US Coins

Washington University in St. Louis features displays

Coins, medals and tokens with connections to Black history will be on display at the Olin Library at Washington University in St. Louis.

Images courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis.

Washington University’s Olin Library announces seven numismatic exhibits that are now open to the public through July 7. The library features multiple exhibits on a rotating basis, with recent installations presenting a history of play money, World War II internment camp issues, and other subjects. In addition to exhibits, the library’s numismatic mission includes administering the Newman Numismatic Portal,

The exhibit “Freedom Will Be Ours: Medals and Money in Black America,” features a group of coins, medals, and tokens with varied connections to Black history. Loaned by John Kraljevich, the highlight of this group is an example of the Charleston Freedman Badge, issued by the city of Charleston, South Carolina to free persons of color between 1783 and 1789. This piece is one of 10 known and was recently discovered by a detectorist in the Charleston area.

Loaned by Wayne Homren, “J.S.G. Boggs and the Meaning of Money” explores the performance artist J.S.G. Boggs, who traded artistic representations of U.S. currency in exchange for goods and services. Boggs’ work challenged the community, including law enforcement, with philosophical questions about the meaning and value of fiat money. In conjunction with this exhibit, Wayne Homren will speak on Boggs’ life and work on April 3, at Olin Library, room 142, at 5 P.M. This presentation is open to the public.

From the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, Colorado, comes a group of Washington medals and tokens, primarily donated by Dwight Manley to the ANA and previously in the collection of William S. Baker, whose Medallic Portraits of Washington (1885) represents the first significant work focused on Washington-themed medals. This group views Washington through the lens of his military and political careers and his place in America’s cultural identity. For this exhibit, Stuart and Maureen Levine loaned an example of the Washington Before Boston medal, representing the first medal commissioned by the Continental Congress, in 1776.

The John Max Wulfing Collection at Washington University, focused on ancient Greek and Roman coins, was donated to the university in 1928 and attracts scholarly interest from numismatists around the world. William Bubelis, Associate Professor of Classics, serves as curator of the Wulfing Collection and has selected pieces that trace the evolution of coins from their origin in Lydia, circa 560 to 546 B.C.E., through the days of the Roman emperor Constantine I.

The display “Medals of American Independence” accompanies two early copies of the Declaration of Independence already on exhibit at Olin Library, the Rhode Island Southwick broadside and the Rogers broadside from Massachusetts. Featuring pieces loaned by the Resolute Americana Collection, this display includes the Charles Cushing Wright Declaration medals, some of the finest works by an American engraver. The Libertas Americana medal, conceived by Benjamin Franklin, is additionally on exhibit and pairs with Franklin’s printed Explication describing the medal, possibly the only copy in private hands.

The exhibit “Eric P. Newman and Numismatics” includes books and coins associated with the numismatic career of the St. Louis attorney, philanthropist, and collector Eric P. Newman (1906-2017, Washington University School of Law, 1935). Lenders to this exhibit include Joel J. Orosz, Distinguished Professor of Philanthropic Studies Emeritus at Grand Valley State University, and Henry Warshaw, a member of the Washington University Board of Trustees. Among the items in this display is a copy of Matthias Sprengel’s 1783 Historisch-genealogischer Calender, loaned by Stuart and Maureen Levine, which contains the earliest known depiction of the Continental Currency coin, a subject first explored by Newman in 1952, in addition to the first illustration of the Libertas Americana medal.

Finally, the exhibit “Digitization in Numismatics” considers the various work-flows of the Newman Numismatic Portal as it processes items in various media. The Newman Portal, managed by Olin Library within the department of Special Collections, Preservation, and Digital Strategies, was launched in December 2014 and includes 66,000 documents, representing over five million pages of numismatic content.

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