Tales to Be Told: One Hundred and Fifty Years…and Counting
by Robert Wilson Hoge
The American Numismatic Society began its mission of assisting researchers and answering inquiries in 1858. At a time when coin collecting was just beginning to take hold in the public’s imagination in this country, the ANS sought to promote understanding and awareness of the field of numismatics as a key component in the structures of civilization. Today, while this great program continues as actively as ever—along with the marvelous growth of the Society’s collection, library, and publications—it is a good time to think back over all the vast amount of study and work involved on the occasions when the “cabinet activities” have served the public.
Every numismatic item tells a story, and a great, comprehensive collection like that of the ANS can help put each storied piece into a meaningful context, amplifying its tale. Over the years, generous far-sighted donors have built this edifice of information to the extent that it can help interpret almost anything in history and culture. Every question is a quest, a starting point for finding connections, and in the following pages I am pleased to present various byways of the courses investigators have explored and are exploring. These quests afford me the opportunity to illustrate a selection of pieces from the cabinet—pieces that might not otherwise see the “light of day” for some time. Not all their full stories can be told, of course, but it is my hope that items I present here may themselves be very suggestive and that perhaps readers may wish to delve further. Indeed, I hope you take away from whatever I can relate here a touch of something tantalizing or enlightening that may lead to further numismatic adventures.
Take a look now, for instance, at possibly the first inquiry the Society ever received (Figs. 1–3). It is a fairly detailed letter from one John West, dated December 27, 1858, and addressed to Frank H. Norton. In it, West enclosed rubbings and descriptions of some coins in his possession, in the hope that Norton, at that time corresponding secretary—and later, president—of the newly established ANS, could help him with identifications, interpretations, and references, just as the ANS staff does for people today. Although the contents have been previously published, the importance of this message had to wait 150 years to be fully recognized, so I offer its story again now (edited for clarity).
Turner, DuPage Co. Ill. Dec. 27, 1858
F. H. Norton, Esq.
For the past few years I have turned my attention to the collection of coins, medals & tokens, and for want of a work on numismatics, I am often at fault as to the origin and purposes the different kinds that I gather, are, or were, intended for. Can you give me the name of some authentic work on this subject? I apply to you, having seen your name in print as Corresponding Sec’y of the American Numismatic Society. I have enclosed facsimiles of several copper coins or tokens I now have. I know they relate to the United States, and that is all.
No. 1 is a pretty good impression. The date is 1788. I have those of 1786. They are not so finely executed & have not the branches crossing underneath the shield. What were they intended for and by whom issued?
No. 2. This is much worn, bears on one side the profile bust of George III, on the reverse the arms of England surmounted by a crown, [and] around the margin, the word “Virginia”; date, 1773. No. 3 is a pretty good impression. It reads Auctori Connec; on its reverse, inde et lib 1787; others of 1788 have the word “Vermon” in place of “Connec”.
No. 4 describes itself. I have also one of the “mind your business” cents; I notice a difference in the cents of 1794, one being smaller in circumference and thicker than the other; the head on the thick one bears a resemblance to Washington; the other, the goddess of Liberty, with flowing locks. What was the reason of changing the die in the same year?
I should like to obtain a work on American coinage. Can you favor me with answers or solutions to the above? My only apology for troubling you is I know of no one else to whom to apply.
Fig. 1. Original letter from John West to Frank H. Norton, December 27, 1858, page 1 (frontis). The letter was previously published with numerous transcription errors (Bowers 1998, 397). ANS Archives. 125 x 200 mm.
Fig. 2. December 27, 1858, letter from John West to Frank H. Norton, pages 2-3 (verso, open). ANS Archives. 250 x 200 mm.
Fig. 3. December 27, 1858, letter from John West to Frank H. Norton, enclosed slip with rubbings of coins. ANS Archives. 165 x 75 mm.
