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Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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Archive for 'September 2016'

    PURCHASING POWER: ​New Orleans, April 1862

    September 30, 2016 5:23 PM by

    Paper money lost much of its purchasing power in early April 1862 as Union forces closed in on New Orleans. Confederate paper, private bank notes and shinplasters — notes worth less than $1 — formed the bulk of the circulating medium and traded more or less at par with each other.

    Coins were scarce and the shinplasters that replaced them had a checkered history. Newspapers regularly railed against unscrupulous merchants who refused to redeem their small-denomination bills.

    On March 28, the city’s Board of Provost-Marshals prohibited “the traffic in gold and silver against the Notes of the Confederate States of America” under threat of unspecified “prompt and severe punishment.”

    Early April advertisements in The True Delta newspaper chronicled the city’s commercial life in the run-up to the city’s takeover.

    A.J. Powell offered an $80 bounty to soldiers “who will enlist in Co. C., 10th Louisiana Regiment, now in Virginia.”

    The Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad advertised tickets for the 24-hour run to Memphis at $14.50.

    Samuel Jamison offered a $100 reward for the return of runaway slave “grill boy Edward.”

    Dental surgeon, Dr. Felding, was selling full sets of dentures on a sterling silver base for $25 or on a 22 karat gold base for $50 to $80.

    In court, the paper reported, six people “were severally sentenced to pay a fine of $5 or go the Parish Prison for 10 days, all for enjoying the glorious privilege of getting on a bender and sloshing around generally.”

    On April 1, the provost marshals published a list of maximum prices that could be charged in the city’s markets:

    Beef rump roasts, and round and chuck steaks maxed out at 12.5 cents a pound.
    Ham, 30 cents a pound.
    Fine flour, $12 a barrel.
    7-ounce loaves of first quality bread, 5 cents.
    Rice, 8 cents a pound.
    Corn, $1.50 a bushel.
    Liverpool fine salt, 7 cents a pound.

    Nonetheless, the black market apparently thrived as Union forces closed in on the city.

    The True Delta reported April 20, “Those who have a fondness for eggs find them a rather costly luxury these blockade times. Just think of eggs commanding fifty cents per dozen.”

    On April 23, the city’s Committee of Public Safety offered “rewards for the destruction, through private enterprise, of the armed vessels of the enemy threatening the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Gunboats were worth $25,000, mortar boats $10,000 and larger ships, $50,000.”

    Two days later unmolested Union ships dropped anchor at the city’s riverfront and demanded surrender.

    Four days after the Union takeover, The True Delta decried the profiteering that followed in the U.S. Navy’s wake. “There are those who are disposed to take advantage of the deranged state or our markets by demanding exorbitant prices for what they have for sale. We have heard of instances where four prices have been asked for articles and specie demanded in exchange.”

    Next: In war’s wake Toledo, Ohio 1946

    ​Original purchasing power

    September 27, 2016 9:48 AM by

    Whenever I buy a coin, I consider three things; the coin’s design, history and original purchasing power.

    The design and history speak for themselves. The purchasing power, though, can be hard to tease out.

    For U.S. coins issued since 1913, a fair approximation of the purchasing power can be had at the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ online Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.

    This amazing and easy-to-use tool will tell you the purchasing value of coins and paper money at any point during the last 103 years. A 1913 dollar for example is listed as having the purchasing power of $17.39 in 2000 and $24.31 today.

    That number, though, only goes so far. Not all goods rise in price at the same rate. An ounce of gold, for example, was $18.92 in 1913. Today it’s about $1,325, or 70 times its 1913 price. In 1913, a Ford Model T touring car cost $600. Today a Ford Explorer SUV runs about $30,000, about 50 times more than its 1913 cousin.

    Old newspapers, government reports and personal papers can tell you the prices of things when the coin was issued. The Google News Archive Search — https://news.google.com/newspapers — is an excellent place to start. It has centuries-long runs of numerous newspapers. There are several other sites, too, that have digital archives of newspapers and magazines.

    During the next five weeks, I’m going to discuss the purchasing power of a number of old coins.

    Next: New Orleans, April 1862

    Mountains, monuments & money: The Alamo and the U.S. Capitol

    September 19, 2016 3:06 PM by

    Italian born sculptor Pompeo Luigi Coppini is known mostly for Texas-related works, including the Texas Centennial commemorative half dollar of 1934 through1938.

    Coppini immigrated to the United States in 1896 at the age of 26 and promptly found work creating sculptures for a wax museum. In 1901 he moved to Texas, where he designed such projects as the monument to Terry’s Texas Rangers (Confederate troops) on the Texas statehouse grounds, the 60-foot-tall Alamo Cenotaph at the Alamo and the Sam Houston Grave Monument at Huntsville, Texas.

    Coppini may be the only coin designer to have work on permanent display in the nation’s Capitol. Each state is allowed to place two statues in the National Statuary Collection. Some states used the collection to honor citizens who had made great contributions in life. Other states turned to less notable politicians.

    Arkansas used the hall to honor Uriah Milton Rose, president of the American Bar Association from 1901 to 1902; and Sen. James Paul Clarke, a man Theodore Roosevelt credited with the bill authorizing construction of the Panama Canal.

    Coppini sculpted the Clarke statue, which was placed in the Capitol in 1921.

    Coppini’s Texas commemorative half dollar crams a lot into a little space. The obverse features an eagle in front of a lone star. The reverse shows a winged and buxom Victory cradling the Alamo, with cameos of Sam Houston and Stephen Austin beneath her outspread wings.

    Charles Moore of the Commission of Fine Arts disapproved of the busy design. “The design shows the whole history of Texas and all its leading personages in a perfect hodge-podge,” he wrote to the Treasury Department. “The heads are so small that they will disappear on a 50-cent piece, and yet it is just this conglomeration in which the Texas people are relying to sell 25 cents worth of silver done in a 50-cent piece at the price of a dollar to make money to build some building.” Profits, such as they were, were used to help finance the 1936 Centennial Exposition in Dallas.

    The Texas coin was not a huge success. Congress authorized 1.5 million pieces, but only about 150,000 were sold. Coppini’s statue of Clarke, though, is another story. Every year millions of people pass by it in the Capitol Visitor Center.