US Coins

‘Photograde’ author, coin dealer James Ruddy dies

James F. Ruddy authored Photograde and was a coin dealer/auction house owner for nearly three decades.

Coin World file photo.

James F. Ruddy, one half of one of the most famous coin auction houses of the 20th century, died April 12 after a brief illness.

Mr. Ruddy in 1971 was a co-founder of Bowers and Ruddy Galleries with Q. David Bowers, after the two had worked together for more than a decade in various coin businesses.

Mr. Ruddy was also the author of Photograde, the revolutionary 1970 book that provided images of coins at various circulated grades. 

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Mr. Ruddy was born March 31, 1933, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 

A graduate of the State University of New York, he was married to Marge (Zucha) from 1953 to 1966 and Nancy (Conklin) from 1967 to 1981. Sue Harper, whom he married in 1986, survives in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He is also survived by two daughters, Janet and Linda.

Mr. Ruddy began collecting in 1953 and placed his first ad in Numismatic News in July 1954. He also joined the American Numismatic Association during this period, and became life member No. 337. 

Originally employed by Ansco, a division of General Aniline and Film Co. of Binghamton, N.Y., from 1953 to 1956, Mr. Ruddy began coin dealing in 1953 before opening Triple Cities Coin Exchange in Johnson City, N.Y., from 1954 to 1958. 

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The partnership of Ruddy and Bowers held two auctions in 1956 and 1957, under two different company names, before dissolving the joint effort, Empire Coin Co., in 1960, with Ruddy continuing to operate it individually. 

By July 1961, Bowers and Mr. Ruddy were back together doing business as Empire Coin Co. Inc. Mr. Ruddy also served as vice president and treasurer of Paramount International Coin Corp. from June 30, 1964, to Aug. 15, 1967.

In 1966, Empire merged with Paramount, and from 1968 to 1970 Mr. Ruddy headed to Hollywood to lead Ruddy Investments, publisher of Ruddy’s Review, a fixed-price list with hobby information. Four editions were issued in 1969 and 1970. 

A new firm, Bowers and Ruddy Galleries, paired the two friends again, and the firm operated in Hollywood, from 1971 until April 1977, during which time the firm conducted 63 auctions.

The firm was acquired by General Mills in 1974. 

In 1983, Mr. Ruddy developed “Ruddy’s 1930s General Store Museum” in Palm Springs, Calif. 

The museum building was donated to the city in 1987. He also served on the board of The Manuscript Society and as its vice president from 1988 to 1992. 

His collection of encased postage stamps was sold at auction by Bowers and Merena June 19 to 21, 1984. 

Mr. Ruddy served as secretary of the Professional Numismatists Guild from 1960 to 1964 and received that organization’s Distinguished Service Award. In 1990 he received the PNG Founders Award. 

There will be no funeral or memorial service, as per his wishes.

Much of the information in this article was provided by Pete Smith’s American Numismatic Biographies

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