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Volume 52 No. 2 February 2006

Minutes of the 1045th Meeting

The 1045th meeting of the Chicago Coin Club was called to order in Dearborn Center, 131 S. Dearborn at 7 PM by President Robert Feiler. The usual meeting room on the sixth floor was occupied so the Club meeting was moved to Conference Room FF on the third floor. In attendance were fourteen members and four guests – Robert Graves, Eugene Freeman, Kurt Hyde and James Kee.

The December Minutes as published in the Chatter were approved. Treasurer Steve Zitowsky reported November and December expenses of $930.09 and income of $1,903.00, leaving the Club’s total assets at $8,983.12. Steve also gave a brief review of the finances involved with the December banquet and an overview of 2005 finances. Two applications for membership received a first reading: Robert Graves and Eugene Freeman.

First V.P. Jeffrey Rosinia introduced Andy Plioplys who delivered an in-depth talk on Silver Currency Ingots of Northern Europe.

Second V.P. Lyle Daly introduced the evening’s exhibitors: Mark Wieclaw – set of Berghoff Restaurant tokens, a 2006 lead seal from U.S. Mint box of silver coins, tetradrachm of Philip II (359-336 BC), tetradrachm of Philip III (323-317 BC) and a Lincoln cent struck over a struck Roosevelt dime; Steve Zitowsky – 6 different 1902 Keeling-Cocos banknotes valued from 5 rupees to 1/10 rupee, 8 different 1913 Keeling-Cocos tokens valued 5, 2 and 1 rupee, 50, 25(2), 10 and 5 cents; Sharon Blocker: 5 different $2.00 bills received at the bank, all with serial numbers ending in 8434; Donald Dool – bond issued in San Juan, P.R., medal issued to commemorate San Martin monument in Zarate September 1981, 2 sous dated 1577 Besalu (Pellofa), 2 dineros from Lledia, Pugesa issued under Carols I (1516-58), and a 3 pfennig from Osnabrück, Chapter; Robert Feiler – Roman denarius of Emperor Trajan, slave bill of sale from 1852 and a $5.00 obsolete currency from Frankfort, KY; John Riley – a new magazine on news stands Collecting World Coins, by Krause Publications, 4 different pool hall tokens from Brunswick and an encased postage stamp advertising Ayer’s sarsaparilla.

Under the business section Lyle Daley reported progress in writing text for the Club’s tri-fold brochure. There were no reports from the archives, safety deposit box, or video projects. The current meeting site status was discussed with input from Lyle Daly and Jeff Rosinia. Die struck membership medals were discussed again and a report was promised on the feasibility of using the die on the club medal used for Cabeen Awards, plus a die struck reverse side.

Meeting dates for 2006 were discussed with suggested speakers and topics.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 PM.

Respectfully submitted,
Carl Wolf, Secretary

Speaker’s Wor[l]d
Kapos, Grivnos, and Northern European Silver Ingots

A presentation by Audrius V. Plioplys MD, to our January 11, 2006 meeting (previously presented at the Balzekas Museum in Chicago on October 16, 2005).

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity of reviewing the history of the earliest monetary systems in Northern Europe, and in Lithuania in particular. First I want to thank Eugenijus Ivanauskas, Robert Douchis (who passed away in early 2005) and Frank Passic for all of their assistance in obtaining the ingots, and information about them.

The territory surrounding Lithuania was already inhabited by 10,000 BC. Around 3,000 BC Baltic amber was traded, by overland routes, to as far as Egypt. Amber was the first Lithuanian “gold.” By 500 BC the Phoenicians (located in current day Lebanon) circumnavigated Europe and established trading sea-routes for amber. This trade route was continued by the Roman Empire. During Emperor Nero’s reign (54 to 68 AD) a ship load of amber arrived in Rome—so much amber that the walls of the Coliseum were bedecked with amber and all of the gladiators’ armour was encrusted with amber. In exchange, the Lithuanians traded for bronze tools and weapons, which in turn were used in trade.

Further evolution of trade was in furs. The forests surrounding Lithuania were rich in marten (a black marten is better known as a sable). Marten pelts were used in exchange. Pelts were used as single units of exchange, and as larger units. Initially, bundles of 15 marten pelts were considered a unit, then most historical sources refer to a bundle of 40 pelts. Taxation was frequently requested in pelts, and rulers would have store houses of pelts, that would be traded or sold. Pelts were traded primarily with the Vikings, in exchange for silver coins. The Vikings obtained the silver by selling slaves to the Turkamen tribes along the Volga River basin (and later along the Dnieper River basin). The Lithuanians would melt down the silver coins to make jewellery (necklaces and bracelets).

Jonas Karys notes that in the 8th and 9th centuries there was a marked decrease in the number of silver jewellery items placed in burial sites. His hypothesis is that the silver started to be used to manufacture the Lithuanian kapas. Historical sources refer to a “karcius”, translated possibly meaning something that is tied up, or bundled. Karys felt that karcius was a term for a unit of exchange, in particular a silver necklace. In reviewing photographs of necklaces and bracelets in Lithuanian museums, and in visiting these museums, I was impressed with how varied the necklaces were in size and weight. Also, I was impressed with the very large number of uniform, unadorned silver bracelets that have been found. My hypothesis is that the first unit of silver exchange was the bracelet (the “karcius”). This would certainly be a convenient way for a trader to carry currency—on his wrist. Later, the bracelet was turned into the kapas. I was unable to obtain information about the weight or the silver purity of the ancient bracelets. However, the general appearance is that the weight should be approximately that of one kapas.

The actual manufacture of the kapas is not mentioned in any historical sources. Most likely, they were made by using the lost-wax method. The origin and meaning of the chop marks on the kapas is also unknown from historical sources (the word kapas comes from the word kapoti, or to chop). By looking at the ingots themselves, it is clear that after manufacture, while the ingot was still hot, the chop marks were placed. The number of chop marks bears no relation to the weight nor purity of the kapas. Most likely, the chop marks were placed to demonstrate that no other metal was placed in the center. Why are there many kapas with no chop marks? Most likely there were many different manufacturers of the kapas, over time. Ones that were deemed trustworthy did not need to demonstrate the interior—but those that were of uncertain reputation, had to demonstrate the inner contents.

Of note is that the word kapas, meaning “to chop” sounds very similar to the word kapeika. In Russian, “to chop” is “rublit”, or “rubit”—the origin of the term ruble. Thus, the units of Russian exchange, kapeika and ruble, originate from the Lithuanian kapas.

There are less than 700 fully intact Lithuanian kapas known. They have 0 to 18 chop marks, with an average weight of 107 grams. The dating of the kapas is controversial. As mentioned above, Karys felt that they appear in the 8th and 9th centuries. There was a hypothesis proposed, that the kapas was based on the Scandinavian mark which was introduced in Riga, Latvia, in 1211. However, the mark was 208 grams (even ½ of a mark, at 104 grams, did not match the Lithuanian kapas weight of 107 grams), and the Latvians never issued ingots, rather they issued coins. Thus, if there would have been an influence of the Latvian monetary system on Lithuania, it would have manifested itself by the minting of coins—which did not happen until the end of the 14th century.

Furthermore, Povilas Karazija pointed out, that if the 1211 date was correct, then most kapas would have been manufactured under the rule of Mindaugas (1236-63). Any sovereign ruler would have insisted that some sort of identifying official insignia should be applied to units of exchange—which was not done. Thus, the dating of the kapas must be well before the rule of Mindaugas. Karazija and most numismatic sources date the kapas to the start of the 11th or 12th centuries.

From historical sources it is possible to ascertain the buying power of a kapas. One kapas was the equivalent of 6 months salary for a common worker or a foot soldier. You could purchase 15 sheep for one kapas. For 1½ kapas, a good riding horse could be obtained. Otherwise, for one kapas, you could purchase a Polish prisoner, or a wife. If you happened to commit murder, one or two kapas would be sufficient to save your life. In other words, a kapas was the equivalent of a human life!

Besides the traditional Lithuanian kapas, there are the large triangular Lithuanian kapas. These were produced much later, and appear to have been an intermediate stage in the production of coins (the original kapas were melted down to make the triangular ones, which in turn were used to make coins). These kapas frequently had chop marks in the center whereby they could be broken into two pieces. There are about 10 full triangular kapas known, and about 55 half-kapas known. The full kapas’ average weight was 200 grams.

Silver ingots were manufactured and used in other Northern European territories. Bob Douchis, in his 2003 presentation, claimed that a hoard found in historic Prussian territory was a Prussian Ingot. My own review of his slide materials suggests that this hoard, although found in Prussian territory, is simply a hoard of Lithuanian kapas.

Rhomboid-shaped ingots were manufactured in Kiev. A total of 400 are known, and the average weight is 160 grams. They are called grivnas, from the Russian word to tie or to bundle. Kiev was one of the two major commerce (and later administrative) centers created by the Vikings, along their trading routes (the other center was Novgorod).

Very unique and beautiful grivnas are found in Chernigov, a city to the north of Kiev. These are shoe-horn shaped grivnas that were used briefly in the 13th century. They are fairly rare and the typical weight was 200 grams. Their rarity probably relates to the inconvenience of using them—although beautiful, the size and shape would make it inconvenient to actually use them in commerce.

North of Lithuania is found the Novgorod grivnas, and “rubles.” There are less than 500 Novgorod grivnas, grivna fragments and related species known. The typical weight of a full grivna is 200 grams. They were used in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1447 Novgorod entrepreneurs learned of a way to “make a quick buck.” They started casting grivnas that on the surface consisted of high quality silver, but were finished off with low quality silver (as low as 30%). These grivnas can be identified by a distinctive line where the two different alloys meet. It is because of this counterfeiting of Novgorod grivnas in 1447, that the entire Northern European market decided to abandon ingots entirely, and switched to coinage.

It should be mentioned that the manufacture of the triangular Lithuanian kapas, and the Kiev, Chenigov and Novgorod grivnas was by pouring the molten silver into a mold (not using the lost-wax method of the standard Lithuanian kapas).

Other very distinctive ingots are those made by Northern Russians, called “tongues.” They appear to have first been poured, and then hammered. The Tatars also made silver ingots, somewhat similar in size and contour to the Lithuanian large triangular kapas—indicating an influence.

Of considerable interest are the circular and semi-circular ingots found primarily, and in largest number, along the banks of the Volga River. These were initially felt to be Bulgar in origin. In the 7th century AD, the Bulgars from this area migrated (invaded) across Eastern Europe and settled in current-day Bulgaria. However, none of these ingots are found in Bulgaria—rather they are found in many other places including Gotland, Sweden and England. Based on the Viking trading routes, these circular and semi-circular ingots are actually Viking in manufacture. Dating of these ingots is as early as 1,000 AD. In one museum in Gotland, where a hoard of these ingots is displayed, the English word that they use for the ingots is precisely “bundle.” This “bundle” refers all the way back to bundles of furs (including “grivna” and “karcius”) that the Vikings traded for.

The authenticity of kapas and grivnas is of concern. At the end of the 19th century, and early 20th century counterfeits were made. Many of these had unusual counter stamps, or stamps of Lithuanian heraldry—basically none of which appear in hoards of kapas that have been found (there are several extremely rare exceptions). It appears that the three silver ingots in the collection of the Balzekas Museum in Chicago (originally purchased by Dr. Alexander Rackus—who was the president of the Chicago Coin Club in 1928) and the three ingots in the collection of the American Numismatic Society in New York are all of this vintage.

The Smithsonian Institution (SI) in Washington, DC, has an extremely large and unique collection of silver ingots. Information about this collection was kindly provided by Mr. Guido Fenzi who works in the Russian numismatic section of the SI. Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich, a 1st cousin of Czar Alexander III, had amassed this large collection. He, along with the entire royal family, were executed in 1918. His daughters smuggled the collection to the US and eventually sold it to Mr. Willis H. duPont. In the 1960-70s he donated the entire collection to the SI. This collection contains 9,000 coins, 3,500 medals, and 67 silver ingots (37 intact and 30 fragments). The authenticity of all of the ingots in this collection cannot be questioned.

