Review: An Illustrated Catalogue of the French Billon Coinage

Robert A. Vlack. An Illustrated Catalogue of the French Billon Coinage in the Americas. No place: C4 Publications, The Colonial Coin Collectors Club, 2004. Hb. 157 pp., b/w illus. $50.00. Distributed by Ray Williams, 924 Norway Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey, 08629, email: njraywms@optonline.net.

It is appropriate that the year marking the four hundredth anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s first voyage to the New World and the establishment of the first French outpost on Île Sainte-Croix (Maine) should also see a new volume devoted to the main coinage employed by the later inhabitants of La Nouvelle France, the French colonial empire in North America.

Following a brief history of French North America and its endemic lack of hard currency, Robert Vlack introduces the six major issues and reissues of billon coinage produced in France between 1640 and 1764 (pp. 1-18). However, he also applies the reductionist approach to the circulating coinage of La Nouvelle France endorsed by Michael Hodder in 1994 (“An American Collector’s Guide to the Coins of Nouvelle France,” in J. Kleeberg, ed., Canada’s Money, COAC 8 (New York, 1994), pp. 2-35), thereby discounting the pièce de quinze deniers of 1641 as well as the douzains and sixains of 1658. Despite the listing of these coins in Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins (New York, 1988) (nos. 272-275) and their continued appearance in the most recent editions of the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins, there is in fact no evidence that these coins ever circulated in North America. Thus, the main discussion centers on the old sous marqués (douzains counterstamped with a fleur-de-lis) of 1640, the restruck douzains of 1692-1705, the mousquetaires of 1709-13, and the sous marqués of 1738-1764.

Readers will appreciate Vlack’s concise overview of the production of these coinages and the problems associated with their use in France and the colonies, such as revaluations, billonage profiteering, and the fear of devalued foreign billon coins flooding the French market. A table on page 15 illustrates very well the monotonous stream of revaluations of mousquetaires and pre-1705 sous marqués and douzains between June 1640 and the introduction of the new sous marqués in 1738. However, those interested in the old sous marqués of 1640, the earliest billon coinage to see service in La Nouvelle France, or the recoined douzains of 1692-1705, will be a little disappointed to discover that neither of these series are fully catalogued in the manner of the mousquetaires and sous marqués of the eighteenth century. Instead, for the old sous marqués, the author provides only a list of rulers, whose issues are known to have been the host coins for this major episode of counterstamping. The list is quite interesting, as it includes douzains dating back as early as the reign of Charles VI (1380-1422), as well as English groats, Papal douzinnas and Flemish sols, but it is no replacement for a catalogue with proper descriptions of the individual types and issues of the host coins. Also notable is Vlack’s inability to locate a single old sou marqué made from a 1618 douzain of Louis XIII, despite Breen’s statement (Encyclopedia, p. 47) that this is the most common host. Considering the vast material at the author’s disposal, including the collection of the Bank of Canada, it seems likely that Breen has simply retailed an erroneous statement first made by Louis Ciani (Les monnaies royals françaises de Hughes Capet à Louis XVI (Paris, 1929), p. 379) and that the Encyclopedia should be corrected on this count. As for the recoined douzains of 1692-1705, Vlack divides them into four classes based on the use of host coins or new planchets. Each class is furnished with a single illustration. He leaves the proper cataloguing of this extensive and complex coinage, “up to the collector as a major challenge.” (p. 13). The absence of these coins from the catalogue may perhaps also be forgiven on the grounds that there is little evidence to indicate that they ever circulated in La Nouvelle France. It is possible that they too should be classed with the issues of 1641 and 1658, thus leaving only three billon series for French North America.

The study of the French billon coinage is a true study in economy. Not only was the composition of the alloy (silver, tin and copper) intended to give primarily base metal coins the appearance of more valuable silver, to the profit of the crown, but full value was also wrung out of the dies used to strike the coins through the recutting of dates and reuse of dies in subsequent years. Although overdates are rare for the mousquetaires and demi-mousquetaires, they are a fairly standard feature of the sous marqués struck at most French mints from 1738-64. In the catalogue, Vlack lists all the overdates known to him; amounting to some eighty date varieties, many of which are illustrated with enlargements. While the author has tried to be careful in his reading of overdates in order to avoid the creation of phantom varieties, there are a few listed and illustrated that will probably spark further discussion among collectors. For example, no.37b, a sou marqué from the Paris mint is described as having the date 1757/0, but the circle of the underdate seems too small for a zero and an apparent tail above the top of the seven suggests that the date should be more correctly read as 1757/6, an overdate variety already listed as no. 38d. The 1763/inverted 2 and 1763/curved 3/2 of nos. 47a and c, respectively, might also merit further investigation. Although not strictly an overdate, Vlack also illustrates (no. 253c from the mint of Strasbourg) what he describes as the S of the word SIT in the obverse inscription struck over an inverted 3. In fact, it looks more like the letter S has been converted from a number 8 punch. Something similar may be the case with no. 253c (not illustrated), which is said to have the letter S over an inverted 5.

The main catalogue lists 11 mousquetaires (nos. 1-11), 3 demi-mousquetaires (nos. 12-14), 278 sous marqués (nos. 15-292), and 45 demi-sous marqués (nos. 293-328). The descriptions of the demi-sous marqués of Montpellier, Perpignan, Bourges, and Aix-en-Provence are only provisional since no specimens or photographs were available to the author at the time of publication. The Montpellier and Perpignan issues may in fact be phantoms, as no mintage figures are available for them and they are known only through unverified report. Rarity estimates, based on an ascending scale of 1 to 8, as well as mintage figures (when known) accompany each catalogue entry. Illustrations within the catalogue are generally of high quality, although a very few images may be a little on the dark side. We can, however, sympathize with the difficulty of photographing some of the coins. Not for nothing were they later known as noirs, or “black doggs”, because of their worn and blackened appearance. Extreme rarities or otherwise unusual coins are illustrated within a box in order to draw the attention of the reader. These include a 1711 Lyon mousquetaire with an erroneous G (Poitiers?) mintmark (no. 4), a 1739 Paris sou marqué with barless-A mintmark (no. 18), a Paris/Lyon sou marqué hybrid of 1747 (no. 27), a lead obverse die trial for the 1738 Paris demi-sou marqué (no. 293), a 1781 Cayenne trois sous (no. 398), and a sou marqué counterstamped for use on Tobago (no. 440).

In addition to the official billon issues, the catalogue also includes a section on contemporary counterfeit mousquetaires (nos. 329-339) and counterfeit sous marqués copying the types of most of the French mints (nos. 340-370). Judging from the transformation of the jewels on the crown into mere dashes on a counterfeit mousquetaire (no. 335) and the tendency to corrupt the différents of mint directors and chief engravers on counterfeit sous marqués (see for example nos. 341, 343, 355-356, 358-362) it is tempting to think that the rare 1711-G mousquetaire (no. 4), with G mintmark in place of the usual D of Lyon and dashes in the crown, should be relocated to this section, as Vlack had originally considered.

As if the inclusion of the counterfeits did not make the catalogue of mousquetaires and sous marqués complete enough, a final section covers the counterstamping and recycling of these coinages after the fall of French North America for use in the West Indies as the so-called “stampees” (nos. 371-380). The related Cayenne deux sous (1780-1790) of French Guiana, which were often overstruck on sous marques, are also catalogued along with the counterstamps applied to them and the stampees by various British and Dutch colonies in the West Indies (nos. 381-459). Of some special interest are the sous marqués, deux sous, and stampees counterstamped by the British authorities on Tobago. Vlack argues that no. 441, a very rare French sou marqué bearing the elaborate Tobago counterstamp of TB over a script o, all within a rectangular frame represents the island’s earliest counterstamp, preceding those consisting only of letters. While he is almost certainly right to see this counterstamp as the precursor of the TBo letter punches (nos. 438-439, 442-450), it is difficult to be sure whether it may not have been preceded in turn by the TABAGO in rectangular punch found on stampees and Cayenne deux sous (nos. 451-452). The author places no. 441 at the beginning of Tobago’s counterstamping largely because of its early host coin, but there is actually no way to know how long the coin circulated in the West Indies before it received its counterstamp.

