The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 19, May 9, 2021, Article 13


Pete Smith's review of the Coin World list of The Most Influential People in Numismatics brought forth a number of comments. I was unsure initially of how to handle this, hoping to avoid the rabbit-hole of directly or indirectly criticizing the inclusion or exclusion of people from an important-sounding list. But as always, our readers have made a number of interesting observations, and I've included all of them here with no more editing than usual for this publication. So here goes. -Editor

David Thomason Alexander writes:

COIN WORLD Most Infliuential "I read with deep interest our friend Pete Smith's comments on Coin World's just-published review of "The Most Influential People in Numismatics." I believe it's a fact that recognizing one individual in any field automatically antagonizes 100 who were not recognized. In my years with the Numismatic Literary Guild I became quite familiar with the cry "there are too many awards," by folks who really meant "I didn't get one!"

Coin World (CW) showed commendable precision in its wording "influential people in numismatics," side-stepping "great people in numismatics." A few years ago "influential" might have included Dr. William H. Sheldon, Walter Breen and Stanley Apfelbaum... CW touched on many bases in its kaleidoscope of recognition and a few of those recognized are newcomers to the commercial world. "Big deal dealers" are not the only people in the commercial sector, though they could be argued over for months or years! CW sought a wide selection and it certainly achieved it"

Others, like Pete, had a different view. -Editor

Bill Eckberg writes:

"I completely agree with Pete Smith's comments. Many of those listed, such as yourself, are influential numismatists for whom what I can sell it for and what I can buy it for are not the most important aspects of a coin. There are, unfortunately, a number of people on the list for whom the bottom line is more important than scholarship, history and artistry."

David Menchell writes:

"I don't put much credence in Best of this or Top Ten of that kind of listings. We all have our views on what's important in any field, but I agree with Pete Smith, that aside from some noteworthy individuals, such as Dave Bowers and Ken Bressett, this list is more about commercial interests than numismatic relevance. There are a bunch of dealers who may be helping to financially support the activities of clubs and educational groups, but quite honestly, I can't see how selling expensive coins makes you important to the field and study of numismatics.

"Several of the names I didn't recognize at all; some I recognize based, as Pete had mentioned, on ads in numismatic periodicals, but that's it. As far as I know, I haven't seen any articles or books they've written, I haven't run into them at Summer Seminar; I haven't seen them funding the ANA library or a curator's chair at the ANS.

"In my opinion, there are many unsung heroes of numismatics who get little praise but who are much more important to the hobby. In my areas of interest (American Colonials, medals, tokens), I can easily think of Ray Williams, who tirelessly speaks to numerous clubs and recently gave an ANA seminar on Colonial Currency; the late Syd Martin, whose scholarship and hard work resulted in four definitive references on Colonial Coinage, Tony Terranova, who probably knows more about Colonial coinage than anyone currently in the field and is a generous contributor to many organizations, Neil Musante, who has produced two superb references on Bolen and Washington medals, and has served as the publisher of the highly regarded publication of the Medal Collectors of America, The MCA Advisory, my friend and mentor, John Adams, who has a prodigious knowledge of early American numismatics and has produced multiple books on a range of topics from 19th century auction catalogues to the Comitia Americana series of medals. And I can name dozens more.

"So if being influential has a dollar sign attached, in terms of expensive coins sold, then I guess many of these individuals belong on the list. But in terms of the long term importance to the hobby and field of numismatics, this list falls far short of the goal of honoring those people who truly educate and increase the enjoyment of the hobby for us all. "

John Linhoss writes:

"Steve Hayden's name should have been included in the Most Influential People in Numismatics. Steve has a top shelf catalog auction and has a regular auction on eBay. He responds to each and every method of questions or comments sent to him. He is honest and has never met a stranger. He will take the time to educate people who are unaware of what type of coin, medal, or token they may have.

"I have had dealings with 12 people listed in the Coin World publication. I have good memories with nearly all. Some who were listed, I had never heard of before, but was glad to read about them. It's the dealers that were not included that stands out more than the ones that were featured. Steve Hayden is at the top of that list.

"I must say, The E-Sylum is the best online publication. It keeps people informed and interested and brings a desire to get more involved to being a better numismatist. Thank you,"

Martin Kaplan writes:

"One of my collecting areas, World Banknotes, came to mind. The International Bank Note Society (IBNS) has a Hall of Fame. I suspect there are members who should be included on such a list. "

Peter Jones writes:

"My comments about Coin World's Influential Numismatists:

  • How come Eric Newman, Sidney Martin, Ed Rochette, Dick Doty, etc. are all excluded? You got it! Dead people don't advertise!
  • How come only two non-Americans are listed out of 96? Surely 98% of influential numismatists can't be American? You got it — foreigners don't advertise much in Coin World!
  • "The breakdown of "influential numismatists" includes
    • 44% dealers
    • 15% auction houses
    • 15% grading services

They total 74% of "influential numismatists." And they all advertise.

  • Only 19% were authors — they don't advertise.
  • "Looking at ads in Coin World's list of influential numismatists and the Coin World monthly that came with it, there was an average of at least one full page per auction house, dealer or grading service, when prorated against individual "influential numismatists." I assume a full-page ad is three to four thousand dollars.
  • "As a physician I have had similar experiences with magazines wanting to make you "top doctor," as long as you pay them considerable fees. I have spoken to restauranteurs who have the same problem."

I felt the same about the overwhelming US-centric mix. But it's Coin World's list, and they're free to choose their selectees. Their stated criteria were only that:

  • the candidates had to be living
  • current Coin World staff members were ineligible
  • a candidate could be anyone who has had an effect on the hobby

"Effect on the hobby" was not defined. "Influential" is the key word in the name of the list. I've seen "Influencer" also used in reference to the list, although that isn't in the name. In the world of social media an Influencer is someone who drives the online narrative, grabs attention and redirects it. But to be "Influential" one has to accomplish much more than directing attention. To me, someone is influential in the world if the world becomes a different place as a result of their words and deeds. That's a higher bar, and the list would be much more selective.

Forgive my US-centric focus, but the first people who come to my mind are those such as John Albanese and John Dannreuther who were involved with the creation of third-party grading services. Love it or hate it, numismatics is a very different hobby today than it was before the advent of slabbing.

A second group would be those who open-sourced coin pricing information, and in the U.S. that would be Jim Halperin of Heritage. It was a game-changing move to place historical auction price data on the web. A.J. Gatlin of CoinArchives did something similar for ancient and world coin pricing.

I could go on, but I'll stop there. There will be other lists to argue over in the future.

In her CoinsWeekly email this week, Ursula Kampmann wrote: "The result is a list that could have perfectly been entitled [96] great people that are active in numismatics and that we like. They certainly aren't the [96] most influential people in numismatics between 1960 and 2020."

As an ANA exhibitor learning the ropes, my instructors emphasized the key importance of the exhibit's title. Points for completeness, for example, are awarded for "completeness insofar as the exhibit's title states." A different title for the CW issue might have forestalled a lot of this criticism.

Otherwise, the product was perfectly fine and quite informative. As Pete Smith noted, he was able to make some 400 updates to his American Numismatic Biographies book based on the great information in this issue. It's a keeper, and I'll look forward to similar people-centric issues in the future from Coin World and competing publications around the world. The possible lists are many, as are the deserving selectees.


To read the CoinsWeekly article, see:
The Most Influential People in Numismatics? (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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