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!

Deliberation of Art or Fraud

James Stephen George Boggs was born in Woodbury, New Jersey on January 16, 1955.

James Boggs began drawing currency in 1984, sitting in a Chicago diner the artist began drawing on a paper napkin as he consumed his breakfast. He began with sketching the number 1, easily recognized on the $1 denomination. Boggs then transformed the image into a piece of art similar to the dollar bill. Eagerly, his waitress offered to buy it. Mr. Boggs refused, but instead payed for his 90 cent tab with the drawing and the waitress gratefully handed him 10 cents in change. Needless to say, at that very moment an idea sparked that would change the path of his life. His drawings of currency, illustrating only one side of the note, came to be known as “Boggs notes”. James Boggs notes were considered to be art. He would tell a collector where he spent the note and the details of the transaction, but he would never sell the notes directly. The buyer would then hunt down the person in possession of the note in order to purchase it. Boggs noted that after the initial transaction the notes would be resold for much more than their face value, it is said that one Boggs notes resold for $420,000.

One of his well known pieces are a series of bills done for the Florida United Numismatists’ annual convention. Denominations from $1 to $50 (and perhaps higher) feature designs taken from the reverse sides of U.S. currency, making minor changes to captions such as: “The United States of America” is changed to “Florida United Numismatists” and the denomination wording is occasionally replaced by the acronym “FUN”. Also changes to the imagery; the mirroring of Monticello on the $2, the Supreme Court building, as opposed to the U.S. Treasury, on the $10 and an alternate angle for the White House on the $20 bill. They were printed in bright orange on one side and featured Boggs’s autograph and thumbprint on the other.

 Boggs viewed his “transactions” as a type of art, but the authorities often viewed him and his work with speculation. Boggs wanted his audience to question and investigate just what it is that makes “money” valuable in the first place. 

“I create images that say things and ask things,” Mr. Boggs said in the 2013 Discovery Channel documentary “Secret Life of Money.” “I take them out into the real world and try to spend them, not as counterfeits, but as works of art that ask us about the nature of money.”

He firmly denied that he was a counterfeiter or forger, but rather maintained that a good business model between informed parties that this performance was certainly not fraud, even if the item transacted happens to resemble currency. Boggs was first arrested for counterfeiting in England in 1986, and was successfully defended by the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC & Mark Stephens and acquitted. As detailed in Geoffrey Robertson’s book The Justice Game, all Bank of England notes now carry a copyright message on the face as a direct result of Boggs’s activities, the idea being that if they cannot secure a counterfeiting charge, then they can at least secure a copyright violation. He was arrested for a second time in Australia in 1989, acquitted and awarded the equivalent of US$20,000 in damages by the presiding judge. Boggs home was raided three times between 1990 and 1992 by the United States Secret Service on suspicion of counterfeiting. Resulting in the raids, 1300 items were confiscated, although no legal case was brought against him. In September 2006, Boggs was arrested in Florida and charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and carrying a concealed weapon. He failed to appear in court a few months later.

Police bust Boggs at the Young Unknowns Gallery, London, 1986

“They said I was a counterfeiter,” an indignant Mr. Boggs told The Associated Press in 1992, when agents in the counterfeiting division of the Secret Service raided his apartment near Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he was an artist in residence, and took possession of more than 100 of his artworks. “They don’t understand the difference between art and crime.”

With the immense talent he held, it is no wonder prestigious museums sought after this work. Some of the artwork can be found in numerous places, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Smithsonian Institution, Babson College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence Kansas and the British Museum in London, England. Boggs died on January 22, 2017 in Tampa at the age of 62, but his story will live on forever through his work and his legacy.

New Year’s Good Luck Cake

Vasilopita is a New Year’s Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe, which contains a hidden coin that is believed to bring luck to the one who obtains the coin. It is associated with Sainr Basil’s day. (Saint Basil’s Feast Day is observed on January 1, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season known as the Vasilopita Observance) January 1, in most of Greece, but in some regions, the traditions surrounding a cake with a hidden coin are associated with Epiphany or Christmas The dough in which the coin is placed varies immensely depending on personal preference and location/region. In some families, instead of dough, it is made from a custard base. The pie is known as Chronópita, meaning New Year’s Pie.

On New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. 

In older times, the coin often was a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. As time went on, the tradition of a costly coin (in most cases) changed. In more modern times, a gift, money or prize is given to the coin recipient. Many private or public institutions, such as societies, clubs, workplaces, companies, etc., cut their vasilopita on New Year’s Day and the beginning of the Great Lent, in celebrations that range from impromptu potluck gatherings to formal receptions or balls.

How did this tradition start you may ask? In popular belief, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Basil of Caesarea. According to one story, Basil called on the Roman citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the enemy forces from surrounding the city, cutting off essential supplies with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside. Each individual of the city gave what they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the  adversary was so embarrassed by the people’s cooperation that he called off the siege without taking a thing. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way of knowing which items belonged to which family, so he baked all of the jewelry into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves around the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share.

