Back to the Future
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 was an enjoyable day for me. At noon I participated in a conference call for those of us working on the Newman
Numismatic Portal. Progress was being made on many fronts; a new software release would soon be in place for internal testing, Frey's
Numismatic Dictionary was being prepared for online use, Pete Smith's American Numismatic Biographies were already in place
and Martin Gengerke's American Numismatic Auctions data was starting to be loaded. And of course, the digitization of numismatic
material continued apace. Plans were afoot to increase scanning capacity, and the team was already digitizing content at the rate of about
20,000 pages a month from the Eric P. Newman Library and elsewhere. And Len Augsburger had just hand-delivered another box of new material
on loan from Dan Hamelberg.
Before leaving the office that afternoon I got an email from Len with the subject line "Chapmans online". Dan's Chapman
catalogs were beginning to show up online as Internet Archive processed the images for us. I clicked the link and was soon paging through
the May 10, 1893 sale of the Nicholas Petry collection.
Just then I heard a voice in my head say, "Welcome to the year 2015, Marty McFly - here's your hoverboard."
For those too young to get the reference, Marty McFly was the Michael J. Fox character in the 1980's time-travel movie Back to
the Future. At the end of the film, to set up the sequel, he would travel 30 years into the future, landing about 4:30 P.M. on October
21, 2015, into a world of hoverboards, flying cars and self-tying shoes.
Well, we're still waiting for flying cars, but self-driving ones are already on the roads, and Moore's Law is still relevant.
Perhaps only geeks know or care about the formula Intel co-founder Gordon Moore postulated 50 years ago- that the processing power of
computers would double roughly every two years. What that means for the rest of us is that computers have gotten steadily smaller and
smaller and cheaper and cheaper at an astounding cumulative rate. Computing power than once cost millions now sits in the hands of
sixth-graders in the form of cell phones. And computer storage has become so cheap it's virtually free, allowing for the nearly
unlimited storage of digital files.
Which brings us back to numismatics. 30 years ago it was just a pipe dream that in the future we would be able to store, search and read
a vast digital numismatic library. The Newman Numismatic Portal is making that dream a reality. NNP is your hoverboard, numismatic
researchers. Welcome to the future.
Nummis Nova: Gadsby's Tavern
Later that evening I guided my dumb old non-self-driving car down King's Highway toward Old Town Alexandria, VA for the October
meeting of my northern Virginia numismatic social group, Nummis Nova. We were doing some time traveling of our own, stepping into the past
at Gadsby's Tavern. Consisting of two buildings (a circa 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Hotel), the establishment at 138 N. Royal Street
hosted meetings and social events; among its guests were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison & James Monroe.
Washington frequently visited the taverns, and twice attended the annual Birthnight Ball held there in his honor.
I ran into Joe Levine and Jon Radel on the sidewalk outside, and we entered together. A large party was already seated in the larger
front dining room. The hostess, dressed in period garb, asked us to follow her for a more roundabout route to our room. Soon we were
cutting though the kitchen of the compact restaurant, like Colonial Goodfellas (there, I couldn't resist another old movie
We found seats at a back table and were joined by Aaron Packard. Our hosts for the evening were Ron Abler and Joe Esposito. I was delighted
to find the restaurant had prepared custom printed menus for the evening with "NUMMIS NOVA Dinner" and the date at the top. I ordered the
Chicken Cordon Bleu and a glass of tasty rum punch.
We soon had a pretty packed house, filling all three tables in the room dominated by towering windows and a fireplace, all lit by
candlelight. It was not a good environment for viewing coins, but luckily some of us had brought flashlights. Even the waitresses had
little flashlights. So not everything was Colonial. When I needed a restroom I asked if there was an outhouse in the back. "Sure,
honey", the waitress said, with a grin. "I'll show ya". Actually, the "Necessary Rooms" were downstairs, where
you pass this painting of Washington licking his wooden chops before dinner.
The theme for the evening was numismatic books, and I carefully showed a few people some of my prized early American numismatic
literature from the Armand Champa sales.
Joe Esposito brought a nice copy of Dye's Coin Encyclopedia and Joe Levine brought the massive Eidlitz book, Medals and
Medallions Relating to Architects.
Here are a few photos of the evening. The center table held six of us. Cut out at the right was Tom Kays. Sorry!
