Readers know I'm a big fan of specialty numismatic publications, and one of my favorites is Chopmark News
edited by Colin Gullberg for the The Chopmark Collectors Club. The September 2011 issue (Volume 15, Issue 3) has a nice interview by Colin with Dick Doty, curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Here are some excerpts. For more information on the newsletter Colin can be reached at
CG: First let me ask you about yourself and your collecting interests. What do you collect?
RD: I‘ve collected many things over the years. I started out with US coins when I was a kid and later moved into foreign coins: 18th and 19th century European stuff, Far Eastern, Roman Imperial, Byzantine, 18th century British tokens, and 19th century Mexican coins which I started about 50 years ago, gave up for a bit, but have now come back to. So a bit of everything.
CG: When did you start collecting?
RD: In 1950.
CG: Did you or do you collect chopmarked coins?
RD: I don‘t collect chopmarked coins in any systematic way, but I do have some. I bought my first chopmarked coin in 1963, a 1807 Mexican 8 reales. I didn‘t know anything about chopmarks at the time. I bought it because the price was pretty good and I could afford it. I was at college at the time. Later I lived in Guam and when I was there some Far Eastern stuff came my way. I have been interested in them ever since. I have a 1904 Mexican Zacatecas peso and a 1877-S US Trade dollar. I have some coins with Korean chopmarks, and I picked up a Philip III or IV piece of eight from Mexico City with very tiny chopmarks. A few of these things came on the market a few years ago. I heard there was a hoard of Mexican stuff found on the coast of China. It makes
sense of course, that‘s where the coins went in the China trading days. I‘m not interested in coins unless they have served their actual purpose, which is to say they have been used. Chopmarks show that the coin was used for commerce and probably passed through many hands.
CG: Were you ever a dealer?
RD: No. When I was 15 or 16 years old I worked for some dealers in Portland, Oregon, but I was never a dealer.
CG: Your title is doctor. What is your PhD in?
RD: It‘s not anything remotely related to numismatics. We don‘t have in this country any degrees in numismatics. In Europe it tends to be the handmaiden of archaeology, but we don‘t have that much archaeology around here that involves coins. I mean, if you find a hoard of nickels from 1928 big deal, we already know what was going on in 1928. My PhD is in Latin American studies. I did my PhD in the 1960s when the cold war was on and America was worried about Castro. I concentrated in Latin American history and my dissertation is in Mexican history.
CG: What exactly does a curator do?
RD: It depends on the curator. I spend about 50% of my time writing and 50% researching, mainly on the collections we‘ve got here. My research has tended to be on American topics but my Matthew Boulton book on 18th century British Trade Tokens was done by travelling back and forth to Birmingham, England. I also travel a lot and give lectures. I‘m also mentoring some of the younger people here who are new hires.
CG: Does the Smithsonian have a large numismatic department?
RD: No, there are only four people.
It's amazing what the Internet has done to enable the exchange of numismatic information. Chopmark news is available in hardcopy or electronically (a .pdf sent via email).
Colin lives in Taipei, Taiwan.
For more information on the club, see:
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