The Young Victoria Collection – Best in Category for 2016

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) recently announced its Collector’s Society 2016 NGC Registry Award Winners, and my collection of Young Head Victoria Sovereigns, “The Young Victoria Collection,”1 was awarded Best in Category in the 2016 World Coin Competitive Sets competition for the Sovereign (Victoria) 1838-1901, Circulation Issue2 category. The collection won the Best in Category award previously in 2012.

Since 2012, the collection was improved considerably by acquiring better examples of many years. In 2012, only two examples were mint state (MS 61 or better); now, nineteen are Mint State, and eleven of those are Choice (MS 64 or better).

But as far as competing in NGC’s competition, the collection is still hampered by the same limitations that existed in 2012:

  • When I began the collection, I intentionally limited its scope to gold sovereigns minted in London from 1838 to 1874, featuring the first portrait of Victoria on the obverse and a shield design on the reverse. (These are known as “Young” head sovereigns; hence the collection’s name.) However, NGC’s competitive category is much larger, and includes all Victoria sovereigns from 1838 to 1901, regardless of the design or mint locations. The impact of this difference in scope is that a collection including sovereigns outside the scope of my collection could quite easily garner more points, and win NGC’s competition. (And in fact that is what has happened during 2013-2015.)
  • The Competitive Sets are limited to NGC graded coins only. I appreciate NGC’s sponsorship of the competition and understand the limitation – they’re in the business of promoting their service. But I am focused on the coins, as any numismatist should be, and the presence and/or identity of a grading service is incidental. (To use an analogy, I’m interested only in the cereal, not the brand name on the box.) The impact of this limitation is that ten of the finest coins in the collection could not be included in the competition.

For example, this wonderful Choice Uncirculated 1838 sovereign was added to the collection in 2015, but since it was graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), it could not be included in NGC’s competition:

1838Despite the limitations, the improvements made since 2012, plus whatever changes that have taken place in competitors’ collections, were sufficient to garner the 2016 top slot.

The Young Victoria Collection in its entirety can be seen here.

Notes

  1. The Young Victoria Collection at NGC Collectors Society: http://tinyurl.com/hwgkhhx
  2. Category Sovereign (Victoria) 1838-1901, Circulation Issue: http://tinyurl.com/zke5mzm

Images adapted from NGC and Heritage Auctions

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Looking back on 2016

Looking back, it has certainly been a busy year for hiking! Our hiking group grew by 1,779 members, from 6,796 to 8,575, and we met for 103 events during 2016, hiking a total of 450 miles at locations throughout Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.


At the trailheadJanuary and February were bitter cold, of course, but that was a good time to get out for some more strenuous hikes along the Billy Goat Trail and trudge through deep snow at Sky Meadows. A visit to Mount Vernon on Washington’s birthday was almost obligatory (it’s free!), and the cold weather was a good time to visit the National Zoo, which is normally overflowing with visitors.

Spring creimg_2148pt in during March through May, and with it came the cherry blossoms. This year we visited the National Mall to enjoy the blossoms at sunset and see the monuments in the light of the full moon. With Spring came the azaleas and Virginia bluebells, and we also went to the Shenandoah Mountains a few times and visited Patapsco State Park to see Bloede Dam, which was demolished this Fall.

img_5042During June through August we visited many of our usual Summer favorites like Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Potomac Overlook, and White Oak Canyon, plus several new places like Jug Bay, Lake Frank, and the McKee-Besher Wildlife Management Area. Summertime is always great for Independence Day fireworks and Daylight Savings Time yields more daylight in the evening, making after-work walks around town practical.

img_6537The Fall foliage forecast for 2016 was the same as the year before, but this year the trees were on a different schedule! Our urban hikes in places like Georgetown and DuPont-Kalorama were unaffected, but hikes in September and October like Buzzard Rock, Rock Creek Park, and Sugarloaf, were not as colorful as in previous years. In November the leaves finally turned, and our hikes at Carderock and Great Falls were great!

It’s December now, and while we haven’t had our first snow yet, we’re back in Winter’s clutches! This weekend we’re closing out 2016 with a hike along Four Mile Run, and ringing in the New Year at Mason Neck State Park. I’m looking forward to another year of fun on the trail!

