Guests at this year’s Groves Forum in American Numismatics, held at New York City’s Harvard Club, at 27 West 44th Street, the evening of May 16, enjoyed a fascinating look into mid-18th century mint history presented by one of the world’s foremost scholars in this field. Graham Dyer, Curator of the Museum of the British Royal Mint, in Llantrissant, Wales, explored the economic, political and personal ramifications implicit in his address “The Royal Mint and North Carolina, 1754.” He discussed the interesting career of the Irishman Arthur Dobbs, at that time the newly appointed governor of the North Carolina Colony, who proposal the coinage concept. Original documents relating to Dobbs and his proposal were brought to light for the first time and put into context. Dyer explained what had been known of this proposal by the great 19th century numismatist Sylvester S. Crosby and by the 18th century coin dealer and writer William Snelling, and examined the entire background of minting in various metals at the Tower Mint in the mid-1700s. He analyzed what must have been the attitudes by the authorities in London, most particularly the officers of the Royal Mint, to Dobbs’ idea of a coinage of copper halfpence, pence and twopences. Through unpublished contemporary documentation, he placed the response in the context of Mint authorities’ attitudes towards the coinage of copper at that time, both for Great Britain and for Ireland, and surveyed the surviving records dealing with actual mintage figures for these two coinages. The Forum served as a splendid precursor to the Coinage of the America’s Conference held the following day.
The COAC was held at New York’s famed Fraunces Tavern on May 17, with over fifty participants. This historic landmark began operations in1762. Fraunces was an ardent patriot, and his tavern was frequented by Revolutionary War leaders. (George Washington really did sleep there!) General Washington made his farewell address to his officers—the future members of the Society of the Cincinnati—here in 1783. The tavern today offers an excellent lower Manhattan dining place and includes an interesting museum collection. The COAC theme for this year was “Our Nation’s Coinage: Varied Origins,” in keeping with which the talks ranged through a diversity of important topics relating to the foundations of the American monetary system.
Robert W. Hoge
Kent Ponterio presented “The First Coinage of the New World: Coins of the Mexico City Mint Struck during the Reign of Charles and Johanna, New Finds Reassigning the Chronology of Assayers and Tentative Dates of Issue.” In it he analyzed the sequences of issues and their assayers based upon recent discoveries made in the study of a major hoard and in original archival sources. Through the evidence of die reworkings and linkages, and reexamination of contemporary edicts and testimony, he established the chronology of issues from 1536 through the end of the reign and documented the origin of the recently-discovered exciting and unique eight-reales pattern piece.
Brian J. Danforth delivered a new perspective on selected Irish coppers that circulated in Colonial America in his “New Interpretations on Irish Coppers in the American Colonies: The St. Patrick, Wood’s Hibernia and Voce Populi Series.” Highlights included revelations about the minter and production sequence, focusing on the career of Peter Blondeau and his inventions, in relation to the St. Patrick coppers; the economics and politics of the 1722-23 Wood’s Hibernia coinage in Ireland and the American colonies, and the attitudes and events surrounding the issuance of Roche’s 1760 “Voce Populi” series.
In his “Hessian ‘Blood Money’: the History and the Myth,” David T. Alexander presented the legends of the “bloodthalers” of the Prince of Hesse (the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, Friedrich II, 1760-1785). He reviewed the origins of the German mercenary soldiers in the American Revolutionary War and surveyed some of the actual coinages from the homelands of troops who served their British “allies.” Central to the issue was the peculiar and peripatetic career of Rudolph Erich Raspe, the contemporary Hessian finance minister and early numismatic curator, better known today as the author of the fabulous adventures of Baron Munchausen. Finally, Alexander called for a reappraisal both of the “Hessians” and our understanding of the relevant coinages.
David T. Alexander
John Kraljevich, in his “Annapolis Silver: The Coinage of John Chalmers,” covered the forms of currency—including archaeological finds of coins in the Chesapeake Bay region and contemporary paper money—which formed the backdrop for his subject. He examined the place of Annapolis in the nation in 1783, when it was our first peacetime capital, through a look at surviving documents—including papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others. He explored the position of Chalmers in the community, as well as that of Thomas Sparrow, whom he convincingly suggested as the engraver of Chalmers’ dies. Kraljevich concluded by providing a biography of John Chalmers’ curious life and discussed the specific features and survival of the coins he issued.
As a result of cataloguing the collections in preparation for opening a new center and increased public exposure of objects long held in storage, significant numismatic items came to light in the New York Historical Society. In her talk entitled “Recent Discoveries in the New York Historical Society,” Margaret K. Hofer, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts at The New-York Historical Society, focused on two exciting discoveries. The first consisted of five decorations of the Society of the Cincinnati, all but one traced to an original owner. These insignia include three of the earliest, “eagles” fabricated in Paris in 1784, and two New York City examples made around 1802. The second part of Hofer’s talk revealed a pair of pattern quarters from 1792 designed by Joseph Wright. She provided background information on Wright and discussed the coins’ imagery.
Margaret K. Hofer
Syd Martin examined two recently discovered Early American Coins of unknown origin in his study “The ‘Georgius Triumpho’/Danish West Indies Mule.” He analyzed the coins from this anomalous die pair, pointed out their physical characteristics—their very late die states—and submitted deductions as to where and when they were produced: Birmingham, between the time when the original DWI counterfeit 24-skilling piece would have been produced (1767) and the date of its obsolescence (ca. 1815). He noted the appearance of the name of John Winchester in known association with the Birmingham counterfeiting of DWI coinage ca. 1770, but suggested a likely production date in the late 1780s or ’90s for the “Georgius Triumpho” pairing.
Donald G. Partrick
Jay M. Galst & Jerome Heggerty
David Alexander & Nancy Green