It was perhaps fitting, when numismatist Raymond N. Merena retired
from the hobby in 2000, that the Professional Numismatists Guild
presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize he
dedicated nearly four decades of his life to the PNG.
Mr. Merena, 75, of Vero Beach, Fla., and Wolfeboro, N.H., died May
21 in Marblehead, Mass., from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr. Merena not only dealt with his illness for 10 years, he also
actively supported research and fundraising for a cure.
A PNG member since 1974 who held Life Member No. 231, Mr. Merena
served as president of the prestigious dealers organization from 1995
PNG also recognized Merena with its Abe Kosoff Founders Award in 1997.
When partnered with numismatist Q. David Bowers for some two
decades in Bowers and Merena Galleries, where Merena served as
president, Merena helped bring major collections of United States
coins to the auction floor, including the collections of Louis E.
Eliasberg Sr., Walter H. Childs and Aubrey Bebee, and portions of the
holdings of Virgil Brand and the Norweb family.
After Mr. Merena was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s
disease in 2003, he and his wife, Patricia, became advocates and
fundraisers for research, understanding of the disease, and part of a
research project at Penn Memory Center of the University of
Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Entering the hobby
A native of Johnson City, N.Y., Mr. Merena was a graduate of
Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He served
for a time as an employee of the New York Electric & Gas Corp.
He entered numismatics in 1962 after becoming acquainted with Jim
Ruddy, then Bowers’ partner in the Empire Coin Co. Mr. Merena was
hired as Empire’s director of research, soon shifting into general
When Paramount International Coin Corp. in Englewood, Ohio, bought
Empire in 1965, Merena moved to Ohio to become the firm’s manager of
the foreign coin division and later the manager of the rare coin division.
In 1971, Merena became Paramount’s vice president, and
subsequently its general manager as well.
In 1974, Mr. Merena was elected to Paramount’s board of directors.
During his Paramount tenure, the company expanded from a staff of 24
to nearly 200 employees in Ohio, with five wholly owned foreign subsidiaries.
One of the employees Mr. Merena hired during his tenure was David
W. Akers, who later became a prominent numismatist and author.
In November 1976, Mr. Merena left Paramount to open his own rare
coin shop, Empire Numismatics, in Binghamton, N.Y.
In the meantime, in 1971 Q. David Bowers and James Ruddy had
formed a new business, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, in Los Angeles.
Ruddy retired from the firm in 1977, though the company continued to
operate under that name into late 1982 before being dissolved when Mr.
Merena and Bowers teamed up again.
Late in 1982, the two men together formed Bowers and Merena
Galleries in Wolfeboro, N.H.
Bowers and Merena Galleries handled many rarities and “name”
collections. Mr. Merena supervised the production of auction catalogs,
among his many duties.
Merena was a life member of the American Numismatic Association.
Merena unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the ANA Board of Governors in 1985.
During the 1980s, Merena served as an instructor at the ANA Summer Seminar.
Mr. Merena also served for a short period as a pricing analyst for
He was a member of the American Numismatic Society and Numismatic
During his numismatic career, Merena was keenly interested in
counterfeit detection, and specialized in coins of the United States,
Great Britain and Canada.
Upon learning of Merena’s passing, numismatic stalwart Harvey
Stack, a competitor at Stack’s, commented by email to Q. David Bowers:
“I remember him from the days of Empire Coin Co., to his work at
Paramount, to his work with you and the forming of Bowers &
Merena, his work with the PNG during my tenure and later as President,
his interest to make the numismatic hobby grow, the various IAPN
[International Association of Professional Numismatists] trips we met
on, and the long friendship.
“It is friends like him who I always cherished, even [though] we
were competitive, and all the years we met at conventions to exchange ideas.”
Upon Mr. Merena’s retirement in 2000, Bowers commented: “During
the course of Bowers and Merena Galleries, Ray has always tended to
the business end of things — permitting me to engage in the fun of
writing books and catalogs, doing research and, of course, buying,
selling and cataloging coins.”
Mr. Merena’s ownership interest in Bowers and Merena Galleries was
later bought out when the firm was sold to and became a division of
Collectors Universe in early 2000.
During his years in Wolfeboro, Mr. Merena was an active member of
the community, donating land to community development, helping to
establish the town’s annual musical festival, Great Waters, and
supporting its World War II museum, the Wright Museum.
An accomplished pianist, Mr. Merena especially liked playing
progressive jazz. He was a modest and reserved man, but always enjoyed
lending his baritone voice to any gathering of singers.
Golfing in Florida and boating on Lake Winnipesaukee in New
Hampshire were among favorite pastimes.
In addition to his wife of 51 years, Patricia, Mr. Merena is
survived by a son, Mark Merena; two daughters, Caroline Merena and
Sara Merena; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service for Mr. Merena will be held June 1 at All
Saints Church, in Wolfeboro, N.H. Burial will be private.
Contributions in Merena’s memory may be made to Penn Memory
Center, Alzheimer’s Disease Center, ATTN: Chelsea Brand, 3615 Chestnut
St., Room 236, Philadelphia, PA 19104. ■