Coins of Black History Month

Each February, the United States recognizes, remembers and celebrates the important people and events that have shaped the African-American experience in our country. To commemorate Black History Month this year, we’re celebrating with some of our favorite coins.

1995 $5 Civil War Gold Coin
Housing and commercial development was being urged toward American Civil War battlefields increasingly in the 1990s. Surcharges from the sale of commemorative coins were seen as one means of funding these sites’ preservation as public trusts. Toward this end Congress approved a three-denomination coin set consisting of a copper-nickel-clad half dollar, a silver dollar and a gold half eagle, each of which would be offered in both uncirculated and proof editions.

The obverses of all three coins were designed by Connecticut artist Donald Troiani. The San Francisco Mint struck both editions of the half dollar, as well as proofs of the silver dollar. The uncirculated strikes of the silver dollar came from Philadelphia, while West Point provided both issues of the gold half eagle.

Despite competition from the vast 1995 coin program for the Atlanta Olympics, the Civil War Battlefields commemoratives sold reasonably well. The notable exception was the half eagle, which posted the lowest sales figures yet for this denomination in the modern commemorative series. The half dollar was selected for inclusion in that year’s Prestige Proof Set, which helped its overall sales considerably.

American Liberty 225th Anniversary Coin
The American Liberty 225th Anniversary Coin is a one-ounce gold coin minted to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint. It was released on April 6th, 2017. A companion series of one-ounce silver medals bearing the same designs was released on October 6th later that year.

The design of the coin, which was the first minted depiction of Lady Liberty portrayed as an African-American woman, sparked a national conversation as a record-high number of viewers watched the U.S. Mint’s live-streamed unveiling in January 2017. The 2017 coin was a result of the exploration of concepts for a new and modern Liberty and was directly inspired by the controversial 2015 African American Liberty designed by another AIP artist.

The usage of an African-American woman on the design sparked a minor controversy within the numismatic community, as some coin collectors voiced their disapproval There is a mintage limit of 100,000 for the gold coins. 14,285 pieces, or 14.3% of the total possible, were sold on the first day that the coin became available on the US Mint catalog.

Booker T. Washington Memorial Half-Dollar
In 1946, the U.S. Mint made history when it released the Booker T. Washington Memorial Silver Half-Dollar — the first-ever U.S. coin to honor an African-American individual. Since that time, groundbreaking leaders and events in African-American history have been featured on 90% silver commemorative coins.

The half dollar was designed by Isaac Scott Hathaway. The obverse depicts Booker T. Washington and the reverse shows the cabin in which Washington was born (now the Booker T. Washington National Monument) and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans with the words “From slave cabin to Hall of Fame.” It was minted in silver between 1946 and 1951.

2009 District of Columbia Duke Ellington Quarter
In release of the Duke Ellington quarter the  U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy said: “Like many great Americans who succeed in what they love doing, Duke Ellington was equal parts talent, hard work, passion and perseverance,”

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born and raised in Washington. He and other black music legends, such as Ella Fitzgerald, helped establish the city’s U Street as an entertainment corridor.

The Ellington coin beat out designs featuring abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astronomer Benjamin Banneker. The coin with Ellington resting his elbow on a piano was officially released Jan. 26 2009.

“With Duke on the coin, we are sending an important message to the world that D.C. is a lot more than a government town,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said.

Prior to the Ellington quarter, the only U.S. coin to depict a black person was a 2003 Missouri state coin that featured explorers Lewis and Clark with a black slave named York, Mint spokeswoman Carla Coolman said. Commemorative coins have also featured black figures but those coins weren’t put into circulation.

The 1909 Pennsylvania Train Robbery

It’s 1909 and the Philadelphia mint just produced a fresh batch of coins. East of Lewistown, PA on Route 322 there is an area called the “narrows”, a five to six mile stretch where the mountain sides on both sides of the Juniata river are extremely steep. The highway is on the northern side of the river, and the railroad tracks are on the southern side.

The Lewistown “Narrows”

A train traveling from the Philadelphia mint to Pittsburgh was in the middle of the “narrows” the train was said to be stopped by a single man who had dynamite on the tracks. The train was carrying three large safes containing an undisclosed amount of currency and five bags holding about $6,000 in gold and silver bars, and money was stacked in a corner.

