The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 22, June 3, 2007, Article 6


In response to Jim Hirtle's submission in last week's issue, Dan
Hamelberg writes: "The notion that there was a relationship between
Von Bergen and Mehl was interesting to me, so I did a little checking.

"I have an 'agent's circular' produced by Von Bergen and sent to
individuals who answered one of his newspaper or magazine ads. The ads
were designed to attract individuals as coin agents. The circular made
such statements as 'Our agents reap the benefit of $20,000 spent in
advertising.'  Regarding the book, the heading was 'Of immense value
to agents'.  I believe the circular is either late 1889 or early 1890.
The circular is 8' x 10' and is printed on both sides.  The main heading
on the front side is 'Office of Numismatic Bank, 89 Court Street,
Boston, Mass.'  At the bottom of the back side are testimonials from
3 individuals and are all dated September and October 1889.

"The price of books to agents were based on the quantity ordered. One
dollar each in paper covers up to $200 for 1,000 copies.  Books bound
in cloth with gilt edges were $1.50 each up to $400 per 1,000.  The
circular states 'Most of our agents handle the paper cover books,
claiming that they can sell them just as easy for a dollar as the
cloth bound ones.'  Wholesale orders were also available to booksellers
and newsdealers.

"It appears that Von Bergen's main business was selling books. Unlike
Mehl, I don't believe that Von Bergen had any auctions or produced any
fixed price lists (at least I don't have any such copies in my library).

"I have a Von Bergen book dated 1913 and it is titled 'The encyclopedia
of rare coins, stamps, old books, paper money.'  It has more general
information than his previous books (272 pages).  There is a great
section on the library sale of Robert Hoe sold by Anderson Auction Co.
of New York in 1911-1912. The sale realized almost $2 million.  This
is the last dated item I have in my library by Von Bergen.

"I have a Mehl Star Coin Book purchased in a Charlie Davis sale in
1993 that we believe is circa 1904.  We believe this is the first
coin book produced by Mehl.  I have two other Coin Books before the
1910 4th edition as well.

"This would suggest that Mehl and Von Bergen had an overlap of almost
ten years in business.  I checked the line drawings in Mehl's first
coin book to those in a sampling of Von Bergen's books and there are
some identical items.  The colonial coins, the California gold, and
a few regular issue U.S. coins (early copper and the 1796 quarter)
match up.  The other line drawings are different in comparison.

"I also checked the photo plates in some of the early Mehl books to
those in Von Bergen's and could not match any of them up.  I have
all of the original printing blocks that Mehl used to print up his
rare coin books and encyclopedias and fixed price lists.  It would
appear that except for a few identical line drawings, Mehl made up
his own illustrations for his books.  None of the printing blocks
have a reference to Von Bergen. This is not conclusive evidence of
a Mehl buyout of Von Bergen's book business, however.

"I would not discount the idea that Mehl and Von Bergen had an
arrangement of some sort, but I feel that Mehl just took the book
selling business that Von Bergen started and carried it to new
heights.  Mehl was the first real coin 'huckster' in the business,
so it would make sense that he took a good idea and ran with it.
The best evidence for a 'deal' between Mehl and Von Bergen is the
use of the term 'Numismatic Bank' and the layouts of the different
books.  I don't know if the term 'Numismatic Bank' was a title that
could have private rights, or if it was more of a generic term that
anyone could use.

"There is no doubt that Mehl copied the layout of Von Bergen's books
as they are very similar in content.  Of course, if Mehl was still
around he might say it was just an interesting coincidence.  In any
event, until some hard evidence turns up to suggest that Mehl actually
paid money for the rights to do what Von Bergen did, I would stick
with the theory that Mehl saw a good thing and carried it to a new

"My brief exercise in looking up the above information on the possible
Mehl - Von Bergen connection did result in more questions.  Was there
ever any correspondence between Mehl and Von Bergen?  Did Mehl ever
visit Boston, and did Von Bergen ever visit Dallas?  How did Von Bergen
market the coins he must have surely received from his book promotion?
Was Anderson Auction Co, or Wayte Raymond or even Mehl himself involved
with Von Bergen to market the coins he acquired?  The answer to some of
these questions could indicate the link between Mehl and Von Bergen we
are looking for.  But for now, so many questions, so little time."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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