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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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    Feb 06 2024

    A Numismatic Valentine

    Daniel W. Valentine, 1863-1932, is most remembered for his work on the United States half dime series, which culminated in the publication of The United States Half Dimes by the American Numismatic Society in 1931. This work represented the first substantive analysis of Liberty Seated half dime die varieties. Thomas Elder sold Valentine’s collection in 1927, with the exception of the half dimes, which Valentine apparently retained at this point in preparation for publication. Valentine was honored by the New York Numismatic Club with a medal, commemorating his two terms as present of that organization beginning in 1918. Examples are scarce and this piece is among the keys in a set of New York Numismatic Club medals.

    Link to ANS / David W. Valentine correspondence: https://archive.org/details/valentinedavidwd00amer
    Link to video of Jerry Fochtman’s 2018 presentation on Valentine: https://archive.org/details/DrDanielValentineANumismaticPioneerbyJerryFochtman
    Link to Thomas Elder’s sale of the Valentine collection: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/auctionlots?AucCoId=23&AuctionId=513421
    Link to CNG E-Auction 492, featuring the Jay Galst collection of New York Numismatic Club medals: https://auctions.cngcoins.com/auctions/4-2FS4RH/electronic-auction-492

    Link to CNG Feature Auction #117, featuring additional NYNC medals from Jay Galst: https://auctions.cngcoins.com/auctions/4-28OZCU/cng-feature-auction-117?limit=48&search=new+york+numismatic+club


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    Jan 30 2024

    Lee Gast Delivers Research on U.S. Classic Commemoratives

    The constantly progressing availability of information demands the reexamination of old subjects, and, in the realm of U.S. classic commemoratives (1892-1954), Lee Gast has stepped into the void and is producing monographs on the various issues in the series. The recently added Alabama Centennial (1921) installment is typical. Gast pulls documentation from congressional proceedings, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Archives, creating a full picture of the coin from conception to realization. The original documents provide authoritative context, and collectors of the series will appreciate the stories behind each individual commemorative issue.

    Link to Lee Gast publications on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/booksbyauthor/551821
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    Jan 29 2024

    Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society Invites Applications for Newman Grants

    The Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (EPNNES) announces the opening of the application period for the 2024 Newman Grant program. Newman Grants are designed to financially assist numismatic authors and organizations pursuing original research in American numismatics. This program was launched in 2019 and supports research projects related to colonial numismatics, U.S. federal coinage, counterfeit detection, and other areas.

    Authors, researchers, and numismatic organizations are encouraged to apply for amounts between $1,000 and $5,000. Awards may be applied toward related research costs including but not limited to photography, reproduction of research material and graphic art services, database access fees, and travel. Electronic publications will be preferred as EPNNES wishes to direct funds toward expenses specifically related to numismatic research, rather than the print publication of research.  Newman Grant awardees agree to non-exclusive publication of their research on the Newman Numismatic Portal (NewmanPortal.org). EPNNES intends to make approximately half a dozen grants in 2024.

    The Newman Grant program is administered for EPNNES by the Newman Numismatic Portal (NNP). Applications may be found on the Newman Numismatic Portal at https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/archivedetail/530553?Year=2024, and should be submitted to NNPCurator@wustl.edu. The application deadline is April 15, 2024, with the grant awards to be announced on May 25, 2024, coincident with the late Eric P. Newman’s birthday. 

    It is the hope of EPNNES that this program will continue the legacy of Eric P. Newman in a way that would reflect his high standards for numismatic research.

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    Jan 10 2024

    Howland Wood Correspondence Scanned

    Howland Wood (b. 1877) served as the American Numismatic Society (ANS) Curator from 1913 until his passing in 1938. The Society has preserved his extensive correspondence files, which are currently being digitized by Newman Portal at the ANS library. Already over 400 separate correspondents, covering the letters A-B, are represented in this group. While many of the correspondent names are obscure, the “usual suspects” are well represented, with David Bullowa, F. C. C. Boyd, M. H. Bolender, and Bauman Belden found in the first few pages of search results. 

    The Bullowa letters track David Bullowa traveling through Europe and contributing related numismatic items to the ANS cabinet. On September 20, 1930, Bullowa writes to Wood “Enclosed please find the piece issued for the 100th anniversary of Franz Joseph’s birth, which I have just received from Vienna, thru the Royal Monarchist Party.” Such correspondence reminds us that the ANS is built one (or sometimes more!) item at a time. Its collections are formed from thousands of similar gifts, from individuals who have likewise contributed to the growth of its library, cabinet, and (increasingly) its digital collections.

    Link to Howland Wood correspondence: https://archive.org/details/newmannumismatic?query=%22howland+wood%22&page=8&sort=-publicdate


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    Jan 03 2024

    Happy New Year Numismatic Dealer Tokens

    One of the most frequently accessed references on Newman Portal is Pete Smith’s Personal Tokens and Medals of American Numismatists, published in 2020. The popularity of certain documents on the Internet is sometimes somewhat of a mystery, but we’ve noticed that works that refer to many individual persons tend to run “hot.” This work has been accessed 8,386 times, indicating daily use by multiple people. 

    HAPPY NEW YEAR is a common theme on dealer tokens. Indeed, of the approximately 8,000 dealer tokens and medals cataloged in Pete Smith’s work, nearly 600 feature the inscription HAPPY NEW YEAR. Issuing dealers include Dottie Dow, Doug Fairbanks, Al & Sally Kirka, and a host of others. 

    Link to Pete Smith books on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/booksbyauthor/1811
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    Dec 27 2023

    Pete Smith’s Numismatic Rogues Gallery Added to NNP

    The commercial side of numismatics has a way of attracting ne’er-do-wells, and to be sure academic and museum collections are no less susceptible. Pete Smith’s latest work shines a spotlight on 275 perpetrators of numismatic crimes, compiling the pertinent data in a single reference. In earlier days, dealers published their own lists of individuals not to be trusted, but the explosion of public information in the Internet age allows for a more systematic approach. Readers are encouraged to contribute suggestions and additions.

    Link to Numismatic Rogues Gallery on NNP: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/634354
    Link to S. H. & H. Chapman 1906 client list, including “frauds”: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/archivedetail/516023
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    Dec 19 2023

    More on the EVERMAN Counterstamp

    A Newman Portal user asked about an EVERMAN counterstamp on an 1856 dollar. The counterstamp is listed in the Brunk reference, there on an 1852 Augustus Humbert $50 gold “slug.” Eric Schena added to the story in the June 2015 Numismatist, noting other EVERMAN pieces including an 1854 gold dollar, 1854 quarter eagle, and two 1855-O half dollars. Eric’s best guess as to the identity of the maker was Louis Everman, a silversmith in Carroll County, TN. 

    Our correspondent added that the coin was from his uncle, who located the piece while metal detecting in Tennessee. Eric Schena writes “What a great find - thank you for sending these images my way; I will add them to my census. I need to revisit that article and see if I can find any additional evidence.”

    Link to Newman Portal EVERMAN search results: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/searchwithterms?searchterm=EVERMAN
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    Dec 16 2023

    Christmas Riddles & The Coin Collector

    The Coin Collector, a monthly house organ published in tabloid form by Bowers & Merena from 1994 to 2003, numbered 144 issues total. The readable Bowers formula combined coin commentary, the occasional presentation of original research, letters to the editor, engaging graphics, and of course coins for sale. The Internet has rendered the format obsolete, a pity for those of us who eagerly snatched such publications from the mailbox.  From the February 2001 issue (no. 104) come a pair of Christmas riddles contributed by reader Dr. Kathy Helgesen Fuller, “a long time reader of our publications.”  

    Q. What do you call Santa’s helpers?
    A. Subordinate Clauses.

    Q. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
    A. Frostbite.

    Q. What do you call an elf who sings?
    A. A wrapper.

    OK, we confess the third riddle is a Chat GPT special. The reader is left to determine if AI is an improvement or not!

    Link to The Coin Collector on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/539529
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