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    Nov 22 2017

    Newman Portal Search of the Week

    A Newman Portal user searched this week for “Washington New Jersey.” The Newman Portal identifies an article on the subject by John Griffee in the September 1996 issue of Penny-Wise. The “Washington New Jersey” refers to the Maris 4-C New Jersey state copper, likely struck in 1785 or 1786.  The variety is exceptionally rare with only 3 known.  It mates an obverse bust of George Washington with Maris reverse C. An example appeared in Stack’s Roper sale in December 1983, lot 298, the same previously appeared in Henry Chapman’s sale of the Parsons collection, June 1914, lot 221, at which time the piece was the second known.

    The “Washington New Jersey” cent is catalogued as GW-04 in Neil Musante’s Medallic Washington, and pedigrees of the three known examples are found in New Jersey State Coppers by Roger Siboni, Jack Howes, and Buell Ish. The proper classification of the piece draws multiple opinions. Is it a Washington piece or a New Jersey copper? Siboni, et al, catalog the piece as an “undated pattern” in the New Jersey series, while Musante places it in the Washington series and  writes that the piece had no relation to New Jersey at the time it was struck.

    Link to John Griffee article on the Maris 4-C in Penny-Wise:

    Link to Stack’s John Roper sale (December 1983):

    Link to Henry Chapman sale of the Parsons collection (June 1914):

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    Nov 21 2017

    The Portal Opens #3 (John Kraljevich)

    The Newman Numismatic Portal has followed Eric Newman’s lead down the back roads of numismatics. Banking history, obscure auction houses, letters written to numismatists now shrouded by the fog of obscurity: it all finds equal footing here with the classic periodicals, catalogues, and reference works we all know and love. While Eric collected U.S. Federal coins, and was a pioneering researcher in fields as diverse as colonial coins and obsolete bank notes, his fields of study were not solely limited to the North American continent.

    And thus, neither is the Newman Numismatic Portal.

    Eric was among the first American numismatists to champion the importance of world coins that circulated in early America, from the counterfeit halfpence he researched so avidly to the Latin American coins that set the stage for our dollars and dimes. His membership in the Royal Numismatic Society remains an unusual honor for an American, even as his abiding love of British numismatics has become more common among his American countrymen.

    Fortunately, researchers in wildly diverse fields of world numismatics will find abundant resources here. For now, most of the texts included on the Portal are written in English. We imagine that will not always be the case, and would love assistance identifying and sourcing important works in other languages. But even with the language restriction, NNP can help just about any research project.

    Among the great treasures of the NNP’s collection of periodicals is the publication of Numismatics International, listed as the NI Bulletin. Founded in 1964, the organization is devoted solely to non-US coins. A perusal of the Bulletin’s pages yields original research on coins from every inhabited continent. Much of John S. Davenport’s research on European crowns appeared here first. Latin American specialists will find original research by Jorge Proctor, Herman Blanton, Frank Sedwick, and others, from technical treatises on die varieties to mint history. Aspects of Islamic and ancient numismatics are covered with depth and excellence. The NNP collection includes every issue from 1966 to 2015. If any field of world numismatics tempts your interest, you will find research relevant to your specialty. 

    Though short-lived, Stack’s Numismatic Review (filed under N) also included original research from some of the brightest minds in the field. From 1943 to 1947, the Numismatic Review rivaled the old AJN for scholarship. Ancient coins, modern issues, world medals, and Latin American numismatics are all covered with excellent brief articles on subjects that stretch from the fascinating (“An Abortive Attempt to Establish a Mexican Mint in San Francisco” by A.F. Pradeau, December 1943) to the, well, relatively obscure (“The Bread Tokens of Hildesheim”).

     Then again, maybe you’re really into bread tokens. A search for “bread token” yields 184 hits on the NNP. Of those, 58 hits are among periodicals. Mehl’s Numismatic Monthly reveals that David Proskey exhibited a bread token of Elberfeld at the March 1917 meeting of the New York Numismatic Club. In a similar vein, Mr. Lionel L. Fletcher displayed “a break token of 1729, with reverse ‘POORE’” at the January 1930 meeting of the British Numismatic Society, as recounted in the British Numismatic Journal. Fletcher also kindly shared his “Dingle Penny of 1679.” The “Dingle Penny” was referenced by John Kleeberg in his 1992 Coinage of the Americas Conference paper on the New Yorke in America token, brought up for its similar and contemporaneous depiction of Cupid shooting an arrow at two young lovers beneath a tree.

    Whether you’re into Dingle tokens, or the eight escudos of Ecuador (check out the musings and auction catalogue descriptions of Henry and William Christensen, if so), or the coins of the procurators of Judea (covered regularly in The Augur, published by the Biblical Numismatic Society from 1977 to 1983), the NNP covers much more than the coins, medals, and paper money of the United States. Go explore. You might learn something.

