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    Feb 11 2019

    The 1991 EAC Midnight Sale

    What happens when numismatists and bibliophiles have an informal gathering? Compelled to memorialize minutiae – what the American Numismatic Society (ANS) motto calls “the little things” – we occasionally see works created that seem disproportionate to the import of the actual event. We’ll see why that’s not actually true, case in point being the 1991 EAC “Midnight Sale,” a work recently scanned at the ANS under the sponsorship of Newman Portal. Ostensibly an auction catalog, but in reality a lovingly produced paean to the fellowship of colonial coin collectors, this document well conveys the convivial conclave that occurred in a hotel room in the early hours of April 28, 1991, during the Early American Coppers annual convention. 

    Billed as “worth getting out of bed for,” the 24½ lot sale catalog (24 lots of Connecticut cents, the lone Vermont copper meriting only “half” a lot) features at least one page per lot with several full page photographs. Walter Breen was enlisted for the technical descriptions, and, whatever you think of Breen, there is no question that the man knew his Connecticut coppers. These descriptions were presented in Walter’s familiar handwriting on “Howard Johnson” lot tickets, just the first sign of a low-brow affair. The “terms and conditions” of the sale only reinforce the jocular mood, representing what every auction house wishes they could put in their boilerplate, but are prevented from doing so by the attorneys. “Under no condition shall bidding proceed in chronological order,” or “This is a clean auction. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no….never mind, the cops are gone. Do what you want.” In contrast to standard practice, the catalog itself was produced only after the sale, and even then distanced by several years. Most of the lots sold for under $100.

    This document, though farcical on its face, well relates the spirit of the era. These collectors enjoyed coins, they enjoyed spending time with each other, and they were clever authors who could recreate the repartee in writing. Next to a time machine, this auction catalog is about the closest one can get to what must have been a rip roarin’ good time. Lot commentary, following the technical notes, well conveys the mood. “We don’t know how this Vermont slipped in, and we do apologize for it. However, we note that researcher Gary Trudgen has not written an article on this variety which makes us suspect that it is even less interesting that we originally thought.” All in all the work is a message to present collectors, that scholarship and stoogery (to “coin” a word) need not be mutually exclusive. 

    Link to The Midnight Sale:

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    Feb 02 2019

    All Scanned Copies are Not Equal

    In 1846 William E. DuBois authored the first substantial history of the U.S. Mint Cabinet, today held by the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and known as the National Numismatic Collection. The summer 2008 issue of The Asylum described this book:

    Davis 325. 1 plate, medal-ruled. A table summarizes the Mint cabinet at the time, some 3800 pieces, of which approximately 10% were U.S. issues. There is no specific cataloguing of the U.S. coinage, but this important work describes the genesis of the collection: “The collection was commenced in June, 1838. Long before that date, however, Mr. Adam Eckfeldt, formerly Chief Coiner, led as well by his own taste as by the expectation that a conservatory would some day be established took pains to preserve master-coins of the different annual issues of the Mint, and to retain some of the hnest foreign specimens, as they appeared in deposit for recoinage. As soon as a special annual appropriation was instituted for this object, by Congress (which was as soon as it was asked), the collection took a permanent form, and from the nucleus above mentioned, has gone on in a continual course of augmentation since. It is now nearly as large as we expect or wish to have it, excepting, however, that specimens of new coinage, domestic or foreign, must be added as they appear.” 

    DuBois presumably inquired directly with his father-in-law Adam Eckfeldt in reference to the origin of the Mint Cabinet. The Google Books copy of Pledges, scanned in 2015 at the British library, is a desultory black and white affair conveying little charm of the original. While the content is faithfully preserved for the purposes of text search, researchers working from this copy will find little in the way of historical inspiration. The Newman Portal copy is a full-color reproduction taken from the Eric P. Newman library. Warts and all, the damp stained copy more effectively transports the reader back to the time of issue. Quirks such as the odd insertion of a color plate depicting “the pearl of great price” (was this a leftover from some other project?) ask the user to critically assess the physical copy within the context of the era. While physical copies are ideal, not all scans are equal, and, like collectors of physical books, researchers will do well to search out the best virtual copies.

    Link to Pledges of History on Newman Portal:

    Link to Pledges of History on Google Books:

    Image: cover of Eric P. Newman copy of Pledges of History

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    Jan 18 2019

    Newman Portal Adds the New England Numismatic Association (NENA) News

    The NENA News, a publication of the New England Numismatic Association, has been added to the Newman Portal for the years 1949-2013. Current issues include coverage of local coin conventions, club news, dealer ads, and feature articles. These local publications often contain information found nowhere else – in this particular case one immediately notices in recent issues advertisements for NENA medals, indispensable information for the eventual cataloguer of the series. A random search of earlier issues uncovers interesting tidbits, such as this item from the March 1949 issue, by Maurice Gould (NENA President and ANA Governor): 

    “I recently picked up an 1861 half-dollar which was beautifully engraved ‘Taken from the ruins of the Masonic Temple, April 6,1865’ and on the reverse is engraved ’’Boston Encampment K.T.’ and the name of the party to whom it was issued. I dropped into the Masonic Museum, which is on the second floor of the Masonic Temple in Boston, and the Curator told me that they had four or five of these pieces in the Museum, which he showed me. These were donated by one of the members in Boston. The half-dollars are all dated 1865. and are in very fine to uncirculated condition. The Masonic Temple of Boston was destroyed by fire on April 6, 1864. Some U.S. half-dollars were found in the ruins of the fire and were engraved and issued as souvenirs by the Boston Encampment, Knights Templars, to some of its members whose names appear on the various coins.”

