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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit association devoted to the study and enjoyment of 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. Print/Digital membership is $40 to addresses in the U.S., and $60 elsewhere. A digital-only membership is available for $25. For those without web access, write to:

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Numismatic Bibliomania Society
P. O. Box 578,
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Content presented in The E-Sylum is not necessarily researched or independently fact-checked, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.


Wayne Homren 2017-03-15 full New subscribers this week include: Merfyn Williams, courtesy Jeff Rock, Denis Richard, John Russell, and Mary Yacovone. Welcome aboard! We now have 7,643 subscribers.

Thank you for reading The E-Sylum. If you enjoy it, please send me the email addresses of friends you think may enjoy it as well and I'll send them a subscription. Contact me at anytime regarding your subscription, or questions, comments or suggestions about our content.

This week we open with one new book, a numismatic library move, updates from the Newman Numismatic Portal, notes from readers, and more.

Other topics this week include Howland Wood, check collecting, visiting coin shops, pantographs, fixed price and auction previews, coin finds, the 1816 Mint fire, and a coin vending machine.

To learn more about German banknotes, Nickle Galleries, numismatic dealer directories, RCNA convention programs, recognizing coins with artificial intelligence, coins of the Aksumite empire, the Edinburgh Mint, the coins of Justinian II, the 1893 Australia Sydney Proof Sovereign, and vacuum-packed bundles of cash, read on. Have a great week, everyone!

Wayne Homren
Editor, The E-Sylum

  1725 cut Spanish silver coin
Image of the week

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WBNA E-Sylum ad 2024-01-14 Sale 54


A new edition of the Grabowski catalog of German banknotes has been published. Here's a Google-translated description from the publisher's website. -Editor

Die deutschen Banknoten ab 1871 book cover The German banknotes from 1871
Hans Ludwig Grabowski

The paper money of the German central banks, government paper money, colonial and occupation issues, German tributaries and banknote-like securities and vouchers

Title: Battenberg Verlag
ISBN: 978-3-86646-224-3
Edition: 23rd edition 2023/2024
Dimensions: 14.8 x 21 cm
Type of figures: colored throughout
Type of cover: Hardcover
Number of pages: 864

The completely colored, current standard work on German banknotes from the founding of the Reich in 1871 to the present day of the Euro, divided into historical eras: Empire, Weimar Republic, Third Reich, Allied Occupation, GDR, Federal Republic and subsidiary territories. In addition to the notes of the German central banks (including the state central banks), government paper money, colonial and occupation expenditure, banknote-like securities and vouchers as well as occupation expenditure from both world wars and military money were included. All areas are cataloged with their own number ranges and are currently assessed.

The catalog includes:

  • German banknotes and government paper money
  • German Empire 1871–1918
  • Weimar Republic 1918–1933
  • German / Greater German Empire 1933–1945
  • Allied occupation 1945–1948
  • German Democratic Republic 1949–1990
  • Federal Republic of Germany 1949–1999
  • European Monetary Community from 2002


  • State emergency expenditure
  • German state and private central banks 1871–1930
  • Banknotes from the German colonies
  • German foreign banks (Argentina, China, Mexico)
  • German military and occupation expenditure as well as ghetto and prison money
  • Securities similar to paper money (conversion cash notes , tax vouchers)
  • Vouchers similar to paper money (WHW vouchers)
  • German tributaries (Occupied Rhineland, Danzig, Memel area, Saar area)

For more information, or to order, see:
Die deutschen Banknoten ab 1871 (


KENNETH W. RENDELL has traveled the world tracking down, buying, and selling the most significant, iconic historical letters and documents from the ancient world through the Renaissance to today. Read about his early start as a rare-coin dealer in the 1950s—and much more—in his thrilling new memoir, Safeguarding History. Order your copy online (including at ), or call 1-800-546-2995.


Last March it was announced that the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association's library would move to Nickle Galleries in Calgary. The move is now complete. Here's a report from Canadian Coin News. -Editor

RCNA library books For decades, University of Calgary's Nickle Galleries has had the largest and most important academic coin collection in Canada, the Nickle Numismatic Collection. This rich teaching and research resource comprises over 16,000 ancient Greek and Roman coins, 7,000 medieval coins as well as early modern coins, bank notes and non-Western currencies. It also includes significant holdings of related artifacts dating from the 7th century BCE.

Now, Nickle Galleries is also home to an extensive library curated by the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) and consisting of more than 5,000 items. The collection includes reference and rare books, manuscripts, periodicals, and ephemera relating to coins, medals, tokens, and bank notes. It covers ancient and modern historic periods, countries and continents, in a number of different languages.

Many of the Nickle's existing holdings were donated by the Nickle's founder, Carl Nickle, and local collectors and numismatists Lionel Conn and Paul De Groot. With the addition of the RCNA collection, Univery of Calgary is now home to the largest, most comprehensive and wide-ranging numismatic library in the country.

The currency collection and its library augment the students' in-class learning experience, says Marina Fischer, curator of numismatics at Nickle Galleries. They provide an alternative approach to the development of critical thinking and research skills. The collection makes UCalgary a hub for numismatics expertise and the study of money.

This acquisition was possible because of a generous donation from the Calgary Numismatic Society (CNS), an important community partner.

Earlier this year, the CNS also donated $50,000 to create an annual scholarship for a student studying numismatics at University of Calgary.

To read the complete article, see:
RCNA numismatic collection available at Nickle Galleries (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Album E-Sylum ad Sale 48


Len Augsburger passed along word of the passing of Chicago Coin Club member Jim Flannery. Sorry to hear the news. -Editor

Hon. James Patrick Flannery, Jr. Hon. James Patrick Flannery, Jr. (1950 – 2023) of Chicago, Illinois passed on October 13, 2023, he was 73 years of age. Jim became member number 1056 when he joined the Chicago Coin Club in April of 1996.

From his early high school days at LaLumiere high school in LaPorte Indiana, Jim was a well-respected student and athlete. Jim was a member of the 1968 charter class at Lalumiere.

Jim earned his B.S. in mathematics from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1973 and completed his J.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago John Marshall Law School in 1976

Jim was admitted to the bar in 1976 and has been a judge since 1988, he was transferred to the Law Division in 1997. In 2014 he was appointed presiding judge of the Law and was last retained in the November 2020 General Election.

His collecting passions included U.S. Coins, U.S. Paper Money, some foreign coins and stamps.

Jim attended and volunteered as an Ambassador for several ANA World's Fair of Money conventions in Rosemont Illinois. Attending these conventions helped Jim to further his collecting interests.

In January 2019 during the CCC 100th anniversary year Jim brought two items to the club's monthly show and tell. First a Hawaii overprinted $20 bill from 1942, obtained in circulation while Jim worked at a bank in the early 1970s — it whetted his appetite for researching and collecting, and Jim explained how the notes were designed to be immediately devalued in the event the Hawaiian Islands fell during WWII.

Second a high grade and scarce 1909-S Lincoln cent with V.D.B. designer initials, which was obtained via a sentimental monetary gift from his late mother to spend however he wished. The coin was redesigned without the designer's initials after a scant 484,000 examples were released from the San Francisco mint — a result of the public outcry over their bold prominence.

Jim is survived by his wife Carol Zigulich; daughter Joanne Z. (Michael Alpert) Flannery; grandchildren Brooklyn and Becksley; brother Patrick (Lynda) Flannery and Maureen (late Dan) Pyne; and nieces and nephews.

Services were held in October. Expressions of sympathy can be directed through the Dalcamo funeral home at

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The latest addition to the Newman Numismatic Portal is correspondence of ANS Curator Howland Wood. Project Coordinator Len Augsburger provided the following report. -Editor

  Franz Joseph I centennial medal obverse ANS 1930.132.3.obv.noscale Franz Joseph I centennial medal reverse ANS 1930.132.3.rev.noscale

Howland Wood Correspondence Scanned

Howland Wood (b. 1877) served as the American Numismatic Society (ANS) Curator from 1913 until his passing in 1938. The Society has preserved his extensive correspondence files, which are currently being digitized by Newman Portal at the ANS library. Already over 400 separate correspondents, covering the letters A-B, are represented in this group. While many of the correspondent names are obscure, the usual suspects are well represented, with David Bullowa, F. C. C. Boyd, M. H. Bolender, and Bauman Belden found in the first few pages of search results.

The Bullowa letters track David Bullowa traveling through Europe and contributing related numismatic items to the ANS cabinet. On September 20, 1930, Bullowa writes to Wood Enclosed please find the piece issued for the 100th anniversary of Franz Joseph's birth, which I have just received from Vienna, thru the Royal Monarchist Party. Such correspondence reminds us that the ANS is built one (or sometimes more!) item at a time. Its collections are formed from thousands of similar gifts, from individuals who have likewise contributed to the growth of its library, cabinet, and (increasingly) its digital collections.

Image: Franz Joseph I centennial medal, ANS catalog no. 1930.132.3.

Link to Howland Wood correspondence:

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The David Lisot Video Library on the Newman Numismatic Portal can be found at:

We highlight one of his videos each week in The E-Sylum. Here's one from 1985 where David interviews his father Larry about check collecting. -Editor

  Larry Lisot checks

David Lisot talks about collecting coin auction catalogs. He then interviews his father Oliver Lawrence "Larry" Lisot about check collecting.

  Larry and David Lisot
  Larry Lisot check Miners and Merchants Bank Breckenridge CO

To watch the complete video, see:
Collector Talk: Oliver "Larry" Lisot (

TCNC 2024-01 New Year's Sale cover


Dutch naval fleet medal paperweight Dutch naval fleet medal paperweight reverse

Regarding the reproduction Dutch medal "paperweight", Stuart Weinerman writes:

Here is a description from a CNG sale:

TUDOR. temp. Elizabeth I. 1558-1603. AR Medal (51mm, 40.70 g, 12h). Defeat of the Spanish Armada. By G. van Bijlaer. Dated 1588. + FLAVIT × × ET × DISSIPATI × SVNT × 1588 ( God blew, and they (the Spanish fleet) were scattered ), large fleet of ships under sail right, being dispersed; above, name of God in Hebrew within rayed clouds / (castle) × ALLIDOR × NON × LÆDOR × ( I may be assailed, but not injured ), church set upon rocky island, being buffeted by heavy winds and waves; below, crowned coat-of-arms of Maurice. MI 145/112; Eimer 57; van Loon I, p. 392. VF, toned, removed from mount. Very rare. Ex Classical Numismatic Review XX.2 (Summer 1995), no. 945. As the destruction of the Spanish Armada consisted largely of a violent storm upon the seas, divine intervention is duly acknowledged upon the obverse of this medal. Since the armada was drawn chiefly against Elizabeth, the principal head of the Anglican Church, its cause was viewed as an attack upon the Church itself and is clearly represented on the reverse.

Henk Groenendijk writes:

"Regarding the request for information about the Dutch Naval Fleet Medal Paperweight see here: ."

Curator's comments
1588 Middelburg medal obverse Medallic Illustrations 1, published in 1885, states: This piece was struck at Middleburg, in Holland, the symbol of that place being a castle, and not in England, as Addison supposes, when he eulogizes Elizabeth for the good spirit of the device; for, though he has slightly erred in the description, this is the medal he refers to, Spectator, No. 293. The destruction of the Spanish Armada was occasioned, in great measure, by a violent storm; and the interference of Providence is duly acknowledged upon the obverse. As the armament had been prepared against Elizabeth, the chief head and champion of the Protestant cause, it was deemed an attack upon that Church. The arms of Prince Maurice being introduced, it is probable that the medal was struck by his orders.

See Pinkerton, J., ‘The Medallic History of England to the Revolution', London, 1790 (fol.), ix. 1; Van Loon, Gerard, ‘Histoire Métallique des XVII. Provinces des Pays-Bas', 5 vol. La Haye, 1732-1837 (fol) [There is also an edition in Dutch, but with different paging], I. 386. 1; Bizot, Pierre, ‘Histoire Métallique de la République de Hollande', Paris, 1687 (new ed., 2 vol. Amsterdam, 1688, and Supl., 1690), p. 59.

