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    Sep 15 2021

    Dick Doty and Eric Newman Dress Down for Numismatic Research

    The renewal of the ANS Coinage of Americas Conference, with this week’s conference focusing on Victor D. Brenner, brings to mind the forerunner of the COAC series, the 1976 volume Studies on Money in Early America. This work, edited by Richard Doty and Eric Newman, gathered scholarly papers on American numismatics. At an ANS tribute dinner for Newman held in 1996, Doty contributed the following anecdote surrounding production of the 1976 volume:

    “It took place over twenty years ago, in Los Angeles, during the summer of 1975. Eric and I were both at the convention of the American Numismatic Association, held that August. Eric was there to give several lectures and receive an award. I was there to set up and oversee an ANS exhibit, my first, and we were both there to work on the editing of the Society's upcoming publication for the American Bicentennial, Studies on Money in Early America. 

    We agreed to assemble in Eric's hotel room one day about noon. Most of the articles gave us few difficulties, but there was one... It was by an elderly gentleman who knew an immense amount about his subject, but had no idea of how to render its telling into understandable prose. Eric and I worked on that article, and worked, and worked - and made absolutely no progress. Then the air-conditioning in Eric's room abruptly went on strike, and our workplace rapidly heated up; within an hour or so, it was ninety-five. 

    I asked Eric whether we should simply give up, abandon the attempt to edit the recalcitrant article - or at least defer it until the air-conditioner was repaired. But Eric was a stubborn man: he knew that article was worth saving because of its scholarly value, because of the fact that the writer was a friend of many years' standing. He suggested that we make ourselves as comfortable as we could, and keep on working. And so an impartial observer would have seen two gentlemen in their underwear, fortified with luke-warm beer [this must have been Doty only, because Newman did not drink], taking apart an article and putting it back together again, word by word. I have never had a more arduous editing task, nor, I imagine, has Eric. But as I worked with him through the afternoon and into the evening, I gained an admiration of tonight's honoree which has never left me. This man would expose the best, would bring to light the work his friend wanted to write - and would do it in such a way that the latter would believe he had written it himself. 

    And that act of scholarship and humanity sums up my friend, Eric P. Newman.”

    Link to ANS Coinage of Americas Conference proceedings on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/publisherdetail/510766
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    Sep 11 2021

    Christian Gobrecht Engraving of Washington Acquired at ANA Convention

    Christian Gobrecht (1785-1844),  U.S. Mint Engraver from 1840-1844, worked in a variety of media, as did many of the early Mint engravers. Gobrecht, for example, created three different copperplate engravings of George Washington, one print of which appeared in the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC) fundraiser auction held during their annual meeting at the recent ANA convention. This version of Washington appeared in J. Kingston’s New American Biographical Dictionary (Baltimore, 1810). This author previously catalogued the copperplate engravings of Christian Gobrecht in Gobrecht Journal #101 (March 2008), available on Newman Portal. 

    Only one other copy of this engraving has been located and resides in the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. The present example is slightly different, with the text beneath the portrait off center. Apparently this text block was loosely attached to the printing plate and shifted in position. The Pratt Library example is correctly aligned. This print sold for $400.25, an odd amount ensured only by the ever-enthusiastic auctioneer Brad Karoleff. Having received a bid of $400, Mr. Karoleff then asked the same bidder for $425. “Four hundred dollars and twenty-five cents” was offered, and, there being no further bids, completed the competition. 

    Link to Gobrecht catalog in The Gobrecht Journal, #101: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/176
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    Sep 03 2021

    Walter Breen’s Bookmark – A Continental Dollar Test Note?

    Newman Portal contributor Bruce Vogel forwarded images of this January 14, 1779 $30 Continental Currency note, along with the following story: “At the 1996 Denver ANA I met with Eric Newman at the base of an escalator. We spoke of several early Colonial & U.S. coin subjects. In 1990, Walter Breen had given me a chemistry textbook. As a page marker, Breen used a January 14, 1779 $30 note with no signatures or serial numbers. I knew what it was but asked EPN ‘What is this?’ Newman asked ‘Where did you get this? This is a test note, treat this as a test note.’ You probably knew Newman, his body language: as his left shoulder dropped & his head moved to the left & downward. ‘I wish I would have known about this, I have never seen one. Where?’ Me: ‘WB used it as a bookmark.’ I was afraid I was going to have to pick EPN up off the floor. ‘He had it?’ That look of disbelief in his eyes. He asked for a photo, I said yes. I never sent one.”

    During the ANA convention, a noted authority on colonial paper viewed these images and wondered if in fact the signature had simply worn off the front of the note. The note currently resides in a PCGS About New 50 Apparent holder, with no mentioned of the test note attribution. We invite further opinions. 

