Pete Smith writes:

In 1990 I began to gather short biographical sketches for people who were important in the collection of U. S. large cents. This was published in six issues of Penny-Wise and gathered into a monograph published in 1992.

Some time later I thought of doing the same thing for the field of Conder tokens. I was missing some important sources, the project stalled, and the listing remained unpublished. Following is the sketch I prepared for Sarah Sophia Banks (1744-1818):

"Miss Banks was the sister of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), the botanist. She collected books, objects of natural history and coins. She is listed as a contributor to Birchall's book. The Gentlemen's Magazine for March 1818 describes, "the cabinet of a lady of distinguished rank and acquirements, whose condescending urbanity renders of easy access her very splendid collection, which, more especially for modern coins, Patterns, and Medals, has, I believe, no rivalů" Her collection and notebooks went to the British Museum. She died on September 27, 1818, in Soho-square at the home of her brother. (Bio in Dictionary of National Biography.)"

Thanks to everyone who wrote in on this subject, particularly John Dannreuther, whose comment started this thread in the first place. What a great bit of information! We in the U.S. will eagerly await Catherine Eagleton's book to learn the details behind how Sarah Sophia Banks assembled such a magnificent collection of early American coins and medals. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: SARAH SOPHIA BANKS (1744-1818) (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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