Eric Schena, Dave Schenkman, Howard Daniel
Gene Brandenburg, Joe Esposito
Mike Packard, Ron Abler and Julian Leidman
I later visited Ron's table whose other denizens were Wayne Herndon and former U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy, who was planning some
overseas travel to research his upcoming Whitman books. I didn't get to speak with Ed for long, but I learned a lot about mustaches
from Wayne. He grew up in Texas and after some experimentation decided on his signature mustachioed look. He's sported it for 27 years.
Given his youthful appearance he must have started it when he was five. On the windowsill are boxed copies of Dave Schenkman's great
new book on Virginia Tokens.
Wayne "The Mustache" Herndon and Ed Moy
Eric Schena brought a great rarity to the dinner. I love Clearing House Certificates, and was really glad to see this piece.
One of the items I brought was a previous unknown Panic of 1907 scrip note that I picked up from Richard Jones at the recent Virginia
Numismatic Association Convention at Fredericksburg. It is a remainder $1 note issued by the Associated Banks of Blackstone & Bank of
Lunenburg at Tinkling, Virginia about which the Shafer/Sheehan reference on panic scrip notes: "An issue of this scrip is reported
to have been issued by this bank. No details are known at present."
Tinkling is now part of Kenbridge in Lunenburg County in South Central part of the state. Everyone I have shown this to has never seen
one nor does it appear that others have turned up to my knowledge, though there may be others out there. I think it's a pretty neat
find and shows that even though it is fairly recent, discoveries can still be made.
Anyone who thinks 1907 is recent is my kind of collector. My kids think anything from last month is too old to bother with. A marvelous
find, and rarer than hen's teeth. Congratulations! Dave Schenkman also brought some paper money, including two advertising notes
featuring rebus puzzles. For fun, I'm presenting one of them in another article in this issue, challenging readers to figure it
Dave also brought along this gorgeous encased cent from the L. B. Phillips & Co. Oyster Packers of Cambridge, MD. Neat!
Aaron Packard displayed some nice high-grade 19th century tokens. Steve Bishop's items included a whopping piece of 1731 Swedish
Plate Money and some nice Art Deco medals.
Jean Mermoz Medal by Blin
Medal Honoring Electrical Construction Workers
Medal Honoring Paris Mint Workers
The reverse, showing a screw press, was upside-down in the eBay seller's photo. Steve fixed it for us, although it looks a little
weird hanging from its stand.
Appropriately for a venue frequented by Presidents, a couple of our members (Joe Levine and Aaron) exited early to watch the
evening's televised Democratic Presidential debate.
It was another marvelous evening for numismatics, and a great dinner to boot. His Excellency would be proud.
My last report for this week involves some new coins, which I found in my change for the first time this week. Both have been discussed
earlier in The E-Sylum. First is the America the Beautiful Bombay Hook quarter designed by artist Joel Iskowitz and engraved by
Phebe Hemphill of the U.S. Mint. The design holds up well "in person" and looks great. I didn't note this in my earlier
articles, but the composition is similar to Iskowitz' earlier 2004 National Parks Quarter for the Florida Everglades. Nothing wrong
with that, though - I think both designs work well.
Bombay Hook and Everglades Quarters
Next is the 2015 Blue Ridge Parkway quarter. I was less impressed seeing this one in person. When I first looked at it, I couldn't
figure out which end was up. I had to rotate it a couple times before I recognized the design, which comes off rather flat. Part of the problem is
the nature of the subject. A roadway just doesn’t lend itself well to being a central figure of a scene. About a quarter of the design shows a
portion of the roadway, but even with the center striping it looks more like an empty field than part of the central design.
I had noted that "It's hard to pull off a complex design like this on a quarter-size coin", and we may have ended up with
a dud. I would be curious to see this in the large silver size - it may come off better there.
Lastly, I got a foreign coin in change at lunch Wednesday, and it was the first time in a long, long while that I'd encountered
anything but a U.S. or (sometimes) Canadian coin. It was an Arabic design; when I looked at it later I could see that it also had "United Arab
Emirates" in English. I located an image on the Currency Wiki - it's a 1 dirham coin. The image is labelled 1982, but mine is a different
What unusual foreign coins have readers found in their change lately?
To read the complete article, see:
United Arab Emirates dirham
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK QUARTER LAUNCH
BOMBAY HOOK WILDLIFE REFUGE QUARTER LAUNCH
ARTICLE PROFILES PARKWAY QUARTER DESIGNER FRANK MORRIS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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