The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 1, January 7, 2024, Article 8


Numismatic bookseller and NBS co-founder George Kolbe submitted these notes on the late John Burnham. Thank you. -Editor

  Memories of John Burnham

Stacks John P Burnham As previously attested in the E-Sylum, John Burnham loved books, and that extended to the numismatic variety. We likely met at a New York coin convention in the early 1980s. I often stayed at the Salisbury Hotel, adjacent to Stack's retail store on 57th Street. Its glory a bit faded, the Salisbury nonetheless had a certain charm, considerably enhanced by reasonable room rates.

John and I hit it off almost immediately – despite our different backgrounds, we were simpático. A consultant to Stack's Coin Galleries, John regularly spent a night or two each week at the Salisbury. Early on, I remember securing a bottle of Johnny Walker Red and enjoying an evening with John at the Salisbury, bravely solving the world's political and cultural problems. Other memories abound.

In the mid 90s, I travelled to Orlando, Florida to acquire the numismatic library on ancient coins formed by Frederick Knobloch. John was there for the coins. The trip from the airport in the car of a female family member was a little unusual. A handgun graced the center console, which, she assured me, was locked and loaded, and always accompanied her. At the house, a shotgun resided behind the entry door. After successfully conducting our business deals, John and I spent another delightful evening, albeit this time in a dismal motel room, permeated with an inescapable eau de mildew.

One year, John invited me to visit him at Yale, where he was the curator of the university's numismatic collection. Down the hall from his office was a room housing a portion of Yale's numismatic library. On one wall was a uniformly bound set of The Numismatist, including original issues of the first six volumes. Yale's holding of this numismatic rara avis was little known at the time and I was duly impressed. There were other delicacies, including rare works on orders and decorations, and a tall stack of early twentieth century U.S. coin catalogues with photographic plates. Later, we dined on campus. It was a wonderful day.

In 2007, I spent several days in New York City, partly devoted to packing a wonderful library of rare and classic works on military orders and decorations. Many were in large format, featuring magnificent chromo-lithographic illustrations and deluxe bindings. Located in a desirable high rise near Tavern on the Green, the flat had long been occupied by a recently deceased colleague of John's. I packed some fifty large cartons of books which were to be sent to me for sale forthwith. To John's chagrin, and mine as well, legal difficulties arose, and the library apparently remains unpacked to this day. Through John's good offices, and that of the executor of the estate, I was compensated for my expenses and time.

In more recent years, John and I occasionally conversed via telephone. We sometimes conspired to meet at a convention or an auction, Alas, these plans never materialized. I am the poorer for it.

To read the complete article, see:
OHN P. BURNHAM (1940-2023) (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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