|by Robert Wilson Hoge|
Even as we proceed with moving to our new building, the usual curatorial activities continue. These always include responding to all sorts of questions from members of the public, assisting and advising researchers, handling requests for images, processing loans and acquisitions, planning and preparing displays and conferences, presenting tours or lectures, conducting research and writing. Our workload at the ANS is generated by a variety of considerations, but the primary impetus for what happens on a day-to-day basis comes very much from outside the Society’s headquarters itself, as the following selection of various recent commitments may demonstrate.
Medallic Sculptures Through Time and Space
The fine collection of medals at the ANS always draws attention. In addition to a spectacular assortment of colorful orders and decorations, the cabinet holds items ranging from some of the earliest known medals to very recent artistic creations from around the world. It is organized into “departments” of which “Medals” (ME) and “Decorations” (DE) are two separate categories.
Italy: Papal States, Rome. AR medal, by Benvenuto Cellini, 1534. (ANS 1933.64.79, gift of the estate of Dr. George F. Kunz) 38.5mm
Regarding the period of the Italian Renaissance, in which our collection is interesting but not phenomenal, we had an inquiry from Beth Holman, Associate Professor at the Bard Graduate Center. Holman made an appointment to examine pieces by Giovanni Bernardi and those of his great rival Benvenuto Cellini, of whom she is making a study. We hold an outstanding example of Cellini’s personal overture to Pope Clement VII (1523-1534), dating to 1534—an extraordinary tour-de-force. Examination of the engraver’s art, clearly evident from the die work on this high-quality specimen, reveals the superb mastery and delicate touch of the artist’s talent; the modeling of the figures on the reverse rivals that of any time, any place. Holman’s research on Cellini has raised a number of questions concerning not only the remarkable artist’s involvement with minting and engraving but also the values and equivalencies of coin denominations and amounts referred to both by Cellini, in his autobiography, and in the surviving records of the Papal Chancery.
From the Joachimsthal region of the old central European state of Bohemia come several curious 16th-century pieces which were brought to our attention in connection with a recent inquiry from Professor Suzanne Stetkevych, of the University of Indiana. Stetkevych was researching the motif of the serpent in the Garden of Eden in respect to connections with the crucifixion. A so-called “pestilence taler” (Katz 8; Donebauer 4291) bears an image of a snake entwined on a cross, with a reference to Numbers: 21, while on its obverse is a crucifixion scene of Jesus on the cross with twelve kneeling apostles to the sides and a reference John: 3. A Joachimsthaler silver medal of 1557 (Katz 376; Donebauer 4368) features an elaborate crucifixion scene on one side, with an image of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden with plants and animals, including the central depiction of the serpent in its proverbial apple tree, on the other. The pertinent references which I have noted here are to Viktor Katz’ Die erzgebirgische Prägemedaille des XVI. Jahrhunderts (Prague: M. Schulz Graphische Kunstanstalt A.G. [ca.1931]) and Donebauer’s Beschreibung der Sammlung böhmischer Münzen und Medaillen des Max Donebauer, edited by Eduard Fiala (Prague: self-published by Donebauer, 1888-1890).
Austrian States: Bohemia (Joachimsthal). AR “Pestilence Taler,” 1528. (ANS 1938.127.321, Defendorf Collection purchase) 47.7mm
Austrian States: Bohemia (Joachimsthal). AR cast and chased medal, 1557. (ANS 0000.999.53889) 53.6mm
A major new book on medals from the Pontificates of Popes Leo XI through Clement IX, Il papato dal 1605 al 1669 attraverso le medaglie, has recently been completed by Walter Miselli, of Milan, who sent us a copy. This work, the third in the author’s exhaustive series covering the papal medals from 1605 to 1730, includes reference to all the relevant examples in the ANS collection. A print-out of material in the ANS data base made an important contribution to this 660 page volume published by the firm of Numismatica Varesi SAS, of Pavia. Renaissance and Baroque medals of the Popes are among the most extensive and handsome issues from these periods. Many of the finest papal medals fall within the scope of this new volume, including works by Alberto, first of the long-lived Hamerani dynasty of engravers to serve the popes; the talented Gaspare Mola; his nephew, Gaspare Morone; and the French master Guillaume Dupré.
