The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 28, July 7, 2013, Article 6


Alan V. Weinberg submitted this review of Karl Moulton's new book, “John J. Ford, Jr. and the ‘Franklin Hoard’”. Thanks. -Editor

Ford Franklin Hoard book cover I must admit to having placed Karl Moulton's massive 900 + page John J. Ford, Jr. & Paul Franklin book aside after perusing it for a short while upon receipt some three weeks ago. Gad, how was I going to be able to get through this tome with all my other activities?

Well, the other day I finally picked it up and read it for several hours over several days while sitting in front of the TV... not really watching . A really easy read and a fascinating one. As is often my pattern, I will read such a book in sections, not necessarily in order. The Moulton text is not at all complex or profuse. Indeed, the easy majority of the 900+ pages is composed of plates of suspicious and "pioneer territorial" items and letters between Ford and other dealers and Ford's many private buyers - the latter mostly wealthy and highly educated collectors , some of whom I knew well like Henry Clifford of Pasadena.

Which brings me to explain the presence of the 1982 Bowers and Ruddy Henry Clifford Los Angeles auction catalogue of Western pioneer and territorial numismatic coins, patterns and ingots, mass-shipped along with the book itself (an auction I attended) . This was clearly an intentional act by Moulton as it reflects just how much of this famous auction offering was of spurious ingots, patterns and trial strikes. A startling percentage of the collection !

Clearly, no other auction offering in numismatic history contained nearly as high a percentage of suspect expensive items as this sale did. It is fascinating to cross-reference the profuse Clifford/Ford correspondence illustrated in the book with the auction catalogue. Clifford was undoubtedly the biggest buyer of this material. Yet Clifford, ironically an investment counselor, was a thorough researcher and would not buy an item without establishing the historical background of the item and even its metallic alloy content.

This is what Ford and Paul Franklin were masters at. Franklin physically made these items of silver and gold alloy of the period and region (easily done by melting nuggets or common coins of the period and region) while Ford thoroughly researched the historic background of the coiners and assayers. Franklin designed the items in conjunction with Ford's advice and Ford was the salesman, finding and persuading his buyers of the items' legitimacy.

Ford was a very convincing salesman, with his deep baritone voice, six-foot stature and his infinite knowledge of the Old West. Indeed, he extensively advertised during this 1950-80 period for such items, apparently convincing buyers and intermediary dealers that such a profuse and constant availability of these items was the result of his advertising, most often through the respected publications and auction catalogues of Charles Wormser's New Netherlands Coin Co. Charles Wormser, unlike his father Moritz, was not an accomplished numismatist and clearly yielded to the whims and demands of his employee. Charles is free of any suspicion. I knew him. Almost a "babe in the woods".

Also covered in the Moulton book: Ford was also an accomplished trader and very convincing in his private numismatic transactions. Here it is clear that "knowledge is king" as we know so well today. More than once Ford was able to convince an owner of a valuable and rare coin that the traces of die rust or the superb condition of a rarity must be indicative of a restrike, such as with his much-litigated acquisition of one of the four original 1861 Confederate silver half dollars.

He was also convincing in quoting the recent sale price of a markedly inferior gold coin when trying to acquire a Gem Uncirculated an era where superb condition was not nearly as important or impactful on price as it is today. This first came to the auction fore with the 1958 New Netherlands sale of Elliot Landau's collection who, according to author Ford in that catalogue, did pay well over "market-value" for superb condition, well above middle grade condition pieces. Collector Landau is addressed in the Moulton book (I own Landau's Gem Unc 1792 half disme).

All this is apparent throughout the Moulton book and it is a pleasant and easy read if done in segments over perhaps less than a week. The book is not for the Franklin half full bell lines, Mercury dimes split bands and slab grader "numismatists" so prevalent on the PCGS Coin Forum or in our hobby today. This book is for more accomplished numismatists. But it is not technical or a difficult read at all. It is a pleasant and enthralling travel through numismatic time 1950-80 or so - easily on par with the best of Dave Bowers' nostalgic books.

One thing shocked me and still deeply impresses me more than anything else in the book: Author Moulton was able to acquire and print full size in its entirety a letter typed up in 1891 with its original mailing envelope. Although unsigned, it is clearly the product of John J. Ford, Senior- JJF Jr's father. It originates from a New York City address in proximity to JJF, Jr.s address and before Senior moved to Los Angeles where Jr was born. It discusses in detail the Senior's planned sale of counterfeit US currency. The pattern of typing, the speech used, the paragraph spacing, the strong personality behind the words...if I didn't know the 1891 origin date, I would have thought this was typed by JJF Jr. Over the decades I rec'd many such typed missives from JJF Jr and many more are illustrated in the Moulton book. Through this 1891 letter, it is remarkable how alike Senior and Jr were in personality and apparent character. The old adage "the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree" was never truer. I wonder if there was a physical similarity and suspect so.

It is also clear that the intermediary dealers who handled and sold many items for JJF, Jr were as taken in as the clients they served, convinced by Ford's research behind the coin or ingot, his personality and extensive advertisements and knowledge of the Old West that the items were all legitimate. Sure, the constant flow of such items over years could have raised alarms, but by then Ford seemed to have the field "tied up" with his reputation.

Clearly, such reputable dealers would not have intentionally sold such items to wealthy long term clients and eventually into the Smithsonian itself or constructed an impressive auction catalogue for all the world to see if they had an inkling of the true nature of the material. Even Congress in the late 1960's in considering the Lilly estate $5.5M tax credit deal exchange with the Smithsonian ignored the warnings that many of the collection items were clearly suspect. I was there and so testified. Not much change in Congress today.

In summary, a well put together book, a fascinating and easy read and a thorough glimpse into American numismatics of the 1950-80's period. And a character study of perhaps American numismatics' most intriguing rogue.

To read an earlier E-Sylum article, see: BOOK REVIEW: JOHN J. FORD AND THE FRANKLIN HOARD (

For more information, or to order, see: NEW BOOK: JOHN J. FORD, JR., AND THE FRANKLIN HOARD (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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