Thanks, everyone! -Editor

To read the complete page, see:
NUMISMATIC NUGGETS: JANUARY 7, 2024 : Dutch Naval Fleet Medal Paperweight (

Karoleff E-Sylum ad 2023-12-03 Tennesssee Collection


  Johnson Jeweler Dublin puzzle coin reverse  ASRWSROIOEHWUOMNEMPHNE Johnson Jeweler Dublin Columbia Exposition puzzle coin reverse AETENVMTEFISIRISTSEALI

Peter Preston-Morley of Noonan's writes:

"I can add a little to your piece on ‘Very Puzzling Coins from Dublin'. These tiny silver medalets by the Dublin jeweller Edmund Johnson do occasionally appear on the UK market – a specimen is included in the portion of the collection of the late Barry Woodside, to be sold by Noonans in February. Johnson described himself as ‘Jeweller to the Irish Court' and his premises were at 94-95 Grafton Street, Dublin, and also at 46 Wicklow Street. He held a royal warrant under Edward VII, though Edmund had been active since at least 1863, when he took over the family business from his father, also Edmund; he won a bronze medal at the Dublin Exhibition of Arts, Industries and Manufactures, 1872. The Johnson business closed down in 1925."

So far the mysteries of Johnson's puzzles are intact - none of our readers has even hazarded a guess. Wondering if the answer may be in unscrambling the letters into a sentence, I tried some online unscramblers and Words In A Sentence generators and came up empty. Some of the words found within ASRWSROIOEHWUOMNEMPH include "horsemanship", "washerwomen" "whorehouses", "harmonious", "horsepower", "shipowners", "whisperers", "womanizers", "worshipers", "merriness", "shipowner", "earworms", "rosaries", "mourner", "poisons", "wieners", "heroes", "opium", "earns", "soars", "hens", "iron", and "snow". You might think a generative AI Large Language Model would make short work of this, so I asked Microsoft's Bing CoPilot to write me a sentence using only the letters "AETENVMTEFISIRISTSEALI" and got this:

I've seen a sea of fireflies in the mist, it's a sight to marvel at!

Um, quite poetic, but wrong - that's way more letters than we started with. So next I asked, write me a sentence using each of these letters "AETENVMTEFISIRISTSEALI" only once.:

Here's a sentence using each of the letters AETENVMTEFISIRISTSEALI only once: A fine sieve strains tea leaves. This sentence is called a pangram because it contains every letter of the alphabet at least once. Pangrams are also referred to as holoalphabetic sentences or alphabet sentences. There are many other pangrams that exist, some of which are more challenging to construct than others. For example, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog is one of the most widely known pangrams 1.

Better, but still not there - the letter count doesn't match (and all 26 letters of the alphabet aren't in the string). Maybe this is a dead end, but perhaps gives someone an idea for further experimentation. Maybe we're on track after all. -Editor

Gawain O'Connor writes:

"I believe if any can solve the mystery of these pieces, they would be among your subscribers. I forgot to mention that the Columbian Exposition piece is listed in Eglit, E-215 [Columbiana: The Medallic History of Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Exposition of 1893 by Eglit, Nathan N - 1965]"

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:


Directory of Numismatic Dealers
Terry Freed of the DesMoines, Iowa coin club writes:

"Regarding Pete Smith's "Numismatic Rogues Gallery" article in The E-Sylum 31 Dec 2023 - although this may seem excessive and burdensome to maintain, how come you never see a list of numismatic dealers that have their inventory on the internet? At this point in time it seems like luck to come across ones that do. I have no idea where it would be posted to do the most good for collectors. I do know from experience that Northeast Numismatics must have a genius that designed their website, it is so easy to maneuver. Just an idea that may never come to pass."

MERCER RW 4-1-1881 Numismatical Directory postcard Directories of numismatic dealers are perennially useful, and have appeared regularly in print since the earliest days of collecting. In the early days of the internet (spelled with a capital "I" back then), there were various commercial and crowdsourced directories online. Then improved web searching came along and made them largely obsolete. I say "largely" because searching only works when you know what you're looking for. I don't have to remember the web address for Northeast Numismatics because I can always find it with a search engine, even if the address has changed.

But lists are quite useful for discovering what you DON'T already know about a topic - published lists of dealers enable browsing. For bibliophiles it's the equivalent of being able to walk through the shelves in a library or bookstore, enabling the discovery of books you didn't know you wanted.

As Terry notes, the labor involved in manually creating and maintaining such lists is a problem, which commercial publications solve by charging dealers to advertise, and maintaining a list of said advertisers. This would of course never be an all-encompassing list of all dealers, but the larger publications can support very useful directories of the major and midsize dealers. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
ROBERT WOOD MERCER (1840-1894) (

On the Vermont Pound Theory
Regarding last week's "Vermont pound" narrative, Bob Leonard writes:

"Among the other wildly incorrect assertions in the brief "Vermont pound" posting is:

"A U.S. colonel described a Russian platinum coin that was given to American officers during the war when he donated his officer pay to the Smithsonian to create the coin collection. Under donors and donations the Smithsonian and the Chicago Coin Club 1841. National Institute."

The Chicago Coin Club was not founded until 1919 (still going strong!), and Russian platinum coins weren't introduced until 1828, long after Vermont became a state. I have no idea where this originated."

Bill Eckberg writes:

"Where he got the inflation rate, I can only guess, but it would seem that he conflated Morris' plan for a uniform currency (with 1440 parts, that supposedly made it almost possible to include each state's local valuation of the British coinage) with the known inflation in Continental paper currency.

Imaginative piece, but completely wrong in every respect."

Thanks, everyone. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

On Researching Biographical Information
Jim Haas writes:

"I had never heard of KKK tokens, but having just read A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Eagan and before that G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage, I am not surprised. Neither book mentioned tokens.

"As someone who has spent decades researching my ancestral history, I have to agree with the statement that researching biographical information frequently results in having to acknowledge other possibilities. I have a friend whose ancestors are mine as well and based on his research, I had to change one ancestor, a great great, great grandfather who I found pretty much at the beginning of my research back in the 1990s. Frequently, when knowing a name, DOB and other data, one never thinks there could be another person with the same or similar name and data close to the object of your search. Live and learn."

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

RCNA Convention Programs Sought
Howard R. Engel of Richard Stockley Books writes:

"One of my customers whose identity I shall not disclose to preserve privacy, is mounting an exhibit for the 2025 Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) Convention in Calgary, Alberta Canada that features a very cool numismatic literature theme: the convention programs for every year from 1954 to 2025 to mark the RCNA's 75th anniversary in 2025. He is missing only two convention programs of what was then called the Canadian Numismatic Association (CNA), the one from 1958 in Ottawa and the other from 1969 in Toronto. I have attached images of these programs to aid in their identification, compliments of David Bergeron, Curator of the National Currency Collection at the Bank of Canada Museum.

If any of your readers happens to have at least one or the other of these vintage CNA programs and wishes to part with them, please have them contact me directly."

  cna 1958 ottawa convention program cover cna 1969 toronto convention program cover

Great exhibit idea. Ephemera such as convention and show programs is an important record of numismatic history, yet by its nature devilishly hard to collect, particularly when the goal is a complete set. Can anyone help? Howard can be reached at . -Editor

  2023 March Richard Stockley books business card

Howard adds:

"In E-Sylum, you run an invaluable clearinghouse of news and ideas that brings otherwise many disparate interests into a collegial public forum where they hold one thing in common: their relation to numismatic literature. For this tremendous service you provide, I'm in awe and most grateful!"

Where's Trump's Presidential Engraving
Wayne Pearson writes:

"So when will the bureau of engraving and printing release the presidential engraving of Donald Trump? Barack Obama's engraving was released in November of 2009.

"Why are they delaying? Is it political? Has it ever taken this long to get the engraving out?"

Donald Trump portrait by Randy Glass

Good question. Any of our readers have a current contact at the BEP? Maybe it's in the same drawer as the plans for the Harriet Tubman $20.

Meanwhile, illustrator Randy Glass created this pen and ink stipple portrait. -Editor

For more information, see:
Pen and Ink Stipple Portrait (Hedcut) of Donald Trump (

To read the complete article, see:
BEP Issues President Obama Engraved Portrait (

Stacks-Bowers E-Sylum ad 2023-12-17 NYINC SALE


Justin Hinh submitted this report on his recent coin shop scouting trip. Thanks! -Editor

I thought you and your readers would enjoy this story about the trip I took last month where I dropped by 23 coin shops across four states looking for rare Dansco albums and other coin-collecting supplies.

Four states, 1,500 miles, 23 coin shops, a disastrous hotel stay, and 10 days later...

  Hinh trip Dansco album haul
  Hinh trip map

  • 15% of shops were extremely welcoming. I was able to chat with the owners about my Dansco preservation project and they wanted to help out. They often suggested nearby shops to visit.
  • 25% of shops were generally friendly and welcoming, but I was seen more as a customer rather than a fellow collector.
  • 20% were outright hostile.
  • Hinh trip other albums and books The remaining 40% of shops were ambivalent.
  • Some shops were extremely hostile when I said I was looking for rare Dansco albums. One shop owner looked at the Danscos I was trying to purchase, took them out back to look up eBay sold listings, then refused to sell half and overcharged the other half.
  • The best shop owner experiences were the ones where I got to share my preservation project with the owner and we got to talk about the current state of Dansco and coin collecting. The best interactions were ones where shop owners were curious about my knowledge of Dansco products, rather than thinking I was just a reseller trying to make a quick buck.
  • For fun, I ran an experiment where some days I dressed in casual clothes, and other days I dressed up a little more. When I was in casual baggy clothes, I was given worse service and experienced more hostile owners. When I was better dressed up, I received significantly better service and respect.
  • As a young person of color, I always wonder if my age/race plays into how shop owners treat me. After this trip, my experience was that race and age did not impact me as much. But class and perceived social status played a significant part in how I was treated.
  • The smallest coin shops tend to have the most personable owners.
  • Regarding my disastrous hostel stay, let's just say that it wasn't fun waking up to hear teenagers trying to break into cars in a hotel parking lot in Albuquerque when you have a few thousand dollars worth of coin supplies in your car. Ended up checking out the hotel at 2 am and sleeping on the road.
  • Hinh trip stamp albums I saw all types of coin shops. From holes in the walls to boutique jewelry stores. It didn't matter how fancy or run down the coin shops were, the key thing was how the owner saw and treated customers.
  • The best shop experiences were ones where coin supplies and albums were not behind the counter. Where I could physically pull out albums and inspect them. And where price stickers were already on them.
  • Every shop had complaints about how hard it was to purchase and attain supplies from Dansco
  • Around 90% of shop owners & employees were men. 10% women.
  • Around 30% of shop owners & employees were under the age of 45. 70% were over 45.
  • Some shops have old coin supplies like Whitman albums in a free giveaway box!
  • Negotiating deals is both an art and critical for coin collectors. Almost every shop was willing to negotiate the final price. The best tactic I've found is to purchase multiple items and offer to pay in cash if you can get a lower total price.

  Hinh trip paper money

Overall this was a great experience. I got to meet many collectors and build out my collection. It was quite an experience seeing the range of coin shops around the southwest United States. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it again soon.

Thanks for sharing your experience! Great report. I assume others could report similar experiences - all over the map! -Editor

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Tom Babinszki publishes the Blind Coin Collector blog. With permission, we're republishing his recent article on recognizing coins with artificial intelligence. Thanks! -Editor

tom-babinszki-and-baldwin Over the last year, many new opportunities became available for me to learn about coins with the use of artificial intelligence. These developments truly open a new chapter in what coin collecting could mean to me without vision.

