National Collection - Smithsonian
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I am thinking about making the trek to the Smithsonian to see the National Collection. Since they renovated - has anyone been to the exhibit? If so, what did you think about it? Do they have anything displayed that is not on their web-site? Also - what is their gift shop like? Pure tourist junk or do they have anything for real collectors?

 

 

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I would like to see the National Collection also. When I get time, I would want to know what is there. Back around 1975 we tried to see some of it but were told many were in storage and many others were not there but were in exhibits at other locations such as museums and other such locations.

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14 minutes ago, Zebo said:

Only a small portion of the collection is displayed - it would be nice to view the entire collection - but that will never happen.

If you are doing research, I know that you can arrange to view some of the portions that are not on display. 

I have not been, but I would really like to. One day, it would be awesome if they could build a dedicated NNC museum.... 

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7 hours ago, physics-fan3.14 said:

If you are doing research, I know that you can arrange to view some of the portions that are not on display. 

I have not been, but I would really like to. One day, it would be awesome if they could build a dedicated NNC museum.... 

That will happen when pigs and donkeys fly. My experience with coin museums has not been good. It's been much better with library archives.

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I've done research there, too, but it was some years ago when the NNC was still staffed by the late Richard Doty and by Doug Mudd, now curator of the ANA's collection. The NNC coins not on display are stored on trays within metal cabinets and may be viewed by a person who passes the security clearance and has a legitimate research goal.

When I went there as a kid in the 1960s the entire collection of USA coins seemed to be on display in a very large room. Even at that age I was struck by how all the silver coins had been dipped and, in some instances, wiped repeatedly. That was a standard practice throughout the 19th Century and as late as Stuart Mosher's curatorship 1945-54. By then the damage was already done. Fortunately, the gold coins and most of the copper coins didn't require cleaning and are still appealing.

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John Dannreuther (sp) did extensive research on early gold there a few years ago -- I think after Doty's death?

Edited by RWB
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I made my trek to the Smithsonian to view the National Collection exhibt. The exhibit was recently renovated and is not easily photographed because of the lighting. The exhibit is broken into two small rooms, one in the east and west wings of the National History Museum. I was a bit disappointed that the exhibit did not show one of the two 1838 Sovereigns that are in the National collection that were like the ones donated by James Smithson. smithson donated over 100,000 sovereigns to establish the Smithsonian in an attempt to increase and diffusion of knowledge. All of the sovereigns donated were melted and made into U.S. coins.  I was also a bit disappointed that many of the coins appeared to be cleaned. Ignoring those disappointments, the exhibt was nicely laid out and I enjoyed seeing some of the rarities that I would probably never see anywhere else. There were many gold coins that drew my interest along with the three 1804 dollars. The east wing's exhibit was the story on money. This exhibit was nicely laid out and was more camera friendly. One panel had two large glass jars set up for donations asking you to donate th whether you want to save the cent or do away with it. This particular day it appeared to be very a very close race.

All in all - it was a nice day and I am glad that I was able to make the journey to see the collection. I would have liked to seen more of the coins in the collection, but space is limited and there are many other items in America's history that compete for space. Below are a few photos - many of the ones I took are not very good.

 

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Very cool!  I was there back in the 1990s and saw the old collection which was a large room with hundreds of coins in glass cases (and as Mr. Lange mentioned, many were terribly cleaned.  Then I went back maybe a dozen years ago and saw the more temporary set up across the street that simply displayed a selection, including the 1849 double eagle, and the URH patterns from 1907 among other rarities.  Glad you had a good visit and it looks like I might have to make another trip back!

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Zebo, what in particular was on display that is unique to the Smithsonian? I've seen several 1804 dollars, a bunch of 1913 nickels, a Brasher doubloon or two.... Is there anything on display that you absolutely can't see at any major coin show? 

And, for anyone who has been: how does the Smithsonian compare to the ANA or ANS museums? If you could only pick one numismatic museum to go to, which one would you visit? 

