In his earlier Coin World column, Dave Bowers wrote:
Now in print, John J. Ford, Jr., and the “Franklin Hoard” — containing extensive Ford correspondence, invoices and other material — reveals that Ford created many fabrications — saying one thing about the pedigree or origin of a newly discovered item to one buyer and something different to another buyer.
The John J. Ford Jr. delineated by Karl Moulton is not the John that I thought I knew.
I still like to think that John was very good to me over a long period of time. He helped me with much research in Colonials, early American coins, tokens and other specialties. And, without question, his New Netherlands catalogs were and are magnificent. Let me suggest that he was 90 percent good for the hobby and 10 percent negative and self-destructive.
Not surprisingly, some E-Sylum readers had different assessments. One would put the good/bad mix at 50/50. Here's what some others had to say.
Tom Fort writes:
I read last week's edition of The E-Sylum with great interest, but I am afraid that I must strongly disagree with Mr. Bowers’ statement that John Ford ‘was 90 percent good for the hobby and 10 percent negative and self-destructive.’ If Moulton’s monograph is correct — I have not read the book and its subject is far outside my area of interest and expertise — then Ford was a criminal forger who profited from the intentional deception of his clients over a number of years. This in turn casts into doubt the accuracy of all of his published works. [some years ago I wrote a list of those I was able to track down: “A bibliography of the published works of John J. Ford Jr.,” The Asylum 23 (2005), pp. 117-120.]
All of Ford’s work, whether in the form of auction catalogues or articles must now be checked due his criminal activity. After all, how can one trust the word of a man who created numismatic forgeries and sold them to clients? Whatever the depth of his knowledge, Ford used it to fool collectors, dealers and researchers so that he might profit from these deceptions. The damage he inflicted on clients (financial) and researchers (intellectual), is incalculable. Moulton’s book portrays Ford as a highly knowledgeable confidence man. The fact that Mr. Bowers and others still respect Ford and his work is evidence that the con is still working.
David Gladfelter writes:
I don’t think there will ever be a “final word” on John J. Ford. Jr.
This person was a respected numismatist who built a unique collection, memorialized in 21+ elaborate catalogs that advanced the state of the art of auction cataloging. John W. Adams has called him “world-class”. Yet, according to facts now public, Ford did engage in dishonest conduct, and on top of that, did deceive those who were duped by his acts.
It’s easy for one to get up on a high horse to protest, but Ford is not the only respected numismatist with feet of clay. Walter Breen and R. H. Burnie immediately come to mind. The ANA Code of Ethics requires its members “to represent a numismatic item to be genuine only when, to the best of [his/her] knowledge and belief, it is authentic.” The Code requires dealer members “to not knowingly handle for resale forgeries, counterfeits, unmarked copies, altered coins or other spurious numismatic merchandise that is not clearly labeled as such.” In my experience, in virtually every numismatic transaction in which I have participated, these principles have been followed. Of course, you must know your subject to take part in such transactions.
So what value does one place on honesty and truthfulness? To try to answer that question is like trying to nail the proverbial jello to the wall. Anyone’s factual representations should be taken as open to scrutiny – in numismatics we are correcting errors all the time. Of course fraud should be exposed. So agree with Ford where he’s right. As for his deceptions, the chips are now falling.
Michael Sanders writes:
After reading the review of the book about John J. Ford and the counterfeit western coins and ingots I was really depressed. Rumors have circulated for years about the bogus nature of these items and Ford's involvement in their marketing. So Ford was a counterfeiter. I thought about my friendship with Walter Breen who turned out to be a pedophile. When you add all of the coin dealers and promoters from the past that were self-serving manipulators and outright liars, I saw the dark side of our beloved hobby.
Then the sun began to shine. I began to think about all of those involved in Numismatics today. Yes, there are some crooked individuals out to make a buck at the expense of others. However, virtually all of the numismatists that I come in contact today with are honest and trustworthy. They are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience even though there is no immediate profit for them.
It is amazing how the charlatans are weeded out and the honest people remain, continuing to grow and prosper. Bravo to the good guys (and women)!
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
DAVE BOWERS' FINAL WORD ON JOHN J. FORD
Wayne Homren, Editor
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