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Walk to National Harbor

Last weekend we walked across Wilson Bridge to visit National Harbor in Maryland, starting from Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s about a 6-mile (10-kilometer) paved walk both ways, and it is so gently inclined that it may as well be flat. Some folks are always clamoring to do this walk, but there are a couple downsides:

  • Noise. It looks like a nice walk, but you may want some ear protection for this one:

img_6892 img_3354

  • Pace. I did mention it is pretty flat, right?

gazelleThere’s  something about a long, flat stretch of paved surface that just brings out the gazelles who walk at 4+ mph. I’m sure they were just keeping up with each other and struggling to carry a conversation over the noise, but I wanted to take photos and enjoy myself, so I gave up trying to stay in front of them. Fortunately, both National Harbor and Jones Point Park are in sight the entire time, so there’s little worry about anyone getting lost.

Once you get out of traffic, some of the sights around National Harbor are pretty nice.

Of course, the MGM Casino at National Harbor opens today, December 8, 2016, so who knows what impact that will have on the area. Between casinos, racing, slots, and the lotto, Maryland has become one of the most heavily saturated gluts of legal gambling on the East Coast, with the government raking in a significant portion of the earnings. Maryland’s cigarette tax is also among the top 20 states in the country at $2 per pack, far above the 30 cents per pack charged by her southern neighbor, Virginia. (Oddly, Maryland’s alcohol tax is only 25% of Virginia’s, so while smoking is verboten, boozing it up is apparently OK.)

What comes next? Well, the government is ever anxious for more revenue, so I’m sure they’ll find something new to tax:

I’ll bet we’ll see legalized marijuana and/or prostitution in Maryland within 10 years.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

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El Galeón and a Super Moon

Last weekend we had a visit from El Galeón Andalucia, a full-size replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon. The ship docked at the Alexandria Waterfront from 9 to 14 November as  one of her stops along a journey up and down the Eastern U.S. Coast. As luck would have it, her visit coincided with the November full moon, which was billed as being the closest to Earth since the full moon of January 26, 1948.

img_6683From the press pack at the NAO Victoria Foundation website, El Galeón is a replica of the type of ship used by the Spanish Crown for maritime expeditions during the 16th-18th centuries. She is a 3-masted, 500-ton galleon; 164 feet long, 34 feet wide, and has a draft of 10.5 feet. Since her launch in 2009, a crew of 15-35 has sailed her to ports of call ranging from the Philippines to the United States. (No circumnavigation or breadfruit runs, though.)

I had originally planned a 5-mile Sunday evening walk around Old Town Alexandria to enjoy the supermoon, but because of El Galeón’s visit, I added an additional morning event to get a look at her during daylight hours. I was half expecting to see some Zinn acolytes turned out to protest Spanish colonialism, but after last Tuesday’s election, there must have been more pressing perceived outrages elsewhere. Instead, the Sunday morning crowd yielded a more Disneyesque experience: hundreds queued up to go aboard, snoop around, and have optional family photos taken on the quarterdeck, complete with conquistador helmets and pirate costumes.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I much preferred coming back after nightfall. If more is left to your imagination, you can fill in whatever details you like.

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Streamlined

Here’s a few interesting shots from a walking tour of historic Del Ray, Virginia, which was for the most part a tour of the town of Potomac, Virginia, which existed from 1908-1929.

The genesis of the tour was a complaint I received during one of our usual easy summer evening walks around Del Ray: “[It was] not the most picturesque side of Del Ray, I would rather see more of it’s [sic] unique housing and layout than back streets.”

Actually, almost any evening walk in Del Ray cannot help but take you past homes dating from 1895-1920, but given the casual nature of our walks, I never point them out.

In any case, it seemed like a good idea, so I spent around six weeks researching the records, and we did exactly that: a formal tour of the unique housing and back streets of Del Ray. It included many of the old homes dating from 1895, but also a lot of the interesting Art Deco and Streamline Moderne warehouses and shops from the 1940s and 50s.

Unfortunately, the person who asked for the tour chose not to attend. But I guess sometimes what you ask for is not really what you want.

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Lake Frank and Meadowside Nature Center

Last Saturday I took a day off from group hiking to explore Lake Frank, in Montgomery County, Maryland, for a hike our group is doing this coming Saturday. Lake Frank is only about 10 miles from the I-495 Capital Beltway, but since it is nestled in the 1800-acre Rock Creek Regional Park, it’s a great place for a country hike.

