US Coins

Kolbe & Fanning literature auction offers Clapp, Newcomer records

The Waldo C. Newcomer inventory is an invaluable tool to researchers for this collection that was also never published in an accessible form. It carries an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. One page shows his detailed notes on four 1795 Capped Bust $5 half eagles.

All images courtesy of Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers.

Inventories from noteworthy collectors are predicted to be the top lots at Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers Important Numismatic Books Sale 167 on June 10.

Carrying a top estimate of $12,000 is collector J.M. Clapp and his son John H. Clapp’s notebook record of U.S. gold and regular issue coins.

The 192 ruled pages record what David Fanning calls “one of the greatest collections of United States coins never to have been properly catalogued or sold at auction (and hence generally absent from the provenance record).” The records span the years 1891 to 1910 and occupy 115 pages of handwritten text recording the date, Mint mark, variety where relevant, when and where it was acquired, and the price paid.

Condition is recorded in an unusual way: with a large X with dots placed within the crossbars. The description explains, “dots in all four angles represents a proof; dots in three angles indicate a mint state piece; dots in two, a circulated piece; and a dot in only one angle a worn specimen. An X in which there are no dots at all suggest only that the coin is present, but its grade has not been recorded.”

The original inventory offered was used by two generations of the Clapp family, before the Clapp collection was acquired by Baltimore financier Louis E. Eliasberg Sr., and the ledgers provide background to help researchers trace the provenance of coins in the Eliasberg collection. Fanning adds, “While it has been quoted and discussed by various researchers, it has never been fully published nor is it available online.” The June 10 offering represents the first time it has been offered by sale.

The elder Clapp was noteworthy for his interest in Mint marks before the publication of his friend Augustus Heaton’s 1893 book Treatise on the Coinage of the United States Branch Mints, which drove collecting of coins by Mint mark and not just by date. Fanning shares, “Through his annual correspondence with the branch mints, Clapp was able to add a number of modern pieces that were ignored by most advanced collectors.” The records document: “His 1895-O Barber dime, 1901-S Barber quarter, 1904-S Barber half dollar, 1895-O Morgan silver dollar, and 1894-S Coronet half eagle, to name a few, were all acquired from their mints of issue, newly struck and for face value.”

Where’s Waldo’s (coins)

Estimated at $9,000 is lot 384, the inventory of the collection of Waldo C. Newcomer, featuring 3,680 detailed descriptions across 225 pages. Newcomer, a Baltimore banker, was one of the most active and important numismatists in early 20th century America. Although duplicates from his collection were sold by Texas dealer B. Max Mehl in 1914 and 1919, the core collection remained intact until the early 1930s, when Mehl published an advertisement in the March 1932 issue of the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication The Numismatist stating the acquisition of “approximately four thousand different coins.” There, Mehl promised that a catalog of the Newcomer collection was in preparation, which “will serve as a real reference work on the entire American coinage.” The catalog did not materialize, and the inventory now offered helps researchers understand the scope of the collection.

Fanning shared with Coin World the importance of provenance — the ownership history of an object — and the significance of these offered documents, since the collections were never offered together at auction. “When a collection is sold privately, usually there is no such published record. What there may be, if we’re lucky, is a privately compiled inventory of the collection — and that is what we have here.”

The Newcomer and Clapp collections were both largely formed in the early 20th century and count among the greatest collections of U.S. coins ever formed, but they were never cataloged in an accessible way. Fanning said, “Newcomer wrote his own inventory, and a couple of copies exist. The Clapp record was handwritten by the father J.M. Clapp, his son John H. Clapp, and probably a secretary or two, and it is unique. They both fill enormous gaps in the published provenance record, ensuring the integrity and preserving the history of some of the most important American coins in existence.”

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