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V15 2012 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 10, March 4, 2012, Article 8

QUIZ ANSWER: ROBERT COULTON DAVIS

Last week Pete Smith wrote:

Mystery Numismatist Attached, for your consideration, is the photo of a mystery numismatist. I offer two clues to his identity:

1. The date 1864 is written in pencil on the back of the print.

2. His name appears in Consecutive Issue 87 of The Asylum.

I will provide the identity next week along with a follow-up question.




Mike Packard writes:

The picture in Pete Smith's question looks like Augustus Sage.

David Gladfelter writes:

Just a guess: William Frederick Mayers? He's not in Smith's American Numismatic Biographies (1992). (Maybe it's time for a second edition?) In the meantime, you can read all about Mayers in Pete's article in The Asylum, Summer 2004, page 162.

My guess was Sage, but we're all wrong. Pete Smith writes:

The "mystery numismatist" shown last week is Robert Coulton Davis (1813-1888). While the identification may have been a difficult challenge, it was not impossible.

E. L. Mason published his Mason's Coin and Stamp Collectors' Magazine. The issue for February 1869 included "Mason's Photographic Gallery of the Coin Collectors of the United States." This included images of 48 collectors including some that are well remembered today and others who would remain unknown if not for their inclusion with the pictures. Number 4 on the list was Robert C, Davis. This is a different picture from the one in The E-Sylum, but recognizable.

Davis had an important collection of autographs including the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was the first numismatist to write up United States pattern coinage. This was serialized in Coin Collector's Journal.

Davis was a pharmacist. Walter Breen described him as drug dealer to the Mint. Breen said that Davis gave laudanum to Mint workers in exchange for favors. Such favors would have been helpful for a collector of patterns.

This leads me to my follow-up question. What was Breen's source for this information? I did a Google search for Davis and found a dozen reports that repeat Breen's accusation. However, none of them were written before Breen's statement. Is there a published report on Davis that predates Breen?

Who knows where Breen came up with some of this stuff? Anybody aware of a reference? Thanks. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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