Earlier today the numismatic community learned that dealer Richard Rossa (formerly of Rossa and Tanenbaum) has passed away. I was sorry to hear the news, which I first learned through Alan Weinberg. Here are notes from Alan and Paul Bosco, with some images provided by Paul. Bill Rosenblum also passed along the word. Thanks, everyone.
Alan V. Weinberg writes:
Tony Terranova called to inform me that Rich Rossa, partner with the late Steve Tanenbaum in the prominent exonumia firm Rossa & Tanenbaum died Saturday night in the hospital.
Rich had been involved in a serious traffic accident last January and had been in and out of the hospital with kidney dialysis and attendant infections partially resulting from the accident. His knowledge of numismatics and the esoteric ranges of the hobby was enormous. Between him and Tanenbaum there was scarcely a subject they weren't very knowledgeable about.
Rossa was semi-retired from the R & T firm perhaps a decade or so ago and could still be found searching the New York and Pennsylvania flea markets. Since Steve Tanenbaum's unfortunate and far premature death in Feb 2011, Rossa had been handling Steve's massive numismatic estate and, from all reports, was doing a creditable job.
I had only just learned on Saturday that Rich had a car accident in January, breaking a hand and foot. He had been in the hospital several times since. Hospitals are dangerous places where germs are shared. Rich was about 70. I don't know the specific cause of death, but perhaps the disappointment of having to slow down was a contributing factor. He leaves his wife, Rita, his daughter Vicki, son-in-law Paul, and a 3-year-old grand-daughter.
We have now lost both halves of Rossa and (Steve) Tanenbaum. Familiarly called "the RaTs" --they had a cartoon rat depicted on their business card-- they were possibly the most dynamic token-and-medal show dealers of all time. Steve was murdered in 2011, hit by a car.
Their success was based on the breadth of their combined knowledge, the size and scope of the inventory, some strategic "partnerships" (including close relationships with Joe Levine [PCAC], Dave Bowers and John Ford), their similar thinking and their opposite personalities. Also, HARD WORK, about which they NEVER complained, because they loved it, and their work fed their personal collections. A thousand times --maybe 2000-- Rich would drive to some antiques show, often with Steve, inevitably entering at the opening hour, 8am or earlier, after maybe 200 miles on the road.
I met Rich in 1975, when I worked at Schulman Coin and Mint. He was a bookkeeper of some sort, but was doing shows and I think he expected to go full-time shortly. A couple years later Tanenbaum left a very good position at IBM, I believe specifically to partner with Rich.
They were rather token-centric at first, but quick to make their mark in medals, as that part of the exonumia field grew in demand and prestige. Rich loved antiques, or perhaps more particularly collectibles, and such items also broadened their offerings.
"Rossa" sure sounds Italian, and Rich looked Italian, and he could and did cook huge Italian feasts around Christmas-time. I knew Tanenbaum, whose name means "Christmastree", was Jewish, but I always thought Rich was Italian. (He also had a temper from that part of the Mediterranean.) Turns out he descended from Hungarian Jews, and "Rosza" became Rossa at Ellis Island.
One of the great losses of my life was when Rich decided to slim down, and stopped doing his annual Brooklyn feasts.
Rich was not universally loved, and I say that while speaking as his friend. However, he could be as wise as he was shrewd, and capable of valuing you as a person, not just a business associate. He was often generous. As quick and fierce as his temper was, his rages were short-lived, and he was prone to self-awareness, and making amends.
I particularly remember Rich speaking at the memorial for Steve, attended by family, and by the few --yet surprisingly many-- colleagues who could come on negligible notice. Rich spoke first, and longest, It was plain that he knew Steve better than Steve's brothers, from Colorado and the Netherlands. Obviously conscious of an elevated role, he delivered an unvarnished tribute to the humanity of his "business spouse" -- the low comedy, the tedium and the triumphs-- that shared with all and imposed on no one. Rich had the personal generosity to step out of his own grief and speak, brilliantly, to those of us who needed to hear.
Those who knew him well know what a friend they have lost.
Above is a photo from the wedding of Paul and Sue Bosco, 5/29/1994.
Seated: Rich Rossa, Roz Miller, Scott Miller, Steve Tanenbaum. Standing: Rita Rossa, Paul Bosco, Sue Bosco. The close-up of Rich Rossa is a crop from this shot.