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The E-Sylum (1/22/2017)

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Time to catch up - here's a couple weeks of notes on my numismatic activities.

Nummis Nova
The January meeting of my Northern Virginia numismatic social group Nummis Nova took place on Tuesday January 10, 2017 at Mon Ami Gabi, a French restaurant at Reston Town Center. It was a cold night, with an ice storm in the forecast. But inside it was a warm evening with friends.

Wayne Herndon was our host. I got there a bit late and nearly everyone was seated. I sat at the far end of our long table across from Roger Burdette. Others present included co-host Ron Abler, Eric Schena, Joe Esposito, Gene Brandenburg, Steve Bishop, Dave Schenkman, Jon Radel, Mike Packard, and Chris Neuzil.

The last to arrive was Julian Leidman, who has a longer commute from Maryland. He took at seat across from me, next to Roger. Both had recently been in the news (see the earlier E-Sylum articles for more information).

As Julian got settled Roger and I were discussing his discovery of the only known intact experimental all-glass cent, produced for the U.S. Mint in 1942. Roger had taken a chance buying the piece from an antique dealer auction, suspecting that it might be misdescribed. Patterns made of other materials (including plastic and rubber) are scarce and expensive, but the glass examples are much more rare.

Roger's hunch paid off. He submitted the piece for authentication and later consigned it to the recent Heritage auction where it sold for $70,500. It was Roger's work in the National Archives that provided his evidence for the existence and authentication of the piece (sizes and weights were documented in a report to the Mint).

Julian would rather talk about anything but himself, but I congratulated him for ‏his recent successful treasure hunt promotion, where his clues on Facebook led 8-year-old twin boy collectors to a hidden 1916 McKinley Gold Dollar.

We Three Asses

Durkee rev Durkee obv
Durkee token
Lots of great numismatic items were passed around the table. Particularly interesting were these tokens belonging to Dave Schenkman. I visited his end of the table to get the full story.

For those who can count, you might be wondering why there are only three asses pictured while the legend says "We Three Asses". Where's the third ass? Uh, that's you, dear viewer.

Dave writes:

These tokens were the topic of my December column in The Numismatist. The Durkee & Co. Omnibus Line piece has long been considered one of the classic New Your City transportation tokens, circa 1840s. I was unable to locate a single reference to Durkee in any reference, so decided to look elsewhere. As it turned out, he was in business in Philadelphia during the late 1830s. In the September 11, 1837  Public Ledger, a Philadelphia newspaper, I found a wonderful reference to the token, describing it perfectly. So, it not only has a new attribution but is also a new addition to the Hard Times token series. The other two tokens were struck circa 1890 or slightly earlier. Both are quite rare.

Durkee Omnibus token article

Feely rev Feely obv
Feely token

Sinkler & Davey rev Sinkler & Davey obv
Sinkler & Davey token

Thanks, Dave! No promises, but I may publish part of Dave's article on the pieces in a future issue. Meanwhile, check out the December 2016 Numismatist, p79.

Bishop's Beauties
My neighbor at the dinner was Steve Bishop, who also had some interesting items to pass around. Here are his notes and images. Thanks!

Uniface Lindbergh Medal 1) I am looking for more info on the Lindbergh piece. It is uniface and appears to be a test striking. The back is faintly marked "LHC / .999 FINE SILVER",indicating that it was intended as a silver issue. I have not seen any issued medals with this particular design, although there are a few that feature this portrait. I would be interested in knowing if this was issued as a medal or never got past the trial stage.

1797 GB 2P NGC MS62BN (mislabled as 1P)

2) The 1797 2P is mis-slabbed as a 1P.

Slabbing errors happen all the time, and the group had a number of discussions about this. Some people even collect the errors, which could make for an interesting collection even if it's an embarrassment for the slabbing firms. This one's a whopper - the two coins are very different sizes.

J E Skalbe Counterstamp

3) I thought the J.E. Skalbe counterstamp was an old piece, but it turns out that J.E.Skalbe is alive and kicking and has been counterstamping old cull coins, such as this British 1/2 P, and giving them out as business cards.

I had the salmon dinner, and it was marvelous. I'm sure the side dishes were loaded down with butter, like an upscale McDonald's. But it sounds healthier to say, "I had the salmon."

The configuration of our long table haunted me again. I never did get a chance to talk with some of the folks in the middle like Chris Neuzil. Perhaps another time. The ice storm held off and I had an uneventful drive home.

Welcome to New York City
Thursday morning it was time for another drive. My wife Dee and our oldest son Christopher piled into my car around 9am and headed north. They indulged my for a few minutes while I cued up a Ray Charles CD and "Hit The Road, Jack" blared from my speakers. We were heading north, to New York City.

Our destination was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Dee and I would be attending the American Numismatic Society Gala later that evening. Chris had never been to NYC before. Later I asked him what he thought of it, and he said, "busy". Quite true - as the Sinatra song goes, it's the City That Never Sleeps. From the minute we came out of the Lincoln Tunnel we saw nothing but busy people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and incomes scurrying about, from the bums wielding dirty squeegees behind us, to the bicycle delivery people beside us, and to the local residents carrying their dogs in belly pouches in front.

We crawled through midtown traffic, squeezing past double-parked delivery vans and trying to ignore the blaring horns behind us that sounded within nanoseconds of the light changing seven cars in front of us. Ultimately we arrived at the restful oasis of the Waldorf, that stately old dame about to undergo three years of renovations.

At check-in E-Sylum contributor John Lupia appeared behind us and we talked a while before heading up to our room. They gave us a free upgrade, and we wouldn't need the air mattress we'd brought for Chris.

I had some business to attend to and we began walking together uptown to the hotel where Len Augsbuger and his wife Deb were staying, the Sherry-Netherland on Central Park South at Fifth and 59th. While Dee went off to find Chris something to eat, I went upstairs to meet Len. They'd been given an upgrade as well, and it was jaw-dropping in comparison to ours. It was a full suite on the 15th floor, complete with a large sitting room, small dining room table, and a full working kitchen. The views were to die for - one straight down 59th Street, and the other a full direct view of the Plaza Hotel.

Len and I had a long meeting in the sitting room, discussing Newman Numismatic Portal status and strategizing future plans. I texted my wife and they swung back the the Sherry-Netherland to get a tour of the suite from Deb. Sorry Chris - don't get used to this. We said our goodbyes and planned to meet up again at the Gala.

The ANS Gala Reception
About 6:30 Dee and I went down to the elegant Waldorf-Astoria lobby to enter the Gala reception. As we picked up our namecards we saw Catherine DiTuri of ANS, and a gamut of familiar faces including Susan Trask, Dave Bowers, Len and Deb Augsburger, Joel Orosz, and Dan and Connie Hamelberg.

Inside the reception hall we picked up drinks (if you can call my wife's glass of water a "drink" - I had a scotch). We spoke with Mary Burleson of Whitman about her recent move back to Alabama and Whitman owners the Anderson brothers, who could not attend the Gala.

Gala Honoree Tony Terranova came over and introduced us to Mark Tomasko and Ben Hellings, the new Assistant Curator of Numismatics at Yale University. Both are longtime E-Sylum readers. I'd corresponded with Mark over the years but we'd never met in person. It's always great to finally put faces to names.

Mark was quite helpful, providing Dee with some nearby restaurant recommendations. He was also quick to recommend that as a precaution against disaster The E-Sylum should be physically printed. As much as I love the online world I have to agree, although I'm at a loss for how to make that happen. As of last week's issue we're up to 22,094 articles and who knows how many pages. Wanna buy a copy?

Ben's British accent fooled me; he picked it up at Oxford, but he's actually from Belgium. Here's his amended bio based on the Yale Art Gallery site:

Ben Hellings Benjamin Dieter R. Hellings, the Ben Lee Damsky Assistant Curator of Numismatics at the Yale University Art Gallery, joined the Gallery in late September 2016. He holds an M.Phil. from the University of Oxford, where he successfully defended his doctoral thesis in late November 2016. His research focuses on coin find patterns and the use of Roman coinage in northern Europe from ca. 50 B.C. to A.D. 410. Part of his dissertation research appears in the 2016 Numismatic Chronicle, in an article titled "The Denarii of Septimius Severus and the Mobility of Roman Coin: The Case of Roman Germany." He is especially interested in the pre-Roman world of Temperate Europe, Roman coinage and the economy, and the use of numismatic "big data" for research and teaching.

For more information, see:

Others we ran into briefly included John Kraljevich and Mark Anderson. I thanked Mark for his part in my Burnett Anderson Memorial Award for Numismatic Writing in 2008. Named after his father, the Washington D.C. correspondent for Numismatic News, it's a great honor.

The ANS Gala
As the gongs rang we worked our way across the lobby to the main room and took seats at our table, where we joined David Fanning, former ANS Librarian Frank Campbell, and E-Sylum contributors John Lupia and John Sallay.

2017 ANS Gala - John Lupia and John Sallay
John Lupia and John Sallay

Conversation around the table was marvelous. A problem in the kitchen delayed the serving of dinner. I've been told that led to the consumption of much more alcohol, but I don't remember any of that. I do recall learning that John was five blocks from the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11, and that he keeps bees on his Massachusetts property. He later sent me these images of his honey, his business card logo, and the medal from his collection that provided the source of the beehive image. Very neat!

Sallay honey jars Sallay business card beehive Beehive medal

As for the Gala Festivities themselves, Emcee Dave Bowers described them well in the Stack's Bowers email newsletter this week:

2017 ANS Gala Stacks-Bowers

In the January 20, 2017 Stack's Bowers eNewsletter Dave Bowers writes:

Once a year the American Numismatic Society holds a special event, a Gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, to honor people who have made important contributions to numismatics. This year the honoree was Anthony J. Terranova, plus honors to the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Society and the Newman Numismatic Portal.

"Tony" Terranova started in the rare coin business as a teenager in 1974, which, coincidentally, is the same time that D. Brent Pogue began collecting. Obviously, this was a very special year!

Before long Tony was a "regular" at our auction sales and an almost weekly visitor to our gallery at 123 West 57th Street, not far from his home. As the years slipped by, Tony built many friendships among collectors, dealers, and others and, along the way, handled many great rarities.

He has always shared his deep knowledge, often without any financial reward. If I have a question about the rarity of a certain colonial coin, Betts medal, or other obscure early American item, I often turn to Tony. On behalf of the entire Stack's Bowers Galleries organization I wish him many years of continued success.

On Thursday night, January 12, the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria was filled with 170 guests who came to honor his accomplishments. Dave Bowers was emcee for the evening and Melissa Karstedt was the auctioneer. The presentations and awards, the fine dinner, the tributes expressed by those who came to the podium, the banquet dinner, and the orchestra will be long remembered by those who were there.

It is with a bit of sadness that we all know that the Waldorf is going to close down in April, to be remodeled mainly into condos, but with some guest facilities. For many years it has hosted the ANS Gala. Before then there were other venues. I remember the Explorers Club one year and the Frick Museum the next. Wherever it will be in 2018 will certainly be somewhere special.

In closing I express my appreciation to Dr. Ute Wartenberg-Kagan and the ANS staff for creating such a great event. I am deeply honored to have been a part of it.

2017 ANS Gala - Len Augsburger
Len Augsburger at the podium

Linda Schapiro, Eric Newman’s daughter, spoke about Eric’s involvement in numismatics and accepted the ANS Trustee’s award on behalf of the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society and the Newman Numismatic Portal. This was not Linda’s first appearance at the Gala podium – nearly 40 years ago she accepted the ANS Huntington Award on behalf of her father, who, with his wife Evelyn, was traveling in Antarctica. Also in attendance were two of Linda’s children, Joshua Solomon and Abigail Rose Solomon.

Len Augsburger, Project Coordinator of the Newman Numismatic Portal, made several remarks:

The Newman Numismatic Portal is an online effort sponsored by the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society and administered through Washington University in St. Louis. Eric Newman is a graduate of Washington University and the family has a longstanding relationship with the University, including the recent donation of an early printing of the Declaration of Independence.

I joined the Newman Portal project as project coordinator in 2015, and it was immediately clear that we needed to create a partnership with ANS. Scanning equipment and personnel were embedded in ANS by the end of 2015. To date we have scanned over 3,000 documents in the ANS library, focusing on the early American auction catalog series as documented in the John Adams’ bibliographies.

Sir Isaac Newton famously observed that, if we can see further, it is because we stand on the shoulders of giants. Harry Bass, after whom the ANS library is named, spearheaded the computerization of the ANS library catalog in the 1990s. Today, nearly all research at the ANS begins by consulting the DONUM, MANTIS, or ARCHER databases. The work of the American numismatic bibliographers John Adams, Charles Davis, and Martin Gengerke has similarly informed the growth of the Newman Portal.

