American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this
article on Boston collector Lorin Parmelee. Thanks!
In the nineteenth century, the coin collection of Lorin Parmelee has been called the
greatest coin collection ever
sold at auction. In truth, much of the collection did not sell at that auction. Various sales of duplicates were offered
before the primary sale in 1890.
It is hard to find two records that agree on the facts of his life. His first name is variously spelled Lorin or Loring.
His last name was Parmelee or Parmalee. Various names are given for his mother and his wife.
In 1890, New York Stamp & Coin conducted the major auction of his collection. It listed his name as Lorin G.
Parmelee and included a picture with his signature as Lorin Parmelee. In that same year the Boston City Directory
listed his name as Loring G. Parmelee. Rather than attempting to prove one name is right, it is better to recognize
that both names were used.
Attinelli (Numisgraphics) states,
Mr. Loring G. Parmelee was born in the town of Wilmington, Vt., May 7th,
1827. Massachusetts records indicate that Lorin G. Parmelee was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on May 8, 1827.
The 1830 and 1840 U. S. Census did not list the names of children in households. No listing was found for 1850. In
the 1860 Census, he was listed as Loring G. Parmalee, married to Addie and born in Vermont. The 1865
Massachusetts Census gives his last name as Parmales and age as 40, married to Adda. In 1870 he was listed as
Loring G. Parmalee, married to Addie and born in Vermont. In 1900 he was again listed as Loring G. Parmelee.
Parmelee was the son of Jeremiah Parmelee (1799-1868) and Lydia Corinthe Parmelee (1803-1830), also known as
Corintha Lydia Ray. Their Findagrave listing does not mention Lorin as a son.
On May 19, 1856, Loring Parmelee married Adeline Sargent (1829-1909). Their children were George L. Parmelee
(1857-1920) and Emily Corinthia Parmelee Howarth (1858- ).
Parmelee moved to Illinois at age 21 but soon returned east to Boston. He was in the alliterative business of baking
beans and brown bread. He delivered beans in black iron pots to hotels and restaurants around the area. He looked
for coins in his daily receipts and sold of collectible duplicates.
He expanded his collection by buying up the Seavey collection for $15,000 in 1873, the Brevoort collection in 1876,
the Bushnell collection in 1882 and parts of the Crosby collection. He consigned duplicates from Seavey through a
Leavitt sale on June 18, 1873 and from Bushnell through the Chapman brothers for June 20-24, 1882. He was not
satisfied with prices and bought back many of the Bushnell coins.
The primary Parmelee collection was sold by Harlan Smith and New York Coin and Stamp on June 25-27, 1890.
Prices from the sale were depressed with many items in the sale bringing less than at the previous 1882 Bushnell
sale. Some lots remained unsold. The sale is remembered for the quality of the selections and for an incident that
occurred at the sale.
Dealers Ed Frossard and Lyman Low got into a dispute over the clover leaf cent, tussled, and rolled on the floor
trying to kick each other. Auctioneer Smith stepped in to break up the fight and lost a diamond stickpin for his
efforts. The coin was sold to dealer Charles Steigerwalt for $79.
Parmelee died on July 22, 1905 at Danvers Insane Hospital. The death certificate gives his name as Loring G.
Parmelee. The cause of death was broncho pneumonia with senile dementia as a contributing factor.
Thanks! $15,000 in 1873 was an astounding sum for a coin collection. What a numismatic appetite Parmelee had!
To an earlier E-Sylum article, see:
1792 WASHINGTON PRESIDENT GOLD EAGLE PROVENANCE
Wayne Homren, Editor
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