Northeast's Blog

Maundy, Maundy New!

The following was written by Brian.

Every time I see or hear about Maundy Money, I can’t help but start singing ‘Monday Monday’, by the Mamas and the Papas. I of course will sing “Maundy Maundy” to this tune (much to the delight of my co-workers). So, let us dig into the reason for this tune rolling around in my head – Maundy Money!

Before Maundy Money was created, there was an ancient custom in Great Britain dating back to the 13th century called The Royal Maundy. This once-a-year tradition involved British royalty washing the feet of the poor and providing food, clothing. The washing of feet and distribution of food and clothing by monarchs to the poor can be traced back to the 4th century and the origin of this tradition goes all the way back to Christ washing the feet of his disciples on the day before Good Friday.

The foot washing act was discontinued in the 18th century as British royalty undoubtedly came to the foregone conclusion that it was totally nasty. Eventually even the food and clothing allowances would be replaced by money.

At first, the royal family would hand out ordinary coinage of the time, usually silver pennies, but in (approximately) 1662 the first true Maundy Money appeared. The specially struck coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece. They were, however, undated. Here is an example of a Charles II undated Maundy penny.

The four coin dated set began in 1670. Mintages at the time for these sets were very small; usually in the hundreds for any given year and never more than 2,000. And it was not until 1752 that coins not struck for circulation were used for the Maundy distribution.

Maundy Money can be found with some pretty spectacular toning as it was traditionally struck in sterling silver. These of course would be pre-1921 (the fineness was reduced to 0.500 in 1921). Check out this 1884 Silver Maundy 2 Two Pence Queen Victoria Young Head.

Today, this tradition continues, but the money is not distributed to the poor. The royal family selects one cathedral to give out the Maundy Money. A red purse and a white purse are given to each of the selected parishioners; the red containing money in lieu of food and clothing and the white purse containing the ceremonial Maundy money set. The number of recipients (a male and female each) of the money reflects the monarch’s age. Given the queen’s advanced age, this has had a catastrophic effect on the royal family bottom line. The Maundy coins of today are legal tender but rarely spent because of their symbolic value.


Lafayette New!

The following was written by Brian.

Marquis de Lafayette was a celebrated 18th century French nobleman and a central figure in the American Revolution. Although orphaned in his early teenage years, Lafayette had been born into nobility in the Auvergne region of France. By the time he had been orphaned however, he had already amassed quite the massive inheritance. He would later use this fortune to aid the colonies in a time of great need.

Lafayette left his life of privilege to assist, indeed fight alongside American colonists, the British forces as a Major General in the Continental Army. He would also become close with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. But most importantly he would be a critical tactical advisor to the American troops and use his influence, power and wealth to bring forces, supplies and even naval ships from France. Lafayette was a true ‘American’ hero.

Fast forward to the Paris Exposition of 1900. The United States was invited and US leaders decided a fitting contribution would be a statue of the great Marquis de Lafayette,   to be sculpted by Paul Wayland Bartlett. In order to raise money to pay for this expense, the Lafayette Monument Fund was created (and supported mostly by schoolchildren’s donations).

The Monument Fund would not be enough to cover the expense and so the Lafayette Silver Commemorative dollar was born. Chief Engraver of the Mint, Charles E. Barber would be given the honor of designing the coin and 50,000 were to be struck. These would be sold at $2 each with the proceeds going to the making if the statue. Note that some 14,000 were returned to the mint many years later and would end up being melted in 1945. This is why the total mintage today is listed at 36,000.

This was the first commemorative dollar struck by the US Mint (and the last until many, many years later in the 1980’s). The obverse features the busts of Washington (in front) and Lafayette. Note that this is the same obverse bust that would be used in the design of John Flannigan’s Washington Quarter years later. Although all the coins were struck in one day (December 14th 1899 – the centennial anniversary of Washington’s death), the reverse of the coin bears the date 1900. The reverse also features Lafayette mounted on horseback and the legends “Erected by the Youth of the United States in Honor of Gen. Lafayette. Paris 1900”.

Brian's better-late-than-never FUN report New!
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The following was written by Brian.

I’m pretty sure this is my very first show report. Normally Chris or Tom give you the lowdown, but we’ve decided to give their tired angle a rest and offer a fresh, new perspective of one of our favorite shows from your favorite author – me!

As usual, the flight was uneventful and we landed on time, so off to our usual Airbnb we went. We love this place; affordable, large, clean and conveniently located about a mile from the Orange County Convention center – which is great because that place is enormous! We’re talking the second largest convention center in the US large. 7 million square feet of total space big. The main span of the Brooklyn Bridge could fit inside the West Building's contiguous exhibition space. Huge. You could fit 3.7 Rhode Islands inside it. Ok, I lied about that last part, but you get the picture. It’s really big. Bigger than Elaine’s really big salad. One more note of interest; this was the first time we attended a show and did not go out to dinner even once! A lot of deliveries and a lot of waiting, but these services are great and they pickup almost anything from almost anywhere nowadays.

On to the show!

