A New Birth of Freedom: The American Civil War Collection at the ANS

by Robert W. Hoge

The great Civil War of 1861-1865 was a watershed period in the numismatic history of the United States. Confusion and carnage touched the lives of almost everyone in the country, bringing about basic changes in society, politics, and economics. Some have described this as both the first modern war and the last of the old, classical ones. In the midst of these military transitions, money and finance assumed new and surprising forms, while at the same time maintaining many of the features of earlier days. Through the medium of the American Numismatic Society’s cabinet, we can take a look at this heritage of the struggle, surveying of some of the many fascinating mementoes it contains. The staggering wartime economy of the Union of the Northern States and the fiduciary sleight of hand forced upon the eleven Southern States in rebellion have left us a breathtaking numismatic panorama.

For those who savor the immediacy of handling and studying objects out of the past, the Civil War has truly provided all collectors with a terrific legacy. In the fields of coinage, tokens, paper money, medals, and related materials, the era is unprecedented in its richness and variety. Fortunately, from the actual time of the War itself, the young American Numismatic Society began collecting examples of monetary and medallic memorabilia of the great conflict, leading to the development of an unparalleled collection. The nature and status of this material, and its inherent interest, deserve a very broad and thorough survey. Although we cannot attempt this now, and although much curatorial work remains to be done in order to make the collections fully accessible to the ANS membership and the public, I hope readers may enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at this field, and be encouraged to make financial and material contributions in support of this crucial area of study.

There are numerous highlights in the Society’s collection of Civil War-era materials: one need only consider such a celebrated item as the legendary Confederate States of America (CSA) half dollar, currently on display in our extraordinary exhibit “Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars” in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for a start. But it is especially to the paper money, tokens, and ancillary monetary forms, as well as medals, that we may look for a glimpse at the lives of the people who once held them. Happily, the ANS collection abounds in many kinds of Civil War-related materials, and due to the central position that historians have recognized for the Civil War in American history, it is not surprising that there are always enthusiasts-researchers and other curious individuals-interested in utilizing and having access to the Society’s fine holdings of material in this field.


Fig. 1. CSA. AR half dollar, New Orleans Mint, 1861; this proof specimen, originally owned by the New Orleans mint Chief Coiner, Dr. B. F. Taylor, is one of four known. It was struck in April 1861, on a federal planchet by the Confederate rev. die, designed by A. H. M. Peterson, utilizing a federal die for the obverse impression. (ANS 1918.153.1, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) 30 mm.

Fig. 2. CSA. AR half dollar, New Orleans Mint, 1861; an ostensibly federal half dollar, this specimen shows a more advanced state of the obverse die break on the Confederate half dollar, indicating striking by the Confederates. (ANS 1923.19.1, gift of Dr. E. P. Robinson) 30 mm.

Coinage, a Vanishing Commodity

In general, coinage is not most characteristic of Civil War numismatics, although students and collectors may immediately think of such landmarks as the introduction of the bronze small cent, the bronze two-cent, and the copper-nickel three-cent pieces—not to mention the Confederate cent by Mr. Lovett—besides the famous Confederate version of the 1861 New Orleans half dollar. The South’s lack of resources and the North’s own fiscal woes meant that coinage would play only a relatively modest part in the interplay of numismatic contenders. The series of United States national coinage of the period in the ANS cabinet, while not complete by denomination, date, mintmark, and variety, includes important and beautiful specimens. Among these are the magnificent proofs from the former collection of Philadelphian Robert C. H. Brock, donated to the Society in 1908, as a gift from the famous Wall Street banking tycoon J. Pierpont Morgan. One particularly noteworthy Federal coin is a specimen presented to the cabinet through the great bequest of Arthur J. Fecht-the discovery specimen of the 1861-S $20 gold piece with the reverse design variety by Anthony C. Paquet.


Fig. 3. USA. AV 20 dollars, 1861-S with the Paquet rev.; from the Hull hoard, Texas, 1937. The discovery specimen. (ANS 1980.109.2109, bequest of Arthur J. Fecht) 34 mm.

From the time of the secession of the Southern states, the United States government could not borrow fast enough to pay the rising costs of its military build-up. At the same time, the amounts of money being generated by defense contracting and rerouting of commodities were enormous. New York was the new banking center, having recently overtaken Philadelphia and Boston. The city’s Jay Cooke & Company undertook to market the government’s loans, in this capacity replacing Cooke’s former employer, E. W. Clark & Company of Philadelphia, which had arranged the government’s financing for the Mexican War fifteen years before. National demands upon the money market for instant capital were completely unsettling.


Fig. 4. CSA. AE cent, 1861, by Robert Lovett, Philadelphia; Hazeltine restrike? Afraid of being discovered and branded a traitor due to his minting on behalf of the Confederancy, Lovett did not deliver his production; he concealed his collaboration with the enemy until after the reconstruction period. (ANS 1908.181.2, gift of W. D. Gookin) 19.2 mm.

On December 28, 1861, the New York City banks stopped paying out any gold or silver coin to depositors or creditors; other banks around the country, and the Treasury Department too, immediately followed suit. This is referred to as the suspension of specie payments. The Treasury’s policy of introducing quantities of paper currency meant that coins became so overvalued that all in circulation were hoarded, and inadequate numbers of new ones were minted. The U.S. Mint was certainly not in a position to deal with the crisis. At the start of hostilities, the Southern secessionists were able to seize three of the five U.S. mints—the gold-minting operations at Dahlonega, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as the branch mint for gold and silver at New Orleans, the nation’s largest port city—leaving only San Francisco and Philadelphia in the tenuous hold of the federal government. Indeed, the miners and prospectors in the California gold fields and the recently discovered boom area of the Rocky Mountains, known as the Pike’s Peak region, were in many cases Southern sympathizers originally from the gold-producing regions of the Appalachians. And Philadelphia itself (like the industrial areas of New Jersey and New York City) was something of a hotbed of secessionist sympathy.


Fig. 5. USA. AV 5 dollars, 1860, Dahlonega mint. A superb specimen. (ANS 0000.999.71, gift probably of J. Sanford Saltus) 22 mm.

Notes, tokens, scrip, and the other expedients quickly appeared as coinage substitutes, becoming an important part of people’s lives. Only toward the end of the war was the North able to suppress and replace the millions of tokens that had been emitted. Even with the additions of enormous quantities of silver from the Comstock load and other rich strikes of ore in the West, total coinage production remained relatively small in comparison with the growth of the economy for some years. The Treasury Department’s fractional notes continued to be emitted through the period of reconstruction in the 1870s.

The Pre-Eminence and Proliferation of Paper

We know that the wartime economies of both North and South were stressed by the financial demands of military operations and materiel, shortfalls and panics, and extensive corruption and profiteering. Government loans through bonds provided the financial underpinnings for paper money to become the expedient famously adopted in the Confederacy, and paper money was forced on the populace in the Union, as well, as an emergency measure. As the economies moved into high gear for the impending clash, the money supply based on financial paper escalated dramatically. Even a year earlier, though, war-related industry had begun to burgeon. The first true U.S. legal tender notes, the “Demand” notes, appeared in 1861. Unfortunately, these rarities, which could be (and were) redeemed in gold at a time when there was a large premium on bullion, are not represented in the ANS cabinet. Swiftly gaining the nickname “greenbacks” on account of their prominent ornamental engravings in green ink, they were replaced by similar-looking legal tender notes which were strictly fiduciary, not redeemable in specie, under the act of March 10, 1862. Along with the standard paper currency introduced into both regions, remaining privately chartered bank notes, postage notes, fractional currency notes, and commercial scrip notes (bills denominated in fractions of a dollar) were circulating and complicating the money supply.



Fig. 6. USA. Legal Tender, 1 dollar note, August 1, 1862, no. 67468. (ANS 1949.82.7, gift of Mrs. C. D. Schenk) 191 x 80 mm.


Fig. 7. USA, New Jersey. Shamung Merchant scrip, 5 cents, November 27, 1862, signed by M. Dellett, no. 18 (ANS 1945.42.567, purchase, ex. H. P. Beach Coll.) 131 x 61 mm.

The ANS holdings of fractional currency notes are excellent, due to active contemporary collecting by early donors. Early coin dealer Edward Cogan donated a “set” of fractionals in 1868; J. N. T. Levick gave his collection of twenty-eight pieces in 1910; Mrs. W. E. Fessenden donated a booklet with proofs and various fractional notes in 1941, and Farran Zerbe donated a group of twenty-six more in 1944. Further gifts of fractional currency came from other donors, including the American Geographical Society, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Catherine Bullowa-Moore.


Fig. 8. USA, New York. Schenectady Merchant scrip, Van de Bogert Brothers, 5 cents, July 21, 1862, no. 2659. (ANS 1995.33.11, gift of Pauline Meyer) 127 x 58 mm.

Fig. 9. CSA, Florida. Milton Merchant scrip, A. & G. Forcheimer, 50 cents, January 1862, unissued, printed by Keefe & Bro., New Orleans. (ANS 0000.999.11106) 44 x 66 mm.


Fig. 10. USA. Fractional (Postage) Currency, First Series, 1863, 5 cents; edge perforated on three sides, no ABNC monogram on back. (ANS 1983.101.1, gift of Mchael Kirk) 64 x 45 mm.


Fig. 11. USA. Fractional Currency, Third Series, 1863, 5 cents. (ANS 0000.999.30087]]).

Fig. 12. USA. Fractional Currency, Fifth Series, 1874, 25 cents. (ANS 0000.999.30146) 90 x 53 mm.

Fig. 13. USA. Fractional Currency, Third Series, 1863, 15 cents; specimen proof of note face, with autograph signatures of Jeffries and Spinner. (ANS 0000.999.30161), 113 x 68 mm.

The Society’s collection of notes issued by the Confederate States of America is quite extensive—actually far better and much larger than the analogous collection of notes issued by the federal government of the United States. While it is still missing certain varieties, fortunately it does include many great Type notes, such as high-quality examples of the first 1861 notes, issued while the capital was at Montgomery, Alabama. Regrettably, the preponderance of the Confederate notes have had to be accessioned with provisional numbers, indicating that the sources and data relative to their acquisition have not been “pinned down.” One provisionally numbered piece, which probably came to the cabinet through a gift from A. M. Huntington, is an example of the Criswell Type 35 “Indian Princess” note. Confederate currency specialist Pierre Fricke recently asked about this piece as part of his project to assemble a census of this issue by serial number (he reported ninety-eight known examples). Fricke is well advanced in completing the corpus of Confederate notes initiated by the late Douglas Ball, which will list many specimens from the ANS cabinet.


Fig. 14. CSA. 1000 Dollars, Montgomery issue, June 18, 1861; Serial no. 415 A; printed by the National Bank Note Co., New York; punch- and cut-cancelled. Criswell 1. (ANS 0000.999.11639) 184 x 77 mm.

Fig. 15. CSA. Five Dollars, September 2, 1861, the “Indian Princess” issue, Serial no. 1390 (plate Ab); Criswell 271 (Type 35). (ANS 0000.999.11634).

Provenance and Pedigrees of Acquisitions

The ANS’s excellent Confederate note collection brings to our attention the record-keeping problem faced by many venerable museums. Not long ago, an enthusiastic student of the War Between the States, Fred Reed, specifically brought up the important issue of provenance in regard to some of the items in the collection. He asked “what kind of documentation exists for the 1914 gift of 2,000 Confederate Treasury Notes to the ANS… by Archer M. Huntington?” This matter is worth addressing at some length, concerning both the provisionally numbered catalogued items, as mentioned, and the sections of the cabinet that have not yet been entered into the Society’s collection catalog database. I found that Reed’s question was not such an easy one to answer. Our description logged for this particular acquisition (ANS 1914.46, registered March 25, 1914, but only assigned its accession record number for our database in 1980) reads “4431 paper: Money from colonial & continental US. Broken bank bills & scrip. Confederate & state issued both north & south including a few foreign bills.” Presumably, this was some other individual’s major collection (or maybe those of several) purchased by Huntington for the ANS, as was his wont.

Today, in the paper money collection, it is generally not possible to distinguish, by means of the notes themselves or their holders, which ones were actually a part of Huntington’s great gift, but it definitely accounted for the greater part of the ANS’s Confederate holdings. The problem is that of the total of 4,431 notes in this accession, not a single one has been linked in our catalog to this acquisition, and therefore all have been catalogued with spurious provisional accession numbers (along with 52,000 or so other items in our collection database). There are evidently about 2,600 pieces in our Confederate currency collection altogether; around 2,300 of these have provisional numbers, but it cannot be assumed that they are all from the same accession donated by Huntington in 1914.

For reference purposes, it is worthwhile to note here that if an item still requires verification of its correct accession catalog number, it is given a provisional accession number in the form 0000.999.x. This stands in place of a standard tripartite catalog number, in which the first four numerals represent the year of the accession, the second section represents the acquisition number during the course of that year, and the third, the individual sequential item number within that particular acquisition. If the year of the gift has been recorded, but the source is not known, the provisional accession number appears in the form xxxx.999.x (e.g., 2005.999.1 for something acquired in the most recent fiscal year without any provenance or documentation as to its source). Experience has demonstrated that the number of gifts in the course of a single year has reached into three figures, but never anywhere as high as 999. Sometimes, groups of unprovenanced items are numbered together as a distinct assemblage and given numbers in the form 0000.9.x, which could indicate a specific group of pieces on indefinite loan, for instance, or pieces with a certain shared characteristic, such as a group of counterfeits of the same type or denomination. Repeatedly, we have used provisional accession numbers in a variety of ways in the effort to catalog and refer to particular specimens and provide immediate access to them.

Civil War shortages and uncertainties led to a proliferation of coinage substitutes, as we know, but for reasons unknown, this is a major section of the ANS cabinet that has been largely neglected over the years in terms of cataloguing. Some parts of the ANS Civil War collection are quite well known, but the bulk of this material remains to be fully studied and entered into the database. Overall, the Society’s collections encompass an impressive assortment: not only coins and paper money as noted above, but tokens and scrip, medals and political medallets, buttons, pins, decorations, and badges. Some of these areas have already received attention in a variety of publications, including columns in the ANS Magazine, although most await future scholarship and data entry. In trying to survey the Civil War holdings, I have made some progress along these lines and have been rewarded by encountering many interesting items.

The Civil War Tokens

Tokens, both “patriotic” and merchants’ “store card” issues, as they are called, form one of the most significant areas of Civil War-period holdings in the ANS cabinet. They were largely classified and attributed in the 1970s through a major effort by Jon Harris, assisted by John Francis and Richard Rossa. Somewhat surprisingly, though, few researchers have taken advantage of the outstanding opportunity for study that is offered by this magnificent accumulation. An exception is Jim Tippett, who has been coming to the coin room from time to time over the years in an effort to record all of the Civil War tokens that show die engravers’ names or markings. Unfortunately, the CWT collection was catalogued before the development of the ANS computer system. The descriptions and classifications are therefore not yet available on our database, and, like the Confederate notes, few of the tokens carry with them any indication of their acquisition data. At this remove, it is not entirely possible to verify which of the tokens came from which specific gifts in the past; in consequence, it can be very difficult to ascertain correct data on the various acquisitions.


Fig. 16. USA, Illinois, Chicago. AE Civil War store card, J. F. Siehler, German hotelier, 1861. Fuld IL-150BB.5a (ANS 0000.999.55334) 19.7 mm.

Fig. 17. USA, Michigan, Detroit. CN Civil War store card, Perkins Hotel, 1863. Fuld MI-225BC-3d (unique) (ANS 0000.999.53382) 19.1 mm.

Fig. 18. USA, New Jersey, Newark. CN Civil War store card, Charles Kolb, Restaurateur, 1863; overstruck on an 1863 US cent. Fuld NJ-555B.1do (probably unique) (ANS 0000.999.55333) 20.2 mm.

Fig. 19. USA, New York, Brooklyn. AR Civil War store card, T. Ivory, Billiard Saloon keeper, 1863; Fuld NY-95D.2fo (probably unique) (ANS 0000.999.55335) 19.1 mm.

Fig. 20. USA, New York, New York City (Manhattan). AR Civil War store card, V. Benner and Ch. Bendinger, liquor importers, 1863; signed by die-cutter L. Roloft; overstruck on an 1860 US quarter dollar. Fuld NY-630F-2fo (probably unique) (ANS 0000.999.55336) 24.3 mm.

Fig. 21. USA, Ohio, Cincinnati. Brass Civil War store card, a muling of dies for E. Townley, beekeeper, and H. Schmidt, auction and commision goods dealer, n.d. Fuld OH-165FG/165GB.1b (probably unique) (ANS 0000.999.55337) 18.9 mm.

Fig. 22. USA. AR “Patriotic” Civil War token, 1863; Head of Washington r. above two crossed U.S. flags/EXCHANGE within wreath; below, drum and sword on crossed cannons and muskets. Fuld 117/420 var (struck in silver, possibly unique). (ANS 0000.999.55332) 19.3 mm.

It is surely thanks to Edward Groh, the first ANS Curator, that our collection is as strong as it is. Groh actively sought the pieces at the time of their issue, and may have obtained some of the rare tokens issued by sutlers. These were the pieces issued by private merchants who contracted to provide commissariat services to specific regiments in the Army. The cabinet is fortunate to contain over three hundred of them. Another fine assemblage of unusual Civil War items is the collection of encased postage stamps, numbering fifty-six specimens. These federal stamps, in their protective encasements of embossed thin copper alloy stock and mica windows, were a favorite economic stopgap for a time in 1862. Transitional companion pieces to the various tokens and stamps are the heavy paper or cardboard “chits” issued by private merchants’ establishments as small change. These colorful little pieces of ephemera are a little-known area of Civil War numismatica, of which the Society has only a meager collection.

Writing a book on CWTs, John Ostendorf happened to inquire when Edward Groh made his principal donation of these items to the ANS. Additionally, Ostendorf was curious regarding any other major contributors. Searching through our database records can answer some questions like these. Groh was undoubtedly the greatest of the contributors in this field. His most important donation of CWTs, of 5,286 pieces, was that of February 14, 1901, but prior to that time he had made some dozen other gifts, which included smaller numbers of CWTs (ranging from eleven to 148 pieces). In 1902, he gave 223 sutlers’ tokens as well as several additional standard pieces. Nearly all of his other gifts of CWTs were made in 1864 and 1865. He was clearly collecting them at near their actual date of issue. Groh’s collection seems to be growing in recognition. Recently, another member of the Civil War Token Society also inquired about it and our other holdings of CWT reference material for a book that he too was preparing. That it is not possible today to tell for certain just which pieces were originally part of Groh’s wonderful collection is truly regrettable, but we can be certain that he was responsible for the preponderance of the holdings in this area.


Fig. 23. USA, Cincinnati. AE Sutler’s token, J. L. Cooper, 2nd Ohio Cavalry, 5 cents; minted by John Stanton. (ANS 0000.999.55338) 19.4 mm.

Fig. 24. USA. Brass Sutler’s token, L. Goldheim, 1st Virginia Cavalry, 25 cents. (ANS 0000.999.55339) 18.3 mm.

There have been at least about forty other donations, however, which consisted of or included CWTs. The largest of these came in 1987, when Damia Francis donated 517 CWTs from the collection of John R. Francis. The second largest was of 397 pieces from Stephen Hyatt Pelham Pell, in 1942. Former ANS Curator Howland Wood donated CWTs several times, presenting in 1918 a valuable gift of 384 Civil War period merchants’ store cards (and altogether some 198 additional pieces, including sixty-seven sutlers’ tokens, on other occasions). A 1929 gift of George E. Dadmund included two hundred pieces, given in memory of his father, George A. Dadmund.

The ANS’s great patron and major donor of medals, Daniel Parish, Jr., presented about two hundred CWTs, while the estate of Alfred Z. Reed, in 1949, bequeathed some 180 pieces, plus additional unidentified store cards and a wonderful grouping of political medallets and other pieces. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presented 136 CWTs as a “permanent loan” to the Society in 1938 (I would be curious to know what subsequently became of these, since the MMA called in some of their loans to sell off in later years). N. P. Pehrson gave at least 102 pieces in 1916. Various other gifts have ranged from single pieces to one hundred items. I have noted several references to acquisitions of CWTs made by exchanging unspecified duplicates for other CWTs (numbering less than twenty items in total, however), so clearly some of the donated pieces are now gone from the cabinet.

At present, CWTs occupy forty-seven trays (thirty-seven of “merchant” and ten of “patriotic” tokens) in the storage cabinets in the new ANS vault. These trays probably average 160 items in their own individual cardboard boxes. There are also two trays of sutlers’ tokens, and one of encased postage stamps. I would estimate that there are altogether over 7,500 CWTs in the collection, among them quite a few duplicates. In 1975, Jon Harris estimated approximately 6,000 store cards in the cabinet. This overall CWT collection is excellent, and the average condition of specimens outstanding (many, of course, were collected “new” during the war). I hope that eventually funding will permit us to catalogue and photograph these important areas of Americana. The collection includes a good number of the “one-off” rarities that were probably made to order at the time for collectors, but is a bit weak in truly scarce issues—those that would have been particularly difficult for serious collectors to obtain even at the time of the Civil War.

Exonumia and Some Unpublished Discoveries

Encased postage stamps are probably the most famous and popular among collectors of the various emergency money expedients from the Civil War. Although by no means complete, the ANS does have a substantial collection of these appealing items, which have crossover appeal for philatelists. Mostly the products of the enterprising John Gault, who marketed them to a number of merchants around the country, pieces including embossed advertising logos on their reverses served as handy and readily negotiable storecards in 1862.



Fig. 25. USA. Encased postage, 9 cents (three Washington red 3-cent stamps), mounted in embossed copper rectangler holder under glass, c. 1862. EP.95 (ANS 1914.35.1, Gift of Frederick C. C. Boyd) 53.5 x 25.4 mm.

Fig. 26. USA. Encased postage, 24 cents, J. Gault’s patent encasement, Aug. 1, 1862. EP.167 (ANS 1967.149.2, purchased from the American Antiquarian Society) 24.5 mm.

In spite of the excellent work that has been accomplished by researchers over the years, I probably should not have been surprised to find in the trays, while I was looking for something else entirely the other day, an unlabeled box that contained two white metal CWTs. Intrigued, I took a closer look and noticed that these were two unusual and apparently unpublished varieties. Both are overstrikes on nickel-alloy Philadelphia merchant store cards of the tinker E. P. Rogers, of 937 South Tenth Street (Fuld PA-750P-3c). One of the overstrikes is the patriotic token Fuld 108/201, with a Washington head obverse and OUR UNION reverse; the other, similar piece is the Washington head patriotic token Fuld 111/271, with a reverse featuring the inscription UNION/ FOR/ EVER.


Fig. 27. USA. Ni Patriotic Civil War token of Washington/”Shield of Union” type, 1863 (Fuld 108/201), overstruck on a Philadelphia merchant’s store card token of E. P. Rogers, manufacturer of milk cans, dair fixtures, roofing, and gutter tin (presumably galvanized sheet-iron), Fuld PA-750P-3c (ANS 0000.999.55340) 19 mm.

Fig. 28. USA. Ni Patriotic Civil War token of Washington/”Union for Ever” type, 1863 (Fuld 111/271), overstruck on a Philadelphia merchant’s store card token of E. P. Rogers, manufacturer of milk cans, dair fixtures, roofing, and gutter tin (presumably galvanized sheet-iron), Fuld PA-750P-3c (ANS 0000.999.55341) 19 mm.

Interestingly, the Fuld dies 111 and 271 have been attributed to George J. Glaubrecht, who had his address at 95 Fulton Street in New York City, just across the street from 96 Fulton, where the ANS is headquartered today. Fuld 108 and 201, however, are among the dies apparently produced by a Philadelphia die sinker, perhaps Montgomery Burr, who is believed to have acquired dies by Glaubrecht and others, and to have struck various mulings and concocted rarities, possibly explaining the use of the patriotic dies to created otherwise unknown overstrikes on a scarce Philadelphia store card. These two specimens evidently represent the first recorded overstrikes of their types, providing an intriguing nexus.

A rare and curious adjunct to the collection of CWTs is a group of vintage cardboard merchants’ chits that I recently encountered lying unidentified in a tray of miscellaneous “strays.” These interesting and historic items have only recently begun coming under the scrutiny of most numismatists, though they were already well-recognized and appreciated by some for their ephemeral rarity in the nineteenth century. Russell Rulau commented in his Standard Catalog of United States Tokens, 1700-1900, 3rd Ed., “We know the issues were small; almost all were redeemed and destroyed.” The only significant reference on these items is the 1985 auction catalog, by Bowers & Merena Galleries, of the collection formed in the 1880s and 1890s by David Proskey and later sold to F. C. C. Boyd. The ANS’s chits were in a tattered old envelope with the imprint of the “National Fire Insurance Company, Henry T. Drowne, President.” Written in pencil on this envelope are the words “Card Board Money.” Most of the chits within it showed evidence of having been mounted long ago; on the backs of many are the remains of tape or hinges (or damage resulting from the clumsy removal of them) that once affixed them onto an old-time collector’s album page.


Fig. 29. USA. Merchant’s cardstock “Good For” chit, J. P. Richards?, 1 cent, No. 455; orange paper, signed on back (New York, ca. 1862) (ANS 0000.6.2). 34.5 x 23.7 mm.

Fig. 30. USA. Merchant’s cardstock “Good For” chit, M. Kahn, 240 William Street, 1 cent (no number); pink paper, signed on back (New York, ca. 1862). (ANS 0000.6.8) 38.5 x 26.1 mm.

Fig. 31. USA. Merchant’s cardstock “Good For” chit, Andrews European Hotel, 5 cents (no number); yellow paper, embossed on back EUROPEAN HOTEL/ T. ANDREWS/ PROPRIETOR (New York?, ca. 1862) (ANS 0000.6.13) 39.5 x 29.7 mm.

Fig. 32. USA. Marchant’s cardstock “Good For” chit, John Feldcamp, 2 cents, number illegible; green paper, signed on back (New York?, ca. 1862) (ANS 0000.6.14) 52 x 30 mm.

Almost without question, this collection of Civil War-era cardboard chits must have come to the cabinet as an unrecorded donation from Henry Russell Drowne (1860-1934), who served as a member of the Board for the Society, and as vice president and secretary during the period from 1898 to 1917, and they have probably lain unrecognized in the Society’s vault storage for a hundred years or so. This distinguished ANS officer was the son of Henry Thayer Drowne (1822-1897), the fire insurance man, who might conceivably have been the original collector. Henry Russell Drowne is remembered today as a major donor of other items to the ANS. He was a connoisseur, collector, and donor of many kinds of antiques and art objects as well as numismatic materials. Ironically, considering his father’s business, Henry Russell, his wife Mabel, and two servants were killed the evening of November 15, 1934, in a fire that burned up the Drowne home on Seventy-eighth Street, on New York’s Upper West Side. Incalculably valuable collectables, including several paintings by Rembrandt and Whistler, which had not yet been donated to museums, perished along with them.

Medals and Related Materials

Medals from the Civil War have been appreciated for many years, and the ANS collection has often been a source of information for those studying and publishing key elements. Probably one of the most famous and desirable is the medal awarded to the defenders of Sabine Pass, at the mouth of the river of that name on the coast of Texas. Known as the “Davis Guards” medal, these hand-engraved, smoothed-down Mexican Pesos were awarded to the small detachment of Texans who stopped the entire Northern invasion of the region two months after the South’s major defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The ANS holds two examples, as well as two forgeries. These pieces are among those used by Bauman Belden in his primary study of Confederate medals.


Fig. 33. CSA, Texas. AR military decoration, 1863; the Davis Guards Sabine Pass medal, Houston, engraved on a Mexican Peso; bent bar loop on edge; awarded to garrison commander Lt. Richard Dowling. Obv.: D. G.; rev.: Sabine Pass, Sept. 8th, 1863 (ANS 1967.226.1053), 37 mm.

There are many less well-known pieces residing in the cabinet, of course. For instance, responding to an inquiry from ANS member Dr. Michael H. O’Shea, not long ago I located two United States Marine Corps (USMC) Civil War Campaign medals about which he had questions, two of the many gifts from the great numismatist J. Sanford Saltus. These are decorations from 1908, recognizing prior service during the Civil War, a subject O’Shea was working on. I noted that one of our examples was numbered “175” on the edge. It is described as being attached to the “Second Ribbon,” and has a somewhat larger ring attached to its edge loop. The other medal’s card says “First Ribbon.”


Fig. 34. USA. Military decoration, USMC Civil War Campaign medal, 1908. (ANS 1915.59.1, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) 33 x 75 mm.

Fig. 35. USA. Military decoration, USMC Civil War Campaign medals, edge no. 175. (ANS 1915.59.2, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) 33 x 76 mm.

Among the most highly evocative pieces in the exonumia collection, surely, are specimens of the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded during the War (even though there was a bit of a postwar scandal, when hundreds of the medals were awarded for sometimes less than exemplary achievement). Newly instituted at that time, this decoration, representing the highest recognition for bravery in the United States, has remained the most revered and exclusive American War medal up to the present day. One of the specimens in the cabinet is inscribed to a Major Walter Thorn, of Brooklyn. Thorn had served with the United States Colored Troops and was an active participant in postwar reunions. He donated his entire Civil War-related collection to the Society. It constitutes an arresting set of memorabilia. Unfortunately, Thorn cannot be shown to have been an actual designated recipient of the Medal of Honor. What is the story? We may never know.


Fig. 36. USA. Medal of Honor military decoration, Army, awarded by “The Congress/ to/ Private James Webb/ Co. F. 5th New York Inf./ for GALLANTRY at/ Bull Run. Va./ Aug. 30,/ 1862” as engraved on the back; second ribbon type. (ANS 1915.999.125, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) 53 x 102 mm.

Fig. 37. USA. Medal of Honor military decoration, Navy, awarded for “Personal Valor” to “WILLIAM SMITH/ Quarter Master/ U.S.S. Kearsarge/ Destruction of the Alabama/ June 19. 1864” as engraved on the back; first ribbon type. (ANS 1967.226.336, gift of the Wadsworth Atheneum, ex. J. Coolidge Hills Coll.) 53 x 105 mm.

Fig. 38. USA. Medal of Honor military decoration, Navy, awarded for “Personal Valor” to “WILLIAM H. CARR/ Master-at-Arms/ U.S.S. Richmond/ Mobile Bay August 5.1864” as engraved on the back; first ribbon type. (ANS 1915.171.1, Gift of Major Walter Thorn) 53 x 105 mm.

Other decorations and badges, such as those of the veterans organizations—the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the Sons (and Daughters) of the Confederacy, state and local patriotic groups, as well as individual Corps and unit insignia—constitute another rather large and almost completely uncatalogued part of the ANS collection. This is a field that has tended to be neglected by numismatists and historians for many years. The veterans’ convention memorabilia in the ANS cabinet, in particular, probably offer a major trove of information in this aspect of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americana.


Fig. 39. USA. AR badge of the US Army 4th Corps, made by J. Somerset, Philadelphia. (ANS 1967.225.818, gift of the Wadsworth Atheneum, ex J. Coolidge Hills Coll.) 30.5 x 27 mm.

Fig. 40. USA, Pennsylvania. 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, WM Second Battle of Fredericksburg (Marye’s Heights) Commemorative medal. Obv. image of Liberty seated, similar to that used by Christian Gobrecht found on the contemporary US silvage coinage but draped in the flag; LIBERTY AND UNION/ NOW AND FOREVER./ ONE AND INSPERABLE. Rev. three flowers rising from two clasped r. hands with cuffs showing; MAYRE [sic] HEIGHTS/ FREDERICKSBURG, VA./ MAY 3RD 1863/ 23RD REG: P. V. (ANS 1967.226.616, gift of the Wadsworth Atheneum, ex. J. Coolidge Hills Coll.) 48.3 mm.

Fig. 41. USA, New York. 9th New York Volunteers (“Hawkins Zouaves”) WM Commemorative service medal. Obv. Victory flying l., holding a palm branch and placing with r. hand a wreath above the brow of a bare-headed zouave who stands r. atop a broken gun carriage, holding a flagstaff in his r. hand. Rev: U.S. flag draped on staff; TOUJOURS PRETS [“always ready”]/ *IX N.Y.*/ VOL.S./ HAWKINS ZOUAVES (ANS 0000.999.48972) 45 mm.

Fig. 42. USA. National Alliance of Daughters of Veterans, 15th National Convention, Denver, Colorado, September 4-9, 1905; WM and cellulose Delegates badge, with Ribbon and pin bar. (ANS 1967.226.1056, ex. J. Coolidge Hills Coll.) 51.5 x 132 mm.

Fig. 43. CSA. United Daughters of the Confederacy, Souther Cross of Honor AE decoration, engraved A. S. DAVIS. (ANS 1912.87.1, Gift of Solomon Davis) 33.8 x 49 mm.

The Society’s splendid collection of political medals—many from ANS President Daniel Parish and from the 582-piece Alfred Z. Reed bequest of 1949—is particularly rich in items from the Civil War era. Among these are groups featuring original, vintage photographs of such figures as Abraham Lincoln affixed to them. A graduate of Columbia University with an interest in the law, education, and the legislative process and practice, Alfred Reed was a great early collector of numismatic political memorabilia. Commissioned in 1913 by the Carnegie Foundation to prepare a report for the American Bar Association’s section on Legal Education, he was undoubtedly one of the few nonlawyers ever authorized to tell University Law Schools how to conduct their training programs (they didn’t like it!). He must have been an interesting character, and one who enjoyed looking at the faces of his noteworthy predecessors in the American political scene.


Fig. 44. USA. Political medal, 1860, brass embossed shell with ferrotype images of Republican Party presidential ticket candidates Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin; pierced, with ribbon attached. (ANS 1949.65.207, gift of Alfred Z. Reed) 24 mm.

Fig. 45. USA. Political medal, 1864, brass embossed shell with ferrotype images of Democratic Party presidential candidates Gen. George B. McClellan and George H. Pendleton; pierced. (ANS 0000.999.40915) 25 mm.

Although the central theme of the Civil War was the concept of union among the states, absolutely the cause of dissention in this regard was based upon the enslavement of Africans in this country, and the desire of wealthy southern plantation owners to retain and even expand this “peculiar institution.” The United States had already fought a war with Mexico, one largely fomented by Southerners who sought to counter Mexico’s opposition to slavery, and succeeded in invading and taking possession of much of the country. Let us not forget that the United States had also previously attacked Canada, where slavery had been abolished, and passed laws to try to prevent fugitive slaves from escaping to freedom there. But the abolition of slavery became a part of the religious revivalism of the era, a cause to which many Americans were devoted and for which they were willing to make every sacrifice. It is well to remember that many people in the Southern states opposed slavery and secession, while many in the North, at the same time, were unconcerned with these vital issues.

As a major corollary to the Civil War holdings, the ANS cabinet contains what is probably the world’s most important collection of numismatic materials relating to slavery and the antislavery movement. These include the infamous enslaved workers’ licenses/badges from Charleston, South Carolina; pieces commemorating the tempestuous career of John Brown; and various abolitionists’ medals of the British Empire, as well as other related items. These memorable pieces are primarily from a great donation of over one hundred items made by Elliott Smith, one of the founding members of the famous New York Numismatic Club, in 1928. Only a few of Smith’s slavery and antislavery pieces have been catalogued with their correct accession numbers so far.


Fig. 46. USA, South Carolina. CU badge, 1815. Obv. (applied by punches) CHARLESTON/ No. 112/ PORTER/ 1815 (ANS 1928.25.9, gift of Elliott Smith) 50 x 51 mm.

Fig. 47. USA, Pennsylvania. AR Award medal, 1851. Obv. (engraved) AWARDED TO/ M. A. AUGUSTINE/ FOR VEST SHIRTS/ APRIL 19TH 1851. Rev. (engraved) BY THE COLORED AMERICAN INSTITUTE/ OF THE STATE OF PENNA; arms of Pennsylvania. (ANS 1928.25.12, gift of Elliott Smith) 46 mm.

Fig. 48. Great Britain, Davis Mint, Birmingham. AE commemorative medal, 1834. Obv.: I AM NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER; in ex. A VOICE FROM/ GREAT BRITAIN/ TO AMERICA./ 1834; on ground line, to l., DAVIS, to r., BIRM; Negro in chains kneeling r., hands clapsed. Rev. THIS IS THE LORDS DOING; IT IS MARVELLOUS IN OUR EYES. PSALM 118 V.23; in ex. JUBILEE AUGT. 1/ 1834; Negro standing facing, raised hands holding broken chain links, amidst broken shackles and whip, highlighted by rays in background; hut, palm trees and plant in background. Ref.: Brown. 1.398.1666 (ANS 1928.25.13, gift of Elliott Smith) 45 mm.

Fig. 49. France. AE memorial medal, 1859. Obv. JOHN BROWN NE A TORRINGTON LE 9 MAI 1800 (“John Brown, born at Torrington May 9, 1800”); bust of Brown facing 3/4 r. Rev. A/ LA MEMOIRE DE/ JOHN BROWN,/ ASSASSINE JURIDIQUEMENT/ A CHARLESTOWN, LE 2 DECEMBRE/ 1859,/ ET A CELLE DE SES FILS ET DE SES/ COMPAGNONS, MORTS VICTIMES DE/ LEUR DEVOUEMENT A LA CAUSE/ DE LA LIBERTE/ DES NOIRS (“To the memory of John Brown, judicially assassinated at Charlestown, December 2 1859, and to that of his sons and his companions, killed as victims of their devotion to the cause of freedom for Blacks”). Ref. Negro History Bulletin, Vol. 33, No. 5, p. 120 (ANS 0000.999.37260, a gift, almost certainly, of Elliott Smith) 58 mm.

