Facts About Coin Collecting

Wondering what the name is for an individual that collects coins? That would be a Numismatist. (Pronounced new-miss-ma-tist.) It means “someone who studies and collects things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals.”

Interested in the art of coin collecting? This type of collection was once called “The Hobby of Kings”. Today, numismatics is a hobby available to anyone. With coins flooding the internet, anyone with access and a desire to hold history their hand is able to join in on this passion. Believe it or not, the origins of this captivating hobby are quite unusual. Until the 20th century, coin collecting was exclusively a pastime of royalty and wealthy.

The first recorded person to have a coin collection was Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. He lived from 63 B.C. to A.D. 14, and the eighth month of our year is named after him.

Not only did Augustus keep adding coins to his collection, but he also gave them as gifts. Starting this trend, many of the Roman emperors who ruled after Augustus also had large coin collections. The hobby became even more popular during the Middle Ages, when wealthy individuals and royal families built awesome collections.

This question may have crossed your mind from time to time, how long do coins last? And what happens to them once worn out? Most coins can circulate for about 25 years before they become too worn to be used anymore. That’s a long time when you consider that the average dollar lasts for only 18 months.

The United States Mint recycles worn-out coins it receives from a Federal Reserve Bank. The Mint then sends any usable metal that’s recovered to a fabricator, then repurposes for new coinage.

At first glance, many coins may look almost identical, but when you see the difference in the price tag you may think twice about how similar they really are. The things that affect the value of the coin most are age, rarity, condition, and precious metal. The value of any one coin can be surprising. For example, you can buy some Roman coins that are more than 1600 years old for less than $10.  But then there are some worn 1909 wheat pennies that sell for hundreds of dollars, or more!

Usually, the harder a coin is to find and the more people who want it, the more it’s worth. This is known as the law of supply and demand. It holds true no matter what the collectible.

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on a U.S. coin in 1864, during the Civil War. In particular, the two-cent piece; first minted in that year, was the first coin with the slogan.

Since gaining independence, the U.S. has minted coins in denominations that today may seem odd. For example, the U.S. has minted half cents (1793-1857), two-cent pieces (1864-1873), three-cent pieces (1851-1889), twenty-cent pieces (1875-1878), $2.50 gold pieces (1796-1929), $3.00 gold piece (1854-1889), $4.00 gold pieces (1879-1880), $5.00 gold pieces or half eagles (1795-1929), $10.00 gold pieces or eagles (1795-1933), and $20.00 gold pieces (“double eagles”) (1849-1933). Currently, the only coin denominations for circulation being minted are the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar.

Coin collecting is a pastime that has been around for thousands of years. It can grow with you as you find interest in different time periods in history, art-work of a particular coin and culture. There are as many avenues in coin collecting as you wish to travel, and with coins you can venture virtually anywhere around the world and to any period of time back to early human civilization right from the comfort of your home. Coin collecting can be a journey into history that lasts a lifetime – and the first coin to strike your interest may be sitting in your pocket or local coin shop right now.

Enjoy your journey in this very exciting hobby!

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.

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

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.

Ancient Forms of Money

Before coins and paper notes many objects were tested out for the use of money. Some because of their rarity and others because they had a common use other than just as a piece of currency. From squirrel pelts to salt, here is a list of five ancient forms of money!

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Plate of squirrel fur backs

Squirrel Pelts
During the Middle Ages, Russians had taken a liking to trading squirrel pelts, often using the claws and snouts for pocket change. This odd form of currency may have accidentally benefited the Russians in a non-economic way as well. During medieval times, Europe was ravaged by the infamous Black Plague, but Russia wasn’t hit nearly as hard. Since the plague was most often carried by rodents, killing a bunch of rodents and using their pelts as currency likely reduced the number of plague carriers. Interestingly, modern day Finland actually recognizes squirrel pelts as a currency, and values them at 3 cents each.

 

Tursiops_truncatus_01Dolphin Teeth
For hundreds of years on the Solomon Islands, dolphin teeth have been used as currency. The islands have a long history of hunting dolphins and the age-old practice came to a halt around the middle of the nineteenth century. However, as a result of the devaluation of the country’s dollar, some parts of the island have reverted back to the traditional use of dolphins teeth.

 

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Naturally formed salt crystals

Salt
Salt’s ability to preserve food made it a precious and highly valued commodity during the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages. It was used as a method of trade and currency and historically, people would lick the salt block to make sure it was real and break pieces off to make change. Interestingly, the word salary stems from the Latin term ‘salarium’, which refers to salt money.

 

 

BlackTeaBrick

A brick of Hubei mǐ zhūan chá (米磚茶),

Tea Bricks
Tea Bricks are blocks of whole or finely ground black tea, green tea, or post-fermented tea leaves that have been packed in molds and pressed into block form. This was the most commonly produced and used form of tea in ancient China prior to the Ming Dynasty. Due to the high value of tea in many parts of Asia, tea bricks were used as a form of currency throughout China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Central Asia. Tea bricks were in fact the preferred form of currency over metallic coins for the nomads of Mongolia and Siberia. The tea could not only be used as money and eaten as food in times of hunger but also brewed as allegedly beneficial medicine for treating coughs and colds. Until World War II, tea bricks were still used as a form of edible currency in Siberia.

 

Monetaria_moneta_01Shells
Shell money usually consisted either of whole sea shells or pieces of them, which were often worked into beads or were otherwise artificially shaped. The use of shells in trade began as direct commodity exchange, the shells having value as body ornamentation. The distinction between beads as commodities and beads as money has been the subject of debate among economic anthropologists.

Some form of shell money appears to have been found on almost every continent: America, Asia, Africa and Australia. The shell most widely used worldwide as currency was the shell of Cypraea moneta, the money cowry. This species is most abundant in the Indian Ocean, and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along the Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, and in various parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowry shell money was important at one time or another in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.

 

Silver Cobs

In the mid-1500’s, additional silver deposits were discovered in the colonial territories and there was a pressing demand to export it to Spain. Starting in the reign of Philip II, the mints produced irregular coinage called cobs. Instead of rolling out a bar of silver into a sheet of a specific thickness that could then be cut into smooth round planchets; a bar of silver was simply cut into chunks of the appropriate weight. These small sliver clumps were then treated as if they were finished planchets and got hammer struck between crude dies. The size, shape and impression of these cobs were highly irregular but they were the proper weight, cobs were quite thick and disfigured with large cracks. The uneven clumps made poor planchets and it was common for only a small portion of the image on the die to be impressed on the silver. If a cob was overweight the minter simply clipped a piece off, further disfiguring the coin. During the seventeenth century a few full sized finished coins called “royal or presentation strikes” by present day collectors were also produced but it was only the crude cob that was mass produced.

With intention of easily being able to ship to Spain, these crude but accurately weighed cobs were produced. In Spain the cobs would be melted down to produce silver jewelry, coins, bars and other items. Cobs also circulated as coinage, with many cobs making their way to the English colonies where they were used both as coins in commerce and hoarded for their silver content. The cobs’ unusual shape and sizes made it quite easy for colonials to clip off some silver and then pass the coin off at full value. Furthermore, because of their crude design it was easy to make lightweight counterfeit cobs using the clipped silver. Many clipped and lightweight Spanish cobs were melted down in Boston to make the Massachusetts silver coinage.

Cobs were produced in denominations of one, two, four and eight reales under Philip II Coin2 (1)(1556-1598) and Philip III (1598-1621). A half real cob was added under Philip IV (1621-1665). Cobs continued to be produced through the reigns of Charles II (1665-1700), Philip V (1700-1724 and 1725-1746), Louis I (1725), Ferdinand VI (1746-1759) and Charles III (1759-1788). The obverse of a cob displays the crowned Hapsburg shield with the mintmark and assayer initial to the left and the denomination to the right of the shield. The legend, although frequently missing from the planchet, was some variation of the name of the king with DEI GRATIA (By the Grace of God). The reverse displays the arms of Castile and Leon within a quatrefoil design. Starting in the seventeenth century most cobs were dated but this information was added to the obverse legend and was usually not picked up in the stamping of the coin.

The first mint in the Americas was established in Mexico City in 1535. A royal decree authorized Herman Cortes to “melt, cast, mark, and put aside the royal-fifth”  of the precious metals taken from the Aztecs; he set up the foundry in the palace of Axayacatl. The Casa de Moneda was officially established when the Queen of Spain signed the Viceroyalty of New Spain into existence on May 11, 1535. The mint began operations in April of 1536.

British colonists were usually prohibited by law from minting coins (with a few exceptions), and colonists often found themselves using Spanish coins. During the Revolutionary War, the new nation tried to implement paper currency, which quickly collapsed. (For fans of the musical “Hamilton,” this is referenced when the young aide-de-camp sings, “Local merchants deny us equipment, assistance, they only take British money, so sing a song of sixpence.”) Spanish dollars continued to be used as reliable currency; when cut into eight pieces, each 1-real piece was referred to as a “bit.” The United States established its own currency in 1792, with the creation of the US Mint, but the terms “two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar” have remained in our vocabulary for over 200 years.

