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    Apr 12 2018

    Central Ohio Numismatic Association (CONA) Content on Newman Portal

    The Central Ohio Numismatic Association (CONA) has contributed its newsletters (2011-date) and presentation materials to Newman Portal. Apropos of tax day, Gerald Tebben recently presented at a CONA meeting on “Coins, Tokens, Checks, and 1913,” and this slide deck is now available on Newman Portal. Tebben traces various numismatic objects associated with taxes, from the whimsical (the Russian “beard tax” medal) to the practical (state sales tax tokens valued at 1/10 of a cent) – certainly more interesting than another recitation of the tax regulations for collectible coins!  Newman Portal acknowledges Gerald Tebben for his assistance in providing the CONA material.

    Link to CONA Newsletters on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/525608
    Link to CONA presentations on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/525609
    Link to “Coins, Tokens, Check, and 1913”: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/544304
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    Apr 12 2018

    Newman Portal Search: Harding Inaugural Medal

    This week a Newman Portal user searched on “Harding Inaugural Medal.”  This is one of the rarest pieces in the inaugural series.  Neil MacNeil’s The President’s Medal (1977) records a census of two or possibly three in gold, four in silver, and “possibly less than 60” bronze pieces. Newman Portal uncovers only a small number of auction appearances, including two bronze examples in Stack’s Rich Uhrich sale (2/2008, lots 3626 and 3627, realized $29,900 and $14,950 respectively). The MCA Advisory (July 2007) notes a silver example in the 77th sale of Presidential Coin and Antique that sold for $40,825. Joe Levine illustrated the silver piece on the catalog cover, and regaled readers with the tale of a pair of these rare medals:

    “This is one of only seven known silver Harding medals, two of which reside in institutional collections. It is an old friend! We first saw this medal over thirty years ago when, in response to our Washington Post ad seeking Harding Inaugural medals, we were summoned to the office of a prominent D C. real estate developer. He had told us that he possessed two Harding medals (which we just knew were going to prove to be U.S. Mint medals!) Imagine our surprise when we were shown not just two Harding medals, but two Harding Inaugural medals in silver! The two medals were owned by the family of Samuel J. Prescott, a Washington, D.C. banker and real estate developer who also was the chair of the D.C. Republican Party. Unfortunately, our offer for the pair was refused….”

    Link to MCA Advisory (July 2007) on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/512293?page=11
    Link to Presidential Coin and Antique Sale #77: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/auctionlots?AucCoId=511514&AuctionId=511929&page=110
    Link to Stack’s sale of the Rich Uhrich Collection: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/auctionlots?AucCoId=3&AuctionId=516996&page=361


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    Apr 06 2018

    Colonel Green Estate Records

    In 1939, Eric P. Newman began negotiations with the Chase National Bank in New York to purchase the numismatic collection held by the Col. E. H. R. Green estate. Newman and St. Louis dealer Burdette G. Johnson made piecemeal purchases over time, which Johnson sold on behalf of the partnership. These records indicate sales made by Johnson, with Johnson sharing half of the proceeds with Newman. The file also details a small number of sales made by Newman on behalf of the Newman/Johnson partnership (primarily colonial paper money). Occasional correspondence between Newman and Johnson is contained throughout the file. The records end with the death of Johnson in February 1947.  

    The file contains various tidbits on the purchase (and sale) of the 1913 Liberty nickels. On December 20, 1941, Johnson transmits a check to Newman for $500, representing 50% of their cost for three of the pieces. On December 24, Johnson forwards advice on negotiating for the two remaining pieces. A March 24, 1943 note from Johnson to Newman indicates the sale of one of the pieces at $750. These notes were quickly found - a careful search may reveal more!

    Link to Col. Green estate records on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/archivedetail/525504
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    Apr 06 2018
    Medals

    Newman Portal Search of the Week: "Forrer"

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for “Forrer.”  One of the most commonly consulted sources on the Newman Numismatic Portal is Leonard Forrer’s Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, a massive 8-volume set containing capsule summaries of engravers and coiners. Although all of these volumes have been widely scattered on the Internet for some time, the Newman Portal presentation is complete and straightforward, simply listing the six regular volumes with letters covered by each, plus the two supplements. Forrer was active at Spink in London at the turn of the 20th century and headed its coin department. The Biographical Dictionary surely consumed a great deal of his free time and was published piecemeal from 1904 to 1930.

