The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 25, June 19, 2022, Article 16


American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on numismatic author Don Taxay. Thanks! -Editor

Don Taxay Occasionally I go back to old biographies to see if I might find additional information. This week my subject is the mysterious Don Taxay.

Donald Paul Taxay was born in Chicago on May 24, 1933. His parents were Russian immigrants Julius and Ruth Weller Taxay. He graduated from the American Conservatory of Music.

Taxay became interested in advanced spiritual consciousness early in life. By 1956 he was corresponding with Indira Devi, disciple of Sri Dilip Kumar Roy (1897-1980), the founder of the Hari Krishna Mandir Ashram at Poona, India. He travelled to India as early as 1960 and took on the name Prashanta.

He entered the coin business in 1958 as manager of the leased coin department within the Jordan Marsh Department Store in Boston. He did not last long at any of his numismatic jobs.

Taxay worked as manager of the Royal Athena Coin Galleries in New York. Later he worked with John J. Ford, Jr. and Walter Breen at New Netherlands Coin Company. He and Breen formed the Institute of Numismatic Authenticators in 1963. He served as curator for the Chase Manhattan Bank Money Museum for two years from April 1964 to May 1966. He left to conduct an authentication and appraisal service in New York City.

In 1969 he joined William Thomas Anton, Jr. to write catalogs for Harmer Rooke. At the time he was using the name D. Paul Taxay. Then he joined Harry Foreman with Foreman, Taxay and Associates in 1974. In 1975 he was appointed senior vice president of First Coinventors, Inc. and director of their Colonial American Coin Club. He was not a good fit and soon terminated.

He formed a corporation, Rare Coin Collectors Co-op, Inc, on July 8, 1976. The business address was 700 Summer Street, Stamford, Connecticut 06901. The corporation had a dissolution date of December 30, 1977.

Taxay wrote a series of five books that were important references in their time and remain relevant today. The first was Counterfeit, Mis-struck, and Unofficial U.S. Coins, A Guide for the Detection of Cast and Struck Counterfeits, Electrotypes and Altered Coins (1963). The second was my favorite, The U. S. Mint and Coinage (1966). This was followed by An Illustrated History of U. S. Commemorative Coinage (1967). Then came Money of The American Indians and Other Primitive Currencies of the Americas (1970). Finally came The Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of United States Coins published in 1971. A second edition was published in 1976. Five books published over the span of eight years while conducting his coin business is a remarkable accomplishment.

Karl Moulton was highly critical of Taxay and the U. S. Mint book. In the January 1, 2006, issue of The E-Sylum. Moulton wrote, he didn't do enough original research, but simply followed the ABC's of misinterpreting the facts. This would be Accepting, Believing, and Copying from others without first validating their claims.

Moulton's passing is still fresh in our minds. I believe with the passage of time, his work may be subject to the same criticism. Don Taxay (age 44) married Constance Connie Ferris (age 35) at Stamford, Connecticut, on Christmas Day in 1977. They were divorced on April 12, 1982. Constance A. Ferris (5/2/1942-10/6/2009) died in Greenwich, Connecticut. Her life dates fit.

This brings us to the disappearance of Taxay around the time of his 1977 marriage. Various numismatists have commented on his disappearance. One story is that he was a Hare Krishna and travelled to Poona, India, to meet with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990). He returned to the United States and sold off his library before returning to India.

Perhaps he went to Poona as a follower of Sri Dilip Kumar Roy rather than Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Most American numismatists would not know the difference.

Another story is that he married a wealthy woman and moved to Florida. His 1977 marriage supports this story and contradicts the concept that he sold of his belongings to disappear in India.

Julia Casey found an article in The Tampa Tribune of November 23, 1979, that quotes Donald Taxay on his move to Lakeland, Florida, all the usual reasons – no state income tax, low property taxes and nice weather. Later he said, My wife thinks she's going to get a Shetland pony because we're zoned farming down there.

The Familysearch website indicates that Donald P. Taxay was a resident of Stamford, Connecticut, from September 1, 2005 until August 6, 2008. These records are frequently inaccurate but may be a clue that he was in Stamford at some time after 1977.

So, there appear to be two conflicting stories. Perhaps he sold all his worldly possessions to meditate in India, or perhaps he retired to Florida to enjoy the weather and buy a pony.

Sometimes the lack of evidence is evidence. With no record of activity in the past forty years, it is likely that he was out of the country. It is also likely that he died while out of the country.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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