A Free Coke

Token for a free bottle of Coca-Cola in 1915-16

In my quest to find different and fun items for my business inventory, I seem to be tripping over some interesting numismatic samples. Recently, I purchased a collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia. Basically, if they can print, paint, mold, or stamp “Coca-Cola” on something, it is in this collection. It has everything from the mundane foreign-labeled bottle, including one from Bosnia, up to a 1950s-round metal advertising sign.

As I was sorting through the collection, I found a frame with an octagonal token “Good for one free bottle” of Coca-Cola dated 1915-1916. The token is in pretty decent shape although has been well handled. The problem is that it appears to be glued to the backing. The back of the frame also has writing indicating that it was a gift to the former owner.

I have seen similar tokens before, such as the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet token I previously wrote about, but never on for Coca-Cola. I am sure that these are relatively common for advertising tokens.

For a Coca-Cola collector, it is a nice gift. For a numismatist interested in the token, I am worried that such a piece may be damaged. Before I decide whether to free the token from its frame, I have to decide whether it would be better sold as a framed item or with the token. I also have to decide whether I want to keep this token!

I better be careful because if I keep finding all of these fascinating advertising tokens I might end up keeping them and starting a collection.
 

Full framed image of the Coca-Cola advertising toen

REVIEW: 2017 Canadian Circulating Coins, Tokens & Paper Money

Stanley 2017 Canadian Coins, Tokens & Paper Money CoverIf you are a collector of Canadian coins and looking for a standard reference, there is nothing better than The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins. Available in two volumes, the Charlton catalogs would be the Canadian equivalent of the Red Book Professional Edition. Charlton Press also publishes books for the Canadian currency and token collectors. All of the Charlton books are very comprehensive on their respective topic and a must for the Canadian collector.

Like the Professional Edition of the Red Book, the Charlton Catalog is not a quick or portable reference. When I am searching through coins at shows or if I am just trying to identify something I had just acquired, I want a quicker reference with some basic prices that does not require me to hunt around the other information I am not interested in at the moment. I think I found the perfect reference for Canadian numismatics.

While searching one of my favorite online coin supply retailers, I came across the 2017 by W.J. (Bill) Stanley. It is published by Canadian Wholesale Supply of Paris, Ontario. Within the book, it does not carry a copyright date and it does not have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). It can be found at a number of online numismatic stores but not on stores like Amazon that require an ISBN.

But if you are collecting Canadian Coins, Breton Tokens, or Canadian Paper money you should have a copy of this book sitting next to your Charlton Standard Catalog. While the Charlton books are very complete with a lot of information, the pictures are in black and white. All of the coin images in the Stanley book are in color. Although you can guess what the colors are, seeing the color images on varieties and being able to compare them with coins is of great help.

Canadian Coin Section sample pages

Another advantage of the Stanley book is that it consists only of circulating coinage. Although the Royal Canadian Mint has expanded its catalog of non-circulating legal tender coins over the last decade, if you are just collecting circulating issues, then the other stuff is clutter. It is just the basics of what was circulated in Canada.

This book is divided into three section. The first are circulating Canadian coins, the second for Canadian currency, and final are the tokens. The coin and currency section has a single introduction, guide to reading the tables, and an index to find the particular type you might try to find. The coin section has their pages numbered beginning with page 1 with the introductory parts numbered with Roman numerals. But the currency section begins on page B-1 following page 54 of the coins.

Canadian Currency Section sample pages

The tokens section appears as if it was a separate book bound with the coin and currency section to make one book. It has a title page followed by a similar introduction, guide to reading the information, and an index. The introductory pages are not numbered but the token listings begin on page T-1.

Breton Tokens Section sample pages

If the book was bigger, these page numbering anomalies would be confusing. I only noticed this when I tried to figure out how many pages are in the book. Considering that not every page is numbered and there are some blank pages in the middle, I think there are 132 pages in total. Not very thick and spiral bound for easier handling.

Prices in the book are given for the basic grades and includes prices for significant auctions and prices gathered for rare and significant coins. As most of us are aware, most printed price books are obsolete by the time they are published. What Stanley does is use information he gathers from auctions and coin shows around Canada to determine the prices. In his introduction, Stanley admits he uses his judgment to exclude what appears to be bogus data based on bidding wars or data from untrustworthy sources. He also admits that there may be errors.

