The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 21, May 25, 2008, Article 6


Numismatic researcher and author Eric P. Newman turns 97 today - Happy Birthday! Eric is a longtime NBS member and E-Sylum subscriber. Below are some birthday wishes from some of our readers. -Editor.

Ken Bressett writes:
My life has been influenced by Eric Newman in many ways. He has been a mentor, a confidant, a source of information on numerous subjects far beyond numismatics, and most of all a good and loyal friend. We began corresponding more than 50 years ago and have continued ever since.

The trepidation of my first letter to him was quickly eased by his courteous reply. I was researching the colonial coins of my native state, and had boldly asked for information about the New Hampshire copper coin that I knew he owned. To my surprise, and utter amazement, he sent it to me in the next day's mail, saying that I could learn much more about it by actually seeing it. That spirit of enthusiasm and cooperation has never changed over the years, and I know that he has similarly helped thousands of other serious numismatists ever since.

Our hobby would be far different today if it were not for Eric's sense of dedication, encyclopedic knowledge, and contributions to numismatic literature. My admiration and respect for Eric Newman is boundless. I am fortunate to have benefited and learned so much from our association, and am looking forward to continuing it forever. Happy Birthday to the ever New Man.

George Fuld writes:
I first “met” Eric Newman in the late 1950’s via mail as I recall discussing some Washington material. My first visit to St. Louis was in May, 1960 where I was attending the Society of Bacteriology meetings. I had contacted Eric and arranged to meet him at his office at Edison Brothers. I do remember seeing mounted on his wall an early copy of the Bill of Rights. He then took me to ‘visit’ his bank vault where I was wide eyed to see some of his fabulous holdings. Of note, was a plush case for six five cent coins. It was the case for the five 1913 nickels from the Green estate with the sixth opening being a copper pattern of the Buffalo 1913 nickel five cent still remaining in place.

In early 1961, dealer Louis Karp came into possession of the 1796 Getz pattern in silver. This ‘medal” was holed and was the identical specimen first described in James Ross Snowden’s 1860 book on Washingtonia. The medal was on loan to the Mint from a collector named Drumholder mistakenly called the property of the Mint collection. At this point I contacted Eric and we decided to do a thorough investigation of the Getz piece. Karp loaned us the 1796 Getz ‘medal” for our study. I remember going over three or four drafts of the article—Eric was most particular that the article be as perfect as possible. Our joint article appeared in the April 1961 issue of the Colonial Newsletter and in the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine.

I lived in Wakefield Massachusetts from 1957 to 1960 and Eric made a number of business visits to Boston. As I recall, he visited with me twice, spending some hours looking over references from my auction catalog collection for data on the 1804 dollars. When the book on the Fantastic 1804 Dollars was published in June 1961 authored by Eric and Ken Bressett, the splendid Siam set of 1834 was not known.

The book was printed by Whitman, but when David Spink gave the lecture on the rediscovery of the Siam set at the 1961 ANA Convention, Whitman scraped the entire first printing and rushed to press a corrected edition which included the Siamese 1834 set. I had received a copy of the first printed edition of the 1804 book which was one of about six or so remaining copies from the first printing of the book.

My contacts with Eric have persisted over the intervening years. Lately, Eric supplied me with photographs of four of his rarest colonials which are included in my soon to be published article on the Newcomer collection. Included were a silver Continental dollar and the unique 1783 silver 500 bit Nova Constellatio coin. Most recently, we discussed the Getz 1792 patterns and the unique gold 1792 Washington specimen which serves as the center piece at the Newman exhibit at Washington University.

While celebrating his 97th birthday, Eric achieved his 76th anniversary as an alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I am a youngster alumni of MIT celebrating my 55th anniversary.

Dave Bowers writes:
My memories with Eric Newman go back quite a few years. I don’t recall when I first met him, but it was by the mid-1950s. Around 1956 or 1957, a number of youthful people, including myself, Walter Breen, Ken Rendell, Dick Johnson, Grover Criswell, and Ken Bressett, decided to form the Rittenhouse Society. At the time, main-line dealers were mainly what we called “old guard,” interested in selling coins, but not particularly interested in research. The same could be said for officers of the American Numismatic Association and other leading figures in the hobby.

For us, we enjoyed the history behind the coin, token, medal, or piece of paper money. Youth was the key to our enthusiasm, or at least so we thought, and we determined that to be a member of the Rittenhouse Society one needed to be under 30 years of age. Ken Bressett was born in 1928, and thus he just got under the wire. Upon further contemplation , we quickly came to realize that one of the greatest research figures of all, Eric P. Newman, born in 1911, would be excluded. Having him a part of the Society was an absolute must, as we all admired him and his many accomplishments. Instantly, the age requirements were dropped!

