Category Archives: July 2011

Rags To Riches

“Ladies, save your RAGS.” That was the headline of an ad that appeared in a Worcester, Massachusetts newspaper dated February 8, 1801. It went on to state “every woman who has the good of her country and the interest of her own family at heart, will patronize (the new paper mill) by saving her rags, and sending them to their Manufactory, or to the nearest Storekeeper…who will give a generous price.”

Crane & Co Old Stone Mill

Crane & Co - Old Stone Mill

We don’t see ads like that anymore, even though the thought of recycling just about everything is more prevalent than ever today. Two hundred years ago making due with whatever was available was a way of life and a business necessity. In the paper making industry the use of discarded linen rags was absolutely essential to producing fine quality paper. A premium was paid to anyone who would sell old cloth to be made into paper. It was for that reason that the founders of Crane & Company paper mills advertised, and appealed to the patriotic side of women to help start their new business in southern Massachusetts.

The Crane company, which began production in 1801, has specialized in quality paper ever since. Crane paper has been put to many uses over the years, including paper collars, fine stationery, and wrappers for repeater shells used in the Winchester Model 1873 rifle. Specimens of Crane watermarked papers are avidly sought by collectors as commemorative sheets and examples of the paper maker’s art. The company continues in business today under the same name, with mills on the Housatonic River in Dalton, Massachusetts.

Long before the United States issued its own paper money, Crane supplied the paper used for notes issued by private banks. In the 1920’s George Walker lost two travelers checks issued by a Colorado bank. Eighteen years later they were found 500 miles away in an eagle’s nest near Butte, Montana. They were fully redeemable because their design was still clear. The checks remained intact because they were printed on high-quality rag paper manufactured by Crane & Company.

It was not surprising then, that when the United States began making its paper money at the outbreak of the Civil War, Crane was selected to be the prime source of supply. Since that time the company has produced nearly all of the paper used for manufacture of American currency. And what is the secret for making the world’s most durable paper money? Rags! Yes the formula is still very much like the original recipe for making linen paper. The process is a little more conventional today and the rags are mostly scraps of cloth left over from the clothing industry, but they still serve the same purpose of providing long fibers to make paper as sturdy and serviceable as possible.

In the recent past a dollar bill lasted about nine months in circulation. Today the average dollar bill can survive 19 months of use, and withstand 8,000 folds. The success of Crane paper is all because of the rags that go into making it. If it were not for cut up T-shirts and underwear your money would probably be worn out in a matter of weeks or a few months at most. So, don’t be offended if someone refers to money as rags. The name is well justified. And because of this paper collectors are sometimes called “rag pickers.” A title they accept with great pleasure.

Posted in July 2011 | Leave a comment

Ever Go To A Coin Show?

I was born and raised in a small New England town. Many of my boyhood memories are of things we did there as children, and one of the most vivid is when the Circus came to town each year. Thinking back on those times, I can almost still smell the cotton candy and hear the loud music, the raucous barkers and the roar of the animals.

Circuses today aren’t what they used to be. I would still get a kick out of seeing a dozen or more clowns getting out of a small car, but I guess those acts had to be replaced with more modern spectacles. This is an age of television and exotic features that all try to outdo each other. And the really big shows are only found in major cities, or the gaming towns of Nevada. So now I look forward to seeing not the circus, but the Coin Show when it comes to town. For me it is just as exciting and memorable.

Have you ever attended a coin show? I’ll bet there is one in or near your city every year. Perhaps you just never noticed the event. Shows are usually held in a city auditorium or civic center, and are open to the public generally without charge. The format is pretty much the same all over: coins on display, coins being bought and sold, people all around talking about coins.

There is no need to be timid about attending a coin show when one comes to your town. They are put on by local coin collectors for the benefit of other collectors, and their whole purpose is to promote the enjoyment of coin collecting by young and old alike. There are no requirements for visiting a show, other than your desire to see and learn more about unusual coins. The exhibits usually display a wide variety of coins, paper money and related items, each carefully labeled to explain their place in numismatic history. A day spent at a local coin show promises to be an enjoyable experience that will not soon be forgotten.

Find Coin Show in Your Area

Posted in July 2011 | Leave a comment

The Art Of Handling Rare Coins

I once met a collector who told me that he had never dropped a coin. He was just too careful to do anything like that and felt that he did not have to be particularly careful with his coin handling habits because he did not see that as a problem. He believed that others who spent time carefully making sure they never damaged their coins in any way were only asking for trouble.

