John Halhed Inscribed William Shakespeare Medal Reunited With Family

One of the more fascinating aspects of the American Numismatic Society’s eBay store are the numismatic stories that come with the objects we are privileged to offer. While every object has a story to tell, we aren’t always privy to the full story, apart from what we know about how they were made, who issued them, and where they circulated generally. But certain specifics—exactly whose hands something passed through, for example—are often lost to time, with the exception of pedigreed objects and the like. However, when the provenance or previous ownership of an item isn’t committed to paper, it is sometimes committed to the object itself in the form of an inscription or engraving.

Such is the case with a silver medal honoring William Shakespeare (or “Shakspeare” as it is spelled on this medal, one of 80 different spelling variations used over the years) inscribed to “John Halhed Esqr.” on the edge. This small fact was noted in our eBay listing and subsequently allowed a living descendant of John Halhed—his 4x great-grandson Michael Halhed—to find the listing using eBay’s saved search functionality, and ultimately win the auction.

First, some background on the medal itself. The original listing noted that this was a “Beautiful 1803 National Edition of Shakespeare medal in silver” and featured on the obverse “Shakespeare seated on a rock flanked by the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting with HE WAS A MAN TAKE HIM FOR ALL IN ALL I SHALL NOT LOOK UPON HIS LIKE AGAIN” below said rock. On the reverse we find the lengthy inscription “THIS MEDAL REPRESENTING SHAKSPEARE BETWEEN THE DRAMATICK MUSE AND THE GENIUS OF PAINTING IS RESPECTFULLY PRESENTED TO THE PERSON WHOSE NAME IT BEARS IN GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION OF THE GENEROUS SUPPORT GIVEN BY THE SUBSCRIBERS TO THE GREAT NATIONAL EDITION OF THAT IMMORTAL POET I.I. & J.N. BOYDELL AND G. & W. NICOL. 1803″—providing us with a great wealth of information about this medal, why it was issued, and who would have received it.

At 48 mm, the medal was designed by Conrad Heinrich Küchler (c. 1740–1810) —a German engraver who worked for Matthew Boulton at his famous Soho Mint. For many years, Küchler was the sole artist employed in designing and die-cutting the many coins, medals, and tokens produced by the Soho Mint, including the one pence and two pence “cartwheel” coppers of George III. Credit must also be given to Thomas Banks (1735–1805) who sculpted the monumental Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry which Küchler used as the basis for his obverse design.

A gold example housed at the British Museum contains the following curatorial note: “There are gold and silver examples of this medal in the British Museum, that in gold having been presented to George III. The name of the recipient is engraved on the edge of the medal whilst others are inscribed in impressed capitals: STRUCK IN THE MINT OF M . BOULTON. The flans vary slightly in thickness. There is a trial striking of the obverse die in bronzed lead in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Because of delays in striking the medals they were not available to subscribers until 1805.”

In order to understand who commissioned this medal and why it would be issued to a named individual, we must first turn to a gentleman by the name of John Boydell, an engraver and printer whose grand vision to open the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London also led to the development of an illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s plays together with a folio of prints. While the gallery itself was relatively successful, the print venture was not, leaving Boydell and his business partners in the project—nephew Josiah Boydell and London booksellers George and William Nicol—somewhat in the lurch. The illustrated edition was meant to come out as separate volumes over time and thus employed a subscription model to attract customers. A combination of poor record-keeping, long wait-times in between volumes, and a hodgepodge of different paintings and illustrations for the folio and illustrated edition done by a multitude of artists with varying levels of technical proficiency (and no stylistic cohesion) resulted in a dwindling number of subscriptions, and the ultimate collapse of the project. In an effort to further entice would-be subscribers, a silver medal was issued, to be engraved with the name of the subscriber, thus resulting in the present medal sold on eBay.

With the historical background of this medal sufficiently covered, let’s turn our attention to the recipient, John Halhed. Son of William Halhed, and brother to Nathaniel Brassey Halhed (a rather interesting character in his own right) John would have been almost 50 years old when he was presented his subscriber medal, based on information provided by auction winner Michael Halhed. Mike generously shared a wealth of knowledge about his 4x great grandfather John Halhed, including photos of select pages from their handwritten family tree compiled in the 1800s. Presented below is a brief retelling of the story written by Mike in his own words. The American Numismatic Society thanks him for sharing his story with the ANS and our readers. Enjoy!

Hobbies such as numismatics and philately have shifted slightly over the past twenty years with the broad adoption of the internet and online sites such as eBay, the United States Mint website, and of course the website of the American Numismatic Society. At the same time, interest in genealogy has exploded as Baby Boomers retire and want to know more about their past. Websites such as and numerous online platforms have helped drive access to even more material than would have been available just a few decades ago. Is there an intersection between these hobbies? Funny that you should ask!

The ANS recently sold a silver Shakespeare medal dated 1803 via eBay (see Figure 1). In order to encourage subscriptions to the “great national edition of that immortal poet,” the publishers hired C. H. Küchler to make and then engrave the name of the subscribers around the edge of these 1803 medallions. In this case, the engraving displayed the name of John Halhed, Esq.

Figure 1. Obverse and reverse of the 1803 National Edition Shakespeare medal.

John Halhed was born in 1758 to William Halhed, who was a Director at the Bank of England. He in turn worked at Lloyds Coffee House, precursor to Lloyds of London, and became quite wealthy, living in a 17,000 sq. foot estate named Yately Hall (see Figure 3) in Hants, England with his wife Anna Maria Caswall and their eighteen children. The Halheds and Caswalls were quite generous, and according to Halhed genealogical records shown below (see Figure 2), in 1809 at the Jubilee of George III, their families gave a shilling to every man, woman, and child in the Yately Parish.

Figure 2. Genealogical records pertaining to William Halhed (above) and his son John Halhed (below).

Although John had a large family (see Figure 3 for a modern picture of Yately Hall, now called Hurst Lodge School), the male lineage has been quite unsuccessful as the result of disease, mortal injury (death by a lion, death by a cricket ball, etc.), and war, including most recently in WWII. This paucity of Halheds (check your local phone book—there are likely none!) plus the family’s minor historical wealth makes genealogical research and the collecting of family artifacts relatively easy via numerous online platforms, and by using basic website searches.

Figure 3. A modern view of Yately Hall.

The American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce that the Shakespeare medal shown above is now back in Halhed family hands, joining letters (including a stamp-less letter sent from Australia to England in 1843 from one of John’s sons, sent to a cousin), postcards, a pocket watch mechanism from the early 1700s, paintings, sketches, and several books. eBay and other auction sites have expanded and combined collecting interests to create a new generation of hobbyists who enjoy many aspects of history.

—Michael Halhed

Medialia Rack and Hamper Gallery: A Sad Farewell

Figure 1. Mashiko and the American Medalists in Paris exhibit.

One of the joys of living in New York City is having access to a lot of contemporary art. Aside from the preeminent modern art museums like the New Museum, the Whitney, MOMA, and the Guggenheim, there are scores of galleries throughout the City, large and small, famous and more obscure, that offer regular shows of works by living artists. One such gallery, Medialia Rack and Hamper Gallery on 38th Street, has for nearly three decades served as a forum for contemporary medallic art, perhaps the only such gallery anywhere in the world. 

Figure 2. Mashiko’s medallic art.

Founded in 1993 by Mashiko, the 2019 winner of the ANS’s prestigious J. Sanford Saltus Award for Achievement in Medallic Art, Medialia has functioned not just as a gallery, but as an important meeting place for artists, connoisseurs, students, and those curious in hand-held sculpture generally. Since its inception Medialia has hosted scores of exhibits featuring the work of living artists, including current Saltus Award winners, as well as thematic retrospective exhibits, often shown concurrently, that have explored the long history of medallic art, its various guises and purposes, thus offering viewers the means for understanding where medallic art has come from and where it might be going. Like all contemporary art, this can sometimes be a contentious issue, but Medialia has always provided a cheerful, warm, and engaging environment for serious discussion.

Figure 3. Mashiko’s medallic art.

Now in her 80s, Mashiko made the decision last year to close Medialia and to seek semi-retirement across the Hudson River in Jersey City. In December of last year I had the bitter-sweet experience of spending part of an afternoon with Mashiko viewing her final exhibits at Medialia, much of it fittingly of her own work.

Figure 4. One of Mashiko’s wooden sculptures.