Dating and locating a cob can be difficult. If an assayer’s initials are present and the mint Coin1 (1)is known then some dating parameters may be determined, as the dates of appointment are available for many assayers. Also, particular details on the obverse shield differ for each ruler so some examples without other clues can often be dated to a specific king, if the shield is distinct. If the mintmark is missing the reverse cross may assist in identifying the mint. Such as, a Jerusalem cross with a ball at each extremity denotes the Mexico mint. A variety of other specific details may assist in making attributions; consultation of regional studies may allow one to narrow the possibilities, especially if a coin can be assigned to a specific time period.

The Silver Age of Arcade Games

If you’ve never been inside a traditional arcade, it could be hard to distinguish one from a Dave & Buster’s. Authenticity is a hard nut to crack, but there are a few hallmarks of the video game arcade of days gone by: first, they have video games. Lots and lots of video games, and (usually) pinball machines. They’re dark (so that you can see the screens better), and they don’t sell food or alcohol. There’s no sign outside that says you “must be 21 to enter.” These are rarely family-friendly institutions, either. Your mom wouldn’t want to be there, and nobody would want her there, anyway. This is a place for kids to be with other kids, teens to be with other teens, and early-stage adults to serve as the ambassador badasses in residence for the younger generation. It’s noisy, with all the kids yelling and the video games on permanent demo mode, beckoning you to waste just one more quarter.

The first popular arcade games included early amusement-park midway games such as

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An electronic pinball machine

shooting galleries, ball-toss games, and the earliest coin-operated machines, such as those that claimed to tell a person’s fortune or that played mechanical music. The old Midways of 1920s-era amusement parks provided the inspiration and atmosphere for later arcade games. In the 1930s the first coin-operated pinball machines emerged. These early amusement machines differed from their later electronic cousins in that they were made of wood. They lacked plungers or lit-up bonus surfaces on the playing field, and used mechanical instead of electronic scoring-readouts. By around 1977 most pinball machines in production switched to using solid-state electronics both for operation and for scoring

In 1971 students at Stanford University set up the Galaxy Game, a coin-operated version of the Spacewar video game. This ranks as the earliest known instance of a coin-operated video game. Later in the same year, Nolan Bushnell created the first mass-manufactured game, Computer Space, for Nutting Associates.

In 1972, Atari was formed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Atari essentially created the coin-operated video game industry with the game Pong, the first successful electronic ping pong video game. Pong proved to be popular, but imitators helped keep Atari from dominating the fledgling coin-operated video game market.

SpaceInvaders-Gameplay

Space Invaders

Taito’s Space Invaders, in 1978, proved to be the first blockbuster arcade video game. Its success marked the beginning of the golden age of arcade video games. Video game arcades sprang up in shopping malls, and small “corner arcades” appeared in restaurants, grocery stores, bars and movie theaters all over the United States, Japan and other countries during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Space Invaders (1978), Galaxian (1979), Pac-Man (1980), Battlezone (1980), Defender (1980), and Bosconian (1981) were especially popular. In 1981, the arcade video game industry was worth $8 billion. By the late 1980s, the arcade video game craze was beginning to fade due to advances in home video game console technology. By 1991, US arcade video game revenues had fallen to $2.1 billion.

Sega AM2’s Hang-On, designed by Yu Suzuki and running on the Sega Space Harrier hardware, was the first of Sega’s “Super Scaler” arcade system boards that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates. The pseudo-3D sprite/tile scaling was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s. Designed by Sega AM2’s Yu Suzuki, he stated that his “designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D.” It was controlled using a video game arcade cabinet resembling a motorbike, which the player moves with their body. This began the “Taikan” trend, the use of motion-controlled hydraulic arcade cabinets in many arcade games of the late 1980s, two decades before motion controls became popular on video game consoles.

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Street Fighter II

In the early 1990s, the arcades experienced a major resurgence with the 1991 release of Capcom’s Street Fighter II, which popularized competitive fighting games and revived the arcade industry to a level of popularity not seen since the days of Pac-Man, setting off a renaissance for the arcade game industry in the early 1990s. Its success led to a wave of other popular games which mostly were in the fighting genre, such as Pit-Fighter (1990) by Atari, Mortal Kombat by Midway Games, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters (1992) by SNK, Virtua Fighter (1993) by SEGA, Killer Instinct (1994) by Rare, and The King of Fighters (1994–2005) by SNK. In 1993, Electronic Games noted that when “historians look back at the world of coin-op during the early 1990s, one of the defining highlights of the video game art form will undoubtedly focus on fighting/martial arts themes” which it described as “the backbone of the industry” at the time.

3D polygon graphics were popularized by the Sega Model 1 games Virtua Racing (1992) and Virtua Fighter (1993), followed by racing games like the Namco System 22 title Ridge Racer (1993) and Sega Model 2 title Daytona USA, and light gun shooters like Sega’s Virtua Cop (1994) and Mesa Logic’s Area 51 (1995), gaining considerable popularity in the arcades. By 1994, arcade games in the United States were generating revenues of $7 billion in quarters (equivalent to $11.6 billion in 2017), in comparison to home console game sales of $6 billion, with many of the best-selling home video games in the early 1990s often being arcade ports. Combined, total US arcade and console game revenues of $13 billion in 1994 ($21.5 billion in 2017) was nearly two and a half times the $5 billion revenue grossed by movies in the United States at the time.

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A Sega Master System

Around the mid-1990s, the fifth-generation home consoles, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64, began offering true 3D graphics, improved sound, and better 2D graphics, than the previous generation. By 1995, personal computers followed, with 3D accelerator cards. While arcade systems such as the Sega Model 3 remained considerably more advanced than home systems in the late 1990s, the technological advantage that arcade games had, in their ability to customize and use the latest graphics and sound chips, slowly began narrowing, and the convenience of home games eventually caused a decline in arcade gaming. Sega’s sixth generation console, the Dreamcast, could produce 3D graphics comparable to the Sega NAOMI arcade system in 1998, after which Sega produced more powerful arcade systems such as the Sega NAOMI Multiboard and Sega Hikaru in 1999 and the Sega NAOMI 2 in 2000, before Sega eventually stopped manufacturing expensive proprietary arcade system boards, with their subsequent arcade boards being based on more affordable commercial console or PC components.

Arcade video games had declined in popularity so much by the late 1990s, that revenues in the United States dropped to $1.33 billion in 1999, and reached a low of $866 million in 2004.The gap in release dates and quality between console ports and the arcade games they were ported from dramatically narrowed, thus setting up home consoles as a major competitor with arcades. Furthermore, by the early 2000s, networked gaming via computers and then consoles across the Internet had also appeared, replacing the venue of head-to-head competition and social atmosphere once provided solely by arcades. The arcades also lost their status as the forefront of new game releases. Given the choice between playing a game at an arcade three or four times (perhaps 15 minutes of play for a typical arcade game), and renting, at about the same price, exactly the same game—for a video game console—the console became the preferred choice. Fighting games were the most attractive feature for arcades, since they offered the prospect of face-to-face competition and tournaments, which correspondingly led players to practice more (and spend more money in the arcade), but they could not support the business all by themselves.

DDR_Extreme

Dance Dance Revolution

In the 2000s and 2010s, arcades have found a niche market by providing games that use special controllers largely inaccessible to home users, such as dance games that have a floor that senses the user’s dancing. To remain viable, arcades also added other elements to complement the video games such as redemption games, merchandiser games, and food service, typically snacks and fast food. Referred to as “fun centers” or “family fun centers”, some of the longstanding chains such as Chuck E. Cheese’s and Gatti’s Pizza (“GattiTowns”) also changed to this format. Many 1980s-era video game arcades have long since closed, and classic coin-operated games have become largely the province of dedicated gamers and hobbyists. In the 2010s, some movie theaters and family fun centers still have small arcades.

Worldwide, arcade game revenues gradually increased from $1.8 billion in 1998 to $3.2 billion in 2002, rivalling PC game sales of $3.2 billion that same year. In particular, arcade video games are a thriving industry in China, where arcades are widespread across the country. The US market has also experienced a slight resurgence, with the number of video game arcades across the nation increasing from 2,500 in 2003 to 3,500 in 2008, though this is significantly less than the 10,000 arcades in the early 1980s. As of 2009, a successful arcade game usually sells around 4000 to 6000 units worldwide.

The relative simplicity yet solid gameplay of many of these early games has inspired a new generation of fans who can play them on mobile phones or with emulators such as MAME; Pac-Man in particular sold over 30 million mobile downloads in the United States by 2010. Some classic arcade games are reappearing in commercial settings, such as Namco’s Ms. Pac-Man 20 Year Reunion / Galaga Class of 1981 two-in-one game, or integrated directly into controller hardware (joysticks) with replaceable flash drives storing game ROMs.

In the Japanese gaming industry, arcades have remained popular through to the present day. As of 2009, out of Japan’s $20 billion gaming market, $6 billion of that amount is generated from arcades, which represent the largest sector of the Japanese video game market, followed by home console games and mobile games at $3.5 billion and $2 billion, respectively. Despite the global decline of arcades, Japanese companies hit record revenue for three consecutive years during this period. However, due to the country’s economic recession, the Japanese arcade industry has also been steadily declining, from ¥702.9 billion (US$8.7 billion) in 2007 to ¥504.3 billion ($6.2 billion) in 2010.

