The American Numismatic Association's signature Museum Showcase
will feature spectacular examples of some of America's first coins
and paper money, along with many other rare and historically
significant numismatic treasures, at the 2013 World's Fair of
Rittenhouse 1792 half disme
Two of the most important, related items of early American
numismatics -- the document signed by George Washington and Thomas
Jefferson appointing David Rittenhouse as the first Director of the
United States Mint and Rittenhouse's own superb condition 1792 half
disme -- will be publicly displayed together for the first
The Rittenhouse half disme and appointment document are being
loaned to the ANA for the exhibit by an anonymous collector who also is loaning one
of the two known 1921 Roman Finish proof Saint-Gaudens Double
Eagles for the Museum Showcase. He's also providing a silver
candlestick formerly owned by Martha Washington.
The half disme is graded PCGS MS68 and the 1921 proof $20 gold
piece is NGC Roman Finish PF64+ CAC.
Slightly smaller than a modern dime and weighing less than
one-23rd of an ounce (20.8 grains), the half disme (an early
spelling of the word dime) was struck in the basement of a
Philadelphia saw-maker's shop in July 1792. The nearby Mint was not
yet operational. The silver half dismes were the first coins
authorized by President Washington under the Mint Act of 1792.
The obverse depicts the portrait of a symbolic female
representation of Liberty, the legend, LIB. (liberty) PAR. (parent)
OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY, and the year, 1792. The reverse has the
denomination, HALF DISME, and the words, UNI (united) STATES OF
AMERICA surrounding an eagle.
The handwritten document dated April 14, 1792, appointing
astronomer, clock maker, inventor and mathematician Rittenhouse as
the first Mint Director was signed by President George Washington
and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
Proof 1921 Double Eagle
The Chicago ANA convention will be the first public appearance
in the Midwest of the 1921 Roman Finish proof Saint-Gaudens Double
The existence of any 1921-dated proof Double Eagle was not known
until 2000 when a coin formerly
belonging to Raymond T. Baker was authenticated.
Baker was Mint Director in 1921. A second proof example in
much better condition was discovered in 2006 and was displayed that
year at the Boston ANA World's Fair of Money. It is one of
the two known 1921 Roman Finish proof Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
gold coins, graded NGC PF64+ CAC.
"I knew instantly it was a proof the first time I saw it," said
John Albanese, CAC Founder who said he offered more than a million
dollars for it the first time he saw it before it was certified by
I've viewed several hundred thousand Mint State Saints and perhaps
a hundred proofs. This one doesn't look like any of the Mint
State coins, but does have the look, 'texture and fabric' just like
the proofs I've seen. This was a no brainer," he
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation Chairman Mark Salzberg stated:
"The 1921 proof ranks highly among the truly important recent
numismatic discoveries. For the $20 Saint-Gaudens series, in
particular, it is earth shattering to encounter a coin like this
for the first time outside of a museum or marquis collection. This
is world-class numismatic treasure and everyone should take a few
minutes to see it for themselves in its NGC holder."
The only four known Quintuple Stella/Metric Double Eagle $20
denomination pattern gold coins that were struck as part of an
experiment for the U.S. to produce coins to compete in
international trade with coins of similar weight and size produced
at the time by several other countries.
The "Stella" four-dollar and twenty-dollar pattern gold coins
are the legacy of a proposed plan to make American gold coins
conform to the international standard created by the Latin Monetary
Union. The Union was an alliance of nations that agreed to create
an international coinage standard based on the weight and
composition of the current French 20 Franc piece. It was formed in
1865 by France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland and had 11 members
when it was disbanded in 1927. While the US never formally
joined, several efforts were made to align US coinage to
In 1879 a four-dollar gold coin was proposed to Congress that
would be approximately equal in gold content to the French 20-franc
coins. This proposal was made to facilitate the use of American
gold coins in foreign exchange in an era of prosperity and growing
international trade. Hundreds of pattern pieces were produced
but the Stella ultimately failed in Congress. The idea was doomed
from the start because the coins would only approximate the value
of the international coinage - a recipe for commercial
disaster. Today, only numismatists remember the dream of a
universal coinage that created these fascinating coins.