The engine had passed over three sticks of dynamite, which blew off the cowcatcher and headlight. The man then, robbed the train of several sacks of coins and disappeared up the mountainside.The robber threatened the crew and fired several shots at the conductor, Isaac Poffenberger, wounding his hand. The robber then ordered the crew to carry several large bags of coins into the woods, had them re-board the train and fired several shots as the train pulled away.

Example of a VDB

When investigators arrived at the scene, they found the bags still in the woods. The robber had passed up the gold and silver bars and snatched bags containing newly minted pennies. After an inventory was taken, it was realized that the only thing that was missing were several sacks of one cent coins! This man was rumored to be ”Pennsylvania’s Jesse James”, Jesse james would never be reported found.

A week after the search for Jesse James was officially called off, another robbery took place in the area, but it got little notice in the papers. On the 29th of October, a 38-year old man in Philadelphia walked into a police station and confessed to being the robber, but his story was soon found to be false. As time passed, the robbery became famous both for its daring style and for the fact that the bandit got away with so little. Many people came to visit the site of the robbery. One of the most notable visitors was Theodore Roosevelt. While on his whistle-stop campaign tour in 1912, he had his special train stop at the scene for him to inspect it personally.

It was discovered in 1954 that apparently the investigators overlooked some bags that were left in the nearby forest. In 1954, a couple of men were hunting on the mountain, and the one guy stepped, slipped and fell on pennies and they recovered over 3,500 1909 cents that had been laying there in the dirt for 45 years. They were all badly corroded, but were sold by local dealers as the find from the infamous railroad heist.

It has never officially been concluded that all the coins were found. Do you think it’s possible that some of these treasures could still lie in the Lewistown forest?

Sources: [X] [X] [X]

Alternative Currencies: Ithaca Hours

The Ithaca hour is a local currency used in Ithaca, New York and is the oldest and largest local currency system in the United States that is still operating. One Ithaca hour is valued at US$10 and is generally recommended to be used as payment for one hour’s work, although the rate is negotiable.

Ithaca hours are not backed by national currency and cannot be freely converted to national currency, although some businesses may agree to buy them. Hours are printed on high-quality paper and use faint graphics that would be difficult to reproduce, and each bill is stamped with a serial number, in order to discourage counterfeiting.

Ithaca hours were started by Paul Glover in November 1991. The system has historical roots in scrip and alternative and local currencies that proliferated in America during the Great Depression. While doing research into local economics during 1989, Glover had seen an “Hour” note 19th century British industrialist Robert Owen issued to his workers for spending at his company store. After Ithaca hours began, he discovered that Owen’s Hours were based on Josiah Warren’s “Time Store” notes of 1827.

Within a few days, Glover had designs for the hour and Half hour notes. He established that each hour would be worth the equivalent of $10, which was about the average hourly amount that workers earned in surrounding Tompkins County, although the exact rate of exchange for any given transaction was to be decided by the parties themselves. At GreenStar Cooperative Market, a local food co-op, Glover approached Gary Fine, a local massage therapist, with photocopied samples. Fine became the first person to sign a list formally agreeing to accept hours in exchange for services. Soon after, Jim Rohrrsen, the proprietor of a local toy store, became the first retailer to sign-up to accept Ithaca hours in exchange for merchandise.

When the system was first started, 90 people agreed to accept hours as pay for their services. They all agreed to accept hours despite the lack of a business plan or guarantee. Glover then began to ask for small donations to help pay for printing hours.

Fine Line Printing completed the first run of 1,500 hours and 1,500 Half hours in October 1991. These notes, the first modern local currency, were nearly twice as large as the current Ithaca hours. Because they didn’t fit well in people’s wallets, almost all of the original notes were removed from circulation.

The first issue of Ithaca Money was printed at Our Press, a printing shop in Chenango Bridge, New York, on October 16, 1991. The next day Glover issued 10 hours to Ithaca Hours, the organization he founded to run the system, as the first of four reimbursements for the cost of printing hours. The day after that, October 18, 1991, 382 hours were disbursed and prepared for mailing to the first 93 pioneers.

On October 19, 1991, Glover bought a samosa from Catherine Martinez at the Farmers’ Market with Half hour #751—the first use of an hour. Several other Market vendors enrolled that day. During the next years more than a thousand individuals enrolled to accept hours, plus 500 businesses. Stacks of the Ithaca Money newspaper were distributed all over town with an invitation to “join the fun.”

A Barter Potluck was held at GIAC on November 12, 1991, the first of many monthly gatherings where food and skills were exchanged, acquaintances made, and friendships renewed. In 2002, a one-tenth hour bill was introduced, partly due to the encouragement and funding from Alternatives Federal Credit Union and feedback from retailers who complained about the awkwardness of only having larger denominations to work with; the bills bear the signatures of both hours’ president Steve Burke and the president of AFCU.

While the Ithaca hour continues to exist, in recent years it has fallen into disuse. Media accounts from the year 2011 indicate that the number of businesses accepting hours has declined. Several reasons are attributed to this. First has been the founder, Paul Glover, moving out of town. While in Ithaca, Glover had acted as an evangelist and networker for hours, helping spread their use and helping businesses find ways to spend hours they had received. Secondly, a general shift away from cash transactions towards electronic transfers with debit or credit cards. Glover has emphasized that every local currency needs at least one full-time networker to “promote, facilitate and troubleshoot” currency circulation.

Stickered Pennies from around the United States

Have you seen a Penny with a sticker on one side? 

In 1935, R. Stanton Avery invented self adhesive labels and sticker advertising began. A couple of decades later, affixing advertising stickers to U.S. coins came into its heyday. Like their predecessor trade tokens, stickered coins were not exclusively made for business advertisement. Some employers paid employees with them in an effort to demonstrate how vital they were to the local economy. Some were used as premiums, prizes, campaign handouts or commemorated a special occasion such as a town’s anniversary.

SPM1-horz

MacDougall’s Stickered Lincoln Penny, Seattle, WA
“SPM Small Profit Margin” Saves your pennies

MacDougall’s department store operated on the SE corner of 2nd & Pike in downtown Seattle from 1908 to the 1960’s. It was the smallest of downtown Seattle’s major department stores. According to historian Clark Humphrey, this department store was the first to make the transition from gaslight to electricity in Seattle along with being the first with a passenger elevator to take customers to one of its five floors. The five-story building located at 2nd Avenue and Pike Street, had the wide Chicago windows and steel framing of the most modern department stores of the early 1900s. Demolished 1971 to make way for a parking lot.

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Campaign Stickered Lincoln Penny, Rockwall, TX
“All for Hall from Rockwall” Lt. Governor


Politician Ralph Hall, lead an interesting life. At 12, while working in a local pharmacy, he sold two cartons of Old Golds, two Coca-Colas and all the newspapers they had to Bonnie and Clyde. After flying  Hellcat fighter aircraft during World War II, he served in the U.S. Senate 1980-2014, switching parties in 2004 from Democrat to Republican. At the age of 91 Hall lost his seat in Texas’s 4th congressional district. There is an airport, man-made lake and an expressway named after him in Rockwall, TX. Hall would frequently chat with constituents or hand out pennies bearing his name. When the aides tried to scrap the penny giveaway program they got an earful from the public.

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The Gay Dolphin Stickered Lincoln Penny, Myrtle Beach, SC
I was at the Gay Dolphin Myrtle Beach S.C.


First opened in 1946 The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove is a beachside souvenir emporium stuffed with over 70,000 items. It first opened in 1946 (when “gay” simply meant “happy” to the owners when devising their whimsical, nautical name), and claims to be the “nation’s largest” gift emporium. The roughly 30,000 square feet is like a maze, even selling an “I Got Lost in the Gay Dolphin” tee shirt. Exploring the wares leads to encounters with pirates, yeti, velociraptor, mermaids, alligator heads, seashells and of courses, dolphins. Few stickered pennies can be found with original sticker advertisement on them.

The Compton Fair Stickered Penny, Compton, CA
Compton Fair Apr. 9 thru 11 at Compton College

Compton Community College was established in 1927 as a component of the Compton Union High School District. From 1932 to 1949, it operated as a four-year junior college, incorporating the last two years of high school as well as the first two years of college. There isn’t much on the Compton Fair and whether it was a reoccurring event as well as if it was just for students or for the community of Compton.