Philip Mernick, of the British Numismatic Society, contacted us as part of his research on the series of French plaques made of bois durci, the 19th-century precursor to synthetic resin and plastic casting compounds. Bois durci is a substance made of powdered wood (normally either ebony or rosewood) mixed with an adhesive compound—usually blood, originally, or egg white or gelatine. This mixture was then dried and ground to a fine consistency; the resulting powder was then placed in a steel mould and compressed in a powerful hydraulic press while being heated by steam. The final product had a highly polished finish—typically dark brown or black—imparted by the surface of the steel mould. Its “secret process” was patented by an artist named LePage, in Paris, in 1855.
These interesting items constitute an appealing series of Victorian decorative arts objects (about 80 kinds are known) dating from the late 1850s to the 1890s. Looking like medallions but being non-metallic, bois durci pieces have not been necessarily classified as “numismatic” by scholars or collectors. The artists of these works are unknown, although they featured high-quality portraits of personalities living and dead, and their creations would certainly be considered as medallic sculptures in the art world of today. Unfortunately, as far as we have been able to determine, there are no examples of bois durci works in the ANS cabinet. Search requests like this one not only help reveal what there is in the collection here, but also show us its gaps! (Philip and Harold Mernick have developed a web-site on bois durci, which can be found at http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/Bois_Durci. The information included here has been gleaned from this site.)
One of the many attractive medallic creations by the French master-sculptor Henry Dropsy (1885-1969; his name is also sometimes to be found spelled incorrectly, in the usual French manner, as “Henri”) came under scrutiny by Donna M. Rohner. Regrettably, we have on file very little information on Dropsy’s works, although the cabinet does possess a grouping of them. Dropsy’s medals from 1908 to 1948 are listed in Victor Canale’s “Les œuvres de Henry Dropsy” in Cabinet des Médailles, Exposition-Concours de Numismatique, Paris, April-May 1949 p. 130-134.
France. AE hexagonal medal, uniface, “Mermaid,” by Henry Dropsy, n.d. (ANS 0000.999.52431) 52.0mm
Born in Paris, Henry was the son of medalist Jean-Baptiste Émile Dropsy (1848-1923), with whom he began his artistic apprenticeship in 1898. In 1900, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts, where he then studied with Injalbert, Patey, Thomas and Vernon. The younger Dropsy won the Grand Prix de Rome for medal engraving in 1908 and the silver (1914) and gold (1921) medals of the Société des Artistes Français.
France. AE curved-top plaquette, uniface, by Henry Dropsy, n.d. “Incipe, Parve Puer…” (ANS 0000.999.52436) 137.8 x 124.3mm
The younger Dropsy had one of the most distinguished academic careers of any medallic artist. In addition to working professionally out of his own studio in Montmartre, he was primarily a teacher. A national travel grant awarded in 1922 enabled him to visit Italy, Algeria and Tunisia. He was named the head of the medal engraving department of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1930, and in 1937 he was made a member of the Superior Council for the teaching of fine arts. In 1942 he was elected to the engraver’s chair of the Académie Française which had been held by Louis-Alexandre Bottée (1852-1941).
Although Dropsy’s work may not be so well known in the United States, it spanned a range of the 20th century’s stylistic tendencies and proved quite influential. He put his own stamp on the characteristic French soft-edge technique so popularized by Roty, and many of his medals show both a more sculptural and a more sketchy treatment, often with an earthiness and whimsicality which seem modern. Altogether, Dropsy designed more than 600 medals, which have been described as “vigourous, poetic, refined and always original.” Among his students may be counted at least a dozen who themselves became winners of the Prix de Rome. Before his retirement and designation as honorary professor in France in 1955, Henry also taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Cairo, Egypt (1947-8). He was an officer of the Legion d’Honneur as well as a member of l’Institut de France, of which he served as President in 1952.
