Maria Fanning writes:
I stumbled upon this article on B. Max Mehl in my internet travels and thought it might be interesting to E-Sylum readers. The
website seems to be all about the history and architecture of Ft. Worth and gives a nice overview of B. Max Mehl’s life and career. The
article is called “Once Upon a Penny: The House That Pocket Change Built” and there are many great photos, including one of him as a
Thanks! Here's an excerpt. Be sure to read the complete article online. -Editor
Some of his fellow numismatists considered him to be the P. T. Barnum of coin collecting. But they also admitted that at a time when
coin collecting was a hobby of the well-to-do, Benjamin Maximillian Mehl (1884-1957) did more than anyone else to make coin collecting
popular among average Americans.
Max Mehl was born in Russia and came to Fort Worth with his family at age twelve. His father and brothers were in the clothing business.
Max began buying and selling coins, working out of his family’s home on East 2nd Street. In 1903 his first ad appeared in The Numismatist
Mehl began placing small classified ads in the Fort Worth Telegram in 1904. He was twenty years old.
Also in 1904 Mehl began selling his Star Coin Book, which listed prices he paid for coins. (The book was published annually for
sixty-one years. I found this 1930 edition on eBay.) In 1906 he gave up his day job—clerking in his family’s shoe store—and rented an office on South
Main. Max Mehl the numismatist was on his way.
Mehl built his business a nickel and a dime at a time. A lot of nickels and dimes: By 1916, when he was only thirty-two, he commissioned
architect Wiley Clarkson (himself only thirty-one) to design an office building on Magnolia Avenue, across from Magnolia Centre. “The
largest and finest appointed exclusive numismatic offices in the world,” Mehl called it.
What fun Clarkson must have had with the design. The cast stone of the south facade features coins above the windows and doors. An image
of the building, with streetcar passing, appeared on the cover of every edition of his Star Coin Book.
Mehl was a marketing whiz. He advertised heavily in numismatist magazines, was the first numismatist to advertise in magazines for a
general readership, was an early user of radio commercials. His mail order business boomed. The Star-Telegram once reported that in 1910
mail addressed to Mehl accounted for more than half the traffic of the Fort Worth postal system. He once reportedly received seventy-two
thousand pieces of mail in a single day. By 1924 his advertising budget was $50,000 a year—in 1924 dollars. In 1931 Mehl spent $18,500 for
a single ad in American Weekly Sunday magazine. But as Mehl was bringing coin collecting to the masses, he was not ignoring the high
rollers. Among his customers were Amon Carter, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Egypt’s King Farouk.
B. Max Mehl's home
John Mutch writes:
After reading the article about coin dealer B. Max Mehl, I went to a website I often use while researching - www.findagrave.com - to see
Mehl's grave marker. Interestingly, the volunteer who created the Find-a-Grave memorial took the time to read Mehl's Texas death certificate.
The 28 Sep 1957 date matches what was in Pete Smith's article; however, the date on the cast bronze marker is 27 Sep 1957. That type of error is
not terribly unusual because the order for the marker is usually done some time after the death, and the person placing the order may be going from
memory when providing dates.
Be sure to read the complete article online. Thanks, folks. Great information and photos. -Editor
To read the complete Fort Worth article, see:
Once Upon a Penny: The House That Pocket Change Built
To read the complete Find-A-Grave entry, see:
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
COIN DEALER B. MAX MEHL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v19n06a16.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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