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    Oct 15 2019

    Eric P. Newman Research Notes for Vermont Coinage Article Digitized

    In 1958 Eric P. Newman published “A Recently Discovered Coin Solves a Vermont Numismatic Enigma” in the American Numismatic Society (ANS) centennial anthology. Joel Orosz summarized this work in the Newman biography:

    “Detective Newman is again on the case, describing a heretofore unknown coin that explains why the series 1787 and 1788 Vermont coppers with bust facing right display the distinctively British insignia of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George in the shield on the reverse, and not the emblem of Vermont. After a thorough review of the literature regarding this phenomenon, Newman describes a counterfeit British halfpence excavated in Stepney, Connecticut, which can be punch-linked to the Vermont coppers, and demonstrates how the punches originally used to counterfeit the halfpence were later diverted to Vermont copper production after the June 7, 1787 Machin’s Mills agreement was signed. This finding settled a century-old scholarly debate.”

    Newman’s research file for this article is now online, most notably including the original paste-ups with photographic plates. Also included here are related correspondence and research notes in Newman’s hand.

    Link to Eric P. Newman research file for A Recently Discovered Coin Solves a Vermont Numismatic Enigma:

    Link to Centennial Publication of the American Numismatic Society on Newman Portal:
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    Oct 13 2019
    Numismatic Literature

    Kolbe & Fanning Auction Sale Catalogs on Newman Portal

    As previously announced by Kolbe & Fanning, in conjunction with the sale of the George F. Kolbe library on October 26, the firm is making their historic auction sale catalogs available on Newman Portal. The majority of these have now been posted on Newman Portal, with the remainder coming soon. After a modest beginning in 1976, the firm was running full tilt by its ninth sale in 1981, which featured consignments from Armand Champa, the estate of Kenneth Lee, and the Essex Institute. Harry W. Bass, Jr. John W. Adams, Jack Collins and many others competed to drive prices up to record levels, and the pursuit of collecting numismatic literature fully came into its own. The formation of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society complemented the commercial activity, and since then Kolbe & Fanning have handled many important libraries, including those of Adams, Bass, Stack’s, Ford, and others.

    This catalog set as a whole describes over 100,000 items of numismatic literature, and, while there is naturally some lot duplication, it is clear that this represents a monumental effort, comparable in scope to the ANS library catalog. This copious record has, and will continue, to serve as a premier bibliographic resource for numismatic literature, with detailed and authoritative descriptions of nearly every important work in the field.

    Kolbe and Fanning have cataloged even the most esoteric items with an eye toward putting them into greater context and giving the reader a well-formed idea of their place in the numismatic universe, often more substantive than might first appear. Some works are by definition more mundane than others, but all are given careful consideration in these thoughtfully prepared catalogs.

    Link to Kolbe & Fanning auction sale catalogs on Newman Portal:

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    Oct 13 2019

    Newman Portal Adds The Check Collector

    With the gracious permission of the American Society of Check Collectors, The Check Collector has recently been added to Newman Portal. Vintage checks are a launching pad for the study of banking histories, financial printing, and related commercial matters. Newman Portal acknowledges Bob Hohertz for his assistance with this journal, which sadly ceased publication in December, 2018. Fortunately, back issues are now archived on Newman Portal, preserving this slice of numismatic collecting history for future generations.

    Link to The Check Collector on Newman Portal:
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    Sep 29 2019

    Scouts BSA Coin Collecting Merit Badge Crash Course

    Recently added to Newman Portal is a video from Lianna Spurrier aimed at Scouts BSA members looking to acquire the coin collecting merit badge. There are ten requirements in the current manual (which George Cuhaj informs us is being reworked) covering numismatic basics, with a emphasis on U.S. issues. The BSA merit badge doesn’t aim to turn kids into large cent attribution experts but rather provides a beginning exposure to the hobby and hopefully delivers a few tools to help more interested members move along further as enthusiasm warrants. 

