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The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 1, January 2, 2022, Article 16

ROBERT FRIEDBERG (1912-1963)

American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on Robert Friedberg. Thanks! -Editor

Friedberg.Robert.Medal.Uniface Many of today's veteran collectors visited their first coin shop at a large department store. For me, it was in the Dayton's Department Store in Minneapolis. These stores were affiliated with Robert Friedberg and the Capitol Coin Company.

Robert Friedberg was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on November 7, 1912. In early records his name is shown as Rubin. His parents, Harry and Sarah, were immigrants from Russia. They had another son known as Jack but in the records as Jacob. Young Robert acquired world coins from sailors who visited his father's tailor shop.

He graduated from Boys High School in Brooklyn and then attended College of the City of New York 1930 to 1932 and Brooklyn College 1933 to 1935. While in college in 1931 at age 18, with his 16-year-old brother Jack, he founded Capitol Coin Company in the mail order business. He was inducted into the Army for service during World War II. While in the service in Europe, he acquired more coin inventory.

In 1947 he was hired by Jacques Minkus to manage the coin department at Gimbels in New York. Working in the stamp department there was Goldye Nessanbaum. They were married on January 25, 1948. Their two children were Ira Seth and Arthur Louis Friedberg.

With Minkus managing the stamp side and Friedberg on the coin side, they established franchise coin shops in leased space in 38 major department stores around the country. Coins purchased at these stores were sent to New York and then redistributed as needed to the various stores. The parent company published price lists that were overprinted with the names of the local stores. When the Professional Numismatists Guild was organized in the 1950's, Gimbels Coin Department was listed as one of the original members.

Robert was president of the Coin and Currency Institute from 1955 until his death in 1963. They published books for collectors and handled coin supplies. In 1959 they introduced the Library of Coins albums that outperformed the previous National Coin albums. David W. Lange has published a book with a biography of Friedberg and the story of his companies.

Robert died after an eight-month illness in the hospital in Hackensack, New Jersey, on June 14, 1963. He is buried at Menorah Cemetery in Clifton, New Jersey. He was inducted into the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame in 1986 and the SPMC Hall of Fame in 2014.

After recent discussion of 100-year-old numismatists, the subject this week lived only to the age of fifty. In his short life he had an important role in expanding the hobby with his reference books, albums and shops in popular department stores.

His family continued to operate the business following his death. His brother Jack (1914-1998) continued Capitol Coin Company and the Coin and Currency Institute until retirement in 1977. Goldye remarried in 1972, became president of the company in 1977 and died in 1991. His son Arthur was noted as one of The most influential people in numismatics 1960-2020 by Coin World in 2021.

I have a medal with the name and image of Robert Friedberg. The edge is marked MEDALLIC ART CO, NY. Below the truncation is the name of Ralph J. Menconi. It is uniface so there is no hint of the reason why it was struck. I reached out to David W. Lange for an explanation.

Lange reported that the Coin and Currency Institute produced the medal as a tribute to Friedberg after his death in 1963. The reverse was personalized and sent to the managers of coin stores in the chain, possibly as many as 38. The medals Lange and I have are unengraved. We would be interested to hear of any engraved examples in collections.

Interesting. Can anyone help? Who has one of the personalized medals?.

Growing up in Pittsburgh two of the top local department stores were Kaufmann's and Gimbels, and I believe both had coin shops that I visited as a young collector. We've published reader recollections of these shops in the past. Anyone have a story to add? Thanks. -Editor

To visit the Coin and Currency Institute website, see:
http://www.coin-currency.com/

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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