The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

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Wayne Homren

I had sad news to report. Richard. G. Doty, senior numismatic curator at the Smithsonian has died. Below is the museum's announcement and some initial reaction from the numismatic community.

Wayne Homren
Editor, The E-Sylum

RICHARD G. DOTY 1942-2013

The following note was sent this afternoon to Smithsonian museum staff. A copy was forwarded for E-Sylum readers by Karen Lee, Curator, National Numismatic Collection. Thanks. I added a file photo. -Editor

Doty Richard Dear Colleagues:

It is with sadness that I share news of the passing of Richard G. Doty, senior numismatic curator at the Museum, Sunday at age 71.

Doty joined the staff in 1986, revolutionizing numismatic research by illustrating poignant human stories reflected in objects from the National Numismatic Collection.

Prior to joining the Smithsonian, he was a curator with the American Numismatic Society in New York City from 1974-1986 where he served as Curator of the Modern Coins and Currency Department.

Doty earned a doctorate degree in Latin Studies from the University of Southern California in 1967. Before he took on the duties of a numismatic curator, he was Assistant Professor of United States and Latin History and Studies, Central College, Pella, Iowa (1967-70); Assistant Professor of Latin American and World History, York College, City University of New York (1970-71); and Assistant Professor of United States and Latin American History at the University of Guam (1971-73).

Throughout his long career, Doty produced numerous books and articles. His most recent, Pictures from a Distant Country: Seeing America Through Old Paper Money, was published in 2013.

He is also the recipient of a number of honors and awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Madrid, Spain; Mexican Government Fellowship for study in Mexico City and Guadalajara; the Del Amo Foundation Fellowship for research in Spain, the Millennial Award Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Numismatic Society.

Although Dick lost his battle with lymphoma, he won our hearts through his indomitable spirit, wit, humor and prolific story-telling. A more detailed obituary, including a list of publications, will be released shortly.


I’d been in touch with Dick Doty often in recent years. He was a regular E-Sylum contributor and also a guest at several of our Nummis Nova numismatic social dinners here in the Northern Virginia area. I knew about his condition and its increasing toll on him. I offered often to pick him up for a ride to our meetings, but it wasn’t to be. This week I got in touch with his wife Cindi and learned Sunday that the end was near. After putting The E-Sylum and myself to bed, her email arrived letting me know that Dick had passed earlier that evening. Before leaving for work today I passed the word along, although it had already begun spreading through the numismatic community. This morning I spent some time on the phone coordinating with Karen Lee at the Smithsonian.

Dick was a force in numismatics in this country, and will be greatly missed. I know I’ll miss his quick and dry wit, scholarship, and low tolerance for numismatic bullcrap. Here are some of the notes that filled my inbox today. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. -Editor

Dave Bowers wrote:

It was and still is a great honor for me to have had Dick Doty as a fine friend, close research associate and helper, mentor, and advisor for many years. I first met him in the 1970s when he was with the American Numismatic Society after which I followed his career to the Smithsonian. Dick was the very definition of an absolutely ideal museum curator. He was an expert in many fields, and what he didn’t know he freely admitted and then set about learning more. He traveled widely, keeping me advised of his trips—such as to South America to do numismatic research and to Birmingham, England, where he studied and eventually wrote a book on the Soho Mint. He gloried in the success of others—a rare characteristic—and was fiercely proud of his staff.

In the course of my own writing and research I called upon his wisdom and generosity often, such as several stays with him, Karen Lee, and others in the National Numismatic Collection while I and helpers scanned and then classified approximately 7,500 obsolete currency notes, most of which were unsorted, some never before numismatically expected. This was funded by the Anderson family and Whitman Publishing, LLC. Other visits could be mentioned as could be sharing the dais in presentations, visiting in Washington and at conventions, and enjoying lunches and dinners. If I had a question about a coin or medal in the collection or needed an image, help would come quickly.

I sometimes would kid Dick about his travels—his seeing the numismatic sights of the world while I was chained to my desk in New Hampshire cataloging a collection for auction or writing a book. “Someone has to do it!” he always replied.

In late April of this year I talked with Dick about a visit I and some researchers were planning to Washington. He suggested that we all have dinner at Fogo de Chao, a favorite where we had dined on earlier occasions. The time was set as Wednesday evening May 15th. Just to think, as I write these words that would have been less than three weeks ago. “I’ll make the reservations,” he suggested, “but for six o’clock in the evening as I don’t want to stay out late. I need to go home to get my rest.” At the time he felt his prognostication was good, was occasionally in his office at the Smithsonian, and said he looked forward to returning to a normal life.

The dinner never happened. Dick was in the hospital instead. Matters did not improve. Then the news no one wanted to hear.

Not too long ago his latest book, Pictures from a Distant Country: Seeing America Through Old Paper Money, was published and I wrote the foreword for it. Now in the process of distribution it will join his other books and actions as part of a rich legacy.

Dick Doty left us all too soon.. Dick was unique. For those of us who remain his memory will always be a precious treasure. Now he is on the other side, a better place. May he rest well in heaven.

ANA 2008-08-01 D. Doty, A Bentley, K. Bressett. J. Hughes, QDB

Dave included this photo from the 2008 ANA convention. Dated August 1, 2008, pictured are Doty, Anne Bentley, Ken Bressett (front) and J. Hughes, Dave Bowers (rear)

Ron Guth wrote:

Sad news indeed. This morning our pastor reminded us that "The life we live is the legacy we leave." Dick lived and left a good one.