The Aunt Jemima Stickered Cent
Nancy Sasser and Aunt Jemima Make ¢ for You

Aunt Jemima is a brand of pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods owned by the Quaker Oats Company of Chicago, a subsidiary of PepsiCo. The trademark dates to 1893, although Aunt Jemima pancake mix debuted in 1889. Nancy on the sticker perhaps refers to the former slave, Nancy Green, hired by R. T. Davis Milling Company as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890.

The Exchange Lincoln Cent, Largo, Flordia
The Exchange Largo, Fla

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES, also referred to as The Exchange) is the retailer on U.S. Army and Air Force installations worldwide. For more than 100 years before the post exchange system was created, traveling merchants known as sutlers provided American soldiers with goods and services during times of war. Sutlers served troops at Army camps as far back as the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars.

On 25 July 1895, the War Department issued General Orders No. 46, directing commanders at every post to establish a post exchange “wherever practicable.” Post exchanges served two missions: first, “to supply the troops at reasonable prices with the articles of ordinary use, wear, and consumption, not supplied by the Government, and to afford them a means of rational recreation and amusement,” and second, “provide the means for improving the messes” through exchange profits. Since its establishment, the Exchange has been involved in 14 major military operations (to include World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Balkans and Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom) as well as several dozen humanitarian and disaster relief contingencies.

Coin and Currency Sites to Visit on Your Vacation: UK Edition

If you are heading out on vacation or planning one in the near future; there’s no reason not to celebrate your hobby on the road! Here’s a list of coin- and currency-related attractions and exhibits that you can visit while traversing across the United Kingdom! And don’t forget to check out our part one, with stops in all 50 states and part two for travels in Canada.

Llantrisant, South Wales: Tour The Royal Mint and learn about over 1,100 years of coin history. At the mint you can strike your own Britannia 50 new pence and learn more about the detailed processes involved in producing a coin, the work that goes into it and the history behind Britain’s coinage. Plus more; with weekly events and it’s own cafe, the Royal Mint truly is a desirable destination for any numismatist.

Blaenafon, Wales: Go underground to a real coal mine at the Big Pit National Coal Museum. Learn about old mining families and have the blacksmith experience. From minting coins to casting swords, this coal mine has supplied Wales with raw materials for hundreds of years.

Glasgow, Scotland: The University of Glasgow features The Hunterian museum, home to many fascinating exhibits and artifacts.The Hunterian is Scotland’s oldest public museum and home to over a million magnificent items ranging from meteorites to mummies and Mackintosh. Within this diverse collection you will find astounding artefacts, amazing art and an astonishing array of animal life. Including a huge variety of gold and base metal denominations produced by Byzantine mints in the exhibit: “Byzantium: A Golden Era of Coinage”. Admission is free!

Byzantine coins

Belfast, Northern Ireland: Visit the Ulster Museum to discover a unique human story of this part of Ireland and collections that will take you to all corners of the globe. Things to see include medals such as the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize and as a temporary exhibit discover buried treasure hoards from across the UK.

London, England: In the heart of London you can stop by The Bank of England Museum. Inside the museum you can pick up a gold bar and discover why the building is on top of one the world’s’ largest stores of gold. You’ll learn why people started to use paper money and how the Bank of England makes their notes difficult to copy.

Learn what the Bank of England does and how this affects the average citizen. Find out how they work to keep prices stable (the cost of things like food, televisions and train tickets). At the heart of our museum is the ‘Stock Office’ and this shows what the inside of the Bank of England would have looked like 200 hundred years ago.

Goldsmith’s Hall

London, England: Check in with the Goldsmith’s Hall to see if there are any open days where you can get a tour. Goldsmith’s Hall is where the Trial of Pyx is held every year.

The Trial of the Pyx (pronounced pIks) is a procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to the required standards. These trials have been held from the thirteenth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year.

The Hall itself was erected in 1634-6 and restored after the Great Fire of 1666. It lasted for almost two centuries, but was eventually demolished in the late 1820s. The present Hall, by Philip Hardwick, remains much as he designed it, although there have been changes to the decorative schemes and the use of rooms.

The Hall narrowly escaped complete destruction when in 1941 a bomb exploded inside the south-west corner. Faithfully restored on the exterior after the War and internally modified, it retains much of the charm of an urban palazzo. A major refurbishment which was completed in 1990 has further adapted this great building for the 21st century.

