Numismatics at an Auto Show

My dream car… in model form!

You never know when a hobby would intersect with an interest. Of course the hobby is numismatics. The interest is cars. Not just any cars, but classic cars. I have a weak spot for the muscle cars of the early 1970s and just about any car built before 1960. In fact, my dream car is a red 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible. I cannot think of any car that screams American over-the-top solid engineering and styling of Harley Earle than of that 5,000 pound beast. General Motors sold the car for $7,400 in 1959 which would be $58,845.77 in 2012 dollars. Even though the Series 62 may be a little less expensive on the current classic car market, when you are looking at cars out of your price range why not go for the top of the line!

Saturday was the 2012 Rockville Antique and Classic Car Show, a yearly show supported by 25 local and regional car clubs. When I arrived around 1 o’clock I saw a field with more than 500 antique and classic cars. Although I was not interested in some cars, there were others that were absolutely stunning. While I did not find a 1959 Cadillac, there were a few cars that I would love to own. You can see some of the cars I found and a quick video of the inside of a Volkswagen Bus visit on my page at Photobucket.†

While the 1959 Cadillac is my dream car, my nostalgic car is a 1973 Plymouth Gold Duster. While it was not my first car, it ranks one of my favorites from my early days. This Gold Duster was “sunshine yellow” with the brown snake-skin three-quarter covered vinyl top. The 225 Hemi Slant 6 engine output 145 horsepower but was more than enough for this car especially since it did not have air conditioning! My father bought it as a new car in 1973 and I “inherited” it in 1980 while in college. Unfortunately, it met its demise on a rainy road while trying to avoid hitting a dog.

To satisfy my nostalgia, I was looking at the wares of the flea market dealers in the adjacent lot when I came across a brochure for the 1973 Gold Duster. “Get Ready to Stake Your Claim” screams the headline on the front cover. Open the brochure and it tells you that “You’ve Discovered Gold Duster.” While admiring the picture that reminded me of my youth, I noticed the coin image at the bottom right corner that said:

If you cannot read the image, it says:

This gold coin is a replica of the fame Twenty Dollar California Gold Piece, struck in about 1855, that bought sustenance during the days of the great Gold Rush.
This is a replica of only two known specimens. The originals are so rare no value has been established.
Notice the very fine detail and workmanship. The press embossed on the coin is a good representation of what a coin press looked like in the 1800’s. The milling around the edge of the coin was done to prevent shaving the coin—thereby decreasing its value. The original coins were .900 pure gold.
You can make a complete collection of famous United States coins by consulting the back page of this booklet.

Interested in what this collection can be, I turned over the brochure see a 1973 advertisement for 12 “authentic replicas” of the Chrysler-Plymouth “Old West” Coin Collection. The collection appears to be replicas of various assay tokens from the famous gold assayers of the time. For $7.75 per set (or $40.39 today), you could have ordered a full set along with a vinyl/velour folder.

Chrysler-Plymouth “Old West” Coin Collection Order Form from 1973 Plymouth Gold Duster Brochure

At the intersection of cars and numismatics I found fascinating piece of automotive advertising history with a numismatic slant. I do not know if a version of this set has survived—an Internet search yielded more copies of the brochure—but it would be interesting to find a set.

† At the time this is posted, I have not labeled the images on Photobucket. I hope to finish that sometime this week.

Catching Up On Whitman’s Baltimore Show

Those following the weather-related events around Washington, DC have seen how a little wind can set the local electric companies into a tizzy. Most of us in the effected areas feel that the restoration experience more represents the Keystone Cops rather than a responsible utility company. The last few blog posts have been previously scheduled. Now that power is restored and the refrigerator has been cleaned and restocked, it is time to talk numismatics.