We do not know what, if any, reply to his letter West may have received from Norton, but the story of his coins does not end there. Eminent numismatist Q. David Bowers featured the West letter and rubbings in his American Numismatics Before the Civil War. Then last year, one of those illustrated images caught the discerning eye of colonial American specialist Ray Williams, who recognized that the rubbings of two sides of a 1788 New Jersey copper did not seem to correspond to any of the known die combinations that had been previously recorded. At his instigation, fellow colonial specialist Roger Siboni examined the actual rubbing in the ANS archives and was able to confirm that the West coin must indeed have been what we can now call a Maris 77-cc (Maris 1881).
Hitherto, the very rarely encountered Maris cc “running fox” (some have preferred to call it a “running horse”) reverse die had been recorded only as paired with the Maris 76 obverse. But only months before, Siboni had been called upon to examine and help authenticate a poorly preserved coin that appeared to demonstrate the unknown die pairing of Maris obverse 77 with the cc reverse (Siboni 2002, 3111–3114). Since then, yet another example has reportedly surfaced of this ultra-rare emission. Now, might the long-lost West specimen of this elusive coin someday turn up, to be the third and finest surviving specimen of this issue? Unbeknownst to West, Norton, Maris, or any other earlier collectors, the clearly well-preserved West coin was the discovery specimen—now lost—of a great American rarity!
Indeed, the Maris 76-cc variety, formerly the exclusive pairing known for that reverse, is itself known as one of the significant rarities in the New Jersey Confederation copper series, with only four pieces documented. The more common Maris 77 obverse is normally found paired only with the Maris dd reverse. Both of these reverses are examples of the famous and popular New Jersey variety with a “running fox” design incorporated into the punctuation of their legends, a device believed to be a distinction imparted to his productions by New York silversmith John Bailey (Trudgen 1990, 1162–1163).
West’s rubbings on the slip of paper were evidently carefully positioned over both sides of the coins so as to impart the correct orientation of the obverse and reverse dies relative to one another. The resulting odd axis (about 135 degrees, or 4:30) for the New Jersey coin, noticed by Williams, has been confirmed by the new discovery coin reported by Siboni.
The ancient world of the Greeks and Romans always provides a rich source of subject matter for the public’s entertainment. Think of all the novels and films that cater to this taste—not to mention the popularity of actual archaeological studies and documentary presentations. Dr. Gretchen Meyers, assistant professor at the classics department of Franklin and Marshall College, ordered for reproduction in a volume of conference proceedings to be published by Brill an image of the coin type from the Ancient Sicilian Greek city-state of Gela (Fig. 4). These feature the head of the river god Acheloos, depicted as a man-headed bull. Among the various nice examples of such pieces in the cabinet, a tetradrachm from the beautiful collection of ancient Greek coins of the late ANS Council member John D. Leggett Jr. admirably serves the purpose!
Fig. 4. Sicily: Gela. AR tetradrachm (c. 450-440 BC). Obverse 71; reverse 146. Jenkins 363.3 (this coin). (ANS 1997.9.3, gift of the estate of John D. Leggett Jr.) 26 mm.
Debbie Latronica, image permission coordinator for Pearson Education, ordered images of a portrait denarius of Julius Caesar for use in a forthcoming art history textbook revision. Michael Koortbojian, Nancy H. and Robert E. Hall professor in the humanities at the Johns Hopkins University art history department, ordered images of a Spanish denarius of Augustus for use in another forthcoming publication. Wendy Cheshire ordered images of three coins of Faustina the Younger.
Deborah Nicholls, photo project specialist for Pearson Education, ordered images of a Parthian drachm of Orodes II for use in the publication of Ecce Romani III.
Massoume Price ordered images of a number of intriguing coins of ancient Iranian dynasties. Among these are scarce issues of the Parthian queen Musa (Fig. 5) and the Sasanian queen Buran (Fig. 6), bearing their images. Others are a scarce donative issue of Buran’s father Khusru II (Fig. 7), bearing a representation on the reverse of the goddess Anahit, and an earlier coin of Vahrham II, including the portraits of the queen and young prince as heir along with the king’s. The coins focused on early Oriental female rulers and the context of their issues.