Needless to say, this man eventually regretted his cavalier attitude and admitted to me that he had indeed dropped more than his share of coins over the years and one of them was damaged to a degree where it lost much of its value. By then it was too late to do anything about the mutilated piece, but he wanted to know the tricks of avoiding anything like that happening again in the future. In a way he was lucky, because he had only ruined one coin. It did not take much in the way of instructions to help him avoid further problems.

Tip#1: Hold Coins by the Edge

The absolute rule that everyone must follow is to always hold every coin by the edge and never touch the face or flat surface of the piece. This is essential. There is no excuse for anyone ever holding a coin in a way that could impress a fingerprint on the surface.

To be even safer, you can and should, use white gloves while handling valuable uncirculated coins. Some people substitute thin Latex gloves and think them safer because they are not as slippery as linen. Others find them awkward and harder to use. Both offer a degree of safety that is better than taking a chance of “fingering” a valuable coin. And remember, it takes only a second for a coin to get a fingerprint that will never go away.

Tip #2: Use a Jewelers Tray

Tip #2: Use a Jewelers Tray

Almost as important as proper handling is making sure that you always work over a padded surface. A jeweler’s tray is ideal, but not always convenient or available. Next best is a cloth pad or folded towel. Remind yourself that no one is exempt from occasionally dropping a coin. It happens to the best numismatists and seems inevitable. Dropping a coin on a padded surface will do little or no harm, and may save lots of aggravation. For added protection, always view coins over a carpeted floor.

If the coin you are inspecting is in a plastic holder, it is usually best not to remove it. There may be reasons to take a coin out of its holder, but often this is inviting danger. Never touch or rub the surface of a coin with your hands or anything abrasive. Even some paper and plastic holders can mar an Uncirculated coin if not handled properly. For some reason there is a natural tendency to rub the surface of a coin with the thumb to make it clearer and shinier. This is one of the worst things you could ever do. The trick is to treat all coins as if they are extremely fragile. They are.

Tip #3: Prevent Unnecessary Contact with Moisture

Tip #3: Avoid Unnecessary Contact with Moisture

Have you ever seen an Uncirculated coin with tiny black spots on the surface? Those are moisture spots. They are caused by someone coughing or breathing on the coin. Wear a surgical mask if you have a cold and just can’t wait to look at your coins. Those spots can also be caused by moisture condensation if coins are moved from a cold place to a warm room. One collector I know never eats eggs or salt to avoid any contamination of his breath or skin. He probably goes too far, but his intentions are valid.

Be especially vigilant when handling other people’s coins. I have seen rim nicks that have lessened the value of coins by thousands of dollars…all due to careless handling or being dropped on a hard surface. It only takes a few extra minutes to be safe rather than sorry.

Image: Ambro

Posted in July 2011 | 2 Comments

Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coin First Lady, 1853–1857

The daughter of a devout Congregationalist minister, Jane Appleton Pierce was born on March 12, 1806, in Hampton, N.H. Her father later moved the family to Brunswick, Maine, when he became president of Bowdoin College, her future alma mater. Bowdoin College was also where Jane met her future husband, Franklin Pierce. They married in 1834, eight years after they first met. Two years into her husband’s presidency, Jane Pierce emerged from an extended period of mourning after the death of her son. She began to attend receptions and dinner parties, and even organized a few of her own.

Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coin

Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coin

By 1856, she was venturing out in Washington, regularly visiting the U.S. Capitol Building, where she sat in the Senate visitor’s gallery listening to heated debates over the issue of slavery. After President Pierce left office, the couple sailed the Caribbean on board the U.S.S. Powhatan, a government ship loaned to them by his successor, President James Buchanan.

The coin’s obverse (heads side) and reverse (tails) designs are both by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Donna Weaver. The obverse features an image of Jane Pierce with the inscriptions JANE PIERCE, IN GOD WE TRUST, LIBERTY, 2010, 14th and 1853-1857.

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The reverse depicts Mrs. Pierce listening to debates in the visitor’s gallery of the Old Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol Building.

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Fascinating Coin Fact

1878 Morgan Dollar

1878 Morgan Dollar

The Morgan dollar is one of only two United States coins that shows the engraver’s initials on both sides. The letter “M” appears on the truncation of the neckline on the obverse, and in the wreath below the eagle on the reverse.

Posted in July 2011 | 1 Comment