Author Topic: American Civil War token with a German connection  (Read 312 times)

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Offline brandm24

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American Civil War token with a German connection
« on: March 14, 2020, 11:36:03 AM »
American Civil War tokens were private issues of hard currency mostly produced during the middle years ...1862 / 1863...of the war. The purpose was to fill the gap left by the hoarding of circulating small change. These are akin to American Hard Times tokens or British Conders. Today, we classify them in two categories. Patriotics, those with patriotic themes, and Store Cards, pieces issued by private businesses for the purpose of advertising. Both types were used to facilitate business transactions.

This token, sometimes referred to as a Seated Columbia, was issued by New York liquor merchant Christoph Karl. Little is known of Karl himself, but his token is one of the most attractive of the thousands issued during the war. We do know that Karl was born in Bavaria in 1824 and likely arrived in this country in about 1858. He was among the group of German immigrants who were known as "Forty-Eighters", those who fled the European upheavals of the day.

The German connection is very strong here. I believe the devices, the so-called "seated columbia," is a rendition of Germania ? The harp or lyre portrayed on the other side is a mystery to me.

 While we know that Karl was Bavarian, the die sinker, Emil Sigle, was also a German immigrant who was born in Baden in 1820. He was the most prolific producer of tokens of the era. He signed his work either E.Sigle or simply with his initials E.S. Sigle himself was a mystery in some ways. While his work was often of the highest quality, some tended to be mediocre at best or bordering on crude. Even his signature on some otherwise well crafted pieces was roughly applied. Perhaps an apprentice was responsible for some of his work. It seems unlikely that he could have produced all the dies credited to him without assistance.

This token is slightly larger than the standard CWT at 24 mm. Its weight is 4.63 g. and is struck in copper. The Fuld reference number is F630AM-1a.

Any help in deciphering the devices would be appreciated.

Bruce
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2020, 10:38:22 AM »
The lady is without any doubt meant to be Germania, as she is leaning on the imperial German shield. This makes sense, as a good Bavarian would not want to support Prussia or the Hohenzollern, whose shield has  a mono-cephalic eagle.

However, the crown looks like a city crown to me. It is definitely not the imperial crown. The flag behind her is strange. It seems to have no devices, but vertical stripes, like the Italian, Belgian and French flags. Anyway, no Columbia. I read the signature as E. SIGEL. Strangely, Forrer has no entry for this engraver. Note that in German, Sigel is one letter away from Siegel, seal. I have no sensible explanation for the lyra with ribbons and star.

I can think of a logical explanation of all the mysteries, though. I heartily agree with your conclusion that we are dealing with more than one engraver using the same sig and note that their joint production was prolific. The rest of this post is guesswork.

Let's assume that E. SIGEL was one New York workshop and that it was full of punches made for earlier dies. When a new customer came in, the first reaction was to throw together two new dies from punches lying around. It is easy to see the Germania side as an old medal, perhaps for the French surrender of Geneva to Switzerland, with lake Geneva on the foreground and the Alps on the background, the flag being French. Only the shield doesn't fit. Funnily, I see the eagle as pretty clumsy and slightly de-centric, especially as compared with the detailed Germania. A separate punch, maybe?

Likewise, the reverse could be made with a punch for a prize medal for a music contest. That leaves only the legend, which couldn't be taken from an earlier piece and has been added competently.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2020, 10:54:32 AM »
As to the spelling of his surname, originally it was spelled Siegel but altered before his arrival in the U.S. in 1851. This isn't unusual, as many immigrants attempted to Americanize their names thinking they would fit in better. BTW, his father's name was Franz Moritz Siegel / Sigel. If he were an engraver maybe his name is listed in Forrer.

According to Q. David Bowers in his recent book "Engravers, Minters, and Distributors of Civil War Tokens" (2018) little is known of Sigel's early work. You may be right in assuming that he used his earlier dies on other, later issues, including Civil War pieces.

Some of his sloppier work may be from re-strikes made outside his shop. Not only did he make dies for other minters but he also produced special-order tokens for some local numismatists including Edward Groh and J.N.T. Levick. Many overstrikes and mules are known using at least one of his dies. All this type of activity makes it very difficult to track and identify his work.

As to the confusion over the various devices...crown, flag, lyre, etc. could any of these be connected to his birthplace in Baden...in Sinsheim I think. Just a thought.

Bruce
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2020, 02:43:48 PM »
Sorry, there is nobody with the name Sigel or Siegel in Forrer.

There are a few very minor bodies of water in Sinsheim. The largest is the river Elsenz, a tributary of the Neckar, which in turn flows into the Rhine. There are mountains around 20km to the North. I doubt they are visible in most of Sinsheim. The scenery behind Germania just doesn't fit Sinsheim.

According to Wikipedia, the Sinsheim coat of arms has a monocephalic eagle. The outer villages do not have eagles in their coat of arms. The lemma has an interesting reference to Franz Sigel (b. 1824 in Sinsheim, d. 1902 in New York), a not overly successful U.S. Army General in the American Civil War. Note the spelling of the last name.

Frankly, I can't see any connection between the design and Sinsheim.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2020, 07:09:15 PM »
Thanks for checking that out, Peter.

 By the way, Franz Sigel was Emil's older brother and best known for his generalship at the Battle of Pea Ridge near Bentonville, Arkansas. He became known as "The Hero of Pea Ridge" for his efforts there. Interestingly, Bentonville is the birthplace of Sam Walton's Walmart chain which is still headquartered there today.

Bruce
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Offline malj1

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2020, 09:56:26 PM »
Bruce see here to download Forrer for yourself.
Malcolm
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Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2020, 10:02:33 AM »
Thanks, Mal. A great reference to have on hand.

