Douglas Adams writes:
I read the book review in the last issue by Emily Isakson on The Judgment of Experts - it's a fascinating read. It just so happened I had been contemplating a short post over on the
Coin Talk forums that I finally finished and thought your readers might find it interesting.
Thanks! Douglas has written a great article about Mark Hofmann and I've only got room for a short excerpt here. Be sure to read the complete article online, including how
Hofmann got his start as a numismatic forger, and ended up serving life in prison for murder. -Editor
To the consternation of many of my biblio-friends I took up coin collecting about 5 years ago after the rediscovery of my childhood collections that had survived intact in my mother’s attic. The
thought that two collections, two intense interests, could coexist seemed unfathomable to them.
Coin collectors, however, have no doubt of the importance of books in their endeavors as the tutelage given all budding numismatists is “buy the book before the coin.” I myself have, and continue
to follow this sound advice and have begun to build a small numismatic library, but this seems not to count among my more literary minded friends. I must continually stress to my biblio-friends that
a book is a book and that my love for books has not diminished in the least, even though I may divert some of my resources to the numismatic collections that would have in the past been directed into
the literary collections I still find I’m able to enjoy my paper collections and metal collections equally.
I had not thought it possible to merge my two interests – coins and books – seamlessly into each other but I’ve discovered a few instances where my two hobbies joyously collide:
MARK WILLIAM HOFMANN (1954 - )
The Mormon Bomber?
Mark Hofmann, a book and antiquities dealer operating in Salt Lake City, began his illicit career in his young teenage years by “improving” coins, whereby he would add mintmarks making a common
coin rare. Later, he progressed to forging Mormon scrip money and then documents and manuscripts relating to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hofmann evidently became quite proficient in creating numismatic rarities and in fact operated as a teenage dealer under the business name of "Mark's Mint Mistakes". In 2002,
Hofmann made claim to creating the controversial 1959-D Lincoln Cent Mule, which notably passed Treasury Department inspection but remains an anomaly.
According to a New York Times article, Hoffman’s forgeries were the most sophisticated ever seen, fooling nearly all the top forgery experts in the country. Charles Hamilton, the preeminent
document dealer and expert in forged manuscripts, wrote that “Mark Hofmann was unquestionably the most skilled forger this country has ever seen”:
He fooled me — he fooled everybody.… Investigators have said that Mr. Hofmann was as successful in selling forged documents in New York as he was in Utah. They say he may have collected more than
$2 million selling rare documents purportedly written or signed by such literary and historical figures as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jack London and Jim Bridger.… The Federal Bureau of
Investigation said they could find no evidence that [his documents were] forged.
To read the complete article, see:
Collections in Collision - Coins & Books / Books & Coins
To read about the 1959-D Mule Lincoln Cent, see:
The Mystery of the 1959-D Mule Lincoln Cent
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
BOOK REVIEW: THE JUDGMENT OF EXPERTS (http://www.coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n54a06.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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