Volume 6 Issue 4
INTERNET EDITION April
Articles published in this segment are eligible for the current Editor’s personal Award. The winner will be selected and advised in November and, after any necessary consultation, the name will be announced in the December or early January newsletter. It remains the Editor's choice to make this personal Award which is open to 'Tasmanian Numismatic Society' members, sister club members, members of other numismatic clubs and individuals with whom the Editor has an affiliation by way of previous voluntary literary contributions.
The Award features a National and International category which takes the form of a Certificate and, either, a T.N.S. membership subscription (with all rights) for the following year, or, the Editor's choice of a numismatic item of equivalent value to an annual subscription of the "Tasmanian Numismatic Society. The manner of the Award can be determined by the winning contributor.
The following two edited articles are published with the kind permission of our T.N.S. Member # 363, Jerry Adams of Texas.
Many interesting articles about U.S. tokens can be viewed on his website: http://members.home.net/tokenguy/index.htm
CASUAL STUDY OF "LIBERTY" ON U.S. CIRCULATING COINS
by T.N.S. Member # 363 Jerry Adams.
I once posed a trivia question to two of my friends to test a theory.
"Name the MOST important abstract principle, that the United States of America was founded on, and it is represented by one word." The first two guesses, from the young men were "independence" and "freedom".
Not exactly what I had in mind, I told them, try again. The third try was a direct hit, "Liberty."
That is it! - I told them that LIBERTY was the founding principal of this country, more important and more encompassing than democracy, independence, and all the rest of the other abstract principles.
LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The founders of the United States of America, were big believers in liberty, and freedom - but what is Liberty?
In my book Liberty is a person’s freedom; to pursue whatever it is that makes that individual content.
Much more so than in democracy, Liberty was perhaps the driving principal behind the revolution, which separated my land from the bonds to mother Britain. The founders wanted liberty, and freedom from taxes imposed by Britain, and from other items most of which are mentioned either in our "Bill of Rights" or our "Declaration of Independence."
Many early battle flags, of this young republic, and also of the early Republic of Texas, display the word "Liberty."
Early patriotic slogans abound with the word, including Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech.
Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, which was presented to the United States
as a gift from the people of France in 1876, is another widely recognized symbol
REPRESENTATION OF LIBERTY ON EARLY U.S. COINS.
We see coins so often, we don't really "see" them at all. Rarely do we pay attention to what the legends say on our circulating coins. Such is the case, with the lowest denomination current US coin, the Lincoln cent.
Firstly, you notice the portrait of Abraham Lincoln and then, to the left of the bust, you see the word "LIBERTY."
short prayer, 'In God we Trust' and the date of issue show that at this
point in time we still are able to enjoy that God -given Liberty.
Take a look at the draped bust cent type of 1796-1807. Typically, on the obverse you get the word LIBERTY with the representation of the draped bust of Liberty, and on the reverse the wreath with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE CENT 1/100.
was a simple message for a young country.
Does Abraham Lincoln represent Liberty, or did he just replace the representation of Liberty on the one cent coin of 1909?
That question is open to debate.
With Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation”, he freed thousands of slaves during the American civil war, and for that reason alone, he may actually represent Liberty. On the other hand, if he represented Liberty, what are we to say of the Washington quarter in 1932, the Roosevelt dime in 1945, etc? Did they all represent Liberty, or replace Liberty?
Granted the Washington quarter was to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of Washington’s birth, but was the portrait also intended to represent Liberty?
When President Abraham Lincoln was put on the obverse of the one-cent coin by Victor D. Brenner in his 1909 design, he was the first real person represented on any US coin. The Lincoln cent is likely the most widely recognized, widely circulated coin in American history.
This was the proverbial 'camel's nose under the edge of the tent', the 'can’t put the genie back in the bottle' scenario.
From that point on, others real people followed in short order.
George Washington was put on the 25-cent coin in 1932. Franklin D. Roosevelt was put on the ten-cent coin in 1945 (shortly after his death). Benjamin Franklin was put on the 50-cent coin in 1948. John F. Kennedy was portrayed on the half-dollar in 1964 (shortly after his death). Dwight 'Ike' Eisenhower was put on the dollar coin in 1971.
Susan B. Anthony (the first non-mythical woman on a US coin) was put on the small dollar coin in 1979.
last two coins mentioned were two of the least circulated coins, with the least
liked designs, in American coinage history!
SYMBOLS OF LIBERTY ON U.S.
representations of Liberty on circulating US coins might include the Liberty
Bell (Franklin Halves, and Eisenhower dollar coins), Flying Eagle (1 cent coins
1856 -58), allegorical female Liberty (flowing hair 1 cent, cornet head 1 cent),
Indian head (1 cent coins 1859-1909, 5 cent coins 1913-1938), American bison
(buffalo) (5 cent coins 1913-1938), Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt,
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John F. Kennedy, Dwight 'Ike' Eisenhower,
Susan B. Anthony, and most recently,
So next time you look at the common US Lincoln cent, remember the long and varied history of Liberty - in its many forms - on US coinage!
