US Coins

American Numismatic Society back on track: Bowers

The Joys of Collecting column from the June 13, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

Shortly after 1900, the American Numismatic Society was in danger of dissolving, following a failed attempt to merge into the New-York Historical Society.

Enter railroad heir Archer M. Huntington, who loved history and numismatics and was elected ANS president. The American Journal of Numismatics was brought back to the ANS from the Boston Numismatic Society.

Huntington purchased land on Audubon Terrace on Broadway between 155th and 156th streets on which to build a granite and marble headquarters building that was dedicated on April 6, 1908.

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Earlier, financier J.P. Morgan had acquired the estate collection of R.C.H. Brock, enjoyed it for a time, then donated this and many other coins and medals to the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. In 1908, with the museum’s and Morgan’s consent, the collection was transferred to the ANS.

In the next decade, Huntington donated or paid for thousands of other coins and medals. The library was expanded as well.

In March 1910 the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals was held at the ANS, memorialized by a catalog prepared by Agnes Baldwin. From the outset the facilities, reputation, scholarly atmosphere, and other features of the ANS drew to it some of the most talented researchers and writers in numismatics.

In early 1914 the society staged a remarkable program and display of its own coins plus those loaned by leading collectors and dealers, described in a catalog titled Exhibition of United States and Colonial Coins, January 17th to February 18, 1914. Providing coins were F.C.C. Boyd, Henry Chapman, S. Hudson Chapman, James W. Ellsworth, George French, H.O. Granberg, Waldo C. Newcomer, Wayte Raymond, Hillyer Ryder, Howland Wood, William H. Woodin, Carl Wurtzbach, and others.

On display were four specimens of the Class I 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar, the unique set of 1783 Nova Constellatio silver pattern coins, a 1787 Brasher doubloon, almost all known varieties of pioneer gold coins, a complete set of encased postage stamp issuers, the unequalled pattern coin collection of William H. Woodin, and more.

Today, this is remembered as one of the most memorable events in the history of American numismatics.

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