Woburn, England: What’s a visit to England if you don’t have some afternoon tea? When going to the Woburn Abbey and Gardens you can view various numismatic exhibits  and sit down for tea the Duchess’ Tea Room. Explore over 22 rooms such as The Silver and Gold Vaults and the Holland Library. Numismatic materials are incorporated into several of the permanent displays.

Shinplasters

A shinplaster was a common name for paper money of low denomination circulating widely in the frontier economies of the 19th century. These notes were in various places issued by banks, merchants, wealthy individuals and associations, either as banknotes, or circulating IOUs. They were often a variety of token intended to alleviate a shortage of small change in growing frontier regions. They were sometimes used in company shop economies or peonages in place of legal tender.

Shinplasters circulated in the United States from 1837 to 1863, during the period known as the “Free Banking Period.”  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name comes from the quality of the paper, which was so cheap that with a bit of starch it could be used to make papier-mâché-like plasters to go under socks and warm shins.

During the “Free Banking Period”, only state-chartered banks existed. They could issue bank notes against specie (gold and silver coins) and the states heavily regulated their own reserve requirements, interest rates for loans and deposits, the necessary capital ratio etc. These banks had existed since 1781, in parallel with the Banks of the United States. The Michigan Act (1837) allowed the automatic chartering of banks that would fulfill its requirements without special consent of the state legislature. This legislation made creating unstable banks easier by lowering state supervision in states that adopted it. The real value of a bank bill was often lower than its face value, and the issuing bank’s financial strength generally determined the size of the discount. By 1797 there were 24 chartered banks in the U.S.; with the beginning of the Free Banking Era (1837) there were 712.

During the free banking era, the banks were short-lived compared to today’s commercial banks, with an average lifespan of five years. About half of the banks failed, and about a third of which went out of business because they could not redeem their notes.

In Canada, the term shinplaster was widely used for 25-cent paper monetary notes which circulated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first design was printed on March 1, 1870 and the final design was first printed on July 2, 1923 The term likely arose from the previously issued 5 shilling note (1/4 Pound) which also bore the french term “Cinq Piastre” on the face.

Canadian 25¢ shinplaster

In Australia, shinplasters or calabashes (as they were known in southern Queensland) were a feature of the Squatters’ vast pastoral enterprises, and often circulated in the towns of the bush alongside and in place of legal tender. These private IOUs circulated widely, at times making up the bulk of cash in circulation, especially in the 1840s and 50s.

In some places they formed the core of a company shop economy, circulating as private currencies. They were often of such low quality that they could not be hoarded, and shopkeepers off the property would not take them, as they would deteriorate into illegibility before they could be redeemed.

There are tales of unscrupulous shopkeepers and others baking or otherwise artificially aging their calabashes given as change to travelers so that they crumbled to uselessness before they could be redeemed.

As commerce and trade grew in centres such as Toowoomba, more and more calabashes were issued, and more and more merchants, squatters and others engaged in transactions were forced to give their ‘paper’ in change or as payment for goods and services

Picture via National Library of Australia

Disney Dollars

Disney dollars are a form of corporate scrip sold by The Walt Disney Company and redeemable for goods or services at many Disney facilities.
Similar in size, shape and design to the paper currency of the United States, most bills bear the image of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Dumbo and/or a drawing of one of the landmarks of the Disneyland Resort or the Walt Disney World Resort. The currency is accepted at the company’s United States theme parks, the Disney cruise ships, the Disney Store and at certain parts of Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Caribbean.

The idea of Disney Dollars first started when Harry Brice, a silhouette cutter on Main Street in Disneyland was visiting a Disneyana (Disney Collectors) Convention.  Mr. Brice thought:

I couldn’t believe that people were paying, money for — anything with Disn​ey on it.  So I began to wonder, ‘why couldn’t Disney make something just for the collector?’ So I came up with the idea to make a souvenir item, which would be sold in the park, that looked like money.” (Clark & Cahill, 1987, 4)

Brice’s concept for a selection of souvenir currency was shared with his associates and they got the okay to begin a design process.  Some of the original ideas were to create “a three dollar bill with a picture of the Three Pigs or a seven dollar bill with the Dwarfs”, In fact the first rendering of the Disney Dollar was created as an advertisement tool.  As seen in the image of Disneyland’s Star Tours attraction

The first series released was illustrated by the Creative Service Illustrator Matt Mew. The printing was done by EPI of Battlecreek, Michigan.  They were known for high quality printing using intaglio steel engraving. This printing process along with using special 100% cotton paper, “gives the bills the look and feel of real money”.

