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Category: History and Numismatics

Using Ancient Coins to Map Trade Routes in Mediterranean Europe

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton have launched a research project in which nuclear radiation is used to identify changes in metal content among ancient Greek and Roman coins held in a world-class collection amassed at the university since the 1940s.

By probing the metal content of coins exchanged thousands of years ago in Mediterranean Europe, the scientists have discovered a new way to map ancient trade patterns, to retrace economic ups and downs at the dawn of Western Civilization and even to shed new light on the collapse of the Roman Empire.

“As we determine what the coins are made of, we are then able to reconstruct ancient trade routes, understand the development of economies and even determine the extent of counterfeiting,” McMaster archeologist Dr.Spencer Pope states in a project summary issued Tuesday. “This research will help us link the archeological to the historical to understand how we, as a society, got to where we are today.”

A joint project between the university’s classics department and its department of medical physics and applied radiation sciences, the ancient coin initiative involves x-ray analysis and a “proton microprobe” to determine how much silver, bronze or gold is contained in each piece of money.

“We use multiple systems to look for a number of metals — gold, copper, silver — present in the outer layer of the coins,” said radiation scientist Michael Farquharson. “Then we use the McMaster Nuclear Reactor to penetrate deeper into the coin to determine whether or not the coin was plated with a different material than it was actually made of.”

“For the Roman period, there are many crises that can be recognized in the numismatic record,” said Pope, describing one “budget crunch” during Punic Wars of the 3rd century B.C., when Rome was battling Carthage — centred in present-day Tunisia — for control of the Mediterranean world.

“We can see metal coins begin to have more base metal — junk metal — added to ‘debase’ the coins,” he noted. “As Rome and other cities fall into crises and get into economic trouble, more bronze coins appear (rather than silver), and even these are diluted by tin or lead.” So far, about 20 coins have undergone this “deep probe”. (more…)

William Pannier Collection of Historic, Rare California Bank Notes Offered By Goldbergs

More than 100 Orange County California bank notes from the collection of the late William (“Willie”) Pannier will be among the highlights of the pre-Long Beach Expo auction to be conducted by Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins and Collectibles in Beverly Hills, California, January 31 – February 2, 2011.

“These historic, Southern California large and small-size notes have been off the market for decades in his collection. There are several unique and serial number one examples,” said Larry Goldberg, partner with his cousin, Ira, in the auction firm.


Photo Caption: The First National Bank of Santa Ana, 1902 $10 Red Seal, PCGS Currency VG10, unique, the only known Red Seal from Orange County California, is one of the highlights of the William Pannier Collection to be offered in an auction by Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, January 31 – February 2, 2011. Photo credit: Lyle Engelson for Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles

Pannier, who died in August at the age of 66, was the long-time owner of Fullerton Coin & Stamp Company, the oldest coin and stamp store in Orange County California. Well-known collector and real estate developer Dwight Manley worked at the shop on weekends as a teenager, and considers Pannier a beloved numismatic mentor.

Pannier began collecting silver certificate notes in the late 1960s and then became interested in Orange County currency, according to his brother David.
“We were second generation Orange County residents. Orange County was in our roots. Some of the notes were displayed at the store, but he kept the more pricey things at home. He always tried to upgrade the notes or get a lower serial number for his collection,” David Pannier recalled.

Highlights of the Orange County California bank notes in the Goldberg’s auction include:

  • The First National Bank of Fullerton, 1882 $10 Value Back, graded PCGS Currency VF30, the finest of only three known Value Backs from the entire county;
  • The Farmers & Merchants National Bank of Santa Ana, 1902 $20 Date Back, PCGS Currency VF20PPQ, one of only four known from the bank; (more…)

Second Edition of Rasiel Suarez’ Book “Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” Available

OLYMPIA, WA. November, 2010 — Lovers of classical Rome along with legions of coin collectors helped drive 2005’s “Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins” to an unlikely Top Ten position in the most sought after out-of-print books in America according to Bookfinder.com the news of which was then brought to national attention in an article in the Christian Science Monitor. These fans were pleased when noted numismatist Rasiel Suarez announced the availability of the long-awaited second edition just days later.

Customers who had been on the preorder queue, many for several months, were instantly impressed with the heft and sheer beauty of the book which tips the scales at just short of ten pounds. Amazon and Facebook fan page reviews continued praise in monolothic response with the common denominator being the breathtaking scope of the information covered and the eye candy of so many thousands of rare coins reproduced in high resolution color photography; a welcome departure from the customary fuzzy gray images otherwise so prevalent in numismatic literature.

The sizzle may sell but ultimately it’s the steak that feeds. ERIC II’s content catalogues a dizzying 60,000+ coin varieties far outclassing all previous Roman reference works in this critical metric then adds current market pricing and rarity data in an innovative approach that is considerably more accurate than the vague price guides published up until now.

Besides the text dealing directly with the coinage, the author has crammed every nook and cranny with biographical and historical notes relevant to each of the reigns. Even in this capacity, where photographs are not essential, the author nevertheless spares no opportunity to include even more of them in a bid to make each of its almost 300 sections a tidy, self-contained database of all the knowledge pertinent to that domain thus earning it the encyclopedia status of its namesake title.

First printing limited to 3,000 units, $149.95. Autographed and numbered copies of ERIC II: The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins may be ordered from the publisher’s website at dirtyoldbooks.com

About the Author

Rasiel Suarez is owner and co-founder of Dirty Old Coins, LLC, a company founded in 2002 with the vision of bringing the hobby of ancient coin collecting to a broad demographic largely unaware that owning genuine ancient coins was both possible and affordable. 2005 saw the release of his first book, The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins, which broke new ground in making the subject much more accessible to those entering the hobby.

By 2007 the company had sold over one million Roman coins by way of retail-ready coin kits that taught thousands of families how to restore these ancient artifacts using the same methods museums use. His success as an author and recognized expert in the field of Roman numismatics was cemented by the release of the second edition of his Encyclopedia in the Fall of 2010. An avid traveler and photographer, Rasiel lives with his family in Olympia, Washington.

Ancient Coins: How old is “Ancient”?

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

The classification of cultures generally tracks along two interrelated lines: chronological and geographical. For centuries, coin collectors struggled with the lack of a coherent system for cataloguing the vast array of issues from antiquity through the modern era. Joseph Eckhel (1737-1798), a secularized Jesuit abbot who served as numismatist to the imperial court of the Holy Roman Empire, devised a system for arranging coins geographically that is still in use today.

This system basically records coins in a progression beginning at the northeast quadrant of the Mediterranean basin and continuing from west to east, then south through the Levant and from east to west through northern Africa. Though far from perfect, nobody has yet devised a better approach for non-Roman coins. The classification of coins and cultures into chronological divisions is far more complex than the Echkel scheme.

Chronologically, the primary divisions of coinage are almost universally accepted as being Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Within the United States, collectors tend to separate U.S. coins from the modern coins of other nations by referring to the latter as “World Coins.” Coins in the West were first struck in Western Anatolia during the 7th century BC. The transition point between ancient and medieval is more difficult to date.

Some would argue that the end of the ancient period is coincident with the fall of Rome in AD 476. Others choose the accession of Anastasius I in AD 491 as the transition point. But, almost everyone who collects “Byzantine” coins thinks of them as being “ancient” even though they start with the accession of Anastasius and end in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople.

Likewise, coins struck in India and Central Asia are typically thought of as ancient up to the Islamic conquests, which did not happen at a single point in time.

Further complicating the chronological classification, coins of the post-Roman era in western Europe (e.g. Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany) from as early as the sixth century AD are thought of by many as ‘Medieval”.

In fact, by the time of Constantinople’s fall, some coinage in western Europe is already being thought of by collectors and scholars as falling into the “Modern” or “World” classification. The incongruity is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to a new collector.