The Quintuple Stellas are from the Robert Simpson Collection,
courtesy of Legend Numismatics.
The first Greek coins, like those of Lydia, were incuse on one
side and were stamped with the badge of a city or a deity. After
its adoption by Argos and Athens, coinage spread quickly to the
Greek coastal cities of the Mediterranean during the 6th
Early Greek coinage is characterized by its high relief and
exceptional engraving. The artistic quality of coinage was a matter
of great importance to the Greek city-states as coins became a
focus of civic pride and a mark of political independence. Designs
were chosen based on the patron deity of a city or products
associated with it or on punning allusions to the city name so that
the coins would be easily recognized as having come from that city.
Over time as more cities began issuing coins, legends began to be
added to make their origins more clear.
The Greeks of Southern Italy (Magna Graecia) and Sicily began to
adopt coinage during the middle of the 6th century BC. However, a group of cities
did not simply copy the form of the coins that they learned about
from the cities of Greece proper - instead they introduced an
innovative method of striking coins. This method involved the
production of coins with a raised design on one side and a mirror
image of the same design in incuse on the reverse.
The process of making these coins was more complicated than the
usual method as it required more care in engraving so that the
obverse and reverse dies would match and that the dies be properly
aligned during striking in order to produce an acceptable result.
The problem with these requirements is that the extra skill and
care necessary to create the coins made them more expensive to
produce. Coins of this type were no longer produced by the middle
of the 5th century BC.
Historic Bank Notes
In 1928, the
United States Treasury decided to reduce the size of its
currency in order to speed up transactions, and also to cut costs.
By this time, the Federal
Reserve had taken over much of the currency market, and the
prices of gold and silver had risen greatly. For the
Series of 1928, only $1 Silver Certificates were produced.
Fives and tens of this time were mainly Federal Reserve Notes,
which were backed by and redeemable in gold. All this would change
with the beginning of the Great
Depression in October 1929, when the United States economy was
met with profound disaster.
In response, President Franklin
Roosevelt persuaded Congress to recall all gold coins, gold
bullion, and gold certificates, which circulated alongside Silver
Certificates. This prompted Congress to quietly place the U.S. on
the silver standard. May 12, 1933, the Agricultural Adjustment Act
was passed, which included a clause allowing for the pumping of
silver into the market to replace the gold. A new Series 1933 $10
Silver Certificate was printed, but few were released into
A 1934 law allowed the government to exchange silver bullion
(instead of silver dollars) for Silver Certificates. The 1933 $10
certificates, as well as the 1928 $1 certificates, were phased out
and replaced with Series of 1934 certificates. The obligation on
these certificates was changed to read "THIS CERTIFIES THAT
THERE IS ON DEPOSIT IN THE TREASURY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
(NUMBER) DOLLAR(S) IN SILVER PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON
DEMAND". The small-size $5 Silver Certificate was also
introduced with this series.
Certificates circulated, mainly in the $1 denomination, widely
throughout the United States in the years following 1934. When the
'34s wore out, they were replaced with a new, more modern-looking
Series 1953 (1935 for the $1 silvers; see below), with the same
face changes as the Series 1950 Federal Reserve Notes had
experienced. However, the Silver Certificates began to disappear
from circulation during the 1940s and 1950s. The amount of Silver
Certificates in circulation depended directly upon the amount of
silver bullion in the Treasury vaults. As people redeemed the
certificates for bullion or silver dollars, the notes were
shredded, because the notes had lost their backing and could not be
recirculated unless there was more silver being produced. The price
of silver was also rising. In 1960, it was nearing $1.29, which
meant that silver dollars were worth more than $1. This meant that
people would receive their silver dollars and melt them down for
the bullion, thereby reducing the amount of silver in circulation,
which was already falling.
In 1963 President John F.