Despite the somewhat narrower focus on the billon issues of the eighteenth century than the general review suggested by the title, An Illustrated Catalogue of the French Billon Coinage in the Americas is an important and long overdue reference for anyone interested in the coins of French North America and the West Indies. Both the author and the Colonial Coin Collectors Club should be congratulated for providing a solid foundation for the further study of French coinage in the New World. Hopefully just as the bold example of Champlain blazed the trail for the colonization of La Nouvelle France four centuries ago, Robert Vlack’s more recent numismatic voyage of discovery will inspire others to take ship and chart new courses in the less traveled waters of North American colonial coinage under the French regime.

—Oliver D. Hoover

Review: The Three Graces and their Numismatic Mythology

Mark A. Staal, The Three Graces and their Numismatic Mythology. Santa Clara: No Publisher, 2004. Pb. 181pp., 24 b/w pls., 10 color pls., ISBN 0-9747616-0-5. $35.00.

In 1908 the celebrated Swiss numismatist Friedrich Imhoof-Blumer, published an important monograph on the subject of Die Nymphen und Chariten auf Griechischen Münzen, detailing the complexities of the iconography of the Nymphs and the three Graces (Charites) on Greek and Roman Provincial coinage. For almost a century, it has been a key source for numismatists and students of iconography seeking to delve into the world of these minor deities. However, in part because Imhoof-Blumer’s erudition is lost to those without a reading knowledge of German, and because many more coin types are now known, Mark Staal has produced a new book dealing with The Three Graces and their Numismatic Mythology.

Before launching into the catalogue of coin types depicting the three Graces, Staal offers several introductory sections on the mythology and representation of these goddesses in numismatics. A collection of brief historical sketches for every provincial mint city known to have issued coinage with a three Graces type and discussion of the rarity of the series is also included. The latter is complemented by a study of the appearances of three Grace types at auction between 1970 and 2004 and the prices realized.

One of the more important questions raised in the opening material is how to tell the difference between the Graces and Nymphs or other deities who come in groups of three. Staal subscribes to the opinion that whenever we find a group of three nude female figures in a standard arm in arm pose with the central figure turned from the viewer and the flanking figures facing, we are always intended to understand them as the three Graces (p. 49), whether we prefer them as Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia, or Auxo, Hegemone and Peitho. In an effort to contrast the Graces with numismatic depictions of three Nymphs, Staal provides a list and plate illustrations of eighteen coin types depicting the latter. While the desire to clearly differentiate the two groups has obvious appeal, it fails to recognize the fluidity of meaning in the iconography of the Charites. By the Hellenistic period it was not uncommon for other Nymphs to take on the characteristics that Staal would associate with the Graces (Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae, s.v. Charites). Thus, when the three Graces appear as a mintmark on Syro-Phoenician tetradrachms of Gadara, they almost certainly represent the Nymphs who presided over the city’s famous hot springs, while the Charites depicted in a mosaic (illustrated on p. 154) from a Roman bath complex near Seleucia on the Calycadnus are most likely intended as the Nymphs of its healing waters. Considering this syncretic tendency, in the absence of clear epigraphic, iconographic, or contextual indicators, it becomes difficult to be certain whether the viewer is always intended to recognize the Graces qua Graces or as local water spirits.

It is no doubt safe to interpret the triad as the Charites in cases where the deities carry flowers and sheaves of grain, or wreaths, perhaps identifying Thalia (“Flowering”) and Aglaea (“Triumph”), or when they are clearly associated with Aphrodite (i.e. the issues of Aphrodisias, nos. 10, 13, 23, 25 and 34). However, one becomes suspicious when their main attributes are jars, often shown with water pouring out of them (nos. 18-20, 28 and 57), the standard attribute of Nymphs (Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae, s.v. Nymphai). The fact that the cities of Pautalia and Augusta Traiana struck coins in the same period with three clothed jar bearers, often in a virtually identical pose to that associated with the Graces seems to suggest that the typology of the nude Charites in Thrace was an aesthetic choice in the depicting the local river deities. In this case, when the groups are almost exactly the same, with the exception of clothing, it is difficult to agree with Staal that one represents the Graces while the other represents the river Nymphs. Indeed, in her work on the coinages of Augusta Traiana and Traianopolis (Griechisches Münzwerk: Die Münzpragung von Augusta Traiana und Traianopolis (Berlin, 1991), Edith Schönert-Geiss explicitly identifies all female triads (nude or clothed) holding water jars as Nymphs of the local rivers in contrast to the descriptions of earlier scholars, who also mistook them for Charites. In light of this situation it would probably be prudent for nos. 8 (Marcianopolis), 18 (Pautalia), 19 (Augusta Traiana), 20 (Pautalia), 26 (Marcianopolis) and 57 (Serdica) to be removed from Staal’s catalogue of three Graces types to the list of Nymph types.

Unfortunately, the introductory sections, as well as the historical introductions to the emperors included in the catalogue, are often deeply troubled by errors of fact and form. These range from the description of the archaic and classical periods of Greek history running from the fifth to the eighth century BC, rather than from the eighth to the fifth century, and the dating of the travel writer Pausanias (fl. AD 150) to the second century BC, to the perplexing inclusion of B.V. Head’s Historia Numorum in Staal’s list of works of “Greek poets and writers of the Classical and Hellenistic periods” that mention the Graces. Although admittedly a classic numismatic reference, the first edition was only published in 1887, hardly qualifying Head as a classical author. Readers should note that very few scholars currently believe that Homer (blind in Greek tradition) “wrote” the Iliad or the Odyssey. Instead, the poems thought to have been composed orally and only later committed to writing. Furthermore, Delphi and Delos are not the same place, Thessaly is not in Illyria, and Aglaea cannot be translated into English as “the one who harvests” (p. 14). The present reviewer would also be interested to know the source of the remarkable claim on page 11 that the English word “charisma” is a “derivative of “macharisma,” an ancient invocation of the tri-goddess: ma (birth) charis (grace) and ma (death).” The Oxford English Dictionary seems to think that it comes from the regular Greek word charisma. It should probably go without saying that the mythological, literary and historical background supplied by Staal should be treated with some caution.

The text is rife with a variety of spelling errors, including among others, “Perinthis” for “Perinthus”, “Cercrops” for “Cecrops”, “Illiad” for “Iliad”, and “Müenzen” for “Münzen”. However, the most distracting is probably Staal’s general tendency, when attempting to call the Graces by their Greek name, Charites, to refer to them as “Charities”, conjuring in the mind of the reader a triad of the Salvation Army, the March of Dimes and the United Way, rather than the intended daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. Readers may be further disturbed by the misuse of several English words, such as the verbal use of “patron” (p. 27), the widespread verbal use of “image” when meaning “illustrate” or “depict”, and the bizarre use of “annex” as a synonym for “exile” in a description of the fate of the Empress Plautilla (p. 110).

It is regrettable that the potential usefulness and interest of the introductory material is so frequently marred by error and the poor use of language, particularly when diligent editing could have caught and salvaged many of the problems.

Nevertheless, those interested in the numismatic iconography of the three Graces and Roman Provincial coinage in general are still likely to appreciate the catalogue (pp. 92-147), although caution is again necessary when accepting some of the descriptions. For example, the thymiaterion said to appear as an attribute on some issues, is in reality the standing sealed jar that frequently appears beside the Charites in art as an emblem of their virginity, while the so-called tripod is just a fold of drapery. The symbol, “occasionally described as appearing above the heads of the goddesses” is merely a feature of their hairstyle.

Some fifty-seven individual coin series depicting the three Graces as the main subject of the reverse type are listed, including thirty types unrecorded by Imhoof-Blumer in 1908. These additional coins are mainly Thracian and Moesian issues (several are actually water Nymphs), but specimens from Magnesia on the Maeander, Nicaea, Lydian Philadelphia, Phrygian Laodicea, Docimeium, Iconium, Perga, Side, Tarsus, and Gadara are also described. A few even appear to be unpublished, such as an issue of Diadumenian from Marcianopolis (no. 26), an anonymous coin of Docimeium under Macrinus (no. 28), and a Tarsian bronze of Pupienus (no. 39). In addition to building up the type corpus, Staal correctly reattributes a coin of Faustina II (no. 4) from the mint of Traianopolis to that of Augusta Traiana. He may also be right to suspect that a bronze of Tranquillina normally attributed to Iconium was really issued at Cremna. The heavily worn letters COL CR… of Col[onia] Cremensium seem to be present in the left part of the reverse inscription. One other noteworthy feature of the catalogue is the attempt by the author to list all the known inscription variants, including word breaks.

