On November 11, the American Numismatic Society hosted the 2006 Stack Family Coinage of the Americas Conference. This year the enigma of the Irish St. Patrick coinage brought to North America by the Quaker Mark Newby in 1681 was chosen as the topic for discussion. Robert Hoge, the ANS Curator of North American Coins and Currency, chaired the event, which was divided into two sections: the first dealing with problems relating to the St. Patrick coinage in Ireland, where it originally circulated, and the second devoted to the coinage in North America.
Robert Heslip, Officer of the Culture and Arts Unit of the Belfast City Council, looked the state of Irish token coinages in the 1650s and 1660s, suggesting that political events such as the Restoration of King Charles II had little effect on production and that royalist elements, such as those found on the St. Patrick coinage, were a more generic feature of the tokens than has sometimes been thought.
Philip Mossman delved into the difficult metrological and documentary problems surrounding the proper identification of the copper and precious-metal denominations, coming to the conclusion that the large and small base-metal pieces were probably produced from different alloys and doubting that the rare silver and gold examples were struck for regular circulation. Nevertheless, the proper names of the denominations still remain elusive.
Oliver Hoover, the ANS International Editor of Numismatic Literature, discussed the iconography of the King David type used on the St. Patrick coinage, arguing that the figure is a fairly typical seventeenth-century representation of the biblical monarch and that no credence should be given to the several theories that would make the type a portrait of the English king Charles I.
William Nipper provided an overview of the many differing opinions on the dating of the St. Patrick coinage from the numismatic commentators of the eighteenth century down to the present day. He concluded by introducing his current work on a promising line of enquiry regarding a coinage proposal made by the inventor Sir Edward Ford in 1664 that might have resulted in the production of the St. Patrick coinage.
Brian Danforth reiterated his well-known views on the likelihood that the St. Patrick coinage was ordered by James Butler, the Duke of Ormonde, as a means of paying his disgruntled army, and that the skilled French mint engineer Pierre Blondeau was probably responsible for the technology used to produce it.
Louis Jordan, Head of the Department of Special Collections at the University of Notre Dame, gave an extensive overview of the various Old World coinages and local money substitutes that were circulating in the English colonies of North America around the time that the Quaker Mark Newby imported the St. Patrick coinage for use in West Jersey.
The program concluded with a close scrutiny of the traditional views on Mark Newby and his motives for bringing the St. Patrick coinage to the New World, presented jointly by our Vice President, Roger Siboni, and Vicken Yegparian of Stack’s Rare Coins. In their opinion, much of the established wisdom on the importation of the coinage and its supposed redemption after Newby’s death should be treated as suspect. Newby was probably a much more calculating businessman than he is usually given credit for, and the redemption of the coinage in such a cash-starved economy as that of West Jersey in the 1680s seems highly implausible.
In keeping with the colonial flavor of the day’s talks, in the evening both speakers and audience members enjoyed a pleasant dinner at Fraunces Tavern, the place where George Washington bade farewell to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War and later the site of the Departments of State, the Treasury, and War for the new United States of America.
The 2006 Stack Family Coinage of the Americas Conference marked the first time that the ANS used the technology of webcasting as a means of allowing members who could not be present in New York to attend the event in cyberspace.
As is customary, the proceedings of the conference will be published by the American Numismatic Society.
Dinner at Fraunces Tavern.