Before the storm, I attended the Whitman Baltimore Expo. While their June show may be the smallest of the three shows that are put on in Baltimore, it still remains a premier show on the east coast, only rivaling its other two shows and F.U.N. for being amongst the best of non-A.N.A. shows. This may be a biased view since the Baltimore Show was the first show I attended when I returned to numismatics following the untimely passing of my first wife. But I am still amazed how Whitman can put on a good show three-times per year!

Friday, after a morning appointment and a delay in leaving, I backed out of my garage and headed to the highway. Over the last year, there is a new highway that will bring me to I-95 a lot quicker than driving down to the Capital Beltway. The ride was a pleasure since it new highway is a toll road and people seem to be allergic to tolls. My problems began when I exited to I-95 North. An accident and two major construction projects extended the usual one-hour trip to nearly two-and-a-half hours! I should be used to this type of traffic living in the D.C.-area, known as the worst on the east coast, but Capital Hill is not the only place where one could find mindless acts.

I could not park in my usual location because it was full, so I was further delayed by trying to find parking near the convention center. Thankfully, my new hip allows me to walk further distances and I was only 35 minutes late for the talk by Don Kagin. While I did arrive in time to take some pictures (a very small sample are on Pinterest), I wish I could have been there for his entire talk.

Before walking the bourse floor, I did have business to conduct, some of which I will discuss at another time. Suffice to say that I took the opportunity to see some people, shake hands, and show my appreciation for their work. Amongst the people I was able to see was Michelle Coiron, Director of sales for Star-Spangled 200 and David Crenshaw, General Manager of Whitman Expos. Both do a great job for their organizations and deserve a sign of appreciation.

Then it was time to hit the bourse floor. As opposed to other times I was at the show, there seemed to be quite a bit activity even as the day wore on. I was pleased to see quite a number of people attended the show that late on a Friday. It keeps the dealers happy and at their tables. I really did not see an exodus begin until about 5:30, about a half-hour before closing.

I spoke with a few dealers who said that business was steady. Most of the coin dealers seemed to be happy while most of the currency dealers called the show a little slow. If anything, I was a little disappointed with some of the currency dealers. With my interest in Maryland colonial currency, I was looking at their inventory for something I could add to my collection. I did not find much colonial currency and what I did was not from Maryland. The only dealer who had any currency in stock from Maryland had 1774 notes, which are the easiest to find.

Since I was late, I passed a number of dealers I spoke with in the past so I could cover as much of the floor as possible. I was not in much a buying mood but I was able to find the 2012 silver one-ounce Chinese Panda and Australian Koala. Both beautiful coins and will be added to what I call my “silver dollar” collection—silver coins 38-40 millimeters in size, like the American Silver Eagle, British Britannia, and Canadian Maple Leaf.

Being in a good mood and wanting to do some thing different, I did spend a lot of time with the exonumia dealers. I saw some really wonderful medals, tokens, and encased coins that really piqued my interest. Rather than buying just anything, which I could have done given my good mood, I applied a little personal discipline and stuck to my goal of finding something neat at every show but limit it to fit in my collection of New York City-related numismatics.

While searching through one dealer’s stock I found my “oh neat” item from New York. What I found was made of pewter, 35½mm in diameter, 3⅓mm thick, and holed on the top. It became irresitable after reading the obverse that says, “Two Cities As One/New York/Brooklyn.” On the reverse in true Victorian style, it says “Souvenir of the Opening of the East River Bridge/May 24th, 1883/1867-1883.” In 1915, New York City renamed it the Brooklyn Bridge.

On May 24, 1883, thousands of people crowded lower Manhattan and Brooklyn for the grandest of all ceremonies from all over the area—even as far away as Philadelphia. The list of dignitaries was a Who’s Who of the political America that included President Chester A. Arthur, New York Governor Grover Cleveland, and New York City Mayor Franklin Edson. The carriage carrying President Arthur and Mayor Edson lead the parade surrounded by a very large cheering crowd.