A supplementary section (pp. 141-147) describes fourteen coin types, including Hellenistic and Roman Imperial issues as well as Roman Provincial coins, that employ small images of the three Graces or Nymphs as subsidiary symbols or attributes of other deities. The bulk of this section is made up of Syro-Phoenician tetradrachms of the Decapolitan city of Gadara and bronzes of Thracian Pautalia (one of which is apparently unpublished), but Athenian New Style silver and Roman silver and bronze issues are present as well. Of some special interest is an unpublished Alexandrian bronze hemidrachm of Trajan (ANS inv. 1944.100.56260) that seems to depict the triad to the left of Demeter. These figures might be more correctly described as the three Horae (Seasons) than Nymphs or Graces, as they appear to wear kalathoi on their heads and are somewhat more logical companions for Demeter, a goddess who included Horephoros (Season-bringer) among her cult titles.

Twenty-four good black and white plates illustrate the coins in the catalogue as well as those in the supplemental sections on depictions of the Nymphs and the Graces in miniature. Ten full-color plates are also included to illustrate coins of Commodus, Julia Domna and other rulers from various mints, Cilician issues of Maximinus I, Gordian III, Balbinus and Pupienus, emissions from the mint of Deultum, and examples of the three Nymphs type. Connoisseurs of the Charites will no doubt enjoy seeing the enhancement that comes to an inherently beautiful type through an attractive patina, whether one prefers lime green, a deep chocolate brown, or desert sand.

Although the severe problems of the text mean that serious discussion must still be sought in the pages of Die Nymphen und Chariten auf Griechischen Münzen, Staal’s type catalogue, which takes into account the various discoveries and publications of the last hundred years, will probably make The Three Graces and their Numismatic Mythology a necessary reference for students of this rare coin series.

—Oliver D. Hoover

Review: Ancient Numismatics and Its History

Ernest Babelon. Ancient Numismatics and Its History Including a Critical Review of the Literature. Elizabeth Saville, trans. Studies in the History of Numismatic Literature No. 2. Crestline / London: George Frederick Kolbe Publications / Spink, 2004. Hb. 248 pp. ISBN 0-934352-07-0 (Kolbe) / ISBN 1-902040-52-X (Spink). $68.50 / £ 70.00.

In 2001 the well-known American and British numismatic book publishers and distributors George Frederick Kolbe and Spink & Son Ltd. joined forces to produce the first volume in a projected series on Studies in the History of Numismatic Literature. This timely series is intended to make accessible to an English-speaking audience important works devoted to numismatic literature written in other languages as well as to publish new books on the subject. The first volume in the series was an excellent revised and updated edition of Ferdinando Bassoli’s Monete e medaglie nel libro antico dal XV al XIX secolo (Florence, 1985) translated into English as Antiquarian Books on Coins and Medals from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century (Crestline/London, 2001) by Elizabeth Saville. In the present work, representing the second in the series, Saville translates the first part (“Introduction générale à l’étude des monnaies de l’antiquité”) of the introductory volume of Ernest Babelon’s monumental Traité des monnaies grecques et romains (Paris, 1901-1932), one of the great classics of numismatic literature and a key stone in the foundation of modern methodological thought on the study of ancient coinage.

While the first chapter (pp. 13-26) of Ancient Numismatics and Its History serves to introduce the reader to the modern definition of numismatics as well as to identify the regions and time periods that fall under the branch concerned with the coinage of antiquity, the second (pp. 27-50) is a spirited defense of numismatics as the tool of the historian, archaeologist, classicist, and art historian. The latter is well worth the reading not only for Babelon’s entertaining and illustrative analysis of an 1878 cinq-francs coin in the guise of a numismatist of the far future, but for his detailed survey of the evidence that numismatics can offer for the better understanding of ancient political and economic history, philology, epigraphy, iconography, chronology, mythology, architecture, religion, and even sport. Although written over a century ago, Babelon’s words still profoundly inspire the student of ancient numismatics, even in an age when some might be tempted to question the legitimacy of the coin cabinet and its evidentiary value.

In the five chapters that follow, Babelon describes the marvelous pageant of colorful characters and new ideas responsible for developing the study of ancient numismatics into a humanistic science capable of the types of revelation discussed in chapter II. We are introduced to the very origin of numismatics in chapter III (pp. 51-54), where Babelon recounts the few surviving anecdotes of ancient coin collectors and the coins that found their way into the reliquaries of medieval churches as well as into the hands of the early antiquarians of the Renaissance. The next three chapters continue the story of numismatic study and publication from its birth as a serious pursuit in the sixteenth century (pp. 65-94) to its infancy and childhood in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (pp. 95-126), and to its adolescence and early adulthood in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (pp.127-140). Chapter VII (pp. 141-214) describes the mature state of numismatics from 1836 to 1900 by the geographical regions of Europe. Here the reader will find biographical and bibliographical snapshots of the great luminaries of the eighteenth century, many of whose treatises and catalogues are still indispensable on the shelf of the numismatist today. Some will probably notice that North America, including the American Numismatic Society, has been left out. This is not overly surprising, since the Society had only resurrected itself in the 1870s after years of dissolution and did not make its European debut until the Paris Exposition of 1900, the final year of Babelon’s survey.

A final chapter (pp. 215-236) comprises a list of some 224 sale catalogues of major collections of ancient coins sold in the nineteenth century, with the caveat that only catalogues with accurate descriptions have been included.

Unlike the earlier Bassoli volume, which included revisions and additions to the original 1985 publication, this translation of Babelon is very Spartan in terms of added material. In some cases additional footnotes have been included to translate Greek and Latin text and technical terms that would have been easily understandable to educated individuals of Babelon’s day, but which may seem arcane in our own time of the twilight of classical education. Notes also translate several French academic and political titles that might be unfamiliar to an English-speaking audience. Very rarely are footnotes used to update the text, as on page 136 where it is remarked that the volumes of Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum now supplement and expand T.E. Mionnet’s Description de médailles antiques (Paris, 1806) described by Babelon as, “the furthest reaching and most exact compendium of Greek coins ever published.” It is a little unfortunate that more notes were not included to indicate when scholarship of the nineteenth century has been superseded by more recent work as, for example, in the case of the Jewish coinage once attributed to Simon the Maccabee (p. 143) now known to have been struck much later by Simon Bar-Kochba. Such additional material would have further enriched Ancient Numismatics and Its History for numismatic neophytes of the twenty-first century. It also would have enhanced the book’s already great potential as an introduction to numismatics for inclusion in reading lists for college courses on the materials and methodologies of ancient history.

The quality of Elizabeth Saville’s English translation is generally high, however, a few errors have crept in, mainly with respect to technical terms and the treatment of classical proper names. In Babelon’s discussion of what the military historian can learn from coinage (p. 43), the Balearic Islanders who accompanied Hannibal in his war against Rome are mistakenly described as rebels, when in fact they were slingers. This mistake stems from the fact that the French word frondeur (“slinger”) became a descriptive term for participants in a series of uprisings (the Fronde) during the minority of Louis XIV (1648-1653) and from then on developed into a general term for any opponent of established government. While the Romans may have considered the Balearic Islanders to be rebels against their authority, there can be little doubt that, in the context of a discussion of ancient troop types depicted on coins, Babelon intended us to understand the original meaning of frondeur when describing them.

At times Saville also seems unsure about how to correctly translate some classical proper names from French to English. Thus, some may be confused to see French Eaque (p. 33) for English Ajax, both of which transliterate Latin Aiax for Greek Aias, the tragic hero of the Trojan cycle. Ligeia, the Siren depicted on coins of Terina, appears under her French name Licee, while Sicilian Messana receives the odd form “Messans” (p. 33). Considering the closeness of the letter “s” to “a” on the keyboard, the latter is probably just a typographical error, rather than a conscious mistranslation. Elsewhere, when the attempt is made to translate classical proper names from French to English the result is not always fully satisfying. For example, on page 190, Marinianus, the third son of Gallienus, has been transformed into an unknown “Marian”, while the wonderfully archaic sounding, but ultimately incorrect, adjectival form “Epirotian” (p. 187) is employed when “Epirot”, “Epirote”, or even the much less popular “Epirotic” is intended. Although when they occur, these kinds of error may give the reader some pause concerning the translator’s familiarity with classical names and their forms in different modern languages, they are thankfully not very common.

