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V18 2015 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 9, March 1, 2015, Article 11

RICHARD B. WITSCHONKE, 1945-2015

Catherine DiTuri of the ANS forwarded this press release earlier this week. -Editor

Rick Witschonke The American Numismatic Society is sad to announce the loss of its Curatorial Associate, Richard B. Witschonke, who passed away on 24 February 2015 in Sarasota, Florida, at the age of 69. He was a much-loved colleague and friend of the staff, the Trustees and many of the members of the Society. We all mourn his death.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Rick was a longtime E-Sylum reader and occasional contributor. Below is a an excerpt from a biographical profile on him in the Winter 2006 issue of ANS Magazine. -Editor

Many of us here at the ANS would agree that Rick Witschonke is not only a successful businessman and a world-class collector of Roman Republican coins, but also a wonderful colleague, good friend, and a generous benefactor of the Society. The ANS was fortunate to have had Rick join its curatorial staff in 2003, first as a curatorial assistant and, from March 2006, as a curatorial associate.

Richard B. Witschonke was born in 1945 in Washington, D.C., the second oldest of five Witschonke siblings... After graduating in 1963, Rick enrolled at Bowdoin College in Maine, with a major in English. However, extracurricular activities distracted Rick from his studies and, as a result, the college suggested he “take time off and mature.” Rick started a full-time job in computer programming with a small pharmaceutical market research company. At the same time, he enrolled at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he studied part-time for three years until his graduation with a BA in English magna cum laude. In the meantime, the company where Rick worked was acquired and subsequently relocated. Rick then took a job at Perkin-Elmer, where he worked on a project involving lenses for spy satellites.

In 1972, Rick graduated from Harvard Business School with an MBA with high honors and took a position with American Management Systems, a technology consulting firm based in Washington, D. C., where he would end up working for most of his successful career in technology consulting.

In 1999, Rick was elected a member of the American Numismatic Society’s governing Council and served one term as an ANS trustee. A Life Fellow of the ANS, Rick is also a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society and a member of the French, Italian, and Swiss Numismatic Societies. Rick’s affiliation with the ANS, however, began much earlier. After his first visit to the ANS in the late 1960s, Rick became a member. By then, the young man had his mind firmly set on collecting Roman Republican coins.

Rick’s passion for numismatics was indirectly prompted by his paternal grandmother’s gifts of the Whitman penny boards (and coins to fill the holes) that he and his siblings received from her every Christmas. Rick was indifferent to this board-filling activity until one of his fifth-grade classmates offered to buy some of Rick’s coins for five dollars. Coin collecting did not seem so dull anymore! Excited by the profitability of this simple transaction, Rick bought his older brother’s coins for three dollars and made a handsome profit selling them to the same classmate for ten.

The first coins Rick collected were U.S.-type coins and dollar-size world coins. By the time he turned sixteen, Rick already had a few Roman Republican denarii in his collection, but his interest in these coins was intensified by the book by Rev. Edward A. Sydenham, The Coinage of the Roman Republic. The best source of information on Roman Republican coinage at the time, the book inspired Rick to learn more about the coins he decided to collect. Republican denarii, beautiful coins of uniform size, were affordable for a young collector, and there were so many rare and interesting types that one could never hope to complete the full series. What more could a true numismatist want?

Another important event that influenced Rick as a coin collector was his meeting with Charles Hersh, a prominent banker and numismatist who, on a Fulbright scholarship in London, helped G. C. Haines and L. Forrer edit Sydenham’s volume. Rick’s meeting with Hersh happened at the coin auction of the Thomas Olive Mabbott collection (sold by Hans Schulman) at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 1969. They struck up a conversation that resulted in a long and productive friendship. In 1998, Rick sponsored a Festschrift in honor of Charles Hersh’s seventy-fifth birthday. The volume was edited by Andrew Burnett and Ute Wartenberg and presented to Charles in June 1998, just six months before his untimely death. Rick numbers among his friends many prominent coin collectors, dealers, scholars, and curators: Bill Metcalf, Alan Walker, Basil Demetriadi, Michel Amandry, and Andrew Burnett, among many others. Rick has always made his collection available for study by serious scholars of numismatics and by fellow collectors. For example, a number of provincial coins from his collection were published in RPC I. Rick thoroughly enjoys meeting the many numismatic scholars who visit the ANS each year.

Ursula Kampmann wrote about Rick in this week's CoinsWeekly. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

This is a sad day for numismatics. Richard B. Witschonke died on 24 February 2015 in Sarasota, Florida. That leaves us speechless. Rick died unexpectedly and far too soon. He leaves a great void in the numismatic community.

Besides numismatics, Rick was a wonderful person, always interested in the person he was dealing with. With pleasure I recall all our conversations, the many emails we exchanged, the invitations at regular intervals – on both sides – which we could never get back to, for lack of time and due to the great distance. Rick has supported CoinsWeekly from the very beginning. He kept sending links and information he deemed important to the numismatic community.

Mark Fox is working on an obituary of Rick. Can anyone help? -Editor

Mark writes:

I am tentatively planning to write and submit a short obituary for Rick Witschonke to   World Coin News. To have it published in the next issue is my goal. But this would mean that I would need to have my work done by March 5th. If any readers of The E-Sylum have any photos they would like to share of Rick, or anecdotes of his early or later life, I would be sincerely grateful to incorporate some of them in my work, if there is room. Those interested can e-mail me directly at   marktfox@gmail.com.

To read the complete articles, see:
Press Release - ANS - Witschonke (http://numismatics.org/NewsEvents/PR20150225RWitschonke)
The American Numismatic Society Staff Profiles: Rick Witschonke (http://ansmagazine.com/Winter06/Witschonke)
Richard B. Witschonke (1945-2015) (http://coinsweekly.com/en/News/4?&id=3296)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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