The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 20, May 17, 2009, Article 11


We have some great responses to my query about the segments of the John J. Ford collection sold outside of the twenty-one landmark Stack's sales. Comments are invited. -Editor

George Fuld writes:
Recent comments re John Ford as to items he sold before the Stackís auctions series and his holdings on merchants tokens and political material are not correct and not fully mentioned.

I began work at Bowers & Ruddy in August of 1980 after the first two of the Garrett Collection auctions. For the previous year or eighteen months, John Ford was selling material through B&R auctions to raise money for purchases at the Garrett sales. He sold any U. S. coins that he had but I was not privy to what was sold before August, 1980.

The one group that I recall was that he had a half roll or so of mint red 1853 half cents. These were sold two or three per sale for a lengthy period. After I arrived at B&R, he sold four or five groups of material but my memory is not complete on all. One large group of Nazi material was one that I cataloged. Another was a group of souvenir spoons sold about 1981. I guess I could recall the other groups but I donít have copies of B&R auctions of this time to refresh my memory

I should mention that Fordís Washington material (except for the medals prior to 1835) were sold in a published list by Jack Collins in 1991.

I worked for Stackís in the period of 2004-2005 cataloging Fordís merchant material, his large political holdings and other miscellaneous non-coin U.S. material. In all there was just over 5,000 items cataloged. The only material sold in the 21 Ford sales that I cataloged were the Hard Times tokens and his extensive struck copies collection.

The balance was never auctioned but was sold privately but Iím not at liberty to discuss this further. I can say what was generally contained in the remaining collection.

Of course his merchant tokens of the nineteenth century were outstanding and possibly the best group of material ever assembled. His western token group was remarkable. There were only a few civil war cents, mostly gleaned from the political sectionóhe had sold his other groups of Civil War tokens some years earlier. But these few Civil War cents were all quite rare including several unlisted varieties.

His sutler tokens numbered over 250 pieces. His Indian traders tokens numbered about 40 tokens. His post traders tokens numbered about 100 pieces. His territorial tokens numbered about 125 items. There were miscellaneous medals of the nineteenth century that were unremarkable. His Canadian material consisted of less than 10 pieces (his Canadian Jetton series was sold in a Ford sale cataloged by Mike Hodder).

The most remarkable group of material was his political token and medal collection, numbering certainly over 2,500 items. His ferrotype group was exceptional but I think Weinbergís guess of 500 pieces is a bit high. Much of the material was ex. F. C. C. Boyd and the number of tokens struck in silver was amazing.

Perhaps the most notable comment on the political collection was that little if any were actually studied and cataloged by Ford. Somehow it appeared that John had not gotten around to working on this part of his collection, unlike his other studies on merchant pieces

Certainly some day in the future, Fordís exonumia material will come on the market and the full depth of his collection will be realized.

What an experience it must have been to catalog this material! -Editor

Paul Bosco writes:
Ford was a huge consignor to NASCA when they were neighbors in Rockville Centre, Long Island. Ford knew Doug Ball and was, by his own account --which I have no reason to depreciate-- something of a yenta to Dr. B and Herb Melnick, co-founders of NASCA. (NASCA survives as a strong trace element in Spink/Smythe).

Ford consigned huge quantities of Colonial paper money, which he possessed by the ream. I don't know what else he may have consigned. He was a boon to NASCA for another reason, steering the holdings of Werner Amelingmeier to them. Ford sold Amelingmeier much of the foreign coins in the Wayte Raymond estate, with the proviso that it not be resold during Olga Raymond's lifetime. I believe he paid $40,000 (c.1954) for material that realized a bit over $1 million (c. 1977-83) - a normal appreciation for such material in that era.

I don't know what else Ford may have consigned NASCA, if anything, but I expect John dropped off the occasional consignment on the way to the supermarket. Melnick once melted some controversial Spanish-American gold bars, which I believe were consigned and whose reserves were met, post-auction, by a rise in bullion prices (1979??) They may not have been consigned by Ford but could have had a Ford provenance.

