Featured Visit to the Gallery of Numismatics in Washington DC

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Sallent, May 2, 2017.

  1. Sallent

    Sallent Supporter! Supporter

    This is a brief write-up on my trip to the Gallery of Numismatics, which houses the National Numismatics Collection for the Smithsonian Museum. You can find this collection at the Museum of American History. This is by no means a comprehensive overview of the entire exhibit, as it is too vast for just one thread in a forum. But I do hope it gives you an idea of what awaits you if you ever find yourself in Washington D.C. and decide to check this exhibit for yourself.

    The entrance to the exhibit is quite imposing, mimicking a bank vault. The exact location is on the second floor, left hand side of the building, at the Museum of American History, which is right next to the National Mall.


    I know this is a coins forum, but if you also like paper money then you will not be disappointed. There were denominations there that I had never seen in person, only in catalogs and books. Again, keep in mind that these are but a few pictures...the full collection is much larger than what's pictured here.

    $100,000 Gold Certificate

    $5,000 Federal Reserve Note

    Prototype US Currency and old notes

    For those who love ancient coins, the exhibit does not disappoint. There are probably over 60 ancient coins on display (and I'm happy to say I own about a third of the types on display). They are well displayed, and have interesting write-ups on them. There are some very rare ancient coins there too, including a Julius Caesar lifetime portrait denarius and a very rare Nero sestertius. Below are but a small sample of what they have to offer on exhibit.

    Byzantine cup-shaped coins along with a modern US coin mimicking the shape.

    Ancient Greek coins

    And this has got to be the gem of the exhibit. I know most of us probably don't care much for Chinese cash coins, but they have a nearly intact cast tree of Chinese cash coins. I cannot begin to tell you just how rare that is. I don't think I know anyone who has one of these near intact looking almost the way they came out of the mold, nor have I ever seen one at auction. Something so rare, if it ever came up at auction, would probably fetch a hefty sum. What a treasure!

    J (2).JPG Chinese Cash Coin Mold Tree (Nearly Intact)

    And for those of you with a gold tooth, no need to be disappointed. There is plenty of gold in this vault. Here is but a small taste to wet your appetite

    Gold coins from around the world.

    And no collection would be complete without some stone money. Here is a delightful yap stone. These stones are one of the most interesting forms of traditional indigenous money ever devised. Most are so big and heavy that they cannot be moved and remain where they were first placed, though everyone in the village knows who the stone belongs to even if the location never changes.

    E.JPG Yap stone money

    So the question begs asking, should you fly to DC just to see this collection? Of course not, Washington D.C. has a lot more to offer as far as museums and monuments, which makes it well worth while visiting. As interesting as this exhibit is, I have to admit it is overshadowed by the shear amount of history and things to experience in the nation's capital city. But if you are ever in the area and have some spare time, I suggest you make time to visit the Museum of American History and stop by the second floor with an hour or so to kill. It is well worth it. This is all but a mere fraction of what awaits you, including more ancient coins, rare American coins, rare paper money, lots of gold, and plenty of numismatics history for you to learn a little and have a good time.

    A display on precious metals coins and artifacts, and precious metals certificates
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
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  3. Sallent

    Sallent Supporter! Supporter

    And not to leave U.S. Collectors out, some American rarities. Sorry for the terrible picture, but this display was full of fingerprints. There just wasn't any way to get a good picture without dozens of fingerprints getting in the way. For some reason the other displays were quite clean. Maybe the American coins just attract that much more attention than the rest. Again, please accept my apologies, but had you been there you would understand why this picture turned out the way it did.

    IMG_0732 (2).JPG
    Some Americana for you guys

    And here is the rare Julius Caesar lifetime portrait denarius and a very rare ancient Jewish coin.

    More ancients, yay!

    And here is the Julius Caesar lifetime portrait denarius in my personal collection. As you can see, the above one is a different type than mine, which is normal as Julius Caesar minted 3 or 4 versions of his denarii before he was murdered. The above type might have a bull on the reverse, or it could have a similar reverse to mine...can't say without seeing the reverse which was not visible on the display.

    Anyway, here's mine.

