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