Without reaching out to Stanley, it appears he is the sole responsible person for the prices and content of this guide. Maybe that is a good thing considering the inaccuracy of similar guides from other publishers. However, after go through his guide and a number of other sources including the prices from a few Canadian dealers, this book may be more accurate than his caveat suggests.

After that, it is pages of coin listings similar to any price guide you may find. The number of coins minted is included on each line. There are images of coins, images of varieties with an arrow point to subtle differences, and prices in the most relevant grades of circulating coins.

I cannot speak about the Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Currency since I do not own that book, but similar to the coins’ section, the Canadian currency section is nothing but the basics. Color images are reproduced from the Bank of Canada and have “SPECIMEN” superimposed on each note. Descriptions note signature, portrait, and serial number differences (i.e., prefix types) for the notes and the prices in the most relevant grades.

Tokens are a very important part of the history of Canadian money. When coins or currency was not available, Canadian towns and provinces created tokens to act in the place of money. The history of Canadian tokens is fascinating and worth another report. It is important to note that the cataloging of tokens is based on the work Pierre Napoleon Breton in his book Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Related to Canada originally published in 1894, since republished and updated. As part of his cataloging of tokens, he assigned them a number that is now known as Breton Numbers. Stanley lists Canadian tokens by Breton Numbers.

Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens, I am fascinated by other areas of numismatics especially if they are different. What thrills me about this section is that the tokens are imaged side-by-side with their basic information and prices. It is not a tome on their history but if I was a collector, it would help me identify these tokens and what I might expect to pay for them. I found myself flipping through the pages looking at the tokens, what they say, and thinking about their possible history. I want to go back through my back issues of The CN Journal (publication of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association) and find some of those stories about tokens I never read.

Flipping the pages of such as basic reference, I never thought I would learn so much. I think it is because all of the other information has been omitted, I can see the coins, images of the varieties, and the prices without distraction. Now that I have learned a number of things, I can pick up other references to learn more.

My only minor nit about this book is the page numbering scheme and the lack of coherent index or table of contents. I give it a grade of MS-68 for being a simple reference of circulating Canadian numismatics and a book that I recommend.

Information in the images is copyright of Bill Stanley and used on Fair Use.
Page images are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Indecision 2016: Flip a coin

Have you noticed that every election “is the most important in our history?” Or that “you have no clearer choice” than whatever any of the candidates are selling? There are so many clichés that it would require its own blog post.

But what does that have to do with numismatics?

Long-Stanton Manufacturing Company was founded in 1862 by John Stanton to make copper tokens that were used by merchants in the Cincinnati area when money was in short supply during the Civil War. Before starting his company, Stanton owned a company that provided the illustrations and dies that were used to make advertising tokens for the 1860 election.

The Election of 1860 preceded the outbreak of the Civil War. It featured fractured party nominees arguing over the future of the union. The Republican Party, formed out of the ashes of the Whig Party, nominated former representative from Illinois Abraham Lincoln. The Democratic Party nominated Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas. But the Democrats were split along the issue of slavery. Pro-slavery southern Democrats formed their own party and nominated then Vice President John C. Breckinridge from Kentucky. A few other candidates were nominated but these were the three that were the focus of the election.

One thing that is considered a highlight of this campaign were the famous debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. The main theme of the seven debates was slavery. Primarily, Lincoln was anti-slavery and maintaining the union. Douglas was not pro-slavery but favored new territories to choose their own paths. Lincoln argued in his “House Divided” speech that Douglas wanted to nationalize slavery. This came following Douglas’s sponsoring of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that repealed the ban on slavery in the new territories passed as part of the Missouri Compromise.

Although the use of language was more refined in 1858, the issues were just as divisive.

Seven debates were not enough for the public. Manufacturers, such as the one that Stanton provided illustration and die making services for, struck tokens for the candidates and their supporters to give away to gain support. Lincoln won the Election of 1860 with a majority of the electoral votes carrying 18 of 33 states while gaining only 39.8-percent of the popular vote.

Some say the election of 2016 is the most divided in our history. If we do not count the Election of 1824 in which nobody received a majority of electoral votes and the results had to be decided by the House of Representatives, it could be one of the more contentious election since the 1976 Carter-Ford race.