Post-Mortem Photography

Historically you can find numerous cultural traditions that we might find odd today, such as taxidermy animal hats, professional mourners, and cheese rolling festivals (yes those were a thing!). But one tradition that sticks out as not only odd but a bit unsettling is post-mortem photography. Post-mortem photography was a type of photography that gained popularity in the Victorian era where families would photograph their loved ones after they had passed away.

In images that are both unsettling and strangely poignant, families would often pose with the dead, infants appear asleep, and consumptive young ladies elegantly recline, the disease not only taking their life but increasing their beauty.


Until the mid-19th century, photography was considered an expensive luxury that not many could afford. As the price of photographic material came down and the number of photographers increased during the 1850s, more people paid to have them or their family photographed, often even on their deathbed. Tragic as it may seem, to low-income families, post-mortem photos were often the only family photographs that they had; as death was their last chance to scrounge together the money to afford the photos. Getting photos taken was regarded as a luxurious family occasion.

Photographers had an important job and a part of the photographer’s tasks was to prepare the body of the deceased and make it look more “lifelike,” or as if it was asleep. The BBC notes that “the long exposures when taking photographs meant that the dead were often seen more sharply than the slightly-blurred living, because of their lack of movement.”


deceased child with painted on eyes

As technology slowly advanced there were more options for the families to choose from. Sometimes portrait cards were created to be distributed to family and friends; these portrait cards looked even creepier as eyes were painted on to the deceased. Later examples of memento mori photographs show the deceased presented in their coffin, often with a large group of funeral attendees.

Today, post-mortem photography is a nearly exterminated practice and peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century. Although it is still present in some parts of Eastern Europe. This type of photography is nowadays regularly practiced in police and practice of pathology. The advent of snapshots allowed most families to have photographs taken in life.


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This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

Henry Rathbone

The Lincoln assassination is a scary and tragic part of history. But one part that tends to get left out of the story is the life of Major Henry Rathbone, one of the individuals attending the play with Lincoln when the assassination occurred. The true history of Rathbone,_Henry_Reed (1)Henry Rathbone is chilling and seems like a tale out of a horror novel.

On April 14, 1865, Major Rathbone and his fiancee Clara Harris accepted an invitation to see a play at Ford’s Theatre from President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

During the play, noted stage actor John Wilkes Booth entered the Presidential box and fatally shot Lincoln in the head with a pistol. As Rathbone attempted to apprehend Booth, Booth slashed Rathbone’s left arm with a dagger from the elbow to his shoulder. Rathbone later recalled that he was horrified at the anger on Booth’s face. Rathbone again grabbed at Booth as Booth prepared to jump from the sill of the box. He grabbed onto Booth’s coat, causing Booth to fall awkwardly to the stage, perhaps breaking his leg. Booth nonetheless escaped, and remained at large for twelve days.

Despite his serious wound, Rathbone escorted Mary Lincoln to the Petersen House across the street, where the president had been taken. Shortly thereafter he passed out due to blood loss. Harris arrived soon after and held his head in her lap while he lay semiconscious. When a surgeon who had been attending Lincoln finally examined him, it was realized that his wound was more serious than initially thought. Booth had cut him nearly to the bone and severed an artery. Rathbone was taken home while Harris remained with Mary Lincoln as Abraham lay dying over the next nine hours. This death vigil lasted through the night, until morning, when President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865.

Rathbone eventually healed back up to full physical health but the events of the night would leave him mentally haunted until his dark end. As time passed by, seventeen years to be exact, Rathbone traveled to Albany, New York, to the office of his wife’s uncle. Hamilton Harris was the man a younger Henry Rathbone studied law with and on this day, Rathbone was on his way back to Europe with his family. This time was different though, as Harris thought, Rathbone was ill and when asked what was wrong, Rathbone simply said it was dyspepsia which is a chronic ailment of the stomach.

By the fall of 1882, Rathbone was 45 years old and was constantly plagued by mysterious medical problems. One doctor that treated him described the attacks as “neuralgia of the head and face” and heart palpitations and difficulty breathing were also symptoms Rathbone suffered from. These are symptoms that we now might recognize at PTSD. Rathbone had changed the night of Lincoln’s assassination, his youth and hopes of a happy family life we’re taken from him. His wife often attested that he was just different, moodier and at times abusive.

In 1870, Rathbone retired from the Army due to his sickness. After Rathbone’s visit to Hamilton Harris’s office, Rathbone and his family set sail to Germany. After their arrival Rathbone’s health continued to fail. He became depressed and some people called him erratic. His marriage also suffered more and was tense much of the time.  As Rathbone’s depression got worse he was convinced that his wife was leaving him and taking the kids. He couldn’t bare to lose any semblance of the life he wished he could’ve lived.

Just before dawn, on Christmas Eve of 1883, Rathbone grabbed his revolver and knife and walked to his children’s bedroom. His wife was able to distract him and had him follow her into their bedroom and closed the door. It was there that Rathbone shot and stabbed Clara until she died. Rathbone then turned the knife on himself, a failed suicide attempt. When the police arrived at the murder scene, the bloody and dazed Rathbone reportedly claimed there had been people hiding behind the pictures on the wall.

News spread fast about the tragic events that took place in Germany. Dr. Pope said, “He never was thoroughly himself after that night [the assassination]…I have no hesitation in affirming that the dreaded tragedy, which preyed upon his nervous and impressionable temperament for many years, laid the seeds of that homicidal mania.” Henry Rathbone was declared insane and was never allowed to be prosecuted for the crime of murder. Rathbone, after recovering from his wounds was sent to live out his days in the Provincial Insane Asylum where he died on August 14, 1911.

Sometimes the saddest and scariest stories are the true ones.

This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

Out-of-Place Artifacts

Many collectors, history enthusiasts, and metal detectorists dream of finding legendary antiques or artifacts that tell the stories of history. Out-of-place artifacts is a term for artifacts of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in an unusual context, that challenges conventional historical chronology by being “too advanced” for the level of civilization that existed at the time, or showing “human presence” before humans were known to exist. Other examples suggest contact between different cultures that are hard to account for with conventional historical understanding. This list of 13 out-of-place artifacts may leave you with the creepy feeling that time travel, aliens, or some sort of other supernatural force may exist.

Olav_Kyrre_mynt_1.jpg1. Maine Penny
Dating to the reign of Olaf Kyrre King of Norway (1067–1093 AD), also referred to as the Goddard coin, the maine penny is a Norwegian silver coin. It was discovered in Maine in 1957, and it has been suggested as evidence of Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. The 11th-century Norwegian coin found in a Native American shell in Maine, United States could be evidence of direct contact between Vikings and Native Americans in Maine. Mainstream belief is that it was brought to Maine from Labrador or Newfoundland via an extensive northern native trade network. Over 20,000 objects were found over a 15-year period at the Goddard Site in Brooklin, Maine. The sole non-Native artifact was the coin.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. Antikythera Mechanism
Used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance, the Antikythera Mechanism is an ancient Greek analogue computer and orrery .

Discovered in 1901, this early precursor to the computer has long been held as clear evidence for a once-technologically advanced civilization on earth – probably one that was wiped out in some kind of catastrophe. The Antikythera Mechanism, not surprisingly, has long been used in arguments for Atlantis or the presence of extraterrestrials on earth.


Dendera_light_0023. The Dendera Light
On the walls of a crypt beneath the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, Egypt, there’s a mural that some claim offers definitive proof that the ancient Egyptians had access to some rather impressive technology. The Dendera Light appears to show several people holding over-sized light bulbs, with a bright spotlight emanating from them. The crypt, one of five similar rooms only accessible through a secret opening, is thought to have once been a storehouse for the temple’s most prized possessions, which most of are now long gone.

Proponents of the idea that the ancient gods were actually aliens that bestowed some of their technologies upon the human race point to the out-of-place artifact as proof that they had access to some sort of electrical and lighting technologies, which were probably once housed in the crypts beneath the temples.
mysterious-pipes1-tm4. The Baigong Pipes
Discovered in 1996 by a man named Bai Yuhe, the Baigong Pipes were named for their location: Mount Baigong, a mountain with what’s said to be a pyramid on top.  There is a series of caves within Mount Baigong, some of which have collapsed and are impassable, and others that can be explored. Inside the caves there is what appears to be a wild system of pipes. They range from almost too tiny to see to 16 inches in diameter, and those who see the out-of-place artifacts state that they were clearly put there for a reason. The pipes, which appear to be made from metal, run deep into the rock and connect the cave system to a nearby lake.

Various scientists have examined the Baigong Pipes; they’re 92% common minerals and the remaining eight per cent of their makeup is unknown. Thermoluminescence testing can tell how long it’s been since a substance has been subjected to light or heat, and in the case of samples from the pipes, it’s been between 140,000 and 150,000 years. Based on their age, it’s been put forward that the Baigong Pipes were installed by some race of ancient aliens as a sort of plumbing system. The theory gained so much momentum that a radar dish was installed on top of the mountain, just in case they were ever coming back.


London_Hammer5. The London Hammer
In 1947, Max and Emma Hahn’s son chipped away at the rock in their backyard in Texas and broke it open to reveal the head of an iron hammer. The head was about six inches long, largely free of rust and confirmed to have been made from iron.

