The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 4, January 27, 2013, Article 7


Regarding last week's question about Favorite Mint Directors, Gene Brandenburg writes:

Sometime during the 90's, U.S. Mint Director Phil ("the real") Diehl walked into my coin store in Alexandria, Va. one afternoon with a small group of employees after having lunch nearby. He was curious about how well some of the commemorative programs were doing in the aftermarket and I showed him a "Graysheet" (Coin Dealer Newsletter) showing that many were trading well below their issue price - some barely above melt/scrap. His entourage were courteous, polite and curious and a nice discussion ensued. I was impressed.

My next encounter with a mint director was with Ed Moy who sadly lacked prudence in his choice of dinner companions. He was seen in Old Town Alexandria (November 2010) dining with the infamous "gang of 12" - also known as Nummis Nova (Schenkman, Leidman, Schena, (gangleader) Homren and other ruffians). Mr. Moy was articulate and entertaining, answering all questions and giving a good picture of how the mint was running, their production problems with the new 5 oz. silver coin, etc. It was a fine evening for Nummis Nova but word must have leaked out about his unfortunate decision to come and he left office several months later. Nummis Nova hung another scalp on their lodge pole.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article about our dinner with Director Moy, see: WAYNE'S NUMISMATIC DIARY: NOVEMBER 14, 2010 (

Those are the only two Mint Directors I've ever met personally, and I concur with Gene's evaluation - nice guys. I'd have to think about the roster of historical Directors to come up with other favorites. But "Favorite" is not the same as "Best", which implies more thoughtful consideration of criteria and a more methodical evaluation - the difference between a Tweet and a real article. Ed Reiter submitted his analysis and makes a good argument for a different list of top Mint Directors. Thanks! -Editor

Ed Reiter writes:

I read with interest the list of Aaron Swartz’s favorite U.S. Mint directors, as reported by John Kraljevich in The E-Sylum dated Jan. 20. I respect John’s judgment, so I defer to his conclusion that this “hacker/Internet genius” was exceptionally smart and talented. In fact, being partial to iconoclasts, I find myself admiring his accomplishments – even though some appear to have been a bit outside the bounds of established law – and join John in lamenting his sudden death.

I question, however, whether this troubled young man – who took his own life recently – really displayed much genius in assessing the men and women who have headed the U.S. Mint over the last 220 years.

Philip Diehl, whom Swartz described as “the most respected U.S. Mint director America’s ever had,” served with distinction – but personally, I don’t believe he ranks among the top five holders of the office, much less at the very top, where he was listed by Swartz. The main accomplishment of Diehl’s tenure, establishment of the 50 State Quarters Program, was the brainchild of other “fathers,” including David Ganz, Harvey Stack and Congressman Michael Castle – though Diehl, to his credit, did provide key support in bringing the program to fruition.

Since John and I are both members of the Rittenhouse Society, I would feel somewhat squeamish about omitting David Rittenhouse, our first Mint director. Swartz’s list includes him, and so would mine. In my view, however, another early Mint director, Elias Boudinot, is just as deserving of recognition, if not more so. Boudinot held the office for nearly a decade, from 1795 to 1805 – three times longer than Rittenhouse – and skillfully dealt with problems just as taxing as those that confronted Rittenhouse. Not just incidentally, he served as president of the Continental Congress in 1782-83, making him the leader of the nation – under the Articles of Confederation – seven years before George Washington.

Swartz’s list includes three other names: “Patterson, Ross, Sims.”

There were two Mint directors named Patterson: Robert Patterson (1805-1824) and his son, Robert Maskell Patterson (1835-1851). Both were highly competent and both might well be ranked in the Top 5 – although, from a numismatic standpoint, the younger Patterson had a hand in more major developments, including the introduction of steam-powered coin production and the opening of three new branch mints in the South. I would put Robert the Younger on my list.

Nellie Tayloe Ross is clearly an excellent choice, based on the length and quality of her stewardship and also her symbolic importance. She was the first woman to serve as Mint director, just as she had been the first woman elected as governor of a state. That state, Wyoming, was the first to grant women the right to vote. Ross was Mint director from 1933 to 1953 – a time of major change and growth. One blot on her record was the appointment of curmudgeon Leland Howard, implacable foe of 1933 double eagles and coin collecting in general, as deputy Mint director.

Though Swartz was fully justified in listing Director Ross, his choice of Stella Hackel Sims is puzzling, to say the least. I had a good relationship with Sims during her years of service, from 1977 to 1981 – a period during which I became Numismatics columnist for The New York Times. She was easy to reach (unlike some subsequent Mint directors) and forthcoming in response to any questions I might have had. Since then, however, it has come to light that many irreplaceable records in the Mint’s archives were destroyed at Sims’ direction. Swartz might not have known of this – but from a numismatic standpoint, it argues for Sims’ inclusion among the worst Mint directors, not the best.

From my perspective, the best Mint director from the last half of the 20th century was Sims’ immediate predecessor, Mary Brooks – who does not appear on Swartz’s list. I dealt with Brooks and her assistant, Roy Cahoon, on an almost daily basis during my 13 months as editor of Numismatic News and found them readily accessible, highly knowledgeable and unfailingly helpful. Brooks played a major role in the Bicentennial coin program and became a much better friend to our hobby than her predecessor, even though the latter was inexplicably enshrined in the ANA Hall of Fame.

Others not on Swartz’s list merit mention as well – notably James Ross Snowden, James Pollock and Richard Linderman. I suspect these three would all make a “Top 10” compilation, but that’s a list for another rainy day – or, more likely, the next Pennsylvania blizzard. For now, five is enough.

Thanks, Ed. This is a great topic, and I'd be curious to hear other readers' thoughts. What do you think the criteria for evaluation should be? Embrace of new technology? Embrace of the numismatic hobby? Artistic and stylistic vision? Political savvy? Appreciation of history? -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JANUARY 20, 2013: Aaron Swartz's Favorite US Mint Directors (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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