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The E-Sylum (4/2/2017)

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An article in The Baltimore Sun features young numismatist Garrett Ziss along with fellow numismatists examining the numismatic contents of the Baltimore Washington Monument time capsule. The event took place this week at the Maryland Historical Society. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to see the complete article online and watch the excellent video. -Editor

Washington Monument medals examined When Garrett Ziss, 13, held the 200-year-old half-cent piece, he felt a direct link to the days when Baltimore's Washington Monument rose on what was then the edge of the city.

His imagination came alive: Had President George Washington's contemporaries held the same one? Had any of the holders fought in the War of 1812 in Baltimore's harbor?

Sitting around a table inside the Maryland Historical Society, the young numismatist joined local historians to inspect and record details about two dozen coins and medals discovered two years ago in the monument's two time capsules.

"These coins have been hidden away for 200 years," said Garrett, of West Chester, Pa. "The last people who held these coins were probably people who knew George Washington."

Uncovered during a massive renovation done for the Washington Monument's bicentennial, the coins and medals were stuffed inside a pair of time capsules: the cornerstone buried when construction began in 1815 and a cooper box sealed behind a bronze plaque a hundred years later.

Washington Monument coins examined

Garrett first saw the exhibit when he and his parents visited Baltimore for a coin show in late 2015. During their stay, the family stopped by the historical society to view the original "Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key, and stumbled on the exhibit featuring the contents of the time capsules.

The boy, whose interest in coins was sparked about six years ago during a math lesson about currency, wanted to find out more about them. So he wrote to local historians, including Lance Humphries, director of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy. Humphries assembled the group after Garrett's inquiry.

"We are just thrilled that the restoration really brought attention to this great history we have here," said Humphries, who led the monument's restoration. "Garrett's interest in these coins pushed us to a whole other level of documenting everything we had in these two time capsules."

Washington Monument coins

GArrett Ziss2

Garrett said he was eager to see the reverse sides of the items, not visible when they were on display, to find out how rare they each were.

Last week, he joined a coin photographer, Humphries and Joel Orosz, a Kalamazoo, Mich.-based coin historian, to catalog the coin sets buried in Baltimore in 1815 and 1915.

Orosz called the time capsules' contents "an extraordinary find" that also contain a few mysteries. The historians are going to research why the Baltimoreans who assembled the 1815 time capsule included a medal imprinted with a bust of the British Duke of Wellington as well as one imprinted with a bust of Washington.

They also want to know the extent of the involvement of the prominent Baltimorean Robert Gilmor Jr., considered one of the "founding fathers" of coin collecting, in assembling the earlier time capsule.

The 1815 coins, with a face value of $19.411/2, included all of the denominations minted at the time, including a half-cent, dime and a $5 gold coin, known as a half-eagle. Some could be worth more than a $1,000, but the values have not been determined.

Paul Rubenson, the historical society's exhibit manager, said watching the display spark Garrett's interest and, in turn, produce an academic study brings history to life.

"This is the ultimate outcome: We always hope when people come in the door that what we put out will spur further interest and branch off in different directions," he said. "This is just exponential."

To read the complete article, see:
200-year-old coins spark study by 13 year old, historians (


The U.S. MINT celebrates 225 years of coinage! In A Guide Book of the United States Mint Q. David Bowers takes you on a tour of more than three dozen American mints from pre-federal private issuers to the modern era, including a section on mints that never were. Includes an appendix on U.S. Mint–related medals, ephemera, and other collectibles. Volume 23 in the Bowers Series. 448 pages, full color, for $24.95, online at at , or call 1-800-546-2995.
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