The London Hammer has long been one of the star exhibits of the Creation Evidence Museum. According to Creationists, the hammer is a pre-Flood discovery – it was, the Hahns stated, found in rocks that have since been dated as being between 400 and 500-million-years-old. But since the out-of-place artifact clearly isn’t 400 to 500 million years old, that means the dates for the rock formation it was buried in must be wrong.


coso-3a-tm6. The Coso
On February 13, 1961 a group of three freinds were fossicking for geodes near the town of Olancha, California. They ran across the now labeled Coso Artifact which is a spark plug which when found was encased in a lump of hard clay or rock.

Virginia Maxey, one of the people who discovered it, speculated at different times that this artifact was either 100 or 500,000 years old as noted by Stromberg and Heinrich (2000, 2004). Mrs. Maxey failed to provide either any specific information or verifiable citation about either the dating technique or evidence used in calculating either date. The origin of the artifact has been the cause of much speculation. Pseudoscientific suggestions include: An ancient advanced civilization (such as Atlantis), Prehistoric extraterrestrial visitors to Earth, Human time-travellers from the future leaving or losing the artifact during a visit to the past.


Ica_stones37. Ica Stones
Physician-turned-archaeologist Dr. Javier Cabrera opened the Museo de Piedras Grabadas in 1966 to display literally thousands of stones that he found in a cave near Ica, Peru. The Ica Stones were engraved with a variety of scenes that seemed to go against every single thing that has been scientifically accepted about our history. According to Cabrera, the stones were engraved by an ancient South American civilization and left in the cave as a sort of history book. Scenes carved into the Ica Stones depict the use of telescopes, doctors performing advanced surgeries, and others using technologies like flying machines. Other stones show humans using what appears to be dinosaurs, and other stones even show them fighting the dinosaurs.

Some think that the stones are proof of an ancient alien civilization, which left the out-of-place artifacts behind when they suddenly had to leave the planet. Another group argues that the Ica Stones – and their depictions of men alongside fantastic beasts – are proof that the myths and legends of the world are more than just folklore. If this South American society has records of men fighting fearsome flying thunderbirds, there must be something to the idea that the stories passed down through the generations are history rather than mythology.


Lake_Winnipesaukee_mystery_stone_at_the_New_Hampshire_Historical_Society,_Concord_NH8. The Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone
Workers were digging holes for fence posts in the area of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire in 1872. In one hole, they found a fist-sized, egg-shaped rock with a series of carvings that appeared to depict common Native American images: a teepee, an ear of corn, a face, curiously, two holes had been drilled into the object.

This out-of-place-artifact could be of Celtic or other European origin, and actually a thunderstone. Thunderstones were thought to be stones given to people by the gods, and they were put in homes to ward off evil. Getting their power from storms, they were thought to be especially powerful against demons.

Area historians have suggested that the Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone might have been made to symbolize an event of monumental importance in Native American culture. What’s still unclear is how the holes in it were made – they’re completely smooth, as if created by a power tool.
QtubIronPillar9. The Iron Pillar of Delhi, India
An iron pillar, weighing 6.5 tons and standing almost 24 ft tall, stands in Delhi, India. Inscribed with text and intricate scroll-work, it has continued to baffle historians. The inscription reads that it was erected in honor of Vishnu during the reign of Gupta King and was originally erected sometime between 375 and 413. One of the biggest oddities is that the pillar hasn’t rusted.

Weirdly, the out-of-place artifact isn’t the only strange iron pillar out there. Another massive, rust-free pillar, known as the Iron Man in the Kotternforst, stands in Germany. Made from pig iron, the strangely lonely pillar stands where it has for centuries – and remains rust-free.


aiud2-tm10. Aluminium wedge of Aiud
In 1974, the Aluminum Wedge of Aiud, also known as the Object of Aiud, is a wedge-shaped slab of aluminum found 2 kilometers East of Aiud, Romania, on the banks of the Mures river. For three reasons some claim the wedge is proof that aliens came to visit Earth in the past. An unnamed aeronautical engineer said it resembled the foot of landing gear not unlike the current space vehicles at the time (1974), only smaller.

It was originally found in the same layer as mastodon bones, dating the artifact to around 11,000 years old. The third reason people believed that this was from an alien ship was because aluminum was not even discovered until 1808 and could not be produced in mass until 1885.


Ironie_pile_Bagdad11. Baghdad Battery
In 1936, the Baghdad Battery was discovered in the village of Khuyut Rabbou’a (near Baghdad, Iraq). In 1940,  Wilhelm König, the German director of the National Museum of Iraq published a paper speculating that they may have been galvanic cells, perhaps used for electroplating gold onto silver.

The Baghdad batteries consist of about 5 inch tall terracotta jars containing a copper cylinder made of a rolled-up copper sheet, which houses a single iron rod. At the top, the iron rod is isolated from the copper by asphalt plugs or stoppers, and both rod and cylinder fit snugly inside the opening of the jar which bulges outward towards the middle (reverse hourglass shape).