Previously I wrote a lot about recognizing coins with technology, so far what is still working and available is Seeing AI by Microsoft. What I was able to do is using optical character recognition to get enough text from a coin to tell what it is. It mostly works with good quality coins and good quality pictures. After I determine what a coin is, I use Numista to get more information, however, what I am able to get really depends on the descriptions users provide.

These days, there are several options to use AI to describe images. The other advantage here is that unlike with regular character recognition, AI understands when the text goes around the coin, and instead of looking for straight lines of characters, it is able to process the characters in a circular direction. Thus, the accuracy greatly improves.

But here comes the interesting part, when I get a coin described, I can ask questions about it and get information about certain details. The downside is, since most of these services use ChatGPT, it does make some assumptions, and also makes up some information. This is improving weekly, but at this point, I cannot rely on the description to a hundred percent. But with the usage of other online resources, I can minimize the errors.

The way this works is instead of taking a picture of a coin, I scan it. The photo quality may not be the best numismatic photography, but the results are rather consistent. Once I scan the coin, I have it set to transfer to my phone automatically, where I can use the Be My Eyes app, which recently added AI photo recognition. I also tried to upload pictures to ChatGPT directly on the desktop, but there I am getting worse results.

Once the photo is on my phone, I can run the Be My Eyes application, which describes the coin, and then I can ask questions. The entire process takes about a half minute. For each question, I usually get a response in about 5 seconds after that.

Let's look at a few examples:

First I scanned the bicentennial half Dollar with the Independence hall. I resized the picture below to speed up the page, but originally I worked with a high resolution picture, I set the scanning quality as high as my scanner allowed. This is what I got from AI. I will not change anything in the responses, I will copy and paste them exactly as I got them.

1976 bicentennial half Dollar The image is of a coin with the following details:

– The text UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the top edge

– A depiction of Independence Hall with a large clock tower in the center

– The year 200 YEARS OF FREEDOM with 1776-1976 beneath the building

– The Latin phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM to the right of the building

– The word INDEPENDENCE HALL below the building

– The denomination HALF DOLLAR at the bottom edge

This is great, much better than what I could get last year, namely, nothing.

Descriptions and the wording can greatly vary at different times, or by using different applications, but the end result is about the same.

Now let's ask a question:

What does the building look like? Explain it in great detail.

The building depicted is a two-story structure with a central clock tower rising above the main roof. The details are as follows:

– The central clock tower is prominent, with a small dome and weathervane at the very top.

– The clock face is visible on the tower, just below the dome.

– The tower has several small rectangular windows, with a larger arched window below the clock.

– The main building has a symmetrical design, with two wings flanking the central tower.

– Each wing has two levels of windows; the first floor has tall, narrow windows, and the second floor has shorter windows.

– The roof of each wing appears to be flat with a balustrade along the edge.

– The central section of the building, just below the tower, has an arched entranceway.

– There are decorative elements on the building, such as a pediment above the entrance and ornate detailing around the windows and along the roofline.

Now this is amazing. But let's dive in further.

What does the clock look like?

The clock on the tower is round with a clearly defined border. The clock face is marked with Roman numerals for the hours. The hands of the clock are not distinctly visible in the image. The clock is set into the tower just below the smaller arched window at the top of the tower.

What is interesting here is that when I got this described earlier, using the same image, I even asked what time does the clock show, and it told me 4:10. So, at this point, something is incorrect. It probably made up something earlier, and I don't have a good way to verify what the clock is showing, I asked my wife to check it with a magnifier and she couldn't figure it out.

One thing is interesting though, if you upload a good quality picture, it can probably tell you more than what one can see with a naked eye, because it is able to analyze the image.

So, I will leave it up to you, if you can see the image above, to decide how accurate it is. Knowing the coin, I think it is at least very close.

Let's look at another coin, this is also going to be a building, the Hungarian National Bank on the 1992 200 Forint.

1992-200-forint-reverse This is the initial description I get:

The image shows a coin lying on a grey fabric surface. The coin has text at the top that reads MAGYAR NEMZETI BANK which suggests it is Hungarian currency. Below the text, there is an image of a building with a classical facade, featuring columns and a central pediment. Beneath the building, there is a signature that reads Bod Val and the date 1992. The coin appears to be silver in color and is slightly worn.

Based on the text, AI guesses that it is Hungarian. Though it is an excellent guess, this is the type of information I don't need. In other circumstances, such approach could be useful when I try to understand my environment, but when analyzing coins, I would like to get the facts and nothing else, but at this point it is not possible. Instead, I can ask all the questions that will give me the answers I need.

Describe the building in great detail.

The building depicted on the coin has a neoclassical architectural style. It features a central section with a triangular pediment supported by a series of evenly spaced columns. The columns appear to be of the Corinthian order, characterized by ornate capitals. Flanking the central section are two symmetrical wings with a flat roofline, each with two levels of windows. The windows on the upper level are shorter and aligned with the columns, while the lower level windows are taller. The building's facade has a strong sense of symmetry and grandeur, typical of neoclassical design.

How many columns are there?

There are six columns visible on the building depicted on the coin.

And so on, we could continue probing the system and describe the details of parts of the building, the coin as a whole, the style of the text, anything.

Instead of diving into more information here, I would like to show you another approach I like to take once a coin is recognized, because I can be more certain that I get more accurate information. I don't have a good way to tell how good are the pictures I took or scanned. Therefore, once I know which coins I would like to get described, I go over to Numista, because there is a good chance that somebody took a better picture, and hopefully of a better quality coin.

I would be interested to learn what Queen Elizabeth looks like. I chose a Canadian 25 Cent piece, designed by Dora de Pédery-hunt.

  1993 Canada 25 cents obverse 1993 Canada 25 cents reverse

I bring up the Numista page with the coin, and let AI do the work. Here is the initial description:

The image shows two sides of a Canadian 25-cent coin.

On one side:

– There's a profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II facing right.

– Above her is the text ELIZABETH II D.G. REGINA.

– Below is the text 1867-1992 indicating a commemorative year.

On the other side:

– There's an image of a caribou head facing left.

– Above the caribou, the text reads CANADA.

– Below the caribou, it says 25 CENTS.

– The coin's edge has a dotted border on both sides.

Describe the queen in extremely fine detail.

The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II shows her in profile from the shoulders up. She has a mature appearance with her hair styled in elegant curls that are tucked under a tiara. The tiara has intricate detailing and several peaks. Her ear is partially visible under her hair, adorned with a pearl earring. She is wearing a necklace with visible detailed links and a pendant, which appears to be a pearl as well. Her facial features are composed, with a straight nose, closed lips, and a pronounced jawline. Her eye is depicted with a heavy eyelid and she has a gentle but regal expression. The Queen's attire, though not fully visible, suggests a formal garment with a high neckline.

I specifically asked to describe her in extremely fine detail, because there is a limit to descriptions, and unless I ask, I don't get the great details. There is a particular character limit, so if I need even more detail, I need to have certain aspects described. Which makes sense, because if I just would like to know what I'm holding in my hand, I don't need pages upon pages of description. However, if I want to research a coin that's exactly what I need. So, one more question:

Describe her crown in great detail.

The tiara on Queen Elizabeth II's head is detailed and ornate. It features several arches with a prominent peak at the center. Each arch is embellished with what appears to be gemstones and several spherical elements, giving the impression of a jeweled crown with intricate metalwork. The central peak is taller than the surrounding arches and is capped with a cross-like design, suggesting a traditional regal element. The tiara's base sits closely to the Queen's head, encircling her forehead and disappearing into her hairline at the sides. The overall design of the tiara is elegant and stately, befitting a monarch.

This is amazing. For those of you who can see and have interacted with coins for decades may not be much. But for me, it is like being in the toy store. And this is only getting better. Just a few months ago I wanted to write this article and decided not to, because AI made up so much stuff. Today, it is pretty usable. Not to mention, it also took me some time to learn how to ask good questions. It seems that the more specifics I ask, the less it makes up. Ok, except the time on the clock.

If I was publishing anything more complex than a blog post, I would still probably have the accuracy verified. This information is not ready to build a research on, but for me as a collector it is extremely helpful. Particularly because there is only so much description you will get from Numista. Of course, when Numista has detailed descriptions, it makes the catalog more searchable, but after all, people are expected to use the descriptions together with the photos, and as you know, a picture is worth a thousand words. And now, it is for me, too, because I can get a thousand words out of it.

To read the complete article, see:
Recognizing coins with artificial intelligence (

This is indeed impressive, and bodes well for use of the technology for numismatic item identification. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:


Here's the first of two parts of the lengthy Pantograph entry from Dick Johnson's Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Terminology. -Editor

Pantograph, Die-engraving Pantograph. A machine for reducing three-dimensional bas-relief designs while simultaneously cutting a steel die. The mechanical engraving machine, which was early called a portrait lathe and later called a reducing machine among other names, eliminates the requirement of manual labor to meticulously cut dies by hand engraving. It had the further advantages that many dies could be cut from one pattern, more than one size die could be reduced from the same pattern, the pattern could be seen complete before being placed into production of diecutting, and the ease of which design errors could be corrected.

The use of the pantograph in early mints – like the use of the collar, certain other blanking and striking techniques – was part of the mystique of coin making. As such, it was part of the technology closely guarded by mint personnel. To safeguard against coin counterfeiting early on the knowledge of the pantograph was not revealed to a general public (in England or America, but was published as coining technology in France and Germany).

At first the die-engraving pantograph was employed only to cut the main device of a coin or medal design – primarily the portrait and called a reduction punch – where lettering, dates and additional ornamentation was added by punches and hand engraving afterwards. With improved development of its mechanics, later die-engraving pantographs (those of the 20th century) could reproduce the entire design, cutting a finished die, lettering and all, from a complete pattern.

Hard-surface pattern required. The machine requires an oversized model as the source of the three-dimensional design – a pattern or master. This must be in hard material (or at least have a hard surface) because a tracer (tracing stylus) must ride over this surface. Early masters were cast or carved in metal (iron, bronze, brass) even cut in stone.

Early patterns of cast iron were made in both England and America for both coin and medal dies. As such it bore a more rounded detail lacking sharp, crisp edges. Metal casting lacks such edges because of meniscus (where metal does not flow into crevices of the model). Also important was the investment use for the casting. If this was wet sand the surface was not always smooth. An iron cast had to be worked afterwards to smooth all surfaces and sharpen all edges of detail.

In the 1850s electrotypy had developed whereby a hard medal pattern could be electrolytically cast in copper or nickel from a model made of wax, clay, plasteline, plaster, wood or other composition. These electrogalvanic casts – called galvanos – proved excellent for the patterns used in mechanical engravers and replaced earlier iron patterns.

Not only were galvanos easy to make but even more reason for their fidelity to the original model in hard metal surface. Also steel tracing points as a stylus, could easily track the copper surface (even without a lubricant). The cutting point was shaped so that it had two cutting surfaces that made two cuts with each revolution.

Die cutting simultaneous with reduction. A steel die block of proper size and trueness is planed to have a smooth face; it is heat treated, annealed, until it is dead soft. This is mounted in the mechanical engraver to be cut into the die. Early reducing machines had a fixed cutter, later ones employed rotating cutters. The stylus (tracing the relief on the pattern) and the cutting point (drilling into the steel) are both mounted on a long bar, pivoted at one end, which transfers the position, degree and depth to be cut into the die block.

The stylus (tracing stylus or tracing point) starts at the center of the pattern, and the cutting point starts at the center of the steel block, both progressing simultaneously outward towards the edge of the design. The tracer plays across the pattern's bas-relief surface from center outwards on most mechanical engravers (only one pantograph [Keller] starts at the edge and transverses inwards – like a phonograph player).

Dies cut on early pantographs, or later by unskilled operators, often exhibited concentric circles, the trail of the cutting tool on the surface of the die. These lines require removal in the die by smoothing the surface, by BURNISHING or CHASING, a REWORKING of the die. If not they will obviously show on all struck pieces. While such concentric circles are not a diagnostic of cast iron models they were prevalent during the period such iron models were used.

