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Dec 02 2023

Fall 2023 NNP Symposium Video Posted

Video from the NNP Symposium, held November 2-4, 2023, is now posted. Our feature presentation, Treasures of the ANA Museum, began with the debut of an NNP-produced video on the subject, followed by American Numismatic Association Museum Curator Doug Mudd answering viewer questions on various aspects of the collection. In other presentations, Bill Eckberg presented new photographs of the enigmatic 1792 Judd-6 Birch cent, a coin last seen at the 1981 Garrett sale. Patrick McMahon spoke on Anna Powell Jones and Rebecca Salisbury, two early U.S. numismatists, while Bob Bair provided an overview of the famed “Una and the Lion” coinage. Other sessions focused on various aspects of U.S. and world coins and paper money. 

The NNP Symposium, sponsored by the Newman Numismatic Portal, was launched in the fall of 2020 in response to the pandemic. This free event is Zoom-based and draws presenters from all areas of numismatics. The recent event represented the seventh Symposium. As always, many thanks to our speakers, and for those who are interested in presenting at a future event, please contact NNPCurator@wustl.edu.

Link to NNP Symposium video: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/multimediadetail/539070
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Feb 22 2024

The Essex Institute in Numismatics

The Essex Institute, located in Salem Massachusetts from 1848 to 1992, was, per Wikipedia, “a literary, historical and scientific society. It maintained a museum, library, historic houses; arranged educational programs; and issued numerous scholarly publications. In 1992 the institute merged with the Peabody Museum of Salem to form the Peabody Essex Museum.”

Recently scanned at the American Numismatic Society is the correspondence file between ANS Curator Howland Wood and the Essex Institute. The correspondence speaks to the eternal dilemma of institutional collections: access vs. security. On October 12, 1925, Henry W. Belknap, Essex Institute Secretary, wrote to Howland Wood “As a matter of fact our collection might as well be buried as far as any practical value is concerned. No one knows a bit about it here; it is too valuable to display it in any place we have; we cannot afford to provide a special custodian and it is secreted in our fire-proof stack and never shown at all. Very few know of it and hardly anyone even asks to see it. If they did it would mean that someone would have to neglect other work and stand guard as long as the visitor stayed and I am always embarrassed when once in a while someone does ask to see it. If we ever are able to rebuild we should provide a proper room for it, but that seems a far cry.”

In the mid-1970s, Essex determined to deaccession its coin collection. Harvey Stack, in Harvey Stack Remembers, Part 66, wrote of the Essex sale “The year [1975] started with over 1,200 coins from the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, which had been chartered in 1821 to preserve and store valuable documents and colonial items from Essex County in that state. Because of limited space at the Institute, all the coins that had been contributed could not be adequately displayed. The Essex Institute decided to keep representative coinage of the early days of the country and sell the balance to raise funds for the expansion of its archives.” The sale included a New England shilling, an AU Chain cent, a 1792 half disme, a 1796 quarter, and runs of later 19th century proof coinage (not including gold), with 1,282 lots total. The NE shilling took top honors at $12,500. This piece more recently appeared in the Heritage August 2022 sale of the Chris Salmon collection, lot 3240, where it realized $69,000.

The Essex followed up in 1981 with a consignment to Geroge F. Kolbe’s sale no. 9 (there represented as “a prominent historical institution”). This June sale represented an inflection point in the numismatic literature market. Jack Collins reported in the Summer 1981 Asylum “While the first session may have seemed subdued, by comparison the final session on Saturday afternoon was full of fireworks. All of the competitors that I feared were there in full force: Harry Bass, Armand Champa, John Adams, Del Bland, and a number of other faces that were both known and unfamiliar. Everyone knew that this was going to be a bloodbath….. From any standpoint, the sale was a phenomenal success, having grossed $271,765, which is the highest total ever recorded for a numismatic book auction.” Along with the formation of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society in 1979 and the publication of Adams’ United States Numismatic Literature in 1982, the recognition of numismatic literature achieved significant advances in the early 1980s.

The Essex continues to bear numismatic fruit, with the recent discovery of the Matthew Stickney (1805-1894) correspondence in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Stickney famously traded, in 1843, an Immune Columbia gold piece to the Mint Cabinet in exchange for an 1804 dollar. Stickney’s collection was ultimately sold in a now famous “name” sale by Henry Chapman in 1907. David Stone, Roger Burdette, and others have worked with this important archive of Stickney material.

Link to Howland Wood / Essex Institute correspondence: https://archive.org/details/essexinstitute1900amer_0
Link to “Harvey G. Stack Remembers” (part 66): https://stacksbowers.com/Harvey-Stack-Remembers-Part-66
Link to Stack’s sale of the Essex Collection: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/auctionlots?AucCoId=3&AuctionId=516503
Link to George F. Kolbe’s sale of the Essex Collection: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/auctionlots?AucCoId=513111&AuctionId=528717
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Feb 13 2024

Newman Portal Solves the Case of the Missing Gold Article

In the October 21, 2012 E-Sylum, Alaska dealer Dick Hanscom described a search for a long lost numismatic article that remained stubbornly lodged in his memory: “I remember an article in Coin World or Numismatic News Weekly about a pressed disk made from placer gold. This would be in the years ownership of bullion was prohibited. Ownership of placer gold was legal, so this was a way to ‘fabricate’ it into a more convenient form rather than gold dust. I have looked through Coin World from 1970 to 1975 (the years that I believe it would have been) but have not had the opportunity to look through Numismatic News Weekly.”

Dick recently updated the Newman Portal collection of The Alaskan Token Collector and Polar Numismatist, contributing the years 2009-2023 to our online listing. An important file in this group is the 45-year index, covering the entire run of this publication since inception (1979). Dick mentioned to us his search for the article on gold placer disks, and we could not resist spending some time on the problem. Various search terms eventually pulled the needle out of the haystack, and we can now identify the article as “Placer Gold ‘Disks’ OKd by Treasury,” from the August 28, 1973 issue of Numismatic News Weekly.

The article summarizes a decision by the U.S. Treasury Department to permit the sale of coin-like objects formed by placer gold, as long as the placer gold was not “melted or treated” and the objects were not marketed as coins or medals. Hence, the word “disks” was used. Numismatic News Weekly noted “The ruling followed an inquiry from Independence (Mo.) Coin and Mint, Co., which sought to market a ‘bonded ounce gold’ of ‘pure natural placer gold about .840 fine, formed by pressure into a 28 mm disk, 5 mm thick.’"

Link to October 21, 2012 E-Sylum article on placer gold disks: https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v15n44a15.html
Link to The Alaskan Token Collector & Polar Numismatist on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/523362
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