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    Feb 21 2018

    Newman Portal Search: Gutzon Borglum

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for “Gutzon Borglum.” This is one of those search terms that sounds like an answer to a World Series of Numismatics question – the only problem is figuring out what the question is supposed to be. To the rescue comes the Newman Portal, and the most helpful source immediately identified is the ANS 1911 catalog of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals. Borglum is identified as an American medalist and sculptor, and several of his works are illustrated. The March 1952 issue of Kelly’s Coins and Chatter further notes Borglum as the designer of the 1925 Stone Mountain commemorative half dollar. Borglum today is of course most recognized for his role as the creator of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. While this achievement is justly celebrated, the Newman Portal remains an important resource to fill in the numismatic parts of the story.


    Link to the ANS 1911 Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals:

    Link to Kelly’s Coins and Chatter on Newman Portal:

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    Feb 21 2018

    Newman Portal Digitizes American Tax Token Society Newsletter

    As noted in last week’s E-Sylum, the ATTS Newsletter, published by the American Tax Token Society, is now available on the Newman Portal for the years 1971-2010. State sales taxes are today a routine matter with fractional cents rounded off as necessary. It was not always so. With the introduction of state sales taxes in the 1920s, the question arose of how to charge a fractional cent on, say, a ten-cent item.  The ATTS website explains the situation: “Merchants had to pay sales tax to the state on the total amount of sales made by the merchant during each day's sales. You can imagine that if the sales tax rate is 3% and a child buys a 10c piece of candy there is no way to collect the three-tenths of one cent. If you rounded down that meant that the merchant could not collect anything for the tax. If you rounded up the state was gaining 7 tenths of a cent on every 10 cent sale. You can see that if the merchant sold 100 pieces of candy he was losing 30 cents a day in tax revenues to the state, so the token was born. This allowed the merchant to take 11 cents for the first piece of candy and give change back in mills. The next time you wanted to buy a 10c candy you could present the merchant with the 10c and a token and complete the transaction. This allowed the merchant to collect the sales tax on each transaction.” Token of all kinds were produced to represent fractional cents, and these today are collected and researched by the ATTS. Thanks to John Ostendorf for his assistance with this project.


    Link to ATTS Newsletter on Newman Portal:

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    Feb 21 2018

    U.S. Coinage Ledgers for 1875-1907 Digitized at the National Archives

    Did you ever wonder where the mintage figures in the Guide Book to United States Coins come from? In most cases they’ve been ferreted out piece by piece from U.S. Mint records at the National Archives (NARA).  Walter Breen, under the sponsorship of Wayte Raymond, did much of this work in the 1950s.  Complicating the research is that there is no single source at NARA where this information is recorded. The information is where you find it, and to this end Roger W. Burdette has recently digitized six ledgers covering daily and monthly coinage reports, by Mint, for the period 1875-1906. These volumes are available on Newman Portal, and now anyone can investigate these mintage figures directly from the original source. Sharpen your calculator, and you might find a mistake in the Red Book!


    Link to U.S. Mint coinage figures from the National Archives on Newman Portal:

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    Feb 21 2018

    Newman Portal Search: Black Bess

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for the term “Black Bess.” Newman Portal identifies but a single useful source, the 1882 Annual Report of the Director of the Mint Upon the Production of Precious Metals. “Black Bess” refers to a mine in Roop County, NV, in the northwestern part of that state.  The Report states of this area “The district is claimed by men of limited means who are working in a very moderate way.”  Of the Black Bess specifically it reports “The Black Bess has a ledge 3 feet wide, ore from which has assayed as high as $2,000; but little work has been done upon it. The Luke Blackburn, adjoining the Black Bess, has a vein of about 15 inches, which is equally as rich as the latter. It has been opened by a tunnel in about 200 feet, which has not, however, struck the ledge, which it is thought will be cut in another 100 feet. Two tons of unassorted ore from this mine, worked by the Lyon Mill and Mining Company, produced $67 to the ton.” Mine names of the era are similar to those of modern thoroughbreds – chosen for good luck or distinction, or simply at the whim of the owner. Others include “Tam O’Shanter,” “Silver Wave,” “Little Emma,” etc.

    Link to Annual Reports….upon the Production of Precious Metals (1880-1909) on Newman Portal:
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    Feb 04 2018

    NNP Search of the Week: Robinson Hartford Numismatist

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for “Robinson Hartford Numismatist.” Pete Smith’s American Numismatic Biographies quickly identifies Alfred S. Robinson (1836-1878) of Hartford, CT, who commissioned copies of colonial rarities in addition to personal trade cards. From there we find mention, in a Fred Lake literature sale, of the monograph Alfred S. Robinson-Hartford Numismatist, published by the Connecticut Historical Society in 1968. Lake describes the work as a “28 page treatise on Robinson who began, in 1860, to produce copies of many of the most famous numismatic treasures-fully illustrated.” While Newman Portal does not have a copy of the monograph, we now know that it exists and that a copy can be found in the Connecticut Historical Society library. Newman Portal further identifies other pieces attribution to Robinson, such as an 1860 medal honoring Fulton’s steamboat, cataloged in Collector’s Auctions, Ltd. sale of March 1988 (lot 302). Many of the 19th century copies are well-done and today collectible in their own right, and collectors studying Robinson pieces will find extensive related information via the Newman Portal.

    Link to Pete Smith’s American Numismatic Biography database on Newman Portal:

    Link to Fred Lake literature sales on Newman Portal:

    Link to Johnson and Jensen (later Collector’s Auction, Ltd.) catalogs on Newman Portal:

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    Feb 04 2018

    Newman Portal Adds Scrip Talk

    Founded in 1972, the National Scrip Collectors Association (NSCA) is dedicated to the study of coal company scrip and tokens, and the history of coal mining companies as it relates to the usage of these items.  The NSCA issues a quarterly publication, Scrip Talk, which includes club news, original research, and member advertisements. A recent issue (Summer 2017) includes an article by David Schenkman on tokens of the Union Mining Company in Maryland. While U.S. coal production is declining, these numismatic items remain to document a significant slice of American economic history.

    Newman Portal has added Scrip Talk to its periodical section, and is grateful to NSCA president Steve Cawood, Scrip Talk editor Kevin Andersen, and NSCA members Billy Campbell and Mike Williams for their assistance.

    Link to Scrip Talk on Newman Portal:

    Link to National Scrip Collectors Association home page:

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    Jan 29 2018

    Harry W. Rapp’s Extensions to Howland Wood’s Commemorative Coinage of the United States

    In 2013, Bruce Smith described a manuscript containing Harry W. Rapp’s extensions to the 1922 Howland Wood text on U.S. commemoratives. Wood’s monograph, covering 1892-1922, was extended by Rapp to 1939. Bruce Smith has recently loaned this manuscript to the Newman Portal for scanning, and the full document is now available. Little of Harry Rapp is known, though he appears to have been quite active in the Detroit Coin Club in the 1920s and 1930s, based on club minutes published in The Numismatist. He seems to have appreciated numismatic books, as the June 1940 Numismatist notes “Harry Rapp suggested having the club list the books and other material of its library and distribute same among its members. Several good numismatic books are available in the club library and he urged members to take advantage of our ownership.”  Dealer W. David Perkins loaned Detroit Coin Club ephemera to Newman Portal some time ago, and, in their 1951 banquet program, Rapp is listed as a twenty-five year member who was awarded “honorary life membership” in that club. The extensions to the Howland Wood text represent useful information, including the legislative authority and mintages for the various commemoratives of the period. This manuscript appears to be unique, and apparently never reached publication.

    Link to Harry W. Rapp manuscript on Internet Archive:
    Link to Bruce Smith’s original note on the Harry Rapp manuscript:
    Link to ANS Digital Edition of Howland Wood’s Commemorative Coinage of the United States (1922):

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    Jan 29 2018

    Newman Portal Search: “New York Horticultural Society”

    Tokens and medals are fertile ground for numismatic research.  The fundamental questions of our discipline ask why an object was created, who created it and how manufactured, and finally how the object was used or distributed. For a series of coins these questions might have all the same answers.  For token and medals, each tends to stand on its own and each of the questions must be individually investigated. This week a Newman Portal searched for “New York Horticultural Society,” and, while the search results are helpful, there is clearly more research to do on this particular object. The user was almost certainly searching for award medals of this New York group, and a Newman Portal search identifies Presidential Coin and Antique’s Gold Medal Sale (December 1991, #51 in that series), lot 327. From there the cataloger Joe Levine does the heavy lifting:

    NEW YORK HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AWARD MEDAL, 1857. 41.2mm. Silver. Struck by Wright & Bale. Extremely Fine. Obverse inscribed: NEW YORK HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY INSTITUTED 1818 around a rayed sun shining down on a scene depicting a waterfall to the left and a pedestaled urn to the right flanked by a tree to the right and a flower to the left. The reverse contains a floral wreath surrounding PRESENTED/TO and the engraved inscription: G. GABRIELSON/FOR THE BEST/FLORAL BASKET/JUNE 17TH, 1857. Below the wreath, at the bottom is the signature, W&B N.Y. This is an extremely rare medal. Our search of 19th century auctions has revealed only one appearance, that in Chapmans' Isaac F. Wood Sale of American Medals, Lot #118. The medal there was described as "Presented 1859". NASCA's sale of May 1987, Lot #1897, contained an About VF Silver medal engraved to P.T. Quinn, Sept. 21, 1859. It is likely that this is the same medal offered in the 1894 Wood Sale. This medal realized $220. We are aware of only one other Silver medal in collector's hands. That piece is dated 1833, and is inscribed to "M Floy". 

    Levine addresses nearly every point of the numismatic inquiry.  The question of why so few were produced remains, and for that one would likely have to comb through the archives of the New York Horticultural Society. Also missing is an image of the object. Perhaps a blog reader could supply?

    Link to Presidential Coin and Antique sale #51:
    Link to S. H. & H. Chapman’s sale of the Isaac Wood medal collection:

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    Jan 22 2018

    Newman Portal Search: Earle Collection

    This week a Newman Portal searched for the George H. Earle auction sale catalog prepared by Henry Chapman in 1912. The Chapman brothers Henry and Samuel set up shop in Philadelphia in 1879, and, for reasons unknown, parted ways 27 years later. From there both continued to successfully market a number of important properties, into the 1930s. The Earle sale catalog on Newman Portal, from the Hamelberg collection (ex. Bass), is an extraordinary copy. For starters, the catalog is plated, priced and named – and these three features alone place it in the top rung of early American auction sale catalogs. It only gets better from there. This copy is Henry Chapman’s bid book, used by the firm as a permanent record of the sale.  Not all bid books were plated, and this example is exceptional as such. The number of photographic plates, 39, further indicates Chapman’s dedication in documenting the Earle cabinet. Finally, the copy concludes with delightful ephemera – news clippings, sale addenda, and a photograph of the sale itself. What did an auction sale look like in the early 20th century? This photograph tells far more than a thousand words. One of the many spectacular items in the Hamelberg library, It is hard to image a more desirable copy among the Henry Chapman series.

    Link to George H. Earle catalog on Newman Portal:

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    Jan 19 2018

    Newman Portal Search: Rothsay Cotton Countermark

    This week a Newman Portal user searched for “Rothsay Cotton.” I thought this might be a 19th century American cotton producer in the south, which turned out to a bad guess, especially since trade tokens were more common in the north. Rothsay Cotton is in fact a UK countermark, and the first related document identified by Newman Portal is an index of the Virgil Brand ledgers prepared by UK researcher Eric Hodge. This index notes a number of related issues in the Brand collection, either from Rothsay Cotton Works or Rothsay Mills, which are listed in secondary ledger #12 (p. 148).  A recent (May 2016) issue of the NI Bulletin, published by Numismatics International, contains an article on the subject by Hodge, which states “…Another Scottish cotton concern that issued countermarked dollars was the Rothsay Cotton Works. Rothsay lies about forty miles southwest of Glasgow at the head of a bay on the Island of Bute. An English engineer, James Kenyon of Sheffield, moved to Scotland to evade Richard Arkwright’s patent on his water frame. In 1779 he not only opened his new mill but employed ex. Arkwright employees that he had lured away with him…..”

    Link to Virgil Brand ledgers on Newman Portal:

    Link to NI Bulletin, May 2016, on Newman Portal:


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