Modern pantograph's other options. The mechanics of the die-engraving pantograph are such that it can cut either incise relief or raised relief (as hubs or finished objects). The modern machines can even regulate the height of the relief, or, amazingly, reverse polarity (a right-facing portrait can be changed to a left-facing portrait). It can also change or add a die camber (shape of the table or background). Further, it can even enlarge as well as reduce a design!

In addition to these mechanical techniques is a seldom-used technique, these machines can, in effect, become a reproducing machine. They can cut a design into a composition that cannot be stamped, as ivory, bone or plastic.

  janvier reducing machine
Janvier Reducing Machine

Modern history. The most modern medallic engraver was developed by a Frenchman, Victor Janvier (1851-1911), and his Janvier reducing machine became the premier die-engraving pantographs of the 20th century. The earliest instruments were merely copying lathes or cameo cutters, but the remarkable contrivance has been called a wide variety of names over the years: tour a reduire, tour a portrait, medallion engraver or lathe, portrait lathe, transfer lathe, reducing machine or lathe, diesinking machine, mechanical engraver, pantographic reducer, medal reducing lathe, medal and cameo reducing and engraving lathe, and, finally, by their maker's name (as Hill, Contamin, or the famed Janvier).

The products which can be created from dies made by this method are not limited to coins, medals and cameos in all, but also anything coined. Any small object struck in a press from dies, as buttons, emblems, jewelry items, small parts and such, even tableware utensils could be coined. (It was not surprising that the tableware industry early embraced the Janvier and acquired more of these machines than any other industry.)

But what was so astonishing was the mint officials of the world who had to create high quality coin dies beating a path to the door of Janvier's small Paris factory. In the early 20th century if modern mints wanted quality diecutting and the highest fidelity coin reductions they needed a Janvier engraving machine.

History of the Die-engraving Pantograph

Existing records of the earliest known machines which reproduce three-dimensional images were either copying machines or virtual cameo-cutting lathes. These existed in England, Europe and Russia. They could reproduce a design in metal, but nothing as hard as steel.

The first true die-engraving pantographs were developed independently in France and the Low Lands. They not only had a bar affixed to a fulcrum, which provided the required reduction, but also the ability to cut into steel. These included the Hulot (no other name recorded) whose machine appeared in Belgium in 1766. This early reducing lathe was to have an influence on others who built improved pantographs in a number of countries. One of Hulot's machines still exists in a Brussells museum today as tacit testimony to this early creation.

In France, Saxton Merchlein, a machinery inventor, developed his reducing machine in 1767; while contemporary with the Hulot, each was developed independent of the other. Merchlein's machine was perhaps the first to be used for engraving coin dies at a mint, the Paris Mint.

Privately in France, Jean Baptiste Barthelemy Dupeyrat (1759-1834), a young mechanic, had developed a reducing lathe that attracted the attention of Matthew Boulton. Boulton obtained one of Dupeyrat's lathes in 1790 for his Soho Mint in Birmingham.

Obviously national mints in both France and England became interested in these machines, leading to a second generation of improvements. However, it was the private industry in both these countries that were to do the most to advance the mechanical engraver. Engineering developments in private industry were quickly assimilated in the equipment of national mints; but the technology did not flow in the opposite direction.

New ideas developed in national mints became closely guarded secrets. Advancement in the field – particularly for medals – had to come from private mechanical engineers working independently outside any national mint.

Second generation machines were built by Belgium medallist Joseph Pierre Braemt (1796-1864) in 1824 (undoubtedly based on the Hulot machine of his countryman). Braemt's machine still exists in the Brussells Mint Museum. Also the Hulot machine inspired one developed by Benjamin Cheverton, a British machinist in 1826.

In addition to the private Soho Mint, Dupeyrat's machines were sold to the British Royal Mint, in 1819, to the Karlsrue Mint in Germany, and other European mints about the same time. When James Watt, Boulton's partner in the Soho Mint, retired in 1804 he worked on improving the Dupeyrat lathe, continuing his endeavors until his death in 1819.

In France in 1820 an ingenuous machinist Ambrose Wohlgemuth built a "medal and cameo reducing and engraving lathe." He used modern principles of reduction but still employed pedal power, as had all previous machines. His lathe still exists and is in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metier, Paris.

A decade later in Beasancon France, a surgeon who took up sculpture, Jean Baptiste Maire (1787-1859) developed his own reducing machine after creating his first medals in 1834. Perhaps it was used by the Paris Mint since it is in the Conservatoire des Arts et Meitiers alongside Wohlgemuth's machine.

All first and second generation reducers had a fixed cutter; the work rotated while the cutting point was fixed to the bar. This was a true lathe. Third generation reducers employed the rotating cutting point; in effect transforming the medallic pantograph into a mechanically controlled milling machine.

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E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article inspired by Dave Baldwin's South Carolina SPCA medal. Thanks! -Editor

  Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was established in England in 1824. The movement has spread to independent branches around the world. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was established in 1866.

The seal of The American Society for Cruelty to Animals was drawn by Frank Leslie and first published in 1867. The Central design was reproduced for other seals and medals.

  ASPCA seal NJSPCA seal

  American and New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seals

The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) was established in 1868. Their seal uses the same central design as the ASPCA seal.

The artwork appears identical. There may be variations as the actual design is produced. The South Carolina Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SCSPCA) was founded in 1874. The name was changed in 1940. There is a medal currently on eBay for the SCSPCA shown on the right below. Diameter is 38mm. The piece was uniface with an attached pin to be worn as a badge.

The piece shown in The E-Sylum (left below) has a similar but not identical design.

  SCSPCA medal comparison

The goals of the ASPCA were not universally accepted in South Carolina. This was included in The Charleston Mercury for May 7, 1867:

And so it comes about, that in all large communities little mutual admiration societies spring up, of persons who having themselves achieved perfection, feel called upon to coerce their neighbors into the same beatific state; and under the title of Peace Societies, Humane Societies and Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are the most arrogant and intolerable intermeddlers with things that they know nothing about, and in which they have no concern, Since they are virtuous, they will have it that there shall be no more cakes and ale in the land.

  The Humane Society

The first Humane society was more devoted to the rescue and resuscitation of drowning victims and less about animals. A Humane Society is a general term that applies to organizations like the SPCA. The American Humane Association was founded in 1877. The current Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was not established until 1954.

There are some challenging issues with the medal shown in The E-Sylum. The purpose of the medal is not self-evident from the legends.

The Humane Society and the SPCA were really two different things. The 1850 date is before there was a Humane Society or SPCA in the United States. I doubt if this medal was struck in 1850.

The person portrayed on the medal is not identified by name or linked to any specific event.

  Nathaniel Russell Middleton

I found one possible suspect. The photo on the left is Professor Nathaniel Russell Middleton (1810-1890). He was a wealthy plantation owner and president of the College of Charleston 1857 to 1880. He became the first president of the Charleston Humane Society in 1880.

In 2007 the organization name was changed to Charleston Animal Society. I contacted them for information about the medal and my question was referred to their 150th Anniversary Committee. I have not yet received a response.

I sent the pictures to Wayne and we agree that there is a similarity in the images, but enough difference to be unsure of an identification.

I have a feeling based on a long history of studying medals. I suspect this medal is a muling of two dies originally intended for other medals. Those medals remain to be identified.

Thanks, Pete! Great work. Numismatic research rarely hits the bullseye on the first attempts, and sometimes a definitive answer can never be found. But this is a great advance. With luck we can build on this base over time. -Editor

Dave Baldwin writes:

"I think Pete may be right on! A little more sleuthing and I found that the Charleston Animal Society was founded in 1874 and originally known as the South Carolina SPCA. This became what is now the Charleston Humane Society in 1880 with Professor Middleton its first president. If there is another medal using the reverse die that makes more sense then I would say it was a muling. But I also think there is a good chance it was just another case of George H. Lovett simply making an error and not catching it - which was not uncommon.

"And was this the work of George H? I have attributed it to him because of the muling with the generic award die that is signed. A question for another day."

To visit Dave's Tokens and Medals website, see:
Lovett Tokens & Medals (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JANUARY 7, 2024 : Query: Humane Society 1850 Medal (

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Greg Bennick's latest interview for the Newman Numismatic Portal is with Tom Caldwell of Northeast Numismatics. Here's the third of four parts, where Tom discusses coin shows and auctions. -Editor

GREG BENNICK: Yeah, we definitely will. So, I mentioned coin shows earlier. How have coin shows changed over the years? I just imagine that going to a show, say in the late 1960s, early 1970s, would be a different experience than today. I would love to talk a little bit or hear a little bit about how coin shows have changed.

Tom Caldwell Northeast Numismatics 2019-03 Whitman Coin Expo TOM CALDWELL: Well, they definitely have changed. I want to say they were more prominent, more important for the dealings back in the past, not so much anymore, but we find that, we go to a show now and we tell somebody walking by that we have a lot of coins not on display, and ask Anything you're looking for?', and they'll say, Well, they've already seen your coins because they've already seen them on our website. But the shows are still important today just for folks to get out and see people, see the competition, and just to get a better view of just what's out there. But I say that the shows, there will always be shows, but with online business being in many ways more prominent, the shows will not be as important.

GREG BENNICK: What about auctions? I know that you've gone to auctions going back, at this point, 50 years. How have the auctions changed? And do you have any memorable auction moments that you love from back in the day?

TOM CALDWELL: Well, they've definitely changed. I mean, again, just the very recent past is through COVID, the auctions are now — like we just came back from the Baltimore show. And they were showing lots there, but there was no auction at the show. The auctions are after the show now. They found that to work just as well. Because certainly the coin auctions didn't change during COVID. There were still just as many auctions. Auction companies found they don't necessarily have to sell the coins at the shows. It's actually made for maybe a little more civilized coin show that we're not have to rush to the auction room to bid and be up till 1:30 in the morning at a session. And so that's the way it's worked out over time in that regard. But I'd say that shows will always be there, but just not as important as in the past.

GREG BENNICK: Do you have any memories of going to auctions in the early 70s and whatnot and seeing any frenzy about a coin, whether you participated or not? You know, I asked Jeff Garrett, for example, about bidding on the 1913 Liberty Nickel. Do you have any memories of going to auctions and seeing or experiencing anything wild? Like I'm imagining people yelling at each other (laughter) and fighting during the auction or bidding on some famous coin, for example, and having the frenzy of the room get really excited. Do you have any recollections of any coin in particular that was an auction experience to remember?

Northeast Numismatics logo TOM CALDWELL: Honestly, nothing in particular. I mean, I did attend a lot of auctions, but tended to have other people bid for me and not necessarily always being in the room. There is one coin in particular, a couple of coins I can show you right now. We spoke about mint errors. I've always thought that a 1943 bronze penny is kind of one of the most important errors. It's a coin that your neighbor who doesn't know anything about coins will have heard about it, because it'll make the news whenever anyone sells, and then that's when we get the calls all the time, when a ‘43 penny is coming that they've heard about it. So, it's something that the public knows and collectors are interested in. I think it's one of the, like I said, most undervalued and one of the most important of all mint errors. And I've always wanted to own one. We bought one some years ago and sold it to a good client. And then a few years, not too many years ago, we bought another one. It was the first one ever discovered by Doug Lutz here in Massachusetts, in Western Mass in Springfield. He saved it his whole life, finally put it in auction. Here, I'll show it to you. I don't know if you can see. And so, it was the first one ever discovered. And then a few years later, the S mint came up for sale. And we bought that one also. Also, the first one. First S mint ever discovered.

GREG BENNICK: Amazing. This is fantastic.

TOM CALDWELL: Did miss out on the D mint. Only one known. But in some ways, I saved myself a million bucks. It was sold for... I was immediately underbidder around $850,000 or so. But that's one of my favorite coins. Its day will come, even though they're all worth a few hundred thousand or so. I think it'll be a continued prominence.

