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    Apr 03 2020

    The Convention That Wasn't, and a Rare Photograph

    Imagine you arrived at the ANA convention and everyone else had gone home or stayed there to begin with. This is precisely what happened in Philadelphia in October 1918. Cancelled at the last minute, a number of attendees arrived in a city shut down by the Spanish flu. The best account is given by Philadelphia dealer and convention chairman S. H. Chapman, who reported in the November 1918 Numismatist that the convention, scheduled for October 5-9, was cancelled by the city on October 3. Chapman did his best to notify attendees, who might have numbered around a hundred. Some could not be reached in time, and a small group arrived in Philadelphia expecting a convention.

    Attendees made the best of a bad thing, and Chapman reported small social gatherings at the convention hotel. The tradition of a convention photograph was continued. Included in the photo were the Chapman brothers of Philadelphia, Mr. and Mrs. Howard R. Newcomb, and a handful of others, about a dozen total. A few of the attendees likely attended S. H. Chapman’s sale of the H. O. Granberg collection, which took place as scheduled, despite the Board of Health warning against “public assemblages.” Presumably many of the bids had already been received by mail.

    The convention photograph was not published in The Numismatist, and the only example we could find appeared in the George Kolbe #91 sale, 6/2003, lot 670, there described as “sepia photograph; approximately 10 x 15.5cm.” Taking ANA convention photographs usually required a wide-angle lens, but the photographer’s job was considerably simplified in 1918. Can a reader provide an image?

    Link to The Numismatist on the ANA site: 

    Link to The Numismatist on Newman Portal:

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    Mar 27 2020

    Coin Dealers Cooperate to Solve Case of Coins Stolen in the Mail

    In December 2019, a client of rare coin dealer Gerry Fortin reported a shipment missing in the U.S. mail. Two coins were in the package, an 1871 Liberty Seated quarter (NGC MS62) and an 1871 half dollar (PCGS MS62 / CAC). Fortin made inquiries with dealers in the delivery area, including Julian Liedman, and within a couple weeks a connection was made. Lianna Spurrier tells the story of what happened next in this video recently released by Newman Portal. Newman Portal acknowledges Julian Liedman and Gerry Fortin for their contributions to this video.

    Link to Detour: Coins that Revealed a Crime Ring on Newman Portal

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    Mar 23 2020

    Granite State Philatelist Disses Liberty Nickel

    Q. David Bowers recently contributed to Newman Portal a scan of the March, 1883 issue of the Granite State Philatelist. Philatelic publications, especially from this period, contain occasional numismatic content, and this is a typical example, which includes a few comments regarding the recently released Liberty nickel. While commending the new design, the writer points out the absence of the motto In God We Trust, noting “surely the motto of our forefathers is good enough for us.” The articles goes on to discuss the “racketeer” nickel, a creation of “sharpers” who thinly coated 1883 No Cents Liberty nickels with gold and passed them off as five-dollar gold pieces. The writer suggests that the 1883 No Cents pieces will either be recalled or saved as collector’s items, and will no doubt “command a high price” in the future. Quite the opposite happened! So many were saved that today the 1883 With Cents issue is the more highly prized of the two, while the No Cents example is by far the most inexpensive coin in the series in EF-AU grades.

    Link to Granite State Philatelist on Newman Portal:
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    Mar 16 2020

    Official Register of the United States on Newman Portal

    The Official Register of the United States … is a little known resource that enumerates employees of the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). Published by the U.S. government from 1816 to 1959, the Register variously includes either full or partial lists of Mint and BEP workers. These rosters are especially useful for the period 1873-1921, during which a complete list of employees appears. For other years, the Register enumerates high-ranking officials. Newman Portal acknowledges Mark Borckardt and Roger Burdette for suggesting this resource and contributing related content.

    Link to the Official Register on Newman Portal:

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    Mar 16 2020

    Newman Portal Doors Remain Open

    Although Washington University in St. Louis, which administers Newman Portal, has sent students home for the semester, Newman Portal activity continues apace. The campus remains open for staff and faculty, and, while we rely on students to operate scanning equipment, we do have a full-time staff member in St. Louis (Kelli West) to continue handling contributions of hardcopy materials. We also have good options for outsourcing scanning work if necessary. In the meantime, we encourage electronic submissions (documents and images) and can process these virtually. Among the electronic contributors in the last week were Q. David Bowers, Roger Burdette, Richard Lussier, Gerry Tebben, and others. There is no substitute for in-person gatherings of coin collectors, but there is no shortage of research to do on our own, and we hope Newman Portal will help facilitate this as a virtual library.

    Eric Newman once related his experience with the Spanish flu epidemic. Newman, 6 years old at the time, was with his father and sister in New York. The father, a doctor, felt the need to send the two children home to St. Louis. They were cached in a train car, which Dr. Samuel Newman scrubbed down with formaldehyde. The children were instructed not to leave their room until the train arrived in St. Louis. Eric and his sister Ivy, who was four years older, dutifully obeyed, and arrived in St. Louis no worse for wear, despite having inhaled a toxic substance for the better part of a day.

