The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 35, August 29, 2010, Article 17


Karl Moulton has an answer for why the Roosevelt University numismatic course stopped, and it has to do with another important numismatic event in Chicago - the famous Professional Numismatists Guild Arbitration Hearing regarding the controversial "Franklin Hoard" coins. Karl forwarded these excerpts from his forthcoming book, "John Ford and the Franklin Hoard". -Editor

The day before the A.N.A. convention began in August 1966, Eric P. Newman was awarded one of two gold medals authorized by the United States government, for his past research works and participation in a numismatic course titled “Advancement of the Science of Numismatics” organized in part by Art Kagin and sponsored by the Professional Numismatists Guild at Roosevelt University in Chicago. The other gold medal went to the acting president of Roosevelt University, Rolf Weil (see The Numismatist, November 1966, p.1437).

There were hundreds of guests present for this event with many being members of the A.N.A. The idea for the classes was to make numismatic courses available in institutions of higher learning throughout the country. Leo Young, the President of P.N.G., made the presentation at the P.N.G. banquet held on August 15th across the street from Roosevelt University. This lofty program ran aground a few days later and was never revived due in part to the greatest controversy in American numismatics.

The 1966 P.N.G. Arbitration Hearing

At a hearing convened towards the end of the 1966 A.N.A. convention, Eric P. Newman, representing the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Educational Society (founded in 1958), presented a report titled An Inquiry into the Authentication of a Hoard of $20 United States Assay Office Gold Pieces. He began with “avoiding the use of names of individuals to the extent that a full disclosure of facts will not be adversely affected.” This was a very commendable attempt by Newman to keep things from getting personal; however, it didn’t work because of Ford’s response the following year.

The Newman findings dealt with the physical evidence found on the coins themselves. Since names were never mentioned, the coins in question were referred to as “Humbert Associate Source” based on the earlier Ford story in The Numismatist. As outlined by Newman in 1966, he had been collecting and studying American coins and paper money for 45 years. His published works covered “counterfeits, reproductions, imitations, forgeries, alterations, and fantasies”. He had often lectured on false coins. Knowing full well the implications of what he was presenting, he wrote, “The importance of a correct determination of the question cannot be underestimated, since it relates not only to the Garland coin under review and to other numismatic items in the hands of collectors and dealers but to the future of numismatics.”

The evidence that these 1853 U.S.A.O.G. coins were false was examined in great detail. Newman had correctly figured things out; but regrettably, was never given any support or credibility and acknowledgement by those involved in the commercial aspect of American numismatics. He asked for a thorough investigation into the situation, and that a solution would be found to cope with the menace of modern forgeries and fantasies. “Every lawful pressure should be used by numismatists and their organizations to require that all coins, dies, hubs, punches, bars, trials, molds, and stampings emanating from the Humbert Associate Source (later called the “Franklin Hoard” by Ford) be turned-in to the A.N.A., the A.N.S., or other permanent impartial organizations for permanent mutilation after settlement by sellers of any proper refunds to purchasers.”

Franklin was never questioned about anything, even by the P.N.G. panel consisting of Lester Merkin, Ronnie Carr, and Herbert Bergen (which was originally convened to address the question of genuineness – not the coin’s condition or grade), and he always remained silent (this may have been because Ford insisted that it be that way). After presenting his findings to the P.N.G. board, Newman asked if he could have Franklin reveal his sources when he was called as a witness. Ford interrupted and said that professional coin dealers do not reveal their sources under client confidentiality. Newman wasn’t asking Ford, but Franklin, who was not an acknowledged coin dealer at the time.

Since it was late in the day, the panel decided to end the session, but said Newman would be allowed to ask Franklin to name names the next day. Not surprisingly, Franklin left town that evening (August 19, 1966). He was not present for the session the following day; therefore, Franklin’s sources have remained unknown and only speculated upon.

Ford did all the talking, while Franklin never validated or authenticated anything; and since he was never made to reveal his sources, no specific names were ever provided by him. This is called the “third party close” in sales lingo. This was most convenient for all parties involved. As Ford himself states in his 1967 P.N.G. document on page 7, “We had a good thing going”.

Shortly after this 1966 P.N.G. hearing, Lester Merkin resigned from the Professional Numismatists Guild. He had not allowed the panel to make a unanimous determination on the genuineness of the pieces. Of course, that was his role since he had been selected by the defense.

Regarding his resignation Merkin later said, “I left because I had an argument about several things, and I figured that either I’m very wrong or I shouldn’t be butting in. I figured the best thing for me to do was just leave…I wanted things done a certain way. My way was not wrong. I was right, but I didn’t understand politics. That’s something I’ve never understood.” (see Legacy, spring 1989, p.65).

If Merkin had agreed with Ronnie Carr and Herbert Bergen that the pieces were not genuine, the entire issue would have been resolved at that point. Merkin, a musician by trade, had been in the coin business about 6 years, having established a coin shop in New York City where New Netherlands (Ford) and Stack’s were located, and had been for a long time.

Reportedly, the tape recording made at the 1966 P.N.G. hearing disappeared or could not be found; and, apparently, there had been no written transcript made of the August 1966 hearing. Four months later, on December, 6, 1966, Carr, as Chairman, writes to Ford asking for photographs of his 3 U.S.A.O.G. pieces and the two electro cast copies that were made for Ford by Franklin in the 1950s.

As seen in his December 12, 1966, letter to Carr, Ford was still trying to get a written transcript of what transpired in August. Therefore, with the tape missing, all of the evidence presented in 1966 was now “lost”. This telling letter closes with Ford accurately relating that Franklin did not create the 1853 U.S.A.O.G. “Proof” $20s, and that he was not duped by Franklin, even though according to Ford, he tried twice to do so.

The Roosevelt University course was a PNG-sponsored program. Karl contends that because of what happened at the PNG arbitration hearing, and with all the PNG resources and attention focused on the Franklin Hoard controversy (which wasn't resolved until February 1968), the University course lost PNG backing and everything was halted after the August 1966 ANA convention.

The November 1966 issue of The Numismatist has a photo of Eric Newman getting his gold medal on p1437. Could someone send us an image of the photo? My issue is in a bound volume and is difficult to scan. -Editor


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