About nine years ago, past NBS President Dan Hamelberg visited fellow numismatic bibliophile Eric Newman. With more of Eric's coins coming to auction, I asked him to share his experience with E-Sylum readers.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Eric at his home in St. Louis. The first day we visited the bank where Eric kept his coins and some rare books. He told me that he had an extremely rare book that he wanted to show me.
As we entered the vault, he pulled out one key from his pocket. It unlocked a small sized box. That box in turn contained all the rest of the keys for his various sized boxes in the vault. He opened up a large box and started looking for the book.
As he rooted through the box, he handed me a few old Raymond coin book albums to hold on to as he searched. The first album contained early bust quarters. The 1796 was a high grade unc. The others were also uncirculated as well. As I moved the album back and forth to see the luster, I started to get numb.
Then he handed me the Bust Half Dollar album. The 1794 and the 96' - 97's appeared unc. Again I moved the albums back and forth to see the luster and now I was totally entranced.
Eric finally found the book he wanted to show me. I can recall that he handed me the book, but to this day, I cannot remember what it was. I was still dazed by the coins I was holding at the time. I am sure it was a really rare book, but the coins knocked me out to where I was not fully aware of much else.
I remember a bank official coming into the vault and telling Eric that the bank was closing and we had to leave. As I left the vault, I started to come out of my trance and back to reality. I remember the coins. I do not remember the book.
I visited Heritage's table at the recent ANA show and viewed some of the coins consigned for the upcoming Eric Newman sale. I saw a few of my old friends from the vault. The book remains a mystery.
I was speaking to Dan on the phone the other day when he relayed this story (hands-free, Bluetooth, during an evening commute). I had so much fun talking I missed my exit and took the longer way home. If the coins could fog the minds of two bibliophiles, they’re worth writing about in The E-Sylum.
I shared this story with Maureen and Stuart Levine, who write:
We can certainly attest to the "wow factor" of seeing Eric's collection in the vault. Time flies by and it's suddenly closing time at the bank. Many of those who examined the EPNNES coins at the Chicago ANA expressed a feeling of amazement similar to Dan's. And, as noted in Coin World, there really is something for everyone in the upcoming sale.
Below are some more of Dan's recollections of his visit.
After dinner, we went back to Eric's house. We stayed up past mid-night talking and viewing some of the numismatic ephemera he kept at home. Old fixed price lists, dealer flyers, bank note reporters, pamphlets and brochures galore! I stayed in the quest room which was quite large and comfortable.
The next morning, Eric came in the room while I was finishing packing and putting the room back in order. He sat himself down on a chair, and started telling me some of his early experiences. My favorite story was about his honeymoon in South America. I don't remember the town, but he and his new wife were staying in a coastal town with a large harbor to the Atlantic Ocean. The word came that a German ship was going to enter the harbor soon, and the town's people were not pleased. The time was just prior to U.S. involvement in WWII, and there was a large anti-German feeling in the town. Eric joined a number of locals and floated an old barge out to the harbor entrance and sank it so the German ship could not enter. What a great honeymoon adventure!
After the stories, Eric and I went downstairs for breakfast. Eric's wife is a great hostess and very attentive to him. She told me that Eric had not stayed up so late in many years. After breakfast, we went down to the basement where he kept his collection of counterfeit coin detectors. As we walked thru the basement rooms, I saw a number of large bank style coin counters and wondered how Eric was able to get them into the basement.
When we got to the room where the detectors were kept, we sat down at a large table that was surrounded by four-drawer vertical file cabinets. The file cabinets acted like walls around the large table where the detectors were kept. I asked Eric what was in the file cabinets, and he replied that they contained all the correspondence he had with dealers and collectors for all the years of his numismatic career. What a treasure trove of information!
We spent a few hours reviewing the counterfeit coin detectors, and I tried my best to acquire a few of his duplicates that I needed for my collection. Eric politely said he would rather keep them all at that time. We talked about many numismatic topics, and the time passed quickly. We went back upstairs, and before I left for home we had a light lunch.
Without question, my visit to Eric's home is one of the highlights of my numismatic experiences. I believe the phrase is "a gentleman and a scholar," and it most certainly applies to Eric. Eric Newman is a treasure to the numismatic community.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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