Illustration Note: [Above] Imago Mundi – Babylonian map, the oldest known world map, 6th century BCE .

From a purely practical point of view, the distinction may not be all that important. After all, a rose is a rose…. But, to a cataloguer it is frequently a conundrum. Perhaps the next Joseph Eckhel is reading these lines right now and conjuring up a system that will allow for the vastly differing cultural environments and reshape our definitions in a way that seems sensible.

Through the Numismatic Glass: The 1792 Half Disme

By Dr. Thomas F. Fitzgerald – The California Numismatist Spring 2010

The need of a national system for the coinage of the United States was dealt with by the Congress. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton favored the adoption of the decimal system for the young nation’s monetary system. These leaders adopted ideas from Europe. The French referred to this system as “La Disme.” It was from these European roots that the concept of “tenths” or “La Disme,” anglicized later to “dime,” came to our coinage.

A Congressional resolution on July 6, 1785 adopted the dollar as the monetary unit of the United States. Subsequent resolutions, in 1786 and 1787, specified each of the coins that were authorized by the Congress. The adoption of the Constitution of the United States on September 17, 1787 reserved the authority to coin money and regulate its value to the Congress.

The United States in 1791

In 1791, Vermont had joined the original 13 states. The army, consisting of about 5,000 men, was fully engaged fighting the Indians in the Northwest Territory. However, there was no navy and an annual tribute was paid to the Barbary Pirates. The nation’s settlers had begun their migration westward. There was an obvious need to establish the financial system that had been authorized by the Congressional Acts of 1786 and 1787.

The Mint Act of April 2, 1792

Apparently Washington, for international reasons, wanted silver coinage struck as soon as possible; he believed this would establish the authority of the new nation among the nations of the world.

The 1792 Mint Act, that had specified the details of the nation’s monetary system, was followed by President Washington’s actions to establish the mint. On April 14, 1792, he appointed David Rittenhouse of Philadelphia, the most renowned scientist in America, director of the Mint.

On June 1st, clock maker Henry Voight was appointed acting chief coiner. A little over a month later, on July 9, 1792, President Washington authorized the coinage of half dismes. Just four days later, on July 13, 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson recorded the following in his household account book: “rec’d from the mint 1500 half dismes of the new coinage.” It should be noted that the “new mint” did not begin to strike U.S. coins for circulation until 1793.

The Dies Are Prepared For The Half Disme

British medalist William Russell Birch designed and engraved a single set of dies. He probably used letter punches supplied by Jacob Bay, a Germantown, Pennsylvania, maker of printing types. The obverse of the 1792 half disme portrays the head of “Liberty” facing left, with the date 1792 below. The motto LIB.PAR. OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY (Liberty parent of science and industry) around the border. The reverse bears an eagle flying left with the denomination HALF DISME in two lines, with a five-pointed star in the exergue below. The legend UNI. STATES OF AMERICA encircles the eagle.

The coinage machinery was in the cellar of saw-maker John Harper while the new mint was being prepared. It was here, at the corner of Cherry and Fifth Streets, where these pieces were struck. They used a private coin press owned by John Harper.

In 1844 John McAllister interviewed Adam Eckfeldt about the minting of these coins. Eckfeldt was the only surviving member of the mint who was presented when these coins were struck. He stated:

“These coins were struck expressly for Gen. Washington, in the extent of One Hundred Dollars, which sum he deposited in bullion or coin, for the purpose Mr. E. things that Gen. W. distributed them as presents. Some were sent to Europe but the greater number, he believes, were given to friends of Gen. W. in Virginia. No more of them were coined. They were never designated as currency. The Mint was not, at the time, fully ready to being put into operation.”

The striking of these coins was noted by President Washington in his fourth annual address on November 6th, 1792. He stated, “There has been a small beginning of the coinage of the half dismes: the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.”

Although Washington used the coins as presentation pieces, most, if not all, surviving pieces bear evidence they were circulated. (more…)

Finding Numismatic History in Unlikely Places

By Dan Duncan – Pinnacle-Rarities

Ezra Meeker – Champion of the Oregon Trail

Over the summer months our numismatic travels took us to great historical cities like Boston and Philadelphia. And this week we travel to Baltimore, another city rich in early Americana. Of course, across the nation there are local historical sites and, more specifically, sites of numismatic interest. Over the last 200 plus years, our mints have aided the extraction from a number of precious metal lodes. Now many of the once thriving businesses are gone, with a few remaining as mint and mining museums or historical landmarks.

Each place chronicles a rich history founded in capturing natural resources and refining them into tangible representations of our history. Living in the Northwest, we are thousands of miles from any of these sites. While some old mines exist in the state, the real history of Washington State lies in the old growth forests. The “American” history of the region is for all intent and purpose quite young. But, sometimes you don’t have to look far to find a piece of numismatic lore right in your own back yard.

Recently we took the family to a large state fair located in the city of Puyallup (pyoo-al-uh p). One of the town’s principal founders was a pioneer who travelled to the Oregon Territory in the mid-nineteenth century. He eventually settled in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. This man was Ezra Meeker. His contributions to the northwest are many, but he is best remembered nationally for his extensive work on having the Oregon Trail marked.

According to the Meeker Mansion website, “Ezra Meeker became the self-appointed champion of the Oregon Trail in 1906, when at the age of 76, accompanied by two oxen, a wagon, a driver and a dog, he made his way from his front yard to Washington D.C., by way of New York City.”

Meeker first took the Oregon Trail as a young man in 1852. A true pioneer, Ezra was lured by the promise of the new territories. Finally settling in a valley below Mt. Rainier, Meeker cleared his own land and eventually became an internationally successful hops farmer. His travels included a stint in Europe and a couple forays into the Alaskan territories.

Meeker was obviously impacted by his early trip out west. He had a connection to the Oregon Trail. He recognized it as a part of American history and felt it should be cherished and preserved. In his mid-seventies, he harnessed his oxen and retraced his steps from some 50 odd years ago in a Conestoga wagon. He deemed this trip the Oregon Trail Monument Expedition Trip. During this trip he promoted the trail awareness, lectured, handed out pamphlets and eventually gained a lot of publicity. Meeker met with Teddy Roosevelt, who agreed in principle to in some way recognize the Oregon Trail, but the bill died in Congress.

After returning to his home, Meeker wrote an acclaimed book on the subject entitled The Lost Trail, Meeker again braved the 2,000 mile trail with an ox drawn wagon in 1910. He was again to promote its preservation, but this time he intended to map the route. He was in favor of a transcontinental railroad along a similiar course, which he also intended to lobby for. Despite completing the trail, and the map, his second trip was somewhat of a failure. When he arrived out East he was contacted by the Senate and told not to come to D.C. After some other tribulations, he found his way back to Washington State. He continued to campaign, worked on a movie, lectured and published another book – Ox Team Days. Eventually he’s instrumental in the formation of the Oregon Trail Memorial Association. Through that organization he petitioned Congress getting final approval for the Oregon Trail Commemorative in 1926. The proceeds from the distrubution were used to mark the trail. (more…)

Unusual Coins: Copper $10 Eagle Pattern Minted in France

Heritage’s Sunday Internet Coin Auction (bidding ends on September 26) features one of the more intriguing patterns ever offered. Lot 26512 is an extremely rare copper Eagle pattern produced at the Paris Mint by engraver Louis Charles Bouvet (1802-1865). Only two copper pieces are known–both from the King Farouk Collection–although they differ slightly in thickness and edge markings. A third, unconfirmed copper example is said to be in the holdings of the British Museum (per Stack’s 9/1998 sale). An example in gold or gold-plated is also known (per American Numismatic Rarities’ 6/2006 sale).