At 1:50 PM, the processional arrived at the entrance of the new bridge, President Arthur and Mayor Edson left their carriage and crossed what was the world’s longest suspension bridge arm-in-arm to a cheering crowd who paid $2 for tickets to watch from the bridge. The band played Hail to the Chief as ships who came to the ceremony and anchored around the East River blew horns to honor the President. Navy ships who were invited to the ceremonies took turns giving 21-gun salutes.

When they arrive in Brooklyn, they were greeted by Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low The three men locked arms and marched to the Brooklyn Pier (today, the area of Brooklyn Bridge Park) to complete the ceremony dedicating the bridge to the people of the New York City and Brooklyn.

Growing up on Long Island, my late mother insisted that during some of our breaks from school that we play tourist and visit various places in and around New York City to learn about where we are from. During the trips to Rockefeller Center, a place I would work in the 1990s, we would visit the Chase Manhattan Bank Money Museum. Up until it was closed in 1977, it held one of the best collection of numismatic items outside of the Smithsonian Institute. Ironically, the Smithsonian was the recipient of some of the items in the museum following its closure. Another beneficiary was the American Numismatic Society who still retains their part of the Chase Manhattan Collection.

This museum was source of fascination, especially after I learned about collecting while searching through the change I made delivering the afternoon Newsday on Long Island. Somewhere, buried in a box, I have a pamphlet from one of my visits to the Chase Money Museum. I remember the cover was blue and it had a “money tree” on the front. As a youngster, that was significant because my father would lecture me by saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Although the item was made to look like a tree with coins coming off the branches, it was a source of comic relief at home. Otherwise, I do not have a souvenir from the museum. Until now!

Searching through boxes from the same dealer I bought the Brooklyn Bridge medal, I found an encased Lincoln Cent from the Chase Money Museum. In fact, I found several from various dates. Of the ones I found, I bought one with a 1956-D Lincoln Cent that still had its red luster! Even though I could not have visited the museum in 1956—it was before I was born—it was the only coin that looked uncirculated. Rather than try to find one that would have been from the time I could have visited, I picked the better looking coin. Now if I could find my pamphlet, it would make a great part of my New York City collection.

My next show will be the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in August at the Philadelphia Convention Center. I will have a lot planned for those few days and should make for an interesting story. Stay tuned!

Numismatics Is More Than Coins

Although the dominant area of numismatics is the collection and study of legal tender coins, numismatics is more than just coins. Numismatic is the collecting and study of items used in the exchange for goods, resolve debts, and objects used to represent something of monetary value. This opens up numismatic collecting to a wide range of items and topics that could make “the hunt” to put together the collection as much fun as having the collection.


Exonumia is the study and collection of tokens, medals, or other coin-like objects that are not considered legal tender. Exonumia opens numismatics to a wide variety of topics that could not be satisfied by collecting coins alone. An example of exonumia is the collection of transportation tokens. You may be familiar with transportation tokens from your local bus or subway company who used to sell tokens to place into fare boxes. Others may have used tokens to more easily pay in the express lanes at bridges and tunnels. A person who collects transportation tokens is called a Vecturist. For more information on being a Vecturist, visit the website for the American Vecturist Association.

Token collecting can be the ultimate local numismatic collection. Aside from transportation tokens, some states and localities issued tax tokens in order to collect fractions of a cent in sales taxes to allow those trying to get by in during down economic times to stretch their money further. Some communities issued trade tokens that allowed those who used them to use them as cash at selected merchants. Some merchants issued trade tokens that were an early form of coupons that were traded as coupons are traded today.

While tokens are items used to represent monetary value, medals are used to honor, commemorate, or advertize. The U.S. Mint produces medals that honor people, presidents, and events. Medals produced by the U.S. Mint are those authorized by law as a national commemoration including the medal remembering the attacks of 9/11.