Regarding plans for a forthcoming exhibition focusing on the “Maid of Orléans,” Laura Coyle, the Curator of European Art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC, contacted us about “Joan of Arc medals” in the ANS cabinet. (This is actually one of the subject category headings under which our collection has been organized.) Coyle said our “on-line catalog is extremely impressive and very helpful; it must have been a tremendous undertaking,” and continued, “I’ve already found at least a few interesting medals, which seem actually to be unique in your collection, such as the one with the Fremiet statue on it and another with Napoleon on one side and JA on the other.” ANS itself was the issuer of a Joan of Arc medal by Anna Hyatt Huntington. Among other important pieces are two different medals by Paul Manship, as well as some by Dropsy, Roty and others.
France. AR plated and gilt galvano plaquette, “Joan of Arc,” by Emile Dropsy, . ANS 0000.999.53888) 85 x 111.2mm
United States: American Numismatic Society. AV New York City “Joan of Arc” Park Dedication medal, by Anna Hyatt Huntington, 1919. (ANS 0000.999.4441) 65.2mm
American Indians, Peace and Friendship Medals
Clearly, much of our curatorial work relates routinely to important parts of the collection which have already gained some degree of fame. Readers will recall, for example, the frequent mention of American Indian Peace Medals—typically inscribed “Peace and Friendship”—that I have had occasion to make in this column. Recent activities and attention have continued along these lines, as may be seen.
A Pre-Doctoral Douglass Fellow in the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Karen Lemmey, is focusing on the work of American sculptor Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886). She contacted us in connection with her dissertation on him, for the City University of New York Graduate Center, since our collection includes examples of his medals. Surprisingly little known, Brown worked primarily in three-dimensional sculpture, but did execute several medallic works. Among these is the obverse of the 1849 Zachary Taylor Indian Peace Medal, on which Brown’s depiction of the Presidential portrait features a contemporary civilian shirt, coat and collar arrangement but with added classical drapery. We know from surviving correspondence that Brown’s inexperience with medallic sculpture necessitated remodeling of his original work to make it suitable for reproduction on a die and for transfer by the Contamin lathe. There are ten examples in the ANS cabinet, representing all three sizes of the medal. We are fortunate to have original examples of the largest and smallest sizes in silver.
United States. Zachary Taylor, AR Indian Peace Medal, by H. K. Brown and J. Reich, 1849, large size. (ANS 1915.154.1, gift of H. R. Browne, M. Wormser, J. C. Woodbury and E. R. Ackerman) 75.7mm
United States. Zachary Taylor, AR Indian Peace Medal, by H. K. Brown and J. Reich, 1849, small size. (ANS 1915.155.1, gift of Dr. H. R. Storer, E. D. Smith, W. C. Osborne and Philip Rhinelander) 51.0mm
Another researcher whose interest in Indian Peace medals led her to the ANS cabinet is Cynthia Becker, who is writing a children’s biography of two Colorado Ute Indians, Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta. Becker inquired about the splendidly evocative Abraham Lincoln medal which is presently on display in our exhibition “Drachmas, Doubloons and Dollars” at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This item, a gift of the great public-spirited benefactor J. Sanford Saltus, was reportedly sold by its original owner, a Ute Indian from Colorado, who said the medal had deflected a bullet and saved his life. Such a medal is known to have been awarded to Ouray and six other Utes in 1863 (an extant photo of Ouray clearly shows the Lincoln medal). Becker added a sidebar about Peace Medals in her book, and thought the story of the medal that deflected a bullet would be very interesting to children.
