Colonial America column from Jan. 25, 2016. Weekly issue of Coin World:
From building noteworthy collections of early American coins to
publishing The Colonial Newsletter, the American
Numismatic Society has long been of central importance to
enthusiasts in Colonial-era American numismatics. This year, the ANS
will honor two members of this community at its Annual Gala, held
every January at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
John W. Adams, a longtime student and collector in the field of
early American medals, will be honored alongside his wife, Regina,
with the ANS Trustees’ Award. Ken Bressett, a collector and numismatic
educator best known as the editor of A Guide Book of United States
Coins, becomes the third recipient of the ANS Distinguished
It was another national organization, the American Numismatic
Association, that helped me meet both of them roughly 25 years ago.
In 1991, on my first trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the ANA
Summer Seminar, Ken was my instructor for a weeklong class on Colonial
coins. He’s been among my go-to sources for all Colonial-related
inquiries ever since. I took Ken’s class again when he brought in one
of his closest friends as a new co-instructor: Eric Newman, Ken’s
co-author on the landmark 1962 book The Fantastic 1804 Dollar. A
decade or so later, Ken asked me to be his co-instructor, one of the
greatest honors of my life. Recently, Erik Goldstein and I have
continued the course, but Ken always comes by the class to help,
observe, and accept his fair share of good-natured ribbing.
Though John Adams grew up just a few miles from where I grew up, we
first met far from the Philadelphia suburbs, at an ANA convention
symposium on numismatic literature.
Over the years, John became a mentor on the subjects of literature,
research, and early American medals. He supported my interest with
books and encouragement, and during my professional career he’s
favored me with the chance to catalog important medals from his
collection at auction. His works on American numismatic auction
catalogs, published in 1982 and 1990, rarely leave my desk.
When these two men are feted at the Waldorf-Astoria, much will be
said of their publications, their research, and their generosity to
the ANS. But both of these numismatists have done as much (or more)
behind closed doors as they have in public, helping to ensure that
their knowledge and enthusiasm is passed on to future generations.