While I dearly love coins, medals, tokens, and paper money, I think I
love writing about them even more.
I may never personally own an 1804 silver dollar, but in 1999 I
spent many pleasant hours writing 490 pages (!) about the adventures
of Edmund Roberts who sailed to the far side of the world to deliver
presentation Proof sets that contained Proof examples of these
At another time I found the counterstamped coins issued by Dr.
Shattuck’s Water Cure of Waterford, Maine, to be fascinating — and
spent months tracking down everything I could, including visiting the
still-standing premises. John J. Ford Jr. said that of all the books I
had written up to that point (1992) this was his very favorite.
Similar to phrenology, the water cure was a sensation in the mid-19th
century. The idea was that spending a week or more taking warm and
cold baths cured about every ailment known to mankind.
In the same vein was another book, The Strange Career of Dr.
Wilkins: A Numismatic Inquiry. Wilkins, a dentist by profession, also
ran a restaurant, kept a caged bear in front of the eatery, was
involved in passing counterfeit money, and was suspected of burning
down the barn of a man who crossed him. Starting in the 1850s he
counterstamped countless coins with his advertisement — little
billboards that advertised his practice as they passed from hand to hand.
Among current research projects I am compiling a brief study of
sutlers’ tokens to be added to a new edition of one of my Whitman
books. As you may know these tokens are mostly the size of cents, are
of various denominations usually 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and were
issued as money to troops by sutlers. These men were licensed and
traveled with the various regiments, selling all sorts of goods from
stores set up in tents or other premises. The standard work on this is
Civil War Sutler Tokens and Cardboard Scrip published by David
Schenkman in 1993. Dave, a fine friend for many years, has allowed me
to use information in this magisterial study. I also give a nod to
Rick Irons who maintains a website on such tokens and is doing a
revision of Dave S.’s text. My effort will be more compact.
If you are knowledgeable about this admittedly arcane specialty and
have any information about unlisted tokens, or ones for which more
information has been gathered since 1993, I’d like to hear from you.
I am also doing a new book to succeed my popular American Coin
Treasures and Hoards published in 1997. Whitman is the publisher this
time around. My gosh, so many treasures have come to light since then
— Odyssey Marine Exploration’s gold from the SS Republic, coins found
on the wreck of the SS New York, $20 double eagles recently found in
California, updating on the SS Central America, and items from many
hundreds of sources have gathered since 1997. To this can be added
finds by treasure detectorists using Garrett, Fisher, and related
equipment. Do you know of some rarities that have been found that way?
If you have any of the above to share, send me an email and I’ll
respond. Thank you.