In the smaller of the three exhibit spaces, she had mounted, with loans from local collectors, an exhibit entitled “American Medalists in Paris”, which focused on the works of famed American sculptors like James Fraser and Victor David Brenner, who had spent time in the ateliers of Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries honing their sculptural skills. While it was certainly a pleasure to see a number of familiar pieces and some rarities in the cases, it was in the other two exhibit spaces which featured a retrospective of Mashiko’s own work where the real joy was to be found.

Figure 5. Mashiko discussing her early work in wood.

As the curator primarily responsible for the ANS’s medallic art cabinet, I have long had the pleasure of interacting with Mashiko’s medallic work, but have only had the chance to appreciate it piecemeal, viewing or handling individual pieces one-by-one. To see her complete medallic ouvre displayed across several cases was an exceptionally rare treat, giving a fuller sense of how she has approached this smaller format over time and how her approach to it has developed. What was most fascinating, however, was to see how her medallic art relates to her much larger sculptures, exhibited in the next room, which were done at an earlier stage in her career. These wondrous, evocative, and even confounding pieces in wood appear to stand somewhere between man-made and naturally occurring, a sense due to Mashiko’s ability to engage with the scale and nature of the raw material itself, in this case, massive timbers and balks. Not on display were her works in stone, a medium that was a centerpiece of her career for many years and one that she taught to scores of students. An innate understanding of the raw material is one of Mashiko’s gifts, which translates as well into her work in bronze and other metals, underscoring again the reasons she was given the Saltus Award.      

As I signed the guest book for the last time, the last person to do so, and said goodbye, I was struck by the many happy hours I had spent at Medialia over the years and what an important role the gallery has served within our numismatic community and also within the larger contemporary art scene here in the City. All things must pass, of course, but this passing was one I wish could have waited a bit longer.

Revising Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage from RRDP: The case of RRC 367

by Alice Sharpless

This blog post is a preliminary version of an article to be submitted for peer review. Comments and additional relevant specimens are welcomed by the author.

Coinage of the Roman Republic Online (CRRO) is a database that was created by the ANS to be, in effect, an online version of Michael Crawford’s 1974  Roman Republican Coinage (RRC) which remains the primary typology for Roman Republican coinage. Since the publication of RRC there have been significant revisions to our knowledge of Republican coinage provided by new hoards and ongoing scholarship (for an updated summary of these new discoveries see Yarrow 2021). This year, the Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP) began to publish material based on Richard Schaefer’s archive of Roman Republican Dies. Schaefer’s materials provide numerous specimens from auction catalogues and museum collections which add significantly to our knowledge of particular Republican issues. In addition to the die studies carried out by Schaefer, these specimens, which are accessible through the database SITNAM and linked to CRRO, provide, in some cases, revisions to Crawford’s typologies.

One particularly significant issue for which RRDP has allowed revisions to Crawfords typologies is RRC 367, a joint issue of L. Cornelius Sulla and. L. Manlius Torquatus from 83–82 BCE. This was one of the issues produced for Sulla’s army on their return from the East. For more on the significance of this and the other Sullan issues see Lucia Carbone’s two-part blog post on the financing of Sulla’s reconquest of Italy.

Crawford divided RRC 367 into five types—two aurei and three denarii (see below). The primary distinction of all the types is the obverse legend, its spelling and placement of the letters in relationship to the head of Roma. The first, 367/1 (denarius), only has L·M behind the head running downward, and ANLI PROQ (no T) running upward before the head. It is also the only type for which Crawford said the reverse legend may read L·SVLLA·IMPE or L·SVLLA·IMP (not L·SVLLA·IM). For the other four types, Crawford allowed L·SVLLA·IMP or L·SVLLA·IM as possibilities but excluded L·SVLLA·IMPE. The primary distinction of these four types is whether or not the obverse legend has a T (turned on its side) and the denomination. RRC 367/2 (aureus) and 367/3 (denarius) include the T in the obverse legend, while 367/4 (aureus) and 367/5 (denarius) do not. The name always appears behind the head running upward and the title before the head running down words.

Although Crawford did not distinguish the reverses of 367/2-5, Schaefer’s die study reveals that there is, in fact, a difference between the reverse dies of these types. The reverse design of all types shows a triumphator, crowned by flying Victory, in a quadriga moving right. But Schaefer’s materials show that on 367/2 (aureus) and 367/3 (denarius) the horses of the quadriga are arranged so that the lead horse is closest to the viewer (Fig. 1) while on 367/4 (aureus) and 367/5 (denarius) the lead horse is furthest from the viewer (Fig. 2).

Figure 1. RRC 367/3. British Museum 1860,0328.77 (Donated by Count John Francis William de Salis).
Figure 2. RRC 367/5. ANS 1941.131.172.

This arrangement of the horses does not vary within a particular type except in two ways. There are a very limited number of denarii that are hybrids that have the obverse legend of 367/3 but the reverse of 367/5 (lead horse furthest). Schaefer found seven examples of this hybrid, two of which are die linked to 367/5 through reverse die 367/5 EW (Figs. 3–4).

Figure 3. RRC 367/5; F. Panvini Rosati, La moneta di Roma repubblicana. Storia e civiltà di un popolo: catologo (Bologna: Museo Civico Archeologico, 1966), no. 273.
Figure 4. Hybrid of RRC 367/3 and 367/5 with reverse die link to Bologna specimen of RRC 367/5 (Figure3); Ernst Justus Haeberlin Collection = Adolph E. Cahn and Adolph Hess Auction, 17 Jul 1933, lot 1628.

There is also a denarius hybrid of 367/3 and 367/5, with the obverse legend of 367/5 (no T) and the reverse quadriga arrangement of 367/3 (lead horse closest) (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. RRC 367 Control mark type with XXV before. Classical Numismatic Group, eAuction 272, 25 Jan 2012, lot 323.

This variation has a further highly significant difference. The reverse dies bear control numerals either before or behind the quadriga (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. RRC 367 Control mark type with X behind. Phil Davis Collection (image by Andrew McCabe).

Based on the reverse, Schaefer included most of these control-marked coins with RRC 367/3 despite the difference in the obverse legend. While Schaefer did recognize the control marks on these “hybrid” coins in most cases, there are some specimens where the controls are off flan or otherwise not well preserved. Based on Schaefer’s materials, the author has carried out a die study that shows that all of these “hybrid” types have control-marked reverse dies. Schaefer’s materials include 26 examples of this control-marked type, while my die study includes an additional 12 specimens. The control marks on these coins are roughly added and therefore not well preserved so it is not possible to identify the numeral in all cases, but the die study shows that all of the coins with the 367/5 obverse/367/3 reverse typology have reverse control marks. There is only one specimen where there is no trace of the control mark preserved, but the specimen has an obverse die link with a control-marked coin (Figs. 7–9).

Figure 7. RRC 367 Control mark type. No control mark is preserved on this specimen but it is obverse die-linked with a control-marked coin. Gorny & Mosch GmbH, Auction 196, 7–9 Mar 2011, lot 2432.
Figure 8. RRC 367 Control mark type. Only a portion of the control mark is preserved (IX, behind); the control can be seen on other specimens (Figure 9). Heritage Numismatic Auctions, World & Ancient Coins Select Auction 232149, lot 62217.
Figure 9. RRC 367 Control mark type. Control IX, behind; reverse die-linked with Figure7. Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd., Auction 70, 9 Jul 2002, lot 3427.

Crawford identified only four control marks on this issue. He associated two of them with RRC 367/3 (control VI [Phillipe 311=Gorny 228, 375] and IX [Berlin]) and two with RRC 367/5 (control XV and XX [Vatican 2346]) (Figs. 9–10).

Figure 10. Reverse control marks observed by Crawford. Right to left: IV, before, Gorny & Mosch GmbH, Auction 228, 9 Mar 2015, lot 375 (note that this die actually has XXX, before, as well). XV, before, British Museum 2002,0102.3155; XX, before, British Museum 2002,0102.3159; for IX, behind, see Fig. 8.

Because the control numerals are small and not carved into the die in the same way as the legend, Crawford suggested they were not meant to be present on the final coin and were instead intended to be removed when the die went into use. He therefore suggested that the whole issue may have had these control marks and only a few have survived that were not removed before use. The RRDP data shows, however, that the control marks are associated specifically with these 367/5 obverse and 367/3 reverse coins. It is therefore unlikely that they were used throughout the whole issue and instead appear to distinguish a particular type within the issue. Why it would be marked out in this way remains a mystery for now.

