In my July 15 column, I discussed John J. Ford Jr. and his
discoveries of hitherto unknown varieties of Western gold coins and
ingots. John was viewed as America’s leading authority on
counterfeits, alterations and forgeries, and was recognized as such by
the American Numismatic Association, the Professional Numismatists
Guild, and by many collectors and dealers.
Coming to the rescue of John was Dr. Donald Kagin, whose book,
Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States, was published in 1981.
Many if not most of John’s new discoveries were included in the
book. John said that Kagin had done extensive research, had
unimpeachable credentials on the subject of Western numismatic
Americana, and had independently verified the coins and ingots, thus
settling the matter once and for all.
John made a special arrangement for my company to receive and
offer for sale discounted copies of the book. He wanted it to be as
widely distributed as possible. Finally, his name had been cleared by
a third party.
However, upon study, for me many of the illustrations raised
further questions. Pictured were items made by the U.S. Assay Office
of Gold in San Francisco that were marked as .999 pure (999/1000ths).
How could that be, I wondered, when at the time, the assay office
had problems refining gold to even .900 pure, the federal standard?
Some years ago, I began writing reminiscences of Ford as part of
some autobiographical notes.
Karl Moulton, a researcher who became interested in the
controversy, learned of this and wrote to me stating that he had
acquired copies of many of John’s papers from the disposal of his
estate, had done other studies, and was going to write a book.
He asked me to be a copy editor, and I agreed. Others contributed
Now in print, John J. Ford, Jr., and the “Franklin Hoard” —
containing extensive Ford correspondence, invoices and other material
— reveals that Ford created many fabrications — saying one thing about
the pedigree or origin of a newly discovered item to one buyer and
something different to another buyer.
The John J. Ford Jr. delineated by Karl Moulton is not the John
that I thought I knew.
I still like to think that John was very good to me over a long
period of time. He helped me with much research in Colonials, early
American coins, tokens and other specialties. And, without question,
his New Netherlands catalogs were and are magnificent. Let me suggest
that he was 90 percent good for the hobby and 10 percent negative and self-destructive.
The Moulton book is more than 900 pages in length, color
illustrated, hardcover and on fine paper. It is available if you send
$250 to Karl Moulton, P.O. Box 1073, Congress, AZ 85332.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers
director of Whitman Publishing
He can be reached at his private email,
email@example.com, or at
Q. David Bowers LLC, Box
Wolfeboro, NH 03894.