Marty Gengergke once told me the four best collections of Fractional Currency were his, Jackson Storm's, I think Milton Friedberg's and Ford's, but Marty added "if you can call Ford's a collection and not just an accumulation." Ford's earlier start enabled him to collect by the shoeboxfull what others collected over decades of concentrated effort.

Once Ford stopped in at the NASCA office, c.1980, carrying a large silver disk, which I believe he said he got from Boyd. It was a hand-engraved medal, 1793, for a ship stopping in Australia, #1 in Carlisle's book on Australian medals. He was about to consign it to Spink/Australia, having been told they would get $25,000 for it. It's like their Brasher Doubloon.

Ford consigned his cut and counterstamped coins to Baldwin's, whom I believe he liked and respected and considered peers. I believe he was genuinely fond of this series. This was a named, single-owner sale.

C.1984, there was a Bowers & Merena sale (I think Van Ormer is one of the names on the cover). It included a few lots of Lafayette medals. The majority, I think, were bought by Ford with me as the underbidder. Later, outside the auction room, Ford told me he bought them in (as a floor bidder): "I guess the market isn't ready for them yet." I think they have not reappeared.

I expect there was considerable Ford material in Stack's and Coin Galleries auctions other than the named sales. I suspect many of the Philippines coins in one of Stack's post-NY International floor auctions were ex-Ford.

Ford sold privately, to Don Partrick in particular, which is no secret. When Don won the Confederate Half Dollar, and I congratulated him on his bargain, he said to me, "For once I got Ford," but I did not think he felt the one purchase drew him even.

There was a sale of numismatic literature at Swann Galleries, in the days before George Kolbe was a player, and when coin auction houses rarely auctioned books. I think it was a couple days after the 1976 American Numismatic Association convention in New York City. I believe it was known to many in the room that all or most came from Ford, and that he was a "contributing cataloger", or lead researcher, if you will. After some of the lots, the auctioneer offered to sell the underbidder a duplicate, lowering the winning bid to match. The consignor was anonymous but if memory serves, there were Boyd pedigrees.

Ford collected almost his whole life, but by the mid-'70s he had left New Netherlands for (semi-)retirement. I expect that he mainly subsisted by removing the dust from decades-old purchases, reaping profit and appreciation. Since no one could know all that he owned, who could have noticed if he divested, here and there, a piece or a small group? He was no recluse, but he did not seek publicity -- the one trait he had in common with Eric Newman.

Ford's impact on 20th century American Numismatics, properly weighed, may rival that of B. Max Mehl. I realize my reminiscences may lead some younger numismatists to think I am an old-timer. (Bosh!) By happenstance, I did have some contact with Ford and some who knew him well, but it would be nice if others spilled the beans on "JJF" - guys like Harvey Stack, Steve Tanenbaum, Dave Bowers, John Adams, Mike Hodder: a Ford symposium with some or all of them would till a lot of numismatic soil. (And perhaps fertilize it a bit, too.)

At present, the most definitive word on Ford, as a dealer, numismatist and persona, is not in the XXI Stack's auction catalogs, but rather "How the West Was Faked" by the redoubtable Mr. Kleeberg. Ford was not an angel, and those who praise him do so with asterisk, but he did enough good that it should not all be interred with his bones.

David Gladfelter adds:
The Proskey-Boyd collection of Civil War cardboard chits, probably the largest collection of its kind, was consigned by Ford to Auctions by Bowers and Merena, Inc. and sold on March 26, 1985. Douglas B. Ball catalogued the collection and unfortunately made quite a few mistakes. I believe that some of the pieces you acquired and later sold came from that collection.

That's correct - I sold my cardboard scrip in 2007 through American Numismatic Rarities. The pieces all have the Proskey-Boyd-Ford-Homren pedigree. Little did I know when I sent in my mail bids that I'd end up linked to such numismatic luminaries. I just wanted examples for my collection - they were interesting, numismatically and historically important, and goddamn rare; I knew if I didn't bid then I might not get another chance in my lifetime.

Many thanks to everyone for providing this background. The extent of the Ford holdings is nothing less than stunning.

QUICK QUIZ: What is Werner Amelingmeier's connection to numismatic literature? -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

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