The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 3, January 17, 2016, Article 19


At The E-Sylum we love to discuss numismatic history and personalities, and recent figures are just as interesting as our favorite 19th-century dealers and collectors - sometimes even more so for no other reason than that we know more about them. But it's important to document what we know today or the information will be lost to future collectors when our own generation fades away.

David Alexander has published a fairly detailed article about coin telemarketing pioneer Stanley Apfelbaum. It's not a flattering portrait, and such is the nature of a business built on finding legions of unknowledgeable buyers. Here's an excerpt - be sure to read the complete version online. -Editor

Few figures involved in the world of 20th-century commercial numismatics made as great an impression in their day as New York attorney and telemarketer Stanley Apfelbaum (born 1931, died 1990). For nearly 30 years, he was a pioneer and leading figure in the controversial, rough-and-tumble field of coin telemarketing – the sale of coins over the telephone to buyers generally ignorant of the product and of the realities of the real coin market.

Apfelbaum’s legal career began with study at New York University and St. John’s University Law School. Graduating in 1956, he passed the New York State Bar exam and practiced briefly as a litigator. The New York bar exam is no walk in the park, as lawyers know; it took the late Robert F. Kennedy five tries to pass that formidable barrier.

Apfelbaum was later disbarred, but this did not perceptibly slow down his numismatic career. Details of his personal life are little known and generally irrelevant to his sometimes stormy career. He was married twice, with four children and four stepchildren. He died at age 59 of an undisclosed form of cancer.

First Coinvestors, Inc.
In the early 1970s there was virtually no regulation of coin sales anywhere in the U.S. During these years there occurred a great flowering of dynamiting over the telephone by fast-talking commission salesmen. Apfelbaum went public in 1969 as First Coinvestors Inc. (FCI) actually achieving listing on the New York Stock Exchange. This stock was hustled in the FCI Rare Coin Advisory in the 1970s with marvelous claims of increasing value but in the long run proved worthless.

Telemarketing by its very nature requires the continuous acquisition and dispersal of thousands of coins week by week and month by month. Properly understood, rare coins are pieces that cannot be found by the hundreds or thousands for quick resale over the telephone or by direct mail solicitation. In 1970s’ telemarketing, however, “rare coins” came to mean “coins that may be rather old, of which we have obtained a healthy supply.”

Whenever possible, Apfelbaum employed numismatists of real reputation to burnish FCI’s image with their own. These individuals were frequently coupled with an array of “societies” and “clubs” cobbled up to lend luster to material that was often of indifferent quality and value. Additional “experts” were created and heavily advertised to give an appearance of solidity to the oft-exaggerated claims of importance and value of the coins offered.

Walter Breen
The most ruthlessly exploited of these figures was numismatic genius Walter Breen (reportedly born 1928 or 1930; died 1993).

Breen first appeared on the numismatic stage in the early 1950s after discharge from the Air Force. “Discovered” by dealer John J. Ford Jr., he was commissioned by the great publisher-numismatist Wayte Raymond to conduct numismatic research in the National Archives.

It can be fairly said that Breen transformed the world of U.S. numismatics through these researches.

His monographs and books were many. The earliest were short studies published by Lee F. Hewitt of Numismatic Scrapbook magazine, several dealing with die varieties of early U.S. gold coins. After tying up with Apfelbaum, several full-length books were published under the rubric of F.C.I. Press.

A book of great potential value as well as frustration was his 1977 Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Proof Coins, 1722-1977. Proof coins, struck on polished blanks with polished dies, are among the rarest and most desirable U.S. coins. For more than a century “Proof is better” dictated value and inspired endless dealer and collector attempts to show that whatever specimen they were trying to sell or buy was “Proof.”

Breen’s attempts to decree what was really Proof and what was not led to endless wrangling with no clear-cut agreement. Most ambitious was his massive 754-page Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins (1988), published by Doubleday with subscript F.C.I. Press. This book included a staggering amount of information and nearly all U.S. coins since the earliest colonial issues and is still widely consulted today.

The Swiatek-Breen Commemorative Book
A book that took on a note of sinister comedy was the 1981 Encyclopedia of United States Silver & Gold Commemorative Coins, 1892-1954. As published, it bore the names of Anthony Swiatek and Walter Breen, although Swiatek was the primary author (responsible for more than 90 percent of the book, which bore the names F.C.I. Press and Arco Publishing).

I became aware of this title much earlier. As a new member of the weekly newspaper Coin World staff in early 1974, I was told one morning to drive down to Dayton International Airport to pick up a “New York school teacher who’s got some book idea!”

Amos Press did not then publish books but I dutifully intercepted the author, a young Brooklyn science teacher carrying an amazing manuscript bursting with all the information the author could find about each U.S. commemorative issued up to that time. Publisher J. Oliver Amos and Editor Margo Russell agreed to run the manuscript serially as a Coin World column.

Swiatek continued striving to find a publisher and fell in with Stanley Apfelbaum and FCI. Apfelbaum decided that here was a golden opportunity to “Breen up” the manuscript and exploit it as a selling tool for FCI. Walter obsessively hated commemoratives, calling them “speculators’ trash.”

He fitted each issue into a skeleton formed by a barrage of pseudo-lawyeresque language including Corpus Delecti, Suspects, Accessories, Modus Operandi and other hostile foolishness without Swiatek’s knowledge or consent.

Apfelbaum inserted pages of unauthorized and misleading FCI “investment” blither heavy with Breen quotes. These included ballyhooing the ultra-common Booker T. Washington-George Washington Carver half dollars as wonderful investment opportunities. Amazingly, the book still contained enough of Swiatek’s writing to make it worth consulting and some 5,000 copies were sold.

Apfelbaum the Boss
Apfelbaum was notorious for harsh treatment of his employees.

Late in the 1970s, Long Island was hit head-on by a disastrous blizzard. The New York State Police closed all roads to allow unimpeded snow removal, but Apfelbaum activated the phones and ordered ALL to report for work immediately or face dismissal. Similarly, he once ordered every Jewish employee taking off the High Holy Days to present signed notes from their rabbi attesting to their presence at services, “or else.”

Faced with ANACS and greatly increased public awareness–not to mention decades of complaints and legal actions–the once-mighty FCI filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989. By then Stanley Apfelbaum had already launched American Coin & Stamp Ventures in 1986. The bloom was definitely off the telemarketing rose by the end of the ’80s though both Florida and Minnesota remained as hotbeds of the rawest forms of telephone hustling for years after.

Stanley Apfelbaum faded from public consciousness. His obituary in the January 1991 issue of The Numismatist, journal of the ANA, was an exercise in unsatisfying brevity that wholly ignored his legal troubles and ultimate disgrace. Four lines were devoted to the grading wars; none to his ANA expulsion. The briefest mention and swift oblivion seem to have been the goals and if so, they succeeded.

Again, be sure to read the complete article online - I've excerpted mainly parts dealing with our prime focus, numismatic literature. It's a shame Swiatek's manuscript was so tarted up; now I know why I had such a love-hate relationship with the book at the time. I wanted to take a razor blade to it to cut out the crap, baloney and bloviation. Thankfully, alternative books on the topic later emerged.

Would anyone know where to find a picture of Apfelbaum? No bio is complete without a portrait of the subject. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Stanley Apfelbaum and Coin Telemarketing’s Wild West Era (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster