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    Jan 20 2022

    The 1861-O “Confederate” Half Dollars

    The 1861-O half dollar is an exceptionally popular issue, with pieces variously struck under Union, Louisiana, and Confederate authority. The recovery of thousands of examples from the SS Republic shipwreck, discovered in 2003, only adds to the lore of the popular issue. Randy Wiley detailed the 1861-O half dollar varieties in the November 2005 and November 2006 editions of the Gobrecht Journal, and these two issues are likely the most referenced in the entire series. Wiley’s first article outlined the emission sequence and the 15 die marriages for this issue and presented a step-by-step attribution guide. 

    Wiley’s second article takes the leap from variety attribution toward the discovery of the coining authority for each variety. The 1887 Mint Director’s report indicated the number of pieces struck under each coining authority, and Wiley also had access to SS Republic data, which he analyzed to determine the overall distribution of the 1861-O issue by variety. Wiley notes that his final analysis is somewhat speculative, but in the end he identified two die marriages for the Union issues, seven for the Louisiana issues, and six for the CSA-struck pieces. 

    Bill Bugert picked up the thread in 2013 in his A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume IV, New Orleans Branch Mint 1853-O WA to 1861-O. This source adds easy-to-use photographs for each die pair, with high quality images depicting the various pickup points for each variety. 

    Link to the Gobrecht Journal on Newman Portal:
    Link to A Register of Liberty Seated Half Dollar Varieties, Volume IV, New Orleans Branch Mint 1853-O WA to 1861-O on Newman Portal:
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    Jan 11 2022

    Cracked Dies? No, Cracked Presses

    Most collectors, especially of earlier American coinage, are quite familiar with die cracks as evident on many examples. Die cracks are often the key to die attribution and reveal a constant struggle with die preparation and usage in the early days of the U.S. Mint. An 1882 letter, recently transcribed by Newman Portal, indicates that cracks might also be found in the Mint presses.  Philadelphia Mint Coiner O. C. Bosbyshell reported on July 25 to the Director A. Louden Snowden that cracks were present in the arch of press no. 10 in at least two places, and recommended a replacement. Bosbyshell went on to note that the damage to the massive cast iron frame was not repairable. Such simply represented the cost of coining, and there was nothing more to do than scrap the tons of metal that formed the press arch.

    Link to Bosbyshell letter regarding cracked presses:

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    Jan 06 2022

    American Numismatic Society Early Member Correspondence Digitized

    Early member correspondence of the American Numismatic Society, covering the years 1858-1899, has recently been digitized under sponsorship of Newman Numismatic Portal. In the 1858 file we see notes related to the inaugural meeting of the ANS that occurred on March 15, 1858, at the home of Augustus B. Sage, 121 Essex Place in New York City. Attending were James D. Foskett, James Oliver, Dr. Gibbs, Harry Whitmore, H. E. Hart, “and a number of others,” including Ezra Hill and J. W. Laurence. The tone of the first meeting must have been enthusiastic, for the next evening a smaller group met again, to begin drafting a constitution and bylaws.

    Link to ANS early member correspondence on Newman Portal:

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    Jan 02 2022

    Gold Dollar Saloon of Buffalo, NY Open on New Year’s Day

    Opening New Year’s Day 1870 in Buffalo, NY, the Gold Dollar Saloon lived up to its moniker, featuring a floor and bar inlaid with thousands of gold and silver coins. Coins continue as decorative items today, featured in objects ranging from toilet seat covers to lucite tchotchkes. Rich Kelly and Nancy Oliver researched the Gold Dollar Saloon and reported their findings in the August 2015 issue of The Numismatist. Said to have cost over a $100,000 at the time of its construction, the bar reputedly contained $50 “slugs” and other desiderata. 

    The New York Times reported on April 18, 1895 that the proprietor was “tired of selling liquor” and was moving to “temperance” format, following a similar movement in Chicago to make bars alcohol-free. A minor theft, not surprisingly, was reported in 1900. The contents of the Gold Dollar Saloon must surely have passed into normal numismatic channels at some point, but no mention is found on Newman Portal or other databases. 

    Link to The Numismatist on Newman Portal:

    Image: Clip from New York Times, April 18, 1895, related to the Gold Dollar Saloon in Buffalo, NY
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    Dec 26 2021

    Koenings' Reeded Edge Half Newsletter

    In 2012 Dick Graham published A Registry of Die Varieties of Reeded Edge Half Dollars, presenting a die variety analysis of the U.S. half dollars struck from 1836 to 1839. The work extended the well-known Overton guide, which covered the Flowing Hair and Bust half dollars from 1794-1836. Graham identified 56 die marriages for this short series. More recently, Jim Koenings has used Graham’s work as a starting point and has been doing in depth analysis of individual Graham numbers on a monthly basis. The most recently installment, #32 for December 2021, covers the 1838 GR-9 variety.  Collectors of the series will find this supplemental material most useful – Koenings includes additional images and hints for attributions and die states, in addition to data on recent sales and related market activity. 