The SI ingot collection had 14 Novgorod grivnas (one with a counter stamp). There are 19 Kiev grivnas and 3 Chernigov grivnas. There is only one Lithuanian kapas. There are 30 Novgorod grivna fragments, many of which have counter stamps (none-10, one-6, two-8, three-2, four-3, five-1). It would be of considerable interest to one day visit the SI and to study these counter stamps as to origin and use of the stamps.

David B. Silberman, Jr.

David B. Silberman, Jr., 85, a life long resident of Chicago died May 21st. Silberman, who joined the Chicago Coin Club in 1971, began collecting coins in 1964. He specialized in high quality proof US coinage as well as early gold. He also collected coins and medals depicting sailing ships.

Silberman was a graduate of Stanford University in 1941 and a US Army veteran of WW II attaining the rank of Captain. He was the president of the Silberman Fur Corporation. In November 1988 Bowers & Merena auctioned the main portion of his collection. Silberman is survived by Irene his wife of 41 years, son Sam and daughter Lorie.

Our 1046th Meeting

Date:February 8, 2006
Time:7:00 PM
Location:Downtown Chicago
At Dearborn Center, 131 S. Dearborn, 6th Floor, Conference Room 6A (right off the elevator lobby). Please remember the security measures at our meeting building: give a club officer the names of all your guests prior to the meeting day; and everyone must show their photo-ID and register at the guard’s desk.
Featured speaker:Robert D. Leonard Jr. - Coin Collector Gone Bad: The Numismatic Frauds of Mark Hofmann, the Morman Murderer

He was a Boy Scout who started collecting coins in the 1960s by searching through rolls. A former Mormon missionary, he was a married man with four children. He had an I.Q. of 149. He contributed an article to the TAMS Journal. Yet he started altering coins to make rarities as a teenager, then went on to making fake mint errors (one of which realized $48,300 in a Goldberg auction in 2003, having previously been handled by Heritage), fantasy tokens, and counterfeit Mormon notes. When he overreached himself in his business of selling forged documents, he murdered two people with bombs and is now serving life without parole.

Bob Leonard will present details of the numismatic frauds of Mark Hofmann, gleaned from eight books written by those who knew him, his own article in the TAMS Journal, and the comments of John Ford and others. A list of known fakes will be distributed to those in attendance.

Important Dates

February 8 CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Robert D. Leonard Jr. on Coin Collector Gone Bad: The Numismatic Frauds of Mark Hofmann, the Morman Murderer
March 8 CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - John Riley on U.S. Military Decorations
March 10-12 12th Annual Chicago Paper Money Expo (CPMX) at the Crown Plaza Chicago O’Hare, formerly the Holiday Inn O’Hare, 5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL. Admission is $5 for Friday and Saturday; free on Sunday.
March 11 CCC Meeting - 1pm at the Chicago Paper Money Exposition, which is held at the Crown Plaza Chicago O’Hare, formerly the Holiday Inn O’Hare, 5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL. No admission charge for our meeting.
Featured Speaker - to be announced.
Mar 31 - Apr 2 30th Annual Chicago International Coin Fair (CICF) at the Crown Plaza Chicago O’Hare, formerly the Holiday Inn O’Hare, 5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL. Admission is $5 for Friday and Saturday; free on Sunday.
April 1 CCC Meeting - 1pm at the Chicago International Coin Fair (CICF), which is held at the Crown Plaza Chicago O’Hare, formerly the Holiday Inn O’Hare, 5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL. No admission charge for our meeting.
Featured Speaker - to be announced
April 12 CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced

Birthday and Year Joined

March 7 Bruno Rzepka 1968
March 16 Michael Brodsky 1991
March 19 Charles Ricard 1963
March 29 Nancy Wilson 1984
March 31 Andrew E. Michyeta III 1984

Chatter Matter

All correspondence pertaining to Club matters should be addressed to the Secretary and mailed to:

P.O. Box 2301

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Club Officers

Robert Feiler- President
Jeff Rosinia- First Vice President
Lyle Daly- Second Vice President
Directors:Phil Carrigan
Carl Wolf
Steve Zitowsky
Mark Wieclaw
Other positions held are:
Bill Burd/Carl Wolf- Secretary
Steve Zitowsky- Treasurer
Paul Hybert- Chatter Editor
William Burd- Archivist