Eric P. Newman, numismatist extraordinaire, dies at age 106 in Missouri

Pursuit of hobby in early U.S. numismatics unparalleled
By , Coin Wiorld
Published : 11/16/17
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Renowned numismatist Eric P. Newman, who once owned all five examples of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coin at the same time, died the afternoon of Nov. 15 at age 106.

News of Mr. Newman's passing was communicated to the coin community by Leonard Augsburger, who is project coordinator for the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

Net proceeds from the sales by Heritage Auctions, beginning in 2013, of select material from Newman's extensive numismatic collection (amassed over more than nine decades) has funded the numismatic research portal and other philanthropic endeavors, via the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. The Heritage sales have comprised material from early U.S. numismatics, including coins, paper money and patterns.

Heritage’s most recent sale Nov. 3 of Newman's holdings included one of just four known examples of the 1861 Confederate States of America half dollar. Graded Proof 40 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the coin realized $960,000. The sale was its first public appearance at auction, as it had been off the market since Newman purchased it for $4,000 from the estate of Col. E.H.R. Green nearly 80 years ago.


Mysterious zinc cent discovered in antique store. A 1982 Lincoln cent and cent blanks encased in acrylic are possibly employees’ souvenirs from when the Ball Corp. began supplying the Mint with cent planchets.


Heritage compiled a short numismatic history on Newman’s hobby pursuits, a history that, in full, could fill a book of its own, or more:

“In 1918, at the age of seven, Eric Pfeiffer Newman [received from his] maternal grandfather Adolph Pfeiffer ... an 1859 U.S. cent. Young Eric took note of the Indian head, dropped the coin in his desk, and promptly forgot about it. A few years later, he found an Indian Head cent in circulation, remembered his grandfather’s coin at home, and decided to look for others. It was the beginning of a great American collection.

“At 10, Eric began visiting Burdette G. Johnson’s St. Louis Stamp and Coin Company. He would save a few weeks’ allowance, take the streetcar downtown, and buy a coin for a nickel or a dime. Johnson declined to sell Eric one of the coins he selected ‘because you don’t  know anything about it.’ He lent him a numismatic reference book, and promised to sell him the coin when he could ‘recite the history of that coin.’ Eric did just that, acquired a mentor and the coin, and began his lifelong quest for numismatic knowledge.

“B.G. Johnson became one of the most respected coin dealers in America, and Eric P. Newman has been repeatedly honored as one of the world’s expert numismatists.

“Almost a century later, his collection includes rare, unique, and extraordinary objects that cannot be seen elsewhere — but it is the amazing stories behind the money, rather than the objects themselves, that engage his intellect. Newman has never been a professional numismatist — it is his avocation by choice. His passions are the history, sociology, engineering, art, and mystery behind coins and currency. He is the foremost scholar on American Colonial paper money, and his The Early Paper Money of America (1967), is considered the definitive reference on the subject through multiple editions. His specialty is solving numismatic mysteries, as evidenced by his 1961 The Fantastic 1804 Dollar (with Ken Bressett), or tracking down John James Audubon’s first engraving, the extinct running grouse (Heath Hen), which had been missing since 1824.

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“Newman has authored more than 100 articles for scholarly publication, including ‘The Secret of the Good Samaritan Shilling’ and ‘The Origin of the Written and Printed $ Sign.’ In honor of his many contributions to numismatics, and to recognize his 100th birthday, the American Numismatic Society dedicated a 2011 issue of their magazine to Newman’s ‘extraordinary achievements.’ They included a bibliographic listing of his published works, which ran over six pages.

“The friends and colleagues he has assisted in their research are countless.

“Eric P. Newman discovered the earliest known view of St. Louis; it appears in the vignette of the 1817 Bank of St. Louis $10 Leney & Rollinson Bank Note. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 from the Central States Numismatic Society, of which he was one of the founding members in 1939.”

Newman and his wife of more than seven decades, Evelyn, who passed away in 2015 at age 95, were long involved in charitable endeavors in the St. Louis area and beyond. Their many philanthropic projects include the Newman Money Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, established with a $2 million donation. Together, they traveled to more than 200 countries.

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