And Now A Word From John Kraljevich…

1834 Half Cent obvMany of you are probably already familiar with John Kraljevich. John is a professional numismatist, researcher, and cataloger specializing in early American coinage and ephemera. In addition he is a very entertaining individual. If you haven’t visited John’s website, http://jkamericana.com, you are truly missing out on an excellent place to land for an afternoon.

In the April 28, 2008 issue of CoinWorld John wrote an article entitled “Understanding Context”. I can remember thinking how much this article mirrored my own philosophy of coin collecting, and how much more eloquently John explained it than I could. John has graciously allowed me to reprint that article here, a perfect fit for Numistories. Thanks John!

“Archaeologists are obsessive about context. While an object may be interesting, when divorced from its context even the best object is but a stepchild. In archaeological terms, context means all the stuff that surrounds an object – where in the ground it was found, what that patch of ground has to do with the patches of ground around it, the depth of the find and thus the approximate era of its deposit, and more.

Collectors tend to be of a different mind – it’s all about the object. A coin is to be enjoyed because of, for lack of a better term, its “coinness” – its condition and designs and legends and metal and color and everything else collectors might enjoy about a coin. A story is nice, but the vast majority of collectible coins  – even those from the historically rich early American era – tell only a brief story.

Through my own collecting and interaction with collectors, I’ve found that placing a bit of context with the coins immeasurably enriches the objects.

The most obvious context is the broad historical narrative surrounding them. Knowing about the provisions in the Articles of Confederation allowing Connecticut to coin its own coppers, knowing about the proportion of British halfpence in circulation, and understanding the profit-center economics of coining underweight coppers all add to the story. Having a “hook” with a human connection makes the story even better, such as knowing that the Connecticut copper may well have been struck with copper misappropriated from the federal government and originally intended for the production of Fugio coppers.

Such stories make the coin a bit more alive, make it into a genuine historical bookmark allowing the owner to open the correct page in the long saga of American history.

What kind of stuff can collectors of early American numismatic items place with their coins to further provide historical context?

Some collectors are fond of collecting almanacs, particularly those that state the value of one type of coin in reference to another. While we seek to uplift our coins, sometimes returning our coins to their natural habitats as low-down, dirty pocket change make their history come truly alive. If you can, read Colonial-era newspapers and other contemporary documents. Seek out other objects that may further shed light on the world your coins inhabited.

Seeing the context can make your coin collecting become much more fun and rewarding.

A Numistories Quiz and Giveaway!

R8 q113

 

Hugh Bodell is a friend of mine who creates quizzes for publication in the Early American Coppers (EAC) Region 8 newsletter for which I write. He has graciously allowed me to reproduce one of his quizzes here for the first  Numistories Giveaway! Here’s how it works:

Have a look at the above coin and answer the following questions:

1. This is:

a) an early date

b) an over date

c) a draped bust

d) all of the above

2. What variety is this?

3. What hair style is this?

Whoever submits the correct answers by March 15th wins issues 256 through 261 (all the issues from 2010!) of the EAC  publication Penny-Wise. Each issue runs around 60 pages and is full of excellent articles on colonial and early American copper coinage. It’s a great introduction to the world of EAC. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn from the pool of correct submissions.

Simply fill out the form below and submit your answers before 3/15/13. Good luck!

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your Answers

 

Counterstamped Coins – The References

Ever since I brought up the topic of counterstamped (or countermarked) coins in my earlier blog post, Counterstamped Coins – Twice The History, the responses, questions and comments have flooded in. Apparently there is a large following of this very interesting sub-genre of collecting, and a severe lack of material on the subject. At least, that’s what I understand from the responses that I’ve received. Counterstamped coins were never a focus of my own collecting. They were always more of a curiosity, something occasionally encountered at a show or shop, an enigmatic circle of copper or silver that someone long ago put their name or business to in an effort to drum up some business.