Let us backtrack now, for a moment, to July 23, 1844. Mint Engraver Christian Gobrecht died suddenly on that date. Largely due to his political connections with John C. Calhoun as well as his skill as an engraver, Mint outsider James B. Longacre is hired to fill the position a couple of months later. Chief Coiner Franklin Peale and Mint Director Robert M. Patterson oppose the move and despise the man but are forced to accede to it. Despite his talent as an engraver, Longacre lacked skill as a die-cutter; the many reengraved, repunched, and blundered dates in U.S. coinage from 1844 to the early 1850s are evidence. Nonetheless, from 1844 to 1848, Longacre merely needed to add dates onto mechanically made dies; there were no new pattern or circulating coinage designs launched during that time.

An article by Doug Winter from The Numismatist of May 1982, titled “What Might Have Been: The Story of the Bouvet Eagle of 1849,” picks up the tale from there:

“When the Act of March 3, 1849 became law, the long period of inactivity at the Mint ended. This Act, which authorized the coinage of gold dollars and double eagles, meant that the Mint quickly had to design and produce new coins in these denominations. Mint Director Patterson had already decided that Longacre would never be able to perform this type of work, So he surreptitiously devised a plan that would get rid of Longacre once and for all. He would have Franklin Peale, on his scheduled trip to Europe in the summer of 1849, locate a suitable replacement for Longacre. In connection with his plan, Patterson used the design of the new gold dollar as a sort of litmus test for the fledgling Longacre. If Longacre failed, as Patterson confidently expected him to, he would petition for the removal of his Chief Engraver.”

No documentation of direct contact between Patterson and Bouvet survives, but Patterson is known to have contacted Charles Cushing Wright and other talented contemporary engravers about producing master dies for U.S. coinage. (more…)

The Widow’s Mite Coin

By Stewart Huckaby
Every week, my church sends me an e-mail about the upcoming Sunday service — what the sermon will be, what some of the related activities will be, and so on. Part of this message includes a mention of the verses of the Bible that will be covered during the service.

I’m in the habit of cheating a little bit and reading the appropriate verses a bit early. My iPhone has a very nice (and very free) application that allows the user to read the Bible in his choice of translations; it even provides a selection of reading plans. So, when I receive these e-mails, I take advantage.

Recently, one of these e-mails mentioned the passage in Mark 12:41-44, the parable of the widow’s mite. The New American Standard Bible translation reads as follows:

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about the meaning of the passage; I prefer to leave the theological discussions for Sunday. However, coin weenie that I am, I noticed the following (Mark 12:42): “A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.”

Stop right there. The concept of a cent didn’t exist until about the 18th century; never mind that the value of a cent changes both over time and depending on who issued it. Something clearly got lost in this translation. How much were the widow’s mites really worth?

Most of the additional translations were unrevealing. The King James version states, “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.” Other available versions of the Bible translate the value of the coins as: (more…)

Some Further Thoughts on Carson City Double Eagle Gold Coins

By Doug Winter – www.RareGoldCoins.com

I’ve been working on a third edition of my book on Carson City gold coins. For some odd reason, I’ve been working from back to front, meaning that I’ve done the new research of double eagles before following this with eagles and half eagles. I’ve been able to uncover some really eye-opening new information on the rarity and price levels of Carson City double eagles and I’d like to share a few tidbits.

The last Carson City book that I produced was published in 2001, so almost a full decade has passed. My first impression about the market for Carson City double eagles is that it has become far, far more active than ever. Prices have risen significantly since 2001, especially for rarities and for high grade pieces.

In 2001, the five rarest Carson City double eagles in terms of overall rarity (i.e., total known) were the 1870-CC, 1891-CC, 1871-CC, 1878-CC and 1879-CC (these last two issues were tied for fourth rarest). In 2010, the five rarest Carson City double eagles in terms of overall rarity are the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1891-CC, 1879-CC and 1885-CC (these last two issues were tied for fourth rarest).

The 1870-CC has remained an extremely rare coin, despite a surprisingly high frequency of auction appearance in the middle part of this decade. I had previously thought 35-45 were known. Today, I think that number is around 40-50. This includes a number of low grade coins and at least five or six that are either damaged or cleaned to the point that can not be graded by PCGS or NGC.

The rarity of the 1891-CC seems to have diminished quite a bit. I think there are two reasons for this. The first is that I overestimated its rarity in 2001. The second is that a significant number of examples have been found in Europe and other overseas sources. This date hasn’t become plentiful in higher grades but it is far more available in AU50 to AU55 than I ever remember it being before.

The 1871-CC seems more available as well. In 2001, this issue was very hard to find in any grade and it was almost never seen above AU50. Today it is more available and the number of coins graded AU53 to AU55 has risen dramatically. I would attribute much of this to gradeflation as the majority of the 1871-CC double eagles that I see in AU53 and AU55 holders are “enthusiastically” graded, to say the least. In properly graded Mint State, the 1871-CC remains exceedingly rare.

A date whose rarity has become more apparent is the 1885-CC. In the 2001 edition of my book, this date was not even listed in the top six rarest Carson City double eagles. I now rank it as being tied for fourth along with the 1879-CC.

Everyone loves a sleeper, right? The dates that I believe are underrated (and undervalued) in the Carson City double eagle series include the 1872-CC, 1877-CC, 1882-CC and 1892-CC.

In higher grades (AU50 and above), the rarity scale of the Carson City double eagle series has remained remarkably consistent. In 2001, I stated that the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1879-CC, 1878-CC, 1891-CC and 1872-CC were, in that order, the six rarest issues. In 2010, I believe the six rarest are the 1870-CC, 1871-CC, 1878-CC, 1879-CC, 1872-CC and 1891-CC. In other words, the same six dates are still the keys in higher grades but there are now some minor changes in the order. (more…)

Coins With Shady Pasts

The U.S. Treasury’s high-handed seizure of a 1933 St. Gaudens Double Eagle from a British dealer lured to America under false pretenses by a Secret Service Agent posing as a buyer for the coin is outrageous to me, and should be highly disturbing to you, the collector. The arrest of this dealer, Stephen Fenton, and of his American agent, Jay Parrino, on charges of allegedly possessing stolen U.S. government property is frightening to all of us.

Popular legend has long held that no 1933 Double Eagles were ever “officially” released by the U.S. Treasury, and that somehow this made them illegal to possess (other than the two specimens “officially” given by the Treasury to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution). This is despite the fact that several 1933 $20s were publicly advertised and sold in the numismatic market between 1933 and 1944, at which point the Treasury suddenly and arbitrarily decided that they could not be sold after all, and began seizing them and destroying them!

Although most common gold coins were required to be surrendered to the U.S. Treasury at face value by the Gold Surrender Act of 1933 and the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, the laws specifically exempted “gold coins having a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins” from the requirement, and the 1933 Double Eagle certainly qualified as a rare and unusual coin. These laws were ultimately nullified by Public Law 93-373, which made all forms of gold legal for Americans to own again and was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on August 14, 1974, and again by Executive Order 11825, promulgated by Ford on December 31, 1974.

This would appear to make the 1933 $20s legal to own now, a point arguably subject to debate and interpretation when the Treasury began seizing them in 1944. However, the Treasury now claims, without substantiation, that the 1933 $20s are actually stolen government property, a charge significantly not raised by the Treasury when two earlier victims of government seizure in the late 1940s and early 1950s sued the government for the return of their property.

Those lawsuits were conducted at a time when the Gold Surrender Act was in effect to support the Treasury’s otherwise weak position. In both cases the litigants abandoned their efforts in the face of the endless legal fees incurred in challenging Uncle Sam’s deep pockets. However, neither litigant was ever faced with the threat of criminal prosecution.
(more…)

Ancient Coins: Gold Octodrachm (Mnaieion) Coin Minted in Alexandria by Ptolemy V in 191 BCE Found In Israel

As recently reported in Art Daily and E-Sylum,  an extremely rare  ancient gold coin was uncovered recently in the excavations of the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota at Tell Kedesh in Israel near its Lebanese border.

The coin is 2,200 years old and was minted in Alexandria, Egypt in 191 BCE by Ptolemy V and bears the name of the wife of Ptolemy II, Arsinoe. The Israel Antiquities Authority says the coin is the heaviest and has the highest contemporary value of any coin ever found in an excavation in Israel. The coin weighs almost one ounce (27.71 grams), while most ancient gold coins weighed 4.5 grams.

The denomination is called a mnaieion, meaning a one-mina coin, and is equivalent to 100 silver drachms, or a mina of silver.

According to Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is an amazing numismatic find. The coin is beautiful and in excellent preservation. It is the heaviest gold coin with the highest contemporary value of any coin ever found in an excavation in Israel. The coin weighs almost one ounce (27.71 grams), while most ancient gold coins weighed 4.5 grams. In Ariel’s words, “This extraordinary coin was apparently not in popular or commercial use, but had a symbolic function. The coin may have had a ceremonial function related to a festival in honor of Queen Arsinoë, who was deified in her lifetime. The denomination is called a mnaieion, meaning a one-mina coin, and is equivalent to 100 silver drachms, or a mina of silver.

The obverse (‘head’) of the coin depicts Arsinoë II Philadelphus. The reverse (‘tail’) depicts two overlapping cornucopias (horns-of-plenty) decorated with fillets. The meaning of the word Philadelphus is brotherly love. Arsinoë II, daughter of Ptolemy I Soter, was married at age 15 to one of Alexander the Great’s generals, Lysimachus, king of Thrace. After Lysimachus’ death she married her brother, Ptolemy II, who established a cult in her honor. This mnaieion from Tel Kedesh attests to the staying power of the cult, since the coin was minted a full 80 years after the queen’s death.

According to Ariel, “It is rare to find Ptolemaic coins in Israel dating after the country came under Seleucid rule in 200 BCE. The only other gold Ptolemaic coin from an excavation in Israel (from `Akko) dates from the period of Ptolemaic hegemony, in the third century BCE, and weighs less than two grams.”

Ariel notes that although the inscription on the coin identifies the queen as Arsinoë Philadelphus, “it is plausible that the second-century BCE mnaieia actually depict cryptic portraits of the reigning queens. Consequently, the queen represented on the Tell Kedesh mnaieion may actually be Cleopatra I, daughter of Antiochus III, whose marriage to Ptolemy V in 193 sealed the formal end of the Fifth Syrian War.”

Some three years ago an Alexandrine hoard of Ptolemaic gold coins appeared on the world antiquities market. That hoard, however, contained no coins of Ptolemy V, so the extreme rarity of the mnaieion from Tell Kedesh remains unimpaired.

An Example of Yap Island Stone Money to be Auctioned During ANA’s Boston Coin Show

Yap Island is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, and is notable for its stone money, known as Rai: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m (12 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. These stones were probably little used before 1800, and the last pieces were produced in 1931. Prior to traders arriving at Yap, the Island Chief controlled the stones.

There are five major types of monies: Mmbul, Gaw, Fe’ or Rai, Yar, and Reng, this last being only 0.3 m (1 ft) in diameter. Many of them were brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most came in ancient times from Palau. Their value is based on both the stone’s size and its history. Historically the Yapese valued the disks because the material looks like quartz, and these were the shiniest objects around. Eventually the stones became legal tender and were even mandatory in some payments.

The stones’ value was kept high due to the difficulty and hazards involved in obtaining them. To quarry the stones, Yapese adventurers had to sail to distant islands and deal with local inhabitants who were sometimes hostile. Once quarried, the disks had to be transported back to Yap on rafts towed behind wind-powered canoes. The scarcity of the disks, and the effort and peril required to get them, made them valuable to the Yapese.

In 1871 David Dean O’Keefe, a sea Captain from Savannah, Georgia was shipwrecked on the island. During his 30 years on the island, he obtained much fame in the islands, and considerable fortune, by gaining control of the stone quarrying. His exploits were brought to light in a 1954 film starring Burt Lancaster called, His Majesty O’Keefe. O’Keefe then traded these stones with the Yapese for other commodities such as sea cucumbers and copra. Although some of the O’Keefe stones are larger than the canoe-transported stones, they are less valuable than the earlier stones due to the comparative ease in which they were obtained. Approximately 6,800 of them are scattered around the island.

As no more disks are being produced or imported, this money supply is fixed. The islanders know who owns which piece but do not necessarily move them when ownership changes. Their size and weight (the largest ones require 20 adult men to carry) make them very difficult to move around. Although today the United States dollar is the currency used for everyday transactions in Yap, the stone disks are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchange. The stone disks may change ownership during marriages, transfers of land title, or as compensation for damages suffered by an aggrieved party. It is now illegal to remove the stones from Yap Island, with severe penalties for disturbing the stones.

The piece Heritage is offering in its Boston Sale is a premium example of Yap Stone money, in exceptional condition: smooth round calcite stone with center hole quarried on Babekldaop Island, in the Pelew group of Islands, and transferred back to the island of Yap, 40 lb., 5 oz., 15-1/8 inches in diameter.

This Yap Stone belongs to the Numismatic Association of Southern California and was donated to the club many years ago by a primitive money collector. It has been displayed at numerous coin shows in California since becoming the property of the club. The NASC , in an effort to raise money for operating expenses, reluctantly consigned this wonderful item to Heritage for auction at the ANA.

Heritage, in their ongoing support of numismatics, has waived the seller’s fee, and 100% of the hammer price of the Yap Stone will go directly to the Numismatic Association of Southern California. Estimate: $5,000 – $6,000.

Lot 21988 – 2010 August Boston, MA Signature ANA World Coin Auction #3010

Ancient Fuhonsen Coins May be Japan’s Oldest Minted Currency

Fuhonsen Coins from ASUKAJapan’s money economy began earlier than textbooks have described when archaeologists unveiled 33 bronze coins from the late seventh century unearthed in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture in 1998.

Now ten years latter, Nine Fuhonsen coins, which are thought to be the nation’s oldest form of minted currency, unearthed at a former site of Fujiwarakyu, the ancient capital from 694 to 710, in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, differ slightly from previously discovered Fuhonsen coins, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

The finding suggests there may have been another mint in addtion to one discovered at Asukaike ruin in Asukamura.

Minor differences were found in the kanji character “Fu” used on the surface of the coins and a thicker frame surrounding a square hole in the center of the coins. The materials of four of the coins included arsenic and bismuth, and very pure copper.

The coins discovered in August 1998 at the Asukaike Ruins in Asuka, are older than the Wado Kaichin coins first minted in 708, thus bumping them from the archaeological record books as the nation’s first circulated money.

The bronze coins, whose existence has been known for some time, are called Fuhonsen, the name of a charm believed used during the Nara Period (710-784).
Empress jitoThe time at which Fuhonsen coins were minted falls into the Fujiwarakyo Period (694-710), which is based in modern-day Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, where three sovereigns — Empress Jito Emperor Monmu and Empress Genmei — once held court.

The research institute said the 1998 findings prove that Fujiwarakyo was aimed at creating a polity with solid political and economical structures based on the Taiho Code (Taiho Ritsuryo) of 701.

The code consisted of six volumes of penal law (ritsu) and 11 volumes of administrative law (ryo), modeled after the legal code of China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). The researchers said the coins may have been cast under the order of Emperor Tenmu, husband of Empress Jito. (more…)

The Most Important Coin I’ve Ever Handled

By Mark Borckardt

During 30 years as a full time professional numismatist, I have had the opportunity to examine and handle many of the most important rarities in the American series, including two Brasher doubloons, all five 1913 Liberty nickels, two 1894-S dimes, and four 1804 silver dollars. I have handled 80 of the 100 greatest U.S. coins according to the study published by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth.