The folks at Long-Stanton thinks there is an indecision in this election, although the polls show that the country is about evenly split. They think to celebrate the 156 years since John Stanton created his tokens the company created their Indecision 2016 token.

Indecision 2016 token is 39mm and made of brass. Portraits of each of the candidates are on either side. If you are undecided, you can flip the token to choose who you will vote for.

Unfortunately, the portraits barely represent the candidates. While the TRUMP side of the token is passible the CLINTON side would not be recognizable if it was not marked. While I do not consider either candidate physically attractive these portraits are worse.

Since it is expensive to produce tokens and medals to just give away, the tradition of striking these types of pocket pieces are no longer part of the campaign. If you have ever read Warman’s Political Collectibles: Identification and Price Guide, you would see all the interesting trinkets that would be produced in support of the candidates. Nowadays, those who collect political memorabilia would be hard pressed to find something more than a button or lapel pin.

Having received the Brexit token, I decided to purchase one of the Long-Stanton Indecision 2016 tokens for my collection. Although the token looks better in hand since it has a proof-like strike, a close-up view of the portraits are about as bad as the images on Long-Stanton’s website. For $8.95 for a single token, including shipping, it is not a bad deal. They do offer discounts for buying more than a few.

Included in the package was an aluminum token from Long-Stanton that is “GOOD FOR 50 IN MERCHANDISE.” It does not identify the exact value of 50 whether it means cents or dollars, but it does not matter since it is unlikely to be redeemed from my collection. At 31mm it is smaller than the Indecision 2016 token but it is a throwback to times when tokens were created for store credit before paper coupons became ubiquitous.

Rather than go with my numismatic collection, this token will go along with a small collection I have of political memorabilia. It will join other numismatic-related items that are related to my favorite president Teddy Roosevelt. I hope he is not insulted by either of these candidates. Somehow, I think T.R., George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln might not be happy if they were around today.

Charge it!

For as long as there has been money or commerce, there has been some form of credit. Whether it was borrowing a few coins until the next payday or today’s credit cards, credit has been a fuel of economic development for quite some time. The financial industry is built on credit and charging customers to borrow money and spread the payments out over time. By some estimates the average household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt.

The United States was founded on credit. During the founding of the country currency had been limited to coins with an intrinsic value based on their gold, silver or copper content. As the King of England tried to tax the colonies to pay for the wars in Europe, the colonies looked for ways of financing their own governments to provide services. they issued paper notes. These notes functioned as currency but actually were bills of credit, short-term public loans to the government. For the first time, the money had no intrinsic value but was valued at the rate issued by the government of the colony in payment of debt. Every time the colonial government would need money, they would authorize the printing of a specified quantity and denomination of notes that it would use to pay creditors. The emission laws also included a tax that would used to repay the bill of credit and the promised interest.

Later, the era we now refer to as Obsolete Banknotes (or Broken Banknotes), were currency issued by banks under permission of the Department of the Treasury that were supposed to be backed by the assets of the issuing bank. Banks were supposed to be able to back at least 90-percent of the value of the notes with hard currency. But the banks were not honest with the Treasury Department, issued more currency than assets, and many went out of business because they could not cover the value of the notes issued.

Credit run amok has been the cause of nearly every major market downturn in history including the most recent dire recession that began in 2008.

The concept of institutionalizing consumer debt was first written about in Looking Backward, 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy. Bellamy, a writer from Massachusetts, wrote about Julian West, a young American who falls into a deep, hypnotic sleep and wakes up in the year 2000. As part of West’s experience, Bellamy describes purchases being made using a credit card. Bellamy’s credit card was limited to the amount on deposit. The description is more like a debit or secured credit card of today. After the book became popular, the concept of consumer credit began to be institutionalized.

Hotels and other higher-end retailers were first. They would create medals or tokens that could be carried in the pocket or have a hole to include them on a keychain. Much like the Colgate tokens previously written about, the use of metal tags and tokens began at the beginning of the 20th century and was stopped by the War War II efforts.

Credit tokens were nondescript items with the name of the establishment and the user’s account number which lead to a number of problems. Since the account number was engraved into the tag, it was up to the cashier to write down the account number. Mistakes would lead to unpaid bills. A later improvement was to include raised letters that could be rubbed onto the paper using a pencil or carbon paper in order to record the number correctly, a feature that would be added to the plastic charge plate before the invention of the magnetic strip.