    Link to Forrer’s Biographical Dictionary of Medallists on NNP: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/books?searchLetter=B

    Image: Forrer’s entry on Christian Gobrecht, from volume 2 (1904).
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    Apr 01 2018

    Search of the Week: 1902 Mint Report

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for the 1902 U.S. Mint Report. The Newman Portal has an extensive set of annual reports of the Director of the Mint, courtesy of several contributors including Dan Hamelberg, Bill Burd, and Paul Hybert. The report for 1902 is one of the more prized in the series, with content not found in other reports. The 1902 publication represented the “coming out” party for the newly erected (third) U.S. Mint facility in Philadelphia on Spring Garden Street (the fourth Mint opened in 1969, the third is today occupied by the Community College of Philadelphia). An appendix contains an extensive description of the new Mint home, along with a series of full page photographs of Mint equipment, which are accompanied by technical drawings of the various apparatus. Earlier in the report is a record of circulation coinage in 1902 – thousands of pieces were sorted by denomination and date and this is documented in multiple tables. This account is the best record of what one found in pocket change at the beginning of the 20th century. Not surprisingly, collectors were already pulling out rare dates, particularly the minor silver coinage of the 1880s.

    Link to U.S. Mint Reports on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/51
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    Apr 01 2018

    Denver Mint Photographs on Newman Numismatic Portal

    One of the lesser explored National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facilities, for numismatic material, is the Denver location. John Graffeo, formerly at the American Numismatic Society, has for several months been scanning numismatic material at the NARA Denver location on behalf of Newman Portal. John recently scanned a group of over 200 photographs taken at the Mint during the 1930s. These depict many aspects of the coining process in addition to exterior shots of the building construction that was underway at the time. As most of these photographs came with no context, Roger Burdette has curated the entire group and contributed useful commentary. In this photo a Denver Mint workman tends to the punching press, and one sees the familiar webbing (also called “scissel”) ejected after the blanks are punched from the strip.

    Link to Denver Mint image collection: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/imagecollection/511632
    Link to NARA (Denver) scanned entries: https://nnp.wustl.edu/Library/Archives?searchLetter=U
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    Mar 31 2018
    Continental Dollars

    Continental Dollars Revisited

    There is perhaps no more famous verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes than verse 9 of its very first chapter: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

    In January 2018, Erik Goldstein and David McCarthy published an article entitled “The Myth of the Continental Dollar” in The Numismatist which contended that the 1776-dated pieces were not American coins at all, but medals struck in England after the war’s end. The theory, buttressed by solid documentary and contextual evidence, has convinced most skeptics, your author included.

    But the papers of Eric P. Newman suggest Goldstein and McCarthy were far from the first to come to this conclusion.

    In the summer of 1949, Newman was getting to know Dayton, Ohio dealer James Kelly through the mail. Their exchange of letters began the previous spring but was renewed in July 1949 when Newman admitted to Kelly "your low priced Colonial material has intrigued me." He asked to inspect two rarities: the Confederatio cent of 1785 and a Continental dollar struck in brass.

    The Confederatio cent was returned to Kelly on July 20, 1949 after Newman discovered he already owned an example of that variety. “As far as the brass Continental dollar is concerned,” Newman wrote that day, “I have very little enthusiasm for it.” He offered two double eagles as trade bait. Though their value fell well short of the Continental dollar’s asking price, Newman figured he had a shot, reiterating that he “like many others at the present time, have little enthusiasm for the expensive Continental dollars.”

    Kelly declined Newman’s offer (though he would have accepted three double eagles of Newman’s choice in trade). On July 25, 1949, Newman offered more perspective on why Continental dollars just weren’t on the top of his wantlist at that time.

    “I am sorry that I am returning the Continental dollar in brass. I am still interested in it, but because of recent research of others the evidence points to the fact that these may be satirical pieces made in England after the Revolutionary War and not contemporary pieces. I don't know the facts on this but it may be true. If at a later date you want to get rid of it on the basis I suggested, don't hesitate to let me know.”