Last week I had the pleasure of examining and researching a coin that I believe carries more numismatic and historical importance than any of those coins mentioned above, or any other coin that I have ever handled. It is the 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle with a plain edge. Only two plain edge specimens were struck, and they were the first Indian eagles ever created, to fulfill the wish of a dying man.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was near death in the middle of July 1907. Dies for the Indian eagles had already been created, but the collar containing 46 stars was not completed. For that reason, the two plain edge coins were minted, one was sent to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens. The sculptor passed away a couple weeks later on August 3.

Roger W. Burdette has traced the issue in his reference Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (Seneca Mill Press, LLC, 2006), and Michael F. Moran has also examined the issue in his 2008 reference Striking Change — The Great Collaboration of Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In a July 28, 2008 Coin World article, P. Scott Rubin writes: “I received an important e-mail from Roger W. Burdette … that this coin was ‘…one of two plain edge pattern pieces struck in July 1907.’ Just as important, he informed me that one of the specimens went to Secretary of the Treasury Cortelyou and the other went to Augustus Saint-Gaudens… I learned that this was the only coin similar to those issued to the public designed by Saint-Gaudens that the artist saw before his death.” While we are unable to say with certainty that the present piece was the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens, it almost certainly is. The coin that went to Cortelyou was forwarded to President Roosevelt who returned it to the Mint. In all likelihood, the Cortelyou-Roosevelt coin was melted, as it does not appear among coins at the Smithsonian Institution.

It is thought that President Roosevelt returned the coin he received, and it is also believed that the coin sent to Saint-Gaudens was retained by the artist. It is my belief that the coin I handled is the exact coin that Saint-Gaudens received. Since all other Indian eagles and all double eagles of his design were minted after his death, this single coin seems to be the only coin of his own design that Saint-Gaudens ever saw in person.

This plain edge 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle will be offered for sale as lot 3561 in the Platinum Night session of Heritage’s 2010 ANA auction in Boston. The Platinum Night session is scheduled for 6:00 PM EST on Wednesday, August 11. I hope to see many of you there, and hope that those unable to attend will be watching this historic offering on HA.com/live.

The Story of the Two Greatest Gold Shipments In The History of the United States Mints

by Dr. Thomas F. Fitzgerald from the California Numismatist

Twice within a span of almost twenty-five years, all of the gold from the vaults of the 2nd San Francisco Mint, sometimes called the “Granite Lady,” was sent to the United States Mint in Denver, Colorado. Yet the story of these two operations could not have been more different. The first transfer was accomplished with so much secrecy that even the newspapers knew nothing of what was going on. But the second transfer was so well publicized that it included parades and search-lights calling attention to the shipments. This is the story of these two great shipments of gold.

The Very Secret Gold Transfer of 1908

In May 1897 newspaper editor and publisher Frank A. Leach accepted a political appointment by President McKinley to become the superintendent of the San Francisco Mint. He had wanted to divest himself of the newspaper business and this seemed like an ideal new career. Leach assumed his duties on August 1, 1897.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fires

It was a typical dawn in the Bay Area. Without warning a shaking of the earth occurred. It was 5:12 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, 1906! The “Great San Francisco Earthquake,” as it became known, was followed within seconds by a violent shaking that ruptured numerous gas lines resulting in dozens of fires. At the same time it was discovered the city’s water mains had been damaged. San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by water, could not battle the flames with water.

Just two years after the famous 1906 earthquake left the San Francisco mint’s surroundings in shambles, concerns about the mint’s storage capacity and security prompted the move of 331 million dollars worth of bullion to the mint in Denver.

Frank Leach made his way from his home in Oakland to the mint and, together with 50 mint employees and a squad of 10 soldiers, prepared to fight the inferno and save the mint. However, at the beginning of the struggle, the outcome was very much in doubt. The battle lasted for hours but shortly before 5:00 p.m. the fires were out and the building was saved. The men were able to leave the mint, return to their homes and reunite with their families.

More importantly for our story, the mint’s basement vaults that contained millions of dollars of gold and silver coins were saved. (more…)

Unique Plain Edge 1907 $10 pattern – believed the only Saint-Gaudens coin actually seen by the artist – at Boston ANA auction

Historic pattern struck just before the artist’s death for his approval

The only known Plain Edge 1907 ten dollar coin with Wire Rim, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens – and likely the only example of his coinage that he ever saw – is among the most historically important pieces in Heritage’s upcoming U.S. Coin auction. It will be offered on Aug. 11, as part of the Official Auction of the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Boston, MA.

“At the turn of the 20th century, Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of America’s most prominent artists,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. “In 1905, during Theodore Roosevelt’s second term, Roosevelt convinced Saint-Gaudens to redesign the two largest American gold coins: the ten dollar, or eagle, and the twenty dollar, or double eagle. The results made Saint-Gaudens one of the most famous American coinage artists and secured his lasting fame.”

The coinage designs would be the artist’s final masterpieces. In July 1907, when Saint-Gaudens was going through the last stage of his terminal cancer, two early examples of the ten dollar coin were struck. The edges of these two coins were plain; later Wire Rim 1907 ten dollar coins have an edge design of 46 stars.

“The two Plain Edge coins were patterns, made to see how the coins looked,” said Rohan. “They were the coinage equivalent of an artist’s proof. After the two Plain Edge coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, they were split up.”

One was sent to Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou, who forwarded it to the President, while the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens at his studio in New Hampshire. This was the only time Saint-Gaudens would see his work in coin form. He died on August 3, 1907, before further work could be done on either denomination.

Archived letters show that the coin Roosevelt saw was eventually sent back to the Mint, while the Saint-Gaudens coin disappears from the record. This coin’s history is largely unknown, and it is impossible to say with certainty whether it was sent to Roosevelt or Saint-Gaudens, but it is a coin of tremendous importance regardless of the answer. Either it was sent to President Roosevelt, whose dedication to coinage redesign had been vital to the whole project; or it went to Saint-Gaudens, the artist who had spent more than two years bringing the President’s ambition to life. (more…)

History of Coins: TWO-BITS, FOUR-BITS, SIX-BITS, EIGHT…

by Leon F McClellan as published on columnarios.com

Columnario and a CobHave you ever wondered why a United States quarter-dollar is called “two-bits”? Or, a half-dollar “four-bits”? Do you know why we call our basic monetary unit “dollar” instead of something else?

Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits and eight-bits make reference to the eight-reales silver coin of New Spain and Mexico. It is also called piece of eight and circulated in the English Colonies and freely in the USA following the Revolutionary War. As a matter of fact, the eight-reales coin was legal tender in the United States until 1857 and was the world’s most used coin at one time. It is the renowned piece of eight that became part of the Spanish Main pirate lore.

The coins minted until 1734 technically, are called a cob coins, because they were originally made by hand stamping “tail ends of bars” or “cabos de barra”, which were sliced as planchets from rudely cast, more or less round, bullion bars which were assayed and carefully weighed. “Cabo” might well have given us the name of cob, although it does mean a lump or small mass (as of coal). The second definition comes from the Dutch “kubb”.

Cob coinage was made at the first mint in the Americas in Mexico City, established in 1535. Authorized by a Spanish Royal Decree dated 14 September 1519 to melt, cast, mark and put aside the royal-fifth of the gold and silver being collected from the Aztecs in Mexico City (Tenochtitlan). He used the palace of Axay catl (father of Moctezuma II) for the task. This may be considered the first foundry of New Spain and of all North America.

When Cortes moved into a home in 1521 in what is today the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacn, he established the second foundry in order to meet the demand for currency and produced “more than 130,000 castellanos”, according to information in documents collected by Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana. “Castellano” (Castilian) was the current coin of the time. These were the first cobs of the New World. The royal fifth was faithfully sent to Spain in the Spanish galleons.

When the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established by Spanish Royal Decree signed by the Queen of Spain the 11th of May of 1535, the Casa de Moneda (house of coin or mint) was formally established. Beginning sometime in April of 1536, according to the best estimates, the first mint of the Americas started coining operations.

