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The E-Sylum (6/16/2013)

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Last weekend was a challenging one for The E-Sylum. Knowing I would be away over the weekend I worked hard to have a complete issue ready to publish Friday night. But our mail servers weren't working for me - there was a residual problem from the service company's move to new servers. I notified some NBS officers and frequent contributors and tried all weekend to get help from Tech Support. Their primary email technician was travelling too, and it was Wednesday before I was able to finally publish that issue.

On Tuesday evening I attended a dinner meeting of my Northern Virginia Numismatic Society club, Nummis Nova. It was a sad occasion, having just lost our frequent guest and friend Dr. Richard Doty.

Lenny Goldberg was our host at Pucinella's Italian restaurant in McLean, VA. I arrived around 6pm and people were already beginning to arrive. We had a separate dining room downstairs. I took a seat between Eric Schena and Gene Brandenburg, a wine connoisseur who clearly ended up in the wrong restaurant. As he picked selections from the printed wine list, it felt like the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch - every item he picked was out of stock. Eventually the waiter brought out four of the bottles they DID have on hand, and Gene picked two of the least bad options. I shared one, and neither of us were impressed. Luckily we had lots of numismatic companionship to make the evening a success. Attending were me, Len, Gene, Eric, Wayne Herndon, Ron Abler, Tom Kays, Mike Packard, Jon Radel, Joe Levine, Dave Schenkman, Julian Leidman, Aaron Packard and Steve Bishop.

National Oyster Bank One Dollar front National Oyster Bank One Dollar back
First National Oyster Bank note

Among the first things passed around the table were some paper items belonging to Eric Schena. He writes:

In keeping with the evening's theme of food and drink (sans Chuck E. Cheese tokens), I brought a $1 note from the so-called "First National Oyster Bank" from Monaskon in Lancaster County, VA. The lower denominations are seen every now and again, but the $1 is somewhat scarcer, though a very small number have turned up lately. I have never seen an issued example. It's listed in the Jones/Littlefield Virginia obsolete book (PM60-08 as a 6F) and also the Vlack book on advertising notes (Vlack 4300), which does not list the 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, or $2 notes. I am trying to dig up more information on this rather enigmatic Northern Neck institution.

National Savings Systems 50 cents front National Savings Systems 50 cents back
National Savings Systems 50 cent cash savings check

National Savings Systems One Dollar front National Savings Systems One Dollar back
National Savings Systems 1 dollar cash savings check

Eric adds:

I also brought a pair of somewhat mysterious Maryland scrip items: 50¢ and $1 National Savings Systems "cash savings checks" issued by the Cumberland Savings Bank of Maryland. The notes are copyrighted 1915 by the National Savings Systems Company of Harrisburg, PA and bear interest up to July 1918. I have so far not seen any other items like these, nor have I been able to find any more info on National Savings Systems. I brought them since there were a few Maryland numismatists present, but no one seems to have seen anything like them. Anyone else seen these things before? Did they function like Postal Savings System certificates from roughly the same era?

Somehow Eric and I got to talking about early computers and I recommended three books I've read recently:

  • Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson
  • The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner
  • Tubes by Andrew Blum

I’m partial to The Idea Factory since it's about Bell Labs and I worked there at the beginning of my career. All three are good reads. Tubes is about the hardwire connections making up the internet, their history and the people currently taking care of them. It’s actually very interesting.

Tom Kays can always by counted on for interesting exhibits. He passed around a case containing a nice group of circulated U.S. colonial coins, and a copy of Dave Bowers' Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and early American Coins. One of the more interesting pieces was a Fugio cent he'd been unable to attribute using the book. After the meeting he sent images of the coin to Mike Packard for assistance. To writes:

He found it at Stack's online. Q. David B. goofed. The obverse image of the Newman 4E in his pretty Whitman Encyclopedia is wrong. I do have a 4E according to Mike. Good to know.

