Autographed Slabs and other numismentos

“Pawn Stars” Rick Harrison

Recently, a number of people wrote to me asking what I thought about the announcement that the star of the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars”, Rick Harrison, was autographing the insert for Numismatic Guarantee Corporation holders.

I do not believe there should be a problem with this.

Previously, I wrote about something I called “numismentos,” mementos created from numismatic items. It was prompted when NGC announced they struck a deal with Edmund C. Moy, the 38th Director of the U.S. Mint and currently the last full-time director, to autograph labels. I also noted that NGC also had autograph deals with Elizabeth Jones and John Mercanti, the 11th and 12th Cheif Engravers of the U.S. Mint, respectively.

You can see the list of available NGC Signature Labels here.

But NGC is not the only one in this game. Professional Coin Grading Service has had similar promotions including Philip Diehl, another former Director of the U.S. Mint and a long list of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees who signed labels used in the encapsulation of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.

A Goodacre Dollar encapsulated by ICG

Famously, Glenna Goodacre, who was paid $5,000 for her design of the Sacagawea dollar, asked to be paid in the new dollar coin. She sent the coins to Independent Coin Graders to be encapsulated with special labels. Goodacre then sold the coins at a premium. She did not sell out of these coins. Later, about 2,000 coins were acquired by Jeff Garrett who submitted them to PCGS. The coins were encapsulated with a special attribution on the PCGS label and included an insert with an autographed by Philip Diehl.

ICG also had some of the designers of the State Quarters autograph labels.

Does anyone else remember when the original PCI was still in business and they hired J.T. Stanton as company president and they had him autograph labels of coins he graded?

Although all of the grading services include special attribution for coins, NGC and PCGS have special labels that they use for certain coins.

In all cases, these grading services are creating these numismentos for customers interested in having the label be significant to their collection.

The only problem I have with the label designation is the “First Strike” or “First Strike” labels. There are questions as to the validity of these designations that causes an unnecessary premium to be added to these coins.

Besides, If I took any other stance, I could be accused of hypocrisy. In a few cases, I have purchased numismentos. My collection includes a pair of ICG holders with 2001-P and 2001-D New York State quarters autographed by designer David Carr that is part of my New York collection.

As part of my Bicentennial Collections, I own a Bicentennial PCGS Signature set. The set consists of the three proof coins with the special bicentennial reverse in PCGS slabs with the autographs of Jack L. Ahr, Seth Huntington, and Dennis R. Williams, the designer of the coins. There is a business strike version of this set but I find the proof coins more appealing.

1976-S Silver Proof Bicentennial Autograph Set

The only reason that there appears to be some umbrage taken with the autograph by Rick Harrison is that he is a relentless self-promoter whose style is not welcome by everyone. Harrison is not the first non-numismatic-related celebrity to autograph inserts but may be the most controversial to some people.

As I have previously suggested, we can call these types of numismatic-related collectibles numismentos. Numismento is a portmanteau of numismatic + memento.

I suggest the name to distinguish collecting the coins from collecting the slabs, show-related ephemera, buttons, or anything else that is not numismatics.

If collecting numismentos makes you happy? Enjoy yourself!

Is numismatics really dying as a hobby?

Coin CollectionAlthough I owe you my impressions of the U.S. Mint’s Numismatic Forum, giving it the proper treatment I think it deserves has taken longer than expected. Rather, let me jump ahead to a recurring theme that takes over the conversation on the state of the hobby: Numismatics is a dying hobby of the old.

MYTH: Electronic transactions have taken over and hard currency is being used less.

FACT: Electronic transactions make up only 13-percent of retail purchases in the United States and 7.1-percent worldwide. Although the pundits like to point out that trillions of dollars change hands electronically, this includes non-consumer-related transactions such as bank transfers from one account to the other using the Automated Clearing House (ACH). If your paycheck is deposited directly into your account, it is transferred using the ACH system.

In real money, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total costs for all goods and services, to be $18,561,934,000,000 ($18.561 trillion). If 13-percent of that is electronic retail purchases, that means that $2,413,051,420,000 ($2.413 trillion) is made not using cash. What about the other $16.1 trillion dollars?