The most up-to-date estimates for the issue are shown in Tables 1–2. The approximate issue size estimates differ slightly based on the obverse and reverse dies counts, but we can estimate a range between 165-660,000 (assuming 20,000 coins struck on average per obverse die and 15,000 per reverse die, a much-debated topic!). This is comparable to the approximate size for 367/1 (40–270,000) and 367/3 (730,000–1.5 million), while 367/5 was significantly larger (5.94–9.41 million) (see Carbone’s blog post on Sulla Part I, Table 4). These new numbers provide an approximate issue size for denarii of 6.88–11.84 million.

Obverse DiesCoinsd1Die estimatedPlus 95Minus 95CoverageApprox. issue size
Table 1. Production estimates based on obverse die counts (Esty 2011)
Reverse DiesCoinsd1Die estimatedPlus 95Minus 95CoverageApprox. issue size
Table 2. Production estimates based on reverse die counts (Esty 2011)

The presence of this control-marked subtype within Sulla’s production allows it to draw interesting parallels to the contemporary production of the mint of Rome (see Carbone’s blog post on Sulla Part I).

Currently, there is no process to update CRRO to include revisions to Crawford. We plan, however, to explore ways that will allow us to add updates to Crawford’s typologies, dating, etc., based on findings from RRDP as well as other studies. We envision that CRRO will remain a searchable index of Crawford’s typologies using linked open data to connect specimens in collections worldwide (thanks to Nomisma), but will in the future provide access to subsequent and ongoing research on Roman Republican coinage.

Revised RRC 367 Typologies

Below are revised typologies for RRC 367 differentiating between reverse as well as obverse dies and including the control-marked type.

Figure 11. RRC 367/1. J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu 77. NE.64.5 (Gift of Gordon McLendon).

 obverse: L M downwards, behind, ANLI  PRO Q upwards, before

 reverse: L SVLLA IMPE or IMP; lead horse closest

obverse: L MANLI T upwards before, PRO downwards, behind (T sideways)

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse closest

obverse: L MANLI T upwards before, PRO downwards, behind (T sideways)

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse closest

Figure 13. RRC 367/4. ANS 1967.153.195.

obverse: L MANLI upwards before, PRO downwards, behind

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse furthest

obverse: L MANLI upwards before, PRO downwards, behind

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse furthest

  • Denarius [new] (Figs. 5–10)

obverse: L MANLI upwards before, PRO downwards, behind (cf. RRC 367/5)

reverse: L SVLLA IMP or IM; lead horse closest, control number before or behind (cf. RRC 367/3)

Third RRDP Data Release

by Liv M. Yarrow and Alice Sharpless

This post announces the third data release from the Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP). For more on the first two releases see the blog posts from Carbone and Yarrow, July 2021 and Sharpless and Carbone, October 2021. The RRC types included in the newest release are:


































RRC 346 was issued by the moneyer C. Censorinus in 88 BCE. Michael Crawford published an initial die study for RRC 346 in 1971. This complex issue shares dies across most subtypes. Three subtypes (346/1a, 1c, and 1d) have obverse control marks and share obverse dies. The other six subtypes have no obverse control marks. Schaefer has not made an attempt to count obverse dies without control marks. In addition to shared obverse dies, six of the subtypes fall into “pairs” linked by reverse dies. 346/1a and 1b share reverse dies with control numerals (Fig. 1a–b), 346/1c and 1d share dies with control symbols, and 346/1e and 1f share dies with Greek control letters.

Figure 1a. RRC 346/1a with reverse die link, control numeral XXV. 346/1a also has an obverse control mark: dot in left field. British Museum, 1843,0116.766.
Figure 1b. RRC 346/1b (below) with reverse die link, control numeral XXV. British Museum, 1949,0403.55.

Not all dies are used in both subtypes. Schaefer’s materials include four control-marked obverse dies and at least 32 reverse dies that were not observed by Crawford. Schaefer also identifies an additional die link between 346/1c and 1d. The complexity of the die links in this series calls into question the utility of continuing to use the subtype identifiers in this issue (see a preliminary discussion of this issue here). Even Crawford questioned whether the system of control marks could really be called a “system” at all (p. 143).

RRC 350A, issued in 86 BCE by the moneyers C. Gargonius, Ogul[nius], and M. Ver[gilius], falls into 12 subtypes. 350A/1a–e and 350A/2 are denarii, while 350A/3a–f are bronze asses. The denarii 350A/1a–e are ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark though Schaefer’s die study reveals there are three control marks that have two dies each (Fig. 2a–b).

Figure 2a. RRC 350A/1b. Although the issue is ODEC, a few control marks have two dies. Here we see an example of control mark A. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneve, CdN 2001-1407.
Figure 2b. Another example of RRC 350A/1b. Although the issue is ODEC, a few control marks have two dies. Here we see a second example of control mark A. BnF, REP-11844

The control marks on the asses 350A/3a–f are not well preserved, but there are several controls with more than one die. We selected this issue for release as the denarii of RRC 350A had been discussed in part one of Yarrow and Carbone’s 2020 RBN article (see Tables 4 and 6 especially), making the data underlying our analyses publicly available. Schaefer’s data for 350A/1a–e has 97% coverage, but the coverage for 350A/2 is only 12%, meaning much work remains to be done identifying specimens and comparing dies. 

This fall semester RRDP welcomed the participation of five undergraduate researchers from Brooklyn College, four were funded through the Mellon Transfer Undergraduate Research Program. The program connects transfer students to work closely with faculty members in the Humanities and Social Sciences and engage in meaningful, rigorous research. It is endowed by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These students learned about numismatics, Roman Republican history, and how to navigate a wide range of digital tools. They were also able to visit the ANS and handle coins with all COVID precautions taken–a very welcome point of human contact for us all (Fig. 3)!

Figure 3. Lucia Carbone speaks to undergraduate researchers from Brooklyn College during a visit the ANS.

The following issues benefited from their work and analyses.  These issues were selected because they contain, at least in part, numbered dies just like the famous Crepusius issue studied by Hersh and so influential for the work of Carter and Esty on how to quantify the size of an issue based on the observed number of dies and specimens.

Through the regular full release of RRDP data, we are seeking to follow Esty’s sound advice in the conclusion of his 2011 article (p. 58):

Die-identity researchers should include all die-frequencies, not just n [number of observed specimens] and d [number of observed dies], so readers can judge the fit of the model. Plots […] are as useful as the estimate itself and provide additional information about the fit of the data to the model.

Our hope is that these calculations and plots will one day be displayed in CRRO for RRDP issues, alongside the raw data. Currently, any researcher can download the data as a CSV file that can be opened and explored in any spreadsheet program.

RRC 391/1a–b, 391/2, and 391/3 were issued by C. Egnatius Maximus in 75 BCE. 391/1a and 1b share reverse dies and are distinguished only by the presence of an obverse control mark on 391/1b. Schaefer’s materials confirm Crawford’s observation of only one obverse die for 391/1a, with a second plated specimen. For 391/1b, Crawford identified 8 dies with control numbers I through VIII; Schaefer’s study adds a ninth obverse die with control mark VIIII. Schaefer identifies 10 reverse dies for both subtypes, plus one plated specimen. There is also an additional obverse die which may or may not have originally had a control mark. For 391/2 (Fig. 4), Schaefer identified 16 obverse dies and 21 reverse dies, slightly less than Crawford (20 obv, 22 rev). For 391/3, Schaefer observed 40 reverse dies, an increase from Crawford’s count of 33.

Figure 4. RRC 391/2. ANS 1944.100.1970.

The most interesting anomaly explored by Nick Shaffer, currently pursuing a second BA in History, was the apparent overabundance of specimens of RRC 391/2 with the control mark VII (Fig. 5). 

Figure 5. Chart showing die frequencies for RRC 391/2.

Esty’s seminal 2011 article has emphasized how non-random samples, especially the overabundance of a single die can distort the data. Nick sought out additional specimens expanding Schaefer’s material to see if this helped correct the anomaly, but it only exacerbated the unusual number of VII specimens. Nick investigated when and where all VII specimens were first reported either in museum collection or in trade to see if they could be evidence of a dispersed hoard. No patterns were detected suggesting the sample may indeed be random.  He also investigated the weights of the specimens to see if this might hint at some of the specimens being ancient imitations such as has been noted by Jeremy Haag for RRC 378. Again, no evidence was found. Esty’s geometric model would predict 391/2 was struck by 24 dies, whereas the numbered countermarks suggest it was made with not less than 30. The reason why this particular data does not seem to fit the geometric model proposed by Esty will be investigated in future publications.

RRC 392 was issued by L. Farsuleius Mensor and also dates to 75 BCE. Schaefer identifies 75 obverse dies for 392/1a, plus one imitation, with control marks from I to LXXV (Crawford identified 51 dies and controls only up to LXXIII). For 392/1b Schaefer identifies 106 reverse dies, with two additional dies on plated or imitation specimens, with control marks from I to CXX (Crawford identified 41 reverse dies and controls only to CXVII). Rechielle Morales, Randy Sanz, and Margenis Saldana, seniors in History, and Jonathan Garcia, who is following a self-designed BA curriculum in Medieval Studies, worked together as a team on this issue.  Using again Esty’s geometric model, they observed that the model underestimates the number of reverse dies for RRC 392/1b by some 15 dies, if there were indeed originally 120 as the numbered control marks indicate. For RRC 392/1a the situation is the reverse, Esty’s geometric model seems to overestimate the number of obverse dies, again if we can rely on the highest observed control number as a guide. The coverage is over 97% in both cases and no obvious cases of non-randomness have been identified thus far. Figures 6 and 7 plot the die frequencies. We do not yet have any explanation for this and will be reaching out to colleagues as we continue to investigate this data and other similar numbered issues.

Figure 6. Chart showing die frequencies for RRC 392/1a.
Figure 7. Chart showing die frequencies for RRC 392/1b.

For more on RRC 367 see the separate blog post Revising Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage  from RRDP: The case of RRC 367.

New Years and Old Years

This essay is being written on December 31, 2021, to be posted on January 4, 2022. It seems like a suitable moment to think about calendars and years and how people define them.

The presence of year dates on coins is tremendously useful to the numismatist—probably more useful than the dates generally were to the governments that decided to put them on the coins, usually for administrative control. And numismatists are well aware that many different dating systems are found on coins from antiquity, from the Islamic world, and from Asia, ranging from regnal years to local eras to major religion-based calendric eras, with many other variations as well. There is much that could be said about these, but for now I will concentrate on a much narrower topic.

For modern people raised in cultures of European derivation, medieval and early modern Europe can be a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar, and perhaps on the latter side is the existence of many different systems of dates on coins. Examples include the era system of medieval Spain, the regnal years on papal coins, or the occasional use of Islamic dates on coins issued by Christian rulers.

Gold maravedí of Alfonso VIII of Castile, dated Hispanic Era 1226, equivalent to 1188 CE (ANS 2014.9.2, purchase).
Silver testone of Pope Paul III, dated to year 12 of his reign, equivalent to 1545–46 CE (ANS 1937.146.304, bequest of Herbert Scoville).
Gold tarì of Roger II of Sicily, dated to Hijri year 535, equivalent to 1140–41 CE (ANS 1922.96.19, gift of Edward T. Newell).

Even the Dionysian era (the Common Era or Anno Domini dates that are now widely used around the world) presents variations that may surprise the unwary numismatist who seeks to correlate coins and historical events. Like other kinds of measures, the measurement of time varied from one locality to another. Perhaps surprisingly, there seems to have been general agreement on the days of the Julian calendar, but different places opted to start the year on different days. Thus, although everyone in medieval Europe might agree that a particular day was January 4, that day was considered to belong to different years in different places.

The Gregorian calendar adopted throughout Europe between 1582 and 1926 not only shifted the date by several days (10 days in the 1500s, 13 days in the 1900s) and adjusted the calculation of leap years; it also standardized the beginning of the year on January 1. This date was chosen in emulation of the term of office of the consuls of ancient Rome, but before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, January 1 was a distinctly unusual starting point for the year.

The most common start of the year in medieval Europe was March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation exactly 9 months before Christmas. Thus, the day that in present-day Gregorian reckoning was January 11, 1522, was known in medieval England as January 1, 1521, because 1521 continued through March 24. However, there was some disagreement as to whether the birth of Jesus should be in 1 BC or in AD 1, and thus which year began on a given March 25. For example, Gregorian April 4, 1595, was March 25, 1595, in Florence, but March 25, 1596, in nearby Pisa. Other countries preferred to start the year on December 25 instead of March 25, such as Arezzo (near both Florence and Pisa). The French monarchy began the year on Easter Sunday, meaning that the year began on a different date from one year to the next, and years could vary in length by several weeks.

These small differences can be very important for understanding dated historical documents: for example, when compiling prices recorded by medieval Florentine and Pisan merchants, one must be aware that the same day belonged to different years in the two cities. For the most part, these differences are of less importance with regard to the coins themselves, not least because most medieval and early modern European coins are not dated in any system.

Occasionally, however, one finds dates that offer considerable potential for confusion if one is not aware of calendric differences. The so-called gun money issued in the name of James II during the war that followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688 is dated not only by year but also by month. The incautious numismatist might imagine that a coin dated February 1689 was issued seven months before a coin dated September 1689. However, England had not yet adopted the Gregorian calendar, and February 1689 was actually five months after September 1689.

A “gun money” shilling of James II of Ireland, dated September 1689 (ANS 1945.23.27, purchase).
A “gun money” shilling of James II of Ireland, dated February 1689 (ANS 0000.999.44407).

Coins and Target Audiences in the Roman Empire

I spend a lot of time thinking about the significance and intent behind certain images on ancient coins. I am also very much interested in what people really saw and whether visual messages were successfully communicated to people who used coins. There are several ways we can think about target audiences in the Roman Empire and how actors in the Roman government reached them.

Figure 1. A sestertius of Trajan, struck at Rome, from 103 CE showing on its reverse a view of the Circus Maximus. This coin was struck at the time Trajan completed major repairs on the Circus. The type would have had little relevance to viewers outside of Rome who did not benefit from the entertainments there. It is an uncommon type among sestertii of Trajan. ANS 1944.100.44720, Bequest of E. T. Newell.

When considering individual types of designs on coinage, it is important to attend to the frequency of certain images and messages according to die studies, hoards, and/or site finds. Reams have been written about unique or very rare coin types of historical interest but, in reality, such coins would have had a small audience and played a limited role in communication. One of the most beloved topics in the study of Roman coin iconography are coins that bear images of public buildings and monuments. Nonetheless, quantitative studies suggest they accounted for only up to 3% or 4% of what was in circulation among the imperial coinage of the late first and early second century CE, a period of great variety (e.g., Fig. 1 and Table 1). By contrast, personifications of imperial ideals, which made up a larger proportion of the coinage, communicated more broadly, but until relatively recently have received less attention.

Table 1. This table indicates the total number and percentage of base-metal coin types with architectural images from samples in Rome and Trier. The sample from Rome is based on the “sottosuolo urbano I and II” find complexes and the sample from Trier is derived from Fundmünzen der römischen Zeit in Deutschland (FMRD). The table is extracted from N. T. Elkins, “Monuments on the Move: Architectural Coin Types and Audience Targeting in the Flavian and Trajanic Periods,” in N. Holmes (ed.), Proceedings of the XIVth International Numismatic Congress, Glasgow 2009 (Glasgow, 2011), pp. 645–55.

In addition to frequency, we can consider the different types of messages and designs placed on certain denominations. William E. Metcalf’s work on Liberalitas (the personification of the concept of liberalitas, i.e., generosity) presents an informative case. He showed that, in the second century CE, when liberalitas became synonymous with a congiarium (a cash distribution to the urban plebs), Liberalitas appeared on gold aurei (e.g., Fig. 2), used more by elite classes, whereas bronze denominations, more likely encountered by beneficiaries of the distribution, depicted the congiarium itself (e.g., Fig. 3).

Figure 2. An aureus of Antoninus Pius, struck at Rome, from 153–154 CE depicting on its reverse Liberalitas, who holds fasces and a paddle used in the distribution of coins at a congiarium. This denomination represents very high value (i.e., 25 denarii or 100 sestertii), and so would have been used more by an elite and wealthy audience. ANS 1956.184.45.
Figure 3. A sestertius of Hadrian, struck at Rome, from 119–121 CE depicting on its reverse a congiarium scene in which the emperor sits on a platform with an attendant to oversee the distribution; Liberalitas stands in the background with her counting paddle. ANS 1944.100.45626, Bequest of E. T. Newell.

The bronzes denoted the event and the specific benefit that the user received from the emperor, while the personification on the higher-value coins may have allowed elite users to apply their own meaning based on the benefits they reaped from the emperor’s liberality. Quadrantes, the smallest imperial denomination, which circulated primarily in Rome and Italy, naturally bore images that tended to refer to the day-to-day concerns of the common people, such as the quadrantes of Caligula that refer to the remission of the 0.5% tax on auction sales in Italy (Fig. 4), rather than referring to grander political events.

Figure 4. A quadrans of Caligula, struck at Rome, from 39 CE depicting on its obverse a pilleus, the cap awarded to a freed slave and a standard attribute of Libertas (Freedom) and on its reverse R•CC, an abbreviation for remissa ducentisima (remission of the ½%). Together the two sides of the coin communicated freedom from the ½% tax on auction sales in Italy.

Another way to think about target audiences is via regional circulation patterns in a specific time and place. For instance, the publication and analysis of Julio-Claudian and Flavian (mostly) bronze coin finds from in and around Rome gives a great sense of what the urban audience was seeing: types that celebrated imperial ideals, dynastic arrangements and family, legitimacy and continuity, public building, popular initiatives, and so on. By contrast, in the middle of the first century CE, there were few if any such coins in circulation in Judaea, owing to the relatively late introduction of imperial coinage to the region. Here, coins with the emperor’s portrait were rare at the time, as more local and regional coinages prevailed: Nabatean coins, coins of the Herodian dynasty, the procuratorial coinage, etc. (e.g., Fig. 5). With the exception of Herod Philip II, who did not rule over a Jewish area, coins of the Herodian dynasty and the procurators bore symbols a Jewish audience would understand, as these were largely inspired by the Hasmonean coinage.

Figure 5. A prutah of Pontius Pilate, struck at Jerusalem, from 29–30 CE depicting on its obverse a lituus and its reverse the date within a wreath. Unlike most Roman coins that depict the emperor’s portrait, the procuratorial coinage only bore the emperor’s name (in Greek) and depicted symbols intelligible to the Jewish population. This demonstrates how sensitive locally produced coinages could be to the traditions and customs of the local population. ANS 2016.15.238.

In the Roman East, as the example of Judaea relates, people were more accustomed to using regionally and locally produced coinages that bore images of local interest. For instance, the provincial coinage typically bore reverse designs referred to local cults, monuments, games and festivals, and other markers of civic identity (e.g., Fig. 6), which differed from the iconographic content on imperial coinage that circulated more in Italy and the Roman West.

Figure 6. A bronze coin of Hadrian, struck at Ephesus, from ca. 117–138 CE depicting on its reverse the famous Temple of Artemis at Ephesus containing the unique cult statue. The famous temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean. The depiction of the temple on the coinage was an expression of civic pride and identity. ANS 1944.100.46100, Bequest of E. T. Newell.

But even imperial coin circulation was not the monolith it is sometimes assumed to have been, for there were differentiated supplies of base-metal coins that appear to have been sent to select populations. Fleur Kemmers has contributed much to this area, as, for example, she discerned that soldiers stationed at Nijmegen, and elsewhere, were deliberately supplied with coins with martial imagery. Although the sample size for Rome is small, my own study of Nerva’s coinage is suggestive that coins bearing images referring to the remission of obligations to the imperial courier (vehiculatio)in Italy, the cash distribution (congiarium) to the urban plebs, and Fortuna Populi Romani (the Fortune of the Roman People—a more defined message than just Fortuna), might have been more common in the circulation pool in Rome and Italy than in the provinces (Figs. 7–9 and contrast Chart 1 with Charts 2 and 3). That also would have been the audience to which such images were also the most relevant.

Figure 7. A sestertius of Nerva, struck at Rome, from 97 CE depicting on its reverse Nerva seated on a platform overseeing the congiarium; an attendant passes coins to a recipient on a ladder and Liberalitas appears in the background. Only a subset of the urban plebs, the plebs frumentaria were eligible to participate in the congiarium in Rome, making this an image that would appeal most to the population in the city of Rome. ANS 1944.100.42656, Bequest of E. T. Newell.
Figure 8. A sestertius of Nerva, struck at Rome, from 96 CE that depicts on its reverse a cart on its side behind two mules; the accompanying legend denotes the cancellation of obligations to imperial courier (vehiculatio) in Italy, making this most relevant to an audience within Italy than outside of it. ANS 1947.2.446.
Figure 9. A sestertius of Nerva, struck at Rome, from 97 CE that depicts on its reverse the Fortune of the Roman People seated on a throne; she is labeled FORTVNA P(OPVLI) R(OMANI). While Fortuna is a common and generic personification on the coinage, the Fortune of the Roman People is more defined, as populi Romani refers to the citizenry in Rome, making it a more defined message for that audience. Yale University Art Gallery 2001.87.5880, Transfer from the Sterling Memorial Library.
Chart 1. The typological makeup of Nerva’s sestertii found in Rome (data derived from the “sottosuolo urbano I and II” find complexes). Chart extracted from N. T. Elkins, The Image of Political Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96–98 (Oxford, 2017), p. 95.
Chart 2. The typological makeup of Nerva’s sestertii found in the area of Mainz and the Taunus-Wetterau limes system (data derived from FMRD IV.1; IV.1.N1; V.1.1; V.1.2; V.2.1; V.2.2). Chart extracted from N. T. Elkins, The Image of Political Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96–98 (Oxford, 2017), p. 96.
Chart 3. The typological makeup of Nerva’s sestertii found in the Garonne Hoard (Aquitania). Chart extracted from N. T. Elkins, The Image of Political Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96–98 (Oxford, 2017), p. 97.

While there is some empirical evidence that coin designs were made and distributed with relevant audiences in mind, evidence for the intelligibility of designs among target audiences is less direct. Literary texts that describe Roman coins are primarily written by senatorial authors in Rome and do not relate the interaction between non-elite viewers and coin designs. Here, archaeology provides us with some important clues that suggest the broad intelligibility of designs, even if ancient viewers did not think as deeply about coin iconography as modern researchers. Coins deposited in Roman graves show patterns of deliberate type selection based on reverse designs. For example, in graves around Cologne, types bearing on the theme of immortality, eternity, and memory prevail. Excavation of the Blackfriars shipwreck found a Domitianic coin with a reverse of Fortuna holding a rudder on the mast-step, suggesting that shipbuilders recognized the image as Fortuna and personalized her meaning (e.g., Fig. 10).

Figure 10. An as of Domitian, struck at Rome, from 90–91 CE that depicts on its reverse Fortuna holding a rudder and cornucopia. Fortuna, of course, connoted good luck and success, and the rudder symbolizes guidance and stability. The builders of the ship at Blackfriars evidently recognized the figure, her attributes, and personalized her meaning by placing her on the mast-step of the ship. Note this is not the coin of from the Blackfriars shipwreck but a representative example of one similar to it. ANS 1947.2.445.

Interrogating the mechanics and realities of visual communication, and the contextual evidence that informs questions of audience and reception, brings more vitality and depth to the objects we study.

New Candidate for Oldest U.S. Numismatic Society Discovered

Charles Ira Bushnell

A couple of months ago, friend and fellow numismatic researcher Joel Orosz sent me a news clipping containing a piece of information he found puzzling. I was astounded when I saw it and immediately started researching the topic myself, uncovering a second nugget. But that was it. Nothing more has been found. We’re hoping that perhaps someone else can shed some light on this matter. I want to thank Joel for providing the detailed description of the discovery below.

—David Hill

Joel J. Orosz writes:

The chronology of numismatic associations in the United States has been settled history for more than 160 years. The Numismatic Society of Philadelphia was established on January 1, 1858, claiming honors as the first in the United States. Slightly more than 6 weeks later, on the Ides of March, the American Numismatic Society was organized in New York City, becoming the second.  Over the following decades, both Societies would change and re-change their names, and experience vigor both waning and waxing, but no one then or since has questioned their primacy in the birth order of United States numismatic societies.  Now, however, both must fall a slot in the hierarchy, for we have discovered that the first numismatic association in this country appeared in New York City as early as 1854, and still existed as late as 1855. The New York Numismatic Society, as it was styled, seems to have been little noted during its brief lifespan, nor long remembered afterwards.  In fact, by that pivotal year of 1858, memories of its existence had evaporated. Not until 2021 did the scant traces it left behind come to light.

The historically-minded reader might object that the “New York Numismatic Society” was a short-lived Civil War-era numismatic club.  This NYNS was founded on January 23, 1864, by Robert Hewitt, Jr. and 10 other gentlemen, who were all, so far as can be determined, completely disconnected from the newly-discovered first NYNS. The two organizations’ years of operation were separated by nearly a decade, and there is no evidence of overlap in their respective memberships, leaderships, or in anything excepting their shared name. The birth of the second NYNS goaded the American Numismatic Society, which had been dormant since October 1859, to meet just 13 days later, and to reorganize as the American Numismatic and Archeological Society. The second NYNS itself went somnolent after less than four months of meetings, and on July 31, 1866, it dissolved, relinquishing its assets to the ANAS.  So much for the second NYNS; now let’s turn to the discovery of the first one. 

The Times and Messenger clipping referring to a New York Numismatic Society in 1855.

In the early history of U.S. numismatics, it is usually true (paraphrasing Will Rogers), that “all we know is what we read in the papers.” The New York Times and Messenger for Sunday morning, June 24, 1855, presented the headline, “SALE OF COINS AND MEDALS, “reporting on the June 6, 1855 Bangs, Brother & Co. auction sale of the numismatic collection of Pierre (sometimes anglicized as “Peter”) Flandin, a pioneering New York fine arts dealer. The article recounted prices realized by the most desirable coins and medals on offer, especially a pattern Gobrecht half dollar of 1838 for $8.50.  It closed with the following sentences:

The sale was one of unusual interest, from the fact of its being the first regular sale of coins and medals that has ever taken place in our city. The sale was well-attended, and attracted considerable attention. Among the distinguished American Numismatists present, we noticed Mr. Bushnell, of the New York Numismatic Society, Dr. Chilton, Mr. Allan, Mr. Gsell, and others.

Bushnell had the clipping bound into this collection of early New York auction catalogs

This Times and Messenger article was clipped, and tipped in to a truly distinctive bound collection of early New York auction catalogs, created by the “Mr. Bushnell” of the article: Charles Ira Bushnell (1826-1880).  An attorney by vocation, and a coin collector by avocation, he was, in 1855, New York’s most advanced numismatist. Indeed, less than a week after the Flandin sale, he traveled to Philadelphia to personally take part in the auction sale of the John W. Kline numismatic collection, which was the second major numismatic sale held in Philadelphia.  In the absence of published American numismatic references, Bushnell created his own by noting the prices brought by each lot in the sales he attended, as well as the purchasers’ names.  He bound several successive sales together in his signature red Morocco over red-and-blue marbled paper sides, and autographed them in pencil with his distinctive tall, angular script. He rounded out these references by tipping in newspaper clippings about the sales, plus material like photographs of, and autographed letters signed by, the consignors.

Among the earliest in this running record of auction sales, (ex-John Lupia collection, now in the library of the author), is a single bound volume containing Bushnell’s priced and named copies of the June 6, 1855, Flandin Sale; a February 15, 1856 broadside sale by Bangs, Brother & Co. of the Daniel Groux Collection; and the numismatic addendum to the May 17, 1856, Leavitt Delisser & Co. book auction sale (the addendum offered Winslow J. Howard’s coin collection).  The Times and Messenger clipping is tipped in to the page preceding the Flandin Sale.  Interestingly, there is a clipping about the Howard collection auction tipped in to the page prior to that sale, beside which Bushnell annotated in pencil, “written by W. J. Howard.” This raises the possibility that the author of the June 25, 1855, Times and Messenger piece, who seems to have been unusually well-posted on the New York numismatic scene, might have been Bushnell himself. If so, he must have been exasperated by the paper’s misspelling of “Numismatists” and “Numismatic”, not to mention “Bushnell”, all of which he carefully hand-corrected in ink.

The catalog for the Flandin sale of June 6, 1855.

The “New York Numismatic Society” mentioned in this 1855 article predates the second NYNS by at least nine years. There is no recorded mention of the first NYNS when the second organized in 1864, so Bushnell’s NYNS must have sunk without a trace. That is, if the first iteration of the NYNS can be verified.  As it happens, we have found that confirmation. 

In 1854, John Livingston compiled Livingston’s Law Register: A Guide for Every Man of Business, and Hand-Book of Useful Information.  Printed in New York, at the office of The Monthly Law Magazine, Livingston’s tome provided, among many other lists, a compendium of “Societies and Institutions, Literary, Moral, Benevolent, and Religious, in the City of New York.”  Under this roster, on p. 458, we find the following entry: “NEW YORK NUMISMATIC SOCIETY for the collection and preservation of coins.” This terse confirmation of the Times and Messenger mention is welcome, but so far solitary.  Only one other piece of indirect confirmation has surfaced, namely a classified ad in the October 21, 1853, New York Herald, which offered for sale a collection of about 250 Greek and Roman coins.  The ad was directed “TO ANTIQUARIANS AND NUMISMATIC SOCIETIES.”  Would the seller have addressed this ad to “numismatic societies” if none then actually existed in the United States? 

The first NYNS was in being in 1854; possibly as early as 1853.  What remains unclear, though, is that which we really wish to know:   who belonged, what was accomplished, and why was it so quickly forgotten? Bushnell was clearly a member, and perhaps its motive force.  If he was indeed the author of the Times and Messenger article, possibly the others mentioned were also members.  Dr. James R. Chilton was a prominent early American coin hound, whose cabinet won laurels, if not for great rarities, at least for sheer size. His collection, sold by Bangs, Merwin & Co., on March 13, 1865, offered 3139 lots in 202 pages, making it the first of the numismatic “phone book” catalogs.  John Allan was New York’s foremost antiquarian, and one of America’s pioneering coin dealers.  The mystery man of the trio is Mr. Gsell, sometimes given as “G’sell,” whose surname appears often in 1850s priced and named coin catalogs.  Q. David Bowers, in his essential American Numismatics Before the Civil War, records his cognomen as “Charles,” but we know nothing else about him. 

No matter whose names appeared on its membership roll, however, the first NYNS distinguished itself neither by its achievements nor by its legacy.  Whatever the precise date of its expiration, whether later in 1855 or somewhat thereafter, no one remembered it—or at least thought it worthy of mention—when other numismatic societies were established.  Most telling, when the second NYNS was founded, none of its members acknowledged that it took the name of an earlier society: perhaps they were simply unaware.

This disappeared-without-a-trace aspect of the first NYNS may be attributable to Bushnell himself.  He gathered a great collection, and wrote on numismatic and (especially) Revolutionary War topics, but an extrovert Bushnell was not.  His newspaper scuffle with Augustus B. Sage in the New York Dispatch in 1857 aside, he shunned the public eye, and was not a “joiner.”  He never became a regular member of the ANAS, and when elected an Honorary Member in 1868, he politely declined, citing “overwork” as his reason.  If Bushnell was the prime mover behind the first NYNS, one could imagine that it might have met infrequently, and simply lapsed into senescence.

It seems probable that, in some unexplored archival folder, or, perhaps more likely, buried in the files of contemporary newspapers, there is more information to be found about the 1850s New York Numismatic Society.  But for now, we can say for sure that Charles Ira Bushnell was a member of the first numismatic society in the United States, which predated the NSP and the ANS by more than three years.

—Joel J. Orosz

UPDATE: Numismatic researcher John Lupia, having read the above, has provided another piece of evidence of the existence of a mid-1850s New York Numismatic Society—a price list from Frederick Lincoln indicating that he was a corresponding member of this group. John had also been aware of the Times and Messenger clipping, having at one time owned the bound volume that included it. He discusses all of this in a new essay published on his website. Thank you, John, for furthering our knowledge of this mysterious group!

—David Hill

A Correction to “Treasure (Rhode) Island”

On April 9, 2021, Pocket Change hosted a post of mine that took issue with the popularization of a theory originally published by Jim Bailey in the Colonial Newsletter in 2017. In Bailey’s article, it was argued that silver khamsiya coins of Qasimid Yemen (Fig. 1) found (increasingly, it seems) in North America—particularly in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island—are directly connected to the English pirate Henry Every and his crew after their plunder of the Mughal treasure ship Ganj-i-Sawai in 1695.

Figure 1. Qasimid silver khamsiya of al-Hadi Muhammad III dated AH 1105 (AD 1693/4) similar to coins found in New England. ANS 1971.229.3.

As part of my criticism of the theory that the coins must have come with Every’s men as they sought to escape the long arm of the embarrassed British authorities, I challenged the reading of the date on one of the find coins illustrated by Bailey in CNL—a khamsiya of the Qasimid imam Muhammad III using the laqab al-Hadi (“the Provider of Guidance”) (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Grayscale image of the Qasimid silver khamsiya of al-Hadi Muhammad III found by Jim Bailey. As published in the Colonial Newsletter 164 (August 2017), p. 4575, fig. 1.

In this greyscale image the vertical linear element in the final numeral of the date gave the impression to me and others that the date should be read as ١١٠٨ (AH 1108 or AD 1696/1697) rather than ١١٠٥ (AH 1105 or AD 1693/1694). If read as AH 1108, the coin must have been struck after the capture of the Ganj-i-Sawai and therefore could not have possibly been carried off by Every’s pirates in 1695.

Last week I was given the opportunity to see the original color images of the coin from the CNL article (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. High-quality digital image of the Qasimid silver khamsiya of al-Hadi Muhammad III found by Jim Bailey.

From these it is very clear and indisputable that the final digit of the date is actually ٥ as published by Bailey and not ٨ as I had suggested. Hopefully, it should be equally clear when comparing the final digit of this coin to the ANS specimen illustrated above how the erroneous reading came about (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. AH 1105 date comparison between the ANS specimen and Bailey’s specimen.

The linear element in the digit on Bailey’s find coin is by no means a regular feature of the Arabic numeral 5 on Qasimid coins and was the cause of the misreading of the date in the greyscale image. Indeed, it would be tempting to suggest that the numeral on Bailey’s coin might be an AH 1101 (١١٠١) date that has been recut as AH 1105 (١١٠٥) if not for the fact that khamsiyat struck by Muhammad III before AH 1105 feature the laqab al-Nasir (“the One Who Gives Victory”) rather than al-Hadi and employ a different arrangement of the Arabic legends. Coins with the al-Nasir laqab are presently known in North America from finds in Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island while those with the al-Hadi laqab have been reported from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In any case, due to this new revelation, I wish to withdraw the dating argument made in my original post and apologize to both Mr. Bailey and to readers for injecting an unfortunate chronological red herring into the discussion of khamsiyat in North American find contexts. At present, there are no known khamsiyat found in North America with Hijri dates that fall after AD 1695. The latest date on a khamsiya with a North American find context known to me at present is an al-Hadi Muhammad III issue of AH 1106 (AD 1694/1695) found in northern Massachusetts and reported in April 2021.

Despite the mistaken reading of AH 1108 for 1105, however, I still stand by my original position that we are still very much lacking in solid evidence to clearly tie the khamsiyat found in North America directly to the piratical exploits of Henry Every’s crew. At the moment, the case for Every’s men as the mechanism for the arrival of Qasimid coins in the American colonies still seems somewhat circumstantial and speculative. Unless the movement of the coins from Yemen to the New England via the slave and/or coffee trades can be entirely ruled out, or until specimens are found in an unambiguous piratical context connected to known associates of Henry Every, there must remain some element of doubt about his crew as the ultimate source of khamsiyat in North America. For the not infrequent confusion of trade and piracy and the tendency of the East India Company to paint all interlopers into its area of trade as pirates, see John Kleeberg, “The Circulation of Leeuwendaalders (Lion Dollars) in England’s North American Colonies,” CNL 152 (August 2013), 4042–4043.

Even if piracy was the sole possible means by which khamsiyat came to North America, it does not necessarily follow that the pirates responsible had to have been Every’s men. In 1980, a team of French archaeologists recovered the debris that remained of Speaker, an English pirate vessel that sank off the coast of Mauritius on January 7, 1702. Along with two gold bars and a variety of gold and silver coins, the archaeologists recovered several Qasimid khamsiyat of Muhammad III. Two of these were catalogued, but not illustrated, in Patrick Lizé, “The Wreck of the Pirate Ship Speaker on Mauritius in 1702,” The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration 13.2 (1984), 129–130, nos. 11–12 (I am very grateful to Nancy Um for bringing this article to my attention). Coin 11 in Lizé’s catalogue is an al-Nasir issue that must date to the period AD 1686/1687-1693/1694 on the basis of the laqab, while coin 12 is an al-Hadi issue described as “minted in 1697” (in need of confirmation). All of this tends to suggest that Qasimid coins with legends and dates similar to those found in North America were still available to pirates in 1702 and therefore it cannot be certain that khamsiyat with North American find contexts must have been taken as plunder in 1695. Every’s men were not the only pirates to haunt the ports of New England.          

It is hoped that ongoing study of Qasimid coins, Yemeni trade, and Indian Ocean piracy in the seventeenth century, as well as new finds in controlled archaeological excavations will together provide a more unequivocal explanation for finds of khamsiyat in North America.

Cartagena MMXXI: The International Convention of Historians and Numismatists

This past week, between December 1 and 5, the Third International Convention of Historians and Numismatists (Cartagena MMXXI) gathered in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The official medal of Cartagena MMXXI, designed by Carlos Huatuco Nanzer. Bronze, 33 mm.

Hosted by the Colombian Numismatic Foundation, the event featured 28 in-person speakers and an additional 23 virtual presentations. The event included Latin American numismatic luminaries such as Jorge Baccera León of Colombia, Jorge Proctor of Panama/Florida, Hilton Lucio of Brazil, Eduardo Dargent of Perú, and so many more. There were representatives from Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Similarly, the event was sponsored by many different organizations, several of whom are very well known even to those who may not be familiar with Latin American numismatics—such as Coin World, Heritage Auctions, PCGS, and Stack’s Bowers.

While there were a few pre-conference events (guided tours, etc.), for me, the conference opened on the evening of December 1 with a ceremony at the Palacio de la Proclamación, the freshly-restored palace where Cartagena’s independence from Spain was declared on November 11, 1811 (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. The opening ceremonies at the Palacio de la Proclamación, as some of the delegates hold the newly-released commemorative postal issue.

The palace is located deep within the fortified walls of the old Spanish fort. After the ceremony, we wined, dined, and were entertained by traditional folkloric music and dance, witnessed the launching of a commemorative postal issue, as well as the donation of an important decoration to the Naval Museum of Cartagena by Richard Caccione. There were over 140 individuals in attendance that evening.

The following four days were filled with the most up-to-date research on Latin American numismatics. The conference itself was held in a beautiful downtown resort located along the shores of the Caribbean, the Intercontinental Cartagena de Indias. The large stage and dual screens allowed for all in attendance to see everything (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Daniel Oropeza Alba, who also acted as one of two conference organizers, delivers the inaugural presentation for Cartagena MMXXI.

Furthermore, for the few of us who are not absolutely fluent in Spanish, two professional translators provided their services through a set of headphones. The level of research, the willingness that everyone had to share their work (even unpublished material), and the overall familial feeling was something that should have come as no surprise, but still made me reflect on how we can all benefit from such incredible comradery.  

In the hallway just outside of the conference doors, Colombian artist Jorge Juan Osorio Orozco offered some of his pieces. His mixed-media works consist of genuine banknotes and colored pencil, where he would extend the vignette well beyond the confines of the original note with the original source of the design. For instance, Orozco used a lithograph of the Liberator, Simón Bolívar as published by the Ramírez Brothers in the late 19th century to extend the bust of a 2,000 Colombian peso note (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. A 2,000 Colombian peso note altered by Jorge Juan Osorio Orozco into a work of art, alongside the original 19th-century lithograph that inspired the banknote design.

The results are nothing short of impressive and intriguing, as each piece was beautifully framed and matted. Orozco must have had 50 works there at the beginning of the conference, and far fewer by the last day. For those interested, he can be found on all the major social media outlets and does ship internationally.

