The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 44, October 31, 2021, Article 12


American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on dealer William Idler and his son Robert. Thanks! -Editor

William Idler (1808-1901)

William Idler was born in North Carolina on June 25, 1808, the son of Jacob Idler (1773-1856) and Sophia (1781- 1869). He married Rosanna Kelley (1821-1897). Their children were Jacob (1840-1900), Mary Idler Brown, Rose (1847-1937), William Idler, Jr. (1849-1916) and Robert (1851-1921). In the 1850 Census, the family was in Mount Ulla, North Carolina.

On June 9, 1869, his daughter Rose Amelia Idler, married John W. Haseltine at Clinton Street Presbyterian Church.

He spent fifteen years in South America searching for minerals. In 1858 he opened his store at 111 South Eleventh Street with his house next door at 109 South Eleventh. This was about three blocks east of the Second Philadelphia Mint. In the 1860 Census, his profession was shown as stationer. His trade was originally in mineral specimens and books on geology. This evolved into a jewelry store with coins as a secondary interest.

Idler was active in the coin trade in Philadelphia when a lot of interesting items were coming out of the Mint. These included restrikes of the dollars of 1801-1802-1803. He probably handled four of the Class III 1804 dollar restrikes and kept one for his collection. He handled six of ten known proof 1884 Trade Dollars and all five known proof 1885 Trade Dollars.

Idler acquired two pattern coins for the $50 gold coins proposed in 1877. These were passed down through John W. Haseltine and sold through Stephen K. Nagy to William Woodin. At the time, the price of $10,000 each was reported as the most valuable U. S. coins ever sold. Mint official negotiated the return of these patterns to the Mint in exchange for trunks of other Mint patterns.

In the 1900 Census Idler was living alone with his profession listed as Store Keeper. He died at home on July 16, 1901, and is buried at Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia. According to his tombstone, his death occurred on a Tuesday at 9:00 P.M.

William Idler represents the start of a chain of notable dealers that extends nearly to the present day. He provided coins for his son-in-law, John W. Haseltine. Haseltine gave a start to the young Chapman brothers. Idler coins were passed through Haseltine to his partner Stephen K. Nagy. The Nagy estate passed to his nephew Earl Moore. Much of the disposition of the estate was handled by Moore's wife, dealer Catherine Bullowa-Moore. The chain ends with her death at age 97 in 2017.

Robert Kelley Idler (1851-1921)

I was not aware of Robert Idler prior to October 28, 2021, as I was researching his father. Constructing his biography has been quite a challenge and I thank Julia Casey for her assistance in trying to solve the puzzles.

He was born in North Carolina. No date of birth has been found.

In the 1870 and 1880 Census, he was listed as a clerk in the Post Office. In the 1893-96 era, he owned a liquor store at 12 South Delaware. A 1901 newspaper article shows him as a real estate appraiser. In 1910 and 1920, he was listed as a coin dealer.

On May 23, 1871, he married Ida Stearly. In early 1880, he was living with his parents. Later in 1880 he had a brief marriage to Emily Gross who died of Typhoid Fever in November of 1880 at age 19. On September 3, 1882, he married Maggie Norris. Around 1890, Margaret Idler shows up in city directories as the widow of Robert K. Idler.

Then for several years, city directories show Robert K. Idler at one address and Margaret, widow of Robert K. at another. This is the kind of anomaly that can cause great distress to a biographer.

Robert moved around. In 1901 he lived at 1504 Sansom Street. In 1903 his residence was at 265 South 11th Street. In 1904 he moved to 241 South 15th Street in Philadelphia. He ran simple ads in The Numismatist for April 1906 through November 1906. In 1910 he was at 4227 Brown Street. In 1916 he lived at 3012 Gordon. In 1920 he lived on Delaware River Road in Salem, New Jersey.

The 1920 Census has Robert K. Idler, age 69, living on Delaware River Road, Salem, New Jersey, and employed as a coin dealer. The 1920 Census also has Robert Idler, age 55, living at 3012 Gordon Street, Philadelphia and employed as Dealer / Old Coins. Apparently, he was counted twice.

He died on December 21, 1921, at Jumbo, New Jersey. He is buried with the family at Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Idler ran an ad in the back (page 94) of United States Mint at Philadelphia by James Rankin Young, His 265 South 11th address appears on the first 1903 printing. The 241 South 15th address appears on a later 1904 printing. Following page 87 is a new page Coins Bearing a Premium. Subsequent pages are reprinted without page numbers.

Idler was soliciting auction consignments five years after Haseltine ran his last sale. It appears that Idler was trying to benefit from the reputation of his father as well as the reputation of his current partner. Without his father's name, he would be a minor player not worthy of mention.


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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