These tokens did not include the customer’s name. Although many can be mailed to the company so that the keys could be returned to the original owner, thieves would keep the tokens and use them. Stores would later have to produce lists of invalid or stolen charge numbers to verify the sale at the register. In the day before computers, this was a time consuming task.

Stores continue to think the risks are worth dealing with since credit purchases appear to be more popular than cash-based purchases.

One of the early adopters of credit purchases was Abraham & Straus, Inc. Founded in 1865 by Abraham Abraham in Brooklyn, the store was operated on Fulton Street as a small clothing outlet until its later flagship store was built closer to downtown Brooklyn in 1883. As part of expanding the store and funding the move, Abraham received funding from Nathan and Isidore Straus. When the company reopened at 422 Fulton Street the was renamed Abraham & Straus, the name that was used until its closing in 1995.

Known as A&S throughout the New York metropolitan area, it was a little more upscale from other discount stores of the time. Although the stores expanded as far as the Philadelphia region, it would not see the same success as the New York-area stores. A&S was a favorite amongst the burgeoning middle class of the post-World War II Baby Boomer generation especially for women’s clothes. I have a lot of memories waiting outside of the A&S with my father at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, NY as my (late) mother would go shopping in A&S. And the family car, a black 1963 Chevy Impala with red interior, did not include air conditioning!

Apparently, I survived those shopping trips along with my recent find an on old A&S credit token. While searching through a cigar box of old tokens, I found this pre-World War II item. Aside from bringing back the memories, and reminder of the hot days waiting for my mother to try on nearly every dress in the store, I though this would be a perfect addition to my collection of New York numismatic memorabilia.

Remember, you do not have to collect coins to have fun with numismatics!

NOTE: Electronic versions of Looking Backward, 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Clean history for 20-cents

Proof that numismatics can be used to learn more about history through the economics they represent. Sometimes more telling than coins are exonumia items which have more descriptive value than coins.

Rummaging through a bag of small items recently purchased from an estate sale I found two square tokens. Both are made of aluminum and measured 27mm per side (about 1-inch). Both offer 10-cents off a purchase of personal care products. One will provide a discount on Colgate’s or Palmolive Shave Cream and the other for 10-cents off for the purchase of Colgate’s Ribbon Dental Cream.

While these tokens are very interesting, I want to know when they are from? After examining both sides of each token and not finding any indication of a date, it was time to turn to an Internet search engine to figure out when this token could have been made. We start with looking for the company and product information for Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. From this, we found the history of today’s Colgate-Palmolive.

The company was founded in 1806 by English immigrant soap and candle maker William Colgate. Colgate began by making candles, soap and starch in a factory on Dutch Street in New York City under the name William Colgate & Company. Colgate was the first company to begin selling individual soap cakes in uniform sizes. Following William Colgate’s death in 1857, his son Samuel Colgate reorganized business as Colgate & Company. Samuel did not want to run his father’s business but felt its continued existence with the right thing to do.

NOTICE TO DRUGGIST
THIS TOKEN REDEEM-
ABLE FOR 10¢ ONLY
IF TAKEN IN PART
PAYMENT FOR
ARTICLE NAMED ON
REVERSE SIDE. ANY
OTHER APPLICATION
CONSTITUTES A FRAUD
COLGATE-PALMOLIVE
PEET CO.
Text on tokens

Colgate & Company continued to grow. By 1866 the company introduced the first perfumed soap which was then followed by Cashmere Bouquet. It was the first milled perfumed toilet soap, became a registered trademark in 1872. The next year Colgate introduced their first toothpaste that were sold in jars. The product did not sell well until 1896 when Colgate began selling Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream in collapsable tubes. By 1908 Colgate ended production of their jarred toothpaste.

In 1898, B.J. Johnson developed a formula for soap made of palm and olive oils. The soap was so popular that the company was renamed “Palmolive” to reflect the name of its most popular product (I bet you didn’t know where the name came from). By the turn of the century, Palmolive was the world’s best selling soap.

During this time, the Peet Brothers in Missouri was looking to expand their soap business when the opportunity for them to buy Palmolive from B.J. Johnson. In 1926, the merger of the two companies became Palmolive-Peet Company. Two years later in 1928 the Palmolive-Peet merged with Colgate to form Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. Peet was dropped from the name in 1953 to Colgate-Palmolive Company as it is still known as today.

Let’s start with the obvious. Since Colgate-Palmolive-Peet only existed from 1928 through 1953, it would be logical to assume that the token is from that time period.

To try to narrow down the time-period further, I searched for similar tokens to see if I could find other evidence. While searching, I found a set of similar tokens issued by the Palmolive-Peet Company. This suggests that the company could have continued issuing similar tokens following the 1928 merger.

Trade and tax tokens were popular in the use of trade in the 1920s through the depression. In fact, during the depression, many of these tokens were traded as currency in areas where currency was in short supply. However, many of these tokens stopped being used and circulated in 1942. Since aluminum was part of the scrap metal drives that were used to gather the materials to build war equipment, many of these tokens were turned in to merchants who returned them to the companies for cash. Many were later scrapped.

Without having further information the best I can do is narrow the period it was issued from 1928 through 1941.

As part of my search, I found a few listings on eBay that claimed that these tokens were issued in the 1920s. As we have seen that may not be correct. While being issued in 1929 may be possible, it is more likely that these tokens were issued in the early 1930s.

Of course if you have more information about these tokens please leave comments below.

A Token of Brexit

A few weeks ago I wrote about the potential effects of Brexit on markets should the Brits vote to leave the European Union. When the OUT vote won by a slim margin, there was an instant worldwide reaction. In the subsequent weeks, we have seen world markets react to everything. After an initial fall in markets because of Brexit they have recovered only to be sent back into uncertainty with world events.

The London PM Gold Fix was $1,265.12 before the polls closed on June 23. The next day, the London PM Gold Fix closed at $1,315.50 (4-percent increase). On July 15, the PM Gold Fix closed at $1,327.00, 4.9-percent increase since the vote. Experts are saying gold could continue to climb at the 4-percent rate for the near future.

Silver has been on a slow and steady rise for most of the spring also saw a bump following the Brexit vote. When the London Silver Fix closed at $17.29 on June 23, this was already a $3.29 increase (23.5-percent) from the January 4 first close of 2016 price of $14.00. After the results were announced, London Silver Fix closed at $18.04, a 4.3-percent increase. With the London Silver Fix closing at $20.14 on July 15 (16.48-percent increase), some pundits are suggesting that silver will continue to outperform gold for the near future.

When I wrote about Brexit, I also mentioned the “In/Out UK EU Referendum Medallion” produced by Chard(1964), a British metals dealer. After the post, the folks at Chard saw a small bump in sales from collectors the United States from a few of my readers. I was not paid to mention the medal. I just found the information online and thought it was an interesting idea. Shortly before the vote, someone at Chard contacted me and offered to send me some medals.

After a swim across the pond, the medals arrived in my physical mail last weekend. Even though I thought Brexit was a bad idea, the medals are still very cool. Design is the same on both medals. One is copper and the other is Abyssinian Gold, a type of brass made of 90-percent copper and 10-percent zinc that has a gold-like color. Medals are 31mm in diameter and weighs 14 grams making it a nice sized coin for flipping.

Chard sent two sets of the medals. I will keep one set and donate the other to my coin club’s annual auction whose proceeds will benefit the Scouts and other numismatic-related education in our region.

It appears that these medals can still be purchased for £2.95 each ($4.33 at the current exchange rate) plus shipping (estimated at £6.00 or $8.80) directly from Chard’s website. I am not making money from this endorsement. I just think it’s a fun collectible!

Static charts courtesy of Kitco.

Hometown collecting

Inwood Country ClubIn the 1960s when my parents’ first child was becoming old enough to be enrolled in school, they decided it was time to move out of Brooklyn for the better schools of Long Island. One day, my father found an advertisement in the newspaper for some new homes being built in an old hamlet on Long Island called Inwood. In New York-speak, a hamlet is not an official location but a section of a larger village or township named for jurisdictional purposes. Hamlets are very much like any other area but without its own formal government.

