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Excerpts from the E-Sylum: Inscription on Boston Time Capsule Medal, More on Food Stamp Tokens – March 22, 2015

By Wayne Homren for The E-Sylum eNewsletter….

Each week, CoinWeek, in collaboration with the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, brings you a highlighted feature from the current volume of the E-Sylum eNewsletter.


Patrick McMahon of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston submitted some great questions about an enigmatic edge inscription discovered on one of the medals found in the recently opened Massachusetts State House time capsule. Wayne Homren, Editor

We have had an incredible opportunity at the MFA with regard to the Massachusetts State House time capsule and I wanted to make sure the E-Sylum readers know it is now on public display here for a brief time. The display opened on Wednesday, March 11 and will run until April 22, 2015.

I am sure that many E-Sylum readers will want to see it, and I definitely want to get the word out about the exhibition. But another reason for writing is that I want to share a mystery with the group and see if anyone can help shed more light on it.

Isaac Hull - Commodore US Navy.
Isaac Hull – Commodore US Navy.

The time capsule itself really has two distinct components. The first is the silver plaque, coins, and medal placed under the cornerstone in 1795 by Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay. This original deposit was later discovered accidentally, and a brass box was made to preserve what was found and to allow for a group of additions intended to represent that moment in the summer of 1855. That’s the second component. A fairly accurate accounting of the discovery and reburial can be found in the Freemason’s Monthly Magazine for October 1855 (p.367). It’s available on Google Books.

One of objects from the 1795 group is a Washington “Born Virginia” medal (Baker 60). When my colleague Pamela Hatchfield was removing some wax that had been applied to it in 1855 she discovered a tiny inscription on the edge (all of the numismatic material had been “cleaned” in 1855 with acid and then coated with an acidic wax which was corroding them).

On one side were carefully engraved initials HI (or IH) and on the opposite side, what looked (under a microscope) like a crudely engraved number. Eventually we realized it was a name (it was upside down when we first tried to read it). It seems very clearly to be: “I Hull”. It is so small that it is hard to see without magnification and it’s certainly possible that it went unnoticed in both 1795 and 1855.

So we are now wondering if this could be Isaac Hull, the future Captain of the USS Constitution. He would have been about 22 years old at the time of the laying of the State House cornerstone (the Constitution and the Massachusetts State House were constructed almost simultaneously). Isaac’s adopted father (and uncle), Brigadier General William Hull lived nearby in Newton, Massachusetts at this time and was very active in Masonic society.

Newspaper accounts show he had some connections to the group involved in the placement of the State House cornerstone. He is documented at the head of the military parade during John Hancock’s funeral along with William Scollay in 1793,. And he is eventually the first Grand Master of a new Masonic lodge established in Watertown, Massachusetts (chartered by Paul Revere in his role as Grand Master of the Massachusetts Lodge). The Masons are currently checking to see if Isaac Hull was, like his uncle, a Mason and active in the Massachusetts Lodge at this time.

Did whoever did this always mark the edges of his coins or medals so obsessively and are there other examples out there? Or did he put his name on it only after he knew it was going into the deposit under the State House? Has anyone seen anything like this on the edge of another coin or medal from this period? Perhaps Adams, Revere, and Scollay never even knew the name was there when they buried it.
'I HULL' edge lettering
Here is an image of the inscription on the edge of the Washington medal. We’d love to know what E-Sylum readers make of it. And I hope that everyone who wants to see these things in person gets the chance to visit the MFA before April 22. It will be the only chance. At some point after April, the State is planning to rebury everything beneath the cornerstone again.

Fascinating discovery. Can anyone help? -Wayne

(Full version of “QUERY: ‘I HULL’ EDGE INSCRIPTION ON TIME CAPSULE MEDAL” available at http://coinbooks.org/club_nbs_esylum_v18n12.html#article8.)

To read CoinWeek’s account of the time capsule’s contents, click here.


David Gladfelter forwarded some additional information on food stamp change tokens. Thanks! -Wayne

I recall that Neil Shafer mentioned some of the literature on the topic of food stamp change. Perhaps some of the following would help Mr. Hopkins in his research:

Food Stamp Change Newsletter – published by Jerry Schimmel, San Francisco, from 1980 to 1984, 17 issues in all. Mailing list was small, a little over 50, but included many well-known exonumia collectors and writers.

Food Stamp Change Token Stores by Jerry Schimmel, copyright 1980 – a 101-page nationwide and territorial listing of stores that are known to have issued food stamp tokens.

Iowa Food Stamp Tokens by Lewis K. Ferguson, April 1983 – 23-page, well illustrated list published by Food Stamp Change Newsletter.

New York State Food Stamp Change Tokens by Gary Pipher, January 1982 – 35-page, partially-illustrated catalog published by Food Stamp Change Newsletter.

New Jersey Food Stamp Tokens – 3-part catalog. Parts 1 and 2 by Gary Patterson, in Token and Medal Society Journal, December 1979, and supplement to Food Stamp Change Newsletter, October 1980. Part 3 by Al Zaika, manuscript awaiting publication in The Nor-Easter, newsletter of Northeast TAMS.

Food Stamp Tokens – 20-page, fixed price list published circa 1980 (undated) by Paul A. Cunningham of Tecumseh, MI., an early advocate of food stamp change token collecting.

Neil Shafer’s article(s) in The Numismatist

“Plasco Plastic Trade Checks” – by David Gladfelter, in TAMS Journal, December 1977. This company made food stamp change tokens, among other exonumia products.

“Plasco Plastic Specialty Tokens” – by David Gladfelter, TAMS Journal, December 1978. The company was a large producer of food stamp change tokens.

These sources should be available from the ANA library and/or the TAMS library.

Full version of MORE ON FOOD STAMP CHANGE TOKENS available here. To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:





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