Imagine a world where the latest word on Fugio cent varieties was
written in 1875.
Imagine that there were but two varieties of Virginia halfpence —
With Period and Without Period — and no guide to discern restrike
American Plantation tokens from the 1688 originals.
Imagine that you depended upon a work written in 1843 to
categorize your Continental Currency, and nothing ranked higher on
your want list than an example of the rare and historic Good Samaritan shilling.
This is the horrifying alternative reality if a young Eric P.
Newman had decided to collect stamps or die-cast cars. People wouldn’t
know that Nova Constellatio coppers were made in England, nor that
1804 Draped Bust dollars weren’t struck in 1804, nor that Benjamin
Franklin personally sketched the designs for the February 1776
fractional note issues of the Continental Congress.
There has never been a man more responsible for the state of
scholarship in American numismatics than Eric P. Newman, and only 19th
century researcher Sylvester S. Crosby comes close.
Newman’s research has always been carefully accomplished,
depending on primary sources and careful analysis of the artifacts we
collect. It’s no wonder he’s right so often.
His curiosity is boundless, even after nine decades of playing
with coins and paper money, and his joy at learning something new is
as pure as a child’s. You can see it in his eyes, you can hear it in
his voice and you can read it in his writing.
Eric Newman hasn’t just written often and written well, he has
literally revolutionized the state of research on early American
subjects. It’s pretty easy to write about coins and have coin
collectors slap you on the back — it’s like writing articles about
biscuits for an audience full of dogs. But to write articles that are
continually cited by historians is a different matter. It’s exacting,
painstaking work. To academics, Eric is one of their own. As a coin
collector, I’m happy that Eric will always be one of us as well.
I first met Mr. Newman (I’d never call him Eric then!) when I was
about 14, at the American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar one
July. My friends and I, one of whom is now a professional numismatist
and another of whom is now a college professor, felt like we were
about to meet Elvis. He was so disarming, so friendly, so funny, so
enthusiastic about the subjects of numismatics and history, that he
just felt like one of the guys, another cool octogenarian.
Over the years, as the writing I’ve done has depended more and
more upon the bedrock of Newman’s, I’ve come to appreciate his work
that much more.
There is not a pair of eyes cast upon this page that doesn’t owe
him a thank you.
John Kraljevich Jr. is an independent professional numismatist and
researcher specializing in early American coinage.