The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 50, December 12, 2021, Article 5

KARL V. MOULTON (1953-2021)

Steve M. Tompkins passed along this news about numismatic literature dealer and author Karl Moulton of Tombstone, AZ. -Editor

  KArl Moulton at his table 2019 ANA
Karl Moulton at the 2019 ANA

It is my sad duty to inform both the numismatic literature and coin collecting communities of the recent passing of former numismatic literature dealer, author and my friend Karl Moulton, on or about December 1st. He leaves behind one older brother who resides in Texas.

Karl was currently living in Arizona and working on a new book concentrating on the 1849 date of United States coinage. Sadly, that work will not be completed and is now lost to future numismatists.

  Ford Franklin Hoard book cover Moulton Henry Voigt book cover

Karl worked behind my table at the most recent ANA convention in Chicago this past August and had planned to attend the upcoming Spring ANA show next March in Colorado Springs.

Karl and I had been friends for almost 20 years, working both on projects of mine and I on projects of his. We attended many coin shows together, both as collectors and occasionally behind a table. We spoke weekly, with it a rare occurrence that the conversation would not amble on for an hour or more, 90% of which was about coins or history and life itself.

  Karl Moulton Winter-Spring 2011 fixed price list Karl Moulton 2011 Fixed Price List

He was well versed in both early American history and the early Mint, with some of his theories as to what, when, why & how things came to be created at the Mint being sometimes controversial. But his knowledge was vast in the venue of United States numismatic auction history, with many catalogers and researchers frequently turning to him, seeking that knowledge for their work. Karl was happy to give freely that knowledge, to add to the greater achievement of advancing numismatics itself.

I will forever miss my friend and the in-depth conversations we had…

Such sad news to hear. It seems it wasn't all that long ago that I spoke with him at a pre-pandemic coin show. I somehow missed running into him at the recent ANA. -Editor

Joel Orosz writes:

"Karl Moulton was a true lover of numismatic literature, as a dealer in that trade must truly be. Any bookseller needs a first-rate mind to ply his trade, and to have a body capable of lugging an enormous amount of weight to and fro at every setup and breakdown. You have to love the trade, for the labor involved is just too onerous if you don't.

"Karl did love the literature, and was fortunate in his affections in that he loved paper catalogs more than hardcover books, and he loved the slim catalogs of the 19th century most of all. A literature dealer could carry a score of such catalogs in the space and for the weight that a single recent hardcover would occupy. If a collector needed a particular copy of a John Haseltine sale, or a specific public auction by Lyman Low, Great American Sales would likely have a copy handy in stock. Karl's name was never associated with the sale of a great numismatic literature collection, but many were the scholars and writers he helped find just the needed missing piece of the research puzzle. Q. David Bowers was one such beneficiary, and a long list of others could be named.

"Of course, Karl was responsible for a couple of damned thick, square books himself, a two-volume reprint of Joseph Mickley's business journal, and Karl's original research on John J. Ford and the Franklin hoard. Future booksellers will remember him every time they haul these tomes out to a show.

"Coincidences abound, of course, yet some seem uncanny in their occurrence. In the October 26, 2021 edition of Numismatic News, Bob Van Ryzin wrote about a wampum belt that the Lenni Lenape tribe had presented to William Penn in 1682. I wrote a letter to the editor, with a picture of the belt, taken from a seven panel fold-out color lithograph in a book in my library, Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Vol. VI (1858). This letter and its accompanying photograph was published in Numismatic News' November 30, 2021 edition. This book happened to be the last item I ever purchased from Karl. It's a loss for us all that there won't be any more."

Len Augsburger writes:

karlmoultonwinte2009moul "So sorry to hear this. Karl greatly appreciated numismatic literature and served as a market maker, especially for lower-priced items. I recall swapping Bowersiana (publications of Bowers & Ruddy, later Bowers & Merena) with him early in my collecting career. Some time ago he granted permission to archive his fixed price lists on Newman Portal, and these were promptly scanned for posterity. His magnum opus, John J. Ford, Jr. and the Franklin Hoard stands as a massive compendium of original documents related to false western gold pieces and remains an important reference on the topic."

Link to Karl Moulton fixed price lists on Newman Portal:

Comments about Karl on the Collectors Universe Forum, see:

Dave Hirt writes:

"Karl was a giant of numismatic literature. Few people could have done all the research that was needed to write the book, John J. Ford and the Franklin Hoard. I am glad to own a copy of that book.

"Also, Karl did an invaluable service to numismatic 19th century auction catalog collectors when he organized a survey of those catalogs, published in The Asylum Winter, 2005 issue. I do not think that I have ever seen that issue for sale. I refer to mine often, and if the catalogs sold in the recent Fanning sale of the Scott Rubin collection are added, you can get a very good idea of the population of rare auction catalogs."

P. Scott Rubin writes:

"I was very sad to hear of the passing of Karl, he did so much on his own to promote numismatic auction catalogues and obscure Fixed Price Lists. He also used these items to do some very important original research. I, like Dave Hirt, used his survey of 19th century auction catalogues as a check list for what existed. I have not heard from Karl in a few years and always missed receiving the listing of what he had for sale and over the years purchased a number of items from him. While all his research was not used by mainstream numismatic collectors and some of it, in my opinion needed some refinement, overall numismatics as a hobby benefited from his works. I will miss reading whatever numismatic topics he was working on at the time of death. I am sure I would have found it interesting."

David Fanning writes:

"This is another sad surprise. I agree with Dave Hirt that his census is a useful starting point when discussing rarity of catalogues. I didn't know him particularly well, but he was always pleasant to deal with."

To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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