US Coins

Excitement reigns at ANS: Q. David Bowers

The Joys of Collecting column from April 11, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

In 1857 and 1858 there was a rush of sentiment and nostalgia when the old copper cent, familiar since childhood, was discontinued. Across the country an interest in old coins arose.

In this milieu Augustus B. Sage, two months short of his 16th birthday, on March 15, 1858, founded the American Numismatic Society in New York City.

His enthusiasm and that of his dozen or more friends knew no limits. Sage’s home became a beehive of activity, and additional meetings were held there on the evenings of March 16, 18, 21, 22, and 29. Six meetings in two weeks.

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There was the whole world of American coins to discover. The cents of 1815 must be very rare as no one had seen an example.

Not much was known about Mint marks either. That would change, sort of, the next year when Dr. Montroville W. Dickeson’s American Numismatical Manual was published. He informed readers that the letter “C” on gold coins meant they were struck in California.

After meetings in Sage’s family’s apartment, an effort was made to find another meeting place for the society. The comfortably appointed facilities of the Omacatl Club on Broadway served the purpose for the gathering held on Nov. 3.

On Dec. 16, a meeting was held in a room at the Bible House on Astor Place under an agreement whereby a monthly rent of $12.50 would be paid. In return, the ANS had exclusive use of the space and could store books and other items there.

At the meeting of April 21, 1859, members ended the arrangement. The meeting of May 12 took place at Sage’s newly opened coin store at 24 Division St.

Sage’s office continued to serve the society’s purpose, until June 9, when a meeting was held at 839 Broadway (at the corner of East 13th Street), followed by use of the room of the American Geographical Society in Clinton Hall on June 14.

After the June 14 gathering, the society suspended meetings for the summer.

About that time, Sage resigned as a school teacher and decided to become a full-time coin dealer.

Just three rare coin auctions were held in America in 1859, and teenager Sage cataloged all of them!

In the meantime other clubs were formed. The outlook was bright.

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