There can be no question that in producing this new translation of the first part of Babelon’s masterwork Kolbe and Spink & Son have done an important service to the English speaking numismatic community and especially to those of its members lacking a reading knowledge of French. Our only serious complaint, and it is admittedly an unfair one considering that the mandate of the series is specifically historiographical, is that Elizabeth Saville only translates the very first part of the first volume of Traité des monnaies grecques et romain. If we are very fortunate, perhaps one day some other brave soul will take on the Herculean task of translating the remaining three and a half volumes, the real meat of Babelon’s discussion, to which Ancient Numismatics and Its History serves as a flavourful appetizer, whetting the appetite for what is to follow.

—Oliver D. Hoover

Development News (Winter 2004)

by Pamala Plummer-Wright

As the ANS settles into its new home at 96 Fulton Street we have much news to report in the area of fundraising. First we are in full swing with our Capital Campaign; a complete brochure and list of naming opportunities has been published which describes what our goals are going forward and how you can help. This includes endowments for curatorial and staff positions, collections, library and research facilities, the Museum of Money and affiliated programs. Please contact me directly if you are interested in discussing these opportunities. Also please visit our website where the brochure and the newly created “Ways of Giving” section can be viewed.

Total Contributions and Income

Report on income and contributions, from March 1, 2004 to November 1, 2004 was in the total amount of $1,099,397.12. This includes a $200,000 gift from John J. Ford family completing his pledge towards naming the Library Reading Room in support of the Francis D. Campbell Chair. As well as a gift of $300,000 by ANS Board President Don Partrick. A special thank you to Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Deforest Scott for their contribution of $50,000. Mr. Scott is a new Member of the ANS Board of Trustees.

Mid Year Appeal brings in record amount!

The Mid-year Appeal sent in July, raised a record amount of $65,245. We thank all of our loyal members for your continued support. Please keep a look out for the Annual Giving letter, from Roger Siboni, Chairman of the 2004 Annual Appeal. The Annual Appeal is vital to the financial success at the ANS as it goes in the unrestricted gifts which have a direct and immediate impact on the quality of the ANS’s service. So please give generously if you have not already done so!

Library Committee has blockbuster auction results

The Library Committee, under the direction of John Adams hosted an extremely successful book auction in conjunction with the ANA Convention in Pittsburgh. The auction realized $90,000 which will benefit the Francis D. Campbell Library Chair. A special thanks goes to Chairman John Adams and Committee Members George Kolbe, Wayne Homren and Dennis Loring for all their help.

The Brasher Circle, ANS establishes new leadership giving Circle

Individuals who contribute $10,000 or more, or whose combined contribution and or matching gifts total $10,000, automatically become eligible for membership in the ANS’S leadership society, the Brasher Circle. Members of these leadership groups have opportunities to take part in specially organized activities and enjoy certain advantages, based upon the level of support contributed.

Members receive special reports from the President about the ANS, are invited to attend select lectures, concerts and gallery openings. Most importantly, in return for your gift, you receive the knowledge that you have made a sound investment in the future well being of the ANS.

Join the August B. Sage Society

Create a legacy for the future, include the ANS in your will and become a member of the August B. Sage Society. Wills are the central pillar of estate planning and giving. A gift by will known as a bequest, provides the opportunity to create a legacy for the ANS once your needs and those of your loved ones have been met. You can designate you gift to the ANS that meets your interest, and is also tax effective. The ANS is pleased to assist you and your legal counsel by providing wording to ensure the ANS can accept your gift as you intend. Bequests provide the support the ANS need to maintain is position as the foremost institution of its kind devoted to the study of coins, medal and paper currency.

Onassis Foundation underwrites publication of ANS book on the Olympics

The Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation co-sponsored the ANS Olympic exhibit, “Full Circle: The Olympic Heritage in Coins & Medals”, with a grant of $20,000, to underwrite the publication “A Simple Souvenir: Coins and Medals of the Olympic Games” by Peter van Alfen, the Margaret Thompson Assistant Curator of Greek Coins. The ANS hosted a book-signing party at which Ambassador Loucas Tsilas (formerly the Greek Ambassador to the U.S.) addressed a crowd of over 100 people.

Dealers support ANS Exhibit “The History of Money”

The ANS is very grateful to R.N. Smythe and Stack’s each made a commitment of $7,500 to underwrite the brochure which accompanies the ANS exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York entitled “Drachmas Doubloons and Dollars: The History of Money”. Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 brochures will be distributed throughout the year. Additionally, Stack’s has committed to contribute $50,000 over a designated period for the underwriting of COAC.

Annual ANS Gala at Plaza Hotel in New York City

Please join us Thursday January 13, 2005, 6:30pm for The Annual ANS Awards Gala and Auction. The honoree for the evening is longtime ANS supporter and friend, George Kolbe. Please come and salute George and bid in the Auction!!

Library News (Winter 2004)

by Francis Campbell

In what has thus far been a very eventful year for the Library, the Library Committee, under the direction of John W. Adams, has most recently held a benefit auction in support of the Library Chair. Held on August 19th, in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association Convention in Pittsburgh, the auction was a great success and, despite a rainy evening, was well attended. It took place at Tambellini’s Restaurant, just a few blocks distance from the Convention Center, where all registrants were treated to cocktails and dinner followed by the auction. Committee Chairman, John W. Adams, was a great Master of Ceremonies and Committee member, George F. Kolbe, donated his time and services in conducting the sale, to which he also contributed a number of lots. Committee member Wayne Homren was our host in Pittsburgh and guided us in securing the auction site. The auction itself was called by Denis Loring, who entertained all present while coaxing bidders to part with their money. The sale realized just under $90,000.00 for the Francis D. Campbell Library Chair.

Setting the tone for the auction with his bid on lot 1, was ANS President, Donald G. Partrick, who offered an anonymous bid of $10,000. This tone was continued throughout the sale and when the last lot was reached (i.e., No. 50) it was decided to add a 51st, a copy of the sale catalogue signed by the attendees. Enthusiastic bidding for this lot followed with Victor England offering the successful bid. Victor then decided that the most appropriate home for the catalogue would be the ANS Library and he graciously donated it. Several of the other bidders at the sale extended their generosity by donating to the ANS Library the lots that they acquired. George Kolbe donated a unique eight-volume manuscript on the coins of Europe and the New World, which represents the catalogue of the collection formed by Louis de Boissiere, Count of Chambors. Anthony Terranova matched the bid of John W. Adams, who successfully bid on an important photographic archive of Presidential Coin and Antique Company, which he then donated to the Library. Thanks are due to all those who donated items to the sale. These included, John W. Adams, John P. Donoghue, Dan Freidus, Alan and Maureen Grace, Chris Hoelzle, Wayne K. Homren, Jonathan H. Kagan, George F. Kolbe, Joseph Lasser, H. Joseph Levine, P. Scott Rubin, Anthony Terranova, David Enders Tripp, and Richard B. Witschonke.

Although primarily preoccupied this year with moving the library to the new building, the benefit auction is the latest of several important events. The dedication of our new Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library was held on December 2, with members of the Harry W. Bass Foundation present. On behalf of the Foundation, Doris Bass, President, presented the Society with a check in the amount of $400,000.00. This brought the Foundation’s total contributions to the Society to over $4,000,000.00. On May 13th, the 5th floor reading room of the new library was officially named the John J. Ford, Jr. Reading Room. John was for many years a partner at the New Netherlands Coin Company here in New York and was responsible for many of that firm’s finest auction catalogues. The dedication ceremony, which was well-attended by members of the Ford family and numerous guests, provided the opportunity for old friends to reminisce about John’s career and inspect the room that will bear his name. Since the official opening of the Society on June 18th, the library has received a number of visitors who have been favorably impressed with the Library’s new facilities.

Although the Library’s plans for a facsimile series have been delayed somewhat by problems associated with formatting and paper selection, Dan Hamelberg has resolved those problems and we will soon be offering two versions of the 1828 George Nichols auction broadside that are sure to please bibliophiles. The extremely rare Nichols sale, consisting of the Estate of Benjamin Watkins, is the first listing in E.J. Attinelli’s “Numisgraphics …,” published in 1876.