WMATA Smartrip CardDepending on which report you read, electronic transactions should grow at a rate of 8-10 percent annually. Even if the U.S. GDP is on a pace to grow by only 1.4-percent, adding about $250 billion in electronic transactions will not make a significant dent in the rate of electronic transactions.

Of course, the U.S. are not spending $16 trillion in cash transactions, but both the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are on course for record production years. Year-to-date, the U.S. Mint has produced $870,133,500 in circulating coins (not including half-dollar, dollar, and commemorative coins). For Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014-September 2015) the BEP produced $166,302,000,000 ($166.302 trillion) in currency (not including $2 notes). Although some of the currency does replace worn notes (the BEP reports that 90-percent of $1 notes replace damaged notes) and a significant portion of the $100 notes are shipped to banks overseas, which represents quite a number of transactions.

Although electronic payment options make up 13-percent of all cashless transactions you have to remember that this market barely existed a few years ago. Even as banks and large retailers push to increase the number cashless transaction, there are problems that society faces when moving to a cashless retail system. The biggest problem is one of scale. The United States makes more money, spends more money, trades more money, and has more economic impact than any other country in the world. It is the world’s single largest economy with a strong capitalistic culture where most of the commerce is done with small businesses. Amongst all business, 55-percent of retail merchants are cash-only enterprises. They are too small to consider paying the 3-to-5 percent fees for using a credit card, known as the “swipe fee.” Of those that do take credit cards, at least 36-percent require a minimum purchase.

MYTH: The sharing economy is turning the economic world upside down changing the way we will pay for goods and services.

Sharing EconomyFACT: Human beings have been sharing and trading goods and services from the dawn of time. You killed an ox and have the hide left over. I have a lot of fruit I picked that I cannot eat. I will give you an amount of fruit and you give me the hide. Money was created as a medium of exchange when I did not want your fruit but wanted some of the goods someone else had. It was the pre-historic version of the three-way trade.

Some of us grew up trading. I remember trading a Mickey Mantle baseball card for a Jerry Koosman and two Donn Clendenon cards —one from Houston and the other from Montreal, just after the Mets traded for Clendenon. I thought I gave the kid a deal because 1969 turned out to be Mantle ’s last year.

What has changed since I made the trade? There has been a tremendous change in technology. While we set the price for the baseball cards we traded, now there are price guides, electronic markets, auctions, and online trading sites. Even in other categories, you might place a classified ad in a newspaper or an advertising rag like PennySaver or something like Uncle Henry’s in Maine. Now there are sites like Craigslist, AirBnB, Uber and Lyft that expands the market.

Pundits like to point to the sharing economy’s growth. The problem with the reports is that this version of the sharing economy has gone from nothing to something with a lot of press coverage. Anytime there is something shiny and new it grabs the attention of the public before they move on to the next distraction.

We share numismatics all of the time. We go to shows and display our collections for competitions. We enter registry sets to try to create a nice collection or even worst collection with the advent of “low ball” sets of coins of very low grades. We blog and read about other’s collections. We post finds to public forums and sometimes bring our collections to show off at club meetings.

Sometimes we even trade. Have you traded a few Barber dimes for a Barber half because you needed the half for your collection? How about three Morgan dollars for an elusive 1921-S Walking Liberty half-dollar?

The only difference between this and the new sharing economy is the lack of computer interface. Sometimes that human interaction is more fun than hiding behind a screen.

MYTH: People, especially millennials are not interested in collecting anything.

New Zealand Mint produces Monopoly coins for the Island nation of Niue. Did you pass Go?

New Zealand Mint produces Monopoly coins for the Island nation of Niue. Did you pass Go?

FACT: The Hobby and Toy industry is estimated to be a $20 billion business with an estimated growth of 1.6-percent over 2015. Not all of the emphasis is on electronic games and gadgets. One study found that more money is pledged for projects on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter than any other category.

One of the fastest growing sectors of this market is board games. While some games do incorporate electronics into their play, this new generation of gamers is finding that social gaming can be as much fun as their online endeavors.

Numismatics has never been a welcoming hobby for the mid-to-lower level collector. Dealers who are older may have a difficult time relating to younger and, frankly, a non-white demographic (see my post about one such incident here). It has created a culture of cranky older Caucasian collectors who think that their way is the only way to collect.