Disney Dollars were officially released to the public in 1987; the first series was the A series released at DisneyWorld and Disneyland. The bills stated, “May Be Used As Legal Tender Only At Disneyland”. Shortly thereafter both the D series and the 1987A series were released with “May Be Used As Legal Tender Only At Disneyland and Disneyworld” Disney printed 870,000 of the original series for the May 5, 1987 release at both parks. Each bill was series “A” or “D”. The former created for Disneyland in Anaheim, California (hence the “A”), and the latter “D” for Walt Disney World in Florida. New Disney dollars have been produced every year until the discontinuation since 1987 except 1992, 2004 and 2010.​

Disney Dollars have changed quite a  bit since 1987, But they have also kept some key features too. Key features starting with the 1987 Disney Dollar that still continued until 2014 include: tinkerbell and Scrooge McDuck’s signature. Each bill also features an “important” character.  These are Disney Characters of which primarily have been Mickey Mouse on the $1, Goofy on the $5 and Minnie Mouse on the $10. However In 2007, 2011, and 2014, a non character portrait has been used.

Traveling with Postcards: Seattle

St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral church located at 804 Ninth Avenue in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The need for a cathedral in Seattle arose in 1903, when Edward O’Dea, bishop of what was then known as the Diocese of Nesqually, elected to move the Episcopal see from Vancouver, Washington to Seattle. Construction began in 1905 and was completed in 1907.

Major artwork at St. James Cathedral include an extensive collection of stained glass by Charles Connick, installed in 1917-1920, during the rebuilding of the cathedral following the collapse of the dome. In 1999, ceremonial bronze doors were added, the work of German sculptor Ulrich Henn. A bronze tabernacle by the same artist was installed in 2003. St. James Cathedral is also home to an altarpiece by Florentine artist Neri di Bicci, dating to 1456. It represents the Madonna and Child surrounded by six saints.

The cathedral’s original choir space in the west gallery features an organ built by the Boston firm of Hutchings-Votey (Opus 1623). This organ was installed and voiced by E. M. Skinner in 1907.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, originally The Olympic Hotel, is a historic hotel in downtown Seattle. It was built on the original site of the University of Washington’s first campus. The hotel opened in 1924, and in 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

After World War I, Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to work toward the goal of bringing a world-class hotel to the city. The committee identified an undeveloped portion of the city’s Metropolitan Tract, a downtown area covering four blocks, as an ideal location for a new hotel. The Seattle Times held a contest to name the hotel. From 3,906 entries, the committee chose The Olympic.

In 1922, once the lease had gone into effect, the Community Hotel Corporation chose New York architect George B. Post & Son to design the building; the local firm Bebb and Gould—a partnership between Charles Bebb and Carl Gould—were hired as the local supervising architects. Post created an Italian Renaissance design that was popular at the time, and this design remains one of the building’s hallmarks today. The Olympic Hotel’s grand opening took place on December 6, 1924, with a grand dinner and dance attended by more than 2,000 Seattle residents and their guests. Hundreds more people lined the streets just to catch a glimpse of the new hotel.

The L.C. Smith Building

Smith Tower is a skyscraper in Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington. Completed in 1914, the 38-story, 484 ft tower is the oldest skyscraper in the city, and was among the tallest skyscrapers outside New York City at the time of its completion. It remained the tallest building on the West Coast for nearly half a century until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962.

During a trip to Seattle in 1909, Smith planned to build a 14-story building in Seattle. His son, Burns Lyman Smith, convinced him to build instead a much taller skyscraper to steal the crown from rival city Tacoma’s National Realty Building as the tallest west of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1911. Although Smith did not live to see it, the building was completed in 1914. L.C. Smith Tower opened to the public on July 4, 1914. Over 4,000 Seattleites rode to the 35th floor on opening day.

In recent years high-tech companies have been occupants of L.C. Smith Tower, which sports fiber-optic wiring. The burst of the dot-com bubble hurt Smith Tower by raising its vacancy rate to 26.1 percent, twice Seattle’s commercial vacancy rate, as of December 21, 2001. The Walt Disney Internet Group, for example, at the time reduced its seven floors to four. By 2007, the occupancy rate had rebounded to about 90 percent, with new occupants such as Microsoft Live Labs.