As reported in the last issue of the “Magazine,” long-time Assistant Librarian, Barbara Bonous-Smit has recently accepted an Assistant Professor position at Queensborough Community College, where she will work in The Kurt R. Schmeller Library as Interlibrary Loan Librarian. Barbara will be difficult to replace and she will be missed as a colleague.

Yeghia T. Nercessian, founder of the Armenian Numismatic Society, has recently donated to the Library a copy of “Selected Numismatic Studies II,” which contains some forty research papers written by Paul Z. Bedoukian in the two decades prior to his death on June 29, 2001. Together with the contents of an earlier first volume bearing the same title and published while Paul was still alive, this second volume provides a fitting tribute “to a scholar who became the modern architect of Armenian numismatics.” The autobiographical article with which the volume begins bears testimony to a lifetime of achievement in spite of extreme suffering and hardship during Paul’s early years. It should be read not only by numismatists but by all those who would have an example of the heights to which the human spirit can arise.


A tribute volume for Paul Z. Bedoukian

Archivist’s News (Winter 2004)

by Joseph Ciccone

Since the last issue of the ANS magazine, we have continued our efforts to add to the historical content of the Society’s web site. Our latest addition is a history of the Society’s publishing program. This new site — which you can find at http://www.numismatics.org/Archives/PublicationHistory — includes brief descriptions of each of the fourteen monograph series or periodicals published by the ANS since its founding in 1858.

Publishing history

Readers of Howard Adelson’s history of the ANS, American Numismatic Society, 1858-1958, will recall that the Society’s first attempt at publishing was the American Journal of Numismatics, first series. Originally proposed by ANS Treasurer, Joseph N.T. Levick, this periodical ran from 1866 through 1924.


Joseph N.T. Levick

By the 1920s, the Society had received sufficient funding to establish its first monograph series: Numismatic Notes and Monographs. This series consisted of separately issued numismatic studies — each on a specific topic. The first title in this series was Sydney Noe’s Coin Hoards. Originally, Numismatic Notes and Monographs was published in an unusually small format of 4.5 by 6.5 inches. (The format was determined by Archer Huntington, who had donated the funds to publish the series.) Because certain studies required a larger format, in 1938 the ANS began publishing a second series, Numismatic Studies. Both series are still in publication today.

The 1950s and ’60s witnessed the birth of a number of additional monograph series, including the Hispanic Numismatic Series, Ancient Coins in North American Collections and the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. The Proceedings of the Coinage of the Americas Conference series would be added in the 1980s.

During this time, the Society also began publishing two periodicals. In the late 1940s, the ANS introduced Museum Notes, which included articles detailing research conducted on topics related to the Society’s holdings, as well as original scholarship in the field of numismatics. (Museum Notes would be succeeded in the late 1990s by the American Journal of Numismatics, second series.) At the same time, the ANS also began publishing Numismatic Literature, a periodical that included abstracts of recent articles and books relating to numismatics. This latter periodical remains in publication.

Website Structure

The new website has been designed to provide information about each of the monograph series and periodicals that the ANS has published. Visitors to the site initially can read brief descriptions about each series or periodical and view an image of the first issue of that publication. For periodicals, the frequency of publication is also included.

For those who want additional information about the monograph series, we have provided hyperlinks to bibliographic entries for each monograph issued in each series. This enables visitors to review the chronological publishing of all titles in the series.

We are planning further developments for the site, such as a listing of monographs that have not been published as part of an ongoing series.

Volunteer Impressions (Winter 2004)

by Rick Witschonke

Those who read my brief article in the last issue of the ANS Magazine may remember that I have been working as an ANS volunteer since January of this year. Picking up where I left off, since July, things have continued to be busy and exciting.

On July 14, I gave my talk on the cistophorus coinage to the ANS Summer Seminar students. Then, on July 29, I got to hear four of the students report on the fruits of their research during the Seminar. All of the papers were interesting, and it was exciting to see young minds being introduced to the power of numismatics as a research tool, and to the tremendous resources (coins, books, and people) of the ANS.

In August, Elena Stolyarik approached me and asked for my help on a small project. Apparently, during the move, a tray containing about 100 antoniniani of the emperor Probus had been jostled, and many of the coins were no longer in their proper boxes. The Society’s collection of this coinage is quite extensive, so there were many very similar coins. The boxes each had an attribution, usually to Roman Imperial Coinage, and in most cases, the weight of the specimen. So I spent several hours weighing each specimen, and looking them up in RIC to match them to their proper box. Finally, I got them all back where they belong, and even discovered one very old attribution error in the process.

In September, I began work on two other interesting projects. The first involves helping Dr. William Metcalf (former Chief Curator at the ANS, and now Curator of Coins and Medals at Yale University) with a book he is working on. The book, to be published by the ANS, is a complete die study of the Proconsular cistophori. Charles Hersh was working on the catalogue when he died, and Bill has picked up the manuscript and is working to complete it. I am helping by working with the ANS editorial staff to format the digital images Bill is providing into plates that are ready to print. We are hoping to have the book out sometime next year.

The second project also relates to my old friend Charles Hersh. When Charles was on a Fullbright Scholarship to study Numismatics at the British Museum in the early 1950s, he spent a lot of time visiting European Coin Cabinets (he visited 27), and recording all specimens of Roman Republican denarii with symbols on them. (There are many such issues, some with hundreds of different symbols, and these have never been comprehensively published). Charles then compiled all of this information, including complete citations for each symbol, in a 235-page manuscript volume. This unique volume now represents the most comprehensive compilation of this material, and I thought it deserved to be published. When I discussed my idea with various ANS staff members, Sebastian Heath made the excellent suggestion that we publish on the ANS Website (rather than in hard copy) in order to make the information available broadly, and at low cost. Fortunately, Charles’ handwriting is very neat, so we will be able to scan the pages directly, rather than have to typeset them. In any event, Frank Campbell (ANS Librarian) graciously made the volume available, and I am in the process of scanning it. I will then work with Sebastian Heath to make the pages available on the ANS website, and provide access to the relevant page based on a Crawford number. It should provide a useful tool for scholars studying Roman Republican coinage, as well as collectors and dealers.

From the Collections Manager (Winter 2004)

by Elena Stolyarik

New Acquisitions

The new fiscal year at the ANS started in October and all new acquisitions we have received thus far for 2005 are donations to the Medals Department. The first gift came from our guest and colleague from St. Petersburg (Russia), the chief keeper of the Coin Department of the State Hermitage Museum, Masha Marshak. This wonderful donation consisted of two modern medals struck at the Moscow State Mint, both designed by the chief engraver of this mint, Victor Erokhin. One of these is a medal struck in conjunction of the XII Russian Numismatic Conference of 2004, at the same time commemorating six centuries of minting in Moscow.

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Russia, XII Russian Numismatic Conference, AR medal commemorating six centuries of minting in Moscow. Moscow mint, by Victor Erokhin, 2004 (ANS 2005.1.2, gift of the Coin Department of the State Hermitage Museum), 37 mm.

The second medal celebrates the sesquicentennial of the opening of the New Hermitage building on 5 (17) February 1852, in the reign of Czar Nicholas I. Since that date, the Imperial Court Collections—which started in the eighteenth century as a private collection of the Empress Catherine II and remained the private property of the Romanov dynasty until the revolution of 1917—have been open to visitors. The New Hermitage became the first Russian Public Museum. By the time of the Museum’s opening, the numismatic collection of the Hermitage already had almost a century of history behind it, but this was the first time the coins from the Emperor’s Munzkabinet appeared on display. An 1853 watercolor by Luigi Premazzi recorded this first coin exhibition. In 2002 the image from Premazzi’s painting of this exhibition in the Twelve Columns Hall, with its two rows of windows, upper gallery and display cases, decorated with allegorical figures, was reproduced on a commemorative medal as a reminder of the world-famous museum and the history of numismatics in Russia.


”Russia, AE medal 150th anniversary of the opening of the New Hermitage Building/First Numismatic Exhibition in Hermitage. Moscow mint, by Victor Erokhin, 2002 (ANS 2005.1.1, gift of the Coin Department of the State Hermitage Museum), 64 mm.