Counterfeits and Contemplations

The ANS cabinet holds quite a few counterfeits of contemporary coins that can probably be attributed to the clandestine “off-duty” activities of Civil War soldiers sitting around their campfires, since counterfeiters’ molds for casting Seated Liberty issues, for instance, have been found at the sites of their bivouacs. Sadly, the miscellaneous forgers’ issues are also among the groups of items still largely uncatalogued into our database. Among the soldiers—not those illicit minters, presumably—we know there were some, such as Augustus B. Sage, who became known as distinguished numismatists; what others thought of the coins, good and bad, that passed through their hands can only be conjectured. In our own times, the economics of numismatic collecting in this field have led to forgeries intended to cheat the unwary. ANS founder Captain Sage would surely have disapproved.


Fig. 50. Counterfeit WM US half dollar, 1858-O (ANS 1977.135.758, gift of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University) 30.5 mm.

Fig. 51. Counterfeit AE US quarter dollar, 1861 (ANS 1992.4.7, gift of Lester Merkin) 24.5 mm.

Having been collected so long ago, in many cases, some pieces in the ANS cabinet can be helpful in determining the authenticity of Civil War items. For example, it is possible to compare genuine Sabine Pass medals with their forged modern counterparts, no doubt produced after the appearance of Belden’s work. The Congressional Medals of Honor series provides another such comparative reference set. The huge Confederate currency collection is yet an additional study tool of this kind.

Economics has always played a major role in political strife, and vice versa. For the Civil War period, this relationship is well demonstrated by surviving numismatic materials. Having been interested in the Civil War for many years, having enjoyed preparing several museum exhibits of objects related to it, and having worked on authenticating items of the period, I look forward to developing the potential of this great section of the ANS cabinet. Although this material is generally known and widely consulted, much cataloguing remains to be done, and many items of considerable importance remain to be published. The Civil War still holds a great deal of meaning for us in this country, and these valued objects can make the history of the great struggle come alive through our educational programs. The American Numismatic Society invites everyone to share in this fascinating endeavor (as long as it doesn’t involve making more counterfeits!).

In this country, the great Civil War will always hold a place of crucial historical importance. The war cost more than the entire operation of the government, with all of its other wars combined, up until that time. It witnessed the beginning of the dominance of “big business” in the American lifestyle and the emergence of “big government” and large-scale banking and financial institutions. It caused the introduction of the federal Treasury’s system of paper money that has dominated the monetary supply ever since, and by the establishment of the National Banking Act of February 25, 1863, brought a degree of consolidation to the money market, which has steadily progressed since then. The War Between the States introduced the first income tax, the first military conscription program, the first use of submarine and aerial warfare, as well as the first rapid-firing weapons and armored battleships. It demonstrated the supremacy of land-transport systems over canals, proved the importance of communications systems (railways and telegraphy), and set the pace for government subsidies for favored segments of industry. It gave us the Homestead Act, which opened vast reaches of the land for settlement in the years to come. It provided a gigantic impetus to factory production and commerce in the northern cities. These years also saw the first spurts of the great petroleum industry (thereby no doubt saving the lives of countless whales), pointing the way to a new global hegemony. Ultimately, this immensely devastating struggle cost more American lives than all of the country’s other wars combined. What a remarkable few years those were—all facilitated, interpreted, and ornamented by numismatic materials!


Fig. 52. CSA, South Carolina. Embossed brass “Palmetto” Badge emblem from the front of a shako (a cylindrical military dress hat with a visor); this specimen is noted as having been taken “from cap of a So. Carolinian killed at Bull run, 1861” (noted on the period card, to which the badge is affixed). (ANS 1911.5.1, gift of Daniel Parish, Jr.) 39 x 49 mm (mounting card 63 x 105 mm).

Abbreviated Bibliography

Belden, Bauman L. War Medals of the Confederacy. (New York : American Numismatic Society, 1915) (Reprinted from the American Journal of Numismatics 48).

Brown, Laurence. Catalogue of British Historical Medals, 1760-1960, vol. 1, The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV (London: Seaby, 1980).

Catton, Bruce. Centennial History of the Civil War, vol. 2, Terrible Swift Sword (New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1963).

Fuld, George, and Melvin Fuld. Patriotic Civil War Tokens, 4th rev. ed. (Iola, Wis.: Krause Pub. / A publication of the Civil War Token Society, 1982).

Fuld, George, and Melvin Fuld. U.S. Civil War Store Cards (Lawrence, Mass.: Quarterman Publications, Inc., 1975).

Krause, Chester L. and Robert F. Lemke. Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money, ed. Joel T. Edler, 21st ed. (Iola, Wis.: Krause Publications, 2002).

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford History of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Rulau, Russell. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens, 1700-1900, 3rd ed. (Iola, Wis.: Krause Publications, 1999).

Schenkman, David E. Civil War Sutler Tokens and Cardboard Scrip (Bryans Road, Md.: Jade House Publications, 1983).

Sullivan, Edmund B. American Political Badges and Medalets, 1789-1892 (Lawrence, Mass.: Quarterman Pub., 1981). A retitled and updated edition of J. Doyle DeWitt’s A Century of Campaign Buttons (1959).

Taylor, Frank H. Philadelphia in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (Philadelphia: City of Philadelphia, 1913).

Wilson, Suzanne Colton. Column South with the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, from Antietam to the Capture of Jefferson Davis (Flagstaff, Ariz.: J. F. Colton & Co., 1960).