The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 17, April 20, 2014, Article 11


In the early days of the numismatic hobby in the U.S., coin collectors and stamp collectors often collected many of the same things and read the same publications. These old publications, with their intertwined focus, often hold interesting clues and tidbits of information for today's numismatic researchers. Dave Bowers' latest blog post describes some of the information he recently found. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

James brennan token Among the pleasant things on my plate is helping John Ostendorf and the Civil War Token Society with the preparation of the 3rd edition of United States Civil War Store Cards. The 2nd edition was published in 1975, nearly two generations ago, and much has been discovered or modified since. The new version, due out later this year, will include more listings, illustrations in full color, biographical notes on the well over 1,000 different merchants who issued such tokens, and more. Attributions are to Fuld numbers as created by Melvin and George Fuld in the early 1960s.

Among the New York City issuers was James Brennan, a stamp dealer who held forth at 37 Nassau Street. The Fuld number for Brennan is NY-630-I followed by a number indicating the variety within this listing, plus a letter indicating the metal of striking. In the case of the illustrated token NY-630-I-1a, the a refers to copper. Brennan was the only stamp dealer who issued a Civil War token. In contrast several coin dealers issued such pieces.

The December 1, 1863, issue of The Stamp Collector’s Magazine (the first issue of which was published in London in February 1863) included this advertisement: “James Brennan, 37 Nassau Street (opposite Post Office) New York, United States, has always on hand a large stock of foreign and American stamps, used and unused. Orders promptly executed. Stamps exchanged.”

Seeking more information I found a copy of The London Philatelist, May 1904, on the Internet. It mentions Brennan and also, in passing, A.C. Kline (whose numismatic biography has been published by Dr. Joel J. Orosz). This account suggests that “our” Brennan was America’s first stamp dealer with an office. Wonder if that is true? An excerpt:

I recently received some interesting reminiscences from Mr. Samuel Allan Taylor, Boston, the doyen of American philatelic dealers and editors. I find his advertisements in the Boy’s Own Magazine for 1863, and I have before me vol. i. (the late Mr. Tiffany's copy) of his Stamp Collector’s Record, begun at Montreal in February, 1864, and continued at Albany and Boston. Referring to Judge Suppantschitsch’s supposed discovery, Mr. Taylor writes :—

“I do not think that any German, Frenchman, Swede, Russian, Turk, or Southern European heathen of any kind is entitled to more than a smile of pity from Englishmen when he attempts to discover anything concerned with Philately or anything else in English printed literature. . . . The earliest notice in print on this side is, as far as I have ever seen, a paragraph in November, 1860, which states that youngsters were collecting the stamps of different nations. This appeared in a monthly periodical called Littell's Living Age, published here in Boston. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the Rebel States quickly issued stamps for themselves—special ones first like Mobile, New Orleans, Nashville, etc. These were counterfeited by a Philadelphia firm, and were reproduced in sheets of six (i.e. six of a kind) and sold by newsboys in the street and in stationers’ stores, not at all as philatelic treasures, but as curiosities of the Rebels. They sold some half dozen sheets for 10c. The words ‘Facsimile Rebel Postage Stamp, printed by S. C. Upham, Philadelphia,’ were printed in small type on each sheet. This thing was largely instrumental in bringing stamp-collecting into vogue.

The first person who sold stamps as a business was a man named James Brennan, who opened a small office (a very small place, not over 10 feet square) at 37 Nassau Street, New York, in 1863. He published a list, the type, style, size, etc., having been copied from one printed by James Robinson, of Liverpool. This was a foolscap size, 4 pp. thing, but the prices were filled in with the pen.

Before that one A.C. Kline, now dead, of Philadelphia, had issued a ‘Manual,’ a copy of Mount Brown’s first issue merely. Kline was a dealer in antiques, old coins, armour, firearms, etc., and stamps were only a small portion of his business. He kept a quite good-sized store on the ground floor.

Another person, Wm. P. Brown, 212, Broadway, New York, who is still in existence, and who then, as now, was more of a coin dealer and authority than a stamp man, sold stamps, but only through the medium of the mail, not having any office, he being a printer in a weekly newspaper office (of which his father, a distinguished clergyman, was editor). I believe that for some time he had a stand attached to the railing of the City Hall Park, as also had another man named John Bailey, but the business was largely coins and odd things, even military buttons. No one then knew what stamps existed, until the manuals of Mount Brown, Baillieu, Potiquet, and others appeared. This was all in New York, of course. J.W. Scott, who is a native of London, came to New York in 1863, he being then a lad of fifteen years. He came across Brown at his stand and made exchanges in stamps with him, but shortly after left New York and went to California.

I was in Montreal from 1860 to 1864. I had gathered some ten or a dozen foreign stamps as far back as 1857-8, France, England, and one 10 gr. Hanover; but I never saw or heard of any collectors until 1862, when I chanced to see the collection (probably forty or so) of a man named A. Nutter, and I made exchanges with him for local stamps, as I (having been brought up in New York) knew where the local stamps or posts were. I left Canada in 1864, and after a short time abandoned the druggist business and came to Boston, and have been here ever since. J.W. Scott I never heard of until 1867; the previous account of him I got from W.P. Brown. You can depend on it that no other dealer was earlier than James Brennan in 1863…

A.C. Kline and J.W. Scott are well known as early U.S. coin dealers; William Brown less so. The above is a very interesting first-person account of hobby dealers in the 1860s. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Tracking Down James Brennan: One Thing Leads to Another (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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