US Coins

Artifact collector’s book details his adventurous life

Collector and author Kenneth Rendell has experienced an “Indiana Jones” style of life. Rendell’s relentless pursuit of the truth led to his debunking, among others, the Hitler diaries.

Image from Twitter, courtesy of Heritage Auctions. Additional images from Whitman Publishing

The release of Safeguarding History: Trailblazing Adventures Inside the Worlds of Collecting and Forging History — the autobiography of famed artifacts collector and dealer Kenneth W. Rendell — is imminent from Whitman Publishing LLC.

 The 328-page memoir of the “Indiana Jones” of the art and collecting world will debut  Oct. 3, according to Whitman.

Rendell is known as the founder and creator of the International Museum of World War II and is an expert in that field, in particular on the Home Front, black ops and propaganda, spying, and the experiences of everyday soldiers and service members.

Rendell’s reference, World War II: Saving the Reality (Whitman Publishing, 2009) was called “as magnificent and important as his museum” by the OSS Society Journal.

Rendell has spent decades adventuring around the globe to track down, buy, and sell some of the most significant, iconic historical artifacts from the ancient world to the Renaissance to the present day, according to Whitman.

Rendell is recognized as a collector and dealer in rare manuscripts and historical artifacts and an expert in autographs — he debunked the Hitler Diaries in the 1980s, helped solve the Mormon Church “White Salamander Letter” murders, and exposed the so-called Jack the Ripper diary as a fraud. Rendell built the collection of Bill and Melinda Gates’s personal library, and has appraised, bought, and sold major archives including Richard Nixon’s White House papers and Watergate tapes, Ronald Reagan’s papers, Frederick Law Olmsted’s papers, Gen. George Patton’s personal artifacts, and 12 million uncataloged artifacts of the Northern Pacific Railroad, among many others

Safeguarding History

Safeguarding History examines Rendell’s start as a prodigy coin dealer in his teens in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Rendell’s friendships with renowned numismatists, researchers and authors Q. David Bowers, Kenneth E. Bressett, Walter Breen, Grover Criswell, George Fuld, and other peers of that era led to the founding of the Rittenhouse Society and other collaborations.

The opening chapters relate Rendell’s adventures hunting down coins in the Caribbean and Europe, and interacting with dealers, collectors, and researchers like Malcolm O.E. Chell-Frost, Doyle DeWitt, the Norwebs, Spink, Seaby, Abe Kosoff, and Jim Ruddy, among many others.

Rendell’s memoir also reflects on what it takes to succeed in business and in life, and to overcome challenges.

In the foreword of Rendell’s book, Doris Kearns Goodwin — an American biographer, historian, former sports journalist, and political commentator — calls Rendell a master storyteller.

“How lucky we are to share in Rendell’s passion,” she writes, “to savor the moments he comes upon breathtaking documents and letters. We meet a cast of intriguing characters and are privy to an inside look at the complex world of collecting — a world filled with adventures, mysteries, sensational hoaxes, thefts, and even murders.”

Balancing life

Rendell is also an impressive sportsman. In his memoir, he describes how he’s combined his unparalleled collecting career with extreme sporting — taking up ski racing in his 30s, extreme helicopter skiing in his 40s and windsurfing in his 50s.

Historian Ken Burns — an American filmmaker known for his documentary films and television series, many of which chronicle American history and culture, calls Ken Rendell “one of our greatest collectors of historical artifacts” who “humanizes and personalizes the scope and promise of human endeavor.”

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