Well worn Copper's Blog

26 Aug 2021

Sitting with the dead: Remembering Meriwether Lewis & his coinage

| Well worn Copper

I've lived in Tennessee for about 30 years now and today finally took a little road trip and visited the gravesite (and death site) of Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis & Clark fame. Lewis and Clark were probably the last great American explorers, and I rate them up there with Columbus, although their expedition was much more peace bearing. The events of Lewis's death are tragic. Jefferson had appointed Lewis governor of the Louisiana territory but Lewis had difficulty getting his pay and grew despondent. In 1809 he set out for Washington D.C. and stopped at a middle Tennessee farmhouse for the night. During the night Lewis shot and killed himself with his own gun. Locals buried him where he fell, and in 1848 the Tennessee legislature funded a large stone monument for his grave. The state also named the county after him. Lewis's grave is set in a quiet wooded area and when I visited it no one else was around. I stayed for about 30 minutes. As a history buff, it's always something special to visit the grave of the historically (and numismatically) noteworthy and quietly "share their company" for awhile. I wondered what he would think if he knew he had been honored on a gold dollar, a silver dollar, a statehood (Missouri) quarter, and was the subject of four nickels, not to mention numerous appearances on currency and medals. Someone had left a bottle of whiskey (for him I suppose) and a sealed letter addressed to "Captain Lewis". I thought that was kind of classy. I then went back to my car and fished a Westward Journey nickel out of the console, and left it on the stone rail, hoping to start a new tradition. Rest easy, Captain Lewis.

02 Aug 2021

Fantasy Coinage

| Well worn Copper

I occasionally like to take a left turn and go down untraveled roads, always hoping to be surprised. One area of collecting that is always different involves fantasy coins. While wandering around the internet I discovered a small private family-run mint in Arkansas called Shire Post Mint. They engrave their own dies and strike their own coin and medals. What's interesting is they strike them on vintage coin presses, and even have a couple of old screw presses around. From the looks of it, I'd like to work there for a week or two. They have their hand in quite a few things, such as fantasy coins, medals, keychains and jewelry. Their fantasy coinage looked interesting and I picked up a set of fantasy Nouvelle-France (New France) pieces. The back story being if King Louis XIV did more with the Louisiana territory, that this is what his coinage could have possibly looked like. What makes them cool is they're struck one at a time using hand engraved dies, so they even look from the period. I have a few fantasy pieces from Daniel Carr's Moonlight Mint as well. Fantasy coinage is fun and interesting, but I strictly keep to copper pieces. Silver and gold pieces can get pricey, and there's no real aftermarket here. As I said before, this is just a fun diversion, but not an investment. Enjoy.

21 Jul 2021

Christmas In July - NGC Re-Holders

| Well worn Copper

It always feels like Christmas when you receive your NGC submissions back. I received mine today, 57 days after sending them out, but always worth the wait. All 15 submissions were simple re-holders. I thought that since the entire submission was re-holders that my order would be sped up, but like everyone else I had to wait in line. I don't like the old holders that hug or "constrict" the coin, and prefer the edge-view holders which allow the coin to stand out by itself. Most of the coins in this submission were foreign, or World, as NGC states on the paperwork. I also included a 1936 York commemorative half dollar because it was the only coin in my Classic Commem Series set that wasn't in an edge-view. An interesting point when submitting NGC pieces for re-holder is you can mix U.S. coins with World on the same submission form (and the only time you will get away with it). Quite a few of the old holders had appearance issues with them, such as scratches and old adhesive residue. It seems Heritage Auctions typically stuck a label with the lot number on the back of the slab. This is unattractive and harder to peel off the longer it remains there. Not sure if they still do it, but I hope Heritage stops. The bulk of the re-holders were world patterns. I have yet to crack into U.S. patterns because of the prices, but world patterns are much more affordable and just as interesting. Three of the pieces were 1996 Romania Olympic patterns in copper and brass ring-nickel center. One was a piefort, which you could never see in the old holder, but looks stunning in it's new holder. In the end, I chalked this submission up to collection maintenance, although I'm sure the new attractive holders will help when I sell them in the future. Re-holdering a NGC coin costs $12 per slab, and it's worth maxing out the submission form's 15 pieces when you think about it. Either way, I'm glad to have my babies back after two months.

03 Jul 2021

Freaks & Errors DVD: Stamp Collecting Today, and Yesterday.

| Well worn Copper

Back when I was growing up, stamp collecting had always been considered something of a "sister' to coin collecting. You could go into a hobby shop and find coins and stamps being sold next to each other. While stamp collecting has dramatically decreased, it still has it's enthusiast's. "Freaks & Errors, A Rare Collection," is all about those who have chosen to remain stamp collectors in the long run. You are introduced to major dealers. You also meet major collectors, such as the Louis Eliasberg of stamp collecting, who has the only complete set of U.S. postage stamps. There are great auction tales, and the guy who once bought a $150,000 stamp and hid it from his wife (I can relate to that). Most importantly it's about the love and history of collecting something that not everyone understands, and how it has enriched their lives. As a numismatist, I understand where these men (and women) are coming from. If someone ever produces a film like this about coin collecting, I hope they treat it with the same respect that was done here. Collectors of all sorts would probably find this documentary very enjoyable. It runs 95 minutes, and was released in 2017. As one collector succulently put it, "You don't go to a stamp show just to buy stuff. You go to meet other collectors." Well said.

25 Jun 2021

Crazy Money for Continental Currency at a JFK Auction

| Well worn Copper

Last week I picked up a copy of a 2005 auction catalog by Sotheby's. The catalog, titled "Property from Kennedy Family Homes," included household items from JFK's homes in Hyannis Port and Martha's Vineyard, amongst others. It included trivial everyday items like drinking glasses to contemporary sofa's. Among the listings was lot number 276, "a collection of four currency notes." The 4 notes were Continental Currency in average circulated condition. Two of the notes were cancelled. They had no provenance and been put in a frame. The pre-sale estimate was $300-500, but amazingly the hammer fell at $4,500! It's astounding to see what something went for just because it hung on a wall somewhere in one of JFK's homes. This was the sole numismatic lot in the entire catalog, so surely JFK was not a closet numismatist. I'm surprised they didn't dig into the sofa cushions to find pocket change and try to sell that too. Stuff like this may sell on Park Avenue, but good luck getting your $4,500 back in your local coin shop.

06 Jun 2021

1915 $50 Pan-Pacific Commemoratives; Forever Out of Reach

| Well worn Copper

Now that I have completed a set of Classic U.S. Commemoratives in silver, I have not even remotely considered chasing down a set in gold. The one reason being that I would never be able to complete it. The main obstacle of course, are the 1915 Panama -Pacific $50 round and octagon pieces. These coins are out of reach of the average collector today. But they were also out of reach of average collectors when issued back in 1915. One of the main reason U.S. commemoratives stuck with the half dollar because was it was affordable, even when given the average surcharge of 50 cents over face value. So I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of the U.S. Mint when they decided to issue a $50 piece. When adjusted to inflation, $50 in 1915 was valued at $1,322 in 2021. And since these coins were issued at $100 each, that $100 was adjusted to $2,644 in today's dollars. Try to imagine the mint issuing a $1,500 face value coin today, and offering it to collectors for $3,000! Any takers? That's pretty much what collectors were faced with back then. According to The Numismatist, there were about 5,000 serious coin collectors in the United States in1915. Searching thru pocket change for 1909-S VDB's were still the big thing, especially to younger collectors. $50 gold pieces were a sure way to scare off future collectors, but luckily it didn't hurt the hobby. I recently read Q. David Bower's book on the History of U.S. Gold Coinage and was amazed to discover average collectors did not collect $20 Double Eagles prior to 1933, because the face value was too great to to put aside for a piece. I guess what brought all of this to my attention are the current problems with the Mint's 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollars. Sometimes it seems that while the mint is pursuing the want's and need's of collectors, sometimes it also slams the door on their foot.

10 May 2021

1956 Franklin Medal by Laura Gardin Frazer

| Well worn Copper

I picked up a copy of "The Medals Of Franklin" (Greenslet & Schenkman) which was published by TAMS in 1993. There is a medal by Laura Gardin Frazer which was struck at the U.S. Mint in 1956 in bronze and silver versions. First: It's a beautiful medal. Second: It's by Laura Gardin Frazer! I haven't seen this medal until now, and am unable to locate an example. Would anyone have any information about it? It reads "Medal of the Congress" on the obverse and "Wise and Good Men are the Strength of a Nation" on the reverse. Mrs. Frazer was a national treasure, and anything touched by her is worth looking into.

09 May 2021

International Nickel Pattern and an NGC Crossover

| Well worn Copper

A few months ago I purchased a 1964 International Nickel Company private pattern. International Nickel was a private company that made a noteworthy effort to try to secure different alloy compositions from the U.S. Mint during the 1965 change from silver coinage to clad. They went as far to secure the services of former chief engraver Gilroy Roberts, who engraved a highly professional obverse and reverse design for presentation purposes. In the end International Nickel's efforts were in vain, and the mint went with their own cupronickel composition. While these pieces are officially private patterns,they make up part of the pattern story from the 1960's, and are quite affordable compared to official mint struck patterns. This piece was encapsulated by ANACS when purchased and graded MS64. The slab was undersized, and when stored in a NGC storage box, seemed to disappear. I sent it in to NGC for a crossover and when it came back it not only looked better, but they had graded it a MS66! Needless to say, the crossover fee was well worth it. NGC also included Burdette numbers on the slab, while ANACS had listed the old Pollock numbers. Andrew Pollock's pattern book came out int he 1990's, Burdette's book was published in 2019, and is superior as well as a great read. (The title is: Private Pattern and Related Pieces: International Nickel & Gould Incorporated by Roger W. Burdette) All International Nickel pieces are scarce, and expect to pay somewhere between $300-450. Until I someday obtain an official U.S. Mint pattern, this one will do nicely.

30 Apr 2021

"Treasure in The Cellar" Book

| Well worn Copper

Found this during a search of coin books and had to have it. It's about two boys who found a bunch of gold coins while playing in a basement of an old house back in 1934. It goes into detail about what happened to the kids and their fight to legally claim the coins, as well as the claims of others, such as previous owners and tenants. Finding a cache of gold coins was every kids dream, it seems, although I'm 59 and I still dream it. Leonard Augsburger is the author and it was published (paperback) by the Maryland Historical Society in 2008.

26 Apr 2021

Regrets? I've Had a Few. A Story of Seller's Remorse.

| Well worn Copper

Did you ever have something in your collection that you sold for whatever reason, only to live to regret it? Well, this is my story. Years ago I happened to come into a pair of plaster models for Skylab medals which were issued by Medallic Art Company back in the early 1980's. They were on eBay (don't ask me how I found them, I don't remember) and I bought the pair for about $60. After keeping them out of the way and up in the closet, I sold them, mainly because I was afraid they'd start to crumble or accidentally break (they were plaster after all). Since then I realized I'd probably never come across original plasters ever again, and now regret selling them. The real interest was how they were a part of the medal making process. Believe it or not, it took a while to find a buyer for them. I even put them in a exonumia auction but they failed to get any bids. The lesson here is: sometimes the oddest stuff in your collection is also the coolest. If anyone else out there has regrets, or stories of seller's remorse, feel free to share. After all, misery loves company.


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