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    Sep 27 2020

    A Debate Over Star Points

    Barber silver coins (1892-1916) have six-pointed stars on the obverse, and five-pointed stars on the reverse. Why? Five-pointed stars grace the U.S. flag, and the Great Seal of the United States follows suit. A recent bit of U.S. Mint correspondence, scanned and transcribed by Newman Portal, sheds light on the situation in 1891, with the forthcoming advent of Barber coinage. Heretofore, the six-pointed star was featured on the obverse of the Liberty Seated coinage since 1838 (the 1837 Liberty Seated dime was the no stars variety), while Draped Bust coinage featured six-pointed stars on both obverse and reverse. Mint Director Leech wrote to Philadelphia Mint Superintendent in October 1891 “I agree with the engraver that the six pointed star looks richer, and you are authorized to use it on the obverse” while “the five pointed stars will be used on the reverse,” with no additional explanation. All the known pattern pieces exhibit this scheme. So, the obverse use of six-pointed stars seems to have been simply the preference of the engraver, which withstood bureaucratic inquiry, while the reverse stars remain a mystery.

    Link to 1891 Leech correspondence:
    Link to U.S. Mint general correspondence entry on Newman Portal:
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    Sep 18 2020

    Works of James Ross Snowden

    James Ross Snowden, U.S. Mint Director from 1853 to 1861, oversaw the large growth of silver coinage following the Coinage Act of 1853, the opening of the San Francisco Mint in 1855, and the 1860 creation of the Washington collection in the Mint Cabinet. The Newman Portal “Books by Author” view (accessible under “Library” from the home page) provides an “at a glance” overview of Snowden’s biography (contributed by Pete Smith) and written works. The evolution is easy to see – Snowden, beginning in 1857, sought to document the operations of the Mint and the holdings of the Mint Cabinet. Clearly, he intended to leave the office more organized than he found it. The pamphlets published from 1857-1859 (digital copies recently provided courtesy of Craig Sholley) documented internal Mint business, along with the related legislation from the U.S. code. The works published in 1860-1861, much more known to numismatists today, were the first comprehensive views of the Mint Cabinet (today the National Numismatic Collection). The file concludes with a little-known work from 1864, published after Snowden left office, The Coins of the Bible, and its Money Terms. Although not stated, Snowden likely drew upon the Mint Cabinet as a resource for this final work.

    Link to Snowden “Books by Author” page on Newman Portal:

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    Sep 12 2020

    Newman Numismatic Portal Symposium Videos

    Videos of the 2020 Newman Numismatic Portal Symposium presentations are now available at This event was held via Zoom, August 28-30, and includes forty-one sessions.
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    Sep 08 2020

    MacNeil’s Notes on Newman Portal

    The Standing Liberty Quarter Collectors Society (SLQCS), active from 1990-1994, published MacNeil’s Notes, which covered a host of issues related to the Standing Liberty quarter dollar series (1916-1930). These journals, courtesy of SLQCS President Joe Abbin, are now available on Newman Portal. All aspects of the coin are covered, including population studies, strike characteristics, Herman MacNeil biography, and of course the infamous Type II design introduced in 1917, which is extensively discussed in the Summer 1993 issue. 

    Attributed by Walter Breen and others to Puritan sensibilities, the more modest appearance of Liberty beginning in 1917 was in fact driven by less lurid concerns. Roger Burdette, in Renaissance of the American Coinage, came to the same conclusion. As Kellen Hoard noted in his recent NNP Symposium presentation, even false stories have power, and Breen’s is so natural and believable that it is difficult to drive the factual version into the public consciousness. NNP acknowledges Joe Abbin for his assistance with this title.

    Link to MacNeil’s Notes on Newman Portal:
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    Sep 06 2020

    American Numismatic Society Chapman Correspondence Digitized

    After a hiatus of several months, due to the epidemic, scanning of the Chapman correspondence at ANS has resumed on a full-time basis. Sponsored by Newman Numismatic Portal, scanner Lara Jacobs is now up to the letter “V,” representing approximately 2,000 correspondents to date. Samuel H. and Henry Chapman, brothers, operated as numismatic dealers in Philadelphia, c. 1880-1935. Among the recently scanned material is the P. O. Tremblay file. Tremblay was the curator of the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Montreal as well as an early ANA member. The Chapman / Tremblay correspondence primarily concerns Tremblay’s bidding activity in Chapman sales.