Fig. 5. Parthian Empire. Phraataces. AR tetradrachm, Seleucia mint, year 314 (AD 2/3). Rev. bust of queen Musa, r. Sellwood 58.5. (ANS 1944.100.82964, bequest of Edward T. Newell, ex Petrowitz coll.) 28 mm.
Fig. 6. Sasanian Empire. Buran. AR drahm, year 2 (AD 630/1). Gobl I/1. (ANS 1920.999.254; this specimen would appear to be a coin purchased from Spink & Son, Ltd., in 1920 but recorded without reference to this documentation; it should have been given the accession prefix 1920.146). 32 mm. Buran (“bestower of prosperity”) was a daughter of the great Khusru II (“deathless soul”) and sister of Azarmidukht.
Fig. 7. Sasanian Empire. Khusru II (AD 590-628). AV dinar, year 23. Rev. Anahit. Gobl III/4, no. 217. (ANS 1960.10.1, in exchange from Burton Y. Berry) 23 mm.
We routinely receive requests for help with all sorts of Asian coins, for identification, evaluation, interpretation, or illustration in publications. An Indian coin, among others, ordered for recent photography was a silver rupee of Safdar ‘Ali Khan from Alamparai, in the Carnatic, requested by Jürgen Brockmeier (Fig. 8). This piece (an example of KM 436.7) bears the Arkat dynasty ruler’s regnal year 23 (AH 1153), dating the coin to 1740/1.
Fig. 8. India: Madras, Arkat dynasty. Safdar ‘Ali Khan. AR rupee, [Alamparai], year 23 (AH 1153 = AD 1740/1). (ANS 1983.110.414, gift of Charles K. Panish) 20 mm.
An Odd Find from “Down Under”
From Lucy Carne, of Brisbane, Queensland, a reporter for The Sunday Mail, Australia’s third largest newspaper, came a curious inquiry that had been sent originally to Great Britain for response. There, an image and its explanation were passed along by Jonathan Cole, of the Oxford Centre of Maritime Archaeology, to our colleague Andrew Meadows, now Associate Margaret Thompson Curator of Ancient Greek Coins here at the ANS, who forwarded it to me for identification and interpretation. The evocative story, as related by Carne, is the following.
Last August, Australian archaeologist Greg Jeffries discovered a coin on a sand bar on North Stradbroke Island, off the coast of southern Queensland. It was in a swampy area where local Aboriginal legends hold that there had been a shipwreck (Spanish or Portuguese?), about which rumors have circulated for decades. Naturally, the government and the Queensland Museum were said to be reluctant to speculate about the possibility of the arrival of Europeans in Australia before Captain Cook. Carne was looking for opinions on a possible Spanish or Portuguese presence on Australia’s east coast before Captain Cook and wanted to know what conclusions could be drawn from the discovery of a potentially relevant coin. Of course, without further work and corroboration, it would not be possible to draw any conclusions, but the mere report of such a find was fascinating.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the Stradbroke Island coin for me, however, was the fact that, upon examination, the single image available revealed that the coin was an issue of English queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) (Fig. 9). The design elements visible are those typical of the reverse of a date-bearing silver coin of the reign—that is, the sixpence, and the threepence, and the strangely denominated three-halfpence and three-farthing pieces, handy for Elizabethans needing to make change. The arrangement and proportions suggest that the coin’s denomination is probably threepence, which could be confirmed by the size and weight (not provided) and by comparison with other specimens (not possible for us). I read the date as apparently 1593; the initial mark, as a tun. The unseen other side of the coin (i.e., the obverse) would bear the “virgin queen’s” left-facing crowned portrait with a Tudor rose to the right, surrounded by her name and titles in the outer margin starting at 12:00, following the obverse initial mark.
Fig. 9. England. Elizabeth I. AR threepence (?), 1593 (i.m. tun?). Reportedly found on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia. The Sunday Mail, Brisbane. Actual size unknown, perhaps about 13 mm.