    Nearly 70 years ago, Newman had heard a theory that, while not precisely the Goldstein-McCarthy concept, was pretty darn close. Where did it come from?

    Damon G. Douglas was one of the most well regarded numismatists of his generation. His brief biography here on NNP at once completely undersells his importance as a numismatic researcher and underscores just how forgotten his legacy is today. In the late 1940s, Douglas was considered one of the leading (and perhaps the single most preeminent) researcher of early American coins. He was a leader in the numismatic community, serving on the board of the American Numismatic Association during World War II and as President of the august New York Numismatic Club from 1949 to 1951. In March 1954, the Bronx Coin Club reported that it had “regretfully accepted the resignation of Damon Douglas.” He had burnt out, lost his interest in continuing his research, and set sheaves of excellent but unfinished or unpublished manuscripts aside. Many were donated to the American Numismatic Society after his death in 1974, but after 1954 he is not known to have involved himself in numismatics again.

    Douglas’ interests closely paralleled Newman’s own. Surely Newman knew almost everything in the somewhat basic article Douglas penned for the April 1948 issue of The Numismatist entitled “British-American Colonial Coins,” but one paragraph stood out. 

    “The wave of fast depreciating paper Continental currency seems to have barred other coining attempts during the war,” Douglas wrote. “A possible exception is the so-called ‘Continental dollar.’”

    Douglas continued. “Known chiefly in type metal or pewter, it bears the legends and devices of the paper 1776 fractional Continental currency with the addition of the words 'Continental Currency -- 1776.' Completely ignored by Congress, it was produced, according to Du Simetier's (sic) 1784 notebook, in London probably as a satire on the paper currency that was becoming a synonym for worthlessness.”

    The paragraph clearly stuck in Newman’s craw, not only then, but for decades. In 1973, he wrote to the New Jersey Historical Society looking for the notebook kept by pioneering Philadelphia numismatist Pierre Eugene DuSimitiere. “The late Damon Douglas, who spent much time in your archives doing numismatic research, wrote an article in 1948 mentioning an entry in the diary of Peter Eugene du Simitiere (1706-1784). Do you have that diary in your collection, or have you a suggestion of where it could be located?” Newman’s archives record no reply. The following day, he jotted a similar letter to the Library Company of Philadelphia requesting information on the diary, recalling Douglas’ 1948 article and calling him “a fine researcher.” Again, no reply is included in the Newman archive. Newman also requested DuSimitiere’s diary at the American Philosophical Society, but apparently never located where it actually was: the Library of Congress, where Goldstein located it in 2017.

    This is a story of what-ifs. What if Damon Douglas hadn’t given up on coins in 1954? Might he have published a further expose on the Continental “dollars” decades ago? What if Eric Newman had access to the Internet in the early 1970s, whereby, instead of finding dead ends with unanswered letters, searchable databases of major institutional holdings could have revealed the location of DuSimitiere’s papers easily? What if the Newman Numismatic Portal had existed when Douglas’ numismatic career ended, offering a universally accessible repository for his world-class research, rather than having his papers lay undiscovered for decades and little used in the collections of the ANS?

    This saga also points out the inefficiency of numismatic research. Much of what modern researchers “discover” was found but forgotten, written but misplaced, or published but little understood decades ago. While original documents (like the explanatory “explication” on the Continental “dollar” that was preserved in the British Museum but never properly described) are the mother’s milk of good research, underutilized secondary sources can lay a trail of breadcrumbs back to sources that have never been scrutinized by modern numismatists. A surfeit of sources is a wonderful problem to have. And, in many ways, the Newman Numismatic Portal is the solution.

    Link to previous John Kraljevich blog entry: https://nnp.wustl.edu/blog-post/515967

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    Mar 24 2018
    English and Anglo-Saxon Numismatics

    The Yorkshire Numismatist Added to Newman Portal

    The Yorkshire Numismatic Society (Leeds, UK) has contributed four volumes of the Yorkshire Numismatist for inclusion on Newman Portal. These volumes, periodically published since 1988, gather scholarly articles on ancient, medieval, and modern numismatics with an emphasis on Anglo-Saxon and English material. Volume 4 (2012), for example, contains an article by Adrian Marsden that discusses a hoard of 65 Anglo-Saxon sceattas unearthed by a metal detectorist in 2010. Tony Abramson, president of the Yorskhire Numismatic Society, provides background on the sceatttas: “They were silver early-pennies of 10-11mm in diameter, weighing c. 1.10g in the primary phase (660s-c. 710) and c. 1.00g in the secondary phase (c. 710 to 750s in the south of England, the Low Countries and France, and into the 9th century in north England and Ribe). Those of the north of England are inscribed with the names of issuers and moneyers. Southern issues are typically uninscribed.” Marsden’s article catalogs and analyzes the varieties found and provides additional historical background. The Newman Portal is grateful to Tony Abramson for facilitating this contribution.

    Link to the Yorkshire Numismatist on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/525351
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    Mar 24 2018
    U.S. Proof Coinage

    Newman Portal Search: Starburst Effect

    Newman Portal Search: Starburst Effect

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for the term “starburst effect.”  While Newman Portal searches are anonymous, the search terms themselves are logged. Newman Portal delivers but a single result for this term, but the definition comes straight from the U.S. Mint.  In the Fall 2013 issue of The Centinel, Steve Bieda wrote an important article on U.S. Mint coinage dies produced in conjunction with the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, and, as part of his research, found an 1997 Coin World article explaining the situation. Bieda writes:

    A vast majority of the Olympic dies sold by the Mint were taken out of service because of what the Mint called “starburst.” “The starburst effect is so named because it looks like a starburst gemstone,” according to George E. Hunter, then assistant U.S. Mint director for process and quality control, in a 1997 Coin World interview. “Its design is radial, though not perfectly radial, and occurs in the direction of the metal flow.” The starburst effect is caused by abrasive particles that build up and then etch the die as they are carried outward from a central point in the direction of metal flow during successive strikes. It was the primary reason for removing most of the dies used to strike proofs, and among the Olympic dies sold to collectors, was the reason more than two-thirds of the dies were taken out of service.

    “Starburst effect” is commonly seen on U.S. proof coins following the recommencement of proof coinage in 1936. Production techniques improved in time and today anything but a perfect, smooth mirror would be a disappointment.

    Link to The Centinel on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/513721?page=53

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    Mar 17 2018
    Colonial Paper Money

    Newman Portal Search: June 7, 1776

    This week a Newman Portal user searched on “June 7, 1776.” I’ve seen enough Newman Portal searches to know this is most likely in reference to a colonial paper money issue. Indeed, that is the case, as June 7, 1776 indicates a Connecticut currency issue of $200,000. The 5th edition of Eric P. Newman’s Early Paper Money of America is available on NNP and contains a summary of this currency issue:

    £60,000 ($200,000) in Treasury Notes dated June 7, 1776 due on Jan. 1, 1781 and similar to prior issue. £10,000 of the issue was to be 6s and below and signed by one committee member. Others required two signatures. These bills have the same signers as prior issue plus William Fisher and Nathaniel Needham. Some bills are slash or hole cancelled and others show redemption registration written in by the comptroller. A 1771 restriction on use of bills of other colonies was repealed as unjust.

    Bills were denominated from one shilling up to two pounds. The issue was cataloged as early as 1872 in John Haseltine’s  Description of the Paper Money issued by the Continental Congress of the United States and the Several Colonies. “June 7, 1776” also appears in various places in the Newman correspondence, for example  in 1967 he wrote to Captain V. L. Bigsby of Washington, DC:

    You were kind to make such nice comments about EARLY PAPER MONEY OF AMERICA and coming from you it means a great deal to me. I admit that I put in thousands of hours and hope that the numismatic public will be pleased with the publication…… Ken Bressett and Whitman Publishing Company [Krause published later editions] really went all out to do a fine job……As to the Connecticut six shilling note of June 7, 1776, I have a picture of one….

    Link to Early Paper Money of America (5th edition): https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/523311?page=115
    Link to John Haseltine’s Description of the Paper Money….:   https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/520719?page=13
    Link to Newman/Bigsby correspondence: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/520562?page=16

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