Erik Goldstein is Curator of Mechanical Arts & Numismatics at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Erik has written an obituary of Joseph Lasser which will appear in Coin World and other upcoming publications. Erik shared the draft with me, and below are some excerpts describing Joe's numismatic research, writing, and collection.
On January 17, 2011, the international numismatic community lost a titan with the passing of Joseph "Joe" Lasser. Far more than just a collector, Joe, with the support of his family, became a prominent scholar, author and philanthropist.
Joe's childhood fascination with things numismatic resurged as his young family matured, and he began to collect the paper money of the colonial period, including the Continental Currency issues of the Revolutionary War period. Always brilliant and inquisitive, it was in this area that Joe made his first significant contribution to numismatics. After painstakingly reading though tens of thousands of pages of Continental Congress papers, Joe assembled the universally accepted list of authorized Continental Currency signers which appears in Eric Newman's The Early Paper Money of America.
Shortly thereafter, Joe set out to collect anything and everything that circulated in colonial America, including coins of the world trade. Over the years, the Lasser collection grew in size and scope, and now contains world-class holdings of American colonial material. Areas of great strength include Betts and Indian peace medals, Massachusetts silver coins by die variety, and French, Dutch and Spanish Colonial coins. In the latter category, Joe's collection of Colombian coins formed the basis his The Cob Coinage of Colombia (2000), co-authored with Jorge Restrepo, and now the standard reference on the subject.
Other numismatic publications include The Coins of Colonial America (1997) in addition to some two dozen articles appearing in various publications over the past four decades. Further immersing himself into collecting and publishing, he began not only to lend coins & paper money to museum exhibits, but he began giving them to various North American institutions that had a use for them.
Joe never lost sight of how lucky he was, and his unique circumstances allowed him to assemble a collection few could even dream of doing. A lover of numismatics to the core, he was aware of the value of education, and thus his primary focus shifted from the acquisition or material to sharing it with those inside and outside of the numismatic community.
After a long and difficult search, and with the support of his family, Joe decided that this unique collection could be best "used," as he put it, by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Today, the Foundation's multitude of ventures ranging from museum and virtual exhibitions to national educational programs, have found "uses" for the collection that go well beyond what Joe initially imagined. With more than 3600 coins, medals and pieces of paper money, the Lasser collection at Colonial Williamsburg is truly a national treasure.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
JOSEPH R. LASSER 1923 - 2011
Wayne Homren, Editor
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