(DR)United States. Abraham Lincoln, AR Indian Peace Medal, by Salathiel Ellis, 1862, large size. (ANS 1917.161.1, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) about 77mm (damaged)
Unfortunately, the information that Saltus had been able to obtain about the lucky medal is limited. We know no more than that the unnamed Ute recipient had been in a skirmish with another tribe, in 1873, when a bullet fired at him struck this medal, which thereby saved his life. He subsequently sold the medal, calling it “heap bad medicine,” because he felt it should have kept the bullet away from him altogether. The medal is an original, pierced solid silver issue (second striking, second reverse), cratered by the impact of the bullet which it prevented from penetrating the ungrateful owner. This lead slug is still embedded in the medal’s surface, so I hope perhaps someday I may be able determine by what kind of firearm it may have been fired.
Charles Markantes, who had previously ordered a series of photos of Presidential Indian Peace Medals, notified us that the Winter, 2004, issue of the Journal of the Little Big Horn Associates, Research Review, will be publishing his article on the President Ulysses S. Grant Medal, of which of course the ANS has a number of examples.
Kate Goodwin consulted us to ask for help identifying two “Indian Peace medals” which had a curious history. They had been purchased about 30 years ago by her grandfather, a local jeweler in Devon, England, from a man who happened into his shop. “The man claimed that they had been made by Indians and given to the land agent (himself?) as a thank you” for sorting out difficulties in disputes. Goodwin wondered whether, indeed, these might possibly be examples of the famous series of American Indian Peace Medals, and contacted the National Museum of the American Indian, where she was given the suggestion to ask us. But these two specimens in fact turned out to be part of an attractive series produced in the early 1900s by the artist Edward W. Sawyer. They were published in the American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 47 (1913), pp. 153-55, along with Sawyer’s article “My work among the Indians,” in the same volume, pp. 159-63. All examples in the ANS cabinet are electrolytically-produced shells, “galvanoes.” Those that appear to be “silver” seem to be lead-filled silvered galvano shells.
United States. Silvered AE galvano, “Ne-I-So-Meh-Yuma,” by Edward Sawyer, 1904. (ANS 1910.137.6, purchase) 71mm
United States. AE galvano shell, “Chief-Sota-Oglala-Sioux,” by Edward Sawyer, 1912. (ANS 0000.999.45988) 71mm
Medieval Money, Researches and Publications
Even though the ANS collection of Medieval European coins (Department “M”) is not particularly large or representative in many respects, it does include a broad and interesting selection of significant pieces and is frequently consulted by international scholars. A specimen which we purchased from Dr. Jacob Hirsch in April, 1949, was the subject of an inquiry from Nicolas Clement (Allocataire de recherche, Doctorant en Histoire et Archéologie médiévales, at the Université Lumière in Lyon, France), who is studying the coins of Viviers (Ardèche), France, of the sixth and seventh centuries. He contacted us for information and photos of this coin, which had been acquired along with five other Merovingian gold pieces. This tremissis of Dagobert I (629-639) is accompanied by an antique tag which bears the numbers “182” (a sale lot or inventory no.) and “4788,” and the note “found near Vichy.” Our coin is a variant Prou’s no. 1348 and Belfort’s no. 4932. Belfort’s no. 4937, attributed to Sigibert (629-639), is possibly a misattribution of a coin essentially identical to our specimen.
France: Merovingian Kingdom–Royal Series, Dagobert I (629-639). AV Tremissis, Viviers mint. (ANS 1949.49.5, purchase) 13.6mm
David Fleischmann forwarded an inquiry about another coin which someone had recently found with a metal detector. With no known associations, the owner thought the piece might be an ancient British one, but in fact it was a Merovingian tremissis of what is sometimes called the “national series.” It was part of a group that has been attributed to a place called Trizay-sur-le-Lay (the coin legend reads TIDIRICIACO = Tidiriciacum, a village in the hinterland of Poitiers that is believed to be the mint), in the arrondisement of Fontenoy, in the Vendée department and region of central France (formerly the old area of Aquitaine). The reverse bears the name of a moneyer probably to be interpreted as “Gundobodes.” This piece is evidently a variant of Belfort’s no. 4297. The coin cannot be closely dated but was presumably minted around the first half of the 7th century.
