The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 43, October 20, 2013, Article 4


Dave Bowers kindly forwarded the text of a reminiscence by Dr. George Fuld, published in his new book, A Guide Book of Civil War Tokens. Thanks! Here's an excerpt. -Editor

As of 1943, like many youngsters I started to collect Lincoln cents. By 1946 I was deeply involved in collecting all United States coinage, and had completed my Lincoln cent set as well as a set of Indian Head cents and was pursuing earlier years of this denomination. In 1947 I talked my father, Melvin Fuld, into taking me to the American Numismatic Association convention held that year in Buffalo. For a precocious kid of fifteen, this was such an eye-opening experience. I met two collectors who made a complete change in my collecting interest. They were William Guild of West Newton, Massachusetts (later Florida) and Bill Jacka of Bedford, Ohio. They both told me of a new collecting interest—Civil War tokens. They suggested that this was a wide open field with hundreds of different tokens available at 10 to 25 cents each.

At the show I met David Bullowa, who sold me dozens of different Civil War tokens at twenty-five cents each. At that time, my father had no interest in coin collecting. Over the next year or so he joined me in enjoying these tokens. In 1949, Bullowa acquired the 4,000 plus collection of Civil War tokens formed by Joseph Barnet and advertised in The Numismatist. He wanted $2,500 for the collection, a “huge” sum for me at the time. I proposed that Bullowa buy my United States collection of cents complete from 1794 to date (except the 1856 Flying Eagle) as partial payment in the amount of $900. My father agreed to make up the difference in cash. We packed up our collection and drove from Baltimore to Philadelphia to make the trade.

At that time the only reference available was the Hetrich and Guttag book published in 1924, Barnet had published an updated commentary on H&G varieties in The Numismatist and The Numismatic Review in 1943 and 1944. I aggressively continued to buy Civil War tokens, including small collections, and offered duplicates for sale. In 1951 my father and I bought the D.C. Wismer Collection of Civil War tokens, consisting of 11,000 pieces, from the New Netherlands Coin Company, at six cents each. We sold over 5,000 of these, packed in a wooden crate, to Tatham Stamp & Coin Co. in Springfield, Massachusetts. These were all duplicates, mainly the “Dix” patriotic tokens.

The other major collection we acquired was Henry Guttag’s collection of about 5,000 pieces in 1958. It had first passed to Max Schwartz of New York City, who retained a hundred or so pieces, then to John Zug of Bowie, Maryland, who advertised it, but no buyer came forth. From there it went to New Netherlands, then to us. We traded with the few serious Civil War token collectors such as William Fayerweather, Clif Temple, Jim Curto, Ray Haggenjos, Charles Foster, Lionel Rudduck, Wayne Rich, Martin Jacobowitz, and Otto Kersteiner.

Starting about 1951 my father and I created articles on special series of Civil War tokens. About the same time I proposed a comprehensive compilation. I chose to do the patriotic series first, as there are only about 550 different patriotic token dies. Each die combination was assigned a number, as had been done by Hetrich and Guttag. I assigned rarity ratings of 1 to 10, which are still used today. The rarity of each combination was determined by checking inventories of all collections I knew of plus my experience of the many duplicates that I had seen.

The photographs of each die were taken at 2X by Kenneth Bressett, after which I pasted and numbered them on 22 plates. This work was published serially in 1959 in The Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, edited by Lee Hewitt, and in 1960 as one of the “little black books” which Hewitt printed for the Whitman, then located in Racine. Two more editions were sold by Whitman Publishing Company, with a total run of over 15,000 copies at one dollar each.

Concurrently with the patriotic work, I was busy with a book covering the 8,500 or so store card varieties. In 1962 Whitman published A Guide to Civil War Store Card Tokens as another of its “little black books.” State by state, each city in which merchants issued Civil War tokens was assigned a number from 1 to 1,000, following the style of Atwood’s Catalogue of United States and Canadian Transportation Tokens published by the American Vecturist Association. The issues of the 900 or so store card advertisers were listed by merchant followed by a number representing the die varieties known of each advertiser. There were only occasional illustrations.

Starting about 1962 my father and I began working on a detailed catalog of store card varieties with photographs of the obverse die or dies used by each advertiser. As many dies were used repeatedly for token reverses, a new list of stock reverse dies with identification numbers starting with 1000 was prepared. One must remember that in 1962 there were no computers or word processors and of course no Internet.

Starting about 1970, Doug Watson (who worked for Krause Publications) photographed all tokens at 2X size and made paste-ups by hand of the descriptive text and photos of each token. The preparation of this massive text took about two years of time by Watson and me. The book was in large format 8½ x 11 size totaling 350 pages. I assigned copyright to the Civil War Token Society and it was printed by Krause in 1972. As I recall 1,000 copies were printed which sold out promptly. A slightly revised second edition was printed in a reduced format of 6 x 9 inches by Al Hoch of Quarterman Publications.

Along the way, in 1967, there was enough collector interest for the formation of the Civil War Token Society with Melvin Fuld as its the first president. From a small group of about 100 the Society grew to over 1,000 members. Its journal was and is state of the art in publishing research, news, and other information.

By about 1970 my collection had grown to include about 6,500 different tokens. As new acquisitions were few and far between, I decided to sell it, mostly in groups by states. Now, over 40 years later, with updates on the patriotic and store card books and with interest increased by the Internet and other means, we have information that I never dreamed of in the 1940s, 1950, and 1960s. It has been a pleasure to have been a part of this growth.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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