As with the famous case of the controversial eleventh-century Norse coin reportedly found in an archaeological site in Maine, this discovery raises a number of questions. First, is it genuine? Why was it there? How and when did it get there? If indeed there were a Spanish or Portuguese wreck on Stradbroke Island (it was separated into North and South Stradbroke Islands by a storm in 1896), what might be the meaning of this coin? Was it “planted” there as a hoax? Was it a small part of the regular international trade patterns that were beginning to develop in the early postmedieval world? Was it loot taken from a successful Spanish raid against British subjects? Proceeds from some small sale to an Englishman? Maybe it once belonged to one of the few intrepid English mariners who are known to have ventured into the East Asian seas by approximately 1600. Or maybe it once belonged to an unfortunate numismatist, a collector of English hammered coins. Might Viscount Dunwich (Captain H. J. Rous), who, in 1827, commanded HMS Rainbow—the first British warship that put in to the island—have been such? Dunwich was the son of the Earl of Stradbroke, whose name he bestowed upon the island at this time. As a worldly gentleman, might he have taken up numismatology? Entertaining to speculate, perhaps, but unlikely…. Still, where did it come from?
Today, North Stradbroke Island is known as the location of large-scale sand-mining operations (a valuable source of titanium dioxide), which have moved from the beaches into the interior. Contrarily, it has also gained a popular reputation as an important nature reserve, with beautiful beaches and encompassing a rich diversity of habitat as well as the region’s oldest known archaeological site. Judging from the coin found, it might also be the location of the earliest-dated evidence of European contact in Australia.
Farthings, for Instance…
Questions can come in all sizes and shapes. Over time, some small and odd bits and pieces may be overlooked. In medieval England and Scotland, when the standard silver penny represented a significant amount of purchasing power, making correct change was a difficult and problematic matter. From time to time during the late Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and early Plantagenêt periods, the king’s money utilized as a reverse type designs that featured a “voided” cross. Such a cross was formed by equally spaced double lines, which made it convenient to cut or split the coins along these preexisting perforations to produce halves or quarters (halfpennies and farthings) as the need might arise. Thus British farthings were originally the cut segments of a round silver penny divided into four (ostensibly equal) pieces. These little ill-made coins, so important in their day, are rarely collected or appreciated today (Figs. 10–12).
Fig. 10. England. Edward “The Confessor” (1042-1066). AR (cut) farthings, small flan type (c. 1049-1050), moneyer Aelfstan (London mint?). Spink (penny) 1175. (ANS 0000.999.660) 7.4 x 8.4 mm.
Fig. 11. Scotland. William I “The Lion” (1165-1214). AR (cut) farthing, short-cross type, Phase B (c. 1205?-1230?), joint Edinburgh and Perth issue of the moneyers Hue and Walter. Spink (penny) 5029. (Private coll.) 8.1 x 10.0 mm.
Fig. 12. England. Henry III (1216-1272). AR (cut) farthing, long-cross type, London mint (c. 1248-1250), Class 3. Spink (penny) 1362-4. (Private coll.) 8.9 x 9.3 mm.
Farthings were first coined as an actual denomination in 1280, under Edward I Plantagenêt, but remained unusual—and inconveniently small—in the national economy. By the early seventeenth century, an increasingly great need was felt for a practical small-denomination medium of exchange. With the explosion of prosperity under Elizabeth and the union with Scotland under James I Stuart, not to mention colonization efforts and settlements in Ireland and the New World, addressing this need was becoming ever more necessary (Fig. 13).
Fig. 13. England. Edward I (1272-1307). AR farthing, London mint (c. 1280), Class 8. Spink 1448. (ANS 1954.203.22, purchase, ex Herbert E. Ives coll.) 12 mm.
Having had some experience with low-valued coinage in his capacity as monarch of Scotland, on April 10, 1613, James granted a royal patent (an entitlement program, for a single-source contractor, good for a period of three years) to the prominent Elizabethan and Jacobean courtier Sir John Harington, first Baron Harington of Exton (1539/40–1614), for the manufacture and issuance of an overvalued token coinage (Figs. 14–15). Harington and the king anticipated substantial profits by introducing this first official British fiduciary money. Lord Harington was to mint 100,000 pounds of copper pieces weighing six grains each, coated with tin to make them look more acceptably silvery. Theoretically, the coins were to have a circulating value £90,400 but would cost only £25,450 to mint. Of the remaining seigniorage of £64,950, under the terms of the patent Harington was to be allowed £25,000 for his “trouble,” and the remaining net profit would go to the king!
FIg. 14. Great Britain. James I (1603-1625). Cu (originally tinned) “Harington” patent royal farthing token, mm. C(?), Type 1a (c. 1613). Spink 2674; Nelson Pl. I, 13; Peck 30. (ANS 1949.113.463, purchase, ex J. F. Jones coll.) 12.7 mm.
Fig. 15. Great Britain. James I (1603-1625). Cu “Lennox” patent royal farthing token, mm. flower; Type 3b (1614-1625). Spink 2678; Peck 56. (ANS 1971.124.1, gift of Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb) 17 mm.
But upon his lordship’s having expired—not long after receiving this beneficence and initiating a ground-breaking British token coinage—the patent passed to his son. When he too died shortly thereafter, the patent reverted to Lady Anne Harington, from whom it passed to royal relative Ludovic Stuart (1574–1624), second Duke of Lennox—who must have used his close connection to the crown to obtain a renewal of the profitable arrangement—and subsequently to others. Lennox held the additional title Earl of Richmond (granted in 1613), and in 1623 was created Duke of Richmond. Upon his death in 1624, his English titles were extinguished while his Scottish title passed to his brother, Esmé Stuart (or Stewart). Lennox/Richmond’s coinage patent passed to his widow, Frances, Duchess of Richmond, and Sir Francis Crane, who then minted a further farthing issue for Charles I upon his accession in 1625 (Fig. 16). The lucrative patent continued in force for the Richmond consortium until 1634, when it was reissued to Sir Francis Crane and Henry Howard, Lord Maltravers, whose issues (Fig. 17) can be identified among the latest of the royal farthings before the adoption of the brass-plugged rose farthings (Fig. 18), again issued under the patent and minted well into the Civil War (c. 1645). The farthings became notorious for the chicanery of the patentees and the abundance of counterfeits they instigated, but they still seem to have enjoyed significant circulation.
Fig. 16. Great Britain. Charles I (1625-1659). Cu “Richmond ’round'” patent royal farthing token, mm. crescent with mullet; altered Lennox dies, with CARO (for “Carolus,” Charles) recut of IACO (for “Jacobus,” James) on obv.; Type 1a (1625). Spink 3181; Peck 119. (ANS 1978.9.6, gift of Mrs. R. Henry Norweb) 17 mm. The modification of the king’s name enables us to know that the issue was being minted around the time of Charles’s accession, in March 1625; the patent held by the Duchess of Richmond and Sir Francis Crane was in fact authorized to continue in effect by royal proclamation of May 30 (Peck 1960, 45).
Fig. 17. Great Britain. Charles I (1625-1649). Cu “Maltravers ’round'” patent royal farthing token, mm. bell, with inner beaded circle; Type 3b (1634-1636). Spink 3190; Peck 234 (ANS 1978.9.58, gift of Mrs. R. Henry Norweb) 17.5 mm. The Lennox/Richmond/Maltravers royal farthing tokens were minted in two series, the “ovals” and the “rounds”; without secure foundation, the “ovals” have traditionally been designated as issues intended for Irish circulation.
Fig. 18. Great Britain. Charles I (1625-1649). Cu “Rose” patent farthing token, mm. cross pattee/lis, with brass plug; Type 1d (c. 1636; extremely rare; two specimens recorded by Peck). Spink 3204; Peck 317. (ANS 1978.9.106, gift of Mrs. R. Henry Norweb) 14.8 mm.