    Update [3/23/2020] Newman Portal has now gone 100% remote with all non-essential university functions transitioned to work-at-home. We will continue to build Newman Portal but are accepting electronic contributions only at this time.

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    Mar 11 2020

    U.S. Mint Circulars on Newman Portal

    Public statements from the U.S. Mint in the 19th century are few and far between, and most of our knowledge of Mint operations emanates from Mint-internal working documents that were transferred to the National Archives & Records Administration. However, the Mint occasionally issued circulars that effectively served as press releases or public notices. Newman Portal is forming a virtual collection of these ephemeral documents, with two recent additions courtesy of Roger Burdette. 

    This pair of 1859 circulars announces the Mint’s intention to purchase or trade for Washington pieces lacking in the Mint Cabinet. James R. Snowden, Mint Director, publicized this in May of that year, and in a subsequent December statement withdrew the offer. Snowden’s program comes within the context of two publications that served as a catalog of the Mint Cabinet. In 1860 Snowden published an overview of the Mint Cabinet (A Description of Ancient and Modern Coins in the Cabinet Collection) and the following year published the Washington pieces (The Medallic Memorials of Washington in the Mint of the United States). These works represented the first extensive study of the Mint Cabinet (the 1846 Pledges of History is also notable), and were no doubt the impetus for Snowden’s solicitation to participate in building what is today the National Numismatic Collection.

    Link to U.S. Mint circulars on Newman Portal:
    Link to James R. Snowden publications on Newman Portal:

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    Mar 10 2020

    Medallic History of Slavery: Racial Oppression as Chronicled by Historical and Commemorative Medals

    Benjamin Weiss has recently completed a study entitled Medallic History of Slavery: Racial Oppression as Chronicled by Historical and Commemorative Medals, which is available via Newman Portal. Weiss’s work explores approximately 150 medals related to slavery, beginning with the late 18th century and continuing through the present day. Weiss discusses anti-slavery and abolition pieces, slave tags, and portrait medals of individuals involved in the struggle against slavery. Weiss is an active member of Medal Collectors of America, and has published frequently in the MCA Advisory.

    Link to Medallic History of Slavery on Newman Portal:

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    Mar 07 2020

    Bowers & Ruddy Proposal for 1980 Olympic Coinage

    From Q. David Bowers comes a fascinating item recently added to Newman Portal, a coinage proposal for the 1980 Moscow Olympics prepared by the Bowers & Ruddy rare coin firm in 1975. The proposal was submitted to Vneshtorgbank, a Russian bank with specialty in foreign trade, and suggested that Bowers and Ruddy be appointed director of an international consortium to produce and market the pieces. Bowers & Ruddy was well positioned to take a leadership role and made a number of suggestions, such as increased production of silver and nickel coins, which could be manufactured with greater profit margins than gold pieces. Mintages of the order of a million coins were suggested, with a total market opportunity of $150 million. The proposal came to naught as the pieces were ultimately struck in the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Moscow Mints, and the story of the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games is well-known. 

    Link to Bowers & Ruddy 1980 Olympic coinage proposal on Newman Portal:
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    Feb 25 2020

    Eva Adams (1908-1991) Video on Newman Portal

    The David Lisot Video Library on Newman Portal, numbering about 2,000 videos, is a resource that will be mined for a long time. In 1988 Ed Rochette interviewed former U.S. Mint Director Eva Adams, who served from 1961 to 1969, and this video has recently been added to NNP. Adams speaks on a number of topics, including the Mint’s relationship with coin collectors and concerns related to public acceptance of coinage changes. Adams covers the introduction of the Kennedy half dollar as well as the 1960s coin shortages and subsequent introduction of clad coinage. The former Mint Director opposed legislation that would have removed presidents from U.S. coins and replaced them with figures emblematic of Liberty. Adams concludes with a few remarks on the construction of the (fourth) Mint in Philadelphia, which opened in 1969 during the final year of her administration.

    Link to Eva Adams video on Newman Portal:
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    Feb 19 2020

    American Numismatic Society Library Acquires Robert Martin Notebooks on Connecticut Coppers

    Through the generosity of Syd Martin, Roger Siboni, and Tony Terranova, the ANS library has acquired the Robert Martin notebooks on Connecticut coppers. These recently appeared in the Stack’s November 2019 Baltimore sale (lot 5056), and are there described in part “These eight binders represent Robert’s life’s work—nearly five decades of research on the Connecticut copper series. Robert would copy, cut and paste onto sturdy 8.5”x11” 3-hole punched pages auction appearances, fixed price listings, reports from fellow collectors, images, emails, articles, photocopies from the Hall manuscripts and just about any information he could find about Connecticut coppers—die marriages, history, and technical details.” The value of this material is self-evident, and anyone collecting or researching Connecticut coppers will find much of interest.  These eight binders have been digitized at ANS and are now available on Newman Portal.

    Link to Robert Martin notebooks on Newman Portal:

    Image: Sample page from Robert Martin notebook 4, depicting condition census M. 27-a.1 Connecticut copper.
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