It is not just the dealers. Mainstream publishers put a lot of effort into creating references and collecting supplies that satisfy the market as being pushed by the dealers. Even worse, while the American Numismatic Association does recognize other aspects of numismatics, the fact that most of the Board of Governors are in the coin business with years of experiences in the coin business, that becomes the focus of the ANA.

It is time for the industry and its representative organization, the ANA, to remember that numismatics is more than coins. Currency, exonumia, scripophily, and even military medals are all part of numismatics. Concentrating on coins, especially coverage of high-value sales scares off many novices who may be willing to look at coins as a hobby. When I go out to schools in the Washington, D.C. metro area, I will bring enough Metro (the local transit system) tokens for everyone in the class. After buying a bulk bag of tokens, I have plenty to give away along with the story of how they were once used. But it allows me to show the students that numismatics is more than coins. I explain how I sit at junk boxes and at the tables of token dealers to find items from my hometown of New York. When I show them four pages of 2x2s with tokens and medals from New York and say that in three years I may have spent as much as $200, they seem to understand that you can have fun without spending a lot of money.

MYTH: We lost those who collected the state quarters forever.

State QuartersFACT: We also retained a lot of those collectors. Unfortunately, we damaged many others.

What made the state quarter program popular was that the way it was administered made everyone a stakeholder. Rather than dictating the design, states were encouraged to allow public participation to help decide on their quarter’s design. Contests and state pride went into the quarters that allowed each state to celebrate their home state. Ordinary people were brought into the process and ceremonies held in each state announcing the designs and on the release of the quarters.

Of course, the state quarters were also the hobby’s demise as television hucksters sold overpriced junk surrounding the sets. Colored coins and “special” sets were sold at high prices with the hint that they would only increase in value. When these people tried to cash in on their “investment” they found they overpaid, became angry, and may not come back. During this time, the ANA was nearly non-existent in the education process as it was undergoing its own internal political battles. Without someone to help stand up for the hobby to help educate the public, the industry suffered.

Although the ANA has improved in many areas, it continues to be about coins with a slant toward classic (pre-1965) and rare coins. The only modern coins that seem to get any amount of respect from the community are commemoratives, bullion, and errors. With the so-called modern era being 52 years old, it is time for the old and crusty of the numismatics industry to either get on board with that it is new to the new collectors or maybe it is time to consider retirement.

The lesson I have learned in numismatics as well in my business of buying and selling collectibles is that in order to expand any hobby it has to be made into something personal. Sports collectibles sell memories of your heroes. Space collectibles sell the mystique of outer space. Automobilia seems to have a fascination for a lot of people even as what was considered modern nameplates like Plymouth and Pontiac have gone the way of DeSoto and American Motors.

Hobbies have to also be interesting. Is it really interesting to collect a series of all of the same coins where the only difference is the date or mintmark? Again, why does a collection have to be biased for coins? Can someone have fun collecting So-called dollars, transportation tokens, or even unusual coins? I think about how much fun Charmy Harker might have had to put together her award-winning exhibit Penny Potpourri with things made out of pennies. If you have not seen her exhibit, you can find images here. It has to be one of the best exhibits I have ever seen because it is unusual. I like things that are different.

In order to get people interested in the hobby, you cannot introduce it to them by showing a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or a 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo nickel as an example. Not only are these coins difficult to find and less affordable, but not everyone may be interested. I like to use my two-pages of 2×2 holders with a set of transportation tokens with every letter of the alphabet cut out of the center, except “Q” and “Z,” along with some that have shapes. When I tell someone I paid around $50 for the initial investment and can buy most tokens for less than $5 each, they want to know how they could get started.