Cobs did not start pouring-out into world marketplaces until the reign of Phillip II, after 1556. These crudely minted reales (literally, royals) of silver were undated until 1580 when some were and others were not marked with the year of coinage. The first pieces of eight were struck in Spain, as early as 1497, although it was not until after 1572 that the Casa de Moneda in Mexico City struck them. Before that time, only denominations smaller than eight-reales were struck in Mexico. (more…)

Legendary $20 Gold 1882 Double Eagle Coin To Be Offered by Heritage at Summer Fun Auction

The 1882 double eagle is so rare that even the Smithsonian Institution, keeper of the National Numismatic Collection, lacks an example of this issue.

While there are numerous double eagle issues from the late 1870s through early 1890s that boast extraordinarily low mintages, the 1882 is the absolute lowest-mintage of them all, at 571 coins. Any representative of this issue, in any grade, is an extraordinary rarity.

The next-lowest mintage of the denomination in the 1880s is the 1885, produced to the extent of 751 coins–an increase of over 30% in comparison to the 1882. In fact, the 1882 double eagle has the lowest mintage of any circulation strike in the double eagle series, save for the 1861-P Paquet Reverse.

The 1882 double eagle is not only an issue with a remarkably low mintage to begin with, but its rarity is compounded because so few were saved. The handful of contemporary collectors who specialized in gold–and they were few and far between–preferred proof examples, which could be had from the Mint for a modest premium.

The reasons for the minuscule mintage are complicated. Mint officials had adopted a new policy to stimulate national demand for half eagles and eagles, according to Rusty Goe in The Mint on Carson Street.

“… double eagle output was decreased on a national scale as the Treasury implemented its new policy of expanding the distribution of $5 and $10 gold pieces. It was the Treasury’s conviction that if more gold coins in denominations less than twenty dollars were in reserve at Mint offices around the country, depositors would accept these coins in payment in lieu of waiting for additional double eagles to be struck.”

At any rate, the nation’s operating mints had other troubles, as they shouldered the enormous burden of Morgan silver dollar production in 1882, amounting to more than 27.5 million pieces at four facilities.

By contrast, only three mints struck double eagles at all, as New Orleans’ last twenty was the 1879-O. In 1882 San Francisco struck 1.13 million twenties, with nearly 40,000 in Carson City–and the legendary low mintage of 571 double eagles in Philadelphia.


This coin will be offered at  Heritage’s Official Summer Fun Sale in Orlando, Fl as Lot # 1464

Population: 2 in 53, 7 finer (6/10)

Coin Profile: The Mystery of the Proof 1875 Gold Dollar

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

As I have mentioned before, certified population figures can be helpful but they can also be confusing. Take, for instance, the 1875 gold dollar in Proof. This is a coin with a reported original mintage of 20. But it has a combined PCGS/NGC population of 24 (twelve at each service). Something is obviously not right here. But, for once, the fault does not lie with the population reports.

Despite being created with the best of intentions, the PCGS and NGC population figures are full of inaccurate information which can be misleading to collectors. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the grading services. It is the fault of dealers (and collectors) who resubmit coins and do not send in their extra inserts. I’ve rambled on (and on) about this in the past and do not plan to offer my two cents this time on how I think that dealers who do this are doing themselves and the coin market a major disservice.

In the case of the Proof 1875 gold dollar the disconnect between the number struck and the number graded has to do with information from the Mint which is not necessarily accurate.

We know for a fact that 20 Proof gold dollars were struck on February 13 as parts of complete gold proof sets. For a number of reasons (some of which will be discussed below), the demand for Proof 1875 gold dollars was higher than expected and it is likely that another 20 or perhaps even a few more were made later in the year and sold to collectors. These appear to have been struck from the exact same dies and cannot be distinguished.

Looking at auction records for Proof 1875 gold dollars over the last few decades, it looks like the actual number known to exist might be as high as 20-25 pieces. Given the fact that survival rates for small denomination Proof gold coins of this era is typically around 50%, this is in line with an original mintage figure of around 40-50 coins. (more…)

Phenomenal Simpson Collection of United States Pattern Coins Helps NGC Launch Plus Designation

Many of the coins from this superb collection have received NGC’s new Plus Designation.

Followers of the numismatic scene have already learned of the fabulous Simpson Collection of United States pattern coins, but one remarkable numismatist is a connoisseur of other series, as well. He possesses superb holdings of nearly all United States coin series spanning the period from the 1830s to the 1930s, most of which have been graded and certified by NGC.

Many Simpson Collection coins have received the new Plus () Designation from NGC. Launched on May 25, 2010, the is used to identify coins at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next grade. This new NGC service offering is heralded with the placement of the important Simpson Collection coins on the NGC Registry. Now updated to accommodate graded coins, the NGC Registry is the go-to place to find the rarest and most beautiful coins from around the world. The addition of the Simpson Collection sets only confirms this trend, and users of the NGC Registry will be able to view these remarkable coins for themselves in glorious color.

Texan Bob Simpson is the ultimate numismatic connoisseur, desiring only those coins that meet his exacting standards. He knows what he wants, and nothing less will do. Facilitating his efforts is his longtime numismatic consultant, Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics. The old saying, “Know your coins or know your dealer” is particularly apt, as Mr. Simpson knows both, and this relationship has paid off with an epic collection of coins that compares favorably with the great named collections of the past.

Mr. Simpson’s premier passion is United States pattern and trial coins, and his collection of these is unparalleled. Comprising most of the entries found in Dr. J. Hewitt Judd’s standard reference work, United States Pattern Coins, now in its 10th edition, the Simpson Collection is the greatest assemblage of such coins since Judd’s own collection was dispersed some 50 years ago.

Among its amazing highlights is a complete set of the highly coveted stellas, or four-dollar pieces, complete in all types, dates and metals. While perhaps less known to most collectors, his array of early US Mint patterns is of the greatest historic value and rarity. These coins include 1792-dated pieces such as the silver-center cent (J-1), the even more rare example of this coin without a silver center (J-2), the most popular of early federal patterns — the HALF DISME (J-7) and the exceedingly rare DISME in all three varieties (J-9,-10,-11).

Also included are both uniface impressions of Joseph Wright’s famed quarter dollar pattern (J-A1792-1,-2). These coins are seldom offered for sale, as their owners are typically devoted numismatists who cherish their immense historical importance. Such a figure is Bob Simpson. (more…)

Putting History Into the Hands of Children with Ancient Coins

ACE projects create a new learning experience for many young students.

Ancient Coins for Education, Inc., entirely run by volunteers, was established in 2001 as a registered non-profit organization to encourage learning about Classical (Greek, Roman, and Byzantine) history and culture through the use of ancient coins. ACE provides coins to students nationwide for their study and attribution with the help of online and computer resources.

ACE is supported by professional and amateur numismatists that have donated coins for the students, their time and knowledge as classroom mentors, and even books on the subject. Each year ACE holds essay contests for students with the subject of the essay being a Roman Emperor or a member of their family. The prize is an ancient coin for the student to keep. Last years national winner, 15-year-old Wendy Owens, was celebrated in her local newspaper:

http://www.gazette.net/stories/03042010/urbanew163749_32555.php

Zee Ann Poerio, an ACE director and teacher at St. Louise de Marillac School in Pittsburgh, PA, pioneered the Ancient Coin Museums project, which has brought displays of history through ancient coins to a growing number of schools. Parents at the first opening in Pittsburgh were amazed to see the exhibits and many said they wished that they had such an opportunity when they were at school.

ACE students are not only learning about history, but are also introduced to archaeology in the form of simulated digs where they can excavate authentic ancient coins. The coins used in this project are mostly in poorer condition than the coins used as inspiration and prizes for the essay contests or in the museum displays. Though actually quite common, they are typical of the coins also found at most Roman period archaeological sites.