Kennedy issued Executive
Order 11110, authorizing the Department of Treasury to issue
additional Silver Certificates for any silver held by the U.S.
Government in excess of that not already backing issued
In March 1964, Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas
Dillon halted redemption of Silver Certificates for coined
silver dollars; during the following four years, Silver
Certificates were redeemable in uncoined silver "granules." All
redemption in silver ceased on June 24, 1968. In the 1970s, large
numbers of the remaining silver dollars in the mint vaults were
sold to the collecting public for collector value.
Banco de Mexico
The Eagle as Mexico's National Emblem
"And the eagle, the animal itself, was portrayed on money
What is the origin of the Mexican national seal? The eagle has
been the Mexican symbol and part of its national seal since
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. An Aztec (also
known as Mexicas) legend refers to a long pilgrimage made by their
people and how the god Huitzilopochtli would provide a sign to
reveal where the Aztecs should settle. They discovered the sign on
a small island in the valley of Mexico's main lake (Texcoco) where
they saw an eagle standing on a nopal cactus, devouring a snake,
and there they founded Tenochtitlán, which became México City.
During the time of colonial rule, and despite official
prohibition, the image of the eagle and the snake on a cactus was
reproduced several times, especially in architecture. First,
it became a symbol of Creole nationalism and then part of Mexico's
In 1823, the Constituent Congress established the Mexican
Republic and defined the national seal's features:"Let the seal be
the Mexican eagle standing on its left claw, on a nopal cactus
growing out from a rock in the lake, and holding with its left claw
a snake displaying a menacing attitude of devouring it with its
beak; and surrounding this coat of arms two branches, one of laurel
and the other of holm oak, according to the design used by the
Government of the first supporters of Independence."
Although the order that established the features of
the national seal was detailed, at the same time it was vague
enough to encourage variations in design. The national seal
appeared in a wide range of variations on Mexican coinage
throughout the 19th century, some with an eagle seen from the side
or facing forward, some with eagles bigger than others, and some
with eagles with larger or smaller extended wings, among
In 1905 the Mexican monetary system underwent an important
reform. The gold standard was adopted, bimetallism was abandoned,
the peso was introduced as a monetary unit (equivalent to 75
centigrams of pure gold), and the legend surrounding the national
seal changed to ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS (United Mexican States).
During the 20th century new varieties of the national seal were
In 1966, the Mexican Congress consulted expert scholars to
create new legislation defining the characteristics of the National
Seal, influenced by its pre-Hispanic origin. Today the Mexican seal
consists of heraldic figures of pre-conquest origin (the eagle,
serpent, nopal cactus, rock), with other symbols created during the
colonial period (water, laurel and oak branches), as well as
contemporary Mexican legends.
"Byzantine" coinage began with the
economic reforms of Anastasius I (491 - 518 AD) which laid the
foundations for the survival and prosperity of the empire. The
denominations of Byzantine coinage carried over from the West were
the gold solidus and its fractions, the silver siliqua and
miliaresion and the tiny nummus. The gold solidus (later the
nomisma) became the most stable and desirable trade coinage
throughout the Mediterranean to the borders of India until the late
11th century. Anastasius filled the large gap between
the precious metals and the by introducing the follis (40 nummi);
the ½ follis, (20 nummi) the decanumium (ten nummi), the
pentanummia (five nummi) and later the ¾ follis (30 nummi).
The 7th century witnessed the rise of
Islam, which was to become the greatest rival and threat to
Byzantium and Christianity for the next 800 years. Byzantium
became the boundary between the Christian West and the Muslim East.