Cartagena, in particular, was chosen for this year’s conference to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first coinage struck in the city and, as a result, all of present-day Colombia (at the time, a part of the Nueva Reino de Granada). This fact itself is a recent discovery. For decades, researchers believed that the first coinage struck in Cartagena were cob coins (known as macuquinas in Latin America) struck in gold in 1622, though the earliest-known dated pieces were minted in 1625. Recent discoveries, however, revealed that Alonso Turrillo de Yebra struck 1,600 silver macuquinas dated 1621 and shipped them to Spain for inspection by King Philip III. As fate may have it, the coins were loaded onto what became one of the most famous Spanish galleon shipwrecks of all time, the Atocha, which sank off the coast of Florida in a hurricane in 1622. Since the discovery of the wreck in 1985, only nine (9) of these 1621 macuquinas from Cartagena have been excavated (Fig. 5). Some have readable dates, some don’t—but they all come from the same set of dies. The rest are still presumably at the bottom of the sea floor.

Figure 5. One of nine known 1621 8 reales coins struck in Cartagena that helped prove that coins were struck there at that time, not 1625 as was earlier known to be true.

Again, I cannot overstate the level of research at this conference, as well as everyone’s willingness to share both published and unpublished works. I am happy to have been invited not only to this conference, but also into this group. Furthermore, that the ANS is beginning to reinsert itself back into the mainstream of Latin American numismatics (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Myself and Jorge Proctor. Although the preeminent scholar in Latin American numismatics, Jorge is willing to have fun with his topic as he dressed up as a Spanish conquistador during his presentation.

Even without our presence over the past few decades, many from the region are already well acquainted with the ANS collection (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. A bronze half real of Santander, Colombia of 1813, a coin often misattributed to Cartagena. This was one of several ANS coins that coincidentally showed themselves throughout the course of the conference (ANS 1916.20.13, gift of Howland Wood).

While there are many people that I met over the past week—far too many to name in this post—I would like to especially thank Richard Caccione, a Bronx native who has spent a considerable amount of time in Latin America, currently lives in Perú, and is a noted expert on Peruvian banknotes. Without his unsolicited email to me and his insistence that the ANS have a representative present at the Congress, none of this would have been possible. I very much look forward to the next International Convention of Historians and Numismatists, wherever the organizers decide to hold it.

Curiosities of the United States Paper Money Cabinet, Part II

If you have not read Part I of this two-part series and would like to do so, please click here.

As we continue our exploration of miscellaneous paper issues from the United States, we trek further into the world of the odd, the strange, the comical, and the confusing. Let’s dive straight in with two examples of one of the most well-known and most successful private note series ever issued: Disney Dollars.

Although perhaps more appropriately described as a type of corporate or company scrip, Disney Dollars were not meant to be issued to and used by employees—unlike other, more notorious forms of company scrip, such as those issued by lumber and coal companies, the use of which was ultimately outlawed with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Instead, Disney Dollars were meant to be used by customers at various Disney facilities, including Disney theme parks, resort hotels, merchandise stores, and food and drink venues. Despite the fact that Disney Dollars are no longer available for purchase, they are still accepted by Disney at many of those same facilities.

Obverse and reverse of a One Disney Dollar note featuring Mickey Mouse. ANS 1989.78.1

Disney Dollars were a hit from the beginning, and were exchanged at parity with the U.S. dollar. In fact, their free and easy exchange from USD into Disney Dollars and vice versa almost certainly contributed to their success, as they could be purchased at face value and spent at face value, but many Disney collectors quickly realized from the outset that it was worth holding on to at least some of these notes, either because of the potentially limited runs of certain notes and series (i.e., natural scarcity), or because their use as currency (exchanged for goods and/or converted back to USD) coupled with their eventual wear and tear and the passage of time would result in more common notes becoming scarce, or at least becoming scarce in higher grades.

This proved to be true, and although many Disney Dollars can still be purchased for relatively modest sums—even in uncirculated grades—there are many other Disney Dollars that are truly scarce, be they proof issues, condition rarities, or simply issued in very limited numbers or sold during a very limited window. Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) even grades them. To satisfy the trivia addicts out there, here are some additional fun facts about Disney Dollars:

  • The idea for Disney Dollars was conceived by Disney artist Harry Brice
  • The first Disney Dollars were issued in 1987, and the final notes issued in 2016
  • Notes were printed in denominations of $1, $5, $10, and $50
  • Various series prefixes exist, including A, B, E, D, F, and T
  • Like U.S. paper money, low and interesting serial numbers can command a premium
  • 500 Yen and 1000 Yen notes were issued for Tokyo Disneyland starting in 1988
  • Errors exist, such as the 2013 $1 101 “Dalmations” note (correct spelling: Dalmatians)
Obverse and reverse of a Five Disney Dollars note featuring Goofy. ANS 1989.78.2

Next up is an object that should be familiar to anyone who lived during the 1990s when tobacco advertising and promotional activities were less restricted than they are today: a Camel cigarettes brand One Camel Cash note, also called a C-Note. While reminiscent of the slang term for a United States $100 bill, the Camel C-Note did not have quite the same purchasing power. In fact, as of March 31, 2007, Camel Cash has had effectively zero purchasing power, as this was the expiration date set by R. J. Reynolds to redeem any outstanding Camel Cash notes. Interestingly, this is in stark contrast to Disney, who continues to accept Disney Dollars long after the last notes were produced.

Although falling somewhere between a coupon and corporate scrip, Camel Cash notes could not actually be used to buy tobacco products; rather, the owner of said notes could send away for a catalog of Camel-branded goods, then redeem the collected C-Notes on promotional products. One wonders what kind of job promotion or bonus the inventor of this advertising scheme received upon unveiling a plan to induce users of a highly-addictive product to collect enough paper notes from the repeated purchase of said product, in order to redeem them for schlocky promotional wares designed to advertise the same highly-addictive product!

The One Camel Cash note in the ANS collection features a George Washington-esque Joe Camel on the obverse (Washington did grow tobacco, after all) and a litany of instructions and disclaimers on the reverse. Of special note is Joe Camel’s “signature” which also somehow manages to incorporate the semi-subliminal image of a burning cigarette into it.

Obverse and reverse of a One Camel Cash note featuring Joe Camel. ANS 1993.125.1

In the realm of satirical (perhaps even conspiratorial) paper notes is this One Counterfeit Dollar featuring very explicit anti-United Nations sentiments on both the obverse and reverse. It is (quite clearly) not professionally printed, and was likely crafted using a combination of photocopying hand-drawn elements together with cut-and-pasted images. On the obverse we find an image of Henry Kissinger at center, along with the names “Mao Tse-Dung” and German philosopher (and founder of the original Bavarian Illuminati) Adam Weishaupt, as well as an address for a Seattle-based action group, who presumably created and distributed the note—an address that appears to be situated in Burien, Washington, otherwise known as Seola Beach.

The reverse of this note features more anti-U.N. messaging, as well as suggestions that a New World Order plot is afoot (a joint effort by both Richard Nixon and Soviet politician Leonid Brezhnev if the note is to be believed). Although no contemporary date is listed, the imagery and themes on this issue suggest that it was fabricated in the late 1960s or early 1970s, during Kissinger’s time as National Security Adviser under Nixon, and when both were pursuing a policy of détente with the Soviet Union, and rapprochement with China.

Obverse and reverse of a One Counterfeit Dollar anti-United Nations note. ANS 1998.55.1

Lastly, a colorful—if not initially confusing—paper note with a declared value of One Thursday Buck. Taking center stage is Santa Claus, holding a bag underneath a rainbow with a money tree and pot of gold at our right and his left. Satirical exclamations abound, from the E Pluribus Kiddem within the rainbow, to the Ezeemunny Certificate at the top border. The note is “signed” by both Pass De Buck, and Ham N. Eggs, the latter giving a clue as to what this note is satirizing.

On the reverse we find For Use In Bankrupting / Scrambled Eggs For California, along with a list of affected parties to this State of Confusion, and a clearer picture begins to form. Upon further investigation, this note was produced to criticize the nascent Ham and Eggs movement, which was a plan borne out of a pension movement championed by physician Francis Townsend, whose Townsend Plan and subsequent Townsend Clubs helped propel the creation of the federal Social Security program. The Ham and Eggs movement advocated for a similar old-age pension plan, but one specifically designed for California residents. Their initiative was ultimately defeated in 1938, perhaps due in no small part to these satirical One Thursday Buck notes.

Obverse and reverse of a One Thursday Buck note featuring Santa Claus. ANS 2007.28.18

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