Through all of these changes the ANS has maintained a constant commitment to encouraging critical thought through the examination of numismatic objects and their surrounding literature, even as that literature becomes increasingly digital. It is this tradition of scholarship that we are here tonight to celebrate, and the Newman Portal looks forward to a continuing, close collaboration with ANS in pursuit of this goal. Thank you.

Afterwards I introduced myself to Linda Schapiro and we spoke awhile about Eric. I'm sure his ears were burning throughout the evening.

2017 ANS Gala - Melissa Karstedt
Melissa Karstedt at the podium

After the dinner and auction Dee and I spoke for a while with John and Regina Adams and Skyler Liechty and his wife. With hundreds of people in the room it was impossible to see them all, but it was a wonderful night of numismatic fellowship all around.

Ellis Island
In the morning Dee, Chris and had breakfast at the Euro Cafe on Madison Avenue and hopped into a cab for a ride to Battery Park where we caught the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I was the only one who'd been there before. It turned out to be a cool but nice day. I found some semi-numismatic sights at Ellis Island and took some pictures.

Statue of Liberty 2017 January Ellis Island Souvenir Pennies machine

Ellis Island Money Exchange
Vintage photo of a Money Exchange booth

Ellis Island Money Exchange gift sho[
Money Exchange Booth Gift Shop Today

After the ferry ride back to Manhattan we met up with Len and Deb for lunch before walking up to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The footprint waterfalls and reflecting pools are quiet, somber, contemplative spaces. Those of us alive on the day have a lot of reflecting to do.

Alexander Hamilton gravestone The Museum was quite well done and we would recommend it to anyone. We weren't done walking yet - I wanted Dee and Chris to see Wall Street and Len led us there, where we passed Trinity Church on the way. I stopped to point out Alexander Hamilton's grave, telling Dee she could tell her friends she "went to New York to see Hamilton."

Wall Street subway station money mural We soon also passed Federal Hall, site of George Washington's Inauguration, and the New York Stock Exchange. We decided to tale the subway uptown, but had to walk several blocks to avoid an outage. Len led us again. At the station we entered there was a great money-themed mural.

My party got off at Times Square, where it was already dark enough to take in the bright lights engulfing the whole area. After dinner we trudged back to the Waldorf. We'd been on our feet for twelve hours (so how come I'm not skinny already?). But it was a great day of sightseeing.

Rockefeller Center
I'm almost ashamed to say I never actually set foot in the NYINC coin show. But it was Christopher's first time in New York and we wanted to see more sights. Saturday morning we hit Rockefeller Center and signed up for the tour and visit to the observation deck.

Our tour turned out to be a highlight of our trip, and we would recommend it to anyone. Our guide Peter was personable and knowledgeable as he led the three of us and a couple from Essex around the outside of the building to tell us about the center's history and artworks. If I'd told my wife I wanted to take her around to learn about art and history she would have turned up her nose and run the other direction. She expected something much different or she wouldn't have let me buy the tickets. But the tour was a delight and she's been talking about it ever since.

Lee Lawrie
Our guide told us all about the sculptors who created the artworks in, on, and around the center. At one point he discussed Lee Lawrie and said that he'd also created the Roosevelt dime. Huh? I'd never ever heard of Lawrie before that. After the tour I spoke to him and showed him a web page about the dime attributing it to John Sinnock.

Lee Lawrie Rockefeller Center medal He felt certain about the numismatic connection. Back home I poked around the 'net for more information. I found nothing about him working on coins, but I did find this great Art Deco Rockefeller Center medal.

Could it be that this Lawrie Winged Mercury relief at Rockefeller Center invoked thoughts of the Mercury Dime by A. A. Weinman?

Lee Lawrie Rockefeller Center Winged Mercury

Here's one last Lee Lawrie medal I located:

Whatsoever a Man Sowest medal by Lee Lawrie obverse Whatsoever a Man Sowest medal by Lee Lawrie

We shopped some more afterwards, got our luggage and checked out of our room, then went out for lunch before hitting the road. We all ordered tuna melts, and they were very good. Back in the Waldorf lobby I was stopped by E-Sylum reader Jeff Burke of New Jersey. We'd never met in person. I tried taking a picture, but I guess my camera was full - it didn't work. I should have asked Jeff to take a selfie of us.

It was time to load our luggage in the car and head home. I was glad to have been there to see the Newman Numismatic Portal and Tony Terranova win their awards, and my talks with Len were productive. The personal part of the trip was also gratifying; my wife and son had a great time, and so did I.

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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