    Newman Portal acknowledges NENA Vice President Yale Lansky for his assistance with this project.

    Link to NENA News on Newman Portal:

    Link to American Numismatic Biographies entry on Maurice Gould on Newman Portal:
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    Jan 07 2019

    St. Louis Stamp & Coin Company Fixed Price Lists Scanned

    The work of a librarian is endless, with an ever-changing backlog of uncatalogued material and the constant need to prioritize and process the most important content. The American Numismatic Society (ANS) library is no exception, and ANS librarian David Hill has the Sisyphean task of sorting it all out. Among the uncatalogued material, many fixed price lists have not been entered into the ANS library catalog (DONUM). Interestingly, some of these can be found in the ANS multi-volume dictionary catalog (1962 plus later supplements), but for whatever reason, were not included in the eventual computerization of the library catalog. This situation is somewhat relieved with the recent cataloging and scanning of the St. Louis Stamp and Coin Company fixed price lists, c. 1903-1930. 

    Fixed price lists are among the most bibliographically challenging of numismatic literature as they often come undated, and without regular titles or sequencing. Charles Steigerwalt, the 19th century Pennsylvania dealer, is especially noteworthy (notorious?) in this regard. The situation is somewhat better for the St. Louis Stamp & Coin fixed price lists. Although published without dates, most are numbered and can be attributed within a year or two of publication. There are three distinct series, beginning with the “Special stock reduction circular” (c. 1903-1905), followed by the “Special bargain list” (c. 1903-1908), and then the better-known “Fixed price list” (c. 1905-1930). Also included in the series are unnumbered and undated items such as  the “Great Snaps (Not Ginger)” edition.

    Link to St. Louis Stamp & Coin Fixed Price Lists on Newman Portal:
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    Dec 09 2018

    Idaho Trade Token Newsletter on Newman Portal

    Recently added to the Newman Portal is John Mutch’s Idaho Trade Token Newsletter for the period 1997-1999. Token collectors frequently collect by state, and these pieces offer a historical connection between the collector and the businesses of bygone days. The first issue discusses accounting records of the Midway Bar (Boise) in 1911 – quite profitable, especially during the winter months. Also included is a note from the 1910 Wardner News noting the county crackdown on dance halls and their “gambling, dancing & kindred vices.” Mutch notes related 10-cent tokens from these mining town establishments. The exhaustive reference site,, identifies one such piece, from the J. Farrin & Co. dance hall in Wardner.
    Thanks to John Mutch for granting permission and loaning physical copies for scanning.

    Link to Idaho Trade Token Newsletter on Newman Portal:
    Link to J. Farrin & Co. token on
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    Dec 02 2018

    American Numismatic Society Library Catalog Linked to Internet Archive Scans

    The Newman Portal has maintained a scanning operation at the ANS since December 2015, and in that time Internet Archive associates Lara Jacobs (and previously John Graffeo) have scanned 6,000 documents from the ANS library. Periodically, these scans are linked to the ANS library catalog (DONUM) so that DONUM users may access ANS library materials directly through the online library catalog. A recent update was performed in November, so that all documents scanned to date are available through DONUM. See, for example, the DONUM record for the Lewis Roper auction sale catalog (M. Thomas & Sons, 1851). Users may view the scanned document via the links “LINK TO INTERNET ARCHIVE (copy 1)” or “LINK TO INTERNET ARCHIVE (copy 2).” Note, for many auction sale catalogs, ANS has multiple copies, and these often contain varying annotations captured no other place. Thanks to ANS librarian David Hill and programmer Tomàs Cohen Arazi for their assistance with this project.

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    Nov 04 2018

    Mormon Currency, 1837-1937 and Updates & Short Stories Added to Newman Portal

    Author Douglas Nyholm Nyholm has released two volumes related to Mormon numismatics for publication on Newman Portal. Mormon Currency, 1837-1937 (2nd edition, 2015) begins with the 1837 Joseph Smith-signed notes of the Kirtland (OH) Safety Society Bank. Interestingly, the Smith signature is desirable even though many examples are thought to have been signed by Smith’s “scribes” and not Smith personally. Notes are also signed by other Mormon church dignitaries. Mormon paper money follows the migration of the church from east to west, including bank notes of Monroe, MI and scrip from Nauvoo, IL. From here Nyholm moves to the more well-known gold coinage of the Gold Rush era. To complement the gold pieces, a host of scrip and small-denomination currency continued to be issued. This portion of the catalog is the most valuable contribution of the book, illustrating and detailing hundreds of emissions. The overall work is indispensable for collectors of Mormon numismatics, and will be the standard reference for some time. The NLG named this work the Best Book on U.S. Currency for 2010.