Here are some ideas to help you start a new collection. You can only use these if you do so by recruiting a friend or relative who is not currently part of the hobby:

  • If you want to start with coins, go find a folder of currently circulating coins and see who can fill their folder first only from pocket change. I recommend either Lincoln Memorial cents, which can be interesting finding S-mint circulating cents on the east coast, or Jefferson nickels (for fun, use Whitman Jefferson Nickel folder #2).
  • Another idea for collecting coins is to make a collection based on a theme. Ideas for themes can be the year you were born, coins with an animal like buffalos, or create a type set that represents some of the subtle changes in a long series like Lincoln cents.
  • There are more to exonumia than transportation tokens. If your state issued tax tokens in the early part of the 20th century then how about finding examples for a collection. Tokens are still being created for gaming, casino chips, parking tokens, or store tokens the pre-cursor to paper coupons. Advertising tokens can be a fun way to collect your hometown. Tokens with themes, shapes, and cutouts can be a lot of fun.
  • Go beyond tokens to encased coins. Encased coins have been used as a private commemorative, advertising, and I even found one for an electric supply company that promised money off if you returned it to their store.
  • You can collect elongated cents, also called squished pennies, from almost anywhere. Recently, I found a machine in the Philadelphia Mint’s gift shop. For 51-cents, each I was able to buy two souvenirs. Collecting elongateds also helps you keep the record of where you have been.

And I didn’t mention currency or scripophily. One cool idea would be to collect stock certificates representing what you might find on a Monopoly game board.

If you have other suggestions, send it as a comment!

Now go out and start a collection. Recruit a friend and do it together.

Selection of my New York collection


POLL: What are your gift plans?

Could this Looney Tunes Silver Kilo coin be on your list?

Could this Looney Tunes Silver Kilo coin be on your list?

Before it became a thing, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving that is usually the biggest shopping day of the year and where retailers become profitable for the year, or being in the black. When online sales began to pick up and most people were connected to the Internet by slow connections, usually by a modem, people would go their offices on Monday and use the company’s faster Internet to place their online orders. In 2005, the National Retail Federation started calling it Cyber Monday.

The meaning of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has been dulled over the last few years except as an alleged barometer for the shopping season it is still something that becomes an event where the worst behaviors can be seen on the evening news. In 2013, the U.S. Mint did their part in the Black Friday hype by offering free standard shipping for the first week of the holiday shopping season.

All this means that it is the time for gift giving and gift receiving. While we are searching for the holiday deals, what is on your wish list this year? If you want to provide details, add it to the comments below!

What are your 2015 gift plans?

I have coins on my wish list. (54%, 37 Votes)
I plan to give someone a numismatic gift. (14%, 10 Votes)
I am not planning on giving a numismatic gift. (13%, 9 Votes)
I have currency on my wish list. (12%, 8 Votes)
I have exonumia or other numismatics on my wish list. (6%, 4 Votes)
Bah Humbug! (1%, 1 Votes)
I do not have any numismatics on my wish list. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 43

Loading ... Loading ...

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.


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.

I still love small local shows

One of the things I noticed over the last few years are the proliferation of local coin shows in Maryland. Part of the reason is an ambitious dealer finding areas to put on shows and do what it takes to make them successful.

The idea is simple: you have inventory that is not making money for you if it is sitting on the shelf. Rent a hall either in a local hotel or an organization’s building, set up the room so that each dealer has a space, provide a couple of chairs per dealer space, rent the dealer space, have a greeter at the door, and security which can be an off-duty police officer from the area. All that is left is the advertising.

Advertising is a key factor because without it, I would not have stumbled over a coin show this past weekend in Frederick, Maryland. After travelling to Frederick from the closer-in Washington suburbs for other business, I remembered reading that there was a coin show in the area. A quick search using my smartphone helped me find the address and my in-vehicle GPS helped me get there.

When I arrived I walked into the room with about a dozen dealers and a few empty tables. I was not concerned with the empty tables but the ones where dealers sat. Since this was a local show, I knew many of the dealers and spoke with those who were not otherwise busy. Since going to this show was a last minute decision, I did not have my want list with me but I looked around anyway.

While looking at some tokens, I heard one gentleman say that he is getting back into collecting after finding the coins he collected as a child. It is a typical story that many of us can relate. When I heard he was lived near where our local coin club met, I approached him, introduced myself as the coin club’s president, and invited him to our next meeting in March.

Finally, I did have a chance to look at some items. For the times I do not bring my lists, I can fall back on searching the tokens for anything from New York City or anything unusual. During this search, I did find two tokens that I thought were worth buying. The first is a token from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA). For the non-New York readers, the TBTA is an affiliate agency of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority that manages the bridges and tunnels that have at least one end in Brooklyn or Queen plus the Henry Hudson Bridge which crosses the East River between the Bronx and Manhattan.

The token I found were issued for residents of the Rockaways, Queens for crossing the Cross Bay and Marine Park bridges at a reduced price. The Rockaway Peninsula is off southern Long Island in Queens that is very residential and used to be a very popular summer destination with areas of cabins only used during the summer. The TBTA made the tokens available to residents to help lower their commuting costs. Nowadays, the residents use the EZPass electronic toll collecting system for their discount.

The TBTA issued a few different residential tokens in various areas of the city to provide residents with discounts. While I have some of the others, including the one for Staten Island for use on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, this is the first one I found for the Rockaways. After all, these tokens were issued to be used by the residents. Most used the tokens they purchased and did not save them.

Obverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.

Obverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.

Reverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.

Reverse of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Rockaways resident token.

The other token I found was a souvenir from the Empire State Building. While I have a few tokens from the iconic building, this one not only looks newer but is also holed for use as jewelry. This is one of the better looking medals I have found since it look like it was minimally handled.

Obverse of the holed Empire State Building medal.

Obverse of the holed Empire State Building medal.

Reverse of the Empire State Building medal

Reverse of the Empire State Building medal

One of the ways to make collecting more fun and personal is to collect exonumia that means something. Being from New York, I once used some of these items not thinking that I would be collecting them years later. Subway tokens were ubiquitous in New York life. I used to use TBTA tokens a lot, especially crossing the Verrazano Bridge for a daily commute to Piscataway. Later, when I moved to New Jersey, I had used tokens for the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) and was excited to find tokens from its predecessor, Hudson Railway.

Coins are still a lot of fun, but I am really having fun looking for various hometown-related tokens and medals. Aside from being a reminder of my past, it is also a look back on the history of my hometown New York, New York, a city so nice they named it twice!

Return of the Poll: What’s on your desk?

Some of the numismatic items found on my desk.

Some of the numismatic items found on my desk.

To bring back the weekly poll, I thought about my post the other day about desktop finds where I discussed the items I found while cleaning my desk. I was thinking about this and was curious as to what other collectors do? After all, many of these items are the results of my saying “oh neat” and buying something outside of my collecting interest. Others are items that were given to me that are also outside of my collecting interest.

I read articles that say if you’re not a collector you’re an accumulator. But it is not that simple. Sometimes I over buy just to get one specific item. For example, the lot of Canadian dimes I found on my desk were purchased because I wanted one of the dimes for my collection. I will probably resell the rest of the dimes, but in the mean time they are on my desk.

Other items are souvenirs like the faux million-dollar bill and the package of shredded currency. While I may not have an attachment to them, they are not salable and I just do not want to throw them away. Maybe I’ll create an auction lot of this stuff to see if someone else wants it but it is still here, too.

What about you? Do you buy extra items and think you’ll resell them later? What about those souvenirs? How many of you have cheap items that you know you cannot resell or even give away? Take the poll. Comments are always welcome!

What kind of "extra items" are in your collection?

I have bought something I thought was neat or unusual. (35%, 6 Votes)
I have bought lots of coins or exonumia just for one or two items. (24%, 4 Votes)
I have souvenirs that are not part of my main collection. (18%, 3 Votes)
I collect souvenirs but have bought more than I should have. (12%, 2 Votes)
I have a box of goodies, want to see it? (12%, 2 Votes)
I just have what I collect and nothing extra. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 8

Loading ... Loading ...


Desktop Finds

Amongst my activities for the last month has been cleaning off the top of my desk. While for some this may be an easy project, for me it is a major proposition. One of the reasons is that the way I work can be best classified as “organized chaos.” Organized chaos builds piles of like items until there is no room. Rather than clean up the piles, priority items are reordered and piled on top of items that may not be needed until later. This keeps going until the desktop becomes unorganized as the piles get shifted looking for something that became buried. At some point the organization goes away and all that is left is the chaos. Finally, the day comes when a critical item can no longer be found.