    Link to Koenings' Reeded Edge Half Newsletter on Newman Portal:
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    Dec 16 2021

    Beth Deisher, In Her Own Words

    Newman Portal has released the latest installment of its interview series, Numismatic Notables. This episode features a wide ranging discussion with Beth Deisher, Coin World editor from 1985-2012. From her time in Iran as a member of the International Farm Youth Exchange to working against counterfeiters in her “retirement,” Deisher offers opinions on the evolution of coin collecting and the related media coverage over the last generation. Deisher played an important role as an advocate for coin collectors in Washington, D.C., and was instrumental in the formation of the States Quarters program and the Citizens Coin Advisory Committee. Deisher has had an insider’s view of the legislative activity related to the U.S. Mint and reveals tidbits such as Donna Pope’s crash course in numismatics upon her appointment as Mint Director in 1981. This episode was produced by Lianna Spurrier, Numismatic Marketing, and features Len Augsburger as interviewer.

    Link to Beth Deisher interview on Newman Portal:
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    Dec 14 2021

    Newman Portal Adds James C. Booth Papers

    The Science History Institute in Philadelphia holds the papers of James C. Booth, U.S. Mint Melter and Refiner in Philadelphia from 1849 to 1887. Newman Portal subsidized the scanning of this material earlier this year and this content is now available on NNP. Included are over 300 pieces of correspondence related to Booth’s activities at the Mint. 

    An 1852 letter, for example, from Booth’s brother-in-law notes “I have just perused McCulloh’s pamphlets – the last dated 5 August – and although the man has rendered himself contemptible by his charges of want of fairness and of honesty, yet I consider it incumbent on you to disprove such charges as he brings against your business capacity, by accusing you of leaving 5[?] of silver in the gold, 4/5ths of which should have been separated in the refining or partment….” This letter refers to Richard McCulloh’s pamphlets attacking Booth (published in 1851 and 1852). As Booth served in the Mint another 36 years after publication of this work, the charges seem to have not greatly threatened his career.

    McCulloh wrote yet another pamphlet in 1853, this time attacking Chief Coiner Franklin Peale, a rare document highly prized by bibliophiles and better known than the works from 1851 and 1852. All three of the McCulloh pieces are available on Newman Portal.

    Link to James C. Booth papers on Newman Portal:
    Link to Richard S. McCulloh pamphlets:

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    Dec 12 2021

    Switzerland Three Kings Medal

    Among the dealer fixed price lists archived on Newman Portal is Jeremy Bostwick’s Numismagram, a periodic presentation of historical and art medals. To our knowledge, these lists have appeared in e-periodical format only and have not been published as hardcopies. Newman Portal preserves born-digital material such as Numismagram in addition to scanning hardcopies of other publications. A recent Numismagram issue for December 2021 (#70) featured an 1894 Swiss medal presenting the three magi. 

    Bostwick’s description notes “Presenting the iconography of the Three Kings on the reverse, this medal has a festive holiday feel even though it celebrates the opening of the new church in Zürich, which took place in the summer of 1894. Nevertheless, the Three Kings (or Magi), guided by the Star of Bethlehem (or Christmas Star), are associated heavily with the Christ tradition, bearing the gifts of gold (representing earthly kingship), frankincense (representing the divine), and myrrh (representing the end of life). Three Kings' Day, also known as Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated on 6 January, which corresponds to the twelth day of the mass of Chris, and the day on which the Three Kings are to have arrived to bear their gifts to the Christ child.”

    Link to Numismagram on Newman Portal:
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    Nov 29 2021

    Collecting Jefferson Nickels From Circulation in 2019

    Recently added to Newman Portal is the October 2021 issue of the Central Ohio Numismatic Association (CONA) newsletter. CONA member Bill Kamb contributed an article on collecting Jefferson nickels from pocket change. Kamb sets the scene, “I was pleasantly surprised in the summer of 2019 when our daughter, who lives in Atlanta with her family, announced that our grandson, Easton, might be interested in coin collecting. He was 6 years old at the time. When we went there for Thanksgiving, I brought some Whitman penny and nickel books and got a few rolls of each from a bank for us to search. We had a great time and it brought back memories of when Istarted collecting as a kid in the late ‘50s.” 

    Kamb goes on to describe a search from bank rolls and change jars, and, over a period of 15 months, he was able to complete a full set after searching through $21,100 of nickels, or nearly half a million coins. The stopper was the 1943-D (not the  1950-D, as one might expect), of which only one example was found. The article includes a related image, which we are guessing is not the actual coin found!

    Link to Central Ohio Numismatic Association (CONA) newsletters on Newman Portal:

    Link to Central Ohio Numismatic Association (CONA) presentation slide decks on Newman Portal:

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    Nov 28 2021

    Anthony Paquet Dies

    Anthony C. Paquet was Assistant Engraver of the U.S. Mint from 1857 to 1864 and engraved approximately 30 medals in the U.S. Mint medal series (catalogued by Julian), in addition to working on federal coinage. Paquet’s 1861 $20 double eagle is a legendary U.S. rarity, with an example recently sold by Heritage at this year’s ANA Convention for $7.2 million. 

    The Paquet family evidently left certain dies behind, and Charles Barber wrote to Philadelphia Mint Superintendent A. Loudon Snowden on August 27, 1883, “I have examined the dies left here by the Paquet family, and respectfully report that I consider them valueless. In the case of the Trade Dollar, we have the hubs made from these dies. Therefore can make any number required. The others are old experimental dies and therefore of no value now.”

    Whether the “old experimental dies” included the famous “tall letters” 1861 $20 reverse die is a matter for conjecture, but what is certain is that today’s collectors would place for more value on the Paquet dies than did the engraver Charles Barber.

    Link to Charles Barber letter on Newman Portal:
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