Jeff Garrett wrote:

I can't believe he is gone - he was such a fighter! Very sad news. The numismatic community has lost a great individual. My visits to the Smithsonian will never be same. I loved his quick wit and intelligence. Life is short indeed!

John Kraljevich wrote:

Dick was a long-time champion of mine, a mentor to me, a former instructor of mine years ago at the ANA Summer Seminar. He generously wrote one of my college recommendations years ago, and I was so proud to have had it. I was even more proud to earn his friendship.

The last email I received from Dick was this past November, just before he started chemo. I had written him asking for some help about a unique Mohawk Indian Peace medal in the SI cabinet. His final email to me was, in full:

"Thanks! If the chemo works, I shall be more than happy; because this entire situation is beginning to piss me off."

Classic Dick -- pithy, good-humored, and honest. There is a genius-sized hole in our community tonight.

Dick's wife Cindi wrote:

Classic Dick, indeed. I don't think I really believed that the cancer could possibly defeat him, because I didn't believe ANYTHING could defeat him. He always said that sheer bloody-mindedness would get you wherever you wanted to go. There was a lot he still wanted to do; he wanted maybe 15 more years; but God had other plans for him. We will not see anyone like him again.

Bob Hoge wrote:

I am terribly sad to have received the news about Dick Doty. He was a dear friend; I cannot believe he's gone. We shared many happy occasions and I thought of him as a wonderful older brother.

Larry Gaye wrote:

I had the pleasure of knowing Dick for the past eighteen years. What can one say, he was a wonderful person to know on many levels. He will be missed, but remembered because of his prolific and generous numismatic writings, research, as well as service to all Americans for his work at the Smithsonian Museum. It is sad to say goodbye.

John Dannreuther wrote:

He will be missed by all of us. My last adventure to the Smithsonian was an especially memorable one, as Karen Lee was busy with a large numismatic group, so Dick had to bring the trays to me and sit there while I studied die varieties of gold coins. He became quite engaged as I would show him minute details on certain varieties. Although Proof gold varieties was not a subject that he had a great interest, of course, he still was the curious numismatist and I could tell he was having a good time. We had quite a banter going for several hours, as his dry, wry wit was most entertaining, as has been noted in several emails. I had no idea this would be the last time I would see him, but this last visit will always be special in my memory. RIP, my good man.

Neil Shafer wrote:

Dick had assisted me materially with other projects through the years, and I was always in awe of his charm, wit and above all, knowledge. He was a great numismatist whom I was proud to call a true friend, and we will certainly miss him greatly.

John and Nancy Wilson wrote:

We have known this esteemed numismatist for many years and were very saddened to hear of his passing. Dr. Doty had great knowledge of numismatics in every area. We recently reviewed his excellent reference on, "Pictures From a Distant Country: Seeing America Through Old Paper Money." Whenever we pass our numismatic library, and see the shelf this book sits on, we will think of this great person and numismatist. When our paths crossed at conventions he always had a cordial and friendly greeting. Not only did the Smithsonian lose one of their leading scholars in the numismatic hobby but so did our hobby. His loss will be felt by many in our numismatic hobby and he will always be in our memory. Our deepest sympathies to his family. Rest in Peace, John and Nancy Wilson, Ocala, FL

Scott Rubin wrote:

I was so sorry to hear of Dick's passing. We were never close but he was always a help to me whenever I asked him for help. I first met Dick in 1984 when he was putting together the American Numismatic Society's first Coinage of the Americas conference. I will miss the insights he brought to the hobby. I will always remember our talks at ANA conventions, he will be surely missed.

Dick Johnson wrote:

Dick Doty never received the full credit he should have received ,for his monumental book on the Soho Mint and Mathew Boulton. This book reflects his rare scholarship on the life of the greatest Mint Master. Boulton was the Father of the Private Mint. Doty was the Father of Numismatic Biography.

Gene Brandenburg wrote:

I first met Dick Doty in my Union Street store about twenty years ago. He was interested in English condor tokens and I had a large inventory at that time. I was struck by the depth of knowledge he possessed behind some of the issuers. I suspected that not many collectors dug that deep behind these interesting tokens. Alex Stefanelli (Elvira & Vladimir's son) was working for me at the time and I recall great round-robin discussions.

Dick would infrequently attend Wayne's Nummis Nova dinners, he once told me that getting to them from downtown D.C. on time was a chore for him (I had the feeling that he put in a lot of time after hours). Dick enjoyed red burgundies and as old men do, we'd reminiscence sometimes about bottles we had enjoyed and where we enjoyed them.

Show & Tell at the Nova dinners is sometimes near world class, I think he really enjoyed seeing things that were a challenge - even for him. At the last dinner he attended, I recall him bringing an interesting contemporary bogus well-worn roman bronze that he had plucked from a dealer's junk box - the clue was the reverse it was muled with.

I introduced him to Eric Schena that same evening (they had similar interests), and we talked about forming a "geezers corner" at the Nova dinners but alas, that was the last one he attended.

After he was ill, we would exchange emails. As am I, Dick was a bit of a stoic introvert. He had a keen wit and could be quite funny, especially in emails. His illness took its toll on his humor as illnesses do, and as his emails became shorter I knew he would leave us soon. Dick was an interesting guy, a credit to the hobby and he seemed to do his life's work well. He spoke fondly of his daughter, "a real comfort to me now" he once wrote - I suspect that they were close. He was a friend, I really miss him.

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