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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 1, January 1, 2006, Article 9

DON TAXAY WHERE ARE YOU?

Dick Johnson writes: "I had extensive contact with Don
Taxay in New York City prior to 1971. He was employed
for a time by Harmer Rooke, and launched an early series
of auctions for this firm. One was a book auction in
which I consigned several hundred books. After that he
freelanced. He had contacts with a number of banks and
wanted to build money displays for banks. I gave him
several hundred dollars as seed money to build a miniature
display as a sales sample to show bankers with the proviso
that I could be an investor if the project panned out.
It didn't.

The rumors about him are never entirely true or entirely
false. He did travel to India and he did live in Florida.
My last recollection of him was a full page ad in Coin World
with an address in Florida offering his services as a
numismatic consultant. I don't recall what year this was
(can anyone date that advertisement)?  The last rumor I
heard was that he had married a wealthy woman and was
living in Florida."

Only three Americans are listed with the last name Taxay
in phone directories (two in Pittsburgh and one in Miami)
and only eight Taxays are listed in the U.S. Social Security
Death Index (none remotely close to Don). If he is still
alive, I believe he is outside the country."

George Fuld writes: "I last heard from him about 1976!!
Some years ago I was told that he resided in India.  I
have heard nothing else about him."

Tom DeLorey writes: "I last saw Taxay in 1977. Not long
afterwards he disappeared.

The rumor that I heard most often was that he had gotten
seriously into transcendental meditation and had moved
to the Himalayas. However, when I met his nephew in the
coin shop at Harlan Berk's in the early 1990s, all he
could add was that the family had no idea what had become
of him, and would like to know if he is still alive. I may
still have the nephew's card in my desk, in case anybody
can offer the family any information I can pass on."

John Kraljevich writes: "The Don Taxay story has somewhat
puzzled me over the years too. I never knew him, but I've
certainly asked what happened to him to several people
who knew him before his disappearance around 1977. The
story that he moved to India to follow up on his religious
beliefs seems pretty unanimous.

Apparently Don was a Hare Krishna, and one person who
used to work with him at Harmer Rooke recalled him
distracting everyone in the office by chanting while he
worked on coins! Somehow Frank Van Valen (my colleague at
ANR) singing doo-wop while cataloguing doesn't seem quite
as bad now.

He seems to have been an interesting character, though
more of a researcher than a numismatist. Breen apparently
felt that Taxay improperly used some of his material and
grew jealous of him over the years. Whatever happened,
Taxay's books continue to be quite useful, though some of
his conclusions in US Mint and Coinage have been shown to
be wrong by Craig Sholley and others."

Karl Moulton writes: "In my forthcoming book titled "Henry
Voigt and Others Involved With America's Early Coinage" I
comment on Don Taxay and his 1966 book "The U.S. Mint and
Coinage".  In Chapter 13, called Modern Misinformation,
I point out a few random errors in the text of Taxay's book,
which were either miscopied from previous original source
documents, made up, or embellished from other previously
unconfirmed publications, including notes by Walter Breen.

If one delves into Taxay's presentation of American numismatic
history, which he himself labeled a "difficult manuscript",
it becomes obvious that he didn't do enough original research,
but simply followed the ABC's of misinterpreting the facts.
This would be Accepting, Believing, and Copying from others
without first validating their claims.  Unfortunately, this
has happened frequently throughout American numismatics.
Please understand that I did not set out to pick apart Taxay's
book, which is still usable if the reader scrutinizes the
claims made, but wanted to make note about a few of the
questionable passages which he and others had written about
people connected with the United States Mint.

What happened to Taxay?  He became a Rajneeshee.  What is
that you ask?  A Rajneeshee is a devout follower of the
Indian cult leader/terrorist Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose
world wide headquarters was/is in Poona, India.  Some
background is necessary for further understanding (please
note: most of the following isn't included in my book as
it doesn't relate to the subject matter of the title).

In the mid 1960's, after Breen returned to New York
from Berkley, he and Taxay became very good friends.
Breen was cataloguing for Lester Merkin and Taxay was
then the curator of the Chase Manhattan Money Museum
(having been previously involved with New Netherlands
Coin Co. and John Ford).  They were both at that time
what I would refer to as intellectual hippies.  Over
the years that followed, Breen related the Indian culture
and religions to Taxay, who then became obsessed.
Taxay's family in Chicago was not pleased.  Eventually,
Taxay made an initial pilgrimage to Poona.  He found
that was what he was seeking and returned home in the
early 1970's to get as much money as possible.  You see
that was the real basis for the commune at Poona.  The
Bhagwan owned 93 Rolls Royces at one time.  He brought
all of them with him when he came to the U.S. in 1983
(imagine the import duty).  Plus, he was the first
person to have conducted biological warfare on
American soil, but that's another story in itself.

Let's get back to Taxay in Poona (Pune in Indian).
He left this country when the government was decaying
rapidly under the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam
conflict.  His last contact was with Harry Forman when
he helped catalogue an auction held 12/6/1974.  He then
sold the rights to "The U.S. Mint & Coinage" for a
reported $100,000, and left for India via Florida around
1977 and has not been heard from since.

For several years in the late 1970s (before the Poona
commune was temporarily shut down) Taxay became a
brainwashed and untraceable person to western culture
(similar to Osama Bin Laden today).  He divorced himself
from all he had known and presumably gave away all of
his money to the Bhagwan.  When the commune was transferred
to Oregon for several years, it is unknown if Taxay made
the trip to the U.S. or remained in India at another
similar commune (of which there were several). I have
an inscribed copy of a Taxay book dated 5-30-1980, the
same date as the Chicago International Coin Fair.  He
may have returned briefly to visit with certain members
of his family and then went underground.

When the Bhagwan was deported back to India, he tried
to go elsewhere, but no other countries would allow him
in, so he re-established the Poona site.  The name of the
commune was changed to OSHO.  When the Bhagwan died in
the early 1990's, several of his wealthy followers took
control and continued to expand the concepts of
"enlightenment" to others worldwide.  Yes, they have a
website now.  All they require to join initially is your
passport and taking an aids test.  Everyone is provided
with a red, full body robe.  The removal of your wealth
comes later.

What actually happened to Don Taxay, the individual,
remains unknown, and may never be fully discovered.
He will probably not return to the western world, even
if he is still alive.  For those interested in American
numismatics, we will only have what he presented some
40 years ago.  If he is alive, it would be appropriate
if he would make contact with the numismatic fraternity
once again.

My new book will present many different people and
events of the first United States Mint, based on
contemporary source documents, personal accounts and
actual historical facts.  As I state in the cover
letter of my latest numismatic literature list for
January 2006, "it will definitely change what you now
know".  Plans are to have this informative, original
researched book ready sometime this summer."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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