On the popular television show, MythBusters, the Baghdad battery myth was put to the test. Ten hand-made terracotta jars were fitted to act as batteries. Lemon juice was chosen as the electrolyte to activate the electrochemical reaction between the copper and iron. When all of the batteries were linked together in series, they produced upwards of 4 volts. Then, the major question was, “What were these ancient batteries used for?”


300px-Piri_reis_world_map_0112. Piri Reis map
A map created by Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis in 1513, but sourced from various earlier maps, is thought by some to depict Antarctica as it was in a very remote age before it was covered with ice.

A landmass is shown to jut out from the southern coastline of South America. Captain Lorenzo W. Burroughs, a U.S. Air Force captain in the cartographic section, wrote a letter to Dr. Charles Hapgood in 1961 saying that this landmass seems to accurately show Antarctica’s coast as it is under the ice.


Eltanin_Antenna (1)13. Eltanin Antenna
While photographing the deep seabed west of Cape Horn, the Antarctic oceanographic research ship USNS Eltanin stumbled across a bizarre looking antenna. Resembling some sort of man-made aerial, the object of unknown origin appeared to be anchored to the seabed in around 13,000 feet of water.

Conspiracy theorists, including retired New Zealand airline pilot Bruce Cathie and UFO proponent, suggested the Eltanin Antenna could be an extraterrestrial artifact. Treehugger writes that “The shape of the object and the angle of its spokes, [Cathie] said, fit precisely into a formula he believed extraterrestrials used to control humanity.” The website also quoted Cathie as saying:

“The nodal points of the two grids, when joined by series of small and great circles formed what I have loosely termed polar squares around the north and south geographic poles. It was when I carried out a geometric and mathematical analysis of these sections that I found a direct connection with light, gravity and mass equivalents in a harmonic sense.”


Could alien life, supernatural powers, or even a lost city of Atlantis be behind these unsettling phenomena? What else is out there that we don’t know about?

This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

The Aero Club of America

The Aero Club of America (ACA) was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Jasper Glidden and Augustus Post to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. In 1905, few people believed powered aircraft would be feasible in the future. At the beginning, the ACA’s goal was to promote aviation in any way possible, as both a sport and a commercial endeavor. ACA’s early work helped advance aviation in its early years faster than it might have developed otherwise.

Although the ACA officially began in 1905, there are photos of high society and adventurers printed in 1902 with the stamp, “Aero Club”. Charles Glidden, Homer Hedge, Dave Morris, John F. O’Rourke, and Augustus Post, members of the Automobile Club of America, in the summer of 1905 founded the Aero Club of America. They were avid balloonists but found little support in America for the sport of aviation. With determination they established a new club with an organization similar to the Automobile Club but whose purpose was to promote aviation, much like the Aero Club of France. Homer Hedge became the first President and Augustus Post the first secretary.

Three different conventions were held in New York among aeronautical clubs and societies in 1910. The National Council of Affiliated Clubs of the Aero Club of America, was formed. Thirty-nine delegates, representing constituencies from Pasadena, California, to Boston, met at the Aero Club and formed the parent organization of various state chapters.


1910 Belmont Park Air Show

At the Belmont Air Show in October 1910, a considerable controversy arose between the Englishman Claude Graham-White and the American J. B. Moisant. In one race around the Statue of Liberty, Graham-White won by several minutes, but due to a technicality, the race and considerable prize money was awarded to Moisant. John Armstrong Drexel made public statements accusing the organization of favoritism toward its own members, and Drexel held a competing dinner banquet at the same time as the awards banquet of the organization. The schism among the membership threatened the integrity of the organization, but was ultimately resolved with Drexel’s resignation.

In 1911, the Aero Club of New York put on the First Industrial Airplane Show that was held in conjunction with the 11th U.S. International Auto Show at Manhattan’s Grand Central Palace, in New York City. It was a spectacular event with prominent speakers, and an enthusiastic large crowd that would gaze upon a full-size airplane for the first time. It started December 31, 1910, until mid-January 1911.

In 1919, the rules for a transatlantic flight competition between New York and Paris were written by the secretary of the club, Augustus Post. He worked with wealthy hotel owner Raymond Orteig in securing the $25,000 for the Orteig Prize. The $25,000 prize was to be awarded “to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris”. After five years of failing to attract competitors, the award was then put under the control of a seven-member Bryant Bank board of trustees, which awarded it to Charles Lindbergh for his successful 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.


Glenn H. Curtiss’ Pilot License

The Club issued the first pilot’s licenses in the United States, and successful completion of its licensing process was required by the United States Army for its pilots until 1914. Some of the later licenses issued by the ACA even bore the printed signature of Orville Wright; Wright served for a time as Chairman of the Aero Club of America’s Contest Committee.

