Photo Credit: American Numismatic Association; CoinWeek
By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..
The numismatic hobby at the turn of the 20th century was much different than it is today. The pages of the American Numismatic Association’s Numismatist were filled with familiar faces and names. It was a club magazine in the truest sense. This was a network of collectors, dealers, scholars, academics, neophytes, amateur professionals and professional amateurs.
The Numismatist was where you read about the latest gossip and goings-on in Washington regarding our national coinage. We’ve grown accustomed to the staid state of our national notes and base metal coins. But at the turn of the century things were much different. Coinage and paper currency was exciting and revolutionary. Being part of the numismatic fraternity of the ANA or one of the city clubs (many of which were even older) must have been quite a draw to those interested in the study and collecting of money.
I say this because it’s exciting for me to read all about it and now that the American Numismatic Association has made the entire back catalog of The Numismatist available online in digital form, you can to if you are a member (Not a member? You should be. Click here to join).
I bring this up because I was just reading about the 1909 ANA Convention in Montreal and taking a headcount of all of those who attended. It may surprise some of CoinWeek’s readers today to realize that the ANA has a rather strong historical connection to Canadian numismatics. Past ANA President John Jay Pittman actually served as the president of both the American Numismatic Association and the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA). But long before Pittman, it was a group of Canadian and American numismatists that set out to found the ANA. That the ANA held its convention–an exclusive get-together of wealthy collectors–in Montreal is a reflection of that.
One of the attendees was Chicago coin dealer Theophile Leon.
Leon operated the Chicago Coin Company (not to be confused by today’s iteration of the Chicago Coin Company of 6455 W. Archer Ave., the junior dealership was founded in 1955). Others in attendance were E. H. Adams, the Chapman brothers, Thomas Elder, J. M. Henderson, Frank C. Higgins, H.O. Granberg, Elmer Sears, Howland Wood and Farran Zerbe.
I mention him because it was probably an advertisement placed in the back pages of the August 1909 issue that inspired Leon to purchase a price guide by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based auction researcher C. H. Shinkle entitled U.S. Coin Values and Lists, 1909 Edition (the second of three, and an update of his 1905 edition).
Shinkle’s ad described the book this way:
“Exhibits of prices paid for nearly every U.S. Coin at Auction Sales during 1907-1909. Auction prices are very rarely less than the coins are worth”.
The 20-page booklet contains lists of rare U.S. Coins, Private Gold Issues (including fractional gold pieces known at the time), $50 gold coins, U.S. pattern cents and other information. The cost was $1.00
I know that Leon purchased the book because Kolbe & Fanning are currently offering his copy for sale on numislit.com for the very reasonable price of $35. I’m tempted to buy it and may do just that if one of our readers doesn’t pick it up first!
Numismatics is a hobby of connections – of people, personalities and coins.
Oftentimes, taking time to read about yesterday’s hobby can be every bit as enriching and exciting as picking up a new coin for the collection.