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NNP Blog

Oct 04 2017

The Portal Opens #1: John Kraljevich Joins NNP

We are pleased to announce John Kraljevich will contribute to the NNP Blog under the headline The Portal Opens. With no further ado, John's first follows.

The Portal Opens

The root of Eric Newman’s genius for numismatic research is twofold: first, deep sourcing, employing the best numismatic and non-numismatic resources; second, an ability to synthesize these widely disparate materials to tell a story no one has ever told before. There have been relatively few American numismatic researchers who have had the ability and the resourcefulness to accomplish truly original research. The boundaries have always been high, necessitating the gathering of a substantial library (and, often, a substantial budget to build it), travel to visit other collectors and repositories, and enough of a background in the non-numismatic allied disciplines of art, history, geography, and economics to make sense of it all.

With the introduction of the Newman Numismatic Portal, the height of those boundaries drops appreciably.

It would take a lifetime to gather these materials, but even then they would scarcely be as useful to a researcher as they are here. From mainstream references to runs of auction catalogs that contain information published nowhere else, the works made available on the Newman Numismatic Portal are fully indexed and searchable, giving researchers a chance to locate a long forgotten tidbit through means other than serendipity. Original research articles published in rare or obscure periodicals from the 19th century to today have long been underutilized; with the Newman Numismatic Portal, they come to the forefront. Manuscript materials, including the remarkable Newman archives and treasures from the library of the American Numismatic Society, are now available to researchers worldwide, a resource that makes this website a worthy addition to numismatic knowledge even were they the only things here.

But one need not be a serious numismatic researcher to find the portal useful. An unfamiliar medal may well be instantly identified by doing nothing more than keying in the words of its inscription. The rarity of a numismatic item may be revealed by a dearth of appearances in the auction listings archived here (or, on the flip side, it may be proven to be relatively common despite the marketing hype). A story that deserves to be widely known may be found to have been told just once and forgotten, refilling a gap that brings light to a more profound historical narrative.

For academics and non-numismatic writers, numismatics offers photogenic and easily understood relics of material culture, both lowly and profound. Unlike collectors, who cherish the rare and valuable, historians may find that numismatic items that are commonplace or nearly worthless serve as an ideal symbol or illustration, whether it be the token Rosa Parks dropped into the fare box before she famously found her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, the medals Thomas Jefferson brought from Paris to deliver to George Washington on behalf of a grateful nation, or the Confederate $5 that was in Abraham Lincoln’s pocket when he died. Those stories, and thousands more, are here, ripe for the picking.

Eric Newman has spent nearly a century telling these stories. I’ve only been at it a couple decades, leaving me as a mere pup by comparison. With an historian’s ethic and a collector’s heart, I’ll be sifting the remarkable gifts of the Newman Numismatic Portal on a regular basis to identify stories to share. It’s akin to standing atop Cerro Rico, the mountain full of silver ore at Potosi: extraordinary treasures lie beneath the surface, just waiting to be uncovered. I’m excited to be the “chief storytelling officer” for the Newman Numismatic Portal, and excited to dig up what’s still hidden. I’ve got my pick and shovel ready. 

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