This role was reflected through the use of Christian religious
symbolism on coinage. The cross appeared early on coinage and
the image of Christ started with Justinian II and continued until
the end. The pagan image of Nike (winged goddess of victory from
Roman times) was converted into a male angel, the halo became
common along with globus cruciger (a globe with a cross mounted on
it symbolizing Christ's power over the world). Symbolism and
mysticism became central themes in the design of Byzantine gold
coins, creating an intriguing and beautiful
The Byzantine economy collapsed during the
mid-11th century and was only stabilized at the end of the century
by Alexius I. The old monetary system was replaced by 4
denominations - the gold hyperperon, the electrum aspron trachy
(1/3 of the hyperperon and the billon aspron trachy (1/48 of the
hyperperon). This system lasted throughout the 12th century until
the disastrous Latin (Crusader) conquest of Constantinople in
1204. Byzantine gold coinage was suspended during the 14th
century after a series of debasements, and the Byzantine Empire
ended its long numismatic history with a modest silver and bronze
Nova Constellatio Quint
Soon after independence, the Congress of the United States began
to consider the subject of money for the new nation. Robert
Morris, who had been appointed as Superintendent of Finance for the
Confederation on February 20, 1781, was determined to exercise the
government's right to produce coins. In 1782, Gouverneur Morris,
Assistant Superintendent of Finance, proposed an idea for an
entirely new coinage based on the decimal system. The new coinage
created a mathematical link between the existing diverse State
currencies of account in order to generate support from the States
for a national coinage.
Despite it ingenuity, the plan was possibly the most
mathematically cumbersome system ever devised for a coinage. It
required the creation of a Unit equal to ¼ of a grain of silver
i.e. 1/1440 of a Spanish dollar or 1/1600 part of an English crown
(5 shilling coin). Patterns representing 1000 Units (the
"mark"), 500 units ("quint"), 100 Units ("bit") and 5 Units were
produced on this standard by Benjamin Dudley, a English die
engraver living in Boston. The coin on display here is the
unique type 2 quint (500 Unit).
Dudley designed and produced the Nova Constellatio Patterns of
1783, the first pattern coins for the United States. Dudley
produced four pattern pieces. The three larger denominations were
struck in silver and one in copper. Two different varieties exist
of the quint 1783 Nova Constellation Pattern coin; both are unique.
The first variety (Type 1) is similar to the unique 1000 Unit, the
three known 100 Units, and the unique 5 Unit. The type 2 (on
display) shares the same reverse with the Type 1 quint, but a
different obverse. The all-seeing eye motif is retained, but
the Type 2 lacks the NOVA CONSTELLATIO legend and has an additional
circle within the beaded border. The diameter is smaller (24
mm versus the 27 mm of the Type 1) and the weight is lower (109.72
grains versus the 133.98 of the Type 1).
In the end, the problem with Morris' system, pointed out by
Thomas Jefferson, was that it was too complex. The complexity
necessary to reconcile the old state monetary systems into one
unified system made it impractical for everyday usage. Once it
had done so, there was no rational reason to continue using such a
cumbersome system, especially as none of the proposed denominations
matched commonly used coins of the time. In the end, only a
few pattern coins were produced using Dudley's design.
The Bebee 1913 Liberty Head “V” Nickel
Liberty Head nickels were made in 1913 under mysterious
circumstances. The existence of the nickels was unknown until 1919,
when an advertisement in The Numismatist offered to
purchase any example for $500. The ad was placed by Samuel W.
Brown, a former Mint employee. In 1920 Brown exhibited all five
nickels at the ANA convention in Chicago.
Listen to the Money Talks podcast: NGC
Chairman Mark Salzberg has authenticated all five 1913 Liberty Head
Nickels and has many insights on these coins.
The Idler/Bebee Class III Specimen 1804 Dollar
Known as "The King of U.S. Coins," the 1804 dollar
is extremely rare, with only 15 known examples. No U.S. dollars
dated 1804 actually were struck in that year; Class I specimens
were struck in 1834-5 as diplomatic gifts (8 known), while Class II
(unique) and III specimens (6 known) were struck during the 1850s
The Idler/Bebee specimen was donated to the ANA by Aubrey
and Adeline Bebee in 1991.
Listen to the Money Talks podcast: Kenneth E.
Bressett, who co-authored "The Fantastic 1804 Dollar" with Eric
Newman, discusses the lore, origins and history behind the 1804