Richard Margolis submitted these reminiscences of dealers Henry and Bill Christensen. Thanks!
Jeff Zarit’s comment that few of us remain who were around, or who can even remember, when Henry and Bill Christensen were active in numismatics, prompts me, as one of that diminishing few who are still, as far I can tell, alive and kicking, to contribute a few words.
I first visited Henry when he had his offices at 545 Fifth Avenue, Hans Schulman’s long time location, but my more vivid memories are of his office in Hoboken at 95 River Street in the Hudson County National Bank building. He ran a lengthy series of mostly mail bid sales from his offices there for many years.
On a couple of occasions I went to River Street to examine auction lots prior to a sale and Henry (who eventually became one of my sponsors for membership in the IAPN) would on occasion invite me for lunch at the then famous Hoboken Clam House, which was conveniently located diagonally across the street from his office, a lunch which was invariably accompanied by a martini or two, which I recall was Henry’s beverage of choice..
Henry’s sale of September 20, 1967 was a particularly memorable affair. It consisted entirely of medals, all of them, I believe, from the Medina collection. The main attraction was the huge number of Betts medals the sale included, and due to its importance Henry conducted it in his offices as a public sale. The sale attracted a number of numismatic luminaries to River Street. My memory, confirmed by notes in my sale catalogue, indicates that John Ford (the ubiquitous JJF) was there, along with Ted Craige, Billy Anton, Jim King, Charlie McSorley, and others - all of the principal Betts mavens of that era.
Even though by 1967 I had already been a dealer for some ten years, I was still a Betts Babe-in-the-Woods, and although my catalogue indicates that I managed to buy some twenty lots (including a pair of trial pieces for Comitia American medals sold to the Smithsonian), I’ve often reflected since that if only I knew then what I learned subsequently. . .if only. . .if only. . .
Henry moved afterwards to an extensive suite of offices in Madison, New Jersey, near where he and Louise lived. When the New York International Numismatic Convention was founded a few years later, in 1972, Henry and Bill conducted the Convention’s principal auction sale for quite a few of the early years. The arrangements between our Convention and the Christensens, as I recall, were always on a handshake basis, never requiring a formal contract. After Henry was afflicted with prostate cancer, which ultimately proved fatal, Bill successfully carried on the convention auction on his own for a number of years.
Today when numismatics in this country has become Big Business, when the major conventions offer a wall-to-wall panorama of coins encased in their plastic jockstrops, it is difficult not to look back with wistfulness to an era not so long ago when the Christensens were exemplars of those who practiced a more modest and low-key form of numismatics.
In later years I occasionally saw Bill when he visited various conventions, invariably accompanied by his good drinking buddy, Ernie Keusch, but in time Bill faded from the scene, and I and others eventually lost contact with him.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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