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    Feb 27 2021

    Crispus Attucks in Nummis

    Crispus Attucks (c. 1723-1770), per Wikipedia, is “widely regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre and thus the first American killed in the American Revolution. Historians disagree on whether he was a free man or an escaped slave, but most agree that he was of Natick and African descent.”  Within numismatics, Attucks was most notably depicted on the U.S. Mint 1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots Commemorative Silver Dollar, with the portrait of Attucks engraved by John Mercanti. The Eric P. Newman papers reveal two other examples. Attucks was featured in the American Negro Commemorative Society Series in August 1969, manufactured by the Franklin Mint in a 39mm silver proof format. Attucks also shows up in the American Patriots Series, these pieces were issued by the Beam Distilling Company and attached to Beam bottles. This piece is 32mm, in bronze, with Attucks included in July 1970. Again, these were produced by the Franklin Mint, along with many other Bicentennial-themed issues.

    Link to Newman file on the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission, detailing Franklin Mint Bicentennial issues:
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    Feb 17 2021

    Thomas Jefferson Coin Collection

    Readers are likely familiar with the George Washington numismatic collection, which notably contained an 11-piece silver Comitia America medal set (now at the Massachusetts Historical Society), in addition to the massive gold example of the Washington Before Boston medal, today at the Boston Public Library. Thomas Jefferson also collected coins, and in 1994 Beth Deisher of Coin World investigated the situation. Later, she shared the material with Eric P. Newman, and today this is digitized on Newman Portal. Jefferson made a donation to the American Philosophical Society (APS) of “coins and medals,” c. 1806, apparently gathered from travels in Europe. The APS collection was loaned in the 19th century to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and returned much later, with pieces missing. APS ultimately sold its numismatic holdings in 1967. The historic record keeping and museum cataloging was not sufficient to specifically identify the Jefferson pieces, and today these are lost to the winds. 

    While coin collectors would like to think that the Founding Fathers were dedicated numismatists who were intimately involved with the early U.S. Mint, Jefferson, who oversaw the formation of the Mint as the Secretary of State, summed up the situation in an 1825 letter to Mint Director Samuel Moore: “I do not remember a single circumstance respecting the devices on our coins except that someone having proposed to put Genl. Washington’s head on them it was entirely objected to.” In reality, the decisive vote in the House on this question was passed by a narrow margin, 26-22, in favor of a depiction of Liberty on the coinage. Even Jefferson’s single recollection was not quite right.

    Link to Beth Deisher research on Jefferson coin collection on Newman Portal:

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    Feb 12 2021

    Conder Token Journals on Newman Portal

    Conder Tokens, also known as 18th Century Provincial Tokens, are a form of privately minted token coinage struck and used during the latter part of the 18th Century and the early part of the 19th Century in England, Anglesey and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The Conder Token Collector’s Club (CTCC), formed in 1996, serves as a central point for the research of these trade tokens. With the assistance of president Jeff Rock and the CTCC board, the “Conder” Token Collector’s Journal has been posted on Newman Portal for the years 1996-2017. Note, an author and token index for issue nos. 1-70 (1996-2015), prepared by Dave Jones,  is posted under the year 2015.

    Link to the “Conder” Token Collector’s Journal on Newman Portal:
    Link to the Conder Token Collector’s Club home page:

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    Feb 02 2021

    Newman Portal Scans Numismatic News

    With the assistance of Cliff Mishler and George Cuhaj, Newman Portal is continuing to scan Numismatic News (1952-date). The reference set of this periodical is held by the Iola (WI) Historical Society, which has kindly loaned the run for scanning and permitted Newman Portal to unbind the volumes prior to scanning. To date, 1,368 issues have been scanned. Illustrated here is the front page of the January 6, 1964 issue, announcing that Congress passed legislation, by an overwhelming margin, for the creation of the Kennedy half dollar. The concept design illustrated is markedly different from the actual coin, with smaller central figures on both sides. 

