The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 5, February 4, 2024, Article 17


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on Florida coin dealer and promoter William Sneed. Thanks! -Editor

  William Francis Sneed Jr. (1912-1979)

This week I was intrigued by an ad in The Orlando Sentinel for September 10, 1953. It invited me to See The World's Largest Coin Collection and to meet WORLD FAMOUS COIN COLLECTOR William E. Sneed. I was somewhat skeptical that his collection may not have been the world's largest. I also suspect his status as a World Famous Coin Collector was extravagant self-promotion.

  William Sneed Ad 1953

Since the event had been over for seventy years, I had to be content reading about Mr. Sneed. I was able to find plenty of newspaper articles about him.

William Francis Sneed, Jr. was born in Florida on December 5, 1912.

In 1931, William Francis Sneed, Sr. and Mary Elizabeth Morgan Sneed opened the Wilmary Hotel in Lakeland, Florida. I didn't find documentation but I suspect they named the hotel after themselves. William died in 1945. Mary died in 1963.

A large ad in the December 3, 1944, issue of The Tampa Tribune announced the formal opening of the W. F. Sneed, Jr. Chemical Laboratories in Lakeland, Florida. They produced janitorial supplies. They also sold a soap product called Sneed's Krystal Klear.

In 1946, William F. Sneed, Jr. was engaged to Janet Walker. On June 22, The Tampa Times reported, He is now in the apartments business and chemical supply business in Tampa. Jacksonville, Atlanta and Lakeland. On June 23, The Tampa Tribune reported, Mr. Sneed was graduated from Riverside Military Academy and the University of Florida. He is in the hotel business in Atlanta and Lakeland. On February 15, 1947, he married Mary Elizabeth Woodard in Wilson, North Carolina.

William Sneed 1953 In June of 1953, William F. Sneed, Jr. joined the ANA as member 21221. In 1954, The Lakeland Coin Club joined the ANA as member 22200. William F. Sneed, Jr. was listed as secretary.

Sneed showed up in a July 22, 1953, article. A hotel man by profession, Sneed is considered one of the nation's foremost authorities on ‘numismatics' the study of coins and bills. Even the bankers come to him sometimes for advice.

One of the coins Sneed enjoys showing is the 1913 Liberty head nickel, of which only a few exist. Another is a 1907 St. Gaudens $20 gold piece. This one is said to be unique – that is, the only one like it in the world. Other sources say that the McDermott 1913 nickel was on loan for the display.

On November 24, 1953, the Tampa Bay Times reported that he had found a treasure worth $625,000 near the mouth of the Suwannee River. This was in a barnacle crusted metal chest that contained several thousand Spanish gold doubloons and silver pieces of eight dating back to 1737. The story of the sensational find was repeated in many newspapers around the country.

On November 25, 1953, the Tampa Tribune reported that Sneed was now saying the report of the discovery was misinterpreted. He had about thirty coins of little value.

In 1956 he reported that he found a 1943 cent struck on a dime planchet. Also in 1956 he reported having a two-headed dime.

Sneed frequently set up his world-famous coin collection in a local bank, placed a large ad in the newspaper and invited the public to bring in coins to be evaluated. He also offered to buy coins from the public.

In 1956 Sneed exhibited his famous collection of rare coins at the West Palm Beach Federal Savings and Loan Association. He advertised there were approximately 5.000 coins in the collection. This would have been somewhat smaller than the world's largest.

In 1957, he advertised that he was Florida's Largest Coin Buyer. He was charter member No. 3 of the Retail Coin Dealers Association.

Sneed ran frequent ads in Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine between 1953 and 1969. He had less frequent ads in Coin World in the late 60's. He offered predictions on the future of the coin market and reports of fakes being offered.

He reported there was a break-in at his office three times within 30 days in 1968. He did not mention loss of inventory, but business records were scattered about the floor.

In 1969, he reported that he had a possible 1943 copper penny and had sent it to New York for authentication. He reported that there are only four known copper pennies in existence. The topic came up again in 1967. He was quoted in The Tampa Tribune for February 9, 1967.

Also to clarify the records again, according to Miss Eva Adams, director of the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia, there were no 1943 copper cents struck at any of the U. S. Mints during 1943.

From time to time so-called 1943 copper cents have been found, but when tested turned out to be nothing more than 1943 steel cents that had been copper plated.

The Wilmary Hotel evolved into an apartment house for elderly residents who received meals with their room. After 40 years, the hotel was considered old and demolished in 1971.

  William F. Sneed.1974

In 1974, Sneed was offered an 1804 dollar that he determined was fake. He told the story to the press. Details are sketchy, the local numismatist explained. but it is believed that a shipment of the 1804's was put aboard a British ship bound for Europe. That vessel must have met with some sort of ill fate during the Atlantic crossing.

Only one thing is certain. Those silver dollars never made it to Britain, and only four remain. Those were given to collectors at the time, and consequently saved from the unknown fate of the others.

He told this story in 1974, twelve years after publication of The Fantastic 1804 Dollar. If he was one of the foremost authorities on numismatics, he had fallen a little bit behind with his reading. Sneed died on September 24, 1979.

I am unclear about his legitimate place in numismatic history. It appears that he was never a full-time dealer. He did business more by mail rather than at coin shows and did not conduct auctions or write for publication. He has little reason to be remembered.

If he was half as important as he claimed, he would still have been an important Florida dealer.

The digitization of old newspapers, including numismatic publications on the Newman Portal enable research on formerly obscure people and topics. Thanks, Pete! There is no shortage of interesting personalities in this hobby. -Editor

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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