When I acquired my old Sloop Halfpenny it lay in my collection for quite some time before the research bug bit me and I began searching for T.F. Haywood. The inspiration came from an article by Q. David Bowers which appeared in “The Token: America’s Other Money”, a collection of essays published by the American Numismatic Society in 1994. Bowers’ 48 page contribution entitled “Two Coins In One: Large Cents With Interesting Counterstamps” was the only information I had found dealing with these interesting artifacts. When the responses started coming in regarding the posts I had written about counterstamps, I knew many people would probably appreciate some direction in their pursuit of more information on the topic. Here’s what I’ve found. Happy hunting!

1. American and Canadian Countermarked Coins by Gregory C. Brunk

This is THE countermark reference. When you find a counterstamped coin for sale by a reputable dealer, you find a reference to Brunk. A hard to find reference, most easily found in your local library. Copies can occasionally be found on Amazon or eBay. If you are having particular difficulty locating a copy, contact publisher Rich Hartzog at exonumia.com. Historical information and a comprehensive price guide are features of the newest edition. Also check for the title “Merchant and Privately Countermarked Coins: Advertising On The World’s Smallest Billboards”.

2. Merchant Counterstamps on American Silver Coins by Maurice M. Gould

A short, descriptive volume on the counterstamps common on early American and Spanish silver coins.

3. World Countermarks on Medieval and Modern Coins: An Anthology by Gregory C. Brunk

An excellent hardcover anthology, 400 pages in length, showcasing articles from the venerable publication “The Numismatist”. If you are a true counterstamp addict, or just a newbie wanting all the relevant backgrounf information on this subject, dive into this one!

4.The Token: America’s Other Money, edited by Richard G. Doty, Coinage of the America’s Conference #10

This is a sweet little hardback with essays by many of the greats of numismatics covering topics from encased postage advertising to advertising tokens and counterstamps. The pertinent essay by Bowers begins on page 65 and runs for the next 48 pages, shedding light on many aspects og the counterstamp how, why and who.

The historical implications of these coins is overwhelming. Be sure to read my adventure in discovering the identity of T.F. Haywood in my previous post, link provided above. If you truly want to broaden your collecting horizons, this area of numismatics is for you!

5 More Essential Books for Your Colonial Coin Library

If you enjoyed part 1 of this post last month, then be warned that we’re about to get even more esoteric. We covered some great general references in part 1 and now it’s time to look at some specific attribution guides for specific coin series’. In the world of eBay these guides can be very beneficial in scoring rare varieties at great prices. Knowledge IS power!

Also be warned that some of these books are difficult to locate. Where possible, I have provided links to the sites where you might find them available, but because of their very limited printings, they typically disappear quickly.

1. New Jersey Coppers by Michael Demling

I’m very partial to New Jersey coppers. This book has been an incredible help to me over the last year. Mike Demling’s attribution technique and large photos make this volume a huge improvement over the Maris guide which was published back in 1881. Long overdue, you can’t find a better guide to this fascinating series. Click on the above title for a review and ordering info.

2. A Historical Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey by Edward Maris

Also known as “The State Coinage of New Jersey” in recent reprints, this was the first ever numismatic publication on the coppers of New Jersey. Originally published back in 1881, the volume has gone through many versions but is very difficult to track down. Though somewhat overshadowed by Michael Demling’s new book, Maris’ effort is very interesting for its historical value and huge attribution plate depicting 140 obverse and reverse combinations.

3. The Copper Coins of Vermont and Those Bearing the Vermont Name by Tony Carlotto

Unfortunately, this is one volume I don’t own. What I can say is that Tony Carlotto is a highly respected member of the Colonial Coin Collector Club, or C4, and at 218 pages, this book is considered THE definitive guide to Vermont coppers.

4. The State Coinage of Connecticut by Henry C. Miller

This one is tough to track down but the above site link occasionally has the hardback version in stock at a great price. Miller allows the Connecticut copper lover to make sense of the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of varieties through identification of the many odd and interesting punctuations between words in the obverse and reverse legends. A must have if you’re into Connecticuts!

5. The Copper Coins of Massachusetts by Hillyer Ryder

Originally published in 1920, this short 11 page guide can be found as a decent reprint. As the first American coins to be designated as “cents” (and half cents) this is a neat series with some interesting varieties.

Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents

In last week’s post, “An 1809 Half Cent from eBay“, I mentioned as my attribution guide “Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents”. Published in 1983 and weighing in at almost seven pounds (!), this book is an excellent update to the original half cent book by Roger S. Cohen, “American Half Cents, the Little Half Sisters”.

The main strength of this book is of course the illustration and description of each known variety, organized by date and cross referenced to earlier works. Each variety commands multiple pages and plates. Not only are the variety markers described but die states are also illustrated along with easy to follow descriptions. Breen also provides rarity ratings for each variety and die state, condition census information, and auction appearances for the finest known specimens.

Breen’s chapters on minting technology, the literature that was published prior to this book, and the history behind the half cent are excellent reading, even if some of the information is out of date. Breen wrote in a very readable and conversational style, to the point that you can envision a sly sideways glance that would probably follow a particular statement.

For all its positive points there are a couple of drawbacks. Breen’s habit of speculating when source material is lacking or absent is apparent, though this doesn’t detract from the attribution portion of the book. In addition, the auction records and rarity ratings are somewhat dated. One needs to keep in mind that this book was published almost 30 years ago. Subsequent discoveries and new attributions change these statistics over time.

All in all, “Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States Half Cents” is an outstanding attribution guide and an entertaining read. It’s also one of the more affordable numismatic volumes at around $50 for a new hardcover copy. If your interest in these fascinating early American coins is new, or if you are a long time collector, this book should be the foundation of your half cent library.

 

EAC 2011: A Big Thank You To All My New Friends

This past week my wife, Wendy, and I traveled to Portland, OR for the 2011 Early American Coppers Convention. This was the first opportunity we have had in the last 8 years to vacation together sans children. I had some misgivings that Wendy would enjoy an outing that was primarily a coin convention since she really has no interest in coins. But through the efforts of so many fellow members, and the wonderful hospitality extended to us both, we look forward to next year’s convention in Buffalo, NY with equal anticipation, if nothing more than to reconnect with our new friends.

We arrived Monday evening and had a quick, easy ride on Portland’s Max Light Rail to the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. Let me just say that I have never slept better in any hotel in my life! With a few days to go until the convention, Wendy and I headed downtown on Tuesday for a leisurely self guided tour of the city’s various pubs and eateries (once again thanks to Max Light Rail). Davis Street Tavern was the first stop, Kell’s Irish Pub, Powell’s Book Store (pack light, you’re hauling home some books!), and then on to Henry’s Tavern. Hats off to Kell’s! Fish and chips, lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, beer I can’t get in PA, ’nuff said!

Wednesday featured an outstanding 9 mile hike through Silver Falls State Park courtesy of Jerry Bobbe. Harry and Phyllis Salyards struck up a conversation with us on the bus and never hesitated to stop and talk with us throughout our trip. I lost count of all the waterfalls but I’ll never forget the lunch of pastrami sandwiches and the most amazing trail mix ever, eaten in a cave behind an enormous waterfall. Thanks Jerry, Larry, and Ricky for shepherding us slow computer geeks out of the ravine and up 271 steps!

Thursday was kicked off by a grading and counterfeit detection seminar by Steve Carr and Doug Bird. Wendy sat this one out but I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to learn about EAC grading and actually grade and compare 31 Half and Large Cents. I sat next to Bill Eckberg, the Region 8 administrator, who was very friendly and forthcoming with his information. At the kickoff reception that night, Wendy and I met Brad and Dee Vries. Brad, who had several coins consigned to the Saturday auction, showed us a refrigerator magnet he made out of a damaged 1794 Large Cent. How cool?

Friday was spent on the bourse lusting after coins I had no chance of owning (yet). I met too many big names to list but every one of them had time for my questions. Jack Robinson, you are a gentleman. I was  short a little cash to purchase the new CQR, yet you said, “Go ahead, I’m sure I’ll catch you.”, and then you threw in two back issues just for reference! And Jack Beymer, back in 1977 or so you were my first mail order purchase, a 1868 three cent nickel, and yet you treated me like an old friend!

