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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 13, March 30, 2008, Article 29

AN UNUSUAL DEVICE FOUND ON AN UNDERTAKER'S STORECARD

[This item is the first in what I hope will be a series
of articles submitted by our readers as part of the
Biblio-Battleship game discussed above.  Peter Gaspar's
number sequence {2,5,7} led me to bookcase 2, shelf number
5 in my numismatic library.  A little past the halfway
point on the shelf (7 out of 12) I found a set of Numismatic
Gallery Monthly, complete from Volume 1, No, 1 through
volume 5, no. 8).  The house organ was published by Numismatic
Gallery (dealers Abe Kosoff and Abner Kreisberg) beginning
in May, 1948.  The set came from dealer John Bergman and
was given to me by NBS member Bob Wester when he stayed at
my house in Pittsburgh during the 1989 ANA convention.

I plucked an issue from the middle of the pack - September
1950.  On page 10 I found a short article contributed to
the publication by reader Edward C. Briggs titled "An
Unusual Device" -Editor]

 On the majority of all coins, we see images of great leaders,
 devices representing our ideals or the scenes of some great
 historic event.  The coin which I write about, however, is
 none such.  The engraving which it bears is no great leader,
 no place where much history was made, and I hope it is not
 a symbol of our ideals!  The main design is devoted to ...
 a coffin.  This unusual item is one of the series of hard-times
 tokens issued by individual merchants during the Civil War
 period.  This piece was issued by J. J. Diehl, an undertaker,
 of 133 Essex Street, New York City.  It is dated 1863 and
 made from copper.  It is truly one of my most interesting
 pieces.

[It's interesting that the article refers to the civil war
as a "hard-times" era. That's an apt description of the
economic climate of the time, but today U.S. collectors
think of only the 1830s/1840s tokens as "Hard Times Tokens."

John Bergman passed away and I lost touch with Bob Wester
some years ago.  I met him at the legendary Invasion of
Louisville trip to Armand Champa's home.  It was Bob's visit
during the 1989 ANA that spurred me into action to build my
numismatic library.  The phone rang one morning before the
show. Larry Dziubek of the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic
Society knew that Bob was a big coin book collector and told
me about a rare book he'd seen at dealer Hank Spangenberger's
table the day before.  I had a good numismatic library but
was not a big spender on rare books yet, so (like an idiot!)
I passed the word to Bob.

When we arrived at the show, Bob went to Spangenberger's
table and bought the book for about $300.  It was a copy of
the Newlin work on half dimes.  Within an hour or so Bob
turned around and sold it to George Kolbe for $1,000.  To
this day my library still lacks an original Newlin, but I
vowed that my library shelves wouldn't remain bare for lack
of trying.  Right after the convention I put out my shingle
as a numismatic book dealer.

I remember showing John Burns my new business cards and he said,
"Since when are you a book dealer?"  I said, "Since I printed
these cards."  I placed ads in various publications and began
purchasing numismatic literature from book and ephemera dealers
across the country.  I also purchased several complete libraries
which I incorporated into my own, consigning the duplicates to
various sales.

So - does anyone know what became of Bob Wester?  George Kolbe
writes: "I knew Bob from seeing him at a few ANA's and his
participation in my sales for a short period. I lost touch years
ago. His enthusiasm, though brief, was certainly infectious and
I expect he spurred others on to expand their numismatic libraries."

And who was Edward C. Briggs?  Isn't this fun?  Another
Biblio-Battleship item from the same Numismatic Gallery
Monthly issue follows. -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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