Pilot’s licenses were not required by law (except by some states) until well after World War I. AMA licenses were required for participation in sporting events and demonstrations sanctioned by the ACA and FAI, and they gave credibility to pilots seeking to perform demonstration flights for hire, but many American pilots never applied for a license, which required a demonstration of flight proficiency. The ACA was also notorious for the inflexibility of its licensing process, which required,  a letter of application, a photograph of a candidate, appointment of an ACA examiner, and his report of examination, all of which had to be submitted in the correct form and sequence for a license to be issued, whether the candidate passed the flight test or not.

In present day the Aero Club of America is now the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The primary mission of NAA closely aligns with the original Club’s mission; the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight by fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and by promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. On their website the Association states that in carrying out this mission, National Aero Club of the United States, will:

“Develop opportunities to strengthen the mutual objectives of NAA and its corporate members, air sport organizations, chapters and affiliates, including the formation of affiliated aero clubs in U.S. cities where such organizations do not now exist; Represent U.S. aviation throughout the world as a member of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; Encourage, coordinate, document, and promote competition and record-making aviation and space events in accordance with the rules prescribed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, of which NAA is the official U.S. representative; Recognize and reward those who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of aviation and space flight through presentations of awards and other honors; Endorse sound national programs and other efforts designed to help the United States remain a leader in aviation and space flight; Support and encourage aviation and space education programs; Promote and encourage public participation in, and appreciation of, U.S. aviation and space activities.”

Whether your into  history, aviation, or apart of the current National Aeronautic Association; this Aero Club of America envelope addressed to the 1911 president of the club is a an artifact to treasure. It is available now in our Ebay store. 

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Manilla: The Former Currency of West Africa

Used in West Africa, Manillas were a form of money, usually made of bronze or copper. They were produced in large numbers in a wide range of designs, sizes, and weights. Originating before the colonial period, perhaps as the result of trade with the Portuguese Empire, Manillas continued to serve as money and decorative objects until the late 1940s and are still used as decorative objects in some contexts.

The name manilla derives from the Spanish word for ‘bracelet’ manella, the Portuguese for ‘hand-ring’ manilha, or after the Latin manus (hand) or from monilia, plural of ‘monile (necklace). The earliest use of manillas was in West Africa, as a means of exchange they originated in Calabar. Calabar was the chief city of the ancient southeast Nigerian coastal kingdom of that name. It was here in 1505 that a slave could be bought for 8–10 manillas, and an elephant’s tooth for one copper manila. They were also in use on the Benin river in 1589 and again in Calabar in 1688, where Dutch traders bought slaves against payment in rough grey copper armlets which had to be very well made or they would be quickly rejected.


Two different variants of manilla

Africans of each region had names for different variety of manilla, varying locally. They were often valued differently, and were notoriously particular about the types they would accept. Manillas were often differentiated and valued by the sound they made when struck.

For example, a report in 1856 by the British Consul of Fernando Po, lists five different patterns of manillas in use in Nigeria. The Antony Manilla is good in all interior markets; the Congo Simgolo or ‘bottle-necked’ is good only at Opungo market; the Onadoo is best for Old Calabar, Igbo country between Bonny New Kalabari and the kingdom of Okrika; the Finniman Fawfinna is passable in Juju Town and Qua market; but is only half the worth of the Antony; and the Cutta Antony is valued by the people at Umballa.

Sometimes distinguished from manillas mainly by their wearability are a large number of regional types called ‘Bracelet’ monies and ‘Legband’ monies. Some are fairly uniform in size and weight and served as monies of account like manillas, but others were actually worn as a display of wealth. The less well off would mimic the movements of the wealthy who were so encumbered by the weight of manillas that they moved in an awkward fashion.

By the early 16th century Portugal was participating in the slave trade for bearers to carry manillas to Africa’s interior, and gradually manillas became the principal money of this trade. The Portuguese were soon over-shadowed by the British, French, and Dutch, all of whom had labor-intensive plantations in the West Indies, and later by the Americans whose southern states were tied to a cotton economy. A typical voyage took manillas and utilitarian brass objects such as pans and basins to West Africa, then slaves to America, and cotton back to the mills of Europe. The price of a slave, expressed in manillas, varied considerably according to time, place, and the specific type of manilla offered

Copper was the “red gold” of Africa and had been both mined there and traded across the Sahara by Italian and Arab merchants. It is not known for certain what the Portuguese or the Dutch manillas looked like. From contemporary records, we know the earliest Portuguese were made in Antwerp for the monarch and possibly other places, and are about 240 millimetres (9.4 in) long, about 13 millimetres (0.51 in) gauge, weighing 600 grams (21 oz) in 1529, though by 1548 the dimensions and weight were reduced to about 250 grams (8.8 oz)-280 grams (9.9 oz). In many places brass, which is cheaper and easier to cast, was preferred to copper, so the Portuguese introduced smaller, yellow manillas made of copper and lead with traces of zinc and other metals.

