The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 20, May 13, 2012, Article 8


Regarding the latest issue of our print journal, Bill Burd writes:

Asylum v29n4 I received The Asylum last Friday. Pete Smith's article "Three Degrees of Dave Bowers" was great! For the readers of this article the degree of interest will be directly related to their involvement with the coin industry. Being in the business for 34 years I was able to relate to many of the personalities and companies and enjoyed the trip.

Dick Johnson submitted this analysis of the current lead article in The Asylum. Thanks! -Editor

Perhaps once a decade appears an article of such outstanding importance that it should be studied by every major leader in his chosen field. Such an article is Three Degrees of Dave Bowers in the current issue just received. This article encapsulates the history, the management, the major players in the numismatic field -- and the business relationships of those major players -- in 23 pages.

This article could only have been written by Pete Smith. No other person in the numismatic field has the knowledge that is so evident in this essay, with the one possible exception of Dave Bowers himself. Pete has served his apprenticeship well for the present task by compiling the biographies of 1400 numismatic luminaries in his American Numismatic Biographies, first published in 1992 (in a rare limited edition of 25 copies). Two years ago he placed his entire biographical databank, updated and modified, on the web for all to access. See: .

For this article he piled fact on top of fact. For every two words there appears to be three facts. Forget literary transition and segway, this is a massive compendium of events in the lives of some of the most prominent people in numismatics, the movers and shakers. It's like Pete was adding one fact stone on top of another to build a tower of commercial numismatic structure..

As he perches on top of this summit he has the rare overview of the entire numismatic field and possesses the rare insight to perceive what is important. He has distilled a tremendous amount of shifting alliances to present the outcome of these actions for the reader to easily grasp. Thank you Pete for your magnificent work.

But what about the numismatic field? Here is my analysis based on Pete's report:

  • The numismatic field is vibrant and well.
  • Auction sales and auction companies dominate the field, as auctions prove -- historically and contemporally -- the most effective method of marketing numismatic material.
  • David Bowers, unquestioned leader of the field, was correctly chosen as the center of commercial activity for, what, four decades? We are fortunate to have a person of his intellect and integrity to be so active in our field.
  • Once a coin dealer has some success in buying and selling he graduates by increasingly larger "deals." It is inevitable this leads to multi-million dollar transactions, ultimately to buying and selling existing numismatic dealerships and auction firms. It is a normal progression of scale.
  • Many of the commercial numismatic entities discussed in this article were short lived. Operated for a brief time and passed on to new blood.
  • Only a handful of the numismatic firms in America have been in business for half a century or more. Few of those established by returning servicemen following World War II still exist.
  • Firms in the field tend to be limited to the life of a single proprietor.
  • Mom-and-pop coin shops are many; substantial large-scale numismatic firms are few.
  • There are several two- and three-generation numismatic firms in America, but not many.
  • We have no family dynasty numismatic firms in America like existed in England, notably Spinks and Seabys.

I literally read Pete's article three times. I learned some new insight with each reading. With all these shifting alliances, a reader needs a scorecard. Pete Smith furnished this.

One shortcoming of the article I heard was that it doesn't cover Heritage, but that's not a firm Dave Bowers was directly associated with, so it's outside the scope of the title. But that's a fine idea for another article. If anyone has additions, corrections or plans for a follow-on or companion article, please contact Asylum editor David Yoon. -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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