Inwood was one of the Five Towns along with Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, and Hewlett. Each had its own character, divisions, points of interest but were together geographically, socially, and and as a larger community. Some of that has changed over the years, but the Five Towns still exists as a central part of life in that area. Although identified as a hamlet, Inwood had its own identity from the rest of the Five Towns. Inwood was more working class than the rest of the Five Towns. It is the home to two schools that were part of the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Public Schools (now just the Lawrence Public Schools), P.S. #4 was the kindergarten and P.S. #2 was the elementary school (then Grades 1-6). There was some industry in an area we called “the factories” and some offices. Not too far was a bowling alley, a few gas stations, and the A&P. A few churches, a synagogue (that no longer exists), the VFW Hall, and the volunteer fire department was all part of daily life.

Many of us have gone in own directions but we cannot forget what made Inwood home for us. One of the ubiquitous parts of Inwood was the golf course. Officially, it is called the Inwood Country Club. Aside from being a private club where many of us were not allowed to enter, it dominated the entire length of Donahue Avenue that was our major route when we walked to school. There were no sidewalks on that side of the street. Trees hung over the shoulder and in the spring and fall you can see and hear the men playing golf.

The last time I visited Inwood, I noticed that the road was better paved and the shoulder that we walked along was no longer available. The fence line came to the edge of the road and a distinct curb was added. The trees were thinner and he shrubbery that dominated the fence when I walked that road was gone. You can now see the golf course from the street.

Although I never went into the Inwood Country Club until I found someone to invite me in the 1980s, its presence looms large in my memory. Our backyard backed up into a swamp-like area owned by the club that would flood when Jamaica Bay overflowed. It was a buffer between the bay and the golf course. The only other landmark in the area that dominated as much as the Inwood Country Club was Kennedy Airport across the bay.

Inwood Country Club was opened in 1901 by Jacob Wertheim because there were few places to play golf on Long Island. Its claim to fame for the golf world is that it was the host to the 1921 PGA Championship that was won by Walter Hagen and the 1923 U.S. Open Championship won by Bobby Jones. The 1923 U.S. Open was Jonse’s first major championship of his professional career. Jones won with what was then considered one of the finest shots on the 18th hole of the playoff that was then called “the shot heard around the world.”

Whenever I find something about Inwood that finds its way for sale I usually try to buy it. Souvenirs from Inwood are not plentiful and numismatic-related souvenirs are even rarer. But when a token honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Inwood Country Club came along, I was a strong bidder. I might have overbid, but I had to make this token part of my collection.

1951-Inwood-CC-50th-Anniversary

It looks like it is made of a white metal, maybe zinc, coated with copper based on the wearing on the reverse. It is 16.75 mm in diameter making it smaller than a dime, which is 17.9 mm in diameter. But it has survived well for being that small and 64 years old.

This goes to show that you do not have to collect coins to have fun in numismatics!

Inwood Country Club clubhouse image courtesy of the Inwood Country Club.

It’s Balmer, hon!

Whitman Expo FloorAs it does three times per year, Whitman rolls into the Baltimore Convention Center for the Whitman Baltimore Expo. This time, rather than the showing being in Halls A and B it was held in E and F. The new location within the building was not as intuitive to find as walking to the end and Whitman did not do as good of a job as they could have in placing their signs. But for general access, which is was off of South Sharp Street, it provided a little better access than off of West Pratt Street, which is a main artery as it passes in front of the Inner Harbor.

Although there were the same number of booths, the space felt smaller. Lights were brighter since these halls seem to have been converted to using LED lighting—the brighter space made the convention center seem less cavernous. Aisles were not as wide and some of the layout changed, but it seemed to have the same number of dealers. Some of the dealers who had larger spaces did downsize and the one vendor of supplies that is not Whitman did not set up at the show. It is not known if they decided not to attend or were not invited to attend. Since Whitman does not carry all books and supplies, it would be nice if they had another supplier.

On thing I have noticed is that since the death of numismatic book dealer John Burns in early 2014 there seems to be fewer numismatic book offerings at some of the east coast shows. Aside from missing his sharp wit, I was always able to find something a little off-beat or out of the ordinary amongst the books he had for sale. While there was a book dealer at this show, the items were more toward what I would consider ordinary. I hope someone steps in with some interesting items.

As I walked the floor and spoke to many of the dealers (late Friday afternoon), they all said that they were doing well. With the area still a bit chilly and no sports to take over the downtown Baltimore area (home opener for the Baltimore Orioles is on Friday, April 10), visitors to downtown Baltimore had plenty of time to visit. For those of us who like access to a major coin show, it is good to hear. If the dealers are doing well then they will keep coming back. If the dealers come back, the show goes on.