No Merovingian coins can truly be said to be common, and most issues are quite rare, generally known only from a tiny handful of examples. Those of which numismatists are most likely to have heard would probably be the ones found in the famous 7th-century AD Sutton Hoo ship burial, in England. The ANS cabinet is fortunate to include some 89 gold pieces and 37 in silver. Much fascinating work remains to be done on these series, which have been gaining more attention in recent years. Principal references on the coins in this part of the Medieval cabinet are Auguste de Belfort’s Description générale des monnaies mérovingiennes, par ordre alphabétique des ateliers, Société Française de Numismatique, 1892 (Reprint, with introduction and bibliography by Georges Depeyrot, Paris: Maison Florange, 1996); Maurice Prou’s Catalogue des monnaies françaises de la Bibliothèque Nationale: les monnaies mérovingiennes, Paris: Rollin & Feuardent, 1892 (Reprint, with introduction by Georges Depeyrot, Nîmes: C. Lacour/Rediviva, 1995); and Philip Grierson and Mark Blackburn’s Medieval European Coinage, Vol 1: the Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries), with a Catalogue of the Coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Continuing work on the last reference, the Medieval European Coinage Project in the Department of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, Research Associate Dr. William R. Day, Jr., posed several interesting questions on some later coins in our cabinet. Day is progressing with the great on-going publication program of the renowned numismatist Philip Grierson, whose incomparable collection forms the basis for the monumental series. To the extent they have been catalogued, the ANS holdings are valuable as comparative material for researchers due to their availability through our on-line data base.
One coin of special interest to Day and Grierson is a silver denier or denaro (penny) with the obverse legend MARSAGONA (or, alternatively, SAGONAMAR), an issue to be included in the forthcoming MEC volume on North Italy. This scarce coinage is one about which nearly nothing is known conclusively. It has been attributed variously to Marsanne, in the Valentinois area of Southern France, and to Savona, in northern Italy. It carries abbreviated remnants of the names of three emperors (Henry, Conrad and Lothar), and its dating seems still uncertain although a context relating to known Crusader issues presumably might help. Our coin was donated by the late ANS benefactor Paul Bedoukian, who had acquired it in Beirut along with other pieces, in groups, associated with the Crusades. He designated these as “hoards” but without provenance or other information.
North Italy(?): Marsagona(?). AR denaro, ca. 1200. (ANS 1987.41.349, Gift of Paul Bedoukian) 16.7mm
Our “Marsagona” coin was said to have been in Bedoukian’s “Hoard 5,” which consisted primarily of coins struck by the counts of Tripoli. There were 37 deniers in the parcel, ranging from four French feudal pieces to issues of the Kings of Jerusalem and Cyprus, the Princes of Antioch and the Lords of Sidon as well as the Tripolitanian Bohemunds. If indeed the coins were unearthed together as a hoard, a terminus post quem for the interment is provided by a denier of Henry I of Cyprus (1218-1253). Some of the rest of the coins could date back as far as the 1130s or earlier, and some of them are of types which could have been minted on into the second half of the 13th century.
A challenging inquiry about a 16th-century Italian account relating to the painting of the Nativity (in the National Gallery, London) by Piero Della Francesca (ca.1416-1492) came from Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. Her problem was to explain a reference in a court case involving the artist’s heirs, who contested the inheritance including this famous work. The painting’s value of 80 gold denarii was to have been divided in thirds, the distribution of one third of which, if not done, would impose a fine of 10 ducati. Whereas the ducat was a standard gold coin of the time, the denarius was not, and must have referred to a money of account. But was the term ducat being misused in this Tuscan setting (as seems to have sometimes been the case elsewhere) to refer to a fiorino d’oro, the standard Florentine gold florin? No doubt a thorough study of surviving documents might have much to tell us. In reference to our Tuscan gold collection from this period, one interesting piece is a florin attributable to the moneyer Bernardo di Simone di Antonio de Canigiano, who is documented as serving in office during the second semestre of 1495; no examples were recorded in the Corpus Nummorum Italicorum or by Bernocchi, in Le monete della repubblica fiorentina, the two principal works on the coinage, which in fact misrepresent the stemma (the armorial bearing) of the moneyer used as a mint mark.