The building is one of the last on the West Coast to employ elevator operators. The Otis Elevator Company provided the elevators, which have brass surfaces. The doors are latticed, so a rider can see into each hallway and through the glass walls in front of each office.

Leschi Park

Leschi Park is an 18.5 acre park in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle,  named after Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe. The majority of the park is a grassy hillside that lies west of Lakeside Avenue S. and features tennis courts, picnic tables, and a playground. Across Lakeside Avenue to the east is the western shore of Lake Washington and a small lawn with benches. To its south is the southern portion of Leschi Moorage, separated from the northern portion by a parking lot in the E. Yesler Way right-of-way, private docks, and an office/restaurant complex.

The cable car run from Pioneer Square that operated from September 27, 1888, to August 10, 1940, terminated here. As with Madison Park to the north, there was a cross-lake ferry run from Leschi Park to the Eastside before the construction of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge. Seattle’s first zoo was located here, but moved to Woodland Park in 1903. Leschi Park borders Frink Park in its southwest corner.

The Duwamish called the area “Changes-Its-Face”, referring to an enormous and powerful supernatural horned snake that was said to live there.

Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition

The Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition was a world’s fair held in Seattle in 1909, publicizing the development of the Pacific Northwest. It was originally planned for 1907, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, but the organizers found out about the Jamestown Exposition being held that year, and rescheduled. The fairgrounds later became the campus of the University of Washington.

The gates opened at 8.30 AM on June 1, and crowds entered immediately. At 9.30 AM, attendees watched performances by military bands from the Army and the Navy. Many sat in the fair’s amphitheater, awaiting a signal scheduled to be given in Washington DC. At 3pm East Coast Time (12 noon in Seattle), in the East Room of the White House, President Taft sent the signal. He “opened… the Exposition… by touching a gold key, studded with gold nuggets taken from the first mine opened in the Klondike region.” The telegraphic spark that Taft sent was received by telegraphers at the fairgrounds; as soon as it arrived, a gong was struck five times, a large American flag was unfurled, and there was a twenty-one gun salute, while other demonstrations of pageantry announced the official opening of the fair.

Opening Day, June 1, was declared a city holiday, and 80,000 people attended.  Attendance was even higher—117,013—on “Seattle Day”. Other big draws were days dedicated to various ethnic groups, fraternal organizations, and U.S. states. By the time the fair closed on October 16, over 3,700,000 had visited.


Click here to check out our range of Seattle Postcards available on eBay

The Truth of Brothel Tokens

Experts say that beginning in the 1700s and lasting through the early 1900s, when prohibition halted legal activities at saloons, establishments in the western United States, through the Yukon territories, and into Alaska minted their own currencies known as brothel tokens.

Why were saloon or brothel tokens needed in the Old West? Money couldn’t travel with the ease and speed of our current banking systems. Banks sent money on stage coaches or by Pony Express riders, time consuming adventures. As trains took their places, delivery became easier, quicker but still suffered delays and outright robbery that could cause disaster for a business owner caught without funds. Especially when increased westward travel of the poor and penniless further shortened circulation of money.

Another reason was that saloons and brothels clustered around mining camps. Mine owners hired workers, allowed them to buy supplies from the company owned stores, and then deducted those amounts from the miner’s wage. This system is called payment by scrip. Its popularity curtailed the flow of legal tender (dollars and cents) in mining communities.

Replica Brothel Tokens for Sale

There are brothel tokens that are “real” in the sense that they were or are distributed by functioning brothels. Antique tokens are mostly French and are all highly prized. They do not circulate at flea markets for pocket change, but rather pass through auction houses and coin shops. These antique brothel tokens, which date as early as the 1890s, rarely promise the kinds of services referred to on novelty tokens, but instead advertise the business and occasionally offer the promise of a free drink.

Recent tokens distributed by legal brothels in Nevada have increased in value. Beginning in 1992, a number of Las Vegas casinos began issuing collectable “silver strike coins” made of silver valued at $10 each. Brothels across Nevada such as the PussyCat Ranch in Winnemucca and Sharon’s Bar and Brothel in Carlin began issuing similar collectible silver strike coins that featured distinctive artwork, unique to each establishment. But because a single $10 PussyCat Ranch silver strike coin is a mere fraction of the cost of services, their real value comes as a collectable.