THE NOBLE BANDIT.
by T.N.S. Member # 363 Jerry Adams.
Our T.N.S. member # 363,Jerry Adams is basically a U.S. token collector - but in his family's possession is a small gold coin that has an interesting tale to tell - you be the judge! This story is told in full - with maps and illustrations - on Page 50 of Jerry's Homepage 'Talkin' Tokens'. http://members.home.net/tokenguy/index.htm
A GLIMPSE of the OLD WEST.
In the 'Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Old West' by Peter Newark, published in 1980, there is a brief description of many of the Old West's famous - and infamous - characters and events that have since disappeared into the dim pages of history.
The following excerpts are from the few paragraphs under the heading:
BASS, Sam 1851-78
"A bandit of the 1870's who was eventually shot and killed by the Texas Rangers.
Born in Indiana, Sam Bass went to Texas in 1870 and worked as a farmhand and teamster for five years. He then turned to horse stealing and robbing stagecoaches. In 1877 he and his gang held up the UNION PACIFIC train at Big Springs, Nebraska, stealing $60,000 from the express car and money and valuables from the passengers."
In the ensuing pursuit three of the gang - including his partner - were killed but Bass escaped and a new gang was formed and started robbing trains in Texas.
However, in 1878, after robbing four trains their luck ran out and one was killed and another three gang members captured by the Special Force of the Texas Rangers
In exchange for freedom one gang member, Jim Murphy, betrayed Bass by alerting the Rangers to a plan to rob the bank at Round Rock, Williamson County, Texas. In the shootout Bass was mortally wounded and died two days later on his birthday, 21 July, aged twenty-seven.
Like other outlaws, before and after, folklore soon made Bass a "noble bandit - a good cowboy gone wrong ."
"A Brave Man Reposes in Death Here. Why was he not true?" - Epitaph on Sam Bass’s headstone.
The brief summary of Bass' life whilst giving the facts does not do it justice and in his article Jerry Adams has compiled a few more facts that are not common knowledge - and also a family link with this 'cowboy gone wrong'. This story involves the crossing paths of famous Texas outlaw Sam Bass, and Jerry's great-great grandfather, Jesse Harvey McBrayer - and a small gold coin.
Sam Bass’s main claim to fame, was the robbing of a Union Pacific train in 1877 of $60,000 in brand new 1877 $20 gold pieces from the San Francisco mint that had never been in circulation.
THE FACTS and the LEGEND.
"Sam Bass was born on 21 July1851 on a farm near Mitchell, Indiana and was orphaned before he was 13. For five years he lived with an uncle before heading to Denton, Texas, where he got employment on a ranch just south of the town.
Life was tough as a cowhand so he left and took on odd-jobs even one as the local sheriff's handy man.
When he managed to 'acquire' a race-horse named 'Jenny' (aka -the Denton Mare) Bass started travelling around the country and it is known he made a reasonable amount of stake money and by successfully betting on the race outcomes.
In 1876, he and Joel Collins took on a job of moving a large herd of Longhorn cattle into Kansas - a very profitable outcome was achieved -and the partners ended up being paid a large amount of money - which they gambled away very quickly.
By this time Bass and Collins had become used of having 'easy' money available and, after a freighting business they started proved unsuccessful, they recruited a few hard-cases and started robbing stagecoaches - also unprofitably as it turned out.
After seven coach hold-ups and little to show for the sweat, they decided that wasn’t worth the trouble.
They rode south, by then a group of six men led by Collins and Bass, and on the evening of 18 September 1877, robbed the Union Pacific passenger train at Big Springs, Nebraska. Their take was an amazing $60,000 in brand new twenty dollar gold coins, that had not yet been in circulation, plus $1,300 in odd cash and four gold watches.
The 1877 twenty dollar gold coins, which were all S mint marked from the San Francisco Mint, had been consigned to Wells Fargo and the National Bank of Commerce of New York, and they were in a strong boxes on the floor of the express car.
(To save you the math, in today’s market those 3,000 twenty dollar 1877 gold pieces at US$700 each - at "Redbook" value - makes a staggering total of US$2,100,000.00.)
The band split up the loot, and rode in different directions in pairs. Within days, Collins was killed by lawmen.
Bass made his escape to Texas dressed as a farmer and upon reaching his Denton, Texas hideout, he formed a new gang - and the rest is Old Western history!
JESSE HARVEY McBRAYER, FARMER
Jesse Harvey McBrayer was the son of Baptist minister Reverend James Madison McBrayer and Betsy Ann Pinkerton ( it is unknown if she was kin to the famous Pinkerton of the detective agency).
The Rev. James McBrayer was a respected minister in Lumpkin County, Georgia when the American civil war broke out in 1861.
The new Confederacy had the full support of all of Georgia, and the McBrayers were no exception. The Rev. McBrayer sent off three of his sons to fight for the Confederacy, they were Bailey B. McBrayer, Jesse Harvey McBrayer and William Ervin McBrayer.
All had joined the Confederate military by spring of 1862 and all were enlisted as privates in Boyd’s Guards, Company D, 52nd Regiment, Army of Tennessee, Confederate States Army.
They marched off to fight a much better equipped invading army of Union soldiers, and at the battle of Baker’s Creek, Mississippi (near Jackson), a Union bullet found it’s mark and killed the oldest brother Bailey B. McBrayer on the 16th of May 1863.
When the Confederate Army retreated to Georgia, the two younger brothers deserted their posts on the 16th of December 1863, to return to what was left of their home in northern Georgia. General Sherman’s march had burned everything of value in northern Georgia, and the McBrayers all escaped over the mountains into Tennessee.
Jesse Harvey took an oath of allegiance to the Union on 1st March 1864 in Tennessee and on the 26th of May 1865 the war ended with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
JESSE HARVEY McBRAYER
Jesse Harvey McBrayer met a young woman named Nancy Ann Thompson after his arrival in Tennessee and they fell in love and were married on 13 August 1865 in McMinn County Tennessee.
Their first child was born in 1866, and was named James David McBrayer and their second child was my great grandfather, Jasper Ervin McBrayer, born 29 July 1869.
Wishing to escape to a place with more promise, they loaded up a small wagon and moved to central Texas about 1876 and they found a spot near the small village of Lorena, Texas a few miles south of Waco, where Jesse Harvey McBrayer bought a 90-acre farm on the northeast side of the town.
A small creek named Bullhide Creek ran through the farm and on this land, he would raise cotton, which he sold for 5 cents a pound.
THE BASS GANG AND JESSE MCBRAYER CROSS PATHS.
One day in late July 1878, the McBrayer family noticed a group of men on horseback, had camped on Bullhide Creek.
A small campfire at night, a smoky campfire in the morning with the smell of coffee, was barely discernable to Jesse Harvey from his farmhouse but soon, a lone rider approached the house from the creek. The man on horseback was young looking and dressed in a cowboy outfit, complete with six-gun. He rode right up to the house. Jesse Harvey stepped out onto the front porch to greet the stranger. The man told him that they were the Sam Bass gang, and that they would be killing a few of his chickens to eat while camped there. He said not to worry if they heard a gunshot or two.
He leaned from the saddle, the saddle leather creaked, and the rough hand of the stranger dropped a small gold coin into the hand of the old confederate soldier. "Here, that should cover it" he said.
Jesse rarely ever saw gold coins. As a poor farming family, they lived mostly on vegetables that they grew in their garden, hen’s eggs, chickens, and hams. The gold piece and the stranger’s story, made a big impression on Jesse, and also on the young Jasper (Jack) McBrayer, who was only 9 years old at the time. He told the story later to all their children, who told their children, who told their children.
THE GOLD COIN.
The coin was not one of the brand-new 1877 S $20.00 gold pieces from the Union Pacific robbery, which had already been divided up. Bass had reputably spent his last 1877 Double Eagle coin in Waco by early 1878.
The Half Eagle coin, that was used in payment for the few chickens, was an 1873 $5.00 piece that most certainly wasn't earned by hard work. A similar dated gold piece, which is still in the family's possession, is traditionally reputed to be the proffered coin.
However, with the hard and frugal life that farmers had to contend with at that time, it could be argued that the actual coin would probably have been used long ago to provide the necessities of life - but, just what if it wasn't?
It could have been too valuable to fritter away - or even too dangerous to spend at all!
When you have been able to successfully survive on very little, such a windfall would probably been carefully put away as a 'nest-egg' for the family's future or, held in case of a genuine rainy day!
Perhaps, too many questions might have been asked if a poor dirt farmer turned up with a gold coin to spend so soon after the remnants of the Sam Bass gang had been in the area.
If you were Jesse McBrayer, what would you do if you had a gold coin that might be confiscated if it was thought to be part of the 'ill-gotten gains' of Sam Bass and his gang?
It could have even been construed as a 'rob from the rich - give to the poor' gesture by the notorious gang - and that is something the Texas Rangers would have wanted to nip in the bud. Why public opinion moves the way it does is always a mystery but, in those hard times, many people related to the circumstances of young Sam Bass' fall from grace.
The Western folklore legend of the 'noble bandit - a good cowboy gone wrong' persisted and eventually found a way into history as legends sometimes do.
Even though the facts might tell a different tale I would like to think the Bass $5.00 gold coin became more valuable for its link with that legend, and has eventually found it's way to the present day as family tradition dictates!
"Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the Old West" by Peter Newark 1980;
"A Sketch of Sam Bass The Bandit" by Charles F. Martin 1956;
"Pictorial History of the Wild West" by James D. Horan;
"The Handbook of Texas" by the Texas State Historical Society;
"A history of the Lorena, Texas Area, 1854-1981" by the Lorena Historical Commission.
" McBrayer Family History." compiled from anecdotal family records by Gerald Adams.
COINS, COINS and MORE COINS!
The last few years have seen some technically remarkable and beautifully designed non-circulating legal tender (N.C.L.T.) coins introduced by issuing authorities from all over the world. It is a pity that this plethora is hardly ever seen by the general public and is, nearly always, sold at such a high premium that it sometimes even puts them beyond the reach of quite a few small - 'n' - numismatists. The recent new releases shown at the ANDA show in Hobart (March 17 -18th) are good examples.
I doubt that many Australian hobby numismatists - especially those of more moderate means - now bother to maintain the habit of getting every release that is available for the simple reason that there are too many and the investment value is not commensurate with the luxury of having a complete collection.
Obviously, there have been some 'brummies' but it appears that our own Australian coin designers and artisans are now getting it right nine times out of ten. It is too bad, however, that some N.C.L.T. coins may not get into many collections held by the hobby numismatist until such time as stocks are offered out - still at release price or discounted even further - by the secondary market because of slow sales figures, over-production and perceived unpopularity.
Early examples of 'over-exuberance' by the Mint were the Australian Proof Sets of 1981 - 1984. which have sunk to currently retail at between 20 - 40% under their issue prices. The sets are technically excellent - just that there were too many put onto the market.
The comparison to the present mint strategy and that of a fashion dress designer is astoundingly similar. There are two ends of the market - haute-couture and mass production - sometimes the two get mixed up a little but usually not deliberately as both ends can end up the worse.
The Millennium N.C.L.T. ranges of 2000 - 2001are prime examples of thoughtful production and, as a bonus, the coin art is of an extremely high level as are the 2001 Centenary of Federation coins both in Mint and Proof. However, if the issues for these events had stopped there it would have been sufficient but, unfortunately, it didn't and we ended up with several version of the same denomination coin to celebrate the occasions. The spill-over of good design into circulating coinage is evident as well but, again, it can then mean that serious numismatists need to collect two or perhaps three slightly different coins to complete the available range in certain denominations.
Those collectors, to whom money is no object, are now probably the only ones able to afford to indulge in the original motive of numismatics - that of the hobbyist with the love of the beauty that a finely designed coin can impart.
Since Federation until 1964 we had circulating sets of coins that did not exceed 7 coins if you count our commemorative 1937 - 1938 Crowns but since the introduction of decimal currency in 1966 our production of commemorative N.C.L.T. has skyrocketed - and in various denominations as well - and it makes each years offering now so large as to be unattainable to some.
Up until 2000 we have had N.C.L.T. issues in a couple of different Copper alloys, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Palladium - featuring Koalas, Kangaroos, Cockatoos and several other indigenous or endangered Birds, Flora and other Fauna; a set of 3 Holey Dollars featuring Aboriginal art; famous named Gold Nuggets; well-known Australians and Organisations; sporting Events of all types - including the 2000 Olympics and its 52 different coins; Voyages of Discovery by land and sea; State Commemorative 8 coin series; famous Landmarks; important Australian Anniversaries; a huge range of bullion coins issued with and without Privy marks - and, of course, the two years of the Millennium.
Just to make it a little more fascinating the practise of issuing masses of commemorative circulating coinage in various decimal denominations has been going on since 1970 with the introduction of the Capt. Cook 50 Cent coin and, in some instances, a standard coin has been issued alongside the commemorative. Prior to decimalisation, only on four occasions - in 1927, 1934-5, 1951 and 1954, had Florins (Two Shillings) been issued as circulating commemoratives, besides the 2 Sterling Silver Crowns already mentioned.
Along with our current circulating set of 6 decimal coins, on average about another 6 N.C.L.T. coins and sets of coins is appearing each year.
This Federation year, 2001, I think I have counted about 12 different issues of NCLT. That is not counting state varieties within some sets.
It is pushing numismatics out of the financial reach of many who only have a few dollars to buy a coin or two each year - or, at the very least, causing them to curtail their hobby or force them to specialise in a limited area that may not really be of their choosing.
In some instances their numismatic choice may shift completely from Australian coinage to another more economical branch of the hobby.
It is a classic case of overkill and, as the more attractive coinage items become increasingly unattainable to the masses, it is obvious that overall interest must wane - and with it consumer demand!
The old saying 'To kill the goose that laid the golden eggs' seems to be a prophesy that has all the chances of becoming self fulfilling.
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