In the Japanese market, network and card features introduced by Virtua Fighter 4 and

Gundam_Kizuna_PODs

Gundam Pod Machines

World Club Champion Football, and novelty cabinets such as Gundam Pod machines have caused revitalization’s in arcade profitability in Japan. The reason for the continued popularity of arcades in comparison to the west, are heavy population density and an infrastructure similar to casino facilities. Former rivals in the Japanese arcade industry, Konami, Taito, Bandai Namco Entertainment and Sega, are now working together to keep the arcade industry vibrant. This is evidenced in the sharing of arcade networks, and venues having games from all major companies rather than only games from their own company.

In the US, excitement surrounding the traditional arcade remains strong today. Amusement centers and arcades have spread around the country, though they’re a different beast than they were 50, 30 or even 10 years ago.

Home console gaming and its massive surge in innovation changed the scene. You also can find games in cafes and coffee shops, giving gamers a space to play modern entertainment.

The video game industry is seeing a huge boom in consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One introducing games that people also play at arcades. Next on the horizon for the future of arcade games, lie with vintage arcade games and the current state of the VR industry.

Virtual reality will deliver truly immersive experiences, allowing players to step into the shoes of an adventurer or race car driver. They’re not just looking at a screen simulation. They’re in the cockpit. We will see the technology deployed in arcades, too, an exciting next step for devoted gamers:

In 2014, Facebook bought the VR company Oculus for $400 million in cash and 23.1

Oculus Rift Development Version

Oculus Rift Headset

million shares of the social network.  This massive investment highlights the potential for the technology. With the likes of the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and many others, virtual reality will soon enter a heyday..

While we can’t go and enjoy arcade games in a smokey dark room with all of our friends anymore; the arcade industry has adapted well over time. New technology will continue to push forward a love and excitement for games.  Video games are widely enjoyed with at home consoles, the trend of ‘barcades’ and family-friendly centers like Chuck E. Cheese will keep the love of gaming with friends at an out-of-home establishment at all time highs. We might have already lived out the golden age and renaissance of arcades but we are here for the silver age.

For a timeline of arcade games check out the infographic below provided by M&P Amusement:

Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 1Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 2Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 3Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 4Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 5Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 6Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 7Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 8Evolution Of The Arcade - Part 9

The evolution of gaming timeline from M&P Amusement.

 

The Grover Cleveland Peace Medal: a Symbol of Reconciliation

As we go through our grade school education, we learn about U.S. History, and then we get more US history in middle school, and high school, and then, if you were a history major like myself, you get to to take US History again in college.  Each time you learn a little more than the last, and are asked to remember more names and dates and events. And while more things may have been taught, Native American history seems to be mostly an afterthought unless you chose to pursue that specifically.  So from the story of the pilgrims, to The French and Indian War, the Trail of Tears, and Custer and Little Bighorn we overlook the story of the people that should be a more prominent part of our great history. When Tim pulled out another treasure from his stash, it allowed me to go just a little bit deeper into that specific part of our history.  

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The picture above shows us an 1885 Grover Cleveland Bronze Peace Medal. On the front, it reads “Grover Cleveland President across the top and U.S.A. 1885 on the bottom. On the reverse there is a depiction of a Native American man speaking to a white settle with “Peace” across the top and a calumet and a tomahawk crossed through an olive wreath on the bottom.  

Simply put, this medal was created early in Grover Cleveland’s Presidency as an apology and peace offering to the chiefs of native tribes because President Chester Arthur had allowed settlers to take nearly a half million acres of land from the Crow Creek Reservation in the Dakotas area.  To better understand the significance of this medal, you really need to know what was happening in the US at the time.

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21st President, Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur was made the 21st president in September of 1881 after James Garfield had been assassinated.  The US was still dealing with the fallout of the Civil War and dealing with the rights of African Americans, and there was an upwelling of anti-immigrant sentiment.  There was an economic crisis in 1873 and Chinese Americans were blamed for depressing wages. And so in 1882, Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law, which prohibited further Chinese immigration and prevented current Chinese laborers from gaining citizenship.

Native American were treated similarly.  They were not considered or looked at as Americans.  They had to go through a naturalization process to be considered a citizen and be given the same rights and protections as others.  The philosophy that Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison after him felt best to deal with Native Americans was one of assimilation.  By treating them as a non citizen, the hope was they would want to become a US citizen to be protected and advance our culture.