GREG BENNICK: Yeah. And so, you think that this is a coin with a lot of upside value, even though it's already an expensive coin by most people's standard. Do you think there's a lot of upside value to it?

TOM CALDWELL: I think so. All the ones known are known. Although three to five years ago, there were a few that came out, which didn't hurt the market at all. So, I think so, yes.

GREG BENNICK: That's exciting. That's really exciting, actually. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you sharing that. That's fantastic. I was going to ask you about The Billion Dollar Wreck and what it was like being their designated expert and what happened with their search?

TOM CALDWELL: Right. Well, they found me because they had a barge going out of Boston and looked around. And they think to me as their expert. Last I heard and what I've read that they never found the coins in it. It was off the coast of Nantucket when it sunk. It was a sister ship to the Titanic, but you never hear about it because there was only like five or six people that died. And they knew that there were two things going on there. It had the ship's cargo. It was called the millionaire's ship. And it struck another ship. And there was several hours for everybody to get off board as it slowly sank. And there was cargo, they believed, they read that there was a cargo of the payroll for a South American country. And there was one other, I believe it was also they thought there were some coins that were being shipped from one of the mints. I'm not sure exactly where now. I can't remember. And they targeted a certain part of the ship to go to. And I don't believe they ever found it. It was in a really tough spot. Because of where the ocean's currents were difficult to get to. And they had a couple of rounds of raising money for it. And I don't believe they found the coins. They didn't find that spot.

GREG BENNICK: And your role was essentially to be a, not a liaison, but an advisor of sorts on if they did find the coins, what they were worth or what they meant.

TOM CALDWELL: They were asking me in advance if this is where it is and the quantities are what we expect they will be. It really would be worth billions of dollars. So, it was filmed in my living room at home back then. And that was the deal.

GREG BENNICK: So, but as of yet, they've not found these billion dollars.

TOM CALDWELL: No, they have not. No.

GREG BENNICK - 2023 headshot About the Interviewer
Greg Bennick ( is a keynote speaker and long time coin collector with a focus on major mint error coins. Have ideas for other interviewees? Contact him anytime on the web or via instagram @minterrors.

To watch the complete video, see:
Tom Caldwell Interview (

To read the complete transcript, see:
Tom Caldwell Interview (Transcript) (

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Alan Stahl's student Jenica Brown's interest in medieval and early modern Ethiopian coinage led to the growth of Princeton's numismatic collection. -Editor

Anonymous 5th-century Aksumite coin Jenica Brown, A&A graduate student interested in medieval and early modern Ethiopia, has played an unexpected role in growing Princeton's numismatic collection. Currently a student in Curator of Numismatics Alan Stahl's course CLA 548/HLS 548/PAW 548/ART 532 Problems in Ancient History: Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Numismatics, Brown was particularly interested in coins of the Aksumite empire, which existed from the first to early seventh centuries in present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea.

When the class began, Princeton's numismatic collection housed four Aksumite coins, acquired by Stahl in spring 2023. Aware of Brown's interest, Stahl not only leapt at the opportunity to grow the Aksumite coin collection when he saw the currency come up for auction, but involved Brown in the selection process. Stahl noted, Some years back graduate student Meseret Oldjira asked about working on Axumite coins for her project for this seminar, but as we had none she worked on coins of ancient Saba (Biblical Sheba). When I saw the Axumite coins for sale at a dealer's table at the Kalamazoo Medieval Congress last year, I took the opportunity to begin collection in this area.

With the help of funds from the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies and the Princeton University Library's Sanxay Fund provided by Mireille Djenno, the Global Special Collections Librarian, Stahl and Brown secured an additional 18 gold, silver, and bronze Aksumite coins for Princeton's collection. The coins are particularly crucial to the study of the Aksumite Kingdom, Brown explained, because so little primary source material has survived. In fact, we know of the lineage of kings from this period almost exclusively from the coins minted by 18 of them between 270 C.E. and 640 when the empire declined.

I'm really pleased that I had the opportunity to work on these coins and to contribute to Dr. Stahl's efforts to grow the collection, said Brown. These coins are important evidence of the culture that flourished in the Horn of Africa in Late Antiquity, and their acquisition complements Princeton's major collection of Ethiopic manuscripts.

A coinage unlike any other
Whereas ancient currency typically includes the profile of the minting ruler, Aksumite coins depart from convention in showing the ruler on both the obverse, or front, and reverse sides of the coin. Also unique to Aksumite coins, is the gilding of specific portions of silver coins. A lot of Aksumite coinage is idiosyncratic, said Stahl, pointing out that additional anomaly of the Greek term basileus, meaning king, appearing on Aksumite coins into the seventh century that would have disappeared elsewhere, replaced by the Roman rex or imperator. Aksumite coinage was not imitative, Stahl continues, It asserts itself from the beginning.

  Jenica Brown presents the Aksumite coin
Jenica Brown presents the Aksumite coin she studied

Though many of the coins were inscribed in Greek, reflecting the frequency of trade with the Greek-speaking world, later inscriptions, particularly of silver and bronze coins, also reflected the ancient Ethiopian language of G???z. Brown began the study of G???z this semester and was excited to decipher it on the coins. She found it fairly easy to read, though different from the script she's been working on.

Brown's G???z instructor at Princeton, Hamza Zafer, who has taught this classical Ethiopian language since 2021, joined her in the numismatics department to examine the newly-arrived specimens.

  Princeton Aksumite coin collection
The ever-growing Princeton Aksumite coin collection

To read the complete article, see:
Graduate Student Jenica Brown Helps Princeton Grow its Aksumite Coin Collection (

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Jeremy Bostwick at Numismagram sent along these four medals from his most recent upload of new material to his site. For all of the new items, please visit -Editor

  End of the Century medal

102608 | GERMANY. Nürnberg. End of the Century white metal Medal. Issued 1700 (43mm, 12h). By M. Brunner. EDO VT EDAM (I eat so that I may eat, —adapted from Quintilian's "Institutio Oratoria", Book IX), winged Kronos/Saturn advancing left, holding scythe and devouring child held upside down by his leg // AVREVS HANC VITAM IN TERRIS SATVRNVS AGEBAT (such was the life golden Saturn lived on earth, —from Virgil's "Georgics", Book II), ANNO MVNDI / CI?I?CC [MDCC] in two lines. Endter p. 5, fig. IV; Strothotte 1700-8 (this medal illustrated). NGC MS-62. Mostly even gunmetal gray surfaces. Exceptionally rare and provocative. $595.

This extremely interesting design alludes to the Titan Kronos (Saturn), who was the son of Gaia (Terra) and Ouranos (Caelus), and who overthrew the latter to serve as the leader of the Titans. He is traditionally depicted with a scythe or sickle, the instrument by which he castrated and deposed his father. Owing to a prophecy in which he would be overthrown by his children as he had overthrown his father, Kronos consumed each of his Olympic children upon their birth in order to prevent their fulfillment of the prophecy. Upon this birth of Zeus (Jupiter), however, Kronos's consort Rhea (Ops) devised a plan with Gaia in order to punish Kronos for his acts toward his father and children. Zeus was hidden in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete, and instead a rock wrapped in swaddling was presented for Kronos to consume. Once fully grown, Zeus confronted and defeated Kronos, forcing him to vomit forth his elder siblings—Demeter (Ceres), Hestia (Vesta), Hera (Juno), Hades (Pluto), and Poseidon (Neptune). Over time, the Titan Kronos and the personification of Chronos (Time) became rather linked, and quite probably for very good reason.

The personification for "Father Time" would involve an old, bearded man, usually nude or at least semi-nude, bearing a scythe for harvesting (as the harvest was a cyclical aspect that was all-important throughout history). He would also be depicted winged, as the wings played into the fleeting nature of time. As such, on this medal, Kronos (essentially, Father Time) possesses both wings and a scythe, and is eating a child—an act meant to show the past consuming the future, or the older generation suppressing the future generation. The Latin legend "edo ut edam" translates to "I eat so that I may continue to eat." This phrase is a shortening of one that is a bit more common: "non ut edam vivo, sed ut vivam edo," or, "I do not live in order to eat, but rather I eat in order to live." Despite the similarities between the aspects of Kronos and Chronos, as well as their virtual amalgamation over time, it is important to point out that Father Time remains undefeated, while Chronos was unable to escape his fate.

To read the complete item description, see:
102608 | GERMANY. Nürnberg. End of the Century white metal Medal. (

  C. D. Peacock silver medal

102484 | UNITED STATES. Chicago, Illinois. C. D. Peacock silver "Hard Times Token." Dated 1837, though issued ca. 1900-1906 for the jewelry firm founded in 1837 (31mm, 23.30 g, 12h). By Gorham Mfg. Co. C. D. PEACOCK. / JEWELER 1837 CHICAGO, peacock standing facing, head left, with tailfeathers fully spread // TIME / IS / MONEY in three lines within center of clock, with time reading 9:11. Edge: Sterling. Rulau HT-M24 (R9). PCGS MS-62. Light gray surfaces, with some enchanting pastel toning on the obverse and great brilliance throughout. Incredibly rare, and likely one of just three known. A similar type in silver, the slightly less rare right-facing peacock (Rulau HT-M20 [R7] in PCGS MS-65), recently realized a total of $5,000 in the December Steve Hayden auction (lot 422). No sales records are known for this type in silver, with this example tied with just one other in the PCGS census as the only representatives of the type there [], and a third example listed in the NGC census being imaged only with no grade listed. A tremendous opportunity for the aficionado of the Peacock series, and the one that is undoubtedly the linchpin of completing the series in all formats. $4,495.

Drawing inspiration from the reverse of an 1837 Hard Times token, that of Smith's Clock Establishment in New York's Bowery neighborhood, Chicago-based jeweler Charles Daniel (C. D.) Peacock commissioned a series of tokens to commemorate the firm's 50th anniversary in 1897. Issued a few years later between 1900 and 1906, these tokens feature a very similar clock-style reverse as Smith's token, along with the iconic phrase "time is money," but with an obverse that served as a pun upon the jeweller's name. While the date of "1837" was retained for these tokens, it served as a commemoration for the year when Peacock's father Elijah opened the company upon immigrating to the United States.

Rulau M19 and M20 display a right-facing peacock with the date within the inner circle, while M21 and M22 feature the same peacock, but with the date below the inner circle, and M23 and M24 display a slightly different peacock that is instead facing left. While Rulau lists mintages for the copper types (M19, M21, and M23) as 10,000, 7,500, and 10,000, respectively, he mentions scant mintages of the silver specimens (M20, M22, and M24) as 4, 4, and 1, respectively. The silver types are indeed excessively rare, though this example–barring a duplication or mistake in classification in the PCGS census–is listed as one of two (each MS-62), while NGC merely lists an image for M24 in their census (no mention of grade). It is clear from the NGC image that this example and the one in the NGC image are different examples. Nevertheless, the silver strikings clearly indicate exalted status as examples that were produced for the senior members of the Peacock family then in charge of the firm, or others of similar importance, and are the ultimate limiting factor in any Peacock set.

To read the complete item description, see:
102484 | UNITED STATES. Chicago, Illinois. C. D. Peacock silver Token. (

  Swedish Settlements in Delaware medal

102685 | UNITED STATES & SWEDEN. Swedish Settlements in Delaware bronze Medal. Struck 1938. Commemorating the 300th Anniversary of the Founding of New Sweden along the Delaware River / '17 Individuals' (69mm, 151.54 g, 12h). By U. A. Ricci for the Medallic Art Co. KALMAR - NYCKEL, ship under sail left upon the waters; TERCENTENARY / DELAWARE in two lines in exergue // State emblem of Delaware; around, wreath the names of 17 individuals on entwined garland: Read, Dickinson, MacDonough, Jones, Shipley, Tatnall, Saulsbury, Ridgely, DuPont, Gray, Bayard, Van Dyke, Layton, Kirkwood, Haslet, McKean, and Rodney. Edge: MEDALLIC ART CO. N.Y. BRONZE. Rulau Q5A. Mint State. Brown-bronze surfaces. $195.

