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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 36, September 10, 2007, Article 8

Q DAVID BOWERS ON J. COLVIN RANDALL

Dave Bowers forwarded a copy of a piece he's just completed
on J. Colvin Randall, and here are a few excerpts:

"The writer (Q. David Bowers) and John Dannreuther are putting
the finishing touches on The Official Red Book of Gold Dollars
1849-1889, scheduled to be published by Whitman in 2008. The
book will cover many different aspects of this interesting
series, ranging from the obvious considerations of rarity and
market value, to tradition, history, and romance.

"In the 19th century J. Colvin Randall was one of America’s
leading scholars with regard to die varieties of American
coins. A biographical sketch is given below, created by the
writer some years ago in connection with a book on the 1804
silver dollar and Randall’s connection with it.

"Relevant to the current “Focus on People,” we’d like to herewith
send out an “all points bulletin” to see if any readers have a
basic listing of varieties of gold dollars compiled by Randall.
Tantalizing mention of his study appears here and there in early
auction catalogues, such as in this sale by George W. Cogan
titled “Property of J. Colvin Randall,” sold in March 1882:

"Lot 592: “1849 Star not directly under front of bust. Rev. Open
wreath. 12 berries. Fine. (R. 1.)” Realized $1.20.

Lot 593: “1849 Star not directly under front of bust. Rev. Same
as No. 1. Fine. (R. 2.)” Realized $1.20.

Lot 594: “1849 Star off from and not directly under the bust.
Large planchet. Rev. Same as No. 1. Very Good. (R.3.)”
Realized $1.25.

"The “R” numbers were “Randall numbers” and were used for a
short time. This is a very early effort to sort out the obverse
varieties of the 1849 Open Wreath, part of Randall’s wider
studies of this denomination.

If any readers have more information on Randall’s study,
we’d be delighted to hear from you!

"In the 1860s J. Colvin Randall was a dealer in Philadelphia.
Rather than conduct his own sales, typically he consigned to
others, such as to E.L. Mason, Jr., of the same city, who put
Randall’s name as consignor on the front of an auction catalogue
dated October 28-29, 1868. The venue was the sale room of
Thomas Birch & Son, with the elder Birch wielding the gavel.
Bidders each held a copy of Mason’s text, and many if not
most had viewed the coins beforehand, as they were spread
out on tables in the auction room.

"In January 1895 in The Numismatist, Augustus G. Heaton
described a visit to Randall: “Not far from the Chapman
brothers’ office in Philadelphia was the residence of J.
Colvin Randall, an old-timer who was reported to be comfortably
situated from a financial viewpoint, and who dabbled in coins
simply as a pastime. His lair was to be found in a second story
back room crammed with cabinets, bookshelves, prints and curios.
He has a shrewd genial face fringed with short gray hair and
beard, talks fluently in clear-cut Saxon, enjoys storytelling
and with special gusto, when someone’s blundering in coins is
the subject of merriment. From May to November, however, he
annually sheds his numismatic shell on the Jersey shore, and
then collectors may bait their hooks for him in vain.”"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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