The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 20, May 13, 2012, Article 14


Last week Bruce Smith asked about how Cornelius Vermeule and Norman Jacobs were said to inventory the Bank of Japan coin collection. Jon Radel writes:

Is it possible that the rumors started with their acquisition of some of the Osaka Mint collection by trading in bullion before the collection was melted by the US Military Government? In any case, there are tantalizing bits of history both in Vermeule's 1953 introduction to Japanese Coinage, where the thanks given to Isao Gunji of the Bank of Japan and Secretary of the Oriental Numismatic Society don't hint of any strain, and in the biography of Norman Jacobs in the catalog of the Sept. 8, 2011 sale of the collection by Heritage. The latter gives some details of the Osaka Mint acquisitions and also states that "many of the most important items" were purchased from other collectors with the assistance of Isao Gunji.

Harvey Stack writes:

Both Cornelius Vermule and Norman Jacobs were in the U.S. Army during the Second World War and because of their knowledge of Japanese, Finance, Coin collecting and their wonderful education, were selected by the Finance Division of the Army to inventory the coin collection of the Bank of Japan.

It was customary to have our armed forces gather up the value in banks, museums and even educational institutions, to assess for our Government the assets of the conquered country.

They examined all, they inventoried it and left it where it be, usually in vaults till the calm after the war was complete. The usual procedure, by the United States was to get an idea of what was still in a conquered country, and then decide what goes to the United States and what remains. The attitude of our country was to leave the assets such as gold, silver, coins, currency and Art and the like, to help rebuild the infrastructure of the country and leave such historical values there to start their government with education and finance once again.

The same sort of inventories were made in Europe after the war, with similar results. If Mr. Smith wants to learn more of this type of procedure then ask him to look up the career of Leland Howard at the treasury department who was in charge of this procedure in Europe after World War II. He is the same Leland Howard who in 1960 managed at the Treasury Department the OFFICE OF GOLD AND SILVER OPERATIONS, which enforced during the 1960's the Import licensing of Gold Coins in to the U.S. and caused immense trouble with his regulations.

Joe Boling writes:

In addition to its own holdings, the Bank of Japan was the depository for crates of goodies that had been looted from occupied territories during WWII. Hundreds of wristwatches were among the booty, removed from POWs. I interviewed, in the 1970s, the former lieutenant who had been on orders as the custodian of the assets of the Bank of Japan. His last name was Young, and I don't now recall his given name (perhaps Arthur) - I probably could resurrect some notes of that interview if given enough time. I don't know if Jacobs and Vermeule were working for Young or not. One of Young's tasks was to try to identify the original owners (particularly POWs) of the artifacts, based on engraving or other identification markings.

When I visited Jacobs at his home in Carlisle, PA in the 1990s, he told me that the specimens of never-issued bank of Japan notes in his collection (one of which was also in my collection) had been made available to him while he was working in Tokyo in the 1940s, with the understanding that they would come back to the bank when his collection was broken up. That apparently did not happen. He transferred the collection to a son several years before his death, so technically it was not broken up on his watch.

Thanks, everyone! -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: YOUNG NUMISMATISTS AT STACK'S (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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