    Link to Chapman/Tremblay file:
    Link to Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal (series 1-3) on Newman Portal:
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    Aug 17 2020

    In God We Trust on U.S. Paper Money

    The demise of bank-operated money museums in the United States (Chase Manhattan, Detroit National, etc.) is a well known phenomenon. This week we present a brochure from the Chase Manhattan Bank Museum of Moneys of the World, which explains how the phrase “In God We Trust” came to appear on U.S. paper money. Remarkably, while the motto was added to coins in 1865, nearly a century elapsed before it was added to paper money. The Chase Manhattan Bank, c. 1960, exhibited the famous 1861 letter from Rev. Mark Watkinson to Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase urging the U.S. Mint to add “In God We Trust” to the nation’s coinage. Matt Rothert, ANA dignitary, who spearheaded the effort to add “In God We Trust” to paper money, signed this particular example, which originates from the Newman collection. Thanks to Bill Bierly for relating the background of this brochure.

    Link to “In God We Trust on U.S. Paper Money” brochure on Newman Portal:

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    Aug 07 2020

    An 1890 Pencil Rubbing Sent to the Mint

    Continued transcription of the National Archives content reveals additional tidbits, in this case an 1890 letter from A. B. Turner to the U.S. Mint. Turner asks about an 1799 U.S. ten-dollar gold piece, and encloses a pencil rubbing. The piece is described as “silver,” with the weight of a ten-dollar gold coin. If truly silver in appearance, the piece might been a counterfeit with the outer coating worn off. The Mint appears to have responded that the piece had no premium value beyond the gold content, valued at $10.60 (the Coinage Act of 1834 effectively decreased the weight of the ten-dollar piece from 17.5 to 16.718 grams). This was spot on – a 1799 eagle sold for $10.60 in the R. Coulton Davis sale (January 1890), conducted by New York Stamp and Coin. 

    Link to National Archives & Records Administration material on Newman Portal:
    Link to transcribed letter from A. B. Turner:
    Link to R. Coulton Davis sale on Newman Portal:
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    Aug 06 2020

    Newman Portal Adds Baldwin’s of St. James’s Sale Catalogs

    Newman Portal has recently added auction sale catalogs from Baldwin’s of St. James’s (2017-date), in addition to those of their predecessor, St. James’s (2004-2016). Baldwin’s of St. James’s handles numismatic material from all periods, including ancient, medieval, and modern numismatics. American material occasionally shows up in European sales, and a sampling of these catalogs reveals a number of related lots. NNP acknowledges Eric Hodge and also Neil Paisley, Managing Director of A. H. Baldwin & Sons, Ltd., for their assistance with this content.

    Link to Baldwin’s of St. James’s catalogs on Newman Portal:
    Link to Baldwin’s of St. James’s home page:
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    Jul 29 2020

    The Hawaiian Coinage That Wasn’t

    While the National Archives remain closed for onsite visits, Newman Portal continues its development of this content with transcription activities. Currently, selected letters from the general correspondence series (Record Group 104, Entry 1) are being transcribed and made available via Newman Portal. An 1890 letter from Mint Director Edward O. Leech to Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Oliver C. Bosbyshell, for example, asks if the hubs for the 1883 Hawaiian coinage are on hand, and further asks for a cost estimate to strike a number of 10-cent and 5-cent pieces. The U.S. government had struck 1883-dated Hawaiian coinage at the San Francisco Mint in 1883 and 1884. No response to Leech is recorded, but an article in the February 1960 Numismatist notes that the Hawaiian obverse dies, then in the Archives of Hawaii, were defaced in 1888. This explains why Leech asked about the hubs and not the dies– whoever initially inquired on behalf of Hawaii likely knew the dies were defaced. In any case, no response to Leech is recorded, and no additional Hawaii coinage beyond the 1883-1884 strikings is known today. Newman Portal acknowledges Roger Burdette and Nicole Fry for assistance with transcriptions of National Archives documents.

    Link to National Archives Record Group 104, Entry 1 (U.S. Mint general correspondence) on Newman Portal:
    Link to the Numismatist on Newman Portal:
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    Jul 20 2020

    Getting to Know Eric P. Newman, Part 3: A Vermont Numismatic Enigma

    Lianna Spurrier continues her video series on numismatic publications of Eric P. Newman, with the latest installment focusing on his 1958 publication “A Recently Discovered Coin Solves a Vermont Numismatic Enigma.” In this article, Newman sought to explain why Vermont coppers minted during the Confederation period bore British insignia. With an assist from Walter Breen, Newman uncovered a punch interlock between certain 1786 Vermont coppers and Machin’s Mills counterfeit halfpence of the same period, demonstrating that the British Union was intentionally reused on the Vermont reverse die, most likely as a cost saving measure. Today, about a dozen examples of the “Vermont Enigma” die pairing are known, with the finest piece selling in the Newman IV sale in 2014.

    Link to A Vermont Numismatic Enigma on Newman Portal:
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