Established during the Thirty Years' War, the colony of New Sweden along the Delaware River lasted for nearly two decades, and served as a Scandinavian outpost in colonial America. Encompassing what is now modern-day Southeast Pennsylvania, Southwest New Jersey, and Northern Delaware, numerous locales convey this Swedish history, such as Fort Christina, Fort Casimir, and Swedesboro.

To read the complete item description, see:
102685 | UNITED STATES & SWEDEN. Swedish Settlements in Delaware bronze Medal. (

  Night of Armour Knight of Amour medal

102591 | GREAT BRITAIN. "Night of Armour/Knight of Amour" bronze Medal. Issued 1988. (38mm, 27.41 g, 12h). By R. Elderton at the Tower mint. NIGHT of ARMOUR, bedroom scene, with female seated right on stool, nude save for chastity belt which she attempts to unlock with key; discarded keys on floor; mace and armor (armour) on floor to right; in background, dresser with mirror depicting scene in which the same female holds up the chastity belt, now removed, with knight facing her // KNIGHT of AMOUR, similar bedroom scene, but on the opposite side of the room, with male standing facing in medieval armor (armour) and with hands held together in act of prayer; in background, elaborate bed chamber, with shields to either side featuring somewhat suggestive iconography. Edge: Plain. "The Medal" 14 (Spring 1989), pp. 87 & 89. Choice Mint State. Red-brown surfaces. Extremely rare and virtually never encountered. $295.

Seemingly a popular concept on some of Elderton's medals, the punning between night/knight and armour/amour is quite clear. An evening filled with plating and protective coverings stands between the female on this medal and her libidinous medieval soldier. Featuring direct engraving into the dies, this endlessly provocative type is matched equally by its excessive rarity.

To read the complete item description, see:
102591 | GREAT BRITAIN. "Night of Armour/Knight of Amour" bronze Medal. (

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Noonan's will offer Bill Tankersleys' collection of West Indian coins and tokens on January 24, 2024. Here's the announcement. -Editor

A large collection of almost 360 West Indian coins and tokens that was amassed by Bill Tankersley (1948-2021) who was born in Columbia, Tennessee, USA will be offered at Noonans Mayfair on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at 1pm.

After Bill was married in 1976, he realised his wife did not share his love of antiques and began his collection of coins which were small and easy to store. The couple began working with a church in South London, England in 1977, and Bill's focus became West Indian Countermarks as a reflection of his appreciation of that culture represented in so many of his church members. The coins and token that are beng offered by Noonans were collected from 1998 onwards are expected to fetch in the region of £50,000-70,000.

  Lot 1119 - 1758 Dollar - Please credit Noonans

A very early Jamaican Dollar dating from the Authority of November 1758 is a Ferdinand VI 8 Reales, that was produced in Lima, and then both sides centrally countermarked with a floriate GR is estimated at £1,000-1,200 [lot 1119].

As Tim Wilkes, Head of Coin Department at Noonans explained: The Act of 18 November 1758 placed an enhanced fixed value on a specific number of Spanish-Colonial ‘milled' coins and these would be identified by the application of the floriate GR countermark. This is the earliest documented instance of local action to countermark coins in the British West Indies.

  Lot 1191 - Quarter Dollar - please credit Noonans 1

A rare ‘double-island' quarter-dollar coin, that was issued on one island (Martinique) and then countermarked later on another (Tortola) is estimated at £400-500. It was cut from a Charles IV Spanish-Colonial 8 Reales [lot 1191].

  Lot 1336 - Charles II Tari - please credit Noonans 1

The most important coin in the sale isn't West Indian. From the Ionian Islands, is an extremely rare Fifty Para Charles II Tari that has been countermarked with a crude bust of George III that is estimated at £3,000-£4,000 [lot 1336].

For more information, or to bid, see:

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Consignment Director Ryan Baum of World Banknote Auctions sent along these highlights and comments on their upcoming World Currency Sale 54. Thanks. -Editor

  WBNA Lot 54342 Qatar-Dubai 25 Riyals (Color Trial Specimen)

While we think of the Arabian Peninsula with its long and rich history, we often forget that it is relative recently that they developed their own currencies instead of relying on others. As part of this early transition Qatar and Dubai initially formed a joint currency board and their earliest notes are always in demand. We have several Color Trial Specimens from the first issue including this nice note:

Qatar & Dubai ND (ca. 1960s) P-4cts PMG Choice UNC 63 25 Riyals (Color Trial Specimen)

A Color Trial Specimen of Qatar and Dubai's 25 Riyals note, the key denomination of the series, and a classic Middle Eastern banknote. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain established various Protectorates in the Persian Gulf region. These political affiliations endured for decades until 1971, when the Emirates gained independence, ultimately forming the United Arab Emirates and issuing its inaugural banknotes in 1973. However, the earliest banknotes for what would become the UAE were introduced in Dubai in 1966, as it entered into a currency pact with Qatar. At that time, the circulating banknotes included Indian Rupees and Gulf Rupees, both printed in India.

The currency amalgamation between Qatar and Dubai proved to be a triumph, with their banknotes circulating widely in both regions. This series encompassed denominations of 1 Riyal, 5 Riyals, 10 Riyals, 25 Riyals, 50 Riyals, and 100 Riyals, all produced by the British company Bradbury & Wilkinson. While all denominations featured the same design, they differed in color and increased in size with each denomination. The 25 Riyals note, vividly blue, measured approximately 140 x 70 millimeters. The front of the notes featured entirely Arabic text, including the serial numbers, while the back was in English, denoting the notes as issued by the Qatar & Dubai Currency Board.

The final note was issued with a primary blue color and estimates indicate fewer than 1,600 notes remain outstanding. This Color Trial's primary color is green and affords a rare opportunity to acquire an early specimen of one of the Middle East's rarest notes. PMG mentions "Previously mounted".

To read the complete lot description, see:
Qatar & Dubai ND (ca. 1960s) P-4cts PMG Choice UNC 63 25 Riyals (Color Trial Specimen) (

  WBNA Lot 54041 Brazil, Banco de Credito Popular 100 Mil Reis (Specimen)

One note we enjoyed displaying at FUN and always mentioned to the children collectors who stopped by is a spectacular Brazilian note which features an image of a lion despite lions not roaming the western hemisphere since before the last ice age. Although this design was allegedly issued, only Specimens such as this note are available:

Brazil, Banco de Credito Popular ND (1892) P-S553s PMG Gem UNC 65 EPQ 100 Mil Reis (Specimen)

Counterfoil included. A beautiful note from Brazil where no lions roam. The spectacular image of the King of the Jungle was taken from American Banknote Company's stock engravings. This is the highest graded known note of this type in the PMG population report and a survey of auction records shows no fully printed specimens appearing at auction in recent memory. Printing records show that a single order of 100,000 notes was printed by the American Banknote Company in October of 1891. To the best of our knowledge no issued notes of this type have been seen.

To read the complete lot description, see:
Brazil, Banco de Credito Popular ND (1892) P-S553s PMG Gem UNC 65 EPQ 100 Mil Reis (Specimen) (

  WBNA LOT 54096 Danish West Indies 1849 50 Dalere

Although placed in our World Auction, the following note could just as easily be placed in a U.S. auction as the Danish West Indies were sold to the United States during World War I and are now know as the U.S. Virgin Islands. This incredible note was placed in circulation in 1850 and has survived in nearly uncirculated condition despite the tropical climate and its original thin paper.

Danish West Indies 4.4.1849 P-5 PMG About UNC 55 EPQ 50 Dalere

A fully issued rarity from the Danish West Indies (present-day US Virgin Islands). This series, which was printed on thin paper is typically seen incomplete, lacking most of the signatures and a handwritten date in order to be considered fully issued. This example, which is in fully original About Uncirculated condition has all signatures (six in total) and a handwritten date of 10 June 1850. As such, it was in fact issued into circulation in the Danish West Indies and is rare as such. This was the second highest denomination in the 1849 series that is printed in Danish on the front and English on the back. An important offering not to be underestimated, particularly at this grade level.

To read the complete lot description, see:
Danish West Indies 4.4.1849 P-5 PMG About UNC 55 EPQ 50 Dalere (

  WBNA lot 54156 Unissued 1923 Germany 5000 Mark

A final note of interest is one that I must admit nearly slipped by me for significance. While we encounter German hyperinflation notes from 1922/23 quite frequently and view them as interesting pieces of history but fairly common, this note type is not. It was designed and printed prior to the full impact of the hyperinflation. Most were eventually overprinted with high values. This note is not and quite rare.

Germany - Reich 1923 P-87 PMG Choice UNC 64 EPQ 5000 Mark (Unissued)

A scarce type from Germany dating to the hyperinflation period. The value of the Reichsmark had plummeted by the time these rolled off of the press, and they were never released into circulation. Most were overprinted and later issued as a 500 Milliarden Mark banknote (Pick-124). Those without overprint are extremely scarce. An infrequently seen type and of utmost historical significance.

To read the complete lot description, see:
Germany - Reich 1923 P-87 PMG Choice UNC 64 EPQ 5000 Mark (Unissued) (


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Here's a selection of interesting or unusual items I came across in the marketplace this week. Tell us what you think of some of these. -Editor

1911 London International Exhibition Medal

1911 London International Exhibition medal

International Exhibition, London, 1911, a gilt-bronze medal by S. Salières for Arthus Bertrand & Cie, allegorical female figure riding waves, rev. Britannia standing facing, St Paul's to left, Crystal Palace to right, 59mm (BHM –; E –). Gilding somewhat worn on obverse, otherwise about extremely fine, rare £100-£120

Nice medal from the upcoming Noonan's February 7, 2024 sale. -Editor

To read the complete lot description, see:
International Exhibition, London, (

City and Guilds of London Institute Medals

City and Guilds of London Institute medals
City and Guilds of London Institute medals reverse

City and Guilds of London Institute, Technological Examination, prize medals (5), each 51mm: silver, edge named (William Thomas Houghton, Wheelwrights' Work, 1st Prize 1913); silver, edge named (John Robert Whittaker, Mechanical Engineering Division I, 1st Prize 1925); bronze, edge named (John William Driver, Design and Colour as Applied to Woven Fabrics for Producers, 1st Prize 1937); bronze, edge named (John William Driver, Textile Design as Applied to Woven Fabrics II, 1st Prize Equal 1938); silver, edge named (Ann V.B. Ford, First Prize, Milk Processing and Control, Section A, 1947) [5]. Extremely fine, first lightly cleaned; four cased, one boxed £100-£150

Another lot in the upcoming Noonan's February 7, 2024 sale. Interesting medals I hadn't seen before. -Editor

To read the complete lot description, see:
City and Guilds of London Institute (

The Edinburgh Mint and its Coinage
Weill Wrocht & Cunyeit : The Edinburgh Mint and its Coinage : with a catalogue of the Scottish Coins and Trade Tokens in the Collections of the Edinburgh City Museums and Galleries
McQ. Holmes, Nicholas M.

ISBN 10: 0905072111 / ISBN 13: 9780905072111
Published by City of Edinburgh Museums and Art Galleries, Edinburgh, 1982
1982. 40pp. B&W images and illustrations.

"During most of the period of more than six centuries when Scotland had an independent coinage there was a mint at Edinburgh, although it was not until late in the Middle Ages that it became first the most important and eventually the only source of new currency. The aim of this publication is to outline the part played by the Edinburgh mint in the history of Scotland's coinage and to provide an up-to-date summary of our knowledge of the history of the mint itself. It is not intended to relate the complete history of coinage in Scotland, or to discuss at length the techniques involved in minting coins in former times, as both these subjects have been covered fully elsewhere. A short list of references is included for those who wish to read further on these topics. The final part of the booklet comprises a catalogue of all the Scottish coins and trade tokens held in the collections of Edinburgh City Museums and Art Galleries. Most of the coins are products of the Edinburgh mint, and many of them are on display in Huntly House Museum".

