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.