I have always been a collector at heart. Ever since I discovered
the world’s greatest hobby (numismatics, in case you didn’t guess) as
a young teenager in 1952, I have pursued series of interest.
First, I collected Lincoln cents in two blue Whitman folders. Then
came Proof Indian Head cents (typically costing $3 to $5 each), then a
type set of 48 different commemorative silver half dollars in Mint
State (total cost a bit less than $400). I would form these sets, then
sell them and go on to experience the excitement of discovering yet
In 1955 I began collecting copper large cents of 1793 to 1857 with
political, merchant and other counterstamps. I only knew of one other
person seriously interested — Maurice (“Maury”) M. Gould, who with his
partner Frank Washburn conducted the Copley Coin Co. in Boston. In
time, Maury sold me his collection.
Such counterstamps had little value in the 1950s, and like as not,
dealer friends who found them gifted them to me. Today in 2011 I still
collect them, but now new acquisitions can be costly, and I only buy
A few years ago, I sorted through my collection and deaccessioned
more than 2,000 pieces with names, such as J. Smith (to make up an
example), that I knew I would never be able to identify.
Today my collection is in the hundreds of coins and is more
manageable. Two counterstamps led me to write two books: The
Strange Career of Dr. Wilkins, the most prolific counterstamper
in the United States (he was a dentist, also ran a restaurant, kept a
caged bear in front of his business in Pittsfield, N.H., and was
charged with passing counterfeit money and suspected of burning a
The other was The Waterford Water Cure, about a physician
who practiced hydropathy (the water cure) in Waterford, Maine.
Writing the books was lots of fun, but sales were modest.
Among my favorites — but now quite rare and expensive — are copper
cents counterstamped in 1824 in honor of the visit of Marquis de
Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution. A nice example is
illustrated here. Congress in 1824 designated Lafayette as “The
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.