US Coins

Numismatic Portal adds Newman-Ford correspondence

Correspondence between professional numismatist John J. Ford Jr., in hat, and consummate collector and researcher Eric P. Newman, and the details leading to the split in a long-term numismatic relationship is now available through the Newman Numismatic Portal.

Background image from cover of "John J. Ford Jr. and the 'Franklin Hoard'" by Karl V. Moulton; image of Ford (in hat) courtesy of Stack's; image of Eric P. Newman in public domain.

The following news release was issued by the Newman Numismatic Portal:

Newman Numismatic Portal releases John J. Ford Jr. correspondence files

Between 1949 and 1966, St. Louis collector Eric P. Newman and New York dealer John J. Ford Jr. carried on an active and lively correspondence covering the gamut of American numismatics, from little known Colonial coins to politics of the national organizations.

Their introduction was made by Wayte Raymond, best known today for the Standard Catalogue of United States Coins published in multiple editions from 1934 to 1958. Following Raymond’s suggestion, Ford wrote to Newman on September 7, 1949, requesting information on the 1785 Inimica Tyrannis America Confederatio cent, for a proposed article in The Numismatist.

Newman responded quickly, noting he was “very interested” in Ford’s inquiry and offering to exchange coins in other Colonial series. Newman concluded by saying “you may count on me” for assistance with Ford’s proposal.

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The two correspondents quickly hit it off, sharing an intense passion for early American issues and an equal disdain for the speculation in current American coins that was taking root in the 1950s. Their common interest in Colonial coinage led to the first substantial test in the relationship, as the brash New Yorker and the patrician Newman competed for the F.C.C. Boyd estate that was broken up following Boyd’s passing in 1958.

Ford succeeded in placing the Boyd collection of Massachusetts silver (previously from T. James Clarke) with Emery Mae Norweb of Cleveland, much to Newman’s dismay, as he had had a gentlemen’s agreement with Boyd for first right of refusal if Boyd decided to sell.

The final rupture in the relationship came in 1966 as Newman believed Ford was knowingly selling forged copies of the 1853 United States Assay Office of Gold (USAOG) twenty-dollar gold pieces. Ford began selling these in the late 1950s, but it was not until the Professional Numismatist’s Guild (PNG) inquiry in 1966 that the situation came to a head.

The PNG took the middle road, ruling that a buyer of one of the pieces was entitled to a refund, but stopping short of describing the pieces as forgeries. Newman disagreed, and the break between himself and Ford was complete. Further details, including the David McCarthy discovery of the host coin for the OSAOG forgeries, may be in found in Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman, recently published by Ivy Press.

The Newman files contain both incoming and outgoing correspondence, the latter generally represented by carbon copies. In some cases, Newman’s original handwritten drafts survive and are accompanied by the typed versions. In between, the personalities of Newman and Ford are on full display in this 700-page archive. Newman measures words carefully, following his training as an attorney. Ford speaks informally and is clearly no stranger to colorful language. Both are intensely curious and determined to solve numismatic mysteries. The contrast and camaraderie make for compelling reading and completely detail an important chapter in the history of American numismatics.

The Newman-Ford correspondence is available on the Newman Numismatic Portal at The Newman Portal, administered through Washington University in St. Louis, is sponsored by the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society with the goal of delivering information on American numismatics on a free and forever basis to the collecting and research community. The Newman Portal currently contains over 7,500 documents including books, periodicals, auction catalogs, and archival material. 

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