Commemorative medals are not limited to those produced by the U.S. Mint. State and local governments have also authorized the producing medals on their behalf that were produced by private mints. Many organizations also have created medals honoring members or people that have influenced the organization. Companies have produced medals to honor their place in the community or something about the company and their community.

Many medals have designs that can be more beautiful than on coins since they are not limited to governmental mandated details and their smaller production runs allows for more details to be added. Medals can be larger and thicker than coins and made in a higher relief than something that could be manufactured by a government mint.

Exonumia collecting also involves elongated and encased coins. You may have seen the machines in many areas where you pay 50-cents, give it one of your cents, turn the wheel and the cent comes out elongated with a pattern pressed into the coin. Elongated coins have been used as advertisements, calling cards, and as a souvenir.

Encased coins are coin encircled with a ring that has mostly been used as an advertisement. One side will call the coin a lucky coin or provide sage advice with the other side advertising a business. Another form of encased coins are encased stamps. Encased stamps were popular in the second half of the 19th century and used for trade during times when there were coin shortages.

Other exonumia includes badges, counter stamped coins, wooden money, credit cards, and casino tokens. Counter stamped coins are coins that have been circulated in foreign markets that were used in payment for goods. When the coin was accepted in the foreign market, the merchant would examine the coin and impress a counter stamp on the coin proclaiming the coin to be genuine based on their examination. Although coins were counter stamped in many areas of the world, it was prevalent in China where the coins were stamped with the Chinese characters representing the person who examined the coin. These Chinese symbols are commonly referred to as “chop marks.”

One type of counter stamped coins are stickered coins. Stickered coins were popular in the first half of the 20th century; they were used as an advertisement. Merchants would purchase stickers and apply them to their change so that as the coins circulated, the advertising would reach more people. Some stickered coins acted as a coupon to entice the holder to bring the coin into the shop and buy the merchandise.

Remember the saying, “Don’t take any wooden nickels?” If you are a wooden money collector, you want to find the wooden nickels and other wooden denominations. Wooden nickels found popularity in the 1930s as a currency replacement to offer money off for purchases or as advertisement. Wooden nickels are still being produced today mostly as an advertising mechanism.

We cannot end the discussion of exonumia without mentioning Love Tokens and Hobo Nickels. Love Tokens became popular in the late 19th century when someone, usually a man, would carve one side of a coin, turn it into a charm for a bracelet or necklace, and give it to his loved one. The designed are as varied as the artists who created them. Hobo Nickels are similar in that hobo artists would carve a design into a Buffalo Nickel to sell them as souvenirs. While there are contemporary Love Tokens and Hobo Nickels, collectors have an affection for the classic design that shows the emotion of the period.

Currency collecting, formally called notaphily, is the study and collection of banknotes or legally authorized paper money. Notes can be collected by topic, date or time period, country, paper type, serial number, and even replacement or Star Notes (specific to the United States). Some consider collecting checks part of notaphily. Collectors of older cancelled checks are usually interested in collecting them based on the issuing bank, time period, and the signature. For the history of currency and their collecting possibilities, see my previous article, “History of Currency and Collecting”.

Scripophily is the study and collection of stock and bond certificates. This is an interesting subset of numismatics because of the wide variety of items to collect. You can collect in the category of common stock, preferred stock, warrants, cumulative preferred stocks, bonds, zero-coupon bonds, and long term bonds. Scripophily can be collected by industry (telecom, automobile, aviation, etc.); autographs of the officers; or the type of vignettes that appear on the bonds.
Militaria: Honorable Collectibles

Collecting of military-related items may be considered part of exonumia but deserves its own mention. It is popular to collect military medals and awards given to members since the medals themselves are works of art. Families will save medals awarded to relatives and even create museum-like displays to honor or memorialize the loved one.
Militaria includes numismatic-related items that represent the various services. One of the growing areas of collectibles is Challenge Coins. A challenge coin is a small medal, usually no larger than 2-inches in diameter, with the insignia or emblem of the organization. Two-sided challenge coins may have the emblem of the service on the front and the back has the emblem of the division or other representative service. Challenge coins are traditionally given by a commander in recognition of special achievement or can be exchange as recognition for visiting an organization.