    Link to BSA coin collecting merit badge on Newman Portal:
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    Sep 23 2019
    Colonial Numismatics

    Christopher McDowell Publishes Census of Pitt Farthings

    The Pitt tokens are yet another enigmatic entry in the American colonial coin catalog. Nothing is known of their manufacture, which might have occurred in England or in America, nor is the engraver known. What is certain is that they commemorative William Pitt’s involvement in the repeal of the Stamp Act (1766). The Act required a stamp on every official document in the colonies, the proceeds of which were intended to support a standing British army in America, whose primary duty would be of course to enforce the collection of even more taxes from the colonists. The Act was repealed in 1766 due to the influence of William Pitt and others, including Benjamin Franklin.

    With little in the way of a documentary record, the pieces themselves tell the story. They were issued in two sizes, historically referred to as “farthings” or “halfpennies” even though no coining authority has been identified. They did circulate in the colonies, and have been found by detectorists. The small format “farthing” pieces are substantially more scarce than the large format “halfpenny,” with values in Fine-12 of $15,000 and $1,200, respectively. Under sponsorship of the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, Chris McDowell has prepared a census of all 24 known examples of the Pitt farthing. With such a low population, detailed investigation into each example is greatly facilitated, and McDowell’s paper will be the last word on the subject absent the discovery of a hoard.

    One of the more interesting pieces is the Anton brass specimen, said to include presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Lyndon Johnson in its provenance. It was offered by Bill Anton, Jr. in the February 2005 Numismatist and there described as gem uncirculated. Anton corresponded with Eric P. Newman regarding this piece in 1971, forwarding X-rays that Newman used to verify the absence of a casting port. McDowell was able to track down images for this piece, and for all others, except in a single case. With the images, this paper will serve as the “go to” guide for anyone wishing to acquire or catalog an example.

    Link to Pitt Farthing census on Newman Portal:
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    Sep 15 2019

    Emperor Norton Biography

    Recently added to Newman Portal is Albert Dressler’s biography of “Emperor Norton,” the colorful self-proclaimed California king, who issued a number of 19th century bonds or scrip in the name of “The Imperial Government of Norton I.” Joshua Abraham Norton (1818-1880) was born in England, and came to San Francisco in 1849. Norton was unsuccessful in business but apparently a compelling personality, one that might have been more richly rewarded in today’s culture, an environment more willing to support the eccentric celebrity. He paraded about San Francisco in full regalia and issued various and sundry edicts abolishing the U.S. Constitution, demanding that church leaders officially recognize him as “Empower,” etc. His scrip was accepted in local restaurants, akin to the modern artist J.S.G. Boggs, whose stylized adaptations of U.S. money were originally passed as “money.” Today both Norton and Boggs notes are highly collectible and usually worth much more than face value.

    Link to Emperor Norton of United States
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    Sep 08 2019

    The Gold St. Patrick Pieces

    In processing Eric P. Newman’s Bowers & Merena archive box we ran across some interesting correspondence related to the gold St. Patrick pieces. Two pieces are known, one authentic and one fake. The unquestioned piece was presented in Ford VII (Stack’s 1/2005, lot 2, realized $184,000) and bears a sterling provenance dating back to the UK in the late 18th century. The fake piece appeared in Norweb II (Bowers & Merena, 3/1988, lot 2386) where it was described as “controversial” and sold “as is.” 

    John Kleeberg later wrote of the false piece, in Newby’s St. Patrick Coinage (proceedings of the 2006 ANS Coinage of Americas Conference, published in 2009). Kleeberg states that Emery Norweb was upset with John J. Ford, Jr. over his refusal to sell her the genuine piece from the Boyd collection, and speculates that subsequently a gold forgery was manufactured by Paul Franklin and placed in an obscure English auction in an attempt to conceal its true origin. The Norweb’s acquired the piece in 1962 via Spink’s as intermediary, and the matter remained quiet until the time of the Norweb II sale.

    The Newman correspondence now reveals the back story leading up to the March 1988 sale. In November 1987, Newman wrote to Hodder in response to a request for Newman’s opinion on the piece. Newman was certain the piece was fake, in part because it matched dies known to produce false pieces in silver (described by Newman in The Numismatist, May 1963). Hodder’s description in the catalog addressed the points Newman made in 1963, but acknowledged that the piece remained “perplexing and controversial.” Hodder was open about its technical problems, freely stating, for example, that the absence of a reeded edge on the gold piece matched no other known St. Patrick pieces. 

