US Coins

Edward D. Cogan: Frame dealer to numismatist

Bids in pioneering coin dealer Edward D. Cogan’s first numismatic auction, a mail-bid sale, were opened Nov. 1, 1858, at the address seen on this token.

Images courtesy of Steve Hayden.

Edward D. Cogan, born Jan. 5, 1803, in Higham Hill, Walthamstow, Essex County, England, came to the United States when he was 50 years old. He was described as “a gentleman of great conversational powers and amiable temper, besides being well-supplied with anecdotes and jokes” in an 1867 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics.

Arriving in Philadelphia, Cogan established himself as a “picture dealer.” The 1855 Philadelphia city directory lists his occupation as “dealer in paintings,” at 47 S. Eighth St., and residing at 519 S. Sixth.

This English fellow also began dealing in coins circa 1855. Thereafter Cogan held nearly 70 numismatic auctions. His first was an 1858 mail-bid sale. Bids were opened on Nov. 1 in Cogan’s store, 48 N. Tenth St., in Philadelphia. In 1863 Cogan printed a list of this sale that enumerated a date set of large cents that Cogan had put together for a customer.

The coins were not described, nor even graded. Nevertheless, 19 bidders participated, and 15 successful buyers anted up $128.08 for 74 of the 77 lots. The 1793 Liberty Cap cent in the sale realized $7.25.

In connection with his coin trade, Cogan issued store card tokens in 1859 and 1860. An 1860 Cogan card is shown. Russ Rulau’s Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 lists a variety of Cogan tokens issued at both Brooklyn, N.Y., and Philadelphia.

By December 1866 Cogan had relocated to 101 William St. in New York City. Numismatists dispute exactly when Cogan removed to the Big Apple. Token cataloger Russ Rulau places it in 1865. Numismatic biographer Pete Smith says it was in March 1867. However, the 1862 edition of Trow’s New York City Directory lists “Cogan Edward, frames, Seventh av[enue]. c[orner] W[est] 29th.”

Following the Civil War, Cogan resided in Brooklyn, and conducted a number of important auctions in New York, with many innovations, including the first printed prices realized list.

His April 27, 1865, auction of the J.N.T. Levick Collection was postponed a month due to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Cogan’s Mortimer MacKenzie auction, held June 23, 1869, was the first American coin sale to feature photographic plates.

Cogan penned his reminiscences on his early numismatic activity for the American Journal of Numismatics. He was accorded an honorary membership in American Numismatic Society on Feb. 25, 1869.

Circa 1866 to 1875, according to Rulau, New York City collector Isaac F. Wood published a medal honoring Cogan as “The English Daddy of the American Coin Trade.”

He retired from this business in 1879, succeeded by his son George who fizzled at his daddy’s trade. The elder Cogan died April 7, 1884.

FRED L. REED III has been a collector and writer for many years. Reach him at

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