British dealer and researcher Nigel Clark arranged to come to study the fine collection of seventeenth-century farthings donated to the ANS by Mrs. R. Henry Norweb (ANS 1978.9), offering us an occasion to look into these fascinating series. The ANS cabinet also includes numerous specimens from other than the Norweb collection, and altogether, these coins constitute an outstanding assemblage of both royal patent issues and the private tokens that proliferated during the period of the Commonwealth and soon thereafter.
British scholars have pieced together the record of the patent farthing coinages, correlating variants with the different issues and the patents under which they were produced. The issues are variously referred to by the principal contemporaneous title forming part of the current patent-holder’s name. As the least desirable members of the British royal family of coins, the overvalued farthings found their way in fair numbers to the New World colonies, as archaeological discoveries and chance finds attest. It is noteworthy to me that the experiment with officially overvalued fiduciary coins did not stop with these farthings; within a couple years of their first appearance, we find the crude but analogous Sommer’s Islands “Hog money” tinned copper introduced for British colonial use.
Clark examined the Society’s fairly extensive holdings of the issues of Charles I and was able to note a number of interesting specimens. Although not from archaeological contexts, the Norweb coins are generally very handsome examples, and some are documented as having come from important earlier British cabinets.
British Colonial America
ANS Board Member and colonial American researcher Sydney Martin studied specimens in the cabinet in connection with his research for his monumental recently published die study on the eighteenth-century Hibernia patent coinage of William Wood. He is now completing an analysis of Wood’s patent Rosa Americana coinage and ordered photographs of several of the examples in the Society’s collection. Although the ANS cabinet holds only a limited collection of the many varieties of Wood’s Hibernia issues, it has a more representative selection of the Rosa Americana pieces (Figs. 19–21).
Fig. 19. British colonial North America. George I (1714-1727). AE Rosa Americana penny, 1723. Nelson 15, Breen 121 (ANS 1886.1.1, gift of John Evans) 27 mm.
Fig. 20. British colonial North America. George I (1714-1727). AE Rosa Americana penny, 1723. Nelson 15, Breen 122 (ANS 1956.104.24, gift of Mrs. R. Henry Norweb Sr.) 27 mm.
Fig. 21. British colonial North America. George I (1714-1727). AE Rosa Americana 2 pence, 1723; a nice example with a tin plug, bearing a rose counterstamp. Nelson 14; Breen 88. (ANS 1944.34.1, gift of Henry Grunthal) 31 mm.
Counterstamps and Circulation, from Anglo to Latino
Countermarked or counterstamped coins are always of peculiar interest due to their “split personalities”—the double (or triple, or more) lives they have led. Sometimes these indications can be quite confusing, and even the terminology used to describe the markings may be less than transparent. A great deal of scholarly detective work has gone into the interpretation of such impressions (e.g., Howgego 1985; Brunk 2003; Manville 2001). Conventionally in this country, we use the term counterstamp to refer to an impression or punch “officially applied to [the surface of] a coin or a segment of a coin to change its value and/or to indicate its acceptance as legal tender…” (Doty 1982, 75). This would fit a dictionary definition of stamping something already “stamped,” where “counterstamp” is given as a specifically numismatic synonym for “countermark”: “an added mark designed to secure greater safety or more complete identification” (as used, for instance, along with a “hallmark” of an artificer applied to objects of gold or silverwork). However, many kinds of added marks appear on coins, marks that may or may not be official revalidations of some sort or indications of specific private purposes. It is often difficult to determine the origin or purpose of specific impressions. Actual silver- or goldsmiths’ hallmarks can and do appear on coins, where they are sometimes referred to using both of the other terms, and we have such terminological constructs as “bankers’ marks,” “chop marks,” “shroff marks,” “test marks,” snicks, pecks, etc. The World Coin Encyclopedia does not include the term “counterstamp,” though it does include “countermark” and gives a similar definition to the latter word. Hmmm. I had better curtail myself here…
From research on a counterstamped (or was it countermarked?) British-American issue, we move to a British-countermarked Spanish-American piece. Eric Hodge, working with Harrington E. Manville, was interested in our collection of British countermarked foreign silver coins from the early period of the Industrial Revolution. These are the scarce and interesting “dollars” (usually the host coins were in fact Spanish Colonial American pesos de á ocho reales, or “pieces of eight”) variously marked by private merchants or manufacturers—coins of which the Society holds quite a nice assortment. One example (Hodge ordered images of it) is a Thistle Bank issue struck on a Mexican “piece of eight” of 1799-F.M.—a die-struck contemporary counterfeit (Fig. 22). Glasgow’s Thistle Bank (1761–1836) was the fourth oldest in Scotland and an adventurous entrepreneur in its heyday, but its involvement with countermarking is not known.