Italian States: Florence. AV fiorino d’oro, (1495). (ANS 1937.146.943, bequest of Herbert Scoville) 22.0mm
Modern Coins, Tokens, Paper Money and Fantasies
Many modern foreign numismatic items are among the most popular when it comes to requests for information from the public. For purposes of departmental organization and storage at the ANS, “modern” (MO) is a classification which includes coins, tokens, paper money and associated items made since approximately the 1500s, but it excludes materials from East Asia (EA) and South Asia (SA), Islamic (I) countries and related regions of the “Near East” and North Africa (the “I” category includes the state of Israel), the United States (US), and Latin America (LA). All of these are regional designations which have ANS departmental classifications of their own.
Elise Feuerstein Karras contacted us for information on her family’s collection of miscellaneous foreign currency, collected and brought back as souvenirs by soldiers returning from the battlefields in WWII. Such pieces seldom have significant value as collectors’ items today, but it is always a good idea to check them, and to see if this could lead to a worthwhile inter-generational family pastime. One can always obtain a copy of the latest edition of the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, by Albert Pick, published by Krause Publications of Iola, Wisconsin.
Researcher Christian Teulings has served as an ANS volunteer from afar by reviewing and annotating the listings of guild tokens of the Netherlands as provided through our on-line data base. He has meticulously found and verified the past collection history and reference citations for this unusual part of the ANS cabinet, and provided amendments and corrections for the descriptions where necessary. For instance, he noted that the three Maastricht tokens are now generally accepted as being from Cologne, and the names on our tokens even give further evidence this is correct. Our entries include catalog reference numbers to the relevant works, such as that by the late Dr. D. A. Wittop Koning, De penningen der Noord-Nederlandse Ambachtsgilden (Amsterdam: Jacques Schulman B.V., 1978).
Netherlands: Middelburg. AE Blacksmiths Guild token, 1690, no. 64. Wittop Koning 32.1 (ANS 1940.100.2345, gift of Mrs. Robert James Eidlitz and bequest of R. J. Eidlitz) 47.7mm
Jorge Reyes Torres, from Chile, wanted to know about a rather obscure item, a Jewish souvenir/ceremonial “False Shekel.” The curious pieces categorized under this rubric—not actually coins and not truly medals or tokens in the normal sense of these terms—seem to have been made fairly extensively in Europe over the past 400+ years. They typically more or less replicate the appearance of the certain ancient Judaean coins of the first or second rebellions against the Romans (CE 66-70 and 132-5). A number of these curiosities are in the ANS cabinet although they have not yet been fully catalogued or entered into the data base. A reference on them is Dr. Bruno Kisch’s 1941 article “Shekel Medals and False Shekels,” in Historia Judaica, Vol. 3, No. 2.
Europe, 16th century and later. WM “Gorlitz” (“False shekel”) medal. Kisch D-7 (ANS 1965.319.1, gift of Adolph E. Koch) 32.6mm
Dawn Mason, a Museum Studies student at George Washington University, contacted us for help with a class project. As an assignment at the beginning of the semester, the students had been asked to select an object to study over the course of the term. She chose a 1937 German 10-Pfennig coin, and found many sources and connections regarding it but also some discrepancy regarding material. But presumably it is a standard piece which should consist of aluminum-bronze alloy (91.5% copper, 8.5% aluminum). Surely any other composition would be some sort of rare and possibly inexplicable anomaly.
Thomas Sheehan made arrangements to study the collection of A. Piatt Andrew, included in his album “Cash Substitutes in the Panic of 1907.” This accession includes the latter’s article on the subject (with the same title, published in the Economics Quarterly, 1908) tipped onto the first page as well as 177 scrip notes and bearer checks of the period. Unfortunately, the notes Andrew collected are also glued into the album. This fascinating bit of early 19th century American numismatic material was donated in 1958 by Mrs. Isaac (Helen Andrew) Patch, the collector’s sister. Apart from this grouping, we have only perhaps a dozen additional 1907 Panic notes. Sheehan is compiling a study on all the 1907 “panic” scrip.
United States. A. Piatt Andrew Collection: “Panic of 1907” notes in album. (ANS 1958.12.258, gift of Helen Andrew Patch).
Our “US” Department (the coins, tokens, paper money and related items, but not including medals and decorations, from the area that is now the United States of America) is outstanding in some areas and deficient in others, but it is called upon regularly to provide answers to questions and imagery for publications as well as for comparative purposes. Many calls come from people who simply want to know if they may have found something with value as a collector’s item and indeed, several individuals contacted us in fond hopes, as usual, that they had discovered previously unrecorded examples of such items as the rare fantasy U.S. silver dollars dated 1804. (Alas, these common Asian forgeries still turn up regularly, along with counterfeit trade dollars and 1913-dated Liberty Head nickel alterations and modern “two-headed” fabrications—usually quarters.)
The ongoing inquiries about worthless replica coins have been accompanied by a commensurate number of questions about their paper counterparts, such as the parchment-like simulations of early American notes made over the past fifty years or so by the Historical Documents Company, of Pennsylvania. Many correspondents ask about old, used small-sized silver certificates and older notes still to be found in circulation. Often they seem saddened or discouraged to learn that simply because it may be “old” a numismatic item may not have any significant value.
In the course of routine activities, we often have occasion to verify references involving items previously published. In connection with my colleague Michael Bates’ April 8, 2004, talk on mining and minting for the New York Numismatic Club, we sorted through the collection for selecting images and encountered a little discrepancy, so specialists in Early American numismatics may wish to make note of a correction which had to be made in our accession records of two rare 18th century pieces, Simsbury (Granby), Connecticut coppers minted by Samuel or John Higley. These coins are cited in the 1995 ANS publication of the Coinage of the Americas Conference (COAC), Proceedings No. 10, The Token: America’s Other Money, edited by Richard G. Doty, in the presentation “Die Varieties of Higley Coppers,” by Daniel Freidus. Somehow, the coins had accidentally been associated with each other’s accession notations, so that example no. 3 of Freidus variety 3.2-B.a (Crosby 22; ANS 1896.3.1; 8.18g) is actually the coin donated by Andrew C. Zabriskie, and the piece listed as example no. 4 of variety 3.3-D (Crosby 26; ANS 1893.23.1; 8.40g-a purchase) is not! Higley pieces are so rare that this information is essential for any census data. (Potential donors, please note: these two are the only genuine “Higleys” in the cabinet!)
(DR)United States: Colonial Connecticut. Higley Cu token coinage, 1737. Crosby 22 (ANS 1896.3.1, gift of Andrew C. Zabriskie) 29.3mm
(DR)United States: Colonial Connecticut. Higley Cu token coinage, 1739. Crosby 26 (ANS 1894.23.1, purchase) 28.3mm
From George Griffith came an inquiry about what turned out to be a California souvenir “gold” piece of a type which copies the 1849-1854 type I gold dollar, an item that may have been used as a gaming counter in the 19th century. The ANS has a rather extensive collection of this sort of item (over 100 pieces), a corollary to the collection of actual fractional California gold pieces which numbers about 138 coins. The records on these items, some of them among the earliest to be documented, were made use of by researcher and ANS Fellow Robert J. Leonard in his recent work on the second edition of California Pioneer Fractional Gold, by Walter Breen and Ronald Gillio, (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 2003).
It is always a pleasure to be able to assist people with their inquiries, and we must admit that it is at the same time interesting to have our attention drawn to various facets of the cabinet, this rich resource for both numismatic scholarship and general indoctrination into the history of civilization. Entertaining as the existing collections may be, though, a very important part of our message in bringing the ANS holdings and curatorial activities to public attention is to convey the idea of the importance of our donors and their treasured gifts. There is a high probability that every reader could help fill a gap in the cabinet, make a valuable contribution to posterity that could also answer a question or serve a need for some future inquiry.