This week's issues of the MPCGram (number 1704 and 1706) brought word of the death of the world's foremost collector and researcher of Philippine guerrilla currency. His collection may provide author Neil Shafer with enough new material to revise his classic 1974 book on the topic. -Editor
Neil Shafer writes:
An era has come to an end. C.M. "Niel" Nielsen of Salt Lake City, UT, died peacefully the evening of Aug. 10, in his sleep at the age of 86. He was the world's foremost scholar in the area of Philippine guerrilla currency, having amassed a marvelous reference collection and literally thousands of selected duplicates as he researched these notes. Collectors may remember him from his attendance at earlier Memphis paper money shows, where he would sit in the bar all day long while individuals, including yours truly, would come up to him and discuss various things.
As a member of the merchant marine Niel was able to visit the Philippines at least 30 times. During those visits he accomplished some great research from first-hand sources on all aspects of the complex issues of guerrilla currency during World War II. I had heard of him before my 1974 book was to be published, and we had some correspondence about several specific items before publication, but his schedule did not allow for any substantive contact until much later, long after the book came out. At first he was quite critical of the book, but later on we became good friends and his criticism became a lot less strident. I found his information to be without parallel in the field, and I asked him to provide the data that has appeared for a while in the Philippine section of the Standard Catalog Specialized Issues (Vol. I).
He had much more information, especially on local issues, but since I was not actively working on the subject I did not pursue it with any degree of intensity.
I mentioned Ray Czahor earlier. He went to Salt Lake City this year and negotiated the purchase of Niel's entire holding of guerrilla currency, including all reference pieces and boxes of duplicates. I had the distinct pleasure of being able to see it all just after the ANA convention in Baltimore, and there are some really great and important pieces in this holding.
Ray and I went through it all, and we decided that in fact there was enough unpublished material at hand that we would like to try and update my 1974 publication if possible. It will be a long and slow process and we will keep you informed as to our progress from time to time.
Fred Schwan writes:
I was sad to read Neil Shafers report of the death of C.M. Niel Nielsen. Niel was many things. To me the most important was that he was a GREAT collector. He was also a great researcher, possibly the greatest. In addition to the great research that Neil Shafer described C.M. doing in the Philippines, C. M. did great research in Washington and other places. Much of the research that he did in Washington was at the National Archives. I believe that many of the documents that he reviewed (and in many cases copied there) have not seen light since C.M. looked at them.
Unfortunately, CM was also secretive about most of the research. He intended to publish his results, but the years stretched to decades and now the fruit of most of his work is lost. It is great that Neil and Ray will be able to glean information from CMs collection.
Neil mentioned that CM was a merchant seaman. If you look in the early Toy books in the 1960s, you will see that A Seaman was a contributor. I did not learn for many years that A. Seaman was C. M. Nielsen.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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