Several weeks ago we discussed dealer Hal Birt, Jr, who authored several works on Arizona tokens. I didn't have time to publish the following when it came out on October 1st, here are excerpts from an article about Birt in the Arizona Daily Star. -EditorHalden Birt Jr. never outgrew his childhood hobby. He began collecting coins when he was a boy growing up on an Illinois farm, and turned his interest into a career.
Birt was an acclaimed numismatist who was tapped by the FBI to testify in court cases involving valuable coins, and he developed a method still in use today for determining the authenticity of rare coins.
In Tucson, he operated Glass Shoppe Coins at 4325 E. Broadway for 45 years, until his death Aug. 30 from congestive heart failure. He was 78. Birt's younger sister, Beverly Knox, remembers young Halden and their father going to the bank every Friday for a new batch of coins through which to sort. Birt started out collecting Indian head pennies and buffalo nickels. Sometimes he let his little sister help him look for those he needed for his collection.
"I'd go to his shop and spend hours, and he'd always be there teaching," Spooner said. "The thing about Hal Birt that's fascinating is, he never looked down on anybody. He was fascinated by what you had to offer. He always wanted to learn and study and find out as much information as he could so he could talk about it. All different aspects of coins fascinated him. When you have someone who has that kind of passion, it rubs off. "He was the grandfather for so many numismatists here in this town," Spooner said. "He was the numismatist's numismatist. He was an absolute student of the hobby and a teacher."
Birt wrote numerous articles and seven self-published books that are still used as reference by coin collectors. The father of two had a special interest in collecting Arizona tokens coinlike pieces made of brass, copper, aluminum or other metal that were offered in trade by businesses, often saloons from the 1880s to 1930s, according to a 1991 Tucson Citizen article about his token collection.
"He thought that Arizona was not appreciated as much as tokens from other states," Tumonis said. "He wanted to put a book out there to introduce collectors to the field of collecting Arizona tokens because there weren't any other books in the field out there when Hal began writing his book."
Birt, a past president of the Tucson Coin Club and longtime member of the American Numismatic Association and the Sociedad Numismatica de Mexico, also was interested in Sonoran coins, tokens and scrip. It was Birt, fellow numismatists say, who first used die stress analysis to determine the authenticity of rare coins, a test that is still used by collectors.
"He was one of the last old-fashioned coin shops in Tucson," Tumonis said. "It's kind of an end of an era. There are other coin shops that are quality establishments, but they don't have the same feel as Hal's did. It's a tremendous loss of knowledge in the numismatic community."
To read the complete article, see: Halden Birt Jr.: He was the king of coins bank on it (http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/260193)
THE BOOK BAZARRE
Wayne Homren, Editor
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