The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 47, November 22, 2015, Article 3


Len Augsburger forwarded this additional announcement about the Newman Numismatic Portal. Thanks. -Editor

The invoices of St. Louis dealer Burdette G. Johnson, covering the period from 1940 – 1947, are now available in the Newman Numismatic Portal collection on Internet Archive, at

The Johnson invoices consist of thousands of typescript pages and have been divided into individual correspondents by year. Represented among the thicker files are dealers such as Tom Elder (167 pages for 1942) and New Netherlands (122 pages for 1940). The files convey a sense of the rare coin trade in the 1940s. The largest dealers engaged substantial typing pools to prepare invoices, constantly shipped material on approval among themselves, and managed an extraordinary amount of manual accounting. The scope of the effort involved is readily apparent upon browsing these invoices.

1844o_eagle invoice Before we had even announced the availability of the Johnson invoices on Internet Archive, eagle-eyed researcher Saul Teichman spotted an invoice containing pedigree information on the 1844-O (unique proof) eagle. Johnson offered the coin to F.C.C. Boyd in 1940.

Most of the cataloging in the Johnson invoices is terse, but Johnson could not hold back on this piece. “1844 Perfect brilliant proof. This is not a coin with proof surfaces but an actual proof, as is shown by its entire appearance. I imagine it was struck at Philadelphia before the dies were sent to N.O. It is certainly a great rarity and in all likelihood entirely unique.” Johnson priced the coin at $225, about ten times the price of a “common” eagle.

We find also that in 1941 Johnson offered Hans Schulman a rare broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed by order of the Rhode Island Assembly shortly after July 4th, 1776. Schulman apparently declined the offer, for Newman himself eventually acquired this document, as noted in the Harvard Library Bulletin (Vol. 3, No. 1, Winter 1949).

declaration invoice

This broadside copy of the Declaration has recently been donated by the Newman family to Washington University in St. Louis as part of its Olin Library transformation. These are but two remarkable items from this rich archive, and we expect many more will be discovered as researchers become aware of this unique resource.

To read the 1844-O Proof Eagle invoice, see:

To view the Declaration broadside invoice, see:

To read more on the Olin Library transformation, see: Reimagining Olin Library (

Wow. (I know, I say that a lot these days). This will keep numismatic researchers busy for years. What a marvelous trove of data. Eric Newman has always been very cooperative with the numismatic community, making his information available to everyone who asked. But this online archive takes sharing to the next level; now everyone with an interest can read the original documents and piece together the coin histories for themselves. -Editor

To browse the Johnson invoices, see:
Burdette G. Johnson Invoices (

Saul Teichman adds:

I have been scanning through the various invoices. They list classic rarities, much on Gobrecht dollars and gold patterns and the occasional Indian and Lincoln cent in gold (struck on quarter eagle planchets). I sent the Mint State CC silver coinage information on to Rusty Goe.

In many cases you will see the same coin apparently being consigned to one dealer, then sent to another and so on, so users need to be careful when reading through these.

Invoices with RED or where items are noted as RED are Col. Green coins. Be careful not to confuse RED with RET (i.e. returned).

It is interesting to note coins that ended up in Eric Newman’s collection were offered for sale to others including the Newcomer-Green Continental dollars, the 1841 no drapery proof dime and others.

There are coins on the invoices including the Dewitt Smith-Brand Pacific Company $10 in gold which, not only did not sell at the time but ended up staying in the Brand family until sold in the Bower & Merena Brand II sale.

With regard to the 1822 Half Eagle, here are the entries I have found in the B.G. Johnson invoices. My guess is H.M.F. Schulman would have offered it to Farouk but, I guess, even he had limits !!

1822 Half Eagle invoice notes

With regard to the invoices, I have looked at Boyd, Dr Judd, Kelly, Kosoff, Macallister, Mehl, Stacks, Schulman and maybe a handful of others related to pattern coinage.

The key is that a lot of these give the appearance of being approval invoices, with many items returned. Sometimes it is difficult to read the scribble on the pages to know what really happened.

One more thing people might find interesting is the prices and how collecting taste has changed.

For the most part, the pieces which really had the highest prices were the rare territorial gold pieces. Kohler ingots and the Pacific $10 were being priced in the same range as Brasher doubloons.

This was probably first noticed in Elder’s 1929? Lawrence sale when territorial pieces brought record prices.

Classic rarities of today, 1838-O half dollars, 1870-S dollars, 1875 $3, 1907 Ultra High Reliefs, 1913 nickels, 1884 and 1885 trade dollars, 1802 proof restrike dollars etc. were offered at fractions of the amounts these territorial pieces were being offered for.

Roger Burdette writes:

The Johnson-Newman business arrangement was simple and direct. There was no written contract.

After Newman's first purchase from the Estate he discussed the situation with Burdette G. Johnson, owner of St. Louis Coin and Stamp Co. At Johnson's suggestion he put up the money to buy items from the Green Estate. After purchase, Johnson would value all the coins [wholesale or retail – not sure which] and Newman could select whatever he wanted first. Then Johnson selected an equal value. They each owned their selections outright. Johnson would then sell the remainders and split the profit equally with Newman. Newman could then use his share of the profits to buy more coins from the Green Estate.

Items in RED on the invoices are ones where the profit was to be split. Johnson did all the selling, shipping, bookkeeping and other fulfillment activities. Selling expenses were deducted before the profits were divided.

Also, the Johnson invoices sometimes - not always - indicate returns or unsold pieces.

Many invoices to regular customers (Celinia Coin Co. for example) are really Johnson's guess about coins the customer might find desirable. That is, Celinia might call and say "We need a selection of early large cents." Johnson would reply with what amounts to an approval selection and an invoice.

All invoices were originally accompanied by adding machine tapes that Johnson used to confirm totals.

Dave Bowers adds:

One interesting aspect of provenances is that probably 75% or more of rarities sold from the 1950s through a generation ago were by private sale and never appeared in auction catalogs. For example, in 1961 Empire Coin Co. was the first to cross the $1 million sales/year mark, with lots of rarities, but no auctions. All of the 1,400 or so different patterns from the Lenox R. Lohr Collection were sold by private treaty. Ditto for most of the ex Farouk patterns brought back from Cairo in 1954 by Sol Kaplan and Abe Kosoff (I was the main buyer of those, working hard to turn them over quickly to preserve my capital).

Today this non-auction-appearance situation is best appreciated in certain provenances of large copper cents passing privately from one person to another.


RENAISSANCE OF AMERICAN COINAGE: Wizard Coin Supply is the official distributor for Roger Burdette's three volume series that won NLG Book of the Year awards for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Contact us for dealer or distributor pricing at .

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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