Current Cabinet Activities (Summer 2004)

by Robert Wilson Hoge

Since the last issue of the ANS Magazine, we have received, as is typically the case, a variety of communications from individuals with inquiries about particular coins or other issues. Because of our move to the new facilities underway at this time, it has not been possible to respond to all of these in the manner to which we hope correspondents may feel accustomed, nor were we able to host visiting researchers as we did heretofore. In this column, however, I will briefly review some of our service requests, both to indicate the nature of daily work at the ANS in trying to help people with their numismatic investigations and to show a selection of relevant pieces from the collection. But in this issue I want especially to note, for our members, some important recent developments regarding the famous ANS cabinet of United States large cent pieces.

1793 Wreath cent, vine and bars edge, S. 11a (ANS 1946.143.25, gift of George H. Clapp). 27 mm.

An Update on the Early U.S. Large Cent Collection

Many will recall the situation, revealed some years ago, in which it was discovered that a major theft from the cabinet had taken place. Careful investigation and documentation revealed that numerous pieces from the magnificent collection of early U.S. cents donated to the Society in 1946 by ALCOA Aluminum magnate George H. Clapp had been stolen around 1949, apparently by the well-known specialist and author Dr. William H. Sheldon, in a nefarious scheme. Evidently, cents of somewhat lesser quality of the same varieties had been substituted for the Clapp coins, which subsequently entered the marketplace and found their way into the possession of numismatic dealers and collectors.

In recent years, most of the coins have been recovered in an effort that continues today. One of the most important of these pieces is the beautiful uncirculated Clapp specimen of the 1793 wreath cent with vine and bars edge, Sheldon 11a, which was formerly from the E. S. Sears Collection (1925). Others include the handsome C. E. Clapp (1924) example of Sheldon 87, a 1796 Liberty Cap piece; a 1797 Sheldon 137, formerly from the R. D. Book Collection (1930); a lovely 1803 Sheldon 247 purchased from the St. Louis Stamp & Coin Co. (in 1924); and an 1810 Sheldon 283, also formerly owned by C. E. Clapp (1924), which passed through the hands of several major dealers and collectors.

1796 Liberty Cap cent, S. 87 (ANS 1946.143.242, gift of George H. Clapp). 29.2 mm

1797 Draped Bust cent, S. 137 (ANS 1946.143.365, gift of George H. Clapp). 29.2 mm

1803 Draped Bust cent, S. 247 (ANS 1946.143.709, gift of George H. Clapp). 28.3 mm

1810 Capped Bust cent, S. 283 (ANS 1946.143.809, gift of George H. Clapp). 28.7 mm

A number of outstanding professional numismatists and scholars identified these coins and assisted with their recovery—particularly our indefatigable Honorary Trustee Eric P. Newman, who heads the recovery program. The ANS sincerely acknowledges and appreciates their help, and the cooperation of the unaware collectors and dealers through whose hands the coins passed.

An additional observation that I have been pleased to make is the presence, still in the collection today, of three rare coins that were not stolen! These pieces, for which we have Clapp’s original March 20, 1942, bill of sale from Burdette G. Johnson’s St. Louis Stamp & Coin Stamp Co., were not “switched” and purloined by Sheldon, probably because he was unable to obtain corresponding specimens to insert! They are three key 1793 rarities, all from the famous former collection of Virgil Brand and previously that of Dr. Thomas Hall. The varieties were not listed by Sheldon.

1793 Chain cent, with AMERICA, NC.1; Crosby 2-C (his plate coin); purchased by Hall from W.H. Johnson in June, 1892 (ANS 1946.143.11, gift of George H. Clapp). 27.1 mm. Finest of three known.

1793 Wreath cent, vine and bars edge; NC.5; Crosby 10-F; purchased by Hall from the Parmelee collection, April, 1892; formerly owned by Frossard (12/1881) and Le Gras (ANS 1946.143.23, gift of George H. Clapp). 26.9 mm. Unique.

Receipt for three 1793 large cents purchased for $1200 from the St. Louis Stamp and Coin Co. March 20, 1942, by George H. Clapp. 216×186 mm.

Ancient, Medieval, Modern and Latin American Coins

With our collections and Library closed, less research activity has been possible and our requests for services have been fewer, but there is always interest in the Society’s famous cabinet. Herman Vogle inquired about Medieval German bracteates. Santiago F. Agardy asked for advise about researching an inherited collection of miscellaneous coins. Roger deWardt Lane contacted us about several medals which he had recently found and wished to donate to the Society. Paul Bosco acquired a collection of lead strikings from the dies of the famous 18th- and early 19th-century counterfeiter Carl Becker, and generously invited the Society to select as donations any examples of pieces not already represented in the cabinets. (Among these were several which are useful additions to the collection, including a couple of genuine Roman coins and one or two sealings not recorded in the Becker corpus.) Stuart P. Feld and Allison E. Smith, of Hirschl & Adler Galleries, inquired about help in identifying a French silver écu aux huit L of 1725. The piece was seemingly from the mint of La Rochelle and probably one of the considerable number of coins of this issue which were recovered as salvage from the wreck of Le Chameau (“The Camel”), a vessel carrying payment for French troops in Canada when it sank in that year.

Julio Sánchez Rosales sought information about a 1775 coin of Carlos III is from the great mint of Potosi, in what is now Bolivia, an 1822 of Fernando VII is from the mint of Madrid, in Spain, and an 1890-O US dollar. Dr. Alexander Siegel contacted us in connection with his research on the 1838 Guatemalan 8 Reales, of which there is no example in the ANS collection. We do, however, have one dated 1839/7-MA which does appear to be genuine. This coin is about uncirculated and weighs 27.015g

Central American Republic (Guatemala), AR 8 Reales, 1839/7-MA (ANS 0000.999.31127). 38.9 mm.

ANS coins are referenced in a newly-issued publication, Numismatique de Dombes, by Jean-Paul Divo (Corzoneso, Switzerland: Fiorino d’Oro, 2004). This very attractively produced reference covers all the coins of the last French feudal domain, dating from 1470 to 1674. The Society has a very presentable run of the coins (78 pieces) from this small territory along the left bank of the river Saone, north of Lyon. They were minted in the capital city of Trévoux, which gave its titular name to the rulers (as Seigneurs de Trévoux) until after the rise of its Bourbon family to power in the latter half of the 16th century. At this time the mint town was elevated to the head of a Principality lasting until turned over to the crown in 1762 by Louis-Charles de Bourbon, Count of Eu, younger son of Louis-Auguste, Duke of Maine, the illegitimate son of King Louis XIV.

Dombes, Henri I de Montpensier (1592-1608), AR Teston, 1606 (ANS 1954.29.13, gift of the Institut Français aux Etats-Unis). Divo 88. For reasons unstated, Divo calls this the second type of 1606 although it resembles the issue of 1605 rather than that of 1607, which matches the so-called first type. 30.7 mm.

Cover of Numismatique de Dombes, by Jean-Paul Divo. 161×230 mm.

The colorful history of Dombes is reflected in its interesting coins. The state followed Roman law rather than that of the kingdom of France, as evidenced by the mintages of Gaston d’Orleans (1606-1650, the third son of King Henri IV) for instance, indicating the status of the ruler as “Prince Usufruct.” Gaston was obliged to marry his cousin Marie de Bourbon-Montpensier, and upon her death enjoyed the “fruits” of rule until the majority of their daughter, the celebrated Anne-Marie-Louise, La Grande Mademoiselle. With a forward by Michel Dhénin, the Conservateur Général of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and a 32-page beautifully illustrated historical introduction by Paul Cattin, and including maps, engravings and dynastic charts and excellent photographs, the book is everything one could hope for although it does show signs of too-great haste in its proofing and copy editing. Several examples of ANS coins from Dombes will serve to reveal something of the variety of issues involved.

Dombes, Gaston (1627-1650), AE double tournois, 1640 (ANS 1934.999.827, purchase from the former collection of Ole P. Eklund). Divo 205 var. 20.6 mm.

Dombes, Gaston (1627-1650), AE denier, 1650/49 (ANS 0000.999.32108). This unique specimen, not cited by Divo, underscores a period of uncertainty at the time of a transition in types at the Trévoux mint. (cf. Divo 211-213), for which our understanding is inadequate. 16.6mm.

Dombes, Ann-Marie-Louise de Montpensier (1650-1693), AV sequin d’or (zecchino), n.d., in imitation of a 17th century Venetian gold piece (ANS 1954.237.417, bequest of Herbert E Ives). Divo 219. 21.3 mm.

United States Departmental Questions

Among those who have been in touch concerning Americana, Drew Golfin was researching a 1776 counterfeit, possibly American British halfpenny (Breen 1008). John C. Crawford contacted us to ask about an 1892 cent while Wayne Moquin was curious about an apparently double-stamped 1997 cent. Mike Welch inquired about an 1898, and Enrique R. Devesa, a 1902 Liberty Head “V” Nickel. Ahmad Saleh was curious about silver dollars of 1885 and 1921 and Julio Sánchez Rosales wanted information about the 1890 dollar of the New Orleans mint. Freddy M. Pansi wanted to know about an 1887 $5 gold piece and Javier A. Romero Moreno, about an 1894-dated half eagle. Carlos Figueredo inquired about an 1847 eagle; E. M. Cheng, regarding a 1924 $20 gold piece. Harry Baker was interested in the Columbian Exposition half dollar of 1893, while Edward Esposito was researching a white metal 1863 patriotic Civil War token.

For investigating American coal company and railroad scrip, I advised Molly A. Gallagher, Research Intern at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, about our on-line data bases at The Harry Bass Foundation’s “NIP” Project search engine key word search combs the pertinent literature. One can search our own “Library” keyword database to see what we may be able to provide. There are an abundance of general articles as well as studies of particular issues and issuers. To the extent that it has been catalogued onto the data base, our numismatic collection can be accessed on-line in the “Coins” keyword search database (in the US Department, made of paper, there are at this time 36 entries under coal and 70 under railroad). Most of the coal-mining scrip in the ANS cabinet is from the collection of Henry C. Chitwood. The fabulous strength of the Chitwood collection, however, has yet to be realized; it lies in 2,664 metallic tokens (accession no. 1985.141) issued by the coal-mining companies, the infamous “company stores” of Depression-era lore. This is yet another area of the collection which has not yet been entered into the data-base.

Kayoko Ishizaki and Hiroko Tanaka, of Japanese Video Production, in New York City, contacted us regarding a plan to feature the idea of the United States’ $10,000 bills which were once circulated in this country. The program, to be entitled “Mezamashi,” is part of the news digest produced by Fuji Network, a major media network in Japan. The ANS cabinet has only one example of a $10,000 note, a 1900 Series Gold Certificate.

United States $10,000 Gold Certificate, 1900 Series (ANS 0000.999.53027), 190×90 mm.

Medallic Miscellany

Our great recently-​completed move to the ANS’ new facilities has revealed things that we might not otherwise have had occasion to notice for quite some time to come. One fortunate outcome for me was encountering, in a tray in which it didn’t belong, the empty individual box for a fascinating item that figures prominently in the earliest history of the medal. I did remember having seen the piece, but now its box gave us its missing provenance and some other data. This medallion is a cast lead example of one of the two medallic works that can be traced to the collection of Jean, the Duke of Berry, the acquisitive French patron of the arts who flourished in the late 14th and early 15th centuries (see The Currency of Fame, Portrait Medals of the Renaissance, edited by Stephen K. Scher, New York: Harry N. Abrams and the Frick Collection, 1994, pp. 32-37). These pieces (medals of the Roman emperors Constantine and Heraclius, two heroes of Christendom in the Middle Ages) once purported actually to be works from ancient times, but were surely products of a Burgundian or Northern French school of ca. 1400.

France, Heraclius Commermorative PB medallion, artist unknown, ca. 1400 (ANS 1941.95.1, gift of J.M. Kingsley, Jr.) 92.9 mm.

The Heraclius medallion, represented by the ANS specimen, shows on its obverse a crowned portrait of the emperor wringing (or fondling) his beard, with Greek and Latin legends. The types relate to his status as the recoverer of the true cross after it had been taken by the Persians. The reverse seemingly features a version of a legendary incident from AD 630, when, as the emperor was about to enter Jerusalem in triumph with the cross, the gate was suddenly blocked with rubble and an angel of the Lord appeared to say that when Jesus had entered the gate, he came humbly. Heraclius then wept, removed his coat and shoes, and took up the cross, upon which the gate miraculously restored itself. The inscriptions carry the emperor’s protocols in accordance with 14th century usage and liturgical references to him and the legends about him although the Greek is clumsily rendered and unclear.

David Rondinelli contacted us in connection with researching an interesting early Mexican medal, of which we have examples in the collection. In 1796, the Marquis of Branciforte, the 53rd Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico), requested and received permission from Spanish King Charles (Carlos) IV to erect an equestrian statue in the king’s honor. A colossal wood and plaster model statue was unveiled to much fanfare in the main plaza of Mexico City, the Zocalo, on December 9, 1796—the birthday of Queen Maria Luiza. This event was commemorated on an attractive medal, the dies for which were sculpted by Emmanuel Tolsa and engraved by Geronimo Antonio Gil.

Mexico, Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain, Charles IV, AR Commemorative medal, 1796 (ANS 1911.105.275, gift of Isaac Greenwood). Grove C-268. 33 mm.

Reportedly, 3,000 silver medals were distributed upon this occasion. Seven years later, the fine one-piece bronze casting of the statue was installed. Referred to dismissively by Mexicans as El Caballito (“the little horse”), the monument was moved, for its safety, to the grounds of the University of Mexico in 1824. Moved again to its present location on the Paseo de la Reforma, the main thoroughfare of Mexico City, in 1852, El Caballito remains an impressive landmark to this day. The principal reference work for items of this kind, from which the information here has been drawn, is Medals of Mexico, Vol. 1, by Frank W. Grove (Guadalajara: the author, 1970).

Many sections of the collection in our fine new vault await attention. As we hear from you in the future, we will certainly have occasion to make many new observations and learn ever more about the wealth of this collection that so many generous benefactors have built for the enjoyment and enlightenment of posterity.