Fugio-a Fugio-b
Tom Kays' Newman 4E Fugio

Lot 6771 Fugio 4-E obverse Lot 6771 Fugio 4-E reverse
Stack's 1787 Fugio Newman 4-E

To view the complete lot description, see: Lot #6771. 1787 Fugio Copper. Club Rays. Newman 4-E, W-6685. (

Tom adds:

Anyway, it gave me a thrill to have a colonial coin not listed in the Whitman / Bowers Encyclopedia, if even for an evening. Now I am waiting for the EAC Grading Guide to come out so I can figure out for myself what the most discriminating copper graders would agree it rates. I guess you can’t believe everything written in books, like we can the Internet.

Tom's joking about the Internet. I think. Anyway, I asked him how he assembled the collection. He writes:

Long story. In 1915 my grandfather and his older brother were fed up with cold winters in Ohio, and so they took off on foot to hike the Appalachian Trail down to the southern end and kept going. The left coast of Florida always seemed nice to him after that.

In 1967 Florida land was being purchased by Walt Disney on the QT. My grandfather wanted to buy a parcel down there too and hit upon the idea of roll searching for silver coins, in the hopes they would one day be worth more than face. He had me doing some looking back in the late 1960s, when 4 to 7 silvers were found on average in every roll and 40% was thrown back in the hopes of better.

In 1972 he cashed in and bought his ten acres of sand with silver going for about 1.6 times face. I began “stacking” as he had taught me, on a much smaller scale. Things went real well through the 1970s until the Hunt brothers cornered the market. Silver jumped from 25 times face to near 50 times and then the silver balloon turned to lead, dropping down to around 3 times face at the bottom. It was then I learned not to buy and hold bullion. You buy and sell bullion. You buy and hold rare coins.

I bought a pair of odd variety Fugios in an auction in 1980 and kept going gathering an inexpensive colonial type set, per the front pages of the Red Book. Some of those coins have never been attributed till this last weekend, when I matched them up with the Easy Finder’s Guide in QDB’s Encyclopedia. I still haven’t gotten through the 1787 Connecticut coppers, as they most all look alike to me. Heresy.

Steve Bishop brought a photo mosaic of hobo nickels he admired on eBay. Tom Kays writes:

I think they are undervalued, and some of the modern master carvers are doing wonderful little, URS-1 masterpieces.

With all the activity, I somehow managed to miss a group of token passed around by Aaron Packard. So I asked him for some more information. Neat tokens, and great stories. This is why I've always loved collecting tokens. Be sure to follow the links to his articles for the full stories.

Frank B. Butler's Palace Market - St. Augustine Florida


He writes:

The first were three emissions from Frank B. Butler of St. Augustine Florida. Frank Butler came from very modest beginnings in Georgia and as a young adult moved to St. Augustine. There he learned the Grocer's trade, saved his money, and opened his own Grocery. With the success of his Grocery business he was able to establish a multitude of other business ventures.

Butler was an African American. I found his story compelling because of his humble beginnings, the era, and because it is less frequent to encounter numismatic stories featuring African American merchants. Butler's tokens are patent scrip (Ingle system).

I wrote an article about Butler and his tokens. It appeared in the May 2013 edition of the Florida Token Society's quarterly newsletter 'TokeNews.' The article in its entirety can be found here:

Here's another token issuer, with a couple interesting varieties.

Smith & Wick's Canning Co. of Baltimore, Maryland



Aaron writes:

The second was an emission from the Smith & Wick's Canning Co of Baltimore MD. Smith and Wick's (a partnership) were very innovative for their day -- not only for their canning processes, but also their ability to reach out to agricultural sources and organize bulk-supply agreements.

For example, Smith & Wick's ventured to The Bahamas, and were able to negotiate a continuous supply of pineapples. This agreement enabled them to offer the American public a steady supply of canned pineapple fruit. Until that time, it was a fruit not frequently enjoyed by many Americans.

The story about Smith & Wicks can be found here:

My time at the meeting was truncated, as I had to leave at 8:30 to pick up my son from his basketball practice. But it was a great evening as always, with a great bunch of folks. Many thanks to Eric, Tom and Aaron for contributing to this article.

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