The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 31, July 25, 2013, Article 8


Harold Levi writes:

While reading the various comments about John J. Ford, Jr., I immediately thought of John W. Haseltine. Today, Haseltine is recognized as having been a bit nefarious in some of his coin dealings. He is known to have been the primary outlet for illegally struck U.S. coins obtained by his father-in-law, William Idler. Also, he was involved with the sale of the two $50 half-unions that left the Mint illegally. Yet, he is considered too have been a very knowledgeable numismatists.

The stories Haseltine told about the Confederate cent were just that, stories. He told stories about how he acquired 1803 and 1804 silver dollars from Europe. These and other stories were used to deflect questions about items he sold. It seems that Ford was doing a similar thing. The problem for Ford is that he wrote his stories in letters and Karl Moulton has published them. Stories are difficult to keep straight when you tell lies.

As with Haseltine, we now have to determine when Ford was telling the truth. No doubt, there is some good historical information in the auction descriptions Ford wrote. We just have to determine which ones are factual and those that are not. Where did Ford get the name of the bar where Robert Lovett, Jr. spent the discovery Confederate cent? Also, what documentation did he have that told the name of the bartender? I do not believe either of the names that have been published. (This was in an auction description in the Stack's Ford X sale and attributed to Ford. This was a general description about the Confederate cents in that auction and was a page or so long.)

It's interesting to note Harold's comparison of Ford to Haseltine in light of the earlier article's description of both men as prior owners of the 1783 Nova Constellatio pattern set. -Editor

Paul Bosco writes:

When I was first working for NASCA, I thought a Hong Kong 1866-67 half dollar –then worth maybe $300, and always a scarce coin—was fake. Ford said no way. I realized later that he would have sold it to our consignor, when he sold the Wayte Raymond foreign coin holdings en masse.

Ford disgorged an opinion, which I will quote as exactly as my admittedly-impressive memory permits: “The worst thing you can do is call a genuine coin a fake.”

Or maybe he said “ONE of the worst things…” Anyway, I am inclined to agree with him, but there is, in retrospect, something of the “raw nerve touched” in that quote. The HK half? It was good.

A variation on the theme: Ford and Franklin provided Americans with a legal way (pre-1970s) to buy gold. I am guessing his buyers were not paying more than $70/oz, and that every one of them made money, so to speak. Some of today’s telemarketers may be doing their gold customers less of a favor.

Personally, my numismatic cost-benefit analysis of Ford would put him at better than 50/50, Good vs. Bad. If I were a book dealer, I guess he’d rate even better. Mind you, most numismatists, while not as impactful as our John, would rate well over 90%.

Dick Johnson writes:

John Ford had always been good to me. From book-buying trips together in New Haven to my days at Coin World -- where he wrote a magnificent article and hadn't written anything for other publications recently. I felt honored he chose the fledgling CW over other long-established numismatic journals.

I looked past his often acerbic personality to the knowledgeable numismatic expert inside that sometimes gruff exterior. At a speech he gave on numismatic literature at a Baltimore coin club meeting once I sat in the front row, whipped out a notepad and made notes of what he said. He remembered that and repeated it often, perhaps pigeonholing my interest in numismatic literature in that vast catalog of numismatists in his brain.

He recommended me to J. Doyle DeWitt as a numismatic literature devotee. Author DeWitt sent me a copy of his great work on American campaign tokens and medals because of John's suggestion. (DeWitt still an active reference in my library.)

He was a fastidious eater, what he ate and how he ate it. I remember once he came to my office at Medallic Art on East 45th Street in midtown Manhattan. He sat across from my desk and asked permission to eat a snack he brought with him. After consuming it magically appeared a moist towellet whereupon he cleansed his hands.

It is well known John's association with Charles Wormser in New Netherlands Coin Company. Charlie Wormser was a fine honest gentleman. But he was not the numismatist his father, Moritz Wormser, was. He needed a John Ford for the numismatic expertise in the firm.

When the two parted, and John left New Netherlands, no reason was published at the time. By then I was conducting auctions of medals with my partner, Chris Jensen. We heard a rumor that Charlie Wormser had some remaining inventory from New Netherlands' days.

I made an appointment to meet with him. Chris and I went to his office, by then just a desk in a bare room, not like the suite of offices that was NN before. I touted Charlie and my mutual membership in the New York Numismatic Club plus my long-time friendship with both John Ford and Walter Breen.

I kept talking when, I realized later, I should have listened to what Charlie Wormser was trying to tell me. Perhaps he would have revealed the dark side of John Ford. I'm certain he knew by then of John's clandestine activities. This may certainly have been one of the reasons for the split between the two men. However, had Charlie said at the time that John was a counterfeiter I would not have believed it.

John Ford was a very complex person. But our field is so small that it is difficult to maintain secrets for long. John should have known his shady activities would ultimately by revealed. But greed got the better of him.

Good deeds are soon forgotten; misdeeds are long remembered. In time the good deeds of John Ford will be obscured by the malfeasance he may have committed.

Bob Julian writes:

I have read with increasing distaste the attacks on John Ford. It seems to be a fetish for some writers to attack those who cannot defend themselves. I think the best remarks that I have seen to date are those written by John Kleeberg in this forum. In point of fact I knew John Ford reasonably well; he certainly had no compunction about sharp trading but then this is true of many collectors of the past and present. My personal opinion is, and will remain, that Ford was fooled by Paul Franklin in an area of numismatics that was imperfectly understood at the time. I also note that Ford has not been given due credit for his strong personal involvement in promoting research in American numismatics.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: READER REACTIONS TO BOWERS' THOUGHTS ON JOHN J. FORD (


Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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