Both the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing had booths at the show. While the U.S. Mint was showing current products, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had some historical information. Although it is good to see the U.S. Mint at the show, it might be nice to see some historical artifacts. Since most of the U.S. Mint’s collection was given to the Smithsonian Institute, maybe they can be convinced to bring an exhibit to the show. Having the Smithsonian there would be very different than other shows since they have a different type of collection than the American Numismatic Association, for example.

2015 March of Dimes Commemorative Proof set

2015 March of Dimes Commemorative Proof set will cost $61.95 when released

The U.S. Mint was showing off the March of Dimes Commemorative set that will go on sale later this year. The set features a proof 2015 March of Dimes Commemorative dollar, a proof Roosevelt dime from San Francisco, and a reverse proof Roosevelt time from Philadelphia. The reverse proof dime is beautiful. It seems that the reverse proofs are really attractive coins. Seeing this set only enforces my desire to buy it when it becomes available.

Another interesting find was the First Edition of the Red Book Deluxe Edition. While flipping through it at the show, it looks like the Red Book on steroids. There is more information, more detail on pricing, and some other features. A first impression is that it extends the Red Book franchise a bit beyond what they called their Professional Edition. While there is a lot of information, my first impression is that I wish it was more of a cross between the Professional Edition and the Coin World Almanac. Both books have their places, but to combine the pricing and information that is updated yearly (the Coin World Almanac is updated every 10 years) would be a great resource. Hopefully, I will get my hands on one to review.

Finally, no show would be complete with out my one cool find. After walking the floor for a few hours I finally stat at the table of Cunningham Exonumia and had a nice chat with Paul Cunningham while searching for something New York. While I have not given up coins or Maryland Colonial Currency, I seem to be having more fun trying to find tokens and other exonumia from New York City and my hometown of Brooklyn. I have seen Paul at many other shows and have purchased from him. He always has a great selection. For me, I may have exhausted some of his inventory. This time, the pieces he was offering this weekend I already have in my collection.

But it did not stop me from looking. Tokens are very interesting. They are alternatives to money and are more tied to the culture of the community than money. For me, a New York Subway token not only represented a ride on the subway, but it also represents a different part of my life. It makes collecting very person. Although I have a collection of subway tokens I continue to look because you never know what you can find—especially an error.

What I found was a large token with an error. It was sold as the “Large Y” token where the “Y” was supposed to be cutout. Those tokens were used from 1970-1978 and two fare increases starting out at 30-cents in 1970, 35-cents in 1972, then 50-cents in 1975. But what I found is not that token. After examine the token carefully and some others I have, this is an error to the “Solid Brass NYC” Token. Introduced with the 60-cent fare in 1980, the “Y” was part of the raised design and not cutout. The clue as came when examine the obverse (the side that says “New York City Transit Authroity”). Between the “N” and the “C” is the tail of the “Y” but without its top. That tail would not have existed on the earlier tokens because they would have been cut out. Instead, the is a die issue where only the tail of the “Y” on one side was struck.

Large Brass "NYC Token" used from 1980-1985 with partial "Y" (obverse)

Large Brass “NYC Token” used from 1980-1985 with partial “Y” (obverse)

Large Brass "NYC Token" used from 1980-1985 with missing "Y" (reverse)

Large Brass “NYC Token” used from 1980-1985 with missing “Y” (reverse)

It might not be the error I expected, but it is an error nonetheless! It also does not make it any less fun or valuable because it will fit nicely in my collection.

If you were not able to make it Baltimore, here are some of the pictures I had taken at the show:

coinsblog's 2015 March Whitman Spring Show album on Photobucket

 

Numismatics have changed, but are we having fun?

Advancements in all areas of life, whether it is the cars we drive, the entertainment that we like, how we shop, and where we get our news are inevitable. Where the car I drove in college had a the classic Chrysler Slant 6 engine with nothing electronic, I now drive a Chevy pickup with a Vortec V8 with variable timing controlled by a computer that will even start with the push of a button on my key fob.

Rather than complain about these changes, I try to embrace them as progress. After all, I started programming computers by punching cards in the 1970s. Today, the smartphone in my pocket has more computing power than anyone could have imagined while feeding our cards through the reader waiting for output on green bar paper.

