The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 23, June 7, 2009, Article 16


Regarding last week's obituary of coin photographer Larry Stevens, Julian Liedman writes:
I knew Larry Stevens casually and had him photograph the Indian Head Double Eagle and the Amazonian Gold pattern set when I purchased them in 1979. Fine fellow, excellent photographer!! I hope that he did not suffer in the end.

Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on Larry Stevens. First-hand accounts such as these are priceless and one of the things that make The E-Sylum special -Editor
Stevens Larry My relationship with Larry Stevens can best be described as love-hate. The hate came first.

I was aware of his amazing ability as a photographer and his specialty of photographing numismatic items, events and institutions. In the 1950s I was compiling all the details I could find on the medallic works of Victor D. Brenner. My research uncovered the family collection of Brenner's works, known as the "Jaspon Litt collection."

I learned Jaspon Litt was a real person who worked for the Social Security department of the government and lived in Baltimore. I had made arrangements with him to examine the collection and to photograph it. I asked Larry Stevens if he could join me at the time and photograph all the items.

He agreed. I paid him half his fee in advance. A week or two later the prints arrived of all the shots he took of the Brenner medals. I paid the remainder of his fee. I assumed I had exclusive use of those photographs.

How wrong I was. Within months those photographs started showing up in COINage magazine. I screamed at both COINage and at Larry Stevens. Without a contract he claimed ownership of the negatives and could sell them to whomever he chose and how often he choose. It soured me on both parties and the project.

The good news is that the Jaspon Lit collection eventually was donated to the American Numismatic Society -- where it should have gone -- and remains intact today. I was hired to appraise the most spectacular piece in the collection, a three-foot plaster model of Lincoln, a la the Lincoln cent.

Earlier, in 1967, when I was a recent employ of Medallic Art Company, Larry wrote MACO president, William Louth, if he could come do a photo shoot of the plant. Bill agreed and assigned me to assist him. Not one to carry a grudge, I complied and even wrote the text for the COINage story, "Home of the Art Medal" illustrated with all of Larry's photographs. [COINage, December 1967, 3:12, p 26-29]

Medallic Art ordered reprints from COINage of that article, twice I believe, as we handed them out fairly freely. So my approbation of Larry Stevens increased.

Over the years, however, I tried to get prints from those negatives he had, but he refused even to answer my letters. My last appeal was April 4, 2005.

There was a rumor that numismatic photo guru Bill Nawrocki of Chicago had Larry's negatives and was his agent for sales of the photos from those negatives. I contacted Bill. Not true.

It was obvious Larry had stopped photographing in the numismatic field. We heard he had found an interest in carving bird models. But he must have felt disappointed in the numismatic field because he severed ties with those who could have used his services. Too bad.

Now, after his death, those files of his numismatic negatives are extremely valuable to the numismatic field. I hope they have not been destroyed. But I should state they can only be used by another professional photographer. Reason: when Larry would photograph a round coin or medal he would tilt it slightly at a fixed angle. The image on the negative is an oval.

Only he made prints from his negatives. On his enlargement stand he would also have the print paper board tilted at an angle to compensate for this. Thus the prints would show a perfectly round coin or medal. But not everyone can do this from his negatives.

I learned one-time Stack's photographer, Robert Meyers, did the same thing. (He not only photographed some of my medals he was also my auctioneer.) It has something to do with reducing glare from a coin's reflective surface I guess. Sorry, I am not a photographer; I don't understand the reason for this technique.


DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE'S second mail-bid auction closed on June 4. The prices realized list is available on the firm's Web site at . For more information, contact David Fanning at

Wayne Homren, Editor

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