    Doug Nyholm has also released a companion volume, Updates & Short Stroies About Mormon Currency (2018). This work contains a variety of supplementary material including historical essays, grading, trial strikes, and a review of the Eric P. Newman collection of Mormon scrip, several examples of which sold at the 5-figure level. The Bishop’s General Storehouse $10, pictured here, sold for an astounding $25,850 (Newman VII, 10/2015, lot 18616). Prior to the Newman sale, Nyholm speculated the Bob & Carol Campbell example was the only such piece held privately.

    Link to Mormon Currency (2nd edition, 2015) on Newman Portal:
    Link to Updates & Short Stories About Mormon Currency (2018) on Newman Portal:
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    Oct 23 2018

    Book About 50 Years of Jewish-American Hall of Fame Medals 
    Published on the Newman Numismatic Portal

    Medal collectors, American history buffs and those interested in Judaica can now read Jewish-American Hall of Fame Medals 1969-2019 by Mel Wacks, newly published on the Newman Numismatic Portal at Mel is uniquely qualified to write this compendium of what currently is the longest continuing series of art medals in America, since he initiated the project and has overseen it for its 50 year history.

    Mel says in the Introduction, “The goal [of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame medals] was not only to raise funds for the Magnes Museum, but to raise awareness in Jews and non-Jews alike in the substantial contributions made to America—and the world—by American Jews.” The project was under the auspices of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley from 1969 through 2001, when it became a division of the American Jewish Historical Society in New York. The sale of the medals has raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars for these two educational organizations, along with the American Numismatic Society, and other non-profits.

    The new book features biographies of more than 50 Jewish-American Hall of Fame inductees, taken from their web site; back stories about the creation of the medal designs; medal specifications (size, mintages and mints); and short biographies of the more than dozen medalists and calligraphers who created the medals. In addition, there are two appendices—one describing the Wooden Shekels issued by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame intermittently from 1968-2009, and the other listing, for the first time, all 35 Special Commemorative Medals Issued by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame--from the counterstamped Camp David Peace Dollar in 1978 through the Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award (for the American Jewish Historical Society) in 2018.

    Jewish-American Hall of Fame Medals 1969-2019 is an indispensable guide to a series that offers collectors a real challenge. As Mel Wacks concludes in the Preface: “It is not easy [to assemble a complete collection], since mintages are very low—as few as 100 bronze, 55 pure silver, and a minuscule 11 gold.  Remember—the fun is in the hunt!” And the fun is also in reading this book, offered free to all on the Newman Numismatic Portal. 

    To learn more about the Jewish-American Hall of Fame, visit

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    Oct 14 2018

    Seaby’s Coin and Medal Bulletin on Newman Portal

    With the kind permission of Michael Gasvoda and Victor England of the Classical Numismatic Group (CNG), Seaby’s Coin and Medal Bulletin has been added to Newman Portal. A house organ of the first rank, Seaby’s contained useful articles on British and ancient numismatics, news updates, society announcements, and, naturally, a monthly list of items for sale. Published in London (readers were advised to use the Oxford Circus underground station), Seaby’s was focused on English collectors, but occasionally featured important American content. R. W. Julian’s articles in the October and November 1962 issues, for example, established the English (Birmingham) origin of the 1791 Washington cents. Seaby’s was acquired by the Classical Numismatic Group in 1991, which continues operations today, specializing in Greek, Roman, and British coins.

    Link to Seaby’s Coin and Medal Bulletin on Newman Portal:
    Link to Classical Numismatic Group:
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    Oct 05 2018

    Heritage Auctions Predecessor Firms on NNP

    Newman Portal has recently added the auction sale catalogs of the Heritage Auctions predecessor firms, New England Rare Coin Auctions and Steve Ivy Numismatic Auctions. Martin Gengerke’s American Numismatic Auctions lists 29 sales for New England between 1975 and 1982, and 53 for Steve Ivy between 1972 and 1983. The earlier New England catalogs evoke the classic Stack’s catalog layout, and include numerous closeups demonstrating variety features, a distinctive feature at this time. Later catalogs begin to feature color plates that are still useful for pedigree purposes. The Steve Ivy catalogs are virtually identical to the (later) Heritage catalogs and clearly were prepared by the same team. These include color plates from the beginning (1976), not an inexpensive proposition at the time, and the very first catalog notes the use of “full color transparencies and four color printing.” Newman Portal acknowledges Jim Halperin and Steve Ivy for extending permission to scan these sale catalogs.

    Link to New England Rare Coin Auctions:
    Link to Steve Ivy Numismatic Auctions:
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