This profile of Howard Daniel is excerpted with permission from the December 2020 issue of The Chopmark News. Thanks.-Editor
I was in the US Army and stationed on Okinawa in 1964, when I met a man by the name of
John A. Novak. He was recruiting collectors of US coins, paper money, tokens, etc., to switch
over to East Asia. He believed it was a challenging area to collect, research and write about,
and most Americans did not know much about the region and numismatists could help teach
them about it.
After several months of listening to him at the coin club meetings, I finally agreed to take on
the cash-style coins of Viet Nam. He showed me some references in his personal library
which included Viet Nam, but they were mostly in foreign languages. This was going to be
more difficult than I thought it would be.
I was receiving Coin World newspaper and started writing to the few world coin dealers advertising in it about what Vietnamese cash-style coins they had for sale. Not a single one
had any for sale! Then I looked in the classified ads and wrote to those selling world coins
and asked them the same question. Most did not answer but one wrote back to me,
you collect what?
Then, I wrote to the librarians of the American Numismatic Association and the American
Numismatic Society and asked them what references they had for Vietnamese cash-style
coins. Their replies were almost exactly the same. Each of them had Albert Schroeder's Annam Étude Numismatique in two volumes and a couple of other booklets with just a few
coins in each one.
This was going to be more than just challenging, it was going to be extremely difficult! At
about that time, I received orders to report to Fort Benning, Georgia for Infantry Officer's
Candidate School. I packed everything I owned in a large custom-made foot locker and
shipped it to my parent's house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
I was injured at school with a badly separated shoulder, and in the hospital for almost a
month and then two months of rehabilitation visits. The Army tried to give me a medical
discharge but I refused it and they transferred me to Stuttgart, Germany. I found some German numismatic magazines there and I wrote to the European dealers advertising in them.
Some of them actually did have some Vietnamese cash-style coins for sale and several of
them recommended other dealers. Some of the French dealers recommended that I start collecting French CochinChina and IndoChina coins, which the Vietnamese used when they
were a colony and protectorate of France. I found many dealers had them for sale and started buying them.
I saw an 1899-dated 1 Piastre with
chopped in its description and decided to see what that
meant. After it arrived, I saw the strange three lines on the obverse and a deep impression
on the reverse with a dot in it. What did they mean? I showed them to a couple of collectors
of US coins in our local coin club and they told me the marks just lowered that value of the
coin and not to buy them.
As I accumulated a few coins (some chopped and paper money too), I put them between thin
cardboard and in an envelope and registered mailed them to my mother. I told her that anything that arrived for her from me which was registered was not for her and to put them in
my footlocker. Any mail that was not registered was for her or someone else in the family.
In late 1965, I received orders for Viet Nam! I was going to be in a combat unit in the Central Highland and on long range reconnaissance patrols! When I got to Oakland Army Terminal in California to await my flight, I was told it would take a week before I would fly but
my orders got changed and I was to report to a one-star general in Saigon who was the head
My work was very, very challenging and I stayed in Viet Nam for four and one-half years!
The work was from the lowest to the highest possible classification and accesses and I
worked long hours and traveled around the region. Much of my travel outside of Viet Nam
was to Bangkok to work in a sub-unit I created there as a backup site in case the primary
site in Saigon got blown up.
While in Bangkok, I found a coin and stamp dealer with Vietnamese cash-style coins, along
with some interesting pieces from Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, etc. I decided to expand my collecting to include more of Southeast Asia and I often found chopped coins from
those countries too. In Saigon the locals were selling mostly fake coins to the military so I
bought only a few coins there.
Then I traveled to Singapore a couple of times. Now there were many, many more Vietnamese cash-style coins at the few dealers back in the later 1960s. The most popular cash-style
coins were Chinese and the dealers did not charge much for Vietnamese. This was my collecting heaven! I sent many registered envelopes from the US Embassy APO (mail) in Singapore back to my mother!
I departed Viet Nam in mid-1970 and was home on leave, when I saw my footlocker was almost full, so I bought a large trunk to store more of my registered mail. I was transferred to
Heidelberg, Germany and often visited dealers in the neighboring countries and accumulated more and more coins and paper money to send by registered mail to my mother.
Duty in Europe was too boring for me, so I arranged to be transferred back to Viet Nam in
late-1971 and was on a team to stand down the military there as the US part of the war
came to an end. I had a little more time in Saigon to do some numismatic shopping, but I
was constantly offered counterfeit coins. Nor I did find much more paper money to add to my
After the war, I was stationed in the USA and got married. I had my large footlocker and a
trunk sent to me. It was like Christmas, going through all of the packages and envelopes I
had been sending home for ten years. My wife learned I wanted to write catalogs and she
bought me an IBM Selectric Typewriter. My first catalog, French Colonial (Southeast Asia)
was published in 1975.
are some chopped coins in my latest Cambodia Coins &
Currency>, Lao Coins & Currency, and French Southeast
Asia Coins & Currency catalogs, and there will be many
more in future publications.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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