Friday Odds and Ends, August 5



Reader Joe Weaver sent in these photos of an extensive coin and currency collection at Ellis Island. Thanks for the photos: that’s a beautiful display!


Islamic gold coins in England help historians reconstruct medieval culture.



Archaeological digs at Tintagel in Cornwall have unearthed massive 6th-century walls from a previously unknown building (the current ruins are medieval in date), along with pottery and other ancient items.



Do you read the daily comics? If so, you may have noticed that long-running comic Gasoline Alley recently did a story about collecting coins.




Did you know that PCGS will pay $10,000 just to look at some rare coins?

Friday Odds and Ends for July 15


A 91-year-old woman filled in a crossword puzzle at a museum. The problem? The “puzzle” was part of an art display at the museum.




Thomas Edison was one of the first technology superstars; when Electrical Experimenter magazine ran this photo of his hands in 1919, the caption read in part: “IF THE WORLD WERE CALLED UPON TO MAKE AN INVENTORY OF WHAT MR. EDISON’S HANDS ACTUALLY WROGHT IN ENRICHING THIS PLANET, THERE WOULD NOT BE GOLD ENOUGH TO PAY HIM.”





The Machin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is the most reproduced artwork of all time, and can be seen on stamps all across the world. The Machin portrait is 50 years old this year.






Two young adults playing the new Pokémon GO game managed to save a house and the life of a beloved dog.




Need a little cuteness after a rough week? Read up on ducklings: science says they’re both cute AND intelligent!


Friday Odds and Ends, July 8




A cyborg with rat tissue and a skeleton of gold? It’s real! And it’s beautiful.





Have you heard of ESPER? The Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections is “dedicated to promoting the collecting of stamps and philatelic material depicting people and events related to the African Diaspora and to encouraging and supporting the interest and participation of Black people in all aspects of philately.” You can follow them on Twitter, too!



Seeing planets outside the solar system is old news, but have we found extra-solar water clouds for the first time?





Today is the last working day for Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios. Ms. Rios not only made appearances at collector conventions, but would autograph notes bearing her signature. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors, Ms. Rios, and thanks for your years of work!




Crime doesn’t pay, even for treasure hunters! This hunter thought he could get around the law for greater profit.

Friday Odds and Ends, July 1



The winner of one of our scavenger hunts, Steve Gagen, sent us a great photo with his prize! So glad you like the coins!





Ever get one of those weird feelings that you don’t have a word for? Science can help!



Can coin collecting improve your quality of life? The evidence says yes! 







Have you heard of the Centennial Bulb? It’s an electric lightbulb that was lit in 1901, and has never gone out! Even better: you can watch a livestream of the bulb and see it for yourself.



For everyone in the States, have a great Fourth of July weekend!

Friday Odds and Ends, June 24


ClquzeRWgAACtBh.jpgAccording to PCGS, the $20 Mormon gold coin was the first double eagle struck on US soil for general circulation. Look for an in-depth story on our blog soon!


Have you visited the online museum Mintage World yet? It’s got thousands of coins and other items, cataloged and easy to access for all visitors.


appear-confidentHow to appear confident, even when you’re not.





nh-apluto-mountains-plains-9-17-15_0-640x411Is Pluto’s cold surface hiding a distant ocean? NASA has the details.






CaptureWant to feel like a modern chef and have something to impress your dinner guests? Salt-cured egg yolks will be a hit (and they’re a cinch to make.)



Friday Odds and Ends, June 10

New technology reveals machine instructions from 2100 years ago, revealing instructions and philosophy.





What do you know about African stamps? Check out this great post about the stamps of Basutoland.





Are you a custodian of your coins, or an end consumer? Great thoughts on a tricky topic.



slimVirtual monsters make it into the real world, via highly anticipated new game, Pokemon Go.





When coin collecting feels like walking on ice.




NASA’s JUNO spacecraft is set to enter Jupiter orbit next month.

Burned out? These 7 posts will make you love coins again


While we love the hard data of mint marks, date sets, grades, and more, sometimes we need to take a moment to remember the human element of coin collecting. If you’re feeling a little burnt out, here are some posts that will make you remember why you fell in love with the hobby in the first place.
Braille_Proof_rev1: Coin dealers and blind collectors – a tribute to Dean, from the Blind Coin Collector blog

A connection with your local coin shop owner is special for every collector, but it can mean even more when you need some additional accommodations. This is a moving tribute from the Blind Coin Collector (follow his blog: it’s terrific!).



2: What It’s Like to Be a Coin Dealer, from CoinThrill

What’s the best part about being the owner of a brick-and-mortar coin shop? What’s the most unusual thing a coin customer has ever done? Check out this post on the CoinThrill blog to hear some wild stories!



non coin.PNG3: Coins Struck on Foreign Objects, from the Australian Coins blog

You just have to laugh: sometimes coins are struck on items that are decidedly not what the Mint intended!



4: There’s No Right or Wrong Way to Collect, from the Common Cents blog

What do you do when you don’t love your old collecting themes anymore? Debbie Bradley takes a look at what it means to change your collection and branch out into new things.




5: Heads or Tails, from the New York Times

What story might a common penny tell as it traveled from hand to hand? How many lives would it touch?






6: Young find appeal in modern coins, from the Perth Mint blog

The joy of sharing your love of coin collecting with your child.



Joan_Clarke_(cryptanalyst).jpg7: The Enigma of Joan Clarke: Numismatist, from the Heritage Auctions blog

Who she was and how she changed the world of coins:




If you’re looking for great coins, you’ve come to the right place. Click here to see what we currently have!

Friday Odds and Ends June 3rd

Welcome to the Friday Roundup! This is where we share links and stories from the past week that caught our eye. Enjoy!


hawaiian.PNGHawaiian Island Stamp and Coin sent us a signed copy of their new Hawaiian Money catalog: thanks! It looks terrific!





The prestigious Alberto Francisco Pradeau Award was presented to Allan Schein by the Mexican Numismatic Society for his book on the Mexican “caballito” peso, Mexican Beauty.


Forever-stamps-views-of-Our-Planets-setThe USPS released two new stamp sets: Views of Our Planets and Exploring Pluto. The first shows the eight planets of the solar system in high-detail color imagery, while the Pluto designs showcase the newest photo of Pluto along with New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft that took the photo.


A mystery is solved when a family examines a little-known type of Australian love tokens.


CjxMoNeUgAIL7HAHobo nickels are a classic American art form, and they’re still going strong! Check out the Hobo Nickel Society website and Twitter to see some stunning examples of these unique coins. (Example shown is from artist Shaun Hughes.)


When you begin to pursue coin collecting (numismatics), you may find a lot of terms and expressions that are new to you. One of the first you’re likely to see is “exonumia.” What is that?

Exonumia is a branch of numismatics that is worthy of its own study and pursuit; in short, exonumia refers to currency-like items that are not currency. These can include tokens, badges, pressed/elongated coins, medallions, wooden nickels, and more.

The word “exonumia” itself is as recent as 1960, when Token and Medal Society founding member Russell Rulau coined the term; Webster’s accepted it to their dictionary in 1965. Exactly what constitutes exonumia is often up for debate, as are the lines between exonumismatic branches (if a token bears an advertisement, is it a token or a promotional piece?)

The Token and Medal Society states that “Strictly defined, a token is any substitute for the money issued by governments. The most common form of token is a metal disc, similar to a coin, on which is inscribed the value and the issuer. In theory, tokens were redeemable only by the issuer, but some were accepted widely and often circulated just as coins. In practice, many other items, such as advertising pieces, are also called tokens as opposed to medals… A medal is an object made to commemorate some person or event. Medals have been made by governments, organizations, or individuals.”

While the items classified as exonumia are practically endless, there are a few major areas that will interest both serious collectors and those with a passing interest in historical curiosities.


Wooden money: 

Wood is rarely used as currency, since it has no intrinsic value, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. In the financial crisis of the 1930’s, factories shut down, banks closed their doors, and people held on to as much money as they could. The result? A drop in the amount of money circulating. Local bank closures meant disaster for business in rural or rugged areas, as a trip to a neighboring town was simply not feasible.


Blaine, Washington, found itself in this very predicament. Local businessman Albert Balch had been promoting slicewood, a pressed wood product made locally. (One thing Washington state has in abundance: trees!) He realized that this could also be used for printing emergency money, and the idea caught on. The Chamber of Commerce in nearby Tenino backed the money with non-interest bearing warrants, creating legitimate currency. Merchants could redeem these pieces for US currency or gold. The town of Blaine also adopted the idea, cutting pressed wood into circles to make wooden nickels. These “coins” featured an image of the Peace Arch Monument, and made Blaine nationally known.

After the Depression ended, wood was outlawed as currency, but wooden nickels remained popular as tokens for promotions, advertising, and souvenirs.

Pressed or elongated coins: 

Coin-pressing machines can be found at almost any national park or other attraction. For the cost of a dollar or two and a sacrificial penny, you can watch the machine press your coin into a long oval, printed with an image to remind you of your destination.

While many pennies get lost quickly, quite a few are the subject of serious collectors. Disney parks are known for their collectible penny designs, with aficionados scrambling to get every design available at every park.

1893_Columbia_Exposition_pennyThe oldest method of elongating coins is both dangerous and unreliable: just stick the penny on a railroad track and hope the passing train squashes it properly (note: this is DANGEROUS and should not be done, for the safety of all.) The first modern penny press machine debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. These coins proved immensely popular, and spread across the country as travelers brought them back from the fair. Some can still be found today.


Hobo Nickels

“Buffalo nickels” by Danthomas – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

The Buffalo Nickel that was in circulation from 1913 to 1938 sparked a surprising art form: the hobo nickel. The Buffalo Nickel was thicker than other coins, and the head on the obverse was larger, allowing for the creation of fine details.

During the 1930’s, thousands of unemployed men traveled to find what work they could; commonly referred to as “hobos,” these men took available work (usually manual labor), and created these coins as a means of artistic expression, as well as to trade for necessities. Since these men were on the road, without means of proper tools for metalworking, each altered coin could take up to 100 hours for a finished piece. The variety of artists, combined with the wide range of rough tools used, resulted in coins that are completely unique: no two hobo nickels look alike.

Encased Stamps

us-encased_postage-0-01Have you ever wondered how many stamps you have lying around your house, and how much value might be caught up in them? This proved to come in handy during a time of financial crisis!

In 1862, America faced an intense shortage of coins. The government eased the situation temporarily by declaring that postage stamps could be used to pay off debts to the government, providing the debt was less than $5. This proved to be more difficult than initially anticipated, due to the fragile nature of stamps. A businessman named John Gault came up with an ingenious solution: Gault created metal cases for the stamps to protect them from damage while they served as currency.

Gault’s encased stamps were only circulated for a about a year, until the government issued fractional currency. The use of stamps as currency also created a shortage of stamps! The encased stamp didn’t last long in its original usage, but they make excellent exonumismatic collector’s pieces. Very few are still in existence, as most cases were opened to remove the stamp as soon as the crisis had passed.

Read more! For more interesting stories of exonumia and collector’s items, see our blog series!

History of the “selfie”

Whether sitting in a car or performing a dangerous task, it seems that in today’s day and age, snapping a “selfie” is an appropriate thing to do just about anywhere.  After all, why wouldn’t all your adoring fans want to see what you look like as you gaze non nonchalantly into the distance while standing in front of your bathroom mirror?  Perhaps the bigger question is when did this tradition begin?


Wikipedia defines the word selfie as  “a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held in the hand or supported by a selfie stick. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are usually flattering and made to appear casual. Most selfies are taken with a camera held at arm’s length or pointed at a mirror, rather than by using a self-timer.”


Turns out the first recorded selfie dates back longer than you might think.  In 1839 American photographer and chemist Robert Cornelius (see above) was in the back of his parents store experimenting with his camera.  At some point, he got the idea to take a picture of himself.  At this time, cameras had only just become commercially available.  They were essentially a sealed box filled with chemicals and other materials that would etch an image onto a copper sheet plated with silver once it had been exposed to light by removing the camera’s lens cap.  This process took anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes to complete, as the image had to be exposed to light long enough for the chemicals to do their thing.  Robert Cornelius would have set the camera down, uncovered the lens cap, ran into the shot for anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes, replaced the cap and then developed the photo.  On the back he wrote, “The first light picture ever taken. 1839.”

Four years later, in 1843, Cornelius was back at it, capturing this picture of himself nonchalantly pouring chemicals into a beaker.


By the 1900’s, the Kodak Brownie Box had been invented.  This camera was much smaller, affordable, and mass produced. The popularity of the “selfie”, or photographic self portraits as they were called at the time, began to rise. Because this was still a fairly new technology, just recently made accessible to the general public, experimentation was a must.  What better way to experiment, then to turn the camera on yourself?  It was a matter of convenience.

Kodak Brownie

Kodak Brownie

The first record of a teenager snapping a selfie in the mirror and sending it to a friend was in 1914.  Anastasia Nikolaevna, of Russia, wrote in a letter that was sent with the portrait, “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.”


Although these types of pictures have been around for decades, it was not until 2004 with flickr’s use of #selfie, that the phrase really took off.  From there it spread to all the various social media platforms until finally, in 2013, it earned a spot in the Oxford dictionary.  Today, love them or hate them, Selfies are commonplace and do not seem to be going anywhere.

I am sure that Robert Cornelius, in the back of his parent’s store experimenting with his first camera, had no idea what the implications of this seemingly innocent act would be or the title wave it would create.