While most of the tokens found today are fake replicas or fun vintage-y collectables they tell a fun story of what life might have been like in the wild west and during a time of prohibition.

Coinage of the Ptolemaic Kingdom

The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a Hellenistic kingdom based in ancient Egypt. The Kingdom’s ruling began with Ptolemy I Soter after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and ended with the death of Cleopatra and the Roman conquest in 30 BC.

Hieroglyphic of Ptolemaic Royalty

Coinage of the Ptolemaic Kingdom was in use during the last dynasty of Egypt and, briefly, during Roman rule of Egypt. Ptolemaic coinage was struck in Phoenician weight, also known as Ptolemaic weight (about 14,20 grams). This standard, which was not used elsewhere in the Hellenistic world, was smaller than the most common Attic weight. Consequently, Ptolemaic coins are smaller than other Hellenistic coinage. In terms of art, the coins, which were made of silver, followed the example set by contemporary Greek currencies, with dynastic figures being typically portrayed. The Ptolemaic coin making process often resulted in a central depression, similar to what can be found on Seleucid coinage.

The Ptolemaic Kingdom was the first dynasty to introduce coinage to Egypt. The first Ptolemaic mint was in Memphis and was later moved to Alexandria. The Ptolemaic Kingdom flourished largely due to their success in monetizing the Egyptian society. Before the Ptolemaic period, metals such as copper, and grain, were used as mediums of exchange. Ptolemaic rule brought, in addition to the coinage, banks and tax farming to the country.

For most of its history, the kingdom vigorously enforced a policy of a single currency, confiscating foreign coins and forcing its territories to adopt Ptolemaic coinage. Parallels between Athens and the Ptolemaic Kingdom can be drawn as Athens attempted to introduce a sole currency in its empire. In the rare cases when these territories were allowed their own currency, such as the Jewish community in Palestine, they still had to observe the Ptolemaic weight. These policies and increasing difficulty to obtain silver, caused monetary isolation of the Ptolemaic coinage.

Ptolemaic territories in 200 BC

During the reign of Ptolemy I Soter, the founder of the kingdom, diverse local currencies were allowed to exist. They may even have been encouraged. The exact date of elimination of non-Ptolemaic coinage varies by region. In Egypt and Syria, Ptolemy I discontinued local coinage, which had Alexander the Great’s image struck in them, after feeling secure in power. Such coinage with Alexander on them were very common in the successor states of the Macedonian Empire. Cypriot coinage was eliminated when the local monarchies ceased to exist. In Cyrene it took even longer to eliminate municipal coinage. In Crete the local currency was never suppressed. Uniformity of the currency was sought flexibly, yet opportunistically.


Ptolemy V Epiphanes’ bronze coin.
Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his sister-wife Arsinoe II

Artistically, Ptolemaic coinage closely followed contemporary Greek currencies. A commonplace symbol of the Ptolemaic dynasty was an eagle standing on a thunderbolt, first adopted by Ptolemy I Soter. The more peculiar Ptolemaic coinage included so-called “dynastic issues”. This rare coin featured Ptolemy II Philadelphus who married his sister Arsinoe II; Egyptian rulers had traditionally married their sisters to signify a connection to sacred union between the deities Osiris and Isis. A medal-like coin with one side portraying Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II, and the other side portraying Ptolemy I and Berenice I was struck after the death of Arsinoe II.

Cyprus had many important mints, and the island struck large amounts of Ptolemaic coinage from 200 BC to 80 BC. Cyprus was also richer in silver than Egypt. Most of the coinage from second century BC are easily identifiable and datable because they include abbreviations for mints and dates for both gold and silver coinage. Mints from this period include Salamis (abbr. ΣA), Kition (abbr. KI) and Paphos (abbr. Π, and later as ΠA).

After the demise of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and annexation into the growing Roman Empire, silver coinage struck by the Ptolemies still continued to circulate. The Ptolemaic silver coinage mostly disappeared by the time of Emperor Nero. It is assumed that by that time, in the first half of the first century, the Ptolemaic silver coinage was probably recycled into a new currency, Roman tetradrachms, struck at mints managed by the Romans. Roman Egypt remained monetarily as a closed system, like it had been under Ptolemaic dynasty. Roman denarii and aurei did not circulate in provincial Egypt.