Edited by physics-fan3.14
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Jason - The exhibit doesn't just show U.S. coins, it has early coins and scripts from around the world. As far as U.S. coins that you cannot find at ANA or other big shows at one time or another - I'm not entirely sure because I have not attended enough of them to offer an opinion. The Exhibit brings some of the rarities together in one place so they can be viewed at one time. The Josiah K. Lilly collection brought many rare coins to the Smithsonian. The Paul A. Straub collection brought many European gold and silver coins from the fourteenth to the twentieth century to the Smithsonian.  The 1933 St. Gaudens can be viewed elsewhere. The one of a kind 1849 $20 pattern, possibly the 1822 $5, and the 1787 Brasher half doubloon - I'm not sure about. 

I would also like to know how the Smithsonian compares to the ANA or ANS museums as I haven't been to either of them - yet.

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I don't believe you can see the ANS collection without an appointment and even them possibly for research purposes only.  It is not really a museum, it's a collection.  I believe the ANA museum is a much more extensive display.

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I'm a little disappointed that the Collecting Money exhibit doesn't include a vintage coin board. About six or seven years ago I sold one to the Smithsonian that I believe was intended for the current layout. It must have been forgotten on a shelf somewhere...

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22 minutes ago, DWLange said:

I'm a little disappointed that the Collecting Money exhibit doesn't include a vintage coin board. About six or seven years ago I sold one to the Smithsonian that I believe was intended for the current layout. It must have been forgotten on a shelf somewhere...

I agree - there are many shortcomings to the exhibit. I expected more from the Smithsonian - but it was still a treat to see it again. My first visit was in the late 1980s. I actually have enjoyed some of the exhibits at large coin shows as much as this exhibit - possibly more. Too bad about the coin board - I would of loved to seen it.

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The present displays are aimed at a general audience that has little knowledge of coins except the few in their pockets. While disappointing to coin collectors, the new displays seem to attract more visitors than the old, more comprehensive ones. Coins also end up in other exhibits for the purpose of enriching historical context.

Now, about the old elongated cent machine with the hand crank...where is it?

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7 hours ago, RWB said:

The present displays are aimed at a general audience that has little knowledge of coins except the few in their pockets. While disappointing to coin collectors, the new displays seem to attract more visitors than the old, more comprehensive ones. Coins also end up in other exhibits for the purpose of enriching historical context.

Now, about the old elongated cent machine with the hand crank...where is it?

It is stationed right outside the museum's gift shop. 

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On 5/2/2017 at 7:53 PM, physics-fan3.14 said:

Zebo, what in particular was on display that is unique to the Smithsonian? I've seen several 1804 dollars, a bunch of 1913 nickels, a Brasher doubloon or two.... Is there anything on display that you absolutely can't see at any major coin show? 

And, for anyone who has been: how does the Smithsonian compare to the ANA or ANS museums? If you could only pick one numismatic museum to go to, which one would you visit? 

The last time I had visited the Smithsonian was almost 40 years ago, then they had the 1849 double-eagle pattern on display (Unique or is there another one? I've heard rumors of it). Is this coin still on display today? I'm guessing you'll never see this at a major coin show.

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2 hours ago, gherrmann44 said:

The last time I had visited the Smithsonian was almost 40 years ago, then they had the 1849 double-eagle pattern on display (Unique or is there another one? I've heard rumors of it). Is this coin still on display today? I'm guessing you'll never see this at a major coin show.

The 1849 double eagle pattern is not currently on display. It is in the collection, however.

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The 1849 double eagle has been on display at the ANA spring and summer shows for the past few years.  I don't know if it has been at any of the other big shows.

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Speaking of the Smithsonian, Smithson donated over 100,000 gold sovereigns to establish the Smithsonian. Below are a few photos of his crypt which is located in the Smithsonian Castle: 

 

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Between Smithson's gift to a country he never visited, and a hands-off approach to science from all prior executive administrations, the SI has become one of the world's premier cultural and scientific research organizations.

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Slides I probably took in the 1970s(?) of the Lilly Gold Collection when it was displayed at the Smithsonian. I scanned them all with a Nikon Coolpix scanner in 2008. The quality stinks but it gives you some idea of scope of what was there at one time.

 

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