Because I like to be progressive with technology and feel that not only have I seen a lot but that I adjusted, I tend to look down on those who cannot. I know that it may be elitist and contemptuous on my part and I should be more understanding, especially now that I bought a car with a Slant 6 as a toy and want another car without all of the electronics.

This self examination was prompted by an article by Q. David Bowers that appeared online on the Coin World website. In the article, Bowers reflects back as to how the hobby has changed since he started writing his column in 1961 and what it is today.

Basically, you used to have to know more about numismatics. You had to know what you were looking at in order to grade coins, know where to find the prices, have the education to know what is fake and what is not, and have a trusted dealer that you can go to to help you with your collection. It was a lot like my Slant 6 in that while the dealer would help, I had to know more about the car in order to keep it running, especially as a poor college student.

Today, Bowers says it succinctly, “No knowledge is necessary!”

While this can help grow the hobby, it makes it just a bit colder. You do not need a dealer when the Internet will do. You do not need the knowledge when companies will entomb a coin in plastic, say it is genuine, and assign a grade so you know what its state of preservation is. If the plastic is not enough, you can even find someone to place a sticker on the plastic to bless that the plastic is good. Then the sticker placer will buy the plastic to churn the market that will essentially drive up the prices.

Although the grading services do provide a service that guarantees the coin’s authenticity, they have also created a fervor over plastic that caused the the despicable behavior during the launch of the Kennedy gold tribute coin.

“If you are typical, quality means nothing. The label on a holder takes care of everything,” writes Bowers. Sadly, he is right because people are no longer collecting coins. They are collecting plastic and stickers while watching online price guides the way day traders watch stock prices. If the coin does not raise in value fast enough, they will buy the next number higher on a plastic package even if the new coins does not look better than the old coin.

Just like listening to the whine of a hybrid takes the charm out of being a car enthusiast, plastic and stickers are taking the charm out of collecting.

To regain the charm Bowers suggests niche or specialty collecting. He says to, “Check out the websites of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club, Early American Coppers, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club and the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, and poke around!”

In addition to Bowers’ suggestions, you may also want to consider Token and Medals Society along with the regional chapters, The Elongated Collectors (TEC), and even the American Vecturist Association. What makes tokens, medals, and even elongated coins very interesting is that you can really personalize a collection. Think about it, how many places have you visited that had a machine where you drop in some money plus a “lowly” Lincoln cent and with a turn of a crank you have the equivalent of a numismatic post card!

A hobby should be fun. So forget the plastic and stickers and go find something and have some fun.

For a little fun, here is a sample of my “Hometown Collection.”

Neat find in Baltimore

As with every show I attend, I try to find something neat. Something a little different. Something to show you that you can enjoy collecting numismatics that do not have to be plugged into a blue folder, a brown album, or entombed in a plastic case by a grading service. These are great items that have meaning and, for the most part, are affordable.

My find from the Spring 2014 Whitman Baltimore Expo was not discovered while walking the bourse floor. It was an opportunity that came available during the board meeting for the Maryland State Numismatic Association. One of our Board members is Ed Craig who is also president of the Maryland Token and Medals Society. As part of the meeting, Ed showed a limited edition elongated quarter that Maryland TAMS produced to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry” by Francis Scott Key.

An 1838 lithograph of the Battle Monument in Baltimore

An 1838 lithograph of the Battle Monument in Baltimore

For a reasonable price of $10, you get an elongated 2013 Fort McHenry Quarter with a design featuring the Baltimore Battle Monument on a ribbon to be worn on Defender’s Day. An elongated quarter in a flip is also included and both are attached to a card with a brief history of the Baltimore Battle Monument.

When they rolled the quarter to create the design, it was imprinted on the obverse of the quarter. You can see the Fort McHenry quarter design through the flattened reverse.

I will be wearing the one I purchased this August at the World’s Fair of Money in Chicago.

Maryland TAMS is making a very limited number of these sets available for $10 each. If you cannot pick up your set, they will ask you to pay postage to mail it to you. If you are interested contact Maryland TAMS through their website at mdtams.org.

Cover of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Cover of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.


Cover of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Cover of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Closeup of the elongated quarter that is part of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Closeup of the elongated quarter that is part of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Back cover of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Back cover of the Maryland Token and Medal Society souvenir card.

Click on images to see larger versions.

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