Eric became one of the founders. The Society met for breakfast once each year at the annual ANA summer convention. Now and again he would pick up the tab, as others of us did from time to time, or we split it multiple ways. A good time was always had by all. The camaraderie continues, now with 20 or so members attending each year.

Today (actually it is TODAY, May 25th!), at age 97, Eric's lamp of enthusiasm and knowledge burns as brightly as ever. He is as sharp as a tack, is as generous as can be, and certainly is a foundation stone in numismatics and has been for a long time. I wrote a little article about him in a leading publication—I will not give away the information until it appears in print, probably this coming week—which furthers some of my thoughts.

Here’s a toast to Eric, and to many more years of numismatic excellence, and caring and sharing for the world around us, capably joined by his wife Evelyn.

Alan V. Weinberg writes:
I don't know Eric very well although I've seen him on occasion over the last 50 yrs at ANA shows. He was not a regular show attendee even decades ago, unlike the omnipresent John Pittman who even attended shows in his wheelchair in his last year or so. Although not knowing him, I mailed Eric, on good faith, a genuine New England shilling back in 1978-79 following the discovery of really deceptive colonial coin forgeries made by a mid-California counterfeiter. Spark Erosion Copies that were made in such limited quantity but were so superb that they fooled the best experts in the country, including Dave Bowers. In fact , that was precisely how they were discovered!

I owned this Ex Fine NE XII at the time (ex-Kreisberg/Cohen sale at $7,200 ! ) and opened Bowers & Ruddy's 1978 ANA auction catalogue to find my exact same shilling up for auction. Wait a minute! Did someone take mine out of the bank vault?

And an Ex Fine Washington Born Virginia in the same catalogue that had the same minute edge circulation irregularities as another piece that had recently sold. And a nice Bar cent. Subsequently, Dave withdrew maybe eight "rare" colonials, all consigned by the same source. Eric studied them and wrote what is today, 29 yrs later, still a masterful nine page article in the April 1979 Numismatist entitled "Superb Numismatic Forgeries Are Upon Us". At the time the article really shook up the colonial coin market. The forgeries were THAT good!

Interestingly, while I sat chatting at Tony Terranova's table at the last Long Beach coin show, a prominent dealer walked up to Tony seeking his opinion on an attractive ExFine Washington Born Virginia copper. Tony recognized it from those minute rim circulation marks as one of the fakes Eric wrote about. Yep, these same superb forgeries still are around and likely in a few collections. And these days, few "expert dealers" recall Eric's 1979 ANA masterpiece on Superb Colonial Forgeries.

Actually, given their continued presence on the market, it would be a good idea if the Numismatist reprinted the article. There are so many different collectors and dealers these days than in 1979. But Eric is still with us!

Fred Reed writes:
Eric Newman has been an inspiration to me in my numismatic research for more than 30 years. I was my decided pleasure to tell him so at his museum. He is truly a great numismatist and fine human being. Happy birthday, Eric!

I've had the pleasure of knowing Eric for many years myself. I don't recall when we first met, but it was probably at an ANA convention. My first opportunity to spend significant time with him came at an Early American Coppers convention in St. Louis. I've forgotten the year, but it was probably in the early 1990s.

Knowing that Eric had a great numismatic library I asked him at the show if there was any chance I could see it. Without any prior planning Eric graciously left the show and led myself, John Burns and Charlie Davis on a private tour of his museum and library. I was in numismatic heaven that day.

Another time John Burns and I travelled to Washington, D.C. to hear Eric speak about Joseph Nourse, the first Register of the Treasury. "America’s First Civil Servant" was highly respected and his career spanned forty years and six presidential administrations. Nourse played a key role in administering the finances of the new Republic. Eric's speech was at Dumbarton House in Georgetown, the headquarters of The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Construction of the mansion was begun in 1799 by Samuel Jackson, and later completed by James Nourse.

We greatly enjoyed the talk and afterwards went out with Eric for his favorite treat, ice cream.

Another time, while en route solo to the ANA Convention in Portland, OR, my plane stopped in St. Louis to take on passengers. I shouldn't have been surprised (but I was anyway) when in walked none other than Eric Newman. The flight wasn't full and after takeoff I wandered back to Eric's row and he invited me to sit with him. We spent the rest of the flight discussing many topics, from our mutual friends in numismatics to his wife Evelyn and her prolific charity work.

Happy Birthday, Eric! -Editor.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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