    While we have not secured permission to display this periodical with full-view on NNP, we will display brief snippets in search results, which will alert researchers and readers to the existence of an article not otherwise known. In addition, Newman Portal is able to fulfill limited requests for copies of selected articles under fair use.

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    Jan 28 2021

    Alexandre Vattemare Addenda Rediscovered

    Wayne Homren recently purchased a DVD compilation of public domain works on numismatics. The description of this offering included a work on American numismatics by Alexandre Vattemare, dated 1864. Vattemare’s 1861 volume, Collection de Monnaies et Médailles de L'Amérique du Nord de 1652 a 1858, is well-known and represents one of the earliest catalogs of U.S. coinage. This 1864 work was completely unknown to Wayne, or Len Augsburger. After receiving the DVD, Wayne discovered, with the help of the numismatist’s friend Google, that the 1864 work was actually an article published by Vattemare in the Revue Numismatique for that year. This article expands upon and reorganizes Vattemare’s chapter on Hard Times tokens from the 1861 book. Vattemare perhaps envisioned a second edition of the 1861 volume, but was able to publish only this revised chapter.

    The most recent English biography of Vattemare is Q. David Bowers’ Alexandre Vattemare and the Numismatic Scene (Stack’s Bowers, 2018), with foreword by David Gladfelter.

    Link to Vattemare’s Revue Numismatique 1864 article on Newman Portal:
    Link to Vattemare’s Collection de Monnaies et Médailles de L'Amérique du Nord de 1652 a 1858

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    Jan 19 2021

    Peter, The Mint Eagle

    An 1896 letter from the Mint correspondence in the National Archives, recently transcribed by Newman Portal, asks about Peter, the Mint eagle. The letter writer asks for more specifics regarding the oral tradition of this national bird, who was said to have inhabited the Mint, broke a wing on the machinery, died, and was thereafter stuffed for posterity. The missive is addressed to the Philadelphia Mint Superintendent and the response is recorded as follows.

    “We have no record of the history of the eagle, Peter; except by tradition. He was the property of Mr. Adam Eckfeldt, the Chief Coiner of the Mint; The Mint was his home. He would fly all around the city, and always return to the Mint. His life in the Mint was between 1830 and 1836. He was the model for several pattern coins, and the nickel cent of 1857, and 1858 of the regular issue. The first was the pattern dollar of 1836.”

    Left unexplained is how the bird navigated to the new Mint building that was put into operation c. 1833. The earliest mention of Peter appears to be in Elizabeth Johnston’s A Visit to the Cabinet of the United States Mint (1876), where “an old citizen of Philadelphia” is cited as the authority for the story. Peter is today comfortably ensconced in the visitor’s area at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.

    Link to “Peter the Mint Bird” letter:
    Link to U.S. Mint general correspondence on Newman Portal:
    Link to Elizabeth Johnston’s A Visit to the Cabinet of the United States Mint on Newman Portal:

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    Jan 14 2021

    Newman Portal Adds Paper on C. Wylls Betts

    Following up on the Betts’ biography appearing in the January 10th E-Sylum, Chris McDowell contributed an in-depth exploration of the identity of Mrs. Charles Wyllys Betts, said to have been married to Betts from 1879-1880. As part of a Newman Grant, awarded in May 2020 for the purposes of numismatic research, McDowell has been working on the subject of Fugio cents and Betts’ involvement with the Fugio restrike dies. The discovery of Betts papers at the Morgan Library in New York demanded further investigation, and, in this paper, McDowell delivers convincing evidence that in fact “Mrs. Charles W. Betts” never existed, and that references to her actually refer to Betts’ sister-in-law Louise (Holbrook) Betts. McDowell cites a contemporary record from the American Numismatic Society noting that Charles Betts never married, and further explains how a cataloging error at the Morgan Library turned into a person who never existed. McDowell intends to continue his research in Manchester (UK), working with the Matthew Boulton papers to investigate the involvement of Boulton and James Jarvis with the Fugio cents.

