The British Museum has published on its frequently informative blog a call for citizen archaeologists to help digitize its Bronze Age Index via a crowd-sourcing site called MicroPasts, which uses the open source PyBossa crowd-sourcing framework that also powers Crowdcrafting. The results will eventually be integrated with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (previously), which features a gigantic image database of finds categorized by period (e.g. Bronze Age or Medieval) and object type (e.g. coins or brooches).
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), aka the Curiosity Rover is something of a robotic geologist, so it makes sense to include the tools of the trade in some form, including a calibration target. For giving a sense of scale with smaller geologic features, pennies are often used for scale, as a common item with a standard dimension. But why is there a 1909 penny on the Rover? That's thanks to Kenneth Edgett, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) principal investigator and an amateur coin collector who appreciates the history of the controversial 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln Cent.
In 1831, the Mediterranean south of Sicily began to boil and bubble, and before long a volcanic island appeared, in full eruption. The English were the first to lay claim to the new island, naming it Graham Island, for James Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty. Then the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies laid claim to the island, removing the Union Jack and naming the island Ferdinandea, after King Ferdinand II. The next nation to claim the island was France, though initial French interest was in the geology of the newly emerged island (Google translation of French text, much from geologist Constant Prévost). France's choice of names was practical, Île Julia, as the island was formed in July. Spain also tried to lay claim to the newly formed island, setting the stage for a grand four-way dispute over its sovereignty, but before a single shot could be fired over its possession, geology rapidly had the last word on the matter. Graham Island/ Ferdinandea/ Île Julia crumbled in on itself and all but disappeared by the end of the year. [more inside]
Canadian Tire Company coupons, thought of by some as an alternative Canadian currency, may be on the way out. [more inside]
During the US Civil War, metal monies were hoarded for their value, resulting in a shortage of available coins. The Union government issued official "paper coins" that weren't backed by by gold or silver. This "faith paper" lost value quickly, and for a short while, stamps were official currency. That didn't take, either, so enterprising individuals took it upon themselves to mint their own coinage. These are now known as Civil War Tokens (CTWs), and were made and used between late 1862 and mid 1864. On April 22, 1864, Congress set the weight of coins and set punishment for counterfeiting coins of up to one thousand dollars and imprisonment up to five years. Yet there are over ten thousand varieties of tokens, representing 22 states, 400 towns and about 1500 individual merchants. Melvin and his son Dr. George Fuld wrote key books in the CWT field, creating the rarity scale and composition key used by most numismatists. Given sheer number of CWTs, starting a collection might be daunting. Enter collector Ken Bauer, whose method breaks down the vast world into smaller collections, from anvils to watches and so much more.
Banknotes are a fascinating look into the artistry and culture of the countries of the world. [more inside]
The Wriston Art Center Galleries Digital Collection at Lawrence University has over 1500 images of various artworks, focusing especially on prints & printmaking and ancient coins. All can be viewed in extremely high resolution (click "export image" above the artwork). Here are a few I particularly like: Beginning of Winter (Japanese woodcut), Rising Sun (Paul Klee painting), From Distant Lands (watercolor), Three Kings (Jacques Villon engraving), Untitled I (netting) and Noble Lady and Prince (Japanese woodcut).
The historic inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama is two weeks away, and vendors are making a mint selling memorabilia. But be warned: the commemorative coins you see being advertised are not official. A relatively new $1 coin series does feature US presidents in chronological order (previously), but getting Americans to use $1 coins hasn't been easy. Remember Susan B. Anthony, Columbus and Sacagawea? Native American $1 coins will be offered in tandem with the presidential series; if they continue to be issued, Obama's official $1 coin should be available in 2017.
The Maria Theresa Thaler (or MTT), a coin first minted in 1741 and continuously to this day, remained legal tender in parts of the Arabian peninsula as late as 1970, where it was much prized both as a coin and for jewelry [magazine article] Incredibly important for trade between Europe and the Middle East, the MTT had a great impact on history. For more information turn to Maria Theresa's Thaler: A case of international money an indepth article about the MTT by Adrian Tschoegl.
Patriots, countrymen, help out the American economy with Operation: Change For The Better.
The Coins and History of Asia contains information and scans of over 2500 coins from 600 BC to 1600 AD. Also on the same site, an article about Hephthalites, the so-called White Huns of Iran who had an empire in Central Asia before disappearing from historical record after a little bit more than a century.
The first coin? The Lydian Lion, the Athenian Owl, and other intriguing numismatic articles with a particular eye toward the ancient.
The Brasher Doubloon has been called "the single most important coin in American numismatics." Struck in 1787 by George Washington's neighbor Ephraim Brasher, it's believed to be the first gold coin made in the United States. Seven of Brasher's 1787 doubloons are in existence, each with the initials EB stamped on an eagle; the one that gets title-case capitalization is the only one where the intitials are stamped on the eagle's breast instead of its wing [hi-res pics: front, back]. In January 2005, it was sold at auction for $2.9 million. It's now on a tour of the United States (and insured for $6 million). In Raymond Chandler's 1942 novel The High Window and the 1947 film adaptation The Brasher Doubloon, Philip Marlowe investigates the theft of the doubloon.
The most expensive $20 you’ll never see. (Unless you happen to be kickin’ it in Long Beach next month...) The 1933 “double eagle”, a one oz. gold coin minted by the United States just prior to dropping the gold standard, is now worth approximately $10,000,000 and is the stuff of coin collection legend. A collector by the name of Israel “Izzy” Switt acquired and held on to 10 of them—just after the last “double eagle” had officially been melted down by the government in 1937. (Timeline.) Now, decades later, the coins are the subject of an intense legal battle between the US government and Switt’s descendants. “It’s a hell of a story.”
New nickels in 2004. Also, the mint is holding out the possibility of further changes after the Lewis and Clark designs are retired after 2005, so maybe they'll finally have the guts to use Felix Schlag's original design for the coin, with the oblique view of Monticello.