The private sector, too, has recognized the valuable work of ACE and the Ancient Coin Museum project. In 2007, a $2,500 Best Buy Teach Award was presented to St. Louise de Marillac School for demonstrating how interactive technology can be used to make learning more fun for students.

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) supports the valuable work of ACE and all of its teachers in bringing new dimensions to learning about our classical heritage.

For information about ACE, and how to help with their worthwhile projects, visit:
http://ancientcoinsforeducation.org/

Massachusetts Historical Society to Showcase Numismatic Treasures

While the American Numismatic Association (ANA) is in Boston this summer, the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) is taking the opportunity to show off some of its numismatic treasures.

From August 2 through September 11, “Precious Metals: From Au to Zn” will be on display in the Society’s building at 1154 Boylston Street—just three blocks west of the Hynes Convention Center.

Special guest curator John W. Adams and MHS Curator Anne E. Bentley have planned an exhibition to highlight many of the rare and unique pieces in the collection.

A small sampling includes the NE two pence and shilling and the 1776 Massachusetts Pine Tree copper penny for the coin collectors. A piece of original Massachusetts-Bay stock and the February 1690/1 Massachusetts Bill of Credit, along with some special colonial notes and obsolete bank bills will tempt the paper specialists.

Medal collectors will be drawn by the full set of Washington-Webster silver Comitia Americana medals, as well as what is possibly the only surviving example of an 18th century diplomatic medal, that was presented by the United States General of the Netherlands to envoy John Adams. Medals from the Betts series, Indian Peace Medals of colonial and federal issue, school and personal medals will also be on view.

The MHS will display a generous number of Washington medals from the Baker series and will feature some fascinating pieces from the Vernon medal series. As well, there will be a display of awards and badges that honor medical and military victories. There is something for everyone at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Regular public hours are from 1 to 4 PM, Monday through Saturday, and there are special ANA morning hours, from 9 AM to noon, on August 10-14. If convention attendees plan to research the MHS collection while in town, please contact Anne Bentley in advance to make an appointment, as time and space are limited at abentley@masshist.org or call 617-646-0508.

About the MHS Numismatic Collection

Created as a repository and a publisher to collect, preserve, and disseminate resources for the study of American history, the Massachusetts Historical Society has been collecting numismatic material since it first opened in 1791. Coins, ancient and “modern” [i.e. colonial American], paper currency, and medals of all classes were grist to our mill. Over this period the Society has enjoyed the support and guidance of several of the hobby’s notables, including earlier luminaries and MHS members William Sumner Appleton, Malcolm Storer, and Shepard Pond; and more recent numismatic collectors and authors John W. Adams, the late Douglas Ball, and Q. David Bowers.

Fascinating Collection of Colonial “US Regulated” Gold Coins to be Sold by Heritage in Boston

EDITORS NOTE: Below is the full text of a Press Release from Heritage Galleries promoting the upcoming  Boston ANA sale of the Edward Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold.  However what struck us the most was “What a Cool Collecting Theme !”  We often get so wrapped up in High Grade US coins, and the plethora of Modern issues that we overlook the incredible variety of ways one can collect coins, if you have a bit of imagination and think more “outside the box”. Our hat is off to Mr. Roehrs for helping to expand our somewhat myopic view of the numismatic landscape.

[ CoinLink News ] We are proud to present the intriguing Edward Roehrs Collection of U.S. Regulated Gold, including 73 different examples, at the Official World Coin Auction of the Boston ANA World’s Fair of Money, August 8-16, 2010.

One of the most fascinating and important episodes in America’s coinage history occurred in the early national period. Ephraim Brasher’s “EB” counterstamp, so well known thanks to the famous Brasher doubloons, was part of a much wider process in Confederation-era New York. Various jewelers were authorized to weigh and correct coin weights to ensure that the important trade with West Indies used foreign gold coins at their full value.

Thus, we find the counterstamps of Regulators Ephraim Brasher, John Burger, Joseph Richardson, Robert Cruikshank, Myer Myers, and Daniel Van Voorhis, on host coins from several countries, especially punches applied to gold plugs inserted to raise weight/gold content, including Brazil, Portugal, and England. Plus, this collection will include newly discovered goldsmiths whose products will be offered publicly for the first time.

This ingenious solution, using well-known goldsmiths to mark or plug coins, became widespread throughout the West Indies and it has been within collections of that specialty that many of these important American artifacts have long hid from view. The usual rules of numismatic value do not apply to these “Regulated” coins. Their enhanced value is created by actions that would reduce the value of other coins, such as drilling, plugging, and counterstamping. Indeed, these dynamic processes enrich their history and value, then the history of any individual regulated coin is further amended by actions taking place after regulation.

Regulated gold coins were typically found only in the most advanced collections formed in the early 20th century (and often very few examples) such as Garrett, Eliasberg, Ten Eyck, Ford, Roper, Brand, Jackman, and Newcomer. The few surviving examples often come with impressive pedigrees.

This catalog, with new research on smiths, weight standards, and provenance, will become a textbook in a field that has suffered from a lack of information. Reserve your copy now, and plan to participate in one of the most important specialized offerings of early American coins ever held.
(more…)

THE BULLS, THE BEARS, AND CALIFORNIA GOLD COINS

By Richard Giedroyc – HCC Rare Coins

Once upon a time gold was worth a paltry amount compared to the lofty figures it commands per ounce today. Since gold didn’t have such an incredible value, nor did it fluctuate much in price, it was practical to be used as a coinage metal.

California Fractional Gold CoinsThe United States is only one of many countries that over many centuries issued gold composition coins. As the United States expanded so did its need for circulating coinage. In 1848 gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California. People dropped whatever they were doing, sometimes almost literally, and headed for the west coast of what today is the United States to seek their fortunes. Believe it or not even the gold mines in the Carolinas and Georgia in the Appalachian Mountains were abandoned as people perceived that it would be much easier to mine the golden metal in California than in the east.

Some found what they sought. Others would be disappointed. One thing, however, was certain. If the population explosion in California was to be sustained economically either barter would have to be greatly expanded or a lot more coins than had been available were going to be needed in commerce.

The United States recognized the need for a regionally located mint to fill this need. Prior to the establishment of the San Francisco Mint facility in 1854 private parties, primarily jewelers and assayers, produced their own coinage to fill the void. Since gold was readily available while silver was not the private coinage issuers in California used gold to produce what today are generally referred to as Pioneer or Private and Territorial Gold issues.

Although most collectors will remember the more famous issues struck in denominations of $5, $10, $20, and $50, these same private minters struck fractional denominations as well. These “quarters,” “half dollars,” and “dollars” were also struck in gold, since silver was not generally as available. These coins are tiny, many of them being less than 20 millimeters in diameter.

These fractional denominations were useful in making small change, but they were also a nuisance due to their diminutive diameter. These small denomination gold coins were easily lost. There was little consistency to their designs or shapes. Some depicted the head of Liberty, while others depicted an Indian. Some were round, while others were octagonal. It was likely quite a relief once the San Francisco Mint was able to begin supplying sufficient quantities of small change coins to displace these fractional issues.

These small denominations first appeared in 1852. Some of them had as much as 85 percent of their face value as precious metal content, while others were gold plated. The Coinage Act of April 22, 1864 made all privately produced coinage illegal, however due to a lack of enforcement and poor wording of the legislation many of these small denominations continued to be issued simply without a denomination on them. For practical purposes the issues ceased after 1883, however after this date imitation tokens that were backdated to the 1850s continued to be issued right into the early part of the 20th century. (more…)

Ancient Gold Aureus Coin of Brutus brings $525,000 in GoldBergs Auction

[ CoinLink News]  After Julius Caesar, the second most recognizable name of the imperatorial era is Marcus Junius Brutus. Was he the last guardian of the Republican age or only an infamous and most vile assassin of Caesar?