    Link to NNP Edition of Early Paper Money of America: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/imagecollection/513468

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    Aug 26 2021

    Newman Portal Posts ANA Convention Video Recap

    The recent 2021 ANA convention in Rosemont, IL was just as busy as usual, if not as highly attended. Visitors seem determined to pack the last two years of missed conventions into a single event, and largely succeeded. This writer enjoyed six dinners in five nights (it could have been even more) and was thoroughly tired out by Saturday, but it was a good kind of tired. Lianna Spurrier has compiled a video report on behalf of Newman Portal, which features the unparalleled Tyrant collection exhibit, in addition to show attendees John Brush, John Dannreuther, Jeff Garrett, Bob Evans, Jesse Kraft, and Ian Russell. 

    Link to 2021 World’s Fair of Money Recap: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/605119

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    Aug 20 2021

    Chase Manhattan Bank Money Museum Inventory on Newman Portal

    The Chase Manhattan Bank Money Museum collection was formed in the early 20th century by Farran Zerbe, a president of the American Numismatic Association. The Chase bank acquired the collection from Zerbe in 1928 and most notably mounted an exhibit near Rockefeller Center, a mecca for tourists visiting New York City. Similar bank museums throughout the country were popular during this period of the 20th century, but over time their contribution to the bottom line was questioned by bank executives. The Chase Museum was closed in 1977 and much of the material was donated to the Smithsonian. Among the U.S. coins from the Chase collection, the Smithsonian acquired a high-grade 1794 dollar and an 1852 $50 gold “slug.” 

    Smithsonian curators Vladimir and Elvira Clain-Stefanelli were justly proud of the Chase acquisition, and wrote in an internal memo “Its contents…were…highly coveted by the American Numismatic Society in New York, and by the American Numismatic Association, the powerful national organization of numismatists from Colorado Springs. The fact that we and not they were chosen as depository for this Collection increases our obligation to make the exhibit and the official presentation ceremony….a worthwhile event.” The American Numismatic Society was not completely left out, and received two important pieces from Chase, a Judd-13 eagle-on-globe 1792 pattern in white metal, and a class III 1804 dollar. 

    Link to Chase Manhattan Museum inventory on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/archivedetail/539184
    Link to Chase Manhattan pieces at the National Numismatic Collection: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search?return_all=1&edan_local=1&edan_q=1979.1263&

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    Jul 01 2021

    Numismatic Notables: Ken Bressett

    In honor of July 4, one of Ken Bressett’s favorite holidays, Newman Portal announces the second installment in its Numismatic Notables series. Bressett was interviewed by Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz on March 19, 2021 and this video is now available on Newman Portal. Bressett covers his early days as a collector, his extensive photo archive that he started in the 1940s, and his first contacts with Richard Yeoman, Guide Book of United States Coins founder. Bressett began submitting edits to the Guide Book in the 1950s and was soon hired by Whitman Publishing on a full-time basis. Later, Bressett worked for the American Numismatic Association in a variety of capacities. He continues today as Guide Book Editor Emeritus. This interview covers little-known aspects of Bressett’s career, including a number of important coins he handled from the Anderson DuPont collection. Bressett further summarizes important changes in the coin industry since his beginnings as a collector in the 1930s. With video production by Lianna Spurrier, this is a pleasant hour well-spent.

    Link to Numismatic Notables: Ken Bressett on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/601239
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    Jun 20 2021

    19th Century Teachers and Students Write to U.S. Mint Director

    At an age when many people are ready to retire, 66-year-old Daniel M. Fox was appointed Superintendent of the United States Mint by President Grover Cleveland on June 19, 1885. His prior tenure as the Mayor of Philadelphia gave him valuable experience for this demanding position. He oversaw operations at the Mint until November 1, 1889 and also fielded questions and requests from the public during this period.   

    The National Archives include correspondence with Superintendent Fox on a wide range of topics. Several of these letters, recently transcribed by the Newman Portal, reveal the interest that teachers and students had in U.S. coinage at that time. For example, Principal James Jenkins of the Six Street School is Worcester, Massachusetts, questioned whether “copper, silver and gold expand in passing from the liquid to the solid state; and will the solid metal, when cast, float in the liquid metal?”  Other educators were more curious about the specific denominations produced at each U.S. Mint branch and also how the coins were distributed once they left the Mint.   

    Late 19th century students were just as inquisitive as their teachers.  W.G. Welsh, a high school chemistry student in York, Pennsylvania, asked Fox whether “the difference in the color of Gold Coins” is caused by the “[copper-gold] alloy or is it in the metal itself?”  William J. German, a young coin and autograph collector from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, respectfully requested the Superintendent’s autograph after reading a book on the history of the U.S. Mint. Fox also allowed at least one group of enthusiastic students to tour the Mint.  An April 25, 1889 letter reports that Fox permitted “a party of young ladies from the Langhorne [PA] Friends Institute… to visit the gold vaults and filing rooms.”  What an experience that must have been! 