Out of all the educational seminars, I only managed to attend one. Buell Ish, from the Colonial Coin Collectors Club, gave a great talk on how to form an interesting New Jersey type collection. The seminar was well attended and Buell stuck around afterwards to speak with any individuals who had questions or comments. Buell also moderated the CCCC meeting Saturday morning, a small meeting but very enjoyable. His seminar will probably be the topic of another upcoming post (with permission of course).

It was also Friday that I set my sights on several coins at the lot viewing for the Saturday auction. 12 coins met my criteria but my wallet didn’t meet theirs! That evening Wendy and I attended the EAC dinner in honor of author John Wright. John’s stories entertained and educated us all, even Wendy and the other wives who tolerate us self proclaimed numismatists, a better term for the obsessive compulsive basket cases we really are!

Saturday Rob Norvich and his wife Nikki treated us to a waterfall tour (by bus) located in the Columbia River Gorge. One word describes Oregon’s forests: primeval. At any time you fully expect a Velociraptor to step out onto the trail. It’s amazing. And once again everyone on the tour treated us like old friends, even though this was our first EAC convention.

The Saturday night auction was exciting to say the least. Out of those 12 lots I had marked in my catalog, I ended up with 3. Lot #7, a 1786 NJ copper, quickly fell into my hands, followed by a beautiful 1834 Half Cent, and a 1800/79 Large Cent in VG. Look for future posts about the history of these coins here!

Sunday arrived and the convention came to an end. I caught John Wright and his wife Mabel after the Annual Meeting and purchased a copy of John’s book from him. We exchanged email addresses and John took a look at my acquisitions from the previous night. After looking at my 1800/79 Large Cent John told me I have a good eye. Coming from John, I couldn’t have asked for a greater compliment!

A special thanks to Bim Gander and his wife Cindy. Bim, who organized the convention and now serves as the club’s VP, met me in the elevator Tuesday night and made it a point to inquire numerous times as to how Wendy and I were enjoying ourselves throughout the week. I look forward to becoming more involved with this wonderful club in the future and hope that our experiences serve to drive more interested souls to join EAC.

Doing Some House Cleaning

The last few days have been taken up by site maintenance rather than new posts and for this I do apologize. In an effort to keep Numistories fresh I felt it was necessary to add some new things and update a few others.

You’ll notice the addition of several links to other websites on the blogroll to the right. These are great sites to catch up on what’s current in the world of numismatics, with varied content and daily updates. Be sure to check them out. Seriously!

There have also been many new additions to the “Resources” pages. The book titles in these categories are considered the standard references for these topics. Click on the title and you will be taken to their respective pages at Amazon.com. This is a great place to pick up these titles, many of which are very hard to find otherwise. As I acquire them in my own library I will provide reviews. For the record, Numistories now holds the #4 spot on Google for the search “The Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins”! Woo hoo!

That brings me to shameless self promotion. I’ve joined coinnetwork.com, another great info site, to promote Numistories in the coin bloggers group. Soon you’ll also be able to follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Next on the “to do” list is the final installment on John Hull’s Massachusetts coinage. Look for it on Monday as we return to our regular schedule!

I’m Not Dead…

Just when you make up your mind to do something life has a way of throwing a wrench into the middle of your plans. After resolving to post here consistently and devote more time to maintaining and adding content, the day job escalated into a day and night job. We lost an assistant manager to a neighboring store and it fell to me and another manager to pick up the slack. Finally the vacant position has been filled and so the burden has begun to lift.

Even after a few months of absence, it’s so encouraging to see that visitors are still finding my site. Hopefully I haven’t driven off too many regulars by my silence. That being said, I’m off to northwestern Pennsylvania for a much needed week in the wilderness. When I return from recovering my sanity (what little I initially had) the updates will resume! My computer nerd wife says I need an “About Me” page and since so many people seem to enjoy the posts on early copper and colonial coinage, I believe more on that topic will be forthcoming. In the meantime, thanks for watching! Tune in next time, same bat-time, same bat-channel!