Bruce
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Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2020, 11:06:40 AM »
Interestingly, there's a Civil War token highlighting Franz Sigel's "Hero of Pea Ridge" exploits...certainly his only significant military contribution. His primary success in the war effort was his rallying to the Union cause of the German-American community. It that regard, he was very successful and was thus rewarded with a generalship in the army.

Not surprisingly, the tokens were minted by his brother Emil...though, strangely, he didn't put his name on the dies as he normally did. The legend "The Hero of Pea Ridge" was prominently displayed above the military figure on horseback. Later re-strikes  show the legend only very weakly struck or not at all (see my attachment). Apparently, the original die was defaced, some say by Emil himself. Why he would do that is anyone's guess but some speculate it's because of his brother's military blunders later in the war that eventually lead to his loss of his commission.

There are two major varieties of the issue. The scarcer of the two sees the "Hero Of Pea Ridge" legend replaced by an arc of stars.

Bruce
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2020, 12:41:57 PM »
That token made my day, Bruce! It instantly reminded me of the "To Hanover" tokens.

I am convinced that the weak or missing legend is due to the business model of Emil's little enterprise: making lots of stuff fast and cheap. The legend suffered from filled die syndrome. Look at the stress lines around the edge, in particular to the left of the horse's front legs. They are the consequence of worn dies! Metal on the surface becomes liquid for a split second when the coin is struck. As it alway moves in the same direction, it forms "river beds" on the die, that show as stress marks on the coin. They are best admired on Roman coins, as the Romans did not strike coins in a collar, but here is a fantastic example of a token struck in a collar with a fine collection of stress lines. Your token is around EF if it weren't for the damage below the horse, but a naive grader could make it F by not distinguishing die wear from token wear.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2020, 06:12:11 PM »
Conventional wisdom has always suggested that the dies were altered in some way but you know what they say about that. Conventional wisdom is often not correct. Weather forecasts fall into that category  far too often.

You do make a good case for Emil making "lots of stuff fast and cheap" though, Peter. Although I think these dies may have been made by someone else as suggested by the lack of a signature on these examples.

 Digressing a small bit, your clever line made me think of the business slogan used by a retailer in my area. Ollie's Discount proclaims they offer "good stuff sold cheap." Cheap,yes. Good, maybe not. And Ollie himself is a rather seedy looking character.

In any case, I see what you're saying about the condition of the tokens and what they say about the poor state of the dies. I also think you're spot on in regard to the condition. The pictured token was professionally graded , and if I remember correctly was considered XF or very close to that...also taking into consideration the damage that you point out. I know at one time the series was graded "gently" but not so sure if it is anymore.

By the way, what is a "To Hanover" token? Sounds vaguely familiar, but can't place it.

Bruce
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Offline malj1

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2020, 12:18:01 AM »
See here for some information regarding the To Hanover tokens

Oftimes when you have a query like this a search of WoC will bring up an answer!  :)
Malcolm
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Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2020, 09:46:25 AM »
See here for some information regarding the To Hanover tokens

Oftimes when you have a query like this a search of WoC will bring up an answer!  :)
Thanks, Mal. I often forget the search feature until someone reminds me of it. :)


Bruce
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Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2020, 10:08:48 AM »
I couldn't let the meaning of the devices on the Christoph Karl token go so did some more research this morning. I came up with this NGC site that has done as much as anyone in trying to decipher them. A lot of it makes sense to me, but I'd like to hear other more knowledgeable opinions. Does this man make a compelling argument?       Garys December Coin of the Month - NGC Journals (old format) - NGC Coin

I also found out that Emil Sigel apparently cut most, if not all, of the dies known to be used on the Pea Ridge tokens. The fact that he didn't sign all of them has led to speculation that some of the known mules are the product of others. There are at least 30 documented diesinkers who manufactured Civil War tokens...plus several who haven't been identified. One, known only as the Rhode Island sinker (RI sinker) remains unknown though geographically located.

Interestingly, there are examples of Pea Ridge overstrikes on small US cents...both Indian Head and the older Flying Eagle types.

Bruce
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2020, 10:43:41 AM »
I came up with this NGC site that has done as much as anyone in trying to decipher them. A lot of it makes sense to me, but I'd like to hear other more knowledgeable opinions. Does this man make a compelling argument?

Unfortunately, the accompanying pictures did not load on my 'puter. It would have been interesting to see to what extent they support his argument, in particular on the scenery. Some remarks:
  • Gary puts the date of migration at 1848 or shortly thereafter; you put it at 1858. If it was 1858, Karl did not migrate for political reasons.
  • The banner behind Germania does not have heraldic shading, but only folds in the material. Therefore the colours are unknown. The German flag has horizontal stripes. The German confederation flag (1848-1852) had a bi-cephalic eagle on a gold canton in the centre of the middle stripe. There is a line in that stripe on the flag, but it doesn't fit the place or shape of the canton.
  • You can argue that the eagle on the shield refers to the German Confederation, but you can argue at least equally well that it refers to the German empire, making Karl a conservative, instead of a liberal. There was no lack of conservatives in Germany.
  • Heraldically, the mural crown is not an alternative to royal and imperial crown, as Gary suggests, but part of the same system of feudal symbols. Republics most often just leave crowns out, but sometimes they are continued without change, as e.g. in Russia, which uses the Czarist crown in its heraldry.
Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

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Re: American Civil War token with a German connection
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2020, 04:12:12 PM »
Since a lot of the devices are confusing or don't match with the facts, I just assume they're of a generic nature. Apparently, Gary just made an attempt to squeeze some into a box, any box. Although this isn't an ideal method of research, I found myself attempting to do the same thing at times over the years. Fortunately, I've always been able to backtrack and pull them out. Rather be unsure than spread disinformation to others.

Thanks for your input, Peter.

Bruce
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