    Link to Worcester, MA letter: https://archive.org/details/doesgoldexpandorcontractwhenheated18880309/page/n3/mode/2up

    Link to York, PA letter: https://archive.org/details/whatcausesdifferentcoloredgoldc oins18871207/page/n1/mode/2up

    Link to McKeesport, PA letter: https://archive.org/details/wantssuperintendentautograph18871118/mode/2up

    Link to Langhorne, PA letter: https://archive.org/details/wantstohaveschoolgirlsvisitmint18890425/page/n1/mode/2up


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    Jun 12 2021

    U.S. Mint Strikes Bolivian Coins

    An 1883 letter from Chief of the Secret Service, James J. Brooks, to Superintendent of the Mint, A. Loudon Snowden, mentions government “operatives” and “inquiries set afoot.” Even though it sounds like an excerpt from a Sherlock Holmes novel, this National Archives correspondence, recently transcribed by the Newman Portal, discusses the possibility of the U.S. Mint striking coins for the country of Bolivia. The Mint was authorized to produce coins for foreign countries as specified by an Act of Congress approved on January 29, 1874. However, the correspondence raises questions about the authenticity of Bolivia’s petition and Brooks requests of Snowden that “no action be taken…as to the preparation of dies for the coining of Bolivian money.”

    Sixty years later, the outcome was much different when Bolivia was one of more than 20 countries for which the United States produced coins during World War II. Due to the global economic challenges brought on by this War, many countries were unable to make their own coins and the United States helped them maintain their monetary systems. During the War, these foreign coins were produced at cost and did not yield any profit for the Mint. Between July 1, 1942 and June 30, 1944, they produced 30 million Bolivian coins, evenly divided among the denominations of 10, 20, and 50 centavos.

    Link to 3 pieces of correspondence regarding Bolivian coins: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/599780
    Link to the Mint Report for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1943: https://archive.org/details/annualreportofte1943unit/page/40/mode/2up?q=Bolivia
    Link to the Mint Report for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1944: https://archive.org/details/AnnualReportOfTheDirectorOfTheMint1944/page/n55/mode/2up?

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    Jun 05 2021

    Mel Wacks Updates Handbook of Biblical Numismatics

    Mel Wacks has updated his Handbook of Biblical Numismatics, which is now available on Newman Portal. Lianna Spurrier supplied graphics and layout work under sponsorship of Newman Portal. 

    Abraham Sofaer contributed an overview that is featured on the back cover: “This Handbook is just what it sets out to be, and what is needed in the field of Jewish Coinage. Mel Wacks has contributed mightily to this field. And this Handbook - replacing his first version with an entirely new revision - is among his most important gifts. Somehow, Mel has managed to provide a work that is succinct without being superficial; that summarizes all the important material rather than limiting coverage through exclusion; and that simplifies complicated issues without compromising their difficulties.

    In pulling off this achievement, Mel has provided a practical, take-along, guide. Every important period is covered, and every significant coin type illustrated. Rather than attempting to supersede other types of books, Mel gives us all - collectors, scholars, and intelligent observers alike - something to use anywhere to identify coin types and context, read inscriptions, and even have some idea of value. Even a novice will be able quickly to learn and appreciate this aspect of Jewish history, and the history of other cultures with whom the Jewish People have interacted. The Handbook is thus a must have for the tutored and beginner alike.”

    Link to Handbook of Biblical Numismatics on Newman Portal: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/booksbyauthor/518323
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    Jun 03 2021

    Defective Nickels Threaten Small Change

    Even though we’re moving towards a cashless society, there are times when we need to grab a few coins to complete a transaction.  However, this task was not always straightforward during the late 1800s.  According to correspondence from the National Archives, recently transcribed by the Newman Portal, brittle five-cent nickels (commonly referred to today as Liberty Head Nickels) were returned to the Mint from banks in various states, including Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts.  Their composition was 25% nickel and 75% copper and the main complaint was that these coins were chipping and breaking, even when very little pressure was applied, and could not be used in commerce.

    The institutions that returned these flawed five-cent nickels to the Mint were quite candid with their assessment of the coins in their correspondence.  For example, the Assistant Cashier of The Citizens Bank of Mount Ayr, Iowa told the Mint that he “would have considered them counterfeit if we had not gotten them directly from you.” Another recipient of the compromised nickels bluntly stated, “tis very evident that if the Nickel will not stand transportation from the Mint to this city [Jacksonville, FL], it will certainly not be equal to the rough usage it will receive from the general public.”  
     
    According to this contemporary correspondence, the issue was reported at various times from late 1887 until early 1896. A Mint investigation determined that they were not at fault for the brittle five-cent nickels, but rather that their suppliers provided them with blanks that had not been properly annealed. Even though they were not responsible for the subpar condition of these coins, the Mint promptly sent replacement pieces to those who returned them. 

    Link to Mount Ayr, IA return letter: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/597553

    Link to Jacksonville, FL return letter: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/595763

    Link to correspondence regarding brittle five-cent Nickels: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22U.S.%20Mint%22%20brittle
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