    JC portrait k.jpg Julius Caesar
    AR Denarius (19mm, 3.9g, 9h)
    Rome Mint (January - February, 44BCE)
    L. Aemilius Buca, moneyer. Wreathed head of Caesar right; CAESAR • IM downwards before, large crescent dividing P M upwards behind / Venus Victrix standing left, holding Victory on extended right hand and holding scepter in left; L • AEMILIVS • BVCA around. Crawford 480/4
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
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  4. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    How did I miss this thread! Very cool write up and photos Sallent, thanks for posting! Were you in D.C. for work or pleasure? That cash coin tree is amazing! It's far from my collecting interests but it's hard not to like that!
    Deacon Ray and Sallent like this.
  5. Jaja78

    Jaja78 Member

    Great recap of your visit, thanks for posting it!
    mcwyler and Sallent like this.
  6. Sallent

    Sallent Supporter! Supporter

    Business. I had to go to the Cuban Embassy to take care of some issues with my Cuban passport before I travel there this summer. Cuba requires all those born in Cuban soil to obtain a Cuban passport before visiting Cuba, even if they are now citizens of another country. They issued my passport, but put a hold on it because they could not find any records that I had left Cuba. So I went there to show them proof that I've been a US citizen for nearly 2 decades and get my passport squared away.

    And yeah, that cash coin tree was a real beauty. Even if you are not into things like that you still got to appreciate something so unique. I've seen small fragments of some before, but nothing approaching that tree on display.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
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  7. CoinZone

    CoinZone Active Member

    Based on that stone,, I should have a immense fortune laying around my yard.
    Great post. Thanks.
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  8. kanga

    kanga 60 Year Collector

    I live just outside of DC so a trip to the Smithsonian is quite easy.
    About 15-20 years ago I was walking through the "Castle" and got stopped dead in my tracks.
    There's not many items on display in the "Castle".
    I walked through a doorway into another area and "BANG", just on the right was one of the 1907 Ultra-High Relief Saint-Gaudens.
    The way it was presented made it absolutely stunning.
    That's burned into my memory.
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  9. Collect89

    Collect89 Coin Collector

    Thank you for the write-up.

    I visited the coins housed at the Smithsonian around 1995. That was back when they had the gold which I believe is now displayed in Colorado Springs. I was so dizzy after seeing so many great coins that I forgot to get gas before leaving DC & got on I-95 going south instead of North. :)
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  10. Michael K

    Michael K Well-Known Member

    Nice serial numbers on those first 2 notes.
    DMPL_dingo and Sallent like this.
  11. Sallent

    Sallent Supporter! Supporter

    Nothing says rare and special like having the first note in the entire production, with the serial number to prove it.
    Michael K likes this.
  12. BruceS

    BruceS Member

    Nice report, I thought you couldn't take photos inside there, must been giving bad info. Thanks for sharing.
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  13. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    The gold that was displayed at the Smithsonian was the Eli Lilly Collection, the gold on display at the ANA Museum is the Bass Collection. The Lilly collection is still in the Smithsonian, just not on display.
    Collect89 likes this.
  14. BlackBeard_Thatch

    BlackBeard_Thatch Captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge

    Very nice! I have always had a place in my heart for D.C, such a great place.
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  15. ungawhaa

    ungawhaa Member

    If I ever get to D.C., thats one of the places I'd like to see. Great photos!!!
    Sallent likes this.
  16. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    Yeah, that'd be enough to make me reach for my checkbook. And then start crying. :p
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  17. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    cool, thanks for sharing those sallent!
    Sallent likes this.
  18. Collect89

    Collect89 Coin Collector

    Thanks Conder101. The Smithsonian's gold room was awesome & dazzling to me when I visited. I wonder if there are photos archived someplace so people can see just how much was on display. (I'd like to see it again).
  19. Jaelus

    Jaelus Hungarian Collector Supporter

    It's a great exhibit. Did you take photos of the drawers? I enjoyed the Barber pattern sketches and the Russian moustache tax token.
  20. NLL

    NLL Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the good read. It was definitely worth it! Now I also have a new place to visit added to the bucket list!:)
    Sallent likes this.
  21. Nicholas Devine

    Nicholas Devine New Member

    I'm very new to coin collecting but your great write up takes me back about 23 years. My fathers sister and her husband used to live in Fairfax Virginia, which is pretty much just a subway trip away from D.C. So they and my grandparents got the idea that as kind of s right of passage into our teens they would send me, my brother, and my sister out to visit my aunt for two weeks at the age of 12. After my brother had gone in 1990 and showed me all the cool pics he had taken I couldn't wait till my turn in 93. Now over two decades later all the amazing things I got to do on that trip are as distant a memory as another lifetime ago. I still remember all the great things I learned there but it's just not something that comes to mind often in the daily hustle. Just reading your post and looking at the photos opened a floodgate of great memories though because although things looked quite a bit different back then the Smithsonian's pendulum and NNC's rare coins were among my favorite sights. Anyway your accounts of the new exhibit are great, not only for stirring up fond memories, but alone as a nice review of one of the great honey pots D.C. has to offer. Thank you
    Jason Hoffpauir and Sallent like this.
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