The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 28, July 8, 2005, Article 1


This special edition of The E-Sylum brings sad news.  I've been
informed by NBS Vice president John W. Adams that U.S.
numismatic legend and bibliophile John J. Ford, Jr. died last
evening of chronic heart failure at the age of 81, following an
extended hospitalization.

Dick Johnson writes: "What a loss to the numismatic field!
Oh, if only he had written more of the numismatic facts and lore
he had learned over a lifetime dedicated to numismatics."

NBS President Pete Smith writes that "Ford was born on
March 5, 1924, in Hollywood, California.   I interviewed him in
1991 for my book, "American Numismatic Biographies." We sat
outside the entrance to the ANA convention in Chicago. Our
discussion was frequently interrupted by people who stopped
to say 'hello' and chat.

I doubt if I was able to distill 5% of our conversation into something
I could print. He was great at telling stories about people he had
met and done business with over the years. He continued to tell
stories at the ANA Numismatic Theater with talks about "Back
When Coin Collecting Was Fun."

Interviews with Ford were published in "Legacy" magazine and
one of the weekly coin papers. It would be nice to gather items
from those interviews to reprint in "The Asylum" as a tribute to
his knowledge, character, wit, and charm."

George Kolbe's catalog of Part II of Ford's library sale
(June 4, 2005) includes some great essays on Ford by Jon
Hanson and Q. David Bowers.   Dave adds, "I have enough
JJF-iana to write a book," and hopefully he'll do just that

I believe my first encounter with John Ford was at the 1980
meeting of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society at the ANA
convention in Cincinnati, OH, where John was the featured
speaker.   This was before I collected numismatic literature in
a serious way, and his presentation sealed my fate as a
numismatic bibliophile.    Later I was enthralled to listen to
his numismatic tales at "The Invasion of Louisville" during the
next Cincinnati ANA, where I was honored to be among the
guests visiting Armand Champa's numismatic library.   Bumping
into him at subsequent ANA conventions was always a thrill.
I recall sitting with him at the Stack's table at the Detroit ANA,
where I had been viewing his Nova Constellatio silver pattern
set, which he was offering for sale through them.  I was transfixed
as I examined what I still feel is one of the most important sets
of U.S. coinage ever made.   John had told me about how he
bid on the pieces he bought from the Garrett sales while we
spoke at Champa's.   I have an audio tape of his story of how
he acquired the missing piece needed to reunite the set.

My favorite personal story about John Ford involves an
original Congressional Gold Medal, awarded in 1990 to
General Matthew B. Ridgeway.   At Ford's request, I purchased
the medal for him at a local estate sale.  I was somewhat in awe
to hold the piece in my hand.  I believe it was nearly six ounces
of gold, and a beautiful piece of the engraver's art.   The medal
was presented to Ridgeway at his home near Pittsburgh, for
he was too frail to travel to Washington.   The medal was
accompanied by a letter signed by the President, a large
certificate, and newspaper clippings of the event.  I packed it
all carefully in a large box and shipped it to Ford.

A couple weeks later, not having heard from John, I called
him.   He thanked me and said he'd received the package.
"So what did you think of the medal?" I asked.   It turned out,
he hadn't opened the box yet.   About six weeks later I called
again, and he still hadn't opened the box.    It was in his garage,
safe from thieves, he reasoned, since it looked innocuous.

Fast forward to the next ANA Convention.  Spotting John
coming down the hall, he saw me and laughed - "No, I
haven't opened it yet," he said.   "I should have mailed you a
friggin' ashtray," I said - "What can I bid on for you next -
an 1804 dollar?"   (I didn't say ""friggin," but you get the idea).
A few weeks later I did learn he'd finally opened the box
and loved the medal.    It was sold in one of the recent Stack's

Others wishing to share their reminiscences of Ford are welcome
to email me.   Some of the shorter ones I'll publish in upcoming
E-Sylums, but others may be more suitable for our print publication,
The Asylum.   Our thoughts are with John's family.  He was one
of a kind, and he'll be missed.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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