I have had people tell me that the best way to keep my organization under control is to deal with the item right away. For some reason, I get attached to ideas, concepts, and the objects that are associated with them. Everything gets saved until I do something with them or I am faced with the difficult decisions to make it a priority when I finally dig out of the chaos.

But the digging can be fun because at the bottom of the pile, when the top of the desk is finally rediscovered, are the small items that are the most fun. In my case, there are a lot of coins, medals, tokens, and other items that I thought would be cool or nice to resell. Just to have a little fun, I gathered up some of the numismatic trinkets and decided to share it with my readers.

Some of the numismatic items found during my attempt to organize my chaos.

Some of the numismatic items found during my attempt to organize my chaos.

It looks like an eclectic little lot of stuff. I have a million dollar bill (talk about inflation money) sitting on top of a package of shredded currency that says has about $10 of chopped up notes, some Canadian money, and older U.S. coins. Those coins with the little numbered stickers were purchased at my coin club’s auction. There is a lot of five Canadian dimes, a copper 2-cent piece, and a nickel 3-cent coin.

Encased steel cent advertising John C. Roberts Shoes “for the particular man.”

Encased steel cent advertising John C. Roberts Shoes “for the particular man.”

But some of these coins are a bit interesting. Let’s look at this encased steel cent. Up until I bought this coin from noted error dealer Fred Weinberg through eBay I had never seen an encased steel cent. The aluminum ring says “Wear the John C. Roberts Shoe” around the top and “For Particular Men” on the bottom. The reverse has the address of a store in Chicago, Illinois.

John C. Roberts was one of the founders of the Roberts, Johnson & Rand Shoe Company of St. Louis in 1898 as a wholesaler. The other founders were Jack Johnson, Oscar Johnson, and Edgar E. Rand. They were a competitor to Peters Shoe Company that was founded in 1836 but organized into a formal corporation under Missouri law in 1891 by Henry W. Peters. The Peters Shoe Company was a manufacturer and wholesaler.

Although these two companies were competitors, their policies, ideals. and business standards were so closely aligned that they were drawn together by a mutual respect. The companies merged in 1911 and changed their name to the International Shoe Company. The next year, in 1912, the International Shoe Company purchased Friedman-Shelby Shoe Company, another St. Louis-based shoe manufacturer. In 1921, International Shoe Company was incorporated in Delaware.

International Shoe Company was once the world’s largest manufacturer of shoes with Red Goose shoes being its flagship brand. At one time, International Shoe Company owned Florsheim and Savage Shoes, Canada’s largest shoemaker. In 1966 the company changed its name to Interco and tried to become a conglomerate in apparel, footwear, and retailing. The company’s troubles began as it branched into furniture by buying Ethan Allen and Broyhill Furniture in 1980 as the furniture manufacturing was declining in the United States.

Eventually, Interco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991 and sold off all of its operations except for Broyhill, Lane, Converse (which it bought in 1986), and Florsheim. By 1994, the company sold Converse and Florsheim to exit the shoe business. The company was rebranded as Furniture Brands International 1996 after buying Thomasville Furniture. Now they only manufacture and sell furniture leaving collectors with these encased coins to raise our curiosity.

My next interesting find was my “gold” medal commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery County Coin Club in 2009. As president of the Montgomery County Coin Club, it was my job to help lead a celebration honoring our 50th anniversary. Since I was not a member for as long as others, I leaned heavily on longer tenured members for assistance. I believe the celebration went well.

To commemorate the occasion, we wanted a special medal but we did not want to spend a lot of money. Rather than buy new medals, we dipped into our ample supply of pewter medals and had them gold plated. On the back, I created a “50” logo that was similar to our regular logo that uses the reverse of the Maryland Tercentenary half-dollar but uses the reverse of the Lincoln Memorial cent that was released in 1959. That logo was added to a sticker and numbered. The club as #1 as a souvenir. Since I was the president, I was able to get #2. I just wish I made the background of that sticker a bit lighter.

Miscellaneous Items with Canadian dollar, dimes, a TBTA token, and Keith Hernandez souvenir “coin.”

Miscellaneous Items with Canadian dollar, dimes, a TBTA token, and Keith Hernandez souvenir “coin.”

Sometimes there is just some loose stuff on the desk including a Canadian dollar commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens (they are a professional hockey team for those who do not follow hockey), a token from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) in New York City, a small set of Canadian dimes, and a Keith Hernandez “coin” from a 7-Eleven promotion in the mid-1980s. Hernandez was the Mets’ star first baseman when they won the 1986 World Series. Yes, I know he played for St. Louis before being traded to the Mets, but that is inconsequential to my collecting interests!

The TBTA token is interesting because it is smaller than the ones I used to use because it is for other tolls than the East River bridges. This token was primarily used on the Henry Hudson and the Marine Parkway (now Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial) Bridges where the tolls were cheaper. The larger tokens were used on the Triborough Bridge, Verrazono-Narrows Bridge, the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and other nearby crossings.

Tokens are no longer accepted at the TBTA crossing and they stopped issuing special Staten Island resident tokens for the Verrazano Bridge in 1998 with the introduction of EZ-Pass. I should try to find a Staten Island resident token for my collection.

An 1865 3-cent nickel and an 1865 2-cent coin for my 2-, 3-, and 5-cent one-pager

An 1865 3-cent nickel and an 1865 2-cent coin for my 2-, 3-, and 5-cent one-pager

Finally, something that was purchased relatively recently but made it to the bottom of the pile are two coins I bought to start my one-page collection of 2-, 3-, and 5-cent coins. The week after writing about this in a blog post, the coins were available in my coin club’s monthly auction. Since I plan to put the set together, I bought these 1865 2-cent and 3-cent nickel coins to begin the question. But like a number of items that ended up buried on the surface of the desk, this is where that stopped. Now that I found the coins, I am going to make note of where I am in this collection and bring the list to the World’s Fair of Money in August to see if I can fill in the holes. In fact, I will probably work on completing my one-page cent collection, too. It’s not like I will have anything else to do!

There is more but if I do not stop now I am not going to be able to finish my cleaning!

Heritage Publishes A Great Auction Catalog

Front Cover of the Heritage Platinum Night Sports Auction

Front Cover of the Heritage Platinum Night Sports Auction

Whomever said “Don’t judge a book by its cover” did not see the recent auction catalog from Heritage Auction Galleries for their Platinum Night Sports Auction that will be held in New York on February 23-24. The catalog is a work of art worthy of the fantastic sports collectibles that are described in its pages.

Opening the Priority Mail envelope delivered in February 4 was a beautiful holographic image of iconic image of the 1980 United States Men’s Olympic Hockey Team celebrating their victory over the Soviet Red Army team. The eye-popping three-dimensional image is far more impressive than the image that appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated because of the visual texture it delivers.

The “Miracle on Ice” 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team may have been a bunch of guys trying to play hockey, but to the rest of us, they were a proxy in the Cold War. With the games being played in Lake Placid, New York, the nation gathered around television sets across the nation to hope and watch our boys beat the Soviets—just because they were the Soviets, long suspected of cheating by twisting the rules to pay players at a time when the Olympics were an all-amateur competition. I remember a group of us transplanted New Yorkers watching hockey in the dorms at the University of Georgia trying to teach the southerners about hockey was almost as entertaining as the games.

After staring at the cover you tilt it and the image of Mike Eruzione’s jersey can be seen. Eruzione’s “Miracle on Ice”, game worn gold medal game jersey, and other memorabilia from the 1980 gold medal winning hockey team is what Heritage picked as the highlight of the auction. Current bid for “The Miracle on Ice” jersey is $325,000.

Turn the cover over and there is a three-dimensional holographic image of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth sitting on a bench, hats in hand holding a baseball bat. The image is from the 1927 Murders Row team. Tilt the cover to see the 1927-1928 game worn Gehrig uniform jersey that is part of the auction.

Inside the catalog are some of the most phenomenal sports collectibles that could ever be imagined from nearly every sport. One of the more unusual items if “The Bloody Sock” worn by Curt Schilling during the second game of the 2004 World Series. Schilling’s performance on bad tendons have been compared with the fictional Roy Hobbs in the 1984 movie The Natural. It also represents the end of the 84-year Curse of the Bambino. Starting bid is $25,000.