    Link to “The Late Mrs. C. Wyllys Betts of New York City: Another Numismatic Mystery Put to Rest” on Newman Portal:
    Link to “Charles Wyllys Betts (1845-1886)” in the January 10th, 2021 E-Sylum:
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    Jan 10 2021

    The 1894-S Dime in 1896

    Recently transcribed by Newman Portal is a letter written by Philadelphia resident Anna Clark to the U.S. Mint Director in 1896, asking about the collector value of 1894 dimes. Although brief, the letter reveals a number of things regarding the state of collecting in the late 19th century. First, there were no ubiquitous references that might have been known to the letter writer. Today, Guide Book has filled that role for nearly 75 years, not to mention the explosion of other references on the Internet. The letter writer was also apparently unaware that local dealers would be a source of ready and accurate information (the Chapman brothers in Philadelphia were well established by this time), and instead applies directly to the Mint Director to answer her query. Finally, the nature of the query suggests there was already some public consciousness regarding the 1894-S dime and its potential value. The all-important detail of the mintmark was lost in translation, not surprising in the era before millions of coin boards served to educate the general public about coin collecting.

    Link to Anna Clark letter related to 1894 dimes on NNP:
    Link to National Archives content on Newman Portal:
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    Jan 02 2021

    History of the Metric System Controversy

    Numismatists tend to score higher in age demographics, and many readers will no doubt recall the 1970s metric system discussion in the United States. The Commerce Department created a number of studies at the time, few of which led to any substantial changes in the day to day lives of ordinary Americans, who continued to accumulate pounds (not the monetary kind), drive more miles, and drink gallons of sugary soda. Newman Portal recently added one of these studies, A history of the metric system controversy in the United States : U.S. metric study interim report, published by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1971. Thomas Jefferson considered the question of decimal coinage and measures together, noting “…the citizens of the United States may be induced to undertake a thorough reformation of their whole systems of Measures, Weights and Coins, reducing every branch to the same decimal ratio….” Jefferson got his way with the coinage in the Mint Act of 1792, but was unsuccessful in driving this further into other areas, and this report serves as a useful summary of the abortive attempt to unite all of the U.S. measures around a decimal standard.

    Link to History of the Metric System Controversy on Newman Portal:

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    Dec 27 2020

    U.S. Grant Medal (MI-29) Struck on 1000 Tons Medal Press

    User ”messydesk” posted on the PCGS U.S. Coin Forum an interesting 1894 letter from the National Archives, processed by Newman Portal, acknowledging receipt of a U.S. Grant medal from the Philadelphia Mint. The medal, Julian MI-29, was a massive production weighing in at 28.77 ounces (the gold example, struck in 1865), and measuring 105 mm. The letter, written by William Sellers, notes that an example of this medal (presumably bronze, though not specifically stated) had been struck on a new press and inscribed on the edge accordingly. 

    Does the medal still exist today? Robert Hoge, ANS Curator Emeritus, responded “Coleman Sellers Jr. was my great-great-grandfather. Prominent engineers and industrialists, he and William Sellers were cousins who seem to have worked frequently together. I have no idea as to what became of that particular U.S. Grant medal, I’m sorry to relate. Both William and Coleman would have received quite a few award medals during their careers, but I have no knowledge of what happened to any of those either. In fact, alas, I myself possess only a couple of Sellers family related mementoes of any kind and am not aware of the whereabouts of much else.”

    The gold example is today in the National Numismatic Collection, and the massive format was not an outlier. The Cyrus Field gold medal (PE-10) is just under 25 ounces, while the Henry Clay medal (PE-7) is nearly 30 ounces. The Field medal, now in the Weinberg collection, will be featured in the upcoming Heritage FUN sale.

    Link to National Archives content on Newman Portal:
    Link to Field gold medal, PE-10, offered by Heritage Auctions:
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