Watercolor by Luigi Premazzi, 1853, depicting the first numismatic exhibition in the Twelve Columns Hall at the New Hermitage Museum.

In October, the ANS coin cabinet also received two silver proof medals from one of our thirty-year members, Mr. Yeghia T. Nercessian. The medal was dedicated to Dr. Paul Z. Bedoukian and became the “Paul Z. Bedoukian Armenian Numismatic Award” medal. An Armenian artist, Hagor Ishkanian, prepared the plaster cast and the medallic company Lialoosin arranged the dies and struck three gold and two hundred silver medals with the portrait of Dr. Bedoukian on one side and the Armenian Numismatic Society seal on the other. On September 1, 2000, the gold and silver versions of the medal were presented to Paul Z. Bedoukian; only a few months later, he passed away.


United States, Paul Z. Bedoukian Armenian Numismatic Award, AR medal, by Hagor Ishkanian, 2000 (ANS 2005.2.1, gift of Yeghia T. Nercessian), 38.4 mm.

Another interesting gift came from a recent auction at Sotheby’s of property from the estate of the famous American actress Katharine Hepburn. It is a bronze plaque on a wood base with the image of Shakespeare and an inscription reading, “The Shakespeare Club of New York City Annual Award 1950 to Katherine Hepburn — for Meritorious Service in the Shakespeare Theater.” This item was won and subsequently donated by one of our long-time members who was recently made a Fellow, Michael Parris. His gift will be a significant addition to the ANS holding of the plaques and medals, which reflect the theatrical tradition and history of art in New York.

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United States, The Shakespeare Club of New York City, AE Plaque, 1950, awarded to Katharine Hepburn. (ANS 2005.3.1, gift of Michael Parris) 28.5 x 21.5 mm.

Exhibitions

The curatorial department continues to work closely with different cultural institutions on the loan requests. During the fall season, ANS objects appeared on display at numerous museums and galleries. Seven medals and plaques by the prominent American artists Henry Hering, Frances Grimes and Herbert Adams, selected by ANS curator Robert Hoge for the exhibition at the Cornish Colony Gallery and Museum in New Hampshire, were an important part of the very successful exhibit entitled “A Cornish Colony Extravaganza.”

A Spanish Colonial silver bar, ca. 1522-1535, became a part of the five-year inaugural exhibit, “Our Peoples,” at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of the American Indian.



Spanish Colonial Mexico, AR bar, ca 1522-1535 (ANS 2002.34.4, purchase), 370 x 133 x 27 mm.

Three outstanding ANS items, a Massachusetts Pine Tree shilling, a Georgia $20 note of 1776 and a Libertas Americana bronze medal, were incorporated into the exhibit entitled “American Vision of Liberty and Freedom,” at the Virginia Historical Society. This is a three-year traveling exhibit that will also be shown at the Maryland Historical Society (April 2-July 24, 2005); the Heinz History Center, in Pittsburg (September 3-December 24, 2005); the Atlanta History Center (January 28-May 21, 2006); the National Heritage Museum, in Lexington, Massachusetts (June 24-October 15, 2006) and the Missouri Historical Society, in St. Louis (November 18, 2006-March 11, 2007).


United States, Libertas Americana AE medal, 1782/3, by Augustine Dupré (ANS 0000.999.38370), 47 mm.

In November 2004, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) opened an exhibition entitled Pontormo, Bronzino and the Medici: The Transformation of the Renaissance Portrait. This exhibition is based upon two museum portraits by the great Cinquecento Florentine masters Pontormo and Bronzino depicting the Dukes Alessandro and Cosimo I de’ Medici. For this exhibition, the PMA requested the Roman coin with the images of Brutus on obverse and pileus and two daggers on reverse. This famous denarius is on display next to a renaissance medal by Giovanni da Cavino featuring on one side, a copy of the reverse of Brutus’ denarius. The medal was commissioned by the assassin of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici as a declaration that he was liberating Florence from tyranny, using Brutus’ murder of Julius Caesar as example. The exhibition will be on display until February 13, 2005.

The ANS is also an important lender to the exhibition entitled “Alexander the Great” at the Onassis Foundation, in New York City. Among the items on loan from Vergina, Pella, Thessaloniki, Dion, and the Acropolis Museum in Athens are important coins from the ANS that were selected by Dr. Peter van Alfen, the Margaret Thompson Assistant Curator of Greek Coins. Seven coins of Alexander the Great, including a rare “Poros” tetradrachm; nine coins of the Alexander’s predecessors (Alexander I, Perdiccas II, Archelaus I, Aeropus, Amyntas, Perdicas, Philip II); eight coins of his successors Lysimachus, Ptolemy I, Seleucus I, Eucratides are on display, all of which are invaluable witnesses to the tumultuous history of the late fourth century BC.


Alexander III (336-323), AR tetradrachm of the “Poros” type, (ANS 1990.1.1, purchase) 27mm.

Advisory News (Winter 2004)

by Charlie Karukstis

Hmm— an advisory committee? You’re probably asking yourself: why does the Society need one? Granted, there’s no shortage of them across the country: the Federal Government alone has over a thousand of them, enough to prompt the existence of a Federal Advisory Committee Act. It seems like every organization one comes across has them, and of course their effectiveness probably varies quite a bit. I’m sure quite a few of us remember the quote by former Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg (1908-1990): “If Columbus had had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock”. So how exactly does an advisory committee help the Society?

When created in 2001 by the Society, ANS President Donald Partrick stated that “In addition to its role as a ‘focus group’ for the membership, the Committee will also consider specific matters delegated to it by the Council”. Indeed, the first task undertaken by the Committee, ably led by our first Chairperson Doug Rohrmann, was a complete revision of the Constitution and By-Laws. While delegated tasks will continue to be a key role for the Committee, of equal importance is our responsibility to listen to the membership. It is in this task that the members of the Advisory Committee feel a special urgency: to reach out to the general membership and Fellows of the Society, make sure their voices are heard, and incorporate their thoughts, suggestions and concerns into regular communications, both to the Board as well as back to the general membership.

We recognize that it isn’t always an easy thing to have your voice heard, or to keep in touch with much of the work being done. To that end, part of the mission of the Advisory Committee is to exist as a point of contact, for members to be able to communicate with fellow members. The current roster of the Committee is a wonderful cross-section of long-time members of the Society: Catherine Bullowa-Moore, Jay Galst, Robert Leonard, Jr., Scott Miller, Normand H. Pepin, Donald Scarinci, Stuart Sears, Lawrence Stack, Edward J. Waddell, and Frederic G. Withington. It is our hope that there is at least one member whom you recognize and feel comfortable enough to communicate your ideas and concerns. If not, let us know, as we’d like to get to know all members of the Society.

We’re interested in what you have to say, whether it’s a comment on work currently underway at the Society or suggestions for improvement. To make it easier for you to contact us, an email address has been set up: advisory@numismatics.org. Members of the Advisory Committee will be happy to respond back to you, and of course we will not only discuss member’s comments and suggestions at our regular meetings, but help propel worthy ideas into new initiatives for the Society.

The Society is entering into a very special era of growth and rejuvenation, and there has never been a better time for all members to contribute their time, energy and ideas. We’d like all members to be part of this effort, and we look forward to hearing from you. In the next issue, I’ll talk about some of the issues currently being discussed by the Advisory Committee. As always, we thank you for your support of the Society!

Current Cabinet Activities (Winter 2004)

by Robert Wilson Hoge

Items in the Collection, and Some that Are Not

Now that the Society’s coin room has reopened, it is a pleasure for us once again to welcome visiting researchers to the world-famous ANS cabinet. This terrific resource has been developed over the past 146 years by dedicated numismatists who fervently believed in the cause of bringing their precious holdings together for preservation, comparison, research and educational sharing. Unlike pieces in personal collections, the cabinet of the ANS is routinely available for researchers, kept in a context of relevance, and professionally maintained. Part of the importance of the cabinet, in addition to its celebrated rarities, is the great depth that it contains in terms of multiple examples of many issues, so essential for establishing minting sequences and historical relationships. The collection has been consulted and utilized for virtually every significant numismatic study in this country and abroad, so our reopening in the new facilities is an event to be widely celebrated!

Andy Lustig and David J. McCarthy stopped in recently, hoping to view an 1827 quarter, an 1894-S dime and an 1878-S half dollar, but alas, these are all famous rarities of which the Society has never been given an example! We were able, however, to show them the rare 1907 pattern and trial pieces by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and the phenomenal specimen of the 1921 double eagle which graces the collection. The Saint-Gaudens patterns were an interesting gift from Martin Kortjohn; the $20 gold piece, a 1922 purchase from the Groh Fund. This magnificent specimen has resided in the cabinet since it was purchased as a new issue. It has never been mishandled by the public and never cleaned, as have been so many choice coins found in private and commercial numismatic hands today.


United States. AV 20 dollars, 1907. High relief reverse pattern by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, electrotype shell. (1949.156.10, gift of Martin F. Kortjohn) 34.3mm


United States. AV 20 dollars, 1921. A coin of spectacular quality and condition. (1922.3.1, ANS purchase, Edward Groh Fund) 34.2mm

The famous “Strawberry Leaf” cent of 1793, one of the signal rarities and one of the most curious issues in American numismatics, has become the focus of renewed attention recently with the reappearance of the “Staples” specimen. Several serious students of early large cents have made inquiries about our example as a result. It may be of interest to reexamine this issue, which was studied by former ANS curator John Kleeberg in the Proceedings of the Coinage of the Americas Conference, in 1998. The ANS example was donated to the Society in 1906 by the great early benefactor John Sanford Saltus as part of an essentially complete type collection of half cents and large cents. In his examination, Kleeberg noted that the irregularity of the letters in the legends seemed to indicate that they could not have been placed on the dies by punches, hence the dies would not have been regular U.S. Mint products. He found no match between the edge lettering of the Saltus coin and that on any of the other examples of 1793 Wreath cents in the cabinet, and concluded that the rare issue must be a circulating counterfeit of 1793-1795. Other opinions differ, but all concede this to be a most unusual variety.


United States. CU cent, 1793, Wreath type, with trefoil “cotton boll” strawberry leaf-like ornament on the obverse and lettered edge. This coin is one of three examples known from this die pair. Sheldon NC-3 (ANS 1906.99.52, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) 28mm

The ANS’ excellent collection of early United States gold coinage brought John Dannreuther to the cabinet as one of our first visitors after the reopening this summer. He was especially interested in documenting the die states of the varieties present, demonstrating once again the value of a large public collection of this kind. This field is certainly one in which we hope that future funding may permit adding images of the coins to our on-line catalog data base. We invite everyone to “adopt” sections of collection for photography by paying the expenses of capturing and mounting, as it were, pictures of particular items. The early U.S. gold pieces have come from three important gifts: the collection donated in 1908 by the famous financier J. Pierpont Morgan; the collection of ANS Life Fellow Bernard Peyton, presented in 1960; and the bequest of Arthur J. Fecht, which came to the Society in 1980. These are among the greatest of all the donations which have come to the Society. Dannreuther noted that among the various rarities present, for example, our 1825 $2.50, Breen 6128, in die state A with thin top “5,” is one of four pieces known.


United States. AV quarter eagle, 1825, reverse of 1821-24. (ANS 1960.166.59, gift of Bernard Peyton) 18.5mm

Sculptor and Saltus Award Committee member Mashiko Nakashima visited the cabinet to have a look at some box thalers; Serge Nacheyev and David Vagi, to make use of the card files of auction record photos. Tony Deutsch sought information about coin grading. Gary Crossland inquired about medallions with images by the American Painter Grant Wood. Dr. MacGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago contacted us seeking information about an issue of counters from Nuremberg by a member of the Lauer family. Graeme Murray was looking for help with a collection of coins and currency needing to be evaluated.

Dr. George Selgin, Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia is completing a book about Great Britain’s 18th and 19th century commercial coinage episode. For this, he asked about the 1812 Sheffield half-guinea gold piece in the collection, a little known token purchased from a 1984 Joseph Lepczyk auction for the cabinet by former curator Richard Doty. This Yorkshire rarity showing a phoenix in flames was issued by the firm of Younge, Wilsons & Younge. It was recorded as No. 37 in Richard Dalton’s not altogether appropriately titled The silver token coinage mainly issued between 1811 and 1812, the principal reference on this series.


Great Britain: Yorkshire. Sheffield AV half guinea token of Younge, Wilsons & Younge, 1812. (ANS 1985.21.1, purchase) 19.9mm

Trying to locate as many as possible of the 18 specimens of Great Britain’s 1817 Pattern Crown of George III by W. Wyon, with the reverse inscription containing the word Incorrupta, Marvin Finnley naturally contacted us for an example. But, unfortunately, there is no specimen of this rare item in the collection. This request illustrates the point that the ANS is still in need of vast numbers of interesting items, which many donors can help obtain. Richard Taylor, from Australia, also contacted us regarding questions on other English coins—commonplace pieces of which we do have excellent representation in the cabinet.

Chilean coinage specialist Carlos Jara visited the cabinet to examine some of the Society’s rare Spanish Colonial pieces and to order photographs of pieces for inclusion in his forthcoming research publicaton. Among the items that were of particular interest to him was a 1777-DA Santiago 4-reales piece of Charles III; our example is reportedly one of three known specimens.


Chile. AR 4 reales, 1777-DA, Santiago mint. (ANS 1988.28.1, gift of Ray A. Johnson, Jr.) 33.0mm

For a publication he has in progress, Dr. Peter Ilisch of the Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte asked about the Society’s holdings of the coinage of the old German Abbey of Corvey (also known as New Corbie, or Corbey), near the town of Höxster on the Weser River. He is preparing a corpus of the coins of this great medieval establishment, founded by the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious (814-840) and St. Adelhard, the abbot of the parent house of Corbie, in Picardy, from which the new abbey derived its name. This institution was a Benedictine monastery in the Diocese of Paderborn, in Westphalia. Established around 820, Corvey became famous for its school and its scholars, who were dedicated to the arts and sciences (we owe to them, for example, the survival of the first five books of Tacitus’ Annals). The abbot was recognized as one of the princes of the Holy Roman Empire and in keeping with other high clerical dignitaries, in 833 he was accorded the right of coinage. After the Middle Ages, the abbey and its prosperity declined until in 1803 it was secularized and given to the family of the princes of Orange-Nassau-Dietz. The principal older reference for the series is Joseph Weingärtner’s Die Gold und Silber Münzen der Abtei Corvey (Munster, 1883). The Society holds at least 23 of the coins, plus two from the municipal mint of Höxter.


Germany. Abbey of Corvey, John Christopher, AR gulden or 2/3 thaler, 1683. KM 79 (ANS 1938.127.155, gift of the former Defendorf Collection) 39mm

National television’s The History Channel has been looking to the ANS lately for help with several projects. Stacy Shapiro Mello contacted us for assistance with a “History vs. Hollywood” program looking at American money in relation to the feature film National Treasure. Tania Castellanos of Atlas Media came to us for information about casino gaming tokens in relation to a History Channel series called “Breaking Vegas.” Now, this sort of thing might conceivably be good publicity for the Society, but one has to wonder. The sad aspect is that the ANS has no examples of recent issues of U.S. paper money in its collection—in fact, there is not a single note dated after 1963. The collection is also, unfortunately, deficient in modern gaming pieces. So here are some nice opportunities for would-be donors to help develop an area in which benefactors have been lacking. Our U.S. paper money collection as a whole is weak when it comes to the Federal issues. Past efforts to build the collection of National Bank Notes, for example, have not progressed. And we have virtually no casino tokens!

The Manager of the Photography Department of the Rosen Publishing Group, in New York, Cindy Reiman, sought our help with an image for a book intended for elementary school readers, grades 3-5. It is to be one of a series called A Kid’s Guide to Drawing the Presidents of the United States, in which each chapter is illustrated with an artifact or image from that president’s lifetime and/or presidency and then shows the students how to draw it. For President Martin Van Buren, they decided to use a note from the Second Bank of the United States issued under his administration. The Bank had by this time lost its federal charter due to the opposition of Andrew Jackson and his constituency and supporters, among whom, of course, Van Buren was prominent. This is an especially appealing issue to have illustrated, in my opinion, because of the numismatic mischief that has been caused by the common modern replicas of this issue, $1000 bond notes with the serial number 8894. This well-known forgery, made of chemically-aged, parchment like paper, is quite close in appearance to our genuine example shown here.