    Link to previous edition of The Portal Opens:

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    Nov 17 2017

    Newman Portal Search of the Week

    A Newman Portal user this week entered the date “July 12, 1709” into the NNP search. As happens weekly, the search stumps me – I might have done better if they entered “1909-S V.D.B.” instead. It turns out this refers to the inaugural appearance of Connecticut paper money (more precisely a bill of credit), issued pursuant to a May 1709 act “to pay for an aborted expedition against Canada,” per Eric Newman’s Early Paper Money of America. The notes were valid for satisfying tax obligations but not as legal tender. The example illustrated sold in Heritage Auctions’ Newman VII sale (October 2015, lot 18024), for $15,275. Newman’s working notes on this emission are found in the Harley Freeman colonial currency inventory. Newman acquired the Freeman collection in 1963 and extensively edited Freeman’s inventory, leading to the first edition of Early Paper Money in 1967.

    Link to Heritage sale:

    Link to Harley Freeman inventory on NNP:




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    Nov 17 2017

    Newman Portal Adds American Numismatic Society (ANS) Centennial History

    Several weeks ago a Newman Portal user expressed surprise that the ANS Centennial History (1958) was not found on NNP. With the kind permission of the ANS, this volume is now available. The work was published by ANS as a commemoration of its 100-year anniversary and contained papers on a wide range of numismatic topics. Among U.S. authors, Eric Newman and Walter Breen were granted the honor of making contributions on American numismatics. Breen wrote on the early New York engravers Ephraim Brasher and John Bailey, while Newman tackled the mystery of British insignia appearing on post-revolution Vermont state coppers. The problem had vexed researchers as long as the ANS was old, and Newman used a recently excavated example of a counterfeit British halfpence to demonstrate punch-linking between that series and the Vermont coppers. The reconciliation of the historical record with the evidence of the coins themselves is the essence of the numismatic research, showcasing Newman’s ability to attack a problem from multiple directions, advancing the science of numismatics and establishing a high standard for future efforts.

    Link to ANS Centennial History on NNP:

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    Nov 12 2017

    Search of the Week: "Terlecki" and Gold Saved From the Nazis

    A Newman Portal user searched this week for “Terlecki.”  No matter how smart you think you are, looking at a few recent searches will never fail to humble you – it’s all numismatic, and it’s all words and terms and stories you have never heard of before. A search on Terlecki reveals, from The Shekel (1968, no. 4), that Terlecki catalogued the siege coins of the Lodz ghetto during WWII. From Frank and Laurese Katen’s numismatic literature auction catalog of August 1970 (lot 2064), we learn that Terlecki in 1965 wrote a general guide on Polish coins, Illustrowany Katalog Monet Polskich, covering the period 1916-1965. Remy Bourne’s literature sale of September 1995 gives the full name, Wladyslaw Terlecki, and at this point we move over to Wikipedia, where a short biography of Terlecki (1904-1967) can be found. Per Wiki, Terlecki pulled gold and platinum bars from the Polish State Mint and buried the material to save it from Nazi confiscation. Wiki should not be relied on as a final authority, but it does cite an original document which likely contains further information of interest to a researcher of Polish numismatics.

    Link to The Shekel (vol. 1, no, 4, 1968) on Newman Portal:

    Link to Katen’s August 1970 auction sale catalog:

    Link to Remy Bourne’s September 1995 auction sale catalog:

    Link to (translated) Wikipedia entry on Terlecki:

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    Nov 06 2017

    Search Auction Catalogs of a Single Firm

    Newman Portal users may now perform text searches within the catalogs of a single auction firm.  Simply enter the firm name in the “publisher” field of the advanced search page (the list of firms supported are on the Newman Portal auction catalogs landing page). For example, entering “Stacks” in the publisher field and “lightning averted” in the search field reveals 23 references from Stack’s and Stack’s-Bowers auction sale catalogs to this well-known Betts medal (Betts-546).  Did Stack’s subsidiary Coin Galleries ever feature this rare medal?  Indeed they did – once – in April 2003, as a Newman Portal search will demonstrate.

