The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 21, May 20, 2012, Article 8


Pete Smith forwarded a link to an online obituary of John M. Coffee Jr., longtime editor of The Fare Box, a publication of the American Vecurist Association. Thanks! Here it is. -Editor

John Coffee COFFEE, John Main Jr., of Brookline, MA, died Tuesday, May 8th, 2012, in Brookline at age 83. He was a Unitarian Minister, longtime Professor of History at Emerson College, and an avid collector of transportation tokens. He was born November 20, 1928, in Tacoma, WA, to John Main Coffee and Lillian (Slye) Coffee. He attended public schools in Tacoma and Washington, DC, and graduated from the Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, VA, in 1947. He earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1951 and two master's degrees in Divinity and Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1954 and 1956.

While at Harvard, John was editor of The Scribe, the Divinity School student publication. He was ordained into the Unitarian ministry in 1954 and was installed as minister at the First Church in Roxbury, MA. For 20 years at First Church, John was very involved in the Church's youth group, "The Putnam Guild," making lifelong friends with many in the group as well as others throughout New England who were members of the Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) movement. He also served as president of the Boston Ministers Association.

In 1966, John's teaching career began almost by chance. The dean of Emerson College, Richard Pearce, was a deacon at First Church, and invited John to teach history part-time. In 1970, he became a full-time faculty member and taught a variety of courses, among them Western Civilization, History of England, The World Since 1914, U.S. Constitutional History, and History of the Bible. Fiercely devoted to his students, and outspoken against the Vietnam War, John was able to save many boys from the draft through his testimony. One of the most beloved teachers at Emerson, John is a rare two-time recipient of the College's Gold Key for outstanding teaching (1987 and 1993). He is also the co-author (with Richard L. Wentworth) of A Century of Eloquence: The History of Emerson College, 1880-1980, published in 1982. After 39 years of teaching at Emerson, John retired at age 76, receiving the title of Professor Emeritus in 2005.

At age 11, John began collecting coins, an activity that led to token collecting. He became one of the founding members of the American Vecturist Association (AVA), the only national society of transportation token collectors in the United States. Organized in 1948, the AVA began with 33 charter members consisting mostly of bus drivers and a few numismatists and college students; since then, its membership has grown into the hundreds. From 1949 to April 2012, he was Editor of approximately 775 issues of the AVA's monthly newsletter, The Fare Box. He is also co-editor (with Harold V. Ford) of The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue of United States and Canadian Transportation Tokens, now in its 6th edition (2007): it describes in detail, and gives the approximate market value of every known transportation token issued in the US and Canada. John's other token-related publications include the books Automobile Washing Tokens (co-author Harold V. Ford, 1986), and Land Company and Real Estate Tokens (1991), as well as numerous articles.

Until his death, John owned the largest collection of transportation tokens in the world. "The thing about tokens," he once told Newsday, "is that they give you a wonderful sense of this country. A quarter is a quarter, no matter where you are, but a token from Ashland or Mount Vernon has a character all its own. It is a piece of history and a part of American character."

A diehard traveler averse to flying, John drove or rode trains across the U.S. every summer for decades. He loved to explore small towns where he could collect and research old and new tokens. He was a welcome visitor of friends in California, and of his mother in Tacoma. Never married, John is survived by loving friends, students, and fellow collectors. Information about services for John can be found at JS Waterman & Son: .

To read the original obituary, see:

Pete also passed along this article found by Dennis O'Leary. It's from Emerson College, where Coffee taught for 35 years. -Editor

Longtime Emerson faculty member and Professor Emeritus of History John M. Coffee Jr. died on May 8, 2012. He was 83 and a resident of Brookline, Massachusetts.

Coffee taught at the College for 35 years, and was the author (with Richard Wentworth '79) of a large volume on the history of Emerson College, A Century of Eloquence.

He was universally beloved by his colleagues and "adored" by his students. He was known as a talented storyteller who brought history alive in his classroom.

The 1981 Emersonian yearbook was dedicated to Coffee, in honor of his teaching methodology and his ability to make historical events relevant to modern life.

Through one of his students, Coffee was introduced to author Stephen King; King enjoyed the encounter so much that he named the main character in The Green Mile for Coffee.

To read the complete article, see: Emerson mourns the loss of Rev. John Coffee (

Fare Box 1950-Jan Fare Box 2012-Jan
January, 1950 and January, 2012 issues of The Fare Box
Images courtesy David Gladfelter

David Gladfelter writes:

John used to write about the cross country train rides (between Boston and Tacoma, to visit his family and friends, with stops en route) in the Fare Box. Enjoying rail travel fits in with transportation token collecting. He published and mailed the summer issues from Tacoma.

True to his ministerial calling, he regularly noted the passing of AVA members with brief remarks about them on the Fare Box's front pages. He collected people as well as tokens. When you sent an article into him for publication, you always received a polite acknowledgment via postcard usually with some more information from him about your topic.

The adage "to get something done, ask a busy man" fit him nicely.

AVA Curator Keith Haney adds this detail:

The Fare Box was started in July 1947 by R. L. Moore as a token collector's checklist, and he abdicated with the Dec.1948 issue. The AVA was formed on October 31, 1948 in New York City, and a young student at Yale, John Coffee, became charter member #14. The AVA took over the Fare Box as a house organ with the January 1949 issue #19 and named John, then 20, and D. Meade Peebles, another 20-ish and charter member #13, as co-editors. The October Fare Box, issue #28, explained the Mr. Peebles was no longer involved, and named John Coffee as sole editor of the Fare Box. Our February 2012 issue was John's 749th consecutive issue as editor, a period spanning 62 years and five months.

I'm a late bloomer to this editing business. Let's see, I can break that record if I edit The E-Sylum until I'm 103. I suppose anything is possible - Eric Newman and Jim Charlton are still going strong at 100+, and Bob Hendershott lived to 106. I'm going to take the advice of the old cowboy in the following story that arrived this week from the Good Clean Funnies mailing list. -Editor

A tough old cowboy from South Texas counseled his grandson that if he wanted to live a long life, the secret was to sprinkle a pinch of gun powder on his oatmeal every morning.

The grandson did this religiously to the age of 103 when he died.

He left behind 14 children, 30 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren, 25 great-great-grandchildren, and a 15-foot crater where the crematorium used to be.

To read the original article, see: Long Live The Cowboy (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: JOHN COFFEE 1928 - 2012 (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster