The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 40, October 2, 2022, Article 17


American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on California fractional gold collector/dealer John/Jack/Jay Roe/Rowe. Thanks! -Editor

  Jay Roe (1924-2000)

Jay Roe - Jack Rowe This week I was reviewing the listing for Jay Roe in American Numismatic Biographies and discovered a couple of errors. They will be corrected in the next update.

I got Jay's autograph in 1985. I would see him at coin shows around the area. His exhibit at our coin show one year made a strong impression. It was called Metals in Numismatics with examples of coins struck in 24 different metals including a few very rare metals like niobium and tantalum.

Jay and his wife contributed articles for World Coin News on World's Coinage Uses 24 Chemical Elements published in 1992.

There is a Wikipedia entry for Coinage Metals that makes reference to this article. If you do not wish to read this in English, there are other options, A Google search give these options: Kovane kovine; Metallirahat; Razenie Kovov; Metalli da conio; Logam duit syiling; Munzmetalle; Kim loai duc tien; and ????????????. Jay spent summers at his grandfather's lake home on Stoney Lake in Ontario. His grandfather was a Princeton University professor and advisor to the Chinese and Japanese governments. Jay's house was filled with mementos from his grandfather's frequent trips.

His father's business also required foreign travel and he would return home with small change accumulated during the trips. He gave the coins to Jay. His initial interest grew to an obsession.

He developed an interest in California fractional gold. He decided that he would have better access and buying opportunities as a dealer. He did business as Jay Roe California Gold from 1978 to 1996. The collection he assembled, with 580 pieces, is the finest such collection ever formed. He was a licensed pilot and collected Zeppelin coins, stamps and medals. He also formed an extensive collection of bolo ties.

Jay Roe pushed hard for a second edition of California Pioneer Fractional Gold by Walter Breen and Ronald J. Gillio, and persuaded Dave Bowers to publish it, sweetening the deal by agreeing to consign his collection to Bowers and Merena for auction once the book was out. Unfortunately, he died before writing began, but his collection was used for nearly all the illustrations. Robert D. Leonard Jr., with the assistance of Jay's widow Marieli and researcher Jack Totheroh, prepared the second edition published in 2003.

The Jay Roe Collection of California fractional gold was sold at auction by Bowers and Merena on September 14, 2003. The catalog identified the owner as John Westel Rowe.

Lot 137 of the sale was the highlight of the Roe Collection, an 1853-GG round gold dollar, BG- 604. It is called the Crested Eagle variety and the finer of two known. [PCGS MS-62] Roe bought it from the Goliad Corporation on August 26, 1991, for $100.000. At the Roe sale it realized $80,500.

A search for Jay Roe on the Newman Numismatic Portal shows 1753 citations.

  John Westel Rowe Jack (1924-2000)

John Westel Rowe was born in Scarsdale, New York, on September 3, 1924. His father was Ward John Edward Rowe, Jr. (1895-1982). His mother was Laura Robinson Willoughby (1897- 1949). John served in the Navy during WWII. After the war he enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a major in organic chemistry and a minor in geology. While at MIT, he was president of the Outing Club and enjoyed climbing, canoeing, sailing and skiing. Indoors, he participated in the bridge club and enjoyed square dancing. In 1947 he met his future wife who was president of the Swarthmore Outing Club.

He received a masters' degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder. While in Colorado he climbed to the top of 24 peaks with elevations over 14,000 feet. He received a Ph.D. from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1956.

John married Mary Dorothy Theresa Lowenstein (1926-2020), also known as Marieli, at Riverside Church in New York City on June 26, 1949, and had three sons. He worked as a chemist for the U. S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory at Madison, Wisconsin for 30 years.

He died in Madison, Wisconsin, and is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery.

A search for John Westel Rowe on the Newman Numismatic Portal yields two citations.

Bob Leonard added these comments:

Jay was bursting with enthusiasm, like the "goingatumstrong" collectors of a century ago, and figured out that the best way to advance his collection was to become a "dealer." He built a stock and set up at shows, advertised in Numismatic News, etc., and other dealers would bring him their coins to buy at wholesale. This usually worked, though Dave Bowers was wise to him and refused to let him get away with a "dealer price" offer on one occasion.

The most amazing thing about this man was that, around 1955, he and Marieli were in a club that drove from Istanbul to Baghdad, in ordinary cars, Fords, I believe. No electronics then, so breakdowns could be repaired without too much difficulty, and of course the group brought plenty of spare parts. This could not be repeated today, but they drove across Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, a distance of over a thousand miles--a lot of it across desert. This was more of an adventure than an archaeological tour.

I had been aware that Jay Roe was a dealer and collector. This week I learned that Jack Rowe was much more than that.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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