US Coins

Jeremiah Colburn and ANS journal: Bowers

The Joys of Collecting column from the May 30, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

The American Numismatic Society launched the American Journal of Numismatics, the first periodical in the hobby, in May 1866. It expired as a magazine in the early 20th century (after which monographs were issued at intervals). 

Back issues have a treasure trove of information you can read for free on the Newman Numismatic Portal on the Internet. Check it out.

Last week in this column I left off with 1870. The magazine was a financial drain to the ANS, so the members sent it off to Boston, where it was continued, now quarterly instead of monthly, by the Boston Numismatic Society.

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It landed in a nest of skilled writers and researchers, including printer William T.R. Marvin, and various others including Jeremiah Colburn, William Sumner Appleton, and Samuel Abbott Green. 

Colburn is one of the great unsung heroes in American numismatics — a pioneer who as early as 1856 contributed coin articles to the Boston Transcript and was the first (to my knowledge) to write in detail about varieties of early copper cents.

Born in 1815, the only date for which there are no cents, he started collecting in 1830.

In 1859, he was one of nine numismatists depicted on the Numismatic Gallery series of medalets issued by Augustus B. Sage.

Over a long period of years, including in the AJN, Colburn laid the foundation for much of the information we now take for granted.

The magazine did not miss a step with the move to Boston, and it continued reporting news of coins, tokens, medals, and paper money — including reports of auctions, new discoveries, and more, together with a measure of human-interest items, news, fillers, and occasional jokes.

There was a hiccup when on Nov. 9 and 10, 1872, a great fire wiped out much of the Boston business district, taking with it the in-press current issue of the AJN, which did not appear until early the next year. 

I will leave it up to you to read the AJN online.

In 1907 the magazine was retrogifted to the ANS by the Boston Numismatic Society.

In the meantime the society was planning its own version of Kubla Khan’s Xanadu — to be built in New York City. More next week.

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