The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 25, June 20, 2021, Article 18

MAXWELL E. BRAIL (1910-1992)

Last week Craig Whitford introduced us to the Max Brail Canadian medal collection being offered by Marc Verret & Eric Paquet at The Canadian Numismatic Company. The pair kindly forwarded the below photo and bio of Max from the catalog. They've also placed an ad in this issue with more highlights from the sale. Be sure to click on it or follow the link below to see more great lots on offer. -Editor

1985 Max Brail CNA Maxwell E. Brail, 1910-1992 Mr. Max Brail, a lifetime collector with a keen passion and enthusiasm for his collecting, often demonstrated through his openness in sharing his achievements and knowledge through his many presentations, exhibitions and writings at various exhibitions and local shows. He began his life in 1910 in a small Michigan town known as Greenville. As a young man he located to Jackson, Michigan and worked in the dry-cleaning business as a driver and salesman. In a few short years he would own his own dry-cleaning operation. In 1937 he married Lucille and she would accompany him on most of his numismatic journeys throughout their lifetime. With his success in business, he built and leased a McDonald’s in Jackson.

In the late 1920s he began actively collecting United States coins purchasing items he desired from the Chapman Brothers, B. Max Mehl, Albert Grinnell and other well-known dealers, and auction houses as well as U.S. commemoratives directly from the issuing authorities. During this time his primary collecting interest was United States coinage and Michigan National Bank Notes.

During 1944, at the age of 34, Max became life member No. 92 in the American Numismatic Association; twenty-three years later he would be given the same life membership number in the Canadian Numismatic Association. Throughout the decades he would serve on the boards of numerous regional, state and local clubs and organizations.

His interests would shift throughout his collecting adventure. In the 1960’s, with his income from McDonald’s, he went about acquiring all of the Proof and Specimen notes in perfect condition from the chartered banks of Canada that he could locate. Max always sought out the best condition and rarity when acquiring items for his collection. By 1976 he had amassed a collection of more than 500 examples of Canadian currency, many with very low serial numbers. During 1977, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce would acquire the collection intact for their museum.

Canada was among Max’s primary interests in collecting. He loved Canada and all of the numismatic items relating to our northern neighbor. The sale of his currency collection would allow him to explore new avenues including medals – gold medals, life-saving medals, military decorations, and more. But acquisition was only part of the story. With each new acquisition he would do a deep dive into its history – a regular numismatic sleuth. He wasn’t satisfied until he knew everything there was to know about the medal; from its designer to the individual, it was given to. (Today we have internet access for research – where Max utilized pen and paper in his correspondence consisting of hundreds upon hundreds of handwritten letters both nationally and internationally.) With this knowledge Max made the medal come alive in his personal encounters with other collectors.

His greatest joy in collecting was achieved when he could put all of the pieces together to share through presentations and the exhibits that he created. At nearly every convention he attended you could find Max, (with Lucille close by), in the exhibit area, sharing his knowledge and love of numismatics with both young and old alike. Max exhibited competitively through the early to mid-1960’s and said to his family I’ve won everything I ever wanted to win. He decided to give the younger exhibitors a chance. Later in life he exhibited on an invitational basis.

A man of honor and prestige, he loved life and his family; he enjoyed cars; motorcycles; flying (he owned several planes through the years); photography; owned a one-room schoolhouse; served as Jackson’s historian; secured recognition for Michigan’s Civil War governor Austin Blair; as well as the birthplace of the Republican party in Jackson.

In 1960 he was appointed to the U.S. Assay Commission under President Eisenhower. Max spent decades forming one of the finest collections of U.S. Assay Commission medals ever assembled outside the U.S. Mint. He loved history, writing, learning and acquired lasting friendships throughout his lifetime.

Max was laid to rest in 1992. It is the family’s hope as well as mine, that through this offering of the remaining portion of his Canadian collection, that these medallic pieces of history will find new homes and that their story and his will live on. All of the above information courtesy of the Brail Family and Craig Whitford.

[PHOTO] Max at the 1985 C.N.A. Convention in Regina holding the pair of gold Canadian Confederation Centennial medals from 1967 offered in this sale. The medals are set number 12 of 25 issued. [Photo courtesy of The Leader Post, Regina, Sask., 1985]

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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