Over the last few years, civilian government agencies and non-government organizations (NGO) have started to create and issue challenge coins. Most of those agencies have ties to the military, but not all. Like their military counterparts, a manager or director can give challenge coins in recognition of special achievement or for visiting an organization.

Another area of military collectibles is Military Payment Certificates (MPC). MPC was a form of currency that was used to pay military personnel in foreign countries. MPC were first issued to troops in Europe after World War II in 1946 to provide a stable currency to help with commerce. MPC evolve from Allied Military Currency (AMC) to control the amounts of U.S. dollars circulating in the war zone and to prevent enemy forces from capturing dollars for their own gain. Prior to World War II, troops were paid in the currency of the country where they were based. With the ever moving fronts and the allies need to control the economies to defeat the Axis powers, AMC was issued to allow the military to control their value.
After the war, MPC replaced APC in order to control the currency and prevent the locals from hoarding U.S. dollars preventing the building of their own economies. When military officials discovered that too many notes were in the circulation, being hoarded, and thriving on the black market, series were demonetized and reissued to military personnel. Those holding MPC notes not in the military received nothing and were encouraged to circulate their own currency.

MPC were printed using lithography in various colors that changed for each series. From the end of World War II to the end of the Vietnam War there were 15 series printed with only 13 issued. Although the two unissued series were destroyed, some examples have been found in the collections of those involved with the MPC system. Amongst the 13 series that were issues, there are 94 recognized notes available for collectors. Most notes are very affordable and accessible to the interested collector.

Collect What You Like

Numismatics is the collecting and study of items used in the exchange for goods, resolve debts, and objects used to represent something of monetary value. The dominant area of numismatics is the collection and study of legal tender coins with United States coins being the most collected. But numismatics is more than collection coins. It includes the collecting and study of:

  • Exonumia—the study of tokens, medals, or other coin-like objects that are not considered legal tender. Those involved in exonumia collect elongated and encased coins, badges, counterstamped coins, wooden money, credit cards, and the like. Military medals are also collected as exonumia. And do not forget Love Tokens and Hobo Nickels, former legal tender coins with special engravings and carvings.
  • Notaphily—is the study and collection of banknotes or legally authorized paper money. Notes can be collected by topic, date or time period, country, paper type, serial number, and even replacement or star notes (specific to the United States). Some consider collecting checks part of notaphily. Checks are collected by issuing bank, time period, and the signature.
  • Scripophily—is the study and collection of stock and bond certificates. This is an interesting subset of numismatics because of the wide variety of items to collect. You can collect in the category of common stock, preferred stock, warrants, cumulative preferred stocks, bonds, zero-coupon bonds, and long term bonds. Scripophily can be collected by industry (telecom, automobile, aviation, etc.); autographs of the officers; or the type of vignettes that appear on the bonds.

I bring this up because a friend was asking about what to collect. He was under the impression that numismatics were coins only. I explained it was more than coins—it is anything that represents money or money-like items or even medals that represent worth. This is how military medals are considered part of numismatics. A medal representing the achievement shows the worth of the soldier as a warrior.

Showing him my collection, I showed how I have items that cover all of the areas of numismatics. New York City subway tokens and various medals are all part of exonumia. My recent interest in Maryland colonial currency and the purchase of some of the special collectibles from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are part of notaphily. I cannot forget my small collection of stock certificates that represent the railroads in the original Monopoly game is a modest dive into scripophily.

I told my friend like I tell everyone else: why collect what everyone else collects. I collect what I like. I collect based on the “oh, neat!” factor. This is why I have a set of the Somalia Motorcycle Coins and looking for a set of the Somalia classic muscle car coins.

In other words, collect what you like and like what you collect!

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