Born about 85 BC, Brutus was thrust into the political realm and early became a follower of Cato, a staunch Republican. Later, Brutus built a fortune by lending money at usurious rates and eventually became a Roman senator. What did Brutus really want? Like Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo, “More”?

There grew a great friendship between Caesar and Brutus, but during the Civil War it was clear that Caesar would never return to the former Republican government. Instead, Caesar was swayed by his many victories and public adulation, ultimately accepting the title “dictator for life.”

Caesar’s portrait graced many coin issues, and his likeness was the first of a living person to be depicted upon the specie we now revere. It is ironic to also find the portrayal of Brutus on Coinage.

Marcus Junius Brutus, d. 42 BC. Gold Aureus (8.07 g), struck at a traveling mint in Macedonia or Western Asia Minor, summer/autumn 42 BC. With moneyer, P. Servilius Casca Longus. Bare head right of Brutus with short beard, BRVTVS IMP on either side, all within laurel wreath.

Reverse: Combined military and naval trophies, with prows and shields at base; a small L to left of trophy; CASCA LONGVS on either side. Fr-24 (this coin); Craw 507/1b; BMCRR 62; Syd. 1297; Vagi 94; Kent-Hirmer 99. Faint double striking at back of head, otherwise a splendid likeness, in high relief. Lustrous and sharp! One of the most historic of Roman issues, gold or silver!

Excessively rare. Probably the finest of only 8 recorded specimens. NGC graded Choice About Uncirculated.

The ensuing struggle, the loss of life and of ideals, and the change of government are witnessed and related on this wonderful coin. Shakespeare (perhaps one in the same with Francis Bacon) gave us the perfect glimpse into the stage as life; Joseph Mankiewiez and John Houseman created a magnificent vision in their 1953 film Julius Caesar. With Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and other stellar actors, it is a movie to view and view again. The next time you see it, ponder this aureus .

Estimated Value $400,000 – 500,000. Realized $525,000
Ex John Whitney Walter Collection, Stack’s-Berk Auction (11-29-90), lot 7; ex NFA Auction XXII (06-01-89), lot 23; ex Leu Auction 22 (05-08-79), lot 184. Illustrated in Money of the World, coin 30. Ex Millennia, Lot 75.

The World’s Most Valuable Coin: Cardinal Foundation buys First 1794 Silver Dollar for $7.85 Million

The Neil/Carter/Contursi specimen 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar has been sold for $7,850,000, setting a new record as the world’s most valuable rare coin. Graded PCGS Specimen-66, it is the finest known 1794 dollar and believed by several prominent experts to be the first silver dollar ever struck by the United States Mint.

It was sold by Steven L. Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, California, to the nonprofit Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF) in Sunnyvale, California. Collector and numismatic researcher Martin Logies represented the foundation of which he is a director and its numismatic curator. The private sale was brokered by Greg Roberts, President and Chief Executive Officer of Spectrum Group International of Irvine, California.

“This is a national treasure, and I’ve proudly been its custodian since 2003,” said Contursi. “I never wanted to simply hide it in a vault because this coin is to our economy and international trade what the Declaration of Independence was to our country’s freedom: a significant piece of history and a national treasure.”

Contursi used his investment to publicly display the coin in a dozen cities around the country and at the American Numismatic Association’s headquarters museum. He had a custom-made, four foot tall wooden exhibit case constructed so it could easily be viewed, and he estimates that tens of thousands of people saw the coin in person the past six years.

“CCEF will seek to be a worthy successor custodian for such an important U.S. historical treasure,” said Logies. “I think it only fitting that the new world’s record coin price be accorded to the world’s finest 1794 dollar.”

Of all the rarities I have seen or heard of, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the single most important of all, the very first silver dollar.

Roberts, who brokered the sale, stated: “The Spectrum Group of companies were honored to be involved in the historic transaction that culminated in the transfer of this piece of American art into deserving hands.”

Previous owners included Col. E.H.R. Green, W.W. Neil and Amon Carter Senior and Junior. The 1984 Stack’s auction lot description in the Carter Collection sale stated, “It is perfectly conceivable that this coin was the very first 1794 Silver Dollar struck!” (more…)

The Second US Mint at San Francisco: Part Three

This is the third article in the series.

Granite Lady Closes and Reopens

San Francisco Mint 1937Its replacement, the third United States Mint at San Francisco, began striking coins in 1937. This period was comparatively brief however. Following World War II, the mints at Philadelphia and Denver were greatly improved. The plan was to have all of the nation’s coinage produced at these two facilities. As a result, in March 1955, after the production of the 1955 Lincoln cents, all coinage production at the third San Francisco Mint ceased and the facility became an assay offi ce and a supplier of plainchants for the Denver Mint.

The “Granite Lady,” after its closure in 1937 and through the years of the Second World War and the 1950s, served as a storage facility and offi ce space for a number of governmental agencies. It was apparent that the future of this historic building would become a concern of the government. Many facilities, following their wartime uses, were being declared as “surplus.” In its July 1959 publication, CSNA’s “Calcoin News” reported that a February 18, 1958 meeting was held to discuss the future of the mint building. At this meeting some people believed the site should be developed for commercial interests while other argued for a museum. Still, no action was taken.

By 1968 it was decided that the Federal Government no longer needed this building and the decision regarding its future commenced. At the end of February, the General Services Administration (GSA) sent notices to other federal agencies announcing the agency would remove its 150 employees now occupying the building within the next 90 days. The “Granite Lady,” fi rst opened in 1874, now was vacant and deserted. Offi cials advised that unless some local, state or federal agency made a bid for the building, the property would be sold at public auction.

Will The “Granite Lady” Become A State College?

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in its June 27, 1969 edition that the 2nd San Francisco mint building was to be given to the San Francisco State College system for a downtown campus. To facilitate this plan, the property was transferred to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The transfer was made offi cial on June 19, 1969. However, the State College wanted the site not the building and announced plans to demolish the old Mint building. (more…)

Transitional US Gold Coins

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

Throughout the history of gold coin production in the United States there have been a number of instances where two different designs were produced simultaneously, or at least within the same year. I call these “transitional” coins and I think they would make for a very interesting collecting focus for the gold coin specialist.

In the gold dollar denomination, the most obvious transitional issue occurred in 1854 when both the Type I and the Type II issues were produced. Both of these are relatively common although the Type Two becomes scarce in the higher grades and rare in MS64 or better. In 1856 two designs were produced: the Type Two and the Type Three. Since the Type Two was only made in San Francisco this year and there are no 1856-S Type Three gold dollars this isn’t a transitional issue in the sense of the 1854.

There are some very interesting transitional issues in the quarter eagle denomination. In 1796 both No Stars and With Stars designs were produced. Both of these are rare in all grades and because of price constraints they would be considered one of the stoppers of a transitional set. The next transitional issue occurred in 1834 when both the Capped Bust and the Classic Head quarter eagles were struck at the Philadelphia mint. The former is an extremely rare coin in all grades while the latter is common in grades up to and including MS63.

More transitional issues exist in the early half eagles than in virtually all other denominations combined. The reason for these transitional issues tends to be different than, say, for the 1854 Type One and Type Two dollar when the design was changed to facilitate improved striking.

There are two types of half eagle dated 1795: the Small Eagle reverse and the Large Eagle reverse. The former was actually produced in 1795 and it is relatively common. The latter was struck in either 1797 or early 1798 using a backdated obverse die. Only 1,000 or so 1795 Large Eagle half eagles were made and this clearly would be one of the stoppers to a transitional set.

A similar circumstance exists with 1797 half eagles. Small Eagle reverse coins from this year are known with both fifteen and sixteen stars on the obverse. These are very rare but not impossible to locate. There are also 1797/5 half eagles with the Large Eagle reverse. These are extremely rare and include two die varieties that are presently unique and housed in the Smithsonian. (more…)