The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 13, March 29, 2009, Article 2


Gene Hessler forwarded the following press release for his latest book, an autobiography recounting his life and dual careers as a musician and numismatic researcher. Congratulations! I've already ordered my copy. -Editor
Hessler Horn Blower cover Hey! Mister Horn Blower is the life story of native Cincinnatian Gene Hessler—musician and numismatist. Gene returned to his native Cincinnati 40 years after attending the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and U.C., where he received his degree in 1955. (He graduated from Assumption School in 1942 and Mt. Healthy High School in 1946.)

Prior to leaving Cincinnati Gene fronted his own dance band that played numerous college dates in OH, IN, KY and WVA and Cincinnati ballrooms: Moonlight Gardens, Castle Farm, and the Topper Club. While in the army he performed with Cannonball and Nat Adderley.

After traveling with a few name bands including Woody Herman, Billy May and Elliot Lawrence, Gene moved to New York City. Gene received his Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and remained in New York City to work as a free-lance and recording musician. He was a member of the orchestras for Broadway shows including the Music Man, Camelot, Annie and a dozen others. He also was a member of the Radio City Music Hall orchestra.

Gene performed with Doc Severinsen, Nina Simone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Diana Ross and many others. A few of the people he performed with on Broadway include Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, Barbra Streisand, Robert Preston and Carol Burnett; and in the classical field, Joan Sutherland, Rïse Stevens and Eileen Farrell. He also performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera under the batons of Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski and other world-famous conductors. In addition Gene performed with the Bolshoi Ballet Orchestra and the Leningrad Philharmonic when they were in NYC.

Hessler Horn Blower back Along the way Gene became interested in the history of money: coins at first then he discovered the beauty of paper money. Lester Merkin and Dr. Glenn E. Jackson were his mentors. Though he never left music, Gene was the curator of The Chase Manhattan Bank Money Museum from 1967-1977, and the Mercantile Bank Money Museum in St. Louis in the mid-1980s.

Hessler has authored five award-winning books. His first was the Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money, now in its 7th edition. “I was pleased and excited” Hessler said, “when I uncovered U.S. essays, unissued bank notes at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.” These were documented and illustrated in U.S. Essay, Proof and Specimen Notes, now in its 2nd edition. His third book was An Illustrated History of U.S. Loans, 1775-1898, which included many illustrations not seen since the notes circulated in the mid-19th century.

Hessler’s research of engravers and designers who worked in the U.S. was published in The Engraver’s Line. This motivated him to compile similar data for engravers and designers from other countries; the result was The International Engraver’s Line. In addition Gene was editor for PAPER MONEY, the journal of the Society of Paper Money Collectors for 14 years and has written over 350 magazine and journal articles.

Gene Hessler has appeared on the NBC Today Show twice, What’s My Line and Wonderama, all in the 1970s. In addition to these national television appearances he recorded a series of historical and human interest stories about coins and paper money entitled “Did You Know…” for The Chase Manhattan Bank. These were broadcast in markets where Chase Banks operated. Gene also wrote over 30 scripts for the American Numismatic Association’s Money Talks, broadcast on National Public Radio. One of his scripts was selected to represent the series when it was nominated for a Peabody Broadcasting Award in 1993.

With this eclectic background that included U.S. State Department tours through Africa (1964) and a trip around the world with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1966), friends and relatives convinced Mr. Hessler to write and publish his memoirs originally intended only for family and friends.

By the time Gene returned to Cincinnati in 1996 he had put away his trombone. He continues to research the history of paper money and those artists and engravers who helped to create so many foreign bank notes that are so beautiful and collectible.

In August of 2008 Gene Hessler received the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) highest award, the Farran Zerbe Award. The Numismatist, the ANA journal carried a story by Fred Schwan in which he concluded: “It seems to me the Cincinnati Music Center half dollar, released by the U.S. Mint in 1936, actually proclaims Gene’s achievements in music and the hobby. Among other things, it was issued at about the time Gene discovered numismatics with a Buffalo nickel. The commemorative’s reverse legend reads CINCINNATI – A MUSIC CENTER OF AMERICA. In his way, Gene Hessler is proof of that. (For an image of the half dollar on the Internet Google “Constance Ortmayer” (the designer) then click on image.

In the foreword of the book Zane L. Miller, Charles Phelps Taft Professor of History Emeritus, University of Cincinnati says “Gene is a smart and multi-talented German American who grew up in a mostly German American working class suburb of Cincinnati during the Great Depression and World War II. But in the l940s he started on the construction of two fabulous careers, one as an accomplished musician—jazz, popular, and classical—(a rare combination of genres in the mid-20th century), and later as a world class expert on the history, design and engraving of paper money issued by governments, all over the globe.”

Direct all inquiries to the author at PO Box 31144, Cincinnati, OH 45231 or The price of the soft cover book is $25, and for one of the 100 hard cover copies, $35. For a limited time there will be no charge for mailing either book in the U.S. Please be prepared to accept the soft cover version if the hard cover version is sold out. (The price difference be will be refunded.) Please mention if you want the book signed with a simple signature, a personalized inscription, or neither.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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