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The Limits Of Online Numismatic Research

The Internet is a wonderful research tool but the content is not always accurate or complete. Therefore, one needs to temper the results of a numismatic search by confirming information from other sources or thinking about what holes may exist in what is discovered.

Here’s an example. Last week, I posted on my company’s Facebook page, and also my personal page, a question of who are the six identified (my mistake, there are actually seven) people other than Christopher Columbus who are depicted on US currency issues that were not born in what is now part of the United States of America.

These posts drew more attention and responses than usual. One respondent found a helpful website here and thought that the 53 people listed there included every specific person portrayed on US currency.

Using this website, however, only picked up four of the six people—Albert Gallatin from Geneva Switzerland, Alexander Hamilton from Charlestown, Saint Kitts and Nevis, George Meade from Cadiz Spain, and Robert Morris from Liverpool, England.

Why didn’t this website list the other two? The answer is in the first sentence of text where it states “Individual portraits of 53 people central to the history of the United States are depicted on the country’s banknotes.”

What that means is that the list only includes people depicted alone—and also only appear on the obverse of US paper money. What the website does not include are specifically identified people portrayed in a vignette of a group of people, which all are on the reverse side. For example, Christopher Columbus is the central person appearing on the reverse of First Charter $5 National Bank Notes.

Shown is the back a New York, NY $5 1875 Fr. 405 The Lincoln NB Ch. #2608 note in which Christopher Columbus is featured. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Shown is the back a New York, NY $5 1875 Fr. 405 The Lincoln NB Ch. #2608 note in which Christopher Columbus is featured. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

So, paper money collectors and other numismatists, if you know or want to do the research, who are the other three specifically named people, born outside of what is now the United States of America, who appear on US paper money? I will post the answers next week.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award 2012 Harry Forman Dealer of the Year Award, and 2008 Presidential Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at