Book has very slight wear to corners. Previous owner's name embossed on first page. Otherwise the book is in excellent condition. Minor highlighting to catalogue.

Here's a title I hadn't run across before. Museum publications are valuable references, but not always printed in large numbers or widely distributed. A shelf of such publications from around the world would make for interesting reading and reference. -Editor

To read the complete item description, see:
Weill Wrocht & Cunyeit : The Edinburgh Mint and its Coinage : with a catalogue of the Scottish Coins and Trade Tokens in the Collections of the Edinburgh City Museums and Galleries (

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While excavating part of Hadrian's Aqueduct, archaeologists discovered a coin hoard. -Editor

  Hadrian's aqueduct Greek coin find

Archaeologists have unearthed part of Hadrian's aqueduct, one of the largest hydraulic works of the 2nd century AD, and a wonderful treasure during archaeological excavations in Tenea, an ancient Greek town near Corinth.

Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture said the discovery was made during excavations at Chiliomodi in Corinthia, southern Greece, in October 2023, which also yielded, among other significant finds, a treasure trove of 29 rare silver ancient Greek coins dating from the late 6th century BC to the 330s BC.

Several are among the rarest and most historic coins of ancient Greece, the ministry says.

They include three staters of Elis minted at Olympia during different Olympic Games, staters of Aegina with a land instead of a sea turtle, staters of Stymphalos, Argos and Opuntia Lokron, as well as staters of Thebes from the 5th century BC depicting Hercules suffocating two snakes with his hands.

To read the complete article, see:
Archaeologists have unearthed part of Hadrian's Aqueduct, one of the Largest Hydraulic Works of the 2nd century AD, and Extremely Rare Greek Coins (

See also:
Rare Coins and Treasures Discovered at Greece's Ancient City of Tenea (

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Mike Markowitz published a CoinWeek article on the coins of Justinian II - "The Emperor Who Lost His Nose." Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. -Editor

OUT OF ALL the 91 individuals who wore the crown of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire, perhaps the most extraordinary story, and some of the most remarkable coinage, belongs to Justinian II, who became emperor at the age of 16 on July 10, 685 CE.

During Justinian II's troubled reign, a group of talented engravers worked at the imperial mint in Constantinople, creating coin portraits that were far more realistic and artistic than the crude stick-figure designs on so many previous – and subsequent – Byzantine issues.

Early Coins of Justinian II

  Beardless Justinian II first reign Gold Solidus

Justinian II, first reign, 685-695. Gold Solidus, 4.27, Constantinople, 685/6. Nomos AG. Auction 14. 17 May 2017. Lot: 470. Realized: 4,200 CHF (approx. $4,291).

Justinian's earliest appearance on a coin is as a beardless adolescent, with sharp features and large, protruding eyes, on a fairly rare gold solidus. The emperor holds the globus cruciger or orb – a golden sphere topped by a cross, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity over the world. The obverse inscription (in Latin) simply translates to Justinian, Perpetual Emperor. The reverse is a cross on three steps–the traditional mark of value for the solidus–surrounded by the acclamation Victory of the Emperor, and the mint mark CONOB meaning Constantinople, Pure Gold. High grade examples of this coin typically bring a few thousand dollars at auction.

  Bearded Justinian II first reign Gold Solidus

Justinian II, first reign, 685-695. Gold Solidus, 4.40g. Constantinople, 686/7. CNG. Auction 117. 19 May 2021. Lot: 662. Realized: $3,000.

A year or two later, the young emperor had grown a short, neat beard, and this change is reflected in his coin portrait. Examples of this coin are more common than the earlier beardless issue.

To read the complete article, see:
Coins of Justinian II: The Emperor Who Lost His Nose (

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A Stack's Bowers Galleries article by Numismatist Chris Bulfinch discusses the the January 1816 U.S. Mint Fire. -Editor

  January 1816 U.S. Mint

On January 11, 1816, U.S. Mint Director Robert Patterson wrote a letter to President James Monroe deliver some unfortunate news*:

Sir, I have the mortification of informing you that this morning, about 2:00, a fire broke out in the mill house, a wooden building belonging to the Mint, which is consumed altogether with an adjoining building containing the rolling and drawing machines, and also the melting house. The front part of the building, containing the coining presses, the office and the Assayer's Department is uninjured. The manner in which the fire originated is perfectly unaccountable. No fire is even kept in the part of the building where it was first discovered; nor had any of the workmen been there for some days. No loss of gold or silver will be sustained of any consequence, nor will the copper coinage be the least impeded.

In a letter a few days later, Patterson updated the President with the cause of the fire:

on examining a barrel in a neighboring yard partly filled with wood ashes, taken from the hearths of an adjoining dwelling-house, and which had been set in actual contact with the weathered boarding of our mill house, a wooden building, where the fire was first discovered, no doubt remains that here the fire originated.

The destruction of the smelting and milling structures stopped silver and gold coinage for nearly a year, though in a March 1816 letter to President Madison, Patterson downplayed the significance of the loss: In truth, except the mere building, which was ill-constructed, & of little value, no great loss has been sustained by the fire. The principal parts of the machinery were, in fact, nearly worne out; & must have been replaced in a short time, tho' no such accident had occurred.

The fire ultimately put the Mint out of commission for much of 1816, though as Patterson noted in the first letter, copper coin production was not significantly affected, and 1816-dated large cents were struck in quantities comparable to other years in the 1810s. Half cents dated 1811 were the last of their denomination from the Mint in the 1810s and they would not appear again until the mid-1820s.

Several denominations had been out of production in years prior to 1816 owing, among other factors, to the disruption of the War of 1812; the Mint fire compounded this difficulty. Replacement equipment was eventually purchased from the British, new facilities were erected, and coin production expanded greatly in subsequent years.

Fires occurred occasionally at U.S. Mint facilities; in these earlier eras, blazes regularly consumed large parts of cities and towns. Other major fires damaged or destroyed Mint property in 1832 and 1868. The Treasury Building burned down in 1801 and in 1833, the second the result of arsonists' machinations.

*The quoted correspondence in this article was taken from The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint by Leonard Augsburger and Joel Orosz, highly recommended reading for those interested in early U.S. Mint history.

To read the complete article, see:

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Andrew Crellin published an article on his Sterling and Currency site about the 1893 Australia Sydney Proof Sovereign. With permission, here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. Thanks. -Editor

  1893 Sydney Proof Sovereign

The 1893 Sydney Proof sovereign is a rare and historic coin - it exhibits technical characteristics that set it apart from gold coins struck for circulation by the Sydney Mint during this era, and may well be linked to the production of two of Australia's most elusive gold coins - the 1893 Proof Gold Five and Two Pounds.

Only one example of the 1893 Sydney Proof sovereign has been seen on the open market since 1953. This coin was secured by one of Australia's foremost numismatists during an exclusive ceremony on the day it was struck.

Brock's Veiled Head Portrait is Revealed in Sydney
Introduced in 1887, the Jubilee Head portrait of Queen Victoria was described in an official history of British numismatics by Sir Charles Oman as the greatest disappointment of the century. News that this unpopular design would be replaced by one engraved by the renown sculptor Thomas Brock was met with rising interest across the British Commonwealth.

The invitation list for the exclusive ceremony marking the start of production of the Veiled Head gold coinage truly was a who's who of the New South Wales establishment - around 50 of the government's most senior officials and associated dignitaries came together to be the first to witness the manufacture Sydney's first gold coins graced by Brock's portrait.

Special Production Ceremony - July 1st 1893
Lady Duff Cutting Out Discs from Fillets of Gold John MacDonald Cameron began his tenure as the Deputy Master of the Sydney Mint in May 1893, just months after the untimely death of his predecessor, Robert Hunt. MacDonald Cameron seems to have wanted to make an immediate impact in his new role, as the exclusive ceremony that launched production of the new designs took place less than 5 weeks after his arrival.

To the degree that Thomas Brock put right the perceived wrongs of Boehm's depiction of Queen Victoria, the new portrait of Her Majesty was welcomed by those in Sydney's influential circles - upstanding citizens with firm opinions on the importance of image and reputation.

The unveiling of the new portrait of Queen Victoria enjoyed widespread media coverage after the event, not just within Sydney, but right across Australia. The Sydney Mint buildings were festooned with banners; official photographs were taken and exclusive mementoes were gifted. All of the pomp and ceremony of the occasion highlighted the importance of the change, the number and calibre of those in attendance affirmed the design aesthetic of the new portrait.

Robbery at the AGNSW Newspapers of the day tell us this coin was struck in a special ceremony on Saturday July 1st 1893 by Lady Louisa Duff, wife of the NSW Governor. The very first two coins struck were gifted to the Vice-Regal couple by the Deputy Master of the Sydney Mint, who in turn immediately donated them to the National Art Gallery (now known as the Art Gallery of NSW). Unfortunately for the people of NSW, those two coins were stolen in a robbery in December 1893 - contemporary media reports explain they were never recovered.

To read the complete article, see:
The 1893 Sydney Proof Sovereign - A Tangible Link to Australia's Most Enigmatic Gold Coins (

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Mashiko reminds us that the medallic art exhibit PROGRESSION will be on display through March 30 at Portugal's Seixal Centro Internacional de Medalha Contemporânea. Thank you - here's the announcement. -Editor

  Deguchi_01tn Deguchi_02tn

October 21, 2023 to March 30, 2024

  Organized by Mashiko and José Simão
Supported by the Portuguese Cultural Center - Camões, I.P. • Portuguese Embassy in Tokyo •
Toshiaki Yamada • João Duarte • Maria J. Ferreira • Vitor Santos

At long last, the contemporary medallic art exhibit PROGRESSION will open October 21st at Seixal, Portugal's Seixal Centro Internacional de Medalha Contemporânea. This is the third, and final, country for the internationally traveling exhibit; a partnership between Japanese and Portuguese medalists, organized by the Medialia Gallery Director Mashiko (USA/Japan) and artist José Simão (Portugal).

PROGRESSION first exhibited in 2019 at New York City's Medialia...Rack and Hamper Gallery. The pandemic postponed the travel of Progression to Kyoto, Japan, where it opened February-March 2023 at Galarie h20.

Originally, nine Portuguese artists of ANVERSO/REVERSO, nineteen Japanese artists and one New Zealand guest artist in the Japanese group comprised the exhibit. In this Seixal installation, the Japanese portion of the exhibit was edited due to shipping restrictions between Kyoto to Seixal. The entire exhibit can be viewed at:

  PROGRESSION medal exhibit

1 450 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP PORTUGAL & JAPAN by Helder Batista (1932-2015)
2 THE LADY FROM KYOTO by José João Brito
4 LA CAMBRE II by Naoko Ito
5 FUTURE ENERGY by Kimiharu Kitamura
6 SWIMMING SNAKE by Mitsuji Matsuda
7 JAPAN MEMENTO • DARUMA by Michael Reed
10 SEI TO DO by Tomohiko Yamada

Check out the web page - lots of interesting works. -Editor


Here's the second and final part of John Regitko's story of his adventure curating a paper money exhibit for the annual Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Previously published in Canadian Coin News, it is republished here with permission. -Editor


  Photo for CNE Counterfeit display Part 1

In Part One, I revealed the true story of my brush with the RCMP, Metro Toronto Police and the Ontario Attorney General's Department involving my display of how the 1954 Series of $1 Canadian banknotes were printed.

Following is the conclusion.

A few weeks after the two Metro Toronto Police officers visited me at the coin show at the Westbury Hotel, I received a call from one of the detectives. He wanted to borrow my display to show to some new recruits to the fraud squad dealing with counterfeiting, because it explains well how paper money is printed. I thought what a turnabout of events.

I hand-delivered it the following day.