As we try to do with every show, we arrived a day early to try to do some pre-show trading with other dealers (this is one of the ways we have of getting our fine collector base fresh inventory). However, due to (you know what is coming) Covid protocols, we were unable to meet in a rented space inside the convention center. That’s right, the OCCC would not rent us large rooms to conduct a little biz before the show. This was because of Covid, you see. You could go to the show the next 5 days and mingle/sneeze with/on strangers, not follow safe distancing practices and not wear a mask (yes, the overwhelming majority were not wearing masks and it was not enforced), but 25 or so of us couldn’t rent a large room for a few hours. Got it! Perfect sense!

Rant over.

The actual show, however, ranks up there with one of the better FUN shows for us. Not every dealer that we normally do biz with was there and that was kind of a bummer, but for the most part the usual suspects were in attendance, which is great for me! As the wholesale sales guy, my days are spent walking the floor showing our wares to as many dealers as possible. After two years of no FUN shows, I must admit it was really nice to see some old friendly faces. The sales were good, great even. Buyers were robustly buying and that’s always a good thing for our industry. Perhaps more importantly, we ourselves were able to buy a good amount – over 350 new pieces. The retail side was strong as well with strong attendance numbers.

With the show now over, we (most of us) packed up our belongings and new coins and headed to the airport, saying goodbye to warm sunny weather only to welcome the beautiful climes of New England in mid-January. The flight home was uneventful, although Tom and I were without Chris, as he decided it would be best to drive to Miami, sit in the rain and watch our Patriots lose in humiliating fashion.

Created by: PAT___BIGAPPLE on 02/08/2022

Nice read, Brian!
And...350 new coins...!
Sorry your Patriots lost...
Hope to see more from you!
Pat and Mary Jo

Stella - Part Twenty New!
There is 1 comment on this post.

The following was written by Brian.

Normally this would be called a ‘Part II’ follow up to the last blog about the fabulous Gold $4 Stella, but this time we’ll be discussing something far rarer – the 1879 Gold Twenty Dollar Stella.

While the Gold $4 Stella has enjoyed immense popularity over the years, it’s scarcer, much lesser known counterpart has slid under the numismatic radar for the most part.

Here she is, in all her glory. Just 1 of 5 known (1 of which is in the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian) and commonly referred to among numismatists as the “Quintuple Stella”

As with the $4 Stella, the Quintuple Stella is a proof-only pattern (Judd-1643). Also like the $4 Stella, it was meant to facilitate international trade and travel. There had been a schtickle of effort toward this goal earlier in the decade, specifically with the 1874 Bickford pattern $10 gold pieces, but 1879/1880 were the years that serious endeavors were made to accomplish these aims.

Here’s the Bickford example; an interesting design in its own right.

Like the other Stellas, the $20 Quintuple was designed by John Barton Longacre. Around the head is the legend +30+G+1.5+S+3.5+C+35+G+R+A+M+S+.

Fun facts: The last sale of a genuine $20 Gold Stella brought $1.88 million. The US Mint also produced other $20 Stella patterns including copper and gold plated examples.

Pretty cool!

Created by: Panda on 01/07/2022

Thank you for sharing this amazing piece, very nice to know!

Stellaaaaaaaaa!!! New!

The following was written by Brian.

If you saw it, you never forgot it. Marlon Brandow’s legendary scream to his wife in the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire. So cool. Just so damned cool.

Almost as cool is another legend – this time in the field of numismatics; the 1879 and 1880 $4 Gold ‘Stella’. 

What a great issue and certainly a coin that you will find in every edition of the book 100 Greatest US Coins by Jeff Garrett (usually near the beginning of the book – top 20).

During the mid 1800’s, the United States had difficulties getting congressional approval for an international gold coin. Despite several attempts, nothing had moved forward until 1879 when the US Minister to Austria John Kasson (he was also the former Chairman of the Committee of Coinage, Weights, and Measures) suggested a US gold coin be created similar to the Austrian 8 Florin piece. The coin would have metallic content stated in metric units and would approximate in value the Spanish 20 pesetas, Dutch 8 florin, Austrian 8 florin, Italian 20 lire and the French 20 franc among others. The hopes of representing in metric units was that it would be easier for Europeans to use and it would aid in international trade and travel by US citizens. Its namesakes come from the Latin word for star “stella” and indeed the reverse bears a 5-pointed star.  


Two US Mint chief engravers Charles Barber and John T. Morgan were responsible for the designs and the two portraits were very different from each other; Barber’s version displayed loose, fluid locks, while Morgan’s featured a tight, coiled, braided hair style. Each year – 1879 and 1880 - feature a flowing hair and coiled hair design amounting to 4 designs in total.

As mentioned, there are 4 known varieties, but the most readily available is the 1879 Flowing Hair Stella. This was a proof-only issue (as were the others) with a mintage of (about) 425 that were given to members of congress. It is said that many of the 1879 Flowing Hair Stellas were given to mistresses of these congressmen, which would explain the large number of ex-jewelry pieces. Now that’s a spicy coin-a! Although the 1879 Flowing Hair variety has the zesty back-story, the other 3 varieties are significantly rarer. The 1880 Coiled Hair has a mintage of just 20, but all 4 bring huge premiums at auction when and if they show up. A very tough, but most beloved and interesting US coin.