Lake FrankI’ve been planning to do a hike at Lake Frank for some time, but when I first visited the trails were torn up due to a sewage line construction project. I checked on it again this Spring, but the ford over North Branch Rock Creek was always too high to cross without getting your feet wet. Finally I decided to circle the lake counter-clockwise. The stream crossing is at the end of the hike, so getting your feet wet doesn’t matter much.

The resulting 5-mile route is pretty straightforward, heading west and north past the Study Pond and some of the Lathrop Smith Center outbuildings before turning south to hike past the Pioneer Homestead, over the Valient Covered Bridge, and along the west shoreline of Lake Frank to the Lake Frank Dam. To add a little more meat to the hike, the route continues downstream from the dam to the junction of North Branch Rock Creek and Rock Creek, and follows Rock Creek downstream a bit before returning north along the east bank of Lake Frank. Directly east of the Nature Center, stepping stones across North Branch Rock Creek lead back to the starting point. The whole hike takes around 2 hours; maybe a little more if you stop for a break.


As it turned out, the counter-clockwise route was probably better than the clockwise route I had originally planned: the hillsides along the west bank of Lake Frank are quite steep, and the trail (aptly named “Old Nasty”) is narrow, so going downhill is a pretty good option. You still have to go back uphill on the east bank, of course, but the Lakeside Trail is paved and graded, making the long climb a little more conducive to good conversation.

All told, a pleasant hike, easily accessed from anywhere in the Washington DC area. Meadowside Nature Center has plenty of parking, a friendly staff, and nice facilities, and once you get away from its immediate vicinity there aren’t a lot of folks on the trail. The Pioneer Homestead and Valient Covered Bridge are picturesque, and most of the hike is in the shade, so on a hot summer day, you’re still fairly cool and comfy.

Notes

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Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Sanctuary entranceOn Wednesday I drove out to Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary to take a look around for a hike we’re doing this coming Saturday. Jug Bay is due east of Washington DC and very close, only 12 miles from the I-495 Capital Beltway, but you would think you were far out in the country. The bumpy gravel road (Blue Shirt Road) leading into the sanctuary is barely one lane wide.

The planned route takes the Brown Loop (Otter Trail, Railroad Bed Trail, Two Run Trail and the Utility Road), interrupted by a walk around the Red Loop Trail (Farm Trail, Pindell Bluff Trail, and the Upper Railroad Bed Trail, excluding the Beech Trail), before finishing the rest of the Brown Loop Trail to return to the Wetlands Center.


The first stop on the hike is an overlook and a boardwalk located just next to the outdoor classroom and its obligatory propaganda placards. Both the overlook and the boardwalk give you a nice view of the first of several osprey nests you can see during the hike, all occupied.

After that it’s off through the woods along the Otter Trail to the Railroad Bed Trail, where a walk out to the River Pier and back rewards you with a nice view of the Patuxent River and Mount Calvert, a tobacco plantation just across the river that was in operation from around 1780 until 1860. Along the way there are two other osprey nests and a side boardwalk leading off into the marsh that doesn’t offer any views, but does afford a look at some of the many plants.

Continuing along Otter and Two Run Trails takes you south to Otter Point and back north towards the Railroad Bed Trail, passing the Beaver Pond overlook along the way. For a short hike you could continue north along Two Run Trail and the Utility Road back to the Wetlands Center, but for a full 5-mile hike, it’s time to do the Red Loop, east and south onto the Farm and Pindell Bluff Trails. The River Farm is one of the few open fields along the hike route, and the field is surrounded by a very high electric fence that suggests a lot of deer live in the area. No deer to be seen, but there were more than a few tree swallows!

After the River Farm, the Pindell Bluff Trail meanders south through the woods along the shoreline, affording me occasional glimpses of Jug Bay and an encounter with a disinterested black rat snake, before turning northeast up Pindell Branch to the intersection of the River Farm Road and the Railroad Bed trail. The Railroad Bed Trail leads northwest past Mark’s Pond back to the Two Run Trail, which leads north to the Utility Road and back to the starting point at the Wetlands Center.

All told, the hike is a little over 5 miles, and it took me about 3 hours, mostly because I was dawdling around taking photos and enjoying the day. This would probably be an extremely sultry hike a little later in the year, but for the late spring/early summer, it’s perfect!

Notes

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