Two months later I called him back and asked him what happened to my display. He said they had used it for training new recruits. I asked if I could now have it back since I was going to a paper money show at the Chateau de Ramsey Museum in Montreal and would like to take it with me. He told me to come and get it.

I picked it up the next day before he changed his mind.

I asked him if I ran into some difficulties in Montreal, could I refer them to him. He said: No problem!

When I got to Montreal, I checked into a hotel across the street from the Museum. I didn't know anything about the hotel, but I saw all these girls lined up at the bar looking at me like they were expecting me...or someone. When I checked in at the desk, I expected to be asked if I wanted the room by the day or by the hour.

After settling into my room, I picked up the phone that didn't have a dialer on it and heard a voice say: Front desk. I asked him to connect me to the number I gave him. After an obviously longer than normal pause, he said one moment please and connected me.

The telephone number of the Montreal police is one of those numbers that I'm sure everyone in Montreal recognizes (280-0800). I explained to the duty officer at police headquarters what I was doing in Montreal and suggested that if they should receive a complaint about my educational exhibit at the prestigious Chateau de Ramsey Museum they could call the various people in Toronto rather than wasting someone's time by having them come to arrest me.

When I went back down past the lobby to go to a nearby restaurant, all the girls in the bar turned away from the door like I was a plague...or a policeman.

I set up the display at the Chateau de Ramsey Museum the following morning. Bill McDonald set up a fantastic display of some of his rare Canadian Banknotes. Jack Veffer laid out his rare Dutch currency collection. Wilf Sandall, Walter Allan and Myer Price brought along some of their greatest rarities. Then there was my display of funny money that I printed myself.

  Photo for CNE Counterfeiting display Part 2

Nothing happened with my display, probably because the CPMS gathering was a private affair.

A few months later, I received another call from the Toronto police and they again borrowed the display.

Two months later I called them to ask where my display was, was told the officer I had been dealing with was no longer there, but the display was in a cabinet. I could pick it up anytime, which I did.

So why did I get away with it when I knew that I might be treading on dangerous ground?

Because of how I put the display together.

I had pointed out to the RCMP officer, police and attorney that daily newspapers and catalogues routinely print paper money and they are never charged (I did not point out that it was in black and white, while my display was in colour.)

But the main reason I got away with it was due to the fact that I did not print multi-coloured notes per se.

I printed the whole face of the note in black, green and red on separate sheets and then painstakingly cut out the various colours and glued the cutouts together so that it appeared to be printed in colour on the same sheet. It was difficult to see the overlay of the green background, black signature and red serial numbers, even when viewing it from just a couple of feet away.

So why did I go through all that trouble? As I already said, I wanted a display that was really different. Maybe I didn't have anything better to do. Maybe I needed to get more excitement into my life.

Would I do it all over again? I don't know if I have mellowed over the years or have become more aggressive, but given all the same circumstances, I'm sure I would do it again.

Because, I must confess, I had fun doing it.

What do I have to show for it? The exhibit did not place in the top three at the Westbury Hotel. I lost all points for rarity because, I was told by one of the judges, I printed my own notes.

But I got the opportunity to tell you about it.

I never did find out the name of the Toronto Star reporter. I was sure I was going to read in Monday's Toronto Star a bold headline reading, like the heading of this column suggests, ILLEGAL COUNTERFEIT DISPLAY AT SHOW LEADS TO ARREST.

I still have the display...except that it is perfectly legal now. And, surprisingly, the UHU glue is still holding the overlays together.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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Dick Hanscom passed along this well-illustrated Daily Mail article about a West Virginia man who discovered a 1770 log fort hidden in the walls of his home. Coins and many artifacts were discovered as well. Here's an excerpt - see the complete article and video online. -Editor

  Byrnside Fort

A small town lawyer from West Virginia was in for an extraordinary surprise when he discovered a 253-year-old pre-Revolutionary War fort hidden inside the walls of his Monroe County plantation home.

John Bryan, 43, a self-described history buff and amateur archeologist, purchased the property in 2019 with a hunch that the large white clapboard farmhouse was built around an old log fort known as Byrnside's Fort.

'We had to buy the property first before being able to take a crowbar to it to see if the logs were inside the walls.'

It was originally built in 1770 by an early settler of Virginia named James Byrnside after his cabin was burned to the ground by Shawnee Indians on the same site in 1763.

The fort — which never came under attack during the Revolutionary War — has been occupied ever since by three families until 2019, when the last descendant passed away.

  unidentified woman near house in old photo

It is believed to be the only one left of its kind along the original Virginia frontier. 'Most, if not all, are nothing but stains in the ground (if archaeologists can even find them),' Bryan says.

'This one, you can see and touch all the original architectural features that nobody living has ever seen.'

After purchasing the home, Bryan began the painstaking process of removing the 1850s plaster to reveal the solid hand-hewn white oak logs of the fort.

1725 cut Spanish silver coin In the process, he unearthed a priceless trove of artifacts belonging to the previous owners from a Civil War-era mourning dress, to 18th century Spanish silver coins, brass buttons from colonial coats, inscribed books from a Revolutionary War soldier garrisoned at the fort, World War I mementos, and hundreds of family photos and daguerreotypes.

  coins found around Union. WV

'We closed on the place and literally five minutes later I drove out there, got a crowbar and went upstairs to one of the bedrooms. Knocked my first hole in the plaster in the wall and uncovered the original logs.'

Thus Bryan began the four-year renovation that saw him remove all the heavy plaster that was installed when the fort turned into a large plantation home during the Civil War.

'It was much it was a much bigger job than I even anticipated,' said Bryan. 'A whole lot of manual labor just getting the stuff down off the ceilings and walls. It was a really big deal.'

Working on the weekends, Bryan slowly began to uncover the original log structure, and in the process he unearthed a trove of antique treasures from the former owners.

The fort was originally built in 1770 as a communal safehouse for six local families to hideout from invading Natives.

They devised a system to have a fort about every nine miles while simultaneously scouting the mountain passes and rivers, Bryan explained. In the event of an impending attack, locals would have enough time to get to their nearest fort.

'It's just really neat because when you stand in the yard, you know people were living there when we were still a colony of England.

'The Declaration of Independence hadn't even been thought of at that point.'

The fort's namesake, James Byrnside, fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant, against a coalition of Native American tribes. It was the last battle fought as a British Colony, paving the way for locals to fight in the Revolutionary War that began in 1775.

After one particular surprise attack in 1763 which saw two Greenbriar families brutally slaughtered when they invited local tribesmen for dinner; West Virginia settlers vowed to do things differently when they rebuilt.

To read the complete article, see:
Man discovers a 253-year-old pre-Revolutionary War fort hidden inside the walls of his West Virginia home and a trove of historical treasures including a sword, blacksmith keys, silver coins, a Civil War-era mourning dress and hundreds of family photos (


Here are some additional items in the media this week that may be of interest. -Editor

Billions of Useless Deutsche Marks

Howard Berlin passed along this article about long-expired currency in Germany. Danke. -Editor

  deutsche marks

Germans will start 2024 with a few extra billion stuffed between sofa cushions. No, not euros, but old deutsche marks.

People in Germany are famous for their attachment to cash, but more than two decades after the introduction of the euro, millions of deutsche mark (DM) coins and colorful bills are in sock drawers or have been lost down sewer drains.

While some of this old money lies with nostalgic Germans or collectors, another chunk can be chalked up as souvenirs taken home by tourists over the years. Experts say countries that once used it as a reserve currency may still hold some. No one really knows for sure. Though these marks can no longer be used, they can be traded for euros.

The fact that marks ceased to be legal tender in early 2002 seems to make little difference. Of the 162.3 billion marks in circulation at the time, around 7.5% of the hard currency is unaccounted for. Over half of the coins by value have not come home in the last two decades.

To read the complete article, see:
Why are Germans hoarding billions of useless deutsche marks? (

Oregon Teacher Gets NTSB Coin

In the but-I-was-nearly-killed-by-a-falling-airplane-part department, here's how an Oregon teacher got a coin from the National Transportation Safety Board -Editor

Mr. Sauer quickly caught sight of a white metal object leaning against the branch of a cedar tree. My heart started beating a little faster, he said in an interview on Monday, and I thought there's no way.

But it was true: Mr. Sauer, a physics teacher at the Catlin Gabel School, a nearby private school, had found the mid-cabin door plug, which had been torn from the plane mid-flight on Friday, in his yard.

He called the National Transportation Safety Board, which arrived at his house on Monday morning, interviewed him for about 30 minutes and then hauled away the critical piece of evidence from his yard, he said. The board, he said, gave him a medallion emblazoned with an eagle to thank him for his efforts.

To read the complete article, see:
Science Teacher Finds Missing Piece of Boeing Jet's Fuselage in His Yard (

London's Jet-Setting Smugglers

In the vacuum-packed-bundles-of-cash department, a London court sentenced couriers in a smuggling network that moved over £100 million in cash. -Editor

Vacuum-packed bundles of cash They looked like ordinary tourists with very big bags. But like a network of ants, they carried off tens of millions of dollars in cash from London to Dubai.

British crime fighters cracked a money-laundering network that they say moved more than £100 million, equivalent to $125 million. A London court found two men guilty of illegal smuggling on Thursday, taking convictions in the network of cash couriers to 16, according to the National Crime Agency.

The NCA probe found the crime ring's members counted and vacuum-packed money received from other criminal gangs in London apartments, and then locked it into suitcases to be picked up by couriers. Once on the ground in Dubai, the couriers were sent an image of a letter to show customs officials for customs declarations, and given codes to open the suitcase locks.

Then the couriers would check into five-star hotels for a few days, the NCA investigators said.

To read the complete article, see:
What's in Those Huge Suitcases? $125 Million in Cash (


Kanei Tsuho cash coin vending machine Gerry Tebben writes:

"Japanese vending machines are famous for selling everything from ramen to hugely popular tiny toys. SoraNews24 reports one machine is selling 150+ year-old holed cash coins. The price is 200 yen, 195 more yen than what a coin dealer offered the reporter for his coin. "

Japan's capsule toy machines offer all sorts of different items, but the basic transaction is pretty much the same for all of them: you feed the machine some pocket change, and it spits out a prize.

On a recent walk in downtown Tokyo, though, we found a capsule toy machine in which you don't exchange coins for toys or trinkets, but instead exchange your coins for other coins.

  Kanei Tsuho cash coin certificate

We found this unusual machine in the Okachimachi neighborhood, which has a large number of shops that specialize in second-hand watches, jewelry, and precious stones and metals. Specifically, we found it outside the store Shizendo, and the placard declared that it dispenses genuine Kanei Tsuho, a type of coin used during the Edo period of Japanese history, when the country was still ruled by the shogun and samurai class. The machine even promised that each coin comes with a certificate of appraisal, verifying that the coin was minted sometime between the years 1626 and 1869, the span in which Kanei Tsuho were produced.

Kanei Tsuho cash coin capsule The capsule machine's asking price is a mere 200 yen (US$1.40), which seems like a bargain for an authentic antique, so we tossed in two of our modern-day 100-yen coins, turned the handle, and out popped a capsule with a Kanei Tsuho inside!

A cord is threaded through the hole in the center of the Kanei Tsuho, so that you can use it as an accessory strap.

    White spacer bar
  Kanei Tsuho cash coin obverse Kanei Tsuho cash coin reverse
Rare Coin vending machine

Thanks. We've heard of coin vending machines in the past - Hubert Walker reported encountering this one in 2013 at a gas station in Clinton, TN. Kind of a "rare coin gumball machine," for those old enough to remember those. It's a fine idea - any opportunity to introduce people to old coins is an opportunity to make a new collector.

Hubert reports spotting another machine at a gas station in Emporia, VA, and below is a 2015 link to a Coin Community discussion of another. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Tokyo capsule toy machine gives you real samurai-era antique coins, but are they worth anything? (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: NOVEMBER 3, 2013 : Rare Coin Vending Machine (

See also:
Most Amazing Thing Ever: Rare Coin Vending Machine (

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