Portuguese traders imported 287,813 manillas from Portugal into Guinea via the trading station of São Jorge da Mina between 1504 and 1507. As the Dutch came to dominate the Africa trade, they are likely to have switched manufacture from Antwerp to Amsterdam, continuing the “brass” manillas, although, as stated, we have as yet no way to positively identify Dutch manillas. Trader and traveler accounts are both plentiful and specific as to names and relative values, but no drawings or detailed descriptions seem to have survived which could link these accounts to specific manilla types found today. The metals preferred were originally copper, then brass at about the end of the 15th century and finally bronze in about 1630.

A class of heavier, more elongated pieces, probably produced in Africa, are often labelled by collectors as “King” or “Queen” manillas. Usually with flared ends and more often copper than brass, they show a wide range of faceting and design patterns. The fancier ones were owned by royalty and used as bride price and in a pre-funeral “dying ceremony.” Unlike the smaller money-manillas, their range was not confined to west Africa. A distinctive brass type with four flat facets and slightly bulging square ends, ranging from about 50 ounces (1,400 g)-150 ounces (4,300 g), was produced by the Jonga of Zaire and called Onganda. Other types include early twisted heavy-gauge wire pieces (with and without “knots”) of probable Calabar origin, and heavy, multi-coil copper pieces with bulging ends from Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the Native Currency Proclamation of 1902 prohibited the import of manillas except with the permission of the High Commissioner. This was done to encourage the use of coined money. Manillas were still in regular use however and constituted an administrative problem in the late 1940s. As well, in many places, a deep bowl of corn was considered equal to one large manilla and a cup filled with salt was worth one small manilla. Although manillas were legal tender, they didn’t do well against British and French West African currencies and the palm-oil trading companies manipulated their value during the market season.

The British undertook a major recall: “operation manilla” in 1948 to replace them with British West African currency. Only Okpoho, Okombo, and abi manillas were officially recognised and they were ‘bought in’ at 3d., 1d. and a halfpenny respectively. 32.5 million Okpoho, 250,000 okombo, and 50,000 abi were handed in and exchanged. A metal dealer in Europe purchased 2,460 tons of manillas, but the exercise still cost the taxpayer somewhere in the region of £284,000. With over 32 million pieces bought up and resold as scrap, the campaign was largely successful. The manilla than ceased to be legal tender in British West Africa on April 1, 1949 after a six-month period of withdrawal. It was still legal for people to keep a maximum of 200 for ceremonies such as marriages and burials.


A variant form of manilla, decorated with a native design

Internally, manillas were the first true general-purpose currency known in West Africa, being used for ordinary market purchases, bride price, payment of fines, compensation of diviners, and for the needs of the next world, as burial money. Cowrie shells, imported from Melanesia and valued at a small fraction of a manilla, were used for small purchases. In regions outside coastal west Africa and the Niger river a variety of other currencies, such as bracelets of more complex native design, iron units often derived from tools, copper rods, themselves often bent into bracelets, and the well-known Handa (Katanga cross) all served as special-purpose monies. As the slave trade wound down in the 19th century so did manilla production, which was already becoming unprofitable. By the 1890s their use in the export economy centered around the palm-oil trade. Many manillas were melted down by African craftsmen to produce artworks. Manillas were often hung over a grave to show the wealth of the deceased and in the Degema area of Benin some women still wear large manillas around their necks at funerals, which are later laid on the family shrine. Gold manillas are said to have been made for the very important and powerful, such as King Jaja of Opobo in 1891.

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!


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.



Naturally formed salt crystals

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.




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.


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.


The Brasher Doubloon

The Brasher Doubloon is one of the most enigmatic coins in American numismatic history. We know when it was minted, who minted it, and approximately how many pieces were minted. But why was the coin minted? What were the intentions of its creator, Ephraim Brasher? Did he seek to render a public service, providing a new gold coin based on an old model: the onza, or doubloon of Spanish America?


The First Presidential Mansion on Cherry St

Ephraim Brasher was a prominent New York City gold and silversmith who was often asked to weigh and verify the authenticity of foreign gold coins for customers. Several examples of foreign gold have been discovered counter-stamped with the initials EB in an oval. Apparently his stamp on a coin was taken as proof the item was of the proper weight and fineness. Brasher’s address in 1789-1790 was listed as number five Cherry Street in New York City, which was next door to George Washington’s residence. It has been reported that in Washington’s now lost household accounts there was an entry under April 17, 1790 stating Washington purchased four silver skewers from Brasher for £8 8s6d in New York currency. In November of 1792 with the assistance of David Ott he assayed several varieties if gold coins for the new federal government, thereafter we know Brasher assisted assaying gold for the U.S. Mint.

