Notes, Thoughts, and Ideas.

  • Cleopatra, Coins, and the Ancient Egyptian Economy

    Cleopatra: few names evoke more of a sense of exotic history and tragedy. She is legendary for her beauty, as well as her skill at manipulating rulers. While Roman portrayals of…

  • The Proof of the Coin is in the Weight

    Metal detectorists come across many unusual items from bygone ways of life on their expeditions. Spindle whorls are common, as are shoe buckles. One of the most interesting…

  • Commemorating the Great War: Next-of-Kin Plaques

    One of the most interesting exonumismatic items of the modern era comes from the first World War. In 1917, while World War I raged, the British government set up a committee…

  • A French Oasis in Early Pennsylvania

    Deep in the Pennsylvania wilderness, travelers at the end of the 18th century might stumble upon something extraordinary: a perfect little French town, complete with shops, a…

  • Past and Present Mix in a Coin Rite

    It’s long been thought that rituals involving the sacrifice of a coin (wishing wells, coins on the eyes of the dead, etc) date back to ancient practices of sacrificing…

  • The Coins of the Lost Emperor

    Coins are an unusually good way of preserving history. They are stamped with the images of rulers and significant persons, the precious metals in them do not corrode easily, and…

  • Coins and Sailing Traditions

    Sailors are known as a superstitious bunch, and coins have been used in luck charms for almost as long as they have existed. It’s no wonder that there are maritime traditions…

  • How Coins Preserved the Memories of an Empire

    Fans of classic films may remember the dramatic moment in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” when the old pharaoh, Sethi, exiles Moses and commands that his name…

  • Preparing to Pass On a Coin Collection

    You see it every day on coin collecting forums and Facebook groups: “I found this coin collection while going through my relative’s estate, but I don’t know what any of it…

  • John Lennon, Amateur Philatelist

    He’s known for creating some of the greatest music of the 20th century, and changing the face of rock and pop forever. He was also a kid who avidly collected stamps. Lennon…

  • The Fate of the Guggenheim Treasure

    One of the most legendary families of early 20th century America left behind a treasure worth millions of dollars, and no one has found it…yet. The Guggeinheim family…

  • Big Money: David O’Keefe and the Giant Stone Coins of Yap

    Most people have heard of Yap stones, the giant carved stones used as currency by a Pacific island nation. What you may not know is that it was a large, red-haired…

  • Sedley Marianne Towler: The Greatest Numismatist You’ve Never Heard Of

    Though unknown to most today, Sedley Marianne Towler was one of the first female professional numismatists in the world. As a child, Towler was fascinated by money in all…

  • The Postcards of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

    Yes, that’s the actual name of this Massachusetts lake! Well, it’s one version of it. Officially, the lake is named Lake Chaubunagungamaug, which reflect the…

  • The Lost (and Found) Treasure Ships of Zhang Xianzhong

    Sometimes a legend of hidden treasure turns out to be true. For hundreds of years, tales of a lost hoard of gold and silver circulated in the Sichuan Province of China. It was…

  • Spreading the Love of Coin Collecting by TV

    Jeffery Smith, long-time coin collector, has found a unique way of sharing his love of coins and fanning the numismatic flame in new collectors. Past and Present…

  • Patriotism Through Postage: Civil War Envelopes

    The first official US postage stamps were issued in 1847, and decorative envelopes were not far behind them. By the middle of the 19th century, such covers were used to spread…

  • Templar Mystery Unlocked by Golden Coins

    A hoard of 30 golden coins helped archaeologists to date a recently-uncovered shipwreck in the Bay of Haifa, near the ancient city of Acre. The wood of the ship dated to the…

  • A Brief History of Irish Coins

    The earliest known coins in Ireland were British and European copies of Macedonian coinage from the reigns of Philip II and Alexander the Great. No coins were struck on Irish…

  • The First Stamps of Ireland

    On December 6, 1922, Ireland began printing its own stamps; prior to this date, Irish stamps were of British origin. To celebrate the new country, these stamps were printed with…

  • Largest Celtic Coin Hoard Finally Separated

    After nearly three years of intensive conservation efforts, the largest Celtic hoard discovered to date has been separated. Conservation team lead Neil Mahrer said, “This is…

  • The Man Who Saved London’s Treasures

    For over forty years, George “Stoney Jack” Lawrence used cunning, generosity, and a network of lower class workers to find some of the greatest archeological treasures in…

  • The Unusual Origin and History of the Butler Medal

    At the end of the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler of the Union Army did an unusual thing. Impressed by the fortitude and courage of the black men who fought under his…

