The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 18, April 27, 2014, Article 2


John W. Adams Author and Numismatic Bibliomania Society past president John W. Adams received the American Numismatic Society's prestigious Huntington award last night at a ceremony attended by some 80 hobby luminaries. Past recipients include Edward Newell, José Toribio Medina, Sydney P. Noe, A. F. Pradeau, C.H.V. Sutherland, Philip Grierson, R.A.G. Carson, Eric P. Newman, John S. Davenport and Joseph E. Cribb.

The 2014 Archer M. Huntington Award ceremony was held from 4:30 to 6:30 PM April 26th at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. The award is conferred annually in honor of the ANS benefactor Archer M. Huntington in recognition of outstanding career contributions to numismatic scholarship. The medal was designed in 1908 by Emil Fuchs to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ANS.

From the event press release:

The Trustees of the American Numismatic Society have voted to award John W. Adams the 2014 Archer M. Huntington Award in recognition of his outstanding career contributions to numismatic scholarship. The award ceremony will be held on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. The event will include Mr. Adams’ presentation of the Silvia Mani Hurter Memorial Lecture, titled A Recidivist Collector, followed by a reception in his honor.

John Adams’ research in the field of numismatics focuses on American and European medals, numismatic literature, and large cents. In his early research, his approach is largely bibliographical. His Monographs on Varieties of United States Large Cents, 1793–1794, published in 1976, provided a concise introduction to the various key publications in this field. His two volumes of United States Numismatic Literature (1982, 1990) are among the most useful bibliographical aids on American numismatic auction catalogues available; in particular Adams’ erudite introductions to the various collectors are widely quoted.

In the last 15 years, Adams has focused primarily on medals, both European and American. His book The Indian Peace Medals of George III, or, His Majesty’s Sometime Allies, published in 1999, demonstrates his breadth of knowledge; through careful numismatic analysis Adams was able to expand our knowledge in this series. His approach to medals is largely historical, and his subsequent work on The Medals Concerning John Law and the Mississippi System has become a standard work on the peculiar medals satirizing this famous financial crisis of the early 18th century. In this book Adams illustrates his command of historical, financial and numismatic matters.

Together with Anne Bentley, Adams wrote Comitia Americana and Related Medals: Underappreciated Monuments to Our Heritage (2007). In this exhaustive analysis, Adams and Bentley re‐wrote our understanding of this important early American series of medals. It is now the definitive historical and numismatic study on the subject. Again, in 2010 Adams wrote the consummate book Medallic Portraits of Admiral Vernon: Medals Sometimes Lie with Fernando Chao and in collaboration with Anne Bentley. This work provides a study of the many varieties of the Vernon series, which often differ only in tiny details, provides historical context, offering a concordance with the many prior studies and much more.

While there is an impressive corpus of books by Adams, he also is a frequent contributor to conference proceedings, journals and other publications. He has published articles about coin sales, individual medals, numismatic personalities, and hoards, to name just a few. His long involvement as editor of The MCA Advisory has turned this publication into a popular, well-­‐ informed publication.

The Chairman of the Society’s Huntington Committee, Dr. Jere Bacharach, described the honoree with the following words: “What distinguishes John Adams from other writers is his passion for history, a beautiful, academically correct writing style, and diligence in seeking out overlooked historical and numismatic sources.”

John W. Adams received an AB from Princeton (1957) and a MBA from Harvard (1959). He founded Adams, Harkness & Hill in 1966, an investment bank in Boston, where for the next 40 years he served variously as Director of Research, Chairman and CEO. He has served as a Trustee of the Massachusetts Historical Society, where he was instrumental in conserving its coin cabinet, and as President of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society and the Medal Collectors of America. He is a Fellow of the American Antiquarian Society, as well a Fellow of the American Numismatic Society where he also served on its Board of Trustees and was an active Chairman of the Library Committee.

ANS Executive Director Ute Wartenberg-Kagan officiated at the ceremony, which was followed by a dinner at The Country Club in Brookline. NBS charter member and Historian Joel Orosz served as Toastmaster and provided this report on the day's events for The E-Sylum. Thanks!

The American Numismatic Society’s justly esteemed Archer M. Huntington Award is not given, nor even conferred, it is earned. Such is the prestige attached to this recognition of outstanding career contributions to numismatic scholarship that the ANS comes to the awardee, rather than the other way around: in short, the recipient of the Huntington chooses the venue where it will be awarded. 2014 Huntington honoree John Weston Adams chose to accept the award on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the nation’s oldest historical institution, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and to celebrate afterwards with family, friends and two “gangs” of numismatists at The Country Club in Brookline, also the nation’s first in that field.

Anne Bentley, loyal NBS member, whose curatorial duties embrace the superb Massachusetts Historical Society numismatic collection, was the genial host at the MHS. To mark the occasion, she had mounted an exhibition featuring a boxed set of previously-owned Comitia Americana medals from the Society’s collection. Given the fact that Thomas Jefferson commissioned the box, and that the previous owners of the medals were George Washington and Daniel Webster, no one present complained about them being “used.”

ANS Executive Director Ute Wartenberg Kagan and Board Chair Kenneth L. Edlow jointly presented the Huntington Award to Adams, noting that it has been nicknamed, with more than a little justification, the “Nobel Prize of Numismatics.” Adams’ acceptance address, aptly entitled “A Recidivist Collector,” recounted his lifelong pattern of forming superb collections, writing definitive references on them, and then selling them and proceeding to another collecting challenge.

He credited his mother for piquing his numismatic interest, and the dealers David Bullowa and Lester Merkin for counseling him to seek quality in all he collected. Adams shared anecdotes in his trademark sparkling style, recounting the building, researching, writing, and dispersal of his memorable collections of 1794 cents, Betts Medals, Vernon Medals, and numismatic literature. The reception following, held in the MHS’s magnificent Dowse Library room, evoked memories of the 2010 NBS annual meeting, held, with the connivance of John and Anne, in that very bibliophilic chamber.

After a short bus ride to The Country Club, a group of 56 Adams acolytes, about evenly split between John’s friends and family on the one hand, and members of his numismatic “gangs” on the other, continued the celebration over dinner. Any slight possibility that awkwardness would arise between, as John archly put it, the “Numismatists” and the “Normals” quickly evaporated when Master of Ceremonies Joel J. Orosz asked the assembled group to share “something we don’t know, but should” about the guest of honor.

The responses that poured forth sculpted a many-faceted portrait of John W. Adams as an exemplar in business; a quietly generous leader in philanthropy; and a mentor to many in numismatics. One poignant contribution allows us to take the measure of the man; when he received a phone call informing him that an old friend was dying on Prince Edward Island, he dropped everything to rush to his friend’s bedside in time to say goodbye. Yet a youth spent in perhaps too closely reading Booth Tarkington’s Penrod novels was revealed when his children and grandchildren informed us that it was John who had taught them how to construct surgical tubing slingshots and butter-launching napkin snappers, all with predictably disastrous results for the integrity of nearby neighbors’ windows and kitchen ceilings.

Perhaps the best way to measure the esteem in which John is held is to note that every member of both of his “gangs”, drawn from the ranks of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society and the Medal Collectors of America, traveled from their homes across the country to share in this celebration with him. Among the NBS members in attendance were Q. David Bowers, George Frederick Kolbe, Len Augsburger, Joel J. Orosz, David Fanning, Charles Davis, Tony Lopez, Anne Bentley, Barry Tayman, Warren Baker, and John Lupia.

Regina Adams, John’s wife and partner in all things (with the notable exceptions of surgical tubing rocketry and butter-launching napkin systems) organized The Country Club dinner with her signature graciousness. The evening ended on a fitting note, comparing John and Regina to bells in a carillon. Neither of them are necessarily the biggest or the loudest bells in the carillon; rather, both are of the most desirable kind: those that ring true every time.

NBS Board member and numismatic literature dealer David Fanning provided several pictures of the event, as did Bob Williams. Thanks!

Mass. Historical Society Mass. Historical Society

Ute Kagin
Ute Wartenberg-Kagan

John Adams and Barry Tayman
John Adams and Barry Tayman

Dave Bowers, center
Regina Adams, Dave Bowers, Wynn Bowers

Frank Campbell Others in attendance included former ANS Librarian Frank Campbell (pictured here), John Sallay, Warren Baker, Skyler Liechty, Arthur Houghton, Mary Lannin, and Arthur Fitts.

Congratulations to Mr. Adams for a very well-deserved honor. I am in awe of his body of work. No amount of medals, ribbons or awards could come close to matching the massive dedication and scholarship he has devoted to numismatic research and literature. His works will stand as classic references on their respective subjects for centuries to come.

His paper, A Recidivist Collector, will be published in a future issue of ANS Magazine.

For more information about the Huntington Award, see: The 2014 Archer M. Huntington Award (

For more information about the Huntington Medal, see: Awards Given by the American Numismatic Society (

To read the complete Press Release, see: The American Numismatic Society awards its 2014 Archer M. Huntington Award for excellence in numismatic scholarship to John W. Adams (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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