United States. Bank of the United States (Second Bank). $1000 bond, Dec. 15, 1840, serial number 8726, with payment endorsements. (ANS 1981.170.1, purchase) 92x186mm

Some Meanderings among Medals

ANS President Donald Partrick took advantage of a visit to our new facilities to have a look at examples of George Washington Indian Peace Medals and to discuss these issues, as well as other points on Early Americana, with me. Personally, I cannot help but be partial to the wonderful silver oval medals, which represent our country’s first diplomatic gestures toward the native peoples, because some of the surviving 1793-dated pieces and all of the 1795s were made and engraved by the prominent Philadelphia silversmith Joseph Richardson, Jr. Why so? I actually own a spoon by Richardson, passed down from my great-great-great-great-grandfather whose initials are engraved on it. (By the way, my heirloom, which bears the same hallmark found on the medals, is presently on loan for exhibition at the museum of our sister organization, the American Numismatic Association, in Colorado, where I served as the Museum Curator for twenty years.) The Society’s collection of American Indian Peace Medals is justifiably renowned, representing a field in which we always receive inquiries, but it does not yet include any examples by Richardson, who became the assayer of the U.S. Mint in 1795.

We seem to be lacking in information regarding Bela Lyon Pratt’s beautiful “New Theatre” medal, concerning which we received an inquiry from Don Latino. This was one of the handsome series of medals which the Society commissioned for several decades around the turn of the last century. We do not have a file of records on this medal in our archives as we do for the other ANS issues, alas, but medals specialist Scott Miller was able to help in this regard. He informs us that the medals were issued in two sizes: 106 and 77mm. Apparently, there were fifty large and fifty small ones made of bronze, and fifty small-sized of silver in addition to one gold piece, presented to Ellen Terry. According to Howard Adelson’s 1958 History of the ANS, fifty were issued in silver and fifty in bronze for subscribers. Our medals ledger entries, which lack details, account for only a very small number of examples, and mention others being “junked” (presumably they were melted, or maybe sold off in bulk, unnumbered).


United States. The American Numismatic Society, New Theatre of New York, AE Medal by Bela Lyon Pratt, 1909. (ANS 0000.999.4405) 75.6mm

Curiously, while looking for information to answer this and another inquiry, I ran across a wax model for Gutzon Borglum’s version of the New Theater medal. It was in an old cigar box upon which was written “Wax impressions of Gutzon Borglum medals from Mr. Huntington.” Borglum’s medal was, if anything, even more impressive than Pratt’s.


United States. Sculpting wax model of New Theater medal, by Gutzon Borglum, 1909. (ANS 0000.999.55027, gift of Archer M. Huntington) 99.8mm

As usual, we received more inquiries about the popular 1909 Hudson-Fulton celebration medal which was sponsored by the Society. Probably because it is the most common commemorative medal ever issued in this country, and because it it nevertheless not widely known, many people are curious about the various sizes and metals in which it is found. One individual had inherited a specimen from his grandfather, who had been one of the Commissioners at the time. Only the Commission members and Principal guests were given 4-inch, solid silver examples. As I have mentioned previously, the main available reference on this medal would probably be Scott Miller’s “The Medallic Works of Emil Fuchs,” in Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 13, The Medal in America, Volume 2, edited by Alan M. Stahl (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1999).

Richard Margolis visited the coin room to examine medals of Theodore Victor van Berckel (1739-1808), in particular the unsigned 1766 issue commemorating the accession of William of Orange-Nassau as Stadtholder of the Netherlands. This issue has been attributed to van Berckel although it lacks the signatures T.V.B. or T.V. BERCKEL usually seen on his work. Leonard Forrer, writing in his Biographical Dictionary of Medallists (1904), declared that van Berckel’s works were “much sought after by collectors.”


Netherlands. AR medal Commemorating of the accession of William V as Stadtholder, 1766, by T. V. van Berckel. (ANS 0000.999.55026, gift of Daniel Parish. Jr.) 51.8mm

Referring to another contemporary Dutch issue, James O. Sweeny, while completing his researches on pocket calendar medals, inquired about an issue minted in the Netherlands in 1767 by a medalist who signed himself “Visser”—an individual unknown in any other numismatic context according to Forrer. We have two examples of this interesting piece, with a calendar on one side and the bust of William V, Prince of Orange, the Stadtholder, on the other. Sweeny also reviewed our data base catalog of medals related to the turn of the centuries and millennia, and brought to light questions regarding some of the entries. A seemingly little-known example comes from Frankfurt, at the end the 19th century.


Netherlands. William V Brass Calendar medal, 1767, by Visser. (ANS 1925.60.1, gift of Charles N. Schmall) 37.8mm


Germany. Frankfurt am Main, AR New Year’s Celebration medal, 1900, by W. Schwind (ANS 1990.29.1, gift of Erich Wronker) 54.9mm

Flora Goldman contacted us for information on medallic works of the prominent 20th century French medallic sculptor Raoul Benard (1881-1961), who might be best known to most of us as the designer of the Paris Olympic Games Participants’ medal from 1924. He also created a 1919 commemorative medal celebrating the Treaty of Versailles, among others. Regrettably, our files do not appear to be of much help, and I noted that we seem to have confusing entries in which we may have misspelled the artist’s name. Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Massachusetts Civil Reform Association Women’s Auxiliary medal was the subject of an inquiry from John Eshbach, but in this case it seems that there is no example in the cabinet.

Continuing with his research on the medals of the period of the English Civil Wars, Dr. Jerome Platt inquired about the choice example of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar medal by Thomas Simon in the cabinet. This important rarity, presenting the effigy of Oliver Cromwell as commander of the English forces in this pivotal affray with the Scots, was actually intended as the first British military decoration to be presented to troops who fought in a particular engagement. The battle may be seen in miniature in the background on the obverse, while the reverse portrays the parliament in session.


Great Britain. Parliamentary AR medal commemorating the Battle of Dunbar, September 3, 1650, by Thomas Simon. (ANS 0000.999.52935, gift of Daniel Parish, Jr.) 34.2mm

As a result of the remarkable sale of examples from the impressive collection of ANS Library benefactor John J. Ford. Jr., renewed attention has been given to the United States Diplomatic medal authorized by President Washington and commissioned by Thomas Jefferson for recognizing the services of specific individuals among our allies during the Revolutionary War. The U.S. Chargé d’affaires in Paris, William Short, engaged the French engraver Augustin Dupré to cut the dies, but due to various problems the project was not completed although two gold and six bronze medals were known to have been minted in addition to the enigmatic trial pieces. Our Board members John Adams, David Simpson and Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss all asked to have a look at the lead splashers—trial pieces—of the obverse and reverse of the medal which were obtained by purchase for the Society in 1935 (for $5.00!). I believe the Ford collection cataloguer for Stack’s, Michael Hodder, was correct in returning to the descriptions of the obverse and reverse of this piece utilized years ago by the Chapmans, so I have undertaken to revise our own data base cataloguing from that followed in the publication of these pieces by former curator Alan M, Stahl in his “Medals of the Comitia Americana Series in the Collections of the American Numismatic Society and Other Public Institutions” in the Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11 (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996). This fascinating issue is not nearly as well known as it ought to be, due to its great rarity.


United States. Diplomatic Medal, lead trial of obverse, n.d. (1790-1792). Stahl 111, with provisional accession number 1935.999.296 (ANS 1935.126.23, purchase) 69.1mm


Same; reverse, provisionally numbered 1935.999.295 (ANS 1935.126.24, purchase) 68.6mm

It has been enjoyable to see our members return to visit the collection in its fine new surroundings these past several months now that the Society is open again. Little by little, we are working to reorganize and improve storage in the cabinet and hope that ever greater numbers of enthusiasts will be able to derive benefit from studying all sorts of numismatic specimens, a few examples of which I have tried to share with you here. Without the funds to add digital imagery to our data base to the extent we would wish, you can see how this photo archive grows by means of our inquiries which give us a chance to capture images that can then be included in our publications such as the ANS Magazine. We can all look forward now to the day when we will have been able to complete the great fundraising effort just beginning to get underway to develop a new exhibition hall, where we can place a goodly portion of the collections on display for the delight of visitors. Until then, we invite you to help us continue to add images to the world’s foremost online numismatic catalog and make it into a truly worthwhile virtual exhibit.