Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morgan Coin Revisited

The Collections and Research Department had a visit from Carl Swebilius, who has been blogging about the restoration of the CHARLES W. MORGAN, and members of the Pawcatuck Valley Coin Club on June 22nd. Larry Erhard, Dennis Fortier, Bill Jacobik and Scott Rottinghaus examined the coins that were removed from under the MORGAN'S masts in 2008. While one, a 1997 silver dollar was in very good shape and unspectacular in its date, the other two were unknown entities, although a 1947 article in local papers reported that one of the coins was an 1841 penny. The second coin, while massively corroded, was determined to be an Eisenhower silver dollar dated between 1971 and 1978. The 1841 penny was neither a penny nor from 1841. With coin identification books and magnifiers in hand, the group made short work of the the identity.

The "penny" was, in fact, determined to be a 1908 Barber silver half dollar minted in Denver. The top image is what the front of the half dollar now looks like. The next image is what a Barber half dollar SHOULD look like. The third image is the reverse image of the front of the coin as photographed on the bottom of the mast in 1947 and the last image is the back of the coin as it now looks.

Traditions and ceremonies go back centuries where the building and launching of ships are concerned. From the barbaric sacrifice of humans, to the breaking of champagne bottles on the bow, the most interesting might be the installation,for luck, of a coin under a mast before it is stepped. Not only is the luck of the ship accounted for, but so is its history. Finding a 1908 coin under the mast tells us that work on that particular mast was done sometime after that date, giving us confirmation of events that are documented elsewhere.

Having local friends to help in the pursuit of historical fact is something that is greatly appreciated at Mystic Seaport.

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