In his first annual message to Congress in 1881 Arthur spoke specifically on American Indian Policy.  He realized it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with. He even admitted the shortcomings of how it had been dealt with already.  He saw the major shortcoming was dealing with the different tribes as different nationalities. He states, “For the success of the efforts now making to introduce among the Indians the customs and pursuits of civilized life and gradually to absorb them into the mass of our citizens, sharing their rights and holden to their responsibilities, there is imperative need for legislative action.”  And he outlined three steps to further that process. He wanted to give Native Americans the protection of the law, instead of each tribe abiding by their own laws. “In return for such considerate action on the part of the Government, there is reason to believe that the Indians in large numbers would be persuaded to sever their tribal relations and to engage at once in agricultural pursuits. Many of them realize the fact that their hunting days are over and that it is now for their best interests to conform their manner of life to the new order of things. By no greater inducement than the assurance of permanent title to the soil can they be led to engage in the occupation of tilling it.”  And the third step would be to invest considerable amounts of money into educating Native American children. If they were being educated by white settlers and interacting with white children, this would only quicken the process of assimilation. And while these three ideas seem like reasonable stances to take, they didn’t necessarily lead to great outcomes.

Although Arthur seemed to be in favor of land allotment, there were still many detractors to the idea.  As settlers continued to flood westward, they inevitably began to crowd the borders of some reservations or even settle on native land.  Opponents of allotment including Secretary of the interior Henry M. Teller, and vocal settlers and cattle ranchers argued that Native americans didn’t need as much land as they were given, and that they were still savages and guilty of atrocities.  This persuaded Arthur to allow settlers access to almost a half million acres of land in the Winnebago and Crow Creek Reservation areas of the Dakotas just 5 days before his presidency ended 1885.

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22nd and 24th President, Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was lobbied to look into this acquisition of land by the white settlers because they believed it was illegal.  In April of 1885 Cleveland issued a warning to all settlers who were involved and sent General Phil Sheridan to investigate what had actually happened.  Sheridan brought these Peace Medals to give to the various chiefs on the reservations, and offered apologies on behalf of the “Great White Father’s”. Apparently most chiefs were so impressed with the medals that they bored holes in them and would wear them on elaborate beaded necklaces.  And the investigation by Sheridan and Secretary of the Interior Lucius C. Lamar showed that this was not an isolated incident. Broken treaties, hostilities, and illegal land use were all uncovered. Cleveland gave the white settlers 40 days to clear off the land along with their cattle. This happened just before winter and its estimated that 80% of the cattle died as a result but Cleveland made sure the orders were enforced and that hostile encounters would not happen.  

But even though Cleveland helped the Native Americans in this instance and many others, it wasn’t indicative of his term as president overall.  He passed the Major Crimes Act of 1995 which made seven specific crimes for Native Americans on their reservation subject to US laws despite a Supreme Court ruling that found that jurisdiction over “Indian on Indian” crimes on a reservation were not subject to federal law.  He also signed the Dawes Act in 1887 which opened up Indian land into individual allotments but followed it up with the Indian Appropriations Act two years later. This allowed white settlers access to any “unassigned lands” that may have previously been a part of a reservation but wasn’t assigned to an individual.  Over years the effects of this were staggering. At the start of his term there were 260,000 Indians living on 171 reservations in 21 different states with a total of 134 million acres of land. By 1934, more than 90 million acres of that had been lost due to the Indian Appropriations Act and other polocies.

Benjamin Harrison, the next president, would use the Indian Appropriations Act to give away more land to white settlers, including the Oklahoma Land Rush.  This is where the current University of Oklahoma gets its mascot name, Boomer Sooner. Boomers were settlers campaigning for the land to be open up to white settlers, and sooners were the settlers that had already illegally settled the land.  He forced the Sioux nation into breaking up into separate reservations and giving up 11 million acres of land in doin go, and used the Act 17 times to give land to settlers in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Alaska.  He was president during the Wounded Knee Massacre but would take no responsibility for what had happened there either.

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DSC_0010The story of this peace medal, while itself small, is a part of a much greater history of our country.  While policy and actions didn’t always coincide with words, it at least represented in a shift in the way the US tried to deal with the Native Americans. President Arthur was willing to admit that previous administrations failed to address the situation in an acceptable manner and even if his strategy of assimilation had unintended results, just the idea of giving a “peace” medal and taking a conciliatory stance to the issue and forcing out the white settlers if only temporarily, was a significant departure from earlier encounters between the US various native tribes.  

Seafarers Silver Trays

Anyone that has been to our warehouse knows that we have coins everywhere.  But Tim has also accumulated years and years worth of other collectibles, antiques, and goods.  And every once in a while, he’ll pull something out of the stash, and this time it was two different silver serving trays.  Engraved onto the trays were pictures of a boat, a name, and a date. And that’s where I come in. It was time to learn more about these silver trays.  

Vireo Ship Platter

Vireo Ship  Platter

Throughout time, sailors and seafarers have asked for protection from the mighty seas for their ships and their crews.   Whether it was the early Greeks asking for the blessing of Poseidon, or the Romans with Neptune, ship launchings usually included ceremonial processes.  Wine was drank and poured over the vessel, shrines were carried on board, and prayers were said. It wasn’t until more modern times that our current tradition of sponsorship of Naval vessels started to take shape.

Many of the traditions that we use today were passed on from the European navies.  The first American warship with a record of christening was the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides” in Boston on October 21, 1797.  Her sponsor, Captain James Sever, USN, stood on the weather deck at the bow. “At fifteen minutes after twelve she commenced a movement into the water with such steadiness, majesty and exactness as to fill every heart with sensations of joy and delight.” As Constitution ran out, Captain Sever broke a bottle of fine old Madeira over the heel of the bowsprit.

The tradition of women being the sponsors of ships didn’t happen until many years later.  In 1827 it was recorded that the sloop-of-war “Concord” was “christened by a young lady of Portsmouth.”  The first woman to be identified as sponsor was Miss Lavinia Fanning Watson, daughter of a prominent Philadelphian.  She broke a bottle of wine and water over the bow of sloop-of-war Germantown at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 22 August 1846. As time passed the christening, testing, commissioning and decommissioning of a ship became a more formal procedure with some standardized rules and guidelines that are still done today.  

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Norwegian minesweeper KNM Lagen (M950) being built at Bellingham Shipyards c1954.  Launched in the same year as the Warbler and Vireo.

Bellingham, WA, from its earliest days, was only accessible by boat and has a long maritime history.  Of particular consequence was Bellingham Marine Railway Co. which was a boat repair business going back to the early years of the 20th century. Later it became Bellingham Marine Railway and Boatbuilding Co. in 1921 when they built a new facility on the west side of Whatcom Creek waterway, on Squalicum Creek.  It was owned by O. I. Thorsen and J. G. Brown, who were joined in 1928 by A. S. Nilsen, of Nilsen & Keletz, the Seattle shipbuilders. In 1941, it became Bellingham Shipyards when it merged with Bellingham Iron Works and was owned by Archibald Talbot. They built minesweepers for the US Navy, and also started the Bell Boy Boats line before eventually closing in 1963.  But during its heyday in WWII, Bellingham Shipyard was the largest privately owned shipyard in the country and one of the biggest producers of ships for the US Navy.

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USS Warbler Ship Platter

Bellingham Shipyard continued to make naval minesweepers beyond WWII and  into the 50’s which were some of the last wooden ships produced for the US Navy.  Why wood you ask? Because many mines were magnetic and wooden boat wouldn’t attract them.  Two such ships produced were the USS Vireo and the USS Warbler. Both were sponsored by Bellingham locals.  Mrs. Millard “Minnie” Wahlstrand along with Mrs. S.A. Blythe were named co-sponsors of the USS Warbler, which launched on June 18, 1954.  Steward Blythe was the son of Arthur J. Blythe, who founded Blythe Heating and Plumbing. While Mrs.Katheryn Blythe is the only sponsor listed in the Ships of the United States Navy and Their Sponsors the tray clearly has Mrs. Millard Wahlstrand engraved on it.  Minnie’s husband Millard was also plumber likely working for Blythe Heating and Plumbing as well possibly explaining why there were co-sponsors.  Ms. Marvin Olsen, Rena, was named the sponsor of the Vireo. Marvin was one of the principle partners in the Bell Boy Boat company, which was a division of the Bellingham Shipyards Company.  They were one of the first boat builders to feature fiberglass in their hull designs. As sponsors, Rena and Millie were most likely involved in the keel laying ceremony where they etched their initials in the keel.  They were prominently featured in the christening ceremony where they broke a bottle of champagne over the bow of the ship. It was customary to present the sponsor with a small gift at the launching as well. The silver trays pictured above may have been the gifts given to both Minnie Wahlstrand and Rena Olsen.  The sponsors may have also been involved in the decommissioning ceremony when the each boat left the US Navy, since it was encouraged that the donors participate in the entire life of the boat. Often times a small inconsequential piece of the boat such as a nameplate, was gifted to the sponsor when the ship was decommissioned.

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The USS Warbler and Vireo moored side by side

The USS Warbler (AMS-206)  was “laid down” on the 15th of October, 1953.  It was launched in June of 1854, as shown on the silver tray, and then redesignated to MSC-206 on February 7, 1955 and then commissioned on the 26th of July, 1955 at the Naval Station in Tacoma, WA with LTJG James S. Efelt in command.  It then operated out of Long Beach for the next year before departing to Sasebo, Japan with its sister ship, Whippoorwill, also from the Bellingham Shipyards. It stayed in that area for the next 14 years with the Mine Division 32, participating in training exercises with neighboring navies.  It was then sent to Vietnam where it was used for “Operation Market Time” patrols off the coast. Here it patrolled for boats carrying arms and munitions to the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Because of the Warblers size, it was adept at patrolling where larger destroyers couldn’t go, but was better armed than the smaller patrol boats.  It was used to board junks, and crew would inspect their cargo, and check their destination. By the end of the Vietnam Conflict, the Warbler was issued 7 engagement stars for its participation in “Operation Market Time.”
The Viero (AMS-205) was laid down on September 14th, 1953 and had it’s launch ceremony on April 30th of the same year and was redesignated as MSC-205.  After a trip to Seattle to complete it’s tests and trials, the Viero was commissioned on June 7th, 1955 and was sent to San Diego for shakedown training.  Eventually the USS Viero would also end up in Sasebo, Japan and serve in the region for the next 14 years. The first 8 were running peacekeeping missions, including minesweeping exercises with other local navies.  Eventually, the Viero would also end up in Vietnam in 1964. It also participated in patrols that were a part of Operation Market Time. After an overhaul in Sasebo in 1966, the Vireo was involved in its first bit of actual live enemy fire.  After the Coast Guard ship, Point Grey took .50 cal machine gun fire from a trawler, the Viero and Brister were called in for support. The enemy trawler was forced aground, and it was decided that US forces would try to salvage it by towing it but when the Point Grey approached, it took heavy fire from the shore.  Both the Vireo and the Point Grey responded with fire from the 20mm guns. The Point Grey retreated under covering fire from the Viero, and air strikes were called in that eventually destroyed the trawler. The Viero won the Navy Unit Commendation and her commanding officer won the Bronze Star Medal.

In July of 1970 the Viero and Warbler were recalled to Long Beach, and were transitioned into a Naval Reserve training ships.  The Viero was decommissioned on October 1st, 1970. In July 1975, her name was struck from the Navy list and on October 1st, she was transferred to the Fijian Navy, renamed Kula, and was eventually discarded in 1985.  The Warbler was decommissioned on the same day as the Viero and was also sold to the Fijian Navy in 1975, was renamed the HMFS Kiro. She served until 1995 when she was decommissioned and destroyed the following year.

I can only guess as to where exactly the silver trays fit into the story, but they served as a link between the past and present.  It gave us the opportunity to learn a little about Bellingham’s past, it’s importance in the shipbuilding industry, and to get a look at some of the traditions of sponsorship of Naval vessels that are still used today. Check out a close up of the inscriptions below and let us know what you think!

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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.

 

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The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggeinheim family came to America in the mid-1800s, and the family rapidly became one of the wealthiest in the world. Involved in the mining and smelting industries, they were also known as philanthropists and patrons of the arts. Today, the family interest, Guggeinheim Partners, oversees $200 billion in assets.

 

In September of 1903, a tugboat pushed the barge Harold past the Statue of Liberty; the barge was loaded down with nearly 8,000 silver-and-lead bars. The metal was bound for the Guggenheims’ smelters in New Jersey. But during the passage of the Arthur Kill strait, the Harold tipped, sending most of the metal bars tumbling into the murky waters. Somehow, the deckhands aboard the barge never noticed the missing cargo; the loss wasn’t uncovered until the ship docked the next morning. A salvage mission recovered most of the cargo, though the salvage company director called the deckhands the “dumbest skunks I ever had to do with.” Around 1400 bars are still unaccounted for, and could be worth up to $20 million today.

 

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Arthur Kill Strait

Rumors of the treasure have surfaced from time to time. A story goes that a local Native American was fishing in the strait when his eel trident snagged on one of the lost ingots. More recently, Ken Hayes of Aqua Survey tried to locate the treasure. An early sweep of the area revealed 255 possible targets, but no guarantees that any of them were the missing silver. Hayes’ attempts to find the treasure have been met with discouragement from locals (who believe a local should be the one to find it) as well as fellow treasure hunters looking for an easy tip off to the location of the silver.

 

To date, neither Hayes nor anyone else has found a single silver bar, much less all $20 million worth. But it may be only a matter of time until the Guggenheim Treasure resurfaces.