David T. Alexander submitted these recollections about Walter Breen.
Regarding Walter Breen experiences... When I joined the writing staff at Coin World early in 1974, I was made vividly aware of Breen's standing with publisher Amos Press. Staff writers took stuff to write from the "must list," material to be written NOW. Among items assigned to me was a handsome
reprint of Dr. Edward Maris' classic work on Colonial Coins of New Jersey, a massive though thin hardback made noteworthy by updates and revisions added by "Walter Breen." My review noted, quite properly I thought, that the new material by Breen was a major reason to buy the book.
My review went into the system and soon returned attached to Vice President Dan Francis, who pointed out forcefully "Walter Breen does not exist at Coin World! Walter Breen will never exist at Coin World!!! Rewrite this, and
delete any mention of Breen!"
Realizing that I'd stepped in it, I quietly checked with senior writer the late Jay P. Guren, who filled me in. Years
before, Breen had written a column, "Bristles and Barbs," filled with deep "inside stuff" about great America rarities. The controversial Breen employed many old vocabulary terms including Piece de Plaisir, Piece de Fantasie that were familiar to old-time collectors, plus a new one, PIECE DE MERDE!
The first two terms described coins made long ago for rich collectors: Piece of Pleasure, Piece of Fantasy. The third was Breen's own addition, PIECE OF S--T. Here was a Frenchified usage he knew would slide past Western Ohio proof readers, and it did. Publisher J. Oliver Amos returned from vacation, and Guren mischievously brought the new term to Oliver's
attention and Breen was driven from the Garden with a fiery sword!
Several years later, Stanley Apfelbaum, self-described father of telemarketing, bought Breen and began advertising him to the hilt, flying out with his lawyers to tell Oliver how it was going to be: "I own this man and I'm spending unlimited money on ads publicizing him. If he doesn't appear in our Coin World ads, I'm going to sue you into infinity!!!" Breen now saturated Coin World in First Coinvestors ads!
At the 1980 ANA Convention in Cincinnati, I was joined by my wife Pat and stepson Robert. Pat napped and Robert joined me for the reception hosted by the Mexican gold coin marketing eight stories down. Our elevator opened at lobby level, filled with the broiling summer sun and there stood Breen in his flip-flops, unwashed rumpled shorts, squalid tie-die shirt, nodding off on his feet.
My stepson goggled as Breen opened his eyes and came awake
like some kind of Disney monster, leering at the lad "Hi IIIII!!!!" Never a diplomat, 14 year-old Robert looked up at me and loudly demanded, "What's THAT!!?? Santa Claus in drag?? Ah, well, long ago.
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
WALTER BREEN BIOGRAPHY
TALE OF THE TAPE: PITTMAN, BREEN AND THE TAXAY BOOK BLURB
CONFRONTING THE LEGACY OF WALTER BREEN
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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 www.WizardCoinSupply.com
Wayne Homren, Editor
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