Fig. 22. Great Britain: Scotland. Counterfeit AR 4-shilling 9-pence piece, the Thistle Bank (1803-1804); host coin: counterfeit Mexican 8-reales piece of Charles IV, 1799-FM. Manville 45X.b. (ANS 1969.222.4882, gift of P. K. Anderson) 39 mm. “A warning notice of the false dollars with a forged 4/9 stamp appeared in the Glasgow Herald and Advertiser on 20 April 1804” (Manville 2001, 89).
Undoubtedly the greatest coin in the ANS collection of the British countermarked series is the United States dollar of 1800 reused by the coal mining firm of John Wilson, in Hurlet, Renfrewshire (Scotland), c. 1816 (Fig. 23). This unique piece from the famous Norweb collection shares its countermark with four or so other coins—all Spanish Colonial pieces of eight, one of which also features the peculiar small puncture marks that appear on the ANS coin. The U.S. dollar would have been an uneconomical candidate to utilize for payments in this context, since it contained slightly more silver than its Spanish equivalents and would generally have been melted for its bullion content.
Fig. 23. Great Britain: Scotland. George III. AR countermarked 5-shilling piece (c. 1805-1815), J. & J. Wilson, Hurlet (Renfrewshire); host coin: U.S. dollar, 1800. Bolender 10; Bowers BB-190; Manville 64a. (ANS 1967.57.1, half gift of Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb, half purchase) 39.7 mm.
These coins are fine examples of the interconnections between coinages of different regions and monetary requirements, which a great collection like that of the ANS affords the opportunity to study in a broad context. Frequent inquiries come to us regarding all sorts of Latin American issues of a more limited nature. Most, of course, are not involved with intercontinental host coins, as readers of past “Current Cabinet Activities” columns will have noticed; rather, they have to do with the vast monetary productions of the actual colonial regions and modern nations of Central and South America.
In just one example of a recent Latin American inquiry, having had difficulties trying to find information about an old coin that had belonged to his grandfather, José Chavez contacted me for help. Typical of the period of el Presidente Porfirio Díaz, the item turned out to be a Mexico City centavo issue of 1886, of which some 12,687,000 were minted (Fig. 24). Of course, I referred Chavez to the redoubtable Standard Catalog of World Coins. ¡Olé! Such Mexican issues are notable for their die varieties, which are not as yet well represented in the ANS cabinet.
Fig. 24. Mexico: Republic. Cu centavo, Mexico City, 1886. KM 391.6 (ANS 0000.999.197) 25.8 mm.
As is widely known, the Society holds a remarkably fine collection of Latin American coins of all kinds, but it still lacks a great many issues, so inquiries from potential donors are always welcome. The same is true regarding our other Latin American collections of medals, tokens, paper money, and related items. But on the other hand, we receive inquiries from individuals seeking to build their own collections as well, such as Scott Horstmeier, who sought advice for finding a modern Uruguayan 1000-peso piece, and we are pleased to try to help them, too.
Indian Peace Medals, Once Again
A number of great early peace medals in the cabinet were obtained through purchase by subscription in the 1925 Wayte Raymond sale of the marvelous collection formed by Canadian W. W. C. Wilson. We have reviewed some of them before in this column, and indeed orders for photographs of them continue to come in, such as a recent one from Sandi Rygiel, of Picture Research Consultants, and Adrianne Hiltz, of Bedford/St. Martin’s, publishers. This was for the “Happy While United” 1766 medal of George III (ANS 1925.173.1, the gift of William H. Perkins, R. W. DeForest and James B. Ford), requested for publication use in an edition of the American history college textbook The American Promise (See ANS Magazine, “Current Cabinet Activities” [Spring 2006]: fig. 50).
The splendid assortment of the ever-popular American Indian Peace medals in the ANS cabinet routinely draws repeated inquiries and requests for images and information, as we have noted. And few fields of American numismatics have been beset by such large numbers of forgeries, fantasies, copies, or restrikes. These problematic pieces clearly demonstrate the interest and desirability of the series—if not the public’s understanding of the medals.
Recently, I received a couple of separate inquiries about examples of the odd item known as the “Treaty of Greenville medal.” There is, in the collection of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, a hand-engraved silver oval medal, similar in style and fabric to President George Washington’s silver oval Indian Peace medals, which bears a reference to the well-known agreement with the Ohio Valley Indians enacted by the United States government on August 3, 1795 (Fig. 25). The Pennsylvania Historical Society’s piece was purchased in the nineteenth century from the granddaughter of a Wyandot chief called The Crane, who had been one of the signatories of the treaty. This specimen has been illustrated by Belden and Prucha and, as a mysterious item for which there is no known documentation, has entered the realm of folklore and been repeatedly “copied” by enterprising “enthusiasts.”
Fig. 25. United States. George Washington “Treaty of Greenville” AR Indian Peace medal, 1795 (cast copy of engraved original). Belden 11; Prucha 36. (ANS 1988.148.1, gift of Andrew Stednitz) 76 x 99 mm.
A good and typical example of the work of modern forgers is the specimen (ANS 1988.148.1) in the Society’s cabinet. As is the case with many of the examples of the false silver oval George Washington Peace medals, it is possible to discern that the “engraving” lines composing the design elements and inscriptions of the pieces have not actually been cut by a skilled engraver with a burin—such as Joseph Richardson Jr., who is known to have produced all the 1795-dated Washington oval medals—but are instead the recesses left by the low raised lines on molds for relatively fine-quality castings. A good indication of the medal’s spurious nature is that it portrays the same image on both sides.
A Valedictory Invitation
One hundred and fifty years of collecting and researching numismatic materials and providing its collections and informational services for the benefit of the public has made the ANS the leader in building and disseminating knowledge in this aspect of civilization. The Society’s motto is Parva ne pereant (“May the little things not perish”), and to the role of fulfilling this mission the staff is dedicated. May the next hundred and fifty years witness the same and even greater progress in preserving, presenting, and interpreting these small time-traveling objects.
This year, the Society is moving its facilities and renewing its commitment to our fascinating and illuminating field. Our present home in the former bank building at the corner of William and Fulton streets is closing down as we prepare, pack, and move to our new location at Hudson Square. For a time, due to the move, our curatorial cabinet activities will be somewhat circumscribed, but members may rest assured that this work will proceed as before and flourish. Come autumn, we invite everyone to make an appointment to visit the famous ANS cabinet, a great part of our nation’s and the world’s treasury—both of money and of the mind.
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Maris, E. 1974. A historic sketch of the coins of New Jersey: With a plate containing specimens of the Mark Newbie coppers, and the issues of 1786–78: With the obverses, reverses and combinations of the different varieties of the latter; and a detailed description of the distinctive differences and rarity. Lawrence, Mass. (Originally published, Philadelphia: W. K. Bellows, 1881.)
Nelson, P. 1905. The coinage of Ireland in copper, tin, and pewter. Liverpool: W. M. Murphy.
——. 1959. The coinage of William Wood, 1722–1733. London: Spink & Son. (Originally published, Brighton: W. C. Weight, 1903.)
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(Spink) 2006. Standard catalog of British coins: Coins of England and the United Kingdom, 2007. 42nd ed. London: Spink & Son.
(Spink) 2002. Standard catalog of British coins: Coins of Scotland, Ireland, and the Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, Man and Lundy), pre-decimal issues, 2003. 2nd ed. London: Spink & Son.
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