    Link to Newman Portal advanced search page:

    Link to Newman Portal auction catalogs landing page:

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    Nov 03 2017

    Origin of "In God We Trust"

    While scanning U.S. Mint Director correspondence for the Newman Portal, Roger W. Burdette located an 1890 letter from Director Edward Leech responding to a congressman’s inquiry on the origin of “In God We Trust” on U.S. coinage.  The motto first appeared on the two-cent piece in 1864, although pattern pieces dated 1863 alternately employed GOD AND COUNTRY, GOD OUR TRUST, and IN GOD WE TRUST. The adoption of “In God We Trust” is one of the better documented design changes within United States coinage and is traced back to a November 13, 1861 letter from Rev. Mark Watkinson of Ridleyville, PA to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, urging acknowledgement of Almighty God on American coinage. Watkinson’s original proposal was much different than that eventually adopted: “What I propose is that instead of the goddess of Liberty we shall have next inside the thirteen stars, a ring inscribed with the words perpetual union.  Within this ring the all-seeing eye, crowned with a halo.  Beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its fields stars equal to the number of the States United.  In the fields of the bars the words God, liberty, law.”  Instead of this busy design, legislation simply adding “In God We Trust” was passed April 22, 1864, and U.S. coinage widely adopted the motto in 1865 (smaller denominations were excepted).  Thanks to Bill Bierly, who is currently writing a book on the adoption of “In God We Trust,” for supplying certain of the above information.  

    Link to Leech 1890 letter on Internet Archive:

    Link to U.S. National Archives records on Newman Portal:

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    Nov 03 2017

    Newman Portal Search of the Week: Kagin-15

    A Newman Portal user recently searched for “Kagin-15.”  Having no idea what this was, we entered the search ourselves, and learned that this refers to Bechtler gold pieces as catalogued by Don Kagin. Bechtler gold was privately coined in North Carolina from 1831 and 1852, and, as examples are priced at four-figures and up, most numismatists would be satisfied with a single piece. For the specialist, Kagin has enumerated the die varieties, and this is one of the more prized. Kagin-15 is a $5 variety, with the inscription 5 / DOLLARS / 20 CARATS / 150 G. The Newman Portal search identified three auction appearances, two from Stack’s Bowers and one from Kagin’s. The Newman Portal also contains images of Bechtler gold from the Smithsonian, and two examples of the Kagin-15 were located in that collection. We would welcome attributions for the remainder of the Bechtler pieces.

    Link to Bechtler gold pieces from the National Numismatic Collection on Newman Portal:

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    Oct 25 2017

    Newman Portal Search of the Week: Betts-111

    An NNP user recently searched for Betts-111, “Betts” referring of course to C. Wyllys Betts’ American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals (1894), which catalogs 623 such pieces. John Kraljevich and Erik Goldstein conducted a related exercise at their recent ANA Summer Seminar course in colonial numismatics.  Students were randomly assigned 3-digit numbers and instructed to prepare a 5-minute presentation on the Betts medal of the same number. We can report that this exercise resulted in several searches of the Newman Portal.  In any case, Betts-111, the Society of Merchants medal by Duvivier, depicts Louis XV and is dated 1715. A search of the Newman Portal reveals but a single citation, in Joe Levine’s Auction #85 (June 2015), lot 77, where he cataloged a gilt silver example as excessively rare, and missing from the LaRivere, Ford, and Adams collections.  Levine noted only two examples, this and another apparently in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

    Link to Presidential Coin and Antique Sale #85 on Newman Portal:

    Link to Betts’ American Colonial History on Newman Portal:

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    Oct 18 2017

    Alternative Materials for One Cent Coinage (1973)

    While combing the stacks at Washington University in St. Louis, we recently discovered a 1973 government publication discussing alternative compositions for the Lincoln cent. The study, Alternative Materials for One Cent Coinage, was initiated in response to rising copper prices, as the Treasury was well aware of the consequences of intrinsic value exceeding the face value of coinage. Seemingly every citizen was searching pocket change for pre-1965 silver coins that could easily be sold at a premium to the local coin dealer.  Had copper similarly risen in value, Lincoln cents would have disappeared from circulation, only exacerbating the government’s financial loss on their manufacture.

    Such publications were not marketed within the numismatic community as were the commercial publications of Krause, Whitman, and others. Individual researchers located them by chance, or perhaps they showed up occasionally in the inventories of numismatic booksellers, although a Newman Portal search of Fred Lake’s literature sales (125 in all) fails to locate even  a single copy of this publication. 

    The work itself considers copper-zinc alloys, aluminum, steel, zinc, and even plastic, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. Copper prices dropped in the mid-70s, coincident with the recession, but strengthened at the end of the decade along with precious metals. This time, action was taken, and the cent composition changed during 1982 to 95% zinc, along with a weight reduction from 3.1 to 2.5 grams. Today, pre-1982 cents contain roughly 2 cents worth of copper, though it is illegal to melt them. Many speculate this restriction will be lifted if the Mint discontinues the one-cent coin.

    Link to Alternative Materials for One Cent Coinage on Newman Portal:


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