    Newman’s file goes on to indicate that R. Henry Norweb, Jr. contacted him by phone on March 10, 1988, two weeks prior to the Norweb II sale. The piece was subsequently withdrawn. Newman wrote to Hodder on March 15, “the withdrawal of the piece from sale and the gift by the Norwebs to ANS is in my opinion a good solution.” The Ford VII catalog described the Norweb piece as a “fake from well known fake dies” and today this remains the consensus opinion.

    Link to Ford VII sale catalog on Newman Portal:
    Link to Norweb II sale catalog Newman Portal:
    Link to Coinage of Americas Conference proceedings on the St. Patrick pieces (2009):
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    Aug 31 2019

    Newman Portal Continues Digitization of Chapman Correspondence at American Numismatic Society

    One of the treasures of the American Numismatic Society archival collection is a group of business correspondence of Samuel Hudson and Henry Chapman, Philadelphia coin dealers c. 1880 to 1930. This tranche of letters provides an insider’s view of the coin business for the period. An example is the file of William Dickinson, a St. Louis numismatist. Negotiation is a timeless thing, and Dickinson’s missive of March 12, 1892, complaining about consignment rates well illustrates the point:

    “…in regard to the sale my Coins, I am appalled by the fact that at your terms proposed for disposing of them every half dollar must realize 67 cents in order for me to obtain its face value, whatever the cost to me may have been….shall I not better dispose of them here at private sale….many of the pieces I took of you paying you 10% [apparently referring to a buyer’s commission]. Now if by you sold I must pay 25%, making 35% for me, more than one third this cost to me. I shall lose less by selling them here…..I feel I am paying pretty dear for a defunct whistle to pay 35% for indulgence in this fad….you can appreciate the occasion of my hesitation to sell at auction….”

    Dickinson eventually came to terms with the Chapman firm, and his named sale was presented by the Philadelphia brothers in March, 1894. Newman Portal acknowledges David Hill, ANS Librarian, and Lara Jacobs of Internet Archive for their assistance with this project.

    Link to Chapman / Dickinson correspondence:
    Link to Chapman sale of Dickinson collection on Newman Portal:
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    Aug 21 2019
    U.S. Mint

    Early U.S. Mint Fixed Price Lists on Newman Portal

    As part of his work on “clandestine” Mint practices in the 19th century, Roger W. Burdette contributed to Newman Portal an 1859 memo from Mint Director James Ross Snowden outlining the offering of “master-coins,” which Snowden defines as coming from “polished dies” with “extra labor and care.” Collectors seem to like arguing over “proof” status for certain early U.S. issues, and, while this document won’t settle the debate, it is a step in the right direction. In any case, Director Snowden set the price for gold proof sets at $43.00 while silver sets were priced at $3.00. Soon after, during the war, U.S.-issued greenbacks were no good at the Mint, and collectors wishing to purchase proof sets with currency paid a varying premium, depending on the latest fortune of the Union forces. Snowden further notes that the Mint will no longer trade pattern pieces in exchange for Washington medals needed for the Mint Cabinet, as most of the desired pieces had been acquired. Snowden’s book on Washington Medals, A Description of the Medals of Washington, was published shortly thereafter (1861).

    Link to U.S. Mint Fixed Price Lists on Newman Portal:
    Link to Snowden’s A Description of the Medals of Washington on Newman Portal:

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    Aug 18 2019

    Lianna Spurrier Offers Daily Video Reports from the ANA Convention

    This week Newman Portal sponsored the creation of a series of daily video reports from the ANA convention, produced by Lianna Spurrier. Starting with the ribbon cutting on day 1 (Tuesday), Spurrier covers all aspects of the show from exhibits to auctions to bourse personalities and, of course, coins. Dealer Shanna Schmidt, recently elected to the ANA board, appears on the day 2 video (Wednesday), while day 3 (Thursday) brings coverage of the sale of the 1894-S dime at the Stack’s Bowers auction. In the day 4 video, Benjamin Franklin (aka Pat McBride) makes a surprise appearance and notes that the colonial paper money he printed 300 years ago has held up surprisingly well. This was the first large show Spurrier has attended and she brings a new and refreshing perspective to the convention experience.

    Link to Lianna Spurrier ANA convention videos on Newman Portal:
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