  • The Penny That Went to Mars

    When NASA sent their Mars Science Laboratory (nicknamed Curiosity) to Mars in 2011, they included one unexpected object: a 1909 VDB Lincoln wheat cent. The penny was included on…

  • How An Unsolved Theft Created An Iconic Coin

    The dollar and its predecessors (like the peso) have been a staple of trade and economics for years. Dollar coins go in and out of favor as consumer preferences change;…

  • International Coin Urban Legends

    It’s not just the United States that has urban legends about its coins. Other countries have some pretty strange stories, too! In Singapore, a new dollar coin minted in 1987…

  • Urban Legends and the Coins of the United States

    Most of us are familiar with the lore of dropping a coin into Trevi Fountain, but there are lots of urban legends about coins. Here are some of our favorites for United States…

  • Why You Should Attend a Coin Show

    With all of the coins (and information about coins) available online, what’s the big deal about going to a coin show? There are a lot of reasons to connect with the…

  • Innovation Starts Small

    Have you seen this meme floating around the internet? Some of the most revolutionary companies had the most quiet, ordinary beginnings. The future doesn’t always…

  • What To Do When You Inherit A Coin Collection

    It’s one of the most frequent posts on coin forums: “I got this coin/collection from my relative, and I don’t know what to do with it or what it’s worth.” Since coin…

  • The Money Museum

    One of the most unique museums in the United States is the “Money Museum.” Part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Museum is visited by over 40,000 people…

  • The Machine That Showed the Flow of Money

    People have been searching for new ways to combine money and technology for as long as both have existed. Some mergings have worked better than others, while others have fallen…

  • The Basics of Grilled Stamps

    No matter how good a system is, someone will try to manipulate it. Though the early Postal Service was a wild success (enough that the first price change was a reduction in…

  • Imaging Changes Everything

    The tools we use to see the world change the kind of world we can see. In the latter half of the 19th century, two technological advances changed the world of imaging forever.…

  • The Greatest Forgery in the World

    Even experts sometimes have a hard time telling genuine 1940’s Bank of England notes from the counterfeits produced during Germany’s legendary “Operation…

  • Minting A Coin to Prove A Point

    What lengths would you go to to prove a point? One early American minter set up his own press and struck his own coins, just to demonstrate that he could. This created one of…

  • The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

    75 years ago today, over 300 Japanese airplanes (as well several midget submarines) attacked the United States Navy ships stationed in Pearl Harbor. All of the 8 battleships…

  • Holiday Coin Traditions

    We’ve already talked about some of the history of chocolate coins at Christmas, but what about other holiday coin traditions? In the original St. Nicholas myth,…

  • The Future of Coin Grading is Here

    Over the last few years, conversations in the numismatics would about the use of ever-improving optical and computer technology have been heated. Is it possible to create a…

  • Mickey’s Stamps and the Power of Imagination

    88 years ago, one of the most recognizable characters in the world was born: Mickey Mouse. Over the decades, Mickey has been in over 200 television shows and movies, 29 video…

  • The Stamp War That Almost Was

    It’s not unusual for wars to start over something small, but rarely have they begun over something as tiny as a single postage stamp. It almost happened. In 1937, the…

  • Lincoln’s Cents

    One of the best-known stories about America’s most beloved president is actually about coins. The story goes that, upon closing his general store one evening, Abraham Lincoln…

  • The Hero on the Stamp

    Sometimes ordinary days become days that change history. And often, it’s the ordinary people who do the changing. On the morning of November 7, 1907, a railroad brakeman named…

  • The Ladies Who Were Liberty

    For much of America’s history, our coins featured Lady Liberty rather than any historic figure. Liberty has changed over the centuries, and many women have been models for the…

  • Coin collecting for beginners: resources

    We’ve written a lot of information about coin collecting over the years, and now it’s all in one handy place. The Basics of Collecting The Language of the Coin…

  • Making Coin Collecting Accessible: A Retail Perspective

    (This is a companion piece to this post on the Blind Coin Collector blog.) You meet the most interesting people on the internet. That’s a cliche, but it’s also true. Shortly…

  • Meet the Modern Hobo Nickel Artists

    If you’re familiar with classic hobo nickels, they probably call to mind images of scruffy men hitching rides on boxcars, spending hours carefully etching designs into the…

  • How to Use Social Media for Coin Collectors

    If you’re reading this post, you clearly have some knowledge of the internet, but there’s a whole world out there on social media: are you part of it? Here are a few of the…

  • WWII Impact on Fashion

    From Victory Gardens to gasoline rationing, a lot of sacrifices were made on America’s “home front” during World War II. It may surprise you to know that…

  • Megalodon Teeth

    Megalodons once ruled the oceans!  In fact, they are thought to be the largest and most domineering predators in vertebrae history.  Their given name “Megalodon”…

  • Origins of the U.S. Postal Service

    Thinking about taking a trip down to the Post Office conjures up images of long lines and regulated service in an age of instantaneous communication through text messaging and the…

  • Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

    The English language can be confusing.  Certainly, many of our idioms have fallen behind the times.  Hold the phones – What phones?  Don’t have a cow! –…

  • The World’s Fair | A History

    The World’s Fair is a large public exhibition embedded in rich cultural tradition.  Originating in Paris with the industrial revolution, these grand expositions soon spread…

  • Fill Your Flask

    An item in most liquor cabinets, the flask is one collectible which is appreciated by many people beyond those who collect them.  With strong American imagery and a history of…

  • Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery | Forged Art

    To even the most trained eye, it is not a simple task to identify authentic art from its counterfeit counterparts.  Since before the Classical period, Copy art is world-wide a…

  • The Power Suit

    The modern American woman is at a pinnacle of equality and freedom of expression more so than ever before.  Claiming ownership of intellectual and physical expression, women…

  • Native American Arrowheads

    Given the wide variety of Native American tribes, practices and rituals, this article alone gives not nearly enough information to include all the intricately varying artifacts…

  • April Fools!

    April 1st is right around the corner and that means practical jokes and plenty of laughs.  While you’re busy concocting hoaxes unforeseen by family and friends, you may…

  • The Luck of the Irish

    From the Irish potato famine to years of invasion, colonization, exploitation and violent religious conflict, it would seem that the Irish have anything but good luck.  Where…

  • The Awe of Old-Time Traveling Medicine Shows

    Some old-fashioned remedies really work – but many old timey medicines are horrifying to modern sensibilities. In particular, medicine shows rolling through town in the 18th and…

  • Gems of the Ocean: Collecting Glass Fishing Floats

    Lovers of the sea or fishing will enjoy these items. The stunning glass balls come in shades of sea green and blue and make excellent collectors’ items, whether…

  • Girls playing basketball in a tropical setting in 1909 vintage black & white postcard.

    Bet You Didn’t Know The Origin of Basketball

    On one fateful day in 1891, Dr. James Naismith needed a way to keep his students busy indoors during the cold winters. He came up with the rules for an indoor game played with a…

  • Old Fashioned Remedies: Do-It-Yourself Lavender Oil

    Is there any herb more well-loved than lavender? Its healing and calming properties make lavender the perfect herb to keep in your cupboard. For thousands of years, people have…

  • The Symbolism and Myth Behind the Koi Fish

    The koi fish is renowned for its good luck and beauty. But what is less commonly known about this graceful fish? We’ve covered symbolism before – flowers and jewelry,…

  • Antiques in a store window. (Via G0SUB on Flickr, CC License 2.0)

    The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Evaluating Antiques

    It takes years to become an adept antiques evaluator, especially with the ability to evaluate more than one kind of antique. If you have an item sitting around that you want to…

  • "Sincerely thine" Victorian calling card.

    Why Victorian Calling Cards Are Like Facebook

    Ah, the Victorians; so obsessed with politeness that almost every action had its own symbolic meaning. To achieve this almost unworldly level and layer of meaning, Victorians…

  • You’ll Never Look at Books the Same Way Again

    There’s an art to books that even most book-lovers don’t know about. Do you know those gold gilded edges found on many old books? In some cases these exist to hide…

  • There’s More to Thimbles Than You Think

    The history of thimbles goes way back – farther than you might expect. It is theorized that ten thousand years ago, people used press stones for sewing. The practice marked the…

  • The History of Royal Doulton Figurines

    Royal Doulton figurines are hand painted figures from a company with a long history. These figurines are just a portion of the Doulton pottery legacy, but they have made a…

  • Sustainable Living: Kitchen Tips from the Great Depression

    It just so happens that sustainable living practices coincide with times of recession. It makes sense, when you think about it. During economic recession, saving money means using…

  • “The Devil’s Hair” Canadian Banknote Controversy

    Official currency printed by the government can be prone to mistakes – or, in the case of the 1954 ‘Devil’s Hair’ Canadian bank note, prone to accidental…

  • Traveling with Art: Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

    We take a trip once again to Paris, where history and modernity intermingle in a perfect balance of past and present. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France is a piece of rich…

  • What You Should Know About Women on Currency

    How many women have appeared on American banknotes? While Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacajawea all have had their moments on coinage, paper money is unsurprisingly full…

    The Money Museum

        One of the most unique museums in the United States is the “Money Museum.” Part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Museum…

    Lincoln’s Cents

      One of the best-known stories about America’s most beloved president is actually about coins. The story goes that, upon closing his general store one evening,…