Heritage also has a ticket stub from the 1962 Philadelphia Warriors Wilt Chamberlain 100 Point Game on March 2, 1962 at the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Officially, the attendance was 4,124 (or 10 million as the legend grew!). This PSA authenticated ticket is currently at $3,000.

For those looking for a numismatic tie to this auction, you might want to consider:

Since this is not specifically a numismatic item, I am grading it as a specimen release. I am grading this SP69 deducting a point for the typos that should have been caught in the editing process—one being in an item title that could not be ignored. It is a fantastic item and should be on the shelf of anyone who has an interest in sports and sports collectibles.

Happy bidding!

Catalog image is from the author whose catalog is not for sale!

Thinking About Home

My hometown was in the news today for two very different reasons, yet both remind me of why I continue to love New York.

Mayor Ed Koch at the commissioning ceremony for the USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG 57), 1988

Mayor Ed Koch at the commissioning ceremony for the USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG 57), 1988

In the morning, we woke to the news that Hizzoner, the former Mayor of New York City, Edward Irving Koch had died around 2 a.m. Friday morning. He was 88 years old.

Koch’s exuberance and love of New York propelled himself and the city from the what was seen as the bottom to a trajectory that you could not think of New York without Ed Koch or Ed Koch without New York. Koch’s perpetual question, “How am I doing?” will forever be his trademark throughout the streets, cabs, subways, highways, and byways of New York City.

A more happier note, it was on February 1, 1913 that Grand Central Station (really named “Grand Central Terminal” but that’s not what we called it growing up in New York) opened. It was not the first terminal on the site to bear the Grand Central name. The previous version opened in 1903 and comprised of three separate buildings. Over the next ten years the structure that stands there today was built in phases that including the underground rail tunnels that are still in use today.

Grand Central underwent a rehabilitation that started in 1994 through 2000 that cleaned up the famous ceiling in the grand concourse and reconfigured the above ground areas to include more shops. But it still represents the major transportation hub of New York.

Collecting transportation tokens are the ultimate numismatic collection that represents local history. Transportation has been at the heart of every city and can be used as a personal tie to your collectible. Tokens and medals representing local transportation can be more beautiful and significant than coins from the same era. Not long ago, I was able to find a pewter medal from the dedication of the East River Bridge. The bridge was rename in 1915 and is known today as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Having a collection of subway tokens reminds me of all those subway trips I had taken over the course of my life and the sesquicentennial medal of the Long Island Railroad represents my daily commutes from Long Island to my job at 30 Rock.

As I think about my hometown today, remember where you are from and consider starting a collection of tokens and medals that helps to tell your story. It can be as rewarding as your memories.

And to Hizzoner, you did just fine! Rest in peace.


Image of Ed Koch courtesy of Wikipedia.

My New Medal and a New Adventure

Cool collectibles come in various forms from a number of sources. This week, I received a nice collectible just for doing something I like to do: talk!

I have been a member of the Washington Numismatic Society for about a year and wanted to become involved. During the Whitman Show and the Maryland State Numismatic Association Annual Meeting, I was approached by the bulletin editor who is also a member of my home club sort of cornered me and convinced me to be the November program. He did not have to twist my arm (much) to get me to talk about Maryland Colonial Currency.

Not only have I posted articles about Maryland Colonial Currency (see this, this, that, and here), but I had published a full story in the Maryland Numismatist (Vol. 38, No. 1) that won the MSNA Article of the Year.

Since writing the article I had purchased a few notes and found more information. So I had taken the first presentation [PDF] I made to my coin club that inspired the articles and interest in Maryland colonial currency, and edited it for time and content.

After the presentation, I was presented with a bronze medal from WNS’s 75th Anniversary. WNS is the one of the oldest numismatic organizations in the area who celebrated their 75th anniversary in 2002. The medal is 38mm in diameter and 4mm at the thickest part of the design. It is nicely made by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

Doing this presentation not only reminded me that I have more research to fill in some of the details, but that I am missing notes in my collection. I also found a new group of collectors in the area to learn from, which is always good. I paid my dues for 2013 and hope to attend more meetings.

Pin It on Pinterest