In 1787 Brasher appears to have joined with the New York silversmith and noted swordmaker, John Bailey in requesting a franchise to produce copper coins for the State of New York. The legislative record for February 12, 1787 stated, “the several petitions” of Brasher and Bailey were filed with the state. Because of the ambiguous wording it is not know if the petitions were joint ventures or simply individual petitions that just happened to have been submitted on the same day. Their petitions, along with the petition of their competitors, were denied a few months later when state decided to refrain from the minting of coppers. Soon after the unfavorable judgment Ephraim Brasher turned his attention from coppers back to designing and minting a few pattern gold doubloons. Apparently he had been working on a Lima style gold piece the preceding year.

The obverse of the gold doubloon displayed the state seal, depicting the sun rising over a mountain with the sea in the foreground surrounded with the legends: “NOVA EBORACA,” “COLUMBIA” and the state motto “EXCELSIOR” (Higher). Brasher also signed the coins by added his name below the scene. The obverse displayed the US eagle with shield and the unusually worded national motto “UNUM E PLURIBUS” (One from many) as well as the date 1787. After making the coins Brasher counterstamped his initials on the reverse, six examples survive with the stamp on the wing and one survives with the stamp on the shield. The example long held by Yale University was offered at auction but went unsold (with an $800,000 reserve) during a January 1998 Stack’s auction.


The first documentation of the doubloons was when a deposit of foreign gold pieces was made to the Philadelphia Mint in 1838. The depositor simply wished to have his metal restruck into federal coins or ingots, and it was the sharp eye of Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt that spotted the significance of the unknown gold piece. For some years, Eckfeldt had taken it upon himself to set aside interesting coins which came into the Mint for re-coining, paying for them from his own pocket. To this assemblage he added proof coins of the current year’s federal coinage, and these items formed the nucleus of the U. S. Mint’s own coin collection, since relocated to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The first mention of the Mint Collection’s Brasher Doubloon appeared in 1846, when the Mint’s unofficial historian and numismatist, W. E. DuBois, described it as “a very remarkable gold coin, equal in value to a doubloon, coined at New York in 1787.” When published in 1858, J. H. Hickcox’s seminal book An Historical Account of American Coinage included a written description of this coin’s distinctive design. An even more influential and widely disseminated work was Professor Montroville W. Dickeson’s The American Numismatic Manual, and it too made reference to this curious rarity, tentatively labeling it a pattern. This coin was finally illustrated in Sylvester S. Crosby’s classic The Early Coins of America, which remains today the primary source of information about colonial and confederation coinage.

Collectors eagerly anticipated their first opportunity to bid on a Brasher doubloon in 1873, when one was cataloged by W. H. Strobridge as part of the George F. Seavey Collection. Unfortunately for collectors, the Seavey Collection was purchased all together by Boston bean tycoon Lorin G. Parmelee, and the public sale never occurred.

Only four examples were then known, of which one was unique from the others with Brasher’s EB hallmark stamped into the eagle’s breast. Its existence within the enormous collection of Charles Bushnell was revealed to the numismatic fraternity in 1864. This coin was the first of the Brasher’s to be sold to the public; the year was 1882, and the prize of securing the Bushnell Collection for auction had gone to the young upstart partnership of Philadelphia brothers Henry and Samuel Chapman. The unique Bushnell coin sold for the then very impressive sum of $505. Its purchaser was the prominent New York dealer Edouard Frossard, who quickly placed the doubloon with one of the greatest collectors of that or any time, T. Harrison Garrett of Baltimore.


John Work Garrett

Garrett’s enjoyment of his treasure was brief, however, as he perished in a boating accident on Chesapeake Bay in 1888. His collection of coins remained at his family’s home, Evergreen House, and it passed to his son Robert. More than 30 years later, Robert, who had added only a few recent pieces to the collection, traded his coins to brother John Work Garrett in exchange for artworks, which were more to his liking. John Work, on the other hand, possessed a deep passion for numismatics, and he filled countless gaps in the family coin collection, making it one of the greatest ever assembled.

Following the death of John Work Garrett in 1942 and that of his wife some years later, the immense Garrett Collection of coins was willed to the Johns Hopkins University, along with Evergreen House in which to store the coins, books and other valuables it contained. As the years passed, the growing value of the coin collection made it an insurance liability, and it was removed from public display during the 1970s. In 1976, a portion was sold at auction, while the core of the collection remained inside a vault. Shortly thereafter, the University determined that having a valuable coin collection did not contribute to its primary mission, and the decision was made to sell the remaining items.

A monumental, four-part sale was staged at the height of the coin market in 1979-81, and Sale 1 witnessed the offering of the finest known example of the “EB on wing” variety. Sale 4 was even more memorable, for it provided what was only the second opportunity since 1787 for collectors to bid on the unique “EB on breast” variety of the Brasher doubloon.

There are seven Brasher Doubloon’s known to be gracing numismatic collections across the nation. With it’s widely unknown history, it is the rarity and beauty of the coin that makes it so desirable to collect.