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Geoffrey Charlton Adams – Coin Dealer of Dubious Distinction

Coin dealer, auctioneer, publisher, possible fraudster. Also known as G.C. Adams. Born May 11, 1864 in Covington, Kentucky. Died May 23, 1939 in San Francisco, California.

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Numismatist John Lupia calls Geoffrey Charlton Adams one of the most difficult and elusive numismatic biographies to flesh out. Data from the 1910 United States census has his parents listed as natives of Kentucky. This changes over time, and by the 1930 census, Adams claims his parents as being Scottish-born. G.C. Adams appears to have convinced his third wife, Marion J. Adams, that he was of Scottish descent, as she provided that information to the funeral home that published the information of Adams’ death certificate. According to Lupia, Geoffrey Charlton Adams and Marion were married in 1915.

G.C. Adams signature taken from a return card addressed to the Chapman Brothers and postmarked on November 22, 1895. Adams requested a copy of the Richard Bonswell Winsor catalog. Image courtesy of John N. Lupia, III.
G.C. Adams signature taken from a return card addressed to the Chapman Brothers and postmarked on November 22, 1895. Adams requested a copy of the Richard Bonswell Winsor catalog. Image courtesy of John N. Lupia, III.

Adams may have been a traveling salesman or a traveling consulting engineer, as Farran Zerbe remarked in 1906. His surviving correspondence shows that he frequently moved about the country.

By 1903, Adams is dealing coins out of New York City. In 1905, his “New York Coin” business was operating out of an office at 608 Flatiron Building. That same year, he began to publish The Coin Cabinet, which he also edited.

Adams placed this ad in the December 1903 issue of The Numismatist.
Adams placed this ad in the December 1903 issue of The Numismatist.

Between May 1903 and October 1906, Adams published 30 coin auction catalogs, as well as catalogs on rare books and numismatic literature.

Lupia notes that Adams delivered a paper to the Chicago Numismatic Society on September 2, 1904, which called out the 1804 dollar as a steam-pressed restrike, likely produced around 1860. Adams was a corresponding member of the club.

Adams’ ascent into high numismatic circles seemed assured with the donation of his numismatic library to the American Numismatic Society (ANS) in 1906 and his election as Fellow into the Royal Numismatic Society in March of that year.

A complete run of G.C. Adams auction catalogs. Image: Kolbe & Fanning.
A complete run of G.C. Adams auction catalogs. Image: Kolbe & Fanning.
A rare plated copy of Adams' Dixie Land Collection catalog surfaced in 2012. Image: Kolbe & Fanning.
A rare plated copy of Adams’ Dixie Land Collection catalog surfaced in 2012. Image: Kolbe & Fanning.
Solicitation for The Coin Cabinet on Geoffrey Charlton Adams' letterhead. Here Adams claims that his business was established in 1893. Image: Newman Numismatic Portal.
Solicitation for The Coin Cabinet on Geoffrey Charlton Adams’ letterhead. Here Adams claims that his business was established in 1893. Image: Newman Numismatic Portal.
Image: August 1906 Numismatist. p 272.
Image: August 1906 Numismatist. p 272.

In the August 1906 issue of The Numismatist, Farran Zerbe wrote in his “Jaunt Across the Continent” favorable remarks of Adams, whom he called a numismatic “zealot” and “booster”. Two issues later, it is recorded that Adams had been expelled from the association. No information as to why was provided.

Image: October 1906 Numismatist. p 344.
Image: October 1906 Numismatist. p 344.

Adams’ membership in the Royal Numismatic Society came to an end in October 1909, when he was removed for non-payment of dues.

A “letter” to the editor from the June-July 1907 issue of The Elder Monthly. p. 3. Image: The Newman Numismatic Portal.
A “letter” to the editor from the June-July 1907 issue of The Elder Monthly. p. 3. Image: The Newman Numismatic Portal.

In the June–July 1907 issue of The Elder Monthly, a rather sarcastic “reader” letter hit piece was published under the header “Where is Geoffrey?”. The author suggests that Adams had absconded with the money he had sent to purchase a catalog.

Lupia’s research on Adams’ post coin life shows a man on the move. In the 1910 census, Adams resided in Bergen County, New Jersey, with his second wife, Letitia, and her parents. His occupation is listed as “engineer”.

Three years later, Adams married again. The couple turn up in the 1930 census as living in New Orleans, where he worked as a civil engineer consultant. The couple move to San Francisco, California, in 1933. Adams died on May 23, 1939 at San Francisco Hospital.

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Sources

